Things That Make You Go Hmmmm (9)

Nice to see experiments with reductions in pari-mutuel takeout, but this one really caught my eye. Mardi Gras West Virginia, a Greyhound racetrack and casino near Charleston, received approval recently to lower the takeout rate on win, place, and show bets from 16.3% to 9.4%. In effect, the rate is similar to that of the rate on video lottery terminals at the facility. … Yes, WPS pools at dog tracks are w-a-y lower than those for exotic wagers and need some incentive, but the joint gets credit for trying. Racing needs more of this.

Haven’t digested all the information from the recent International Medication Summit in New York, so it’s possible I missed a few things. … Was there any discussion about drug-testing levels in foreign countries, and whether horses actually do race on medication of some sort? Was there any explanation of the difference between training on therapeutic drugs and racing on them? Are horses that train on medication but don’t race on it any less “tainted” when they go to stud? If anyone knows the answers, please let me know.

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships is probably my favorite racing event, and I believe the organization has done a fine job over the years expanding it and reaching out to the international community. But I don’t get taking $500,000 from the grade I Sprint and creating a 2-year-old dirt sprint for boys and girls. May have liked it a bit more if it was on the grass, but even then it’s a tough sell on me. … That said, if it draws a full field, I’m sure the handle will be fine.

Had the usual good time Preakness Stakes week at Pimlico Race Course, which has a certain charm. (Yes, I get hammered for saying that.) Upset of the week was the popularity of mascot “Kegasus.” … Repeat campaigns aren’t the norm, but surely there’s a good chance this guy is coming back in 2012?

Ventured to Keeneland on a recent weekend and ran into Frank Angst of the Times. We were talking when I opened my simulcast program to handicap a few races and noticed it had been marked up. I showed Frank, who promptly told me he hoped whoever had it first didn’t handicap in the can. … Thanks, Frank, nice image indeed. … Bottom line: How do used programs make it back to the program sellers for resale? Yikes.

Got a package in the mail from the Brandywine Valley visitors’ bureau that contained a small horseshoe and flyer from, the online marketing and promotional Web site for Pennsylvania racing. … The objective, the flyer says, is to “target an audience bored with the same old bars and play up the great nightlife, lively crowds, and surrounding points of interest that can stretch a day at the track into a weekend.” … Very good strategy, and if you’re ever in the Brandywine Valley, be sure to eat the mushrooms. Awesome.

Speaking of fungi, it brings to mind something said to me (probably more than once) by a longtime industry official who is never on the popular side of issues: “We’re like mushrooms. They keep us in the dark and feed us shit.” … After 15 years or so of covering this industry, you’d think I wouldn’t be able to relate to that anymore.

Remember “handle up, purses down”? Lately it has been “handle down, purses up.” … When the heck will it be “handle up, purses up”? … It has long been apparent the lack of transparency in reporting pari-mutuel handle and resulting revenue has made it hard to have any gauge of what’s going on by racetrack, state, or even the country. How does this occur in a highly regulated business with an industry database?

Here’s a comment from a horsemen at a slots racetrack in regard to repeated claims horse racing is being subsidized by gaming machines owned by the company that operates racing there: “It’s not a state subsidy. It’s a profit-maker for the state. We are not being subsidized. We are subsidizing the state.” … It’s hard to argue with the guy, huh?

Have you ever watched National League MVP Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds at the plate? Could you imagine what this industry could accomplish if the collective powers that be had that same concentration, intensity, love of the game, and the desire to win? … No politics, just crushing the ball.


Leave a Comment:


What makes me go "HMMMMM"?

Why folks keep putting Animal Kingdom as leader in the 3-year-old group.

Shackleford beat him 2 of the last 3 races between them!

15 Jun 2011 10:42 AM

I agree with LikesHorses. Shackleford does not get the respect he deserves.

15 Jun 2011 11:04 AM

Quick update from author: Keeneland already contacted me to apologize for the program situation. Much appreciated.

15 Jun 2011 11:20 AM

No respect for Shack a surprise? Same reason sprinters don't get horse of the year over the "big kids" who run and win at a 1 1/4 miles. Lots of fun, nice sprinters but the big money and respect goes to horses (and like the Queen Z) who can run farther. Shack barely won at 1 3/8s. Barely. He's a nice mile, mile and an 1/8th horse...when Dialed In isn't running against him that is...he seems like a pretty horse to look at that needs his race and also if the closers run into a few problems. Not a Blame, or Curlin, or Bernardini...he hasn't proven himself to that level yet.

15 Jun 2011 11:46 AM

I believe the quote in paragraph #7 should more accurately be stated as: "owners should be treated like mushrooms, keep them in the dark and bury them with bullshit" and it should be attributed to the great trainer, Woody Stephens.

15 Jun 2011 11:50 AM
Carlos in Cali

$1.5 million for the BCSprint isn't too shabby and I like the 2yo Sprint race, though 7f would probably be more intriguing..

If they do bring back Kegasus, maybe they can replace the scrawny little bird-chested dude with a more muscular, toned mascot like Jason S. giving free tips... LOL.Yikes!

"Handicapping in the can" and "feeding people shit"? Sounds like a possible double-dose of E.Coli bacteria, but this time they can't blame the so-called 'Illegals' nor the agriculture business.

15 Jun 2011 1:23 PM

Ahhhhhhh, Likeshorses.....  I see you are a subscriber of "who beat who" theory." Shackleford will soon be running at lesser distances, while Animal Kingdom continues to get checks. Once Shackleford gets into races such as the Travers and JCGC and the paces are REAL, he will fade into the sunset. "Who beat who".... I love it.

15 Jun 2011 1:30 PM

I disagree with the comments on Shackleford being the best 3 yr old. He might be the best miler but Animal Kingdom is clearly better at the Classic distances. AK was clearly impacted by the start and still was right up to Shackleford spotting him 10 lengths.

15 Jun 2011 1:37 PM
Jason Shandler

Tom: The Reds are going into the tank and Votto has to take some of the blame. Great hitter, but is he the leader they need? Not sure, given his antics from two years ago. It's time to abandon ship and jump back on the Phillies wagon, the team you rooted for your whole life until recently. Make up your mind please...

15 Jun 2011 3:40 PM
Jason Shandler

BTW, Carlos, any luck moving out of your mom's basement yet? We're all pulling for you. It will happen for you one of these days.

15 Jun 2011 3:42 PM

KEGASUS should become the annual mascot. A well-built centaur would be nice to look at but would "ruin" the effect of KEGASUS. (Rock'in that "beer-gut" ,raising his steins.) I like him the way he is for this venue at the Infest Party...he fits.


I think SHACKLEFORD is an excellent colt. He is just a baby and look at how well he has done. I know he'll be hard to beat at a mile & I do hope he is pointed toward the BC World Championships! Once he has some age on him, if kept sound, he'll go a lot farther.(Distance )

As a sire, well, he has the bone & substance to be considered in the future. I have always really liked this colt !

I just don't see SHACKLEFORD fading off into the sunset but I DO hear us all screaming his name in the future.

As for the change in the BC race, to try a new idea is always a good thing-if it doesn't work, you'll find out. I vote for "let's try it and see".

15 Jun 2011 5:35 PM
Carlos in Cali


Hey Jason, try again. You have me confused with someone else. I'm staying in the master bedroom, my mom is in the basement. Ha!

15 Jun 2011 5:37 PM


16 Jun 2011 1:01 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

I thought the "mushroom" comment was attributed to Charlie Whittingham. Anyway, you do a great job, Tom. I enjoy your show with Jason and guests.

16 Jun 2011 9:53 AM
Ida Lee

I just finished reading all the above comments and all I can say is "Hmmmmm"...

16 Jun 2011 10:12 AM

2yo Breeders' Cup sprint for 500K...yawn

16 Jun 2011 10:23 AM
Pedigree Ann

What next? A turf sprint for 2yos?

Make the BC Sprint and Turf Sprint all ages (2 and up) events; the big sprint at Longchamp on Arc weekend, the Prix de l'Abbaye, are written that way. So is Britain's Nunthorpe S (G1), and so is Italy's biggest sprint, the Premio Chiusura. The Nunthorpe was last won by a 2yo in 2007, Kingsgate Native; in 1992, it was won by Lyric Fantasy, a 2yo filly. Don't need to keep adding races for moderate horses; only need one juvenile turf race, because there aren't that many worthy US turf juveniles.

16 Jun 2011 3:41 PM

Plodderman, I don't subscribe to any "theory" but that includes the "would'a, could'a, should'a, what if" theory of recognition. Why shouldn't those that "git 'er done" receive the credit?

17 Jun 2011 7:53 AM

HMMMM- Rajiv draws only 7 days for his riding fiasco at the Belmont, and now AK is injured and out for the summer.  Seems a re-review by the stewards should be in order. ANY type of endangerment simply CANNOT be tolerated, and this was blatant.

HMMMM- Irwin may have been right in calling Isnt He (Un)Perfect an orangatang.

HMMMM- Goldikova loses at Ascot.  Will she come back to defend her 3rd BC?

17 Jun 2011 1:37 PM

Shandler you either missed the point of the last nugget or believe the racing industry is capable of hitting hanging sliders. Joey Votto is an exemplary representative of pro sports, period. Stick to blogging about horses.

17 Jun 2011 4:24 PM

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