Tag Archives: Horse Racing

WHAT HAPPENED TO BIG BROWN AND WHAT TO DO NEXT?

                                                             Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas    

It’s the forever question in horse racing:  What happened?  And, with horses who can’t talk and with tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of dollars at stake in stud fees, even the most experienced jockeys and trainers often seem to be at a loss for an explanation.

Here are a few possibilities:

1)      Jockey Kent Desormeaux shut off Big Brown’s air in the beginning of the race:  While most experts said post one wouldn’t be a problem, the reality was that, even in a short field, Big Brown could and did have some traffic problems early in the race.  Clearly the horse was rank (hard to handle because he wanted to go on early).  The result of that can be briefly shutting a horse’s wind off, where he’s unable to catch his breath briefly, which results in his not racing well.  And even if the horse “scoped clean,” as was reported, when a horse has his wind shut off briefly, that doesn’t necessarily show up on a scope (vet sticks a tube down the horse’s throat after the race to look at the area for signs of bleeding or mucus or redness, etc.).

2)      What about that quarter crack?  While Desormeaux said the horse wasn’t lame, he was drifting out from the moment the gate opened, through the first turn and frankly, for a large part of the race.  Any vet will tell you that one cause of a horse running out (to his right) could be soreness on the left side (the now-famous quarter crack was on the left side).  Conversely, if a horse is running in (towards the rail), that can often be a sign of right side injury or soreness.  Remember, just because a horse isn’t limping, that doesn’t mean he’s not sore.  Something could have just been “pinching” Big Brown and that could have been enough to cause him to run poorly.   

3)      Big Brown got dirt in his face early:  You’ll recall that much was made in the Derby and Preakness about Desormeaux taking Big Brown to the outside to avoid having dirt hit him in the face, something that apparently had never happened to Big Brown before.  Well, again from post one, some dirt had to hit him in the face until either Desormeaux pulled him to the outside or Big Brown pulled Desormeaux to the outside (it’s not clear which happened).  When dirt hits some horses in the face and they’re not use to it, it can cause them to not try as hard as they normally would.

4)      The mile-and-a-half was just too much for Big Brown:  This will be the weakest of possible explanations.  Big Brown was in trouble going into the final turn.  He was done long before the extra quarter-mile that is the (stupid) distance for the Belmont.  Remember, horses don’t race that distance on dirt before the Belmont and horses don’t race that distance on dirt after the Belmont.  It’s something that should be looked at, but that’s for another time.

5)      The 95 degree heat:  Some horses don’t like the heat.  This is probably the hottest it’s ever been in Big Brown’s limited racing career on race day.  It certainly could have hurt him on Belmont day.

BUT HERE’S THE BEST REASON OF ALL:

6)      THREE RACES IN FIVE WEEKS:  Kent Desormeaux said it best: “He was just out of gas.”  This wasn’t a horse who got beat in the final strides like Smarty Jones did in 2004 (and congratulations to the giant-killer, trainer Nick Zito, who beat Smarty Jones with Birdstone in 2004 and beat Big Brown on Saturday with outsider Da’ Tara).  This was a horse who was done around the final turn.  While this was a topic of a recent article in this space (see Kallas Remarks, 5/16/08), it seems to be gaining support in the racing mainstream.  Just last week, legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas called for the Triple Crown races to be more spread apart, with the Travers being the “fourth leg” of the Triple Crown (called the “Grand Slam” by some).  Horses today simply are not bred or trained to race three times in five weeks.  And this year’s Belmont may be the best proof of all of that.

  

WHAT DO THE OWNERS DO NOW?

    

Because of the arrogance of the trainer, many people are happy that Big Brown got beat.  But don’t penalize the horse for the arrogance of the trainer, even though I agree with trainer David Carroll’s statement (he finished second with Denis of Cork): “I’ve always thought you should win with class and you should lose with class” (as reported by Mike Vaccaro in the New York Post).  Amen to that, although we live in a different world today.

    

The owners have a tough call now.  If they race Big Brown again, and he loses, then his value plummets.  However, if it was three races in five weeks (as I and others suspect), and he rests up and returns for, say, the Travers in late August at Saratoga and wins, then we may have the answer to what happened. 

    

But that’s a gazillion dollar gamble.  Like many before him, Big Brown is just another in the long list of horses who failed to get it done.  Between him and Smarty Jones, it now seems impossible to do, for whatever reason.

    

WHAT SHOULD THE INDUSTRY DO NOW? 

    

Here’s hoping that the powers-that-be in thoroughbred racing see the obvious and change the timing (and review the distances as well) of the Triple Crown races.  As suggested previously, the first Saturday in May (Derby), the first Saturday in June (Preakness) and the first Saturday in July (Belmont) is the ideal schedule in the 21sr Century.  Thoroughbred racing should enter this century sooner rather than later.     

    

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 

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WHAT EFFECT, IF ANY, WILL A BIG BROWN TRIPLE CROWN WIN HAVE ON HORSE RACING?

                                                                            Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

It’s hard to believe that I’m writing this, given the recent history of Triple Crown losers (Smarty Jones being the latest in a long list), but it seems that Big Brown winning the Triple Crown is almost a foregone conclusion.  With a trainer who is hard to root for and ownership that, one would hope, would be a little cooler on the precipice of fame (because of the horse, of course), lots of people are actually rooting against Big Brown in the Belmont on Saturday.

    

But coming off one of the greatest Derby wins ever (four or five wide around both turns and then winning for fun) and a Preakness that turned out to be almost a training mile once jockey Kent Desormeaux flipped the switch at the top of the stretch, it’s hard to see who can beat Big Brown.  Frankly, as of right now, this is a pretty bad group of three-year-olds (other than Big Brown). 

    

Casino Drive, you say?  Unlikely, even though his dam is the mother of the last two Belmont winners, one of the most stunning feats in the history of breeding.  But his win in the Peter Pan was just OK and he would have to step up plenty (while Big Brown has to bounce tremendously) for Casino Drive to win.  Speed horse Tale of Ekati, loose on the lead, you say?  Unlikely, since, to cut a mile-and-a-half race, even loose on the lead, is a tremendously difficult thing to do, especially with a horse of Big Brown’s ability near you.  My personal favorite for second, Denis of Cork, you say?  Unlikely, because you’re   talking about a nice horse against a star.

      

Understand this:  there’s simply no Alydar to 1978’s Triple Crown winner Affirmed.  Frankly, there doesn’t even seem to be a Sham to 1973’s Secretariat, still the greatest horse ever (just check his Triple Crown times) (and remember, the reason Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths was because Sham’s jockey was told to run with Secretariat early to try and break his heart – of course, the only heart broken in that race was Sham’s).

    

Now, assuming what seems to be almost inevitable (unless maybe his quarter crack acts up during the race, a possible but unlikely scenario) actually happens, the bigger question for the sport of horse racing is this:  will a Triple Crown winner really jump start horse racing as a sport in the 21st Century?  Unfortunately, the answer here is no.

    

You’ve heard it a number of times over the last decade: the sport “really needs” a Triple Crown winner.  But, if it happens, that’s going to be just a temporary boost to the game.  Horse racing has always been a great sport but a very tough business.  For every great Derby winner story, there are thousands and thousands of tales of heartbreak.

    

Like it or not, for the general public, horse racing has really been reduced to the Triple Crown races (and the Belmont is huge, unfortunately, only if there’s a chance at a Triple Crown winner) and the Breeders Cup.  There’s really not that much else for the casual fan. 

    

The temporary boost (other than a one or two day Triple Crown-winning boost) will occur if the connections of Big Brown decide to race him once or twice more.  If he’s an undefeated Triple Crown winner, they will be under enormous pressure to stop with him immediately (his value as a sire will be already through the roof if he wins the Belmont).  There’s very little upside to racing him again (although beating Curlin in a proposed $5 million Massachusetts Handicap or Breeders Cup race would increase his astronomical value even more).

    

But that’s an awful big gamble for a horse who has raced three times in five weeks and has a foot problem to boot.  The wise decision will be to retire him after the Triple Crown, but maybe ego (of his connections, not him) or belief that he’s the greatest horse ever (not possible) will change that decision.  We’ll see.

    

The gambling landscape has changed so drastically in the last three decades that horse racing, once the only (legal) game in town, is now an afterthought for most people with a little money to spend.  You know the other competitors:  the lottery (it seems like 500 different games from state to state) and the casinos (sprouting up everywhere, including slots all over New York and Pennsylvania with enormous pressure on New Jersey to do the same) and even OTB, still apparently, losing money in New York (hard to believe, but apparently true).

    

Frankly, it’s more important for racetracks to get slot machines (oops, I mean video gaming machines, slot machines (I think) are still illegal – ha-ha) than to have a Triple Crown winner.  At Yonkers Raceway in the harness racing game, the installation of 5,300 video gaming machines has totally revamped the purse structure so better horses and top trainers and drivers are somewhat lured to a place that most avoided for many years due to a poor purse structure (purses have climbed through the roof at Yonkers). 

    

If it’s all about the money (and for your everyday horseman, with rare exceptions, it is) higher purses (through, for example, video gaming machines at Aqueduct and/or Belmont) is the biggest boost horse racing can receive in the near future.

    

But remember, as you’re cheering (for or against) Big Brown on Saturday, the problems of a once dominant industry don’t disappear when the 150,000 in the crowd at Belmont go home.  Come Monday, the problems will still be there and everywhere that horsemen go to work.  Here’s hoping a revival can take place sooner rather than later.

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

THE BIGGEST HARNESS RACE OF THE YEAR TO DATE HAS PANARAMIC ART IN AND MALTESE ARTIST AND BONO BESTS OUT

                                                                            Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

 

They raced three $50,000 divisions in the final preliminary leg of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series on Saturday, April 27th, at Yonkers Raceway.  The real question was who would (and who wouldn’t) make the estimated $400,000 Final on Saturday, May 3rd, the biggest (and richest) harness race of the year to date.

    

The first division had contender Panaramic Art having to win to guarantee a spot in the Final.  Panaramic Art did just that, winning in 1:52.3 to move into 5th place overall.

    

The second division went to, arguably, the best horse in the country right now.  Bono Bests had won his only prior Levy start and was monstrous last week in winning the $100,000 Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield.  But not racing at Yonkers last week cost him all chance to make the Final next week.  While he won in 1:52.3, his point total (50 points for winning plus 25 points for just racing, giving him 150 for the series) only put him in 12th place.  Had he raced at Yonkers last week and finished first or second, he would have made the $400,000 Final.

    

In the third division, defending Levy champ Maltese Artist also had to win to guarantee a spot in the Final.  But last year’s runner-up (and this year’s points leader) Special Report had other ideas, sending notice that he’s back by pacing his last half-mile in a stunning 54.4 to win in 1:52 by a neck over Maltese Artist.  The second-place finish (25 for second, 25 for just racing) moved Maltese Artist up to only 166 points and in 10th place.

    

If the top eight drop in for the Final, both Psilvuheartbreaker and Maltese Artist will be on the outside looking in.  However, if all eight don’t drop in, then one or possibly both could sneak in, an unlikely occurrence.

    

    

FINAL POINTS STANDINGS (50 Win, 25 Second, 12 Third, 8 Fourth, 5 Fifth plus 25 additional points every time a horse races, Top 8 make the Final):

    

  •      1)  Special Report        283
  •      2)  Took Hanover        258
  •      3)  Mypanmar              219
  •      4)  Palone Ranger        208
  •      5)  Panaramic Art        200
  •      6)  Rare Jewel             199
  •      7)  Radar Installed N   196
  •      8)  Tarver Hanover      188

     Also eligible (if any of the top 8 don’t drop in):

 

  •      9)    Psilvuheartbreaker  187
  •    10)  Maltese Artist          166     
  •    11)  Home Run Hudson  158
  •    12)  Bono Bests              150
  •    13)  Gold Dust Beach      137
  •    14) Royal Man         105      (only horses with over 100 points listed)

  •   

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 

EIGHT DIVISIONS OF THE SAGAMORE HILL HIGHLIGHT YONKERS RACEWAY

Jason Bartlett was the driving star, Scott Blackler was the training star and Scott Dillon was the winning owner as they all teamed up for two victories in the first leg of the Sagamore Hill Racing Series for three-and four-year-old colts and geldings at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday, March 8.  Driver Greg Grismore also had two wins in the Sagamore Hill.

    

A heavy downpour stopped just before the races began (track rated “good”), but high winds made for difficult conditions throughout the night.  Bartlett’s first winner came with Asbury Juke, who pulled first-over before the half and wore down pace-setting Real Platinum (Stephane Bouchard) to win by two lengths in 1:57.3  Real Platinum set fractions of 29.4, 59.2 and 1:28.  Asbury Juke looked him in the eye at the three-quarters and pulled away in the stretch with Real Platinum holding the place.  Basilio Blue Chip (Joshua Marks) finished third despite making a break.

    

Jason Bartlett said:  “This horse had been a little sick and I had to pull him a little earlier than I wanted to.  But he was real good tonight on a very windy night.”

    

The 9-5 second choice, Asbury Juke, a four-year-old gelding by Artsplace, won his third race in nine starts for seasonal earnings of $21,020 for trainer Blackler and owner Dillon of Anson, Maine.

    

Bartlett’s second winner came with Herzon, who was parked to the quarter in 28.3, made the top through fractions of 58.4 and 1:28.4, before coming home in 29.2 (on a very windy night) to win for fun by five-and-a-half lengths in 1:58.1.  Camityourinmyway (Greg Merton) slipped out at the three-quarters to gain the place and Aritsotle (Pat Berry) finished third at 53-1 despite a break.

    

Jason Bartlett knows he has a talented horse here:  “I raced this horse last year and he has a lot of speed.  He’s not yet where he was last year – he was a little steppy tonight.  But he was a little better than he’s been and he got the job done tonight.”

    

The 8-5 second choice, Herzon, a four-year-old horse by Cams Card Shark, won his first race of the year in seven starts for seasonal earnings of $10,990 for the aforementioned trainer/owner combination of Blackler and Dillon.

    

Eric Abbatiello won a division that made many Yonkers old-timers happy as he went down the road with the appropriately named Red Man A to win in 1:59.3.  Red Man cut fractions from post one of 28.3, 59 and 1:28.4 to win by three-quarters-of-a-length over the even-money favorite Crystal Guy (Jack Baggit, Jr.).  Chocolate Crush (Jeff Gregory) stayed third on the inside to finish third.

    

Many of you know that Eric’s father, for whom the horse is named, is the legendary Carmine Abbatiello, known for decades as the Red Man (for his bright red colors), who often dominated the driver standings at Yonkers, among other places.  Eric Abbatiello was happy with his horse’s performance:  “Red Man is a nice horse.  When he’s good, he’s good and since I got some relatively slow fractions [middle half of 1:00.1] tonight, we were able to get the win.”

    

The 2-1 second choice, Red Man, a four-year-old horse by Western Ideal, won his second race in eight starts for seasonal earnings of $10,574 for trainer/driver Eric Abbatiello and owner/breeder Marie Abbatiello, Eric’s mother, of Colts Neck, New Jersey.

    

Perhaps the most impressive Sagamore Hill winner was Art’s Image (Stephane Bouchard), who went wire-to-wire from post four in 1:57 to win by three in the fastest Sagamore division.  Art’s Image, who won earlier this year at the Meadowlands in 1:51.2, cut fractions of 27.4, 57.1 and 1:26.4.  He coasted home in 30.1 while never challenged.  Amerifin Idol (Jordan Stratton) came from second-over to be second.  Real Town (Greg Grismore) sat the pocket and finished third.

    

Bouchard knows he has a good one in Art’s Image:  “He was pretty good tonight.  I took it easy through the first turn, made the lead and never even had to pull the earplugs.  The last quarter [30.1] wasn’t fast, but I had a big lead and there was a big wind coming down the stretch.”       

    

The 4-5 favorite, Art’s Image, a four-year-old horse by Artsplace, won his second race in eight starts for seasonal earnings of $26,510 for trainer Nat Varty and owners Adam Victor & Son Stable LLC, Yannick Gingras, Joe Di Scala and Frank Canzone.

    

If Art’s Image wasn’t the most impressive winner, Victory’s Boy (Greg Merton) might get the award.  After pulling first-over from sixth coming to the half, Victory’s Boy wore down pace-setting Launch Angle (Jordan Stratton) and drew off by two lengths in 1:58.  Aint No Hearsay (Pat Berry) followed the winner to be second and Launch Angle, who cut fractions of 29.1, 59 and 1:28.1, finished third.

    

Driver Greg Merton was pleased despite the tough trip:  “He was pretty good tonight.  There was a very bad wind and he didn’t have an easy trip, but he’s a versatile horse and he knows what to do.”

    

The 3-1 second choice, Victory’s Boy, a four-year-old gelding by Artsplace, won his fifth race in eight starts for seasonal earnings of $15,687 for trainer John Berger and owner Win For Victory, Inc. of Staten Island, New York.

    

The other three divisions went to Bob’s Alibi, Cullens Blue Jean (both for Greg Grismore) and Fox Valley Tyrese (Pat Berry).  Bob’s Alibi, coming off a win in the Senior Trendsetter Final in 1:51.4 at the Meadowlands, won on the front end at Yonkers in 1:57.4 for the hard-to-beat team of Grismore and trainer Mickey Burke. He’s owned by Sylvia Burke and Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Pennsylvania.

    

Cullens Blue Jean got a perfect pocket drive by Grismore to win in 1:59 for another hard-to-beat team: trainer Virgil Morgan, Jr. and owner Joseph Muscara of Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania.

    

Another impressive winner was Fox Valley Tyrese, who made two moves to the lead for Pat Berry and drew off by three-and-a-half lengths in 1:58, with a 29.1 last quarter, the fastest last quarter of the eight Sagamore Hill divisions.  He’s trained by Julie Miller for owner South Of The Tracks Rac Inc. of Illinois.

    

The Sagamore continues for two more legs and the $50,000 added Final on Saturday, March 29.