Thanksgiving Roundup 2015

November 25, 2015

With Thanksgiving 2015 upon us and the holiday season into full swing, I thought it would be a good time to wrap up some issues, point out some takeaways, look toward the future, and have some fun.

For the most part we’ll leave the Eclipse Awards alone. There are primarily two reasons for that. One, they lost a lot of credibility with Past the Wire when California Chrome received a vote for turf horse. Voting credentials and qualifications should have been immediately reviewed and revised. Voting should also not be confidential. Second, Take Charge Brandi showed us all it ain’t over till it’s over, just like Yogi always knew and said. RIP Mr. Berra. Any doubts, just ask the connections of Lady Eli who, after her Breeders’ Cup score made room on the mantle place for the Eclipse trophy. There is still racing to be done.

Speaking of Lady Eli, let’s start with her. All reports are she has overcome the dreadful laminitis that not only threatened her career, but her life. It looks like she’ll survive, resume training, and possibly race. No small feat by any means and a huge credit to Chad Brown, and his whole team. Progress, early intervention, and top shelf care can make a difference. A little luck and a smile down from Above never hurts either. Here’s to seeing what’s best for the filly but hoping to see her in a Grade 1 winner’s circle.

Most of my readers and followers know I am a huge fan and supporter of riders. I don’t like criticizing or critiquing them for split second decisions while trying to control and navigate 1000 pound animals. It’s tough. Pound for pound they are amongst the strongest and bravest athletes in the world and never get the credit due. If you don’t know how I feel about them just read A Perfect Storm Gone Wrong and you’ll see. There is, however, a little critiquing that goes with the territory from time to time. I’ll keep this plain and simple. A huge fault and flaw in Kent Desormeaux’s style and outlook on racing is not riding certain horses out to the wire. That’s not to say he isn’t an excellent rider and extremely talented when he wants to be.

Now I’m an animal lover, and do my share in shelters and rescues although we all could do more, so I am not talking about a horse who is off, sore, or not right in any manner. Kent gets the benefit of the doubt there as he should. But if you believe, and it looks to you, like every horse he doesn’t ride out to the finish, falls into one of those categories, you also probably believe a club soda can cause you to fail a breathalyzer. Can you imagine the number of DUI re trials across the country or in California alone if that was proven to be factual. To steal one from ESPN, come on man.

The CHRB leaves a lot to be desired starting with owners and Alex Solis not being viewed as conflicts, to Bayern in The Breeders’ Cup, to the She’s A Tiger disqualification and countless other bad calls. So let’s get this straight, Kent can hurt bettors and owners by failing a breathalyzer while on the track grounds riding, failing to ride horses out to the wire possibly costing placings and causing losing tickets, but Patrick Valenzuela who rides every horse like it’s the Kentucky Derby, can’t get a license. We all know Pat’s past issues but fact is, his last hiatus was self-imposed and not the result of any substance issue. The only one Pat’s hurt is himself, let him earn his living. It’s almost as ridiculous as Rick Dutrow being banned for 10 years in New York over a lot of misinformation. If you want to know what really happened there read this Rick Dutrow Article.

The other day I made the mistake of responding to someone on social media who called Jerry Hollendorfer a “ducker” if he doesn’t point Songbird to the Kentucky Derby against colts. Never mind the current point system isn’t exactly fair to fillies, Songbird is on the small side, something I think a horseman might consider when weighing taking on colts, let alone at a mile and a quarter so early in a career. When did it become about the fan and not the horse? I’ve discussed this over Wise Dan and Zenyatta. Spotting your horses properly is a respected art and talent and a huge part of being a great trainer. It takes care of the animal, leads to longevity in their careers, and is part of being a great trainer. You have to run where it’s best for your horse, not the fans. The races the fans want to see will happen naturally often enough. If you think Hollendorfer is a “ducker” just look at the past performances of Blind Luck.

We finally got our Triple Crown winner. Guess what, we didn’t have to change anything in the series to get it done. We just needed a horse good enough to do it and a trainer and connections who knew what they had and what to do with him. American Pharoah’s loss in The Travers, while adding to The Spa’s legacy as the graveyard of favorites, took nothing away from what the horse accomplished. The internal splits were ridiculous, and the gallop in front of all those fans the day before the race likely took some toll. Sure he had things his own way in The Belmont and The Breeders’ Cup Classic but he got it done with flair and style. And please stop with the slow argument. Just look at his Belmont and Classic. The horse is special, and yes belongs in the conversation. He’s the fourth Triple Crown winner I’ve seen thus far. It can be done and the series is just fine.

Guess what, we didn’t have to change anything in the series to get it done.

Well winning The Breeders’ Cup Sprint, or even running second, does nothing to insure you continue training the horse. In one of the worst timed and handled moves in racing, the owners of Run Happy fired Maria Borell the morning after she won them the Sprint, the biggest race they’ve managed to win despite going through dozens of trainers and spending a fortune in the game. The owners of Private Zone, himself a Grade 1 winning accomplished sprinter, likely one win from a championship, that being a second to Run Happy in the Sprint, was moved from Jorge Navarro to Bryan Lynch. I can only imagine Peter Walder’s face if I ever told him to take one of our horses to the track to get rid of their lactic acid the morning after the horse won a Grade 1 and Peter told me he had heat in his ankle. Never mind what happened the day before, I can’t imagine the look he’d give me. Not that I’d make such a suggestion but picturing his face if I did is comical. I doubt he’d say a word.

There are just no guarantees in horse racing. Mario Gutierrez who is currently riding in top form, looked on his way to stardom and the top of the game after flawless rides on I’ll Have Another in The Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Strangely, and only until recently, his career seemed to stall afterwards. He seems back on track now. Similarly Joel Rosario looked to be the clear cut top jockey in the country not all that long ago. I’ll readily admit I was one of the first to compare him to one of the best ever, Laffit Pincay Jr. Something’s changed, something’s different, Joel, while still a top rider, and at times excellent isn’t quite the same as he was. No guarantees in the Sport of Kings.

Ah, Lasix. Another subject I’ve discussed many times. Read PE or Not PE. I think the world of the Casse operation, father and son. Great horsemen, great outfit, always dangerous. With that Mark Casse belongs talking about what bettors want or don’t want or care about as much as most of us do about who needs front wraps and who doesn’t. Most bettors I know, several of them large bettors, care about Lasix. They are also in agreement that it is indeed performance enhancing.

Herein lies the problem with Lasix. It is overused. It is used on as many horses that don’t bleed as who do. Why? Obviously it’s performance enhancing and affects hydration and recovery after racing. It gets in the blood and eventually the genes. Now you’ll have those who’ll say the tracks make sure only bleeders get it. I’d argue no. Any trainer who wants his horse on Lasix has 101 ways to get them on it. Track Vets are competitive. If their customer wants Lasix which most view as harmless then they’ll get Lasix or a new vet. He scoped with trickles of blood after that work didn’t he? “Wink wink”, sure did Lasix from now on.

Just look at The Breeders’ Cup Turf this year. It really came down to a two horse race on paper. Golden Horn, an Arc winner and proven champion, and Found, a talented Juddmonte filly from Europe. The two had raced each other twice I believe in Europe before the Cup. Golden Horn was a few lengths better both times. Neither had Lasix in Europe where it is not legal on race day. In the Cup, Found got it and Golden Horn didn’t. Some will say Golden Horn prefers firmer ground and it was on the soft side Breeders’ Cup day, but he ran so well, ran a winning race, had great action and a hold of the track, but came up just a neck short of Found who was a fantastic play at 9-1, in what was essentially a two horse race in which she had an edge, Lasix. Don’t think so, just ask The Hammer, I haven’t spoken to him but I’d bet he knew just like I did. Golden Horn beats her with Lasix.

Looking ahead Past the Wire is going back to being a weekly column. We were weekly for a long time but then went bi- weekly for the most part. We’ll be back to weekly and plan to keep it that way. As always we appreciate your support and always welcome your thoughts and input. We also welcome suggestions for future columns.

Apologies to our Tracking Trips customers. We have had some technical issues with our new database and system. We just about have them all worked out and Tracking trips will indeed be a tool you’ll want in your arsenal. Due to the issues we are crediting all customers through Jan 1st. Billing will begin then. If you’ve paid in advance you’ll receive a credit or refund, your choice.

We also plan to roll out The Clubhouse any day now. Many of you will enjoy that and be able to both learn and contribute. Membership is free.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend and all the great racing that goes with it. Healthy and happy to all!

High 5:

A special high five this week to Joe and Elizabeth Talamo. They were just married and are a great racing couple and really nice people. Both in their own ways are great for the game. Joe is an excellent young rider who is still getting better all the time. Elizabeth is a knowledgeable commentator and we wish them both all the very best!

Low 5:

CHRB.

It’s kind of like suing somebody. You don’t really need a reason.

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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@jonathanstettin @Tracking_Trips you were right when you told me patience a month ago...will definitely re-up for @Tracking_Trips

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