Better Scheduling Gain Net an Additional $400 Million in Handle

While horseracing integrity was a major topic of discussion at the Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, the topic of scheduling also held court. Presenter Ben Vonwiller of McKinsey & Company said big data could be of assistance towards building a better race schedule.

According to McKinsey, if tracks were able to coordinate with each other on post times they could increase handle by $400 million. That number represents an increased handle of 3.7 percent. U.S racing has not seen such a bump since 2000. Even if only the top five tracks in the country worked together it would result in a $150 million purse increase.

A 2011 McKinsey report titled “Driving Sustainable Growth for Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding” called for race overlaps problems to be taken care of, but The Jockey Club Chairman Stuart Janney III admitted no action was taken to rectify the situation.

“This is money that’s available to us if we work together,” said Janney. “We should be ashamed of ourselves if we don’t figure out a way to take advantage of this.”

An initial study discovered that scheduling does matter when it comes to handle and there are many times through the day that has room for improvement. McKinsey recently used big data when putting together an NFL schedule, and they used that approach towards doing the same for horseracing.

“To give you an idea of the power of this technique, our team, in seven hours, was able to find a schedule that was better than the last one published,” said Vonwiller. “We took that team to look at what we could do in racing.”

One suggestion McKinsey emphasized was having tracks work together to eliminate overlap. Something we most recently saw when both the Whitney Stakes (G1) and the West Virginia Derby (G3) ran at the same time.

Woodward Stakes a Possibility for Gun Runner

On the heels of a 5 1/4-length victory in this past weekend’s $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (G1), Gun Runner’s connections are looking ahead to what is next, and that very well could be a start in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) at the Saratoga Race Course on September 2nd.

“He’s fabulous, happy with himself, came back great,” reported trainer Steve Asmussen on his Gun Runner’s condition following the Whitney Stakes.

“(I only noticed it) once he slowed down,” recalled Asmussen of his charge’s Whitney Stakes performance. “We watched the tape repeatedly, repeatedly, and if you’ve never seen anything before, just wait around. Can you believe that? I mean if we tried to throw one and stick in one’s tail as he was standing, still we’d go 0-for-1,000—let alone at a run, let alone Gun Runner, let alone in the Whitney—and it stayed. (With) how fast he was going, it was held out from him, when he slowed down to walk, then it came into him. We were obviously unaware of it until he came back to the winner’s circle, but not a nick on him. I mean, there’s still nails in it.”

The Whitney win was Gun Runner’s second straight grade one victory, and his fourth win in a row on North American Soil. Asmussen believes the Woodward Stakes will be the next race out for Gun Runner. “It seems very probable with him running over the racetrack here (and) not having to travel again,” said Asmussen. “It would be ideal.”

Fourstardave Handicap Preview

Time Test Looks Tough in Fourstardave while World Approval Tries to Snap Trainers Struggles at the Spa

This is the 33rd running of The FourStarDave Handicap (G1) for 3-year-olds and up over the inner turf course at Saratoga. The $500,000 Grade I race was shorted to 1 mile in 2012, and this year’s edition has a field of 7 lined up including a filly, Sassy Little Lila (6-1), battling the boys.

Disco Partner (2-1) and World Approval (9-2) will both have new jockeys in the irons. That’s because their regular riders are in Chicago for the Arlington Million. We feel this will really affect Disco Partner, as he’s won 4-of-5 coming into Saturday’s race as the 2nd betting choice. But Disco Partner has to be ridden to perfection as he has one big kick coming from the rear. If the new jockey Tyler Gaffalione doesn’t time his move right on Disco Partner it will be very costly down the lane. If that were to come at the expense of World Approval, who will also be racing on or near the lead, then trainer Mark Casse would pick up just his 2nd win of the meet through 40 starts heading into the weekend.

There appears to be little speed lined up and that will really help Sassy Little Lila. She was scratched last weekend in another stakes race at Saratoga by her trainer Brad Cox for this spot and she’s also facing males today as well.  Sassy Little Lila will take them as far as she can on the front end, and while she may hang on for a share at the wire, a win would be a big surprise.

The morning line favorite Time Test (8/5) looks tough in this spot for trainer Chad Brown despite trying a mile for the first time in the U.S. Time Test is coming into this race after finishing 2nd in back to back races at Belmont Park as the favorite. Many handicappers will look to fade him as they consider him a money burner off those last two races. We also think Disco Partner will take money at the windows, but Time Test has lots of talent and class and can rate much closer to the pace will little speed pushing on the front end. We suggest making a win wager on Time Test at 8/5 odds, along with an exacta key over Sassy Little Lila, Disco Partner, and Ballagh Rocks (10-1).

The FourStarDave Handicap (G1) is race 10 at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 12 with an estimated post time of 6:28 ET as Race No. 10 on the Inner Turf.

Kenny Schmitt contributed to this article. Follow him on Twitter @FBWinners.

Gun Runner Puts in Final Whitney Stakes Work

Grade one winner Gun Runner put in his final work in preparation for the August 5th Whitney Stakes (G1) by breezing a half-mile at Saratoga Race Course on the morning of July 30. He was timed completing the workout in :49.33.

The training session took place on the course’s Okalahoma training track. The four-year-old colt was timed at fractions of :12 4/5 and :25 1/5. He galloped to five furlongs in 1:03 1/5.

“I thought he worked good. He always works well,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He’s a nice horse and (it was) more of the same. He’s a very generous workhorse. The weather’s been ideal. I think we’ve been lucky with it so far. Obviously there’s a pretty good chance of rain for the Whitney, but that’s out of our hands. We’ll see how he handles everything.”

Gun Runner is coming off an impressive seven-length victory performance in the June 17 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. It was his first since losing to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March. His other 2017 race was a win in the Razorback Handicap (G3) in February.

Also working at Saratoga this past weekend was a fellow grade one winner, Time and Motion. The Tapit filly was clocked breezing four furlongs in a time of :49.45. It was the first time she hit the track since finishing third in the July 8 Modesty Handicap (G3T) at Arlington International Race Course.

Race Preview: National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame

National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Race is Competitive Feature Friday at Saratoga

The Racing Hall of Fame inductees will be introduced Friday morning, and then state-bred fillies and mares will break from the gate in Race 1 at 1:00 pm ET to start the weekend of racing at Saratoga. Javier Castellano, who has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey each of the past four years, will be inducted into the National Museum Racing Hall of Fame. He’ll then ride one of the race favorites in Race 1 on the turf, Corey Q (5-2), for trainer Chad Brown. The featured race of the day will be at 5:40 ET when 10 three-year-olds break from the gate for the $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2). The 1 1/16 mile turf test will have Castellano riding one of the favorites again aboard Big Handsome (3-1) for trainer Tony Dutrow.

The four top favorites in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes will break from the four inside posts. That includes Yoshida (JPN) at 7-2. The Japan-foiled colt trained by Bill Mott liked the soft turf at Pimlico in May to win his stakes debut from the back of the pack, but busted his backers as the favorite last time out in his graded stakes debut, finishing 5th in the Belmont Derby Invitational. Favorite Caviar Czar (IRE), by Medaglia d’Oro, is 2-1 odds breaking from the 3-hole for trainer Todd Pletcher. He broke his maiden at Churchill and then finished 2nd last out in allowance company on the dirt. Beatable favorite here. Bricks and Mortar (5-2) is on the rail for trainer Chad Brown, and jockey Joel Rosario. The dark bay by Giant’s Causeway is a perfect 3-for-3 following his Manilla Stakes win on the 4th of July. Rosario rallied him from the back of the pack at the three quarter pole and to soar to the front in the shadow of the finish line by a neck over Big Handsome (3-1). The Street Boss colt Big Handsome likes to stalk and stride home and he’ll get plenty of wagering interest with HOFer Castellano aboard.

Snap Decision (5-1) is a Hard Spun colt who won in allowance company last time out for trainer Shug McGaughey. He’s been in the money his last six races including his lone stakes try when 3rd in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) in March. Secretary at War (8-1) will be running on the lead and has value with John Velazquez riding after finishing a very close 3rd in the Manilla behind Bricks and Mortar and Big Handsome.  Arklow (10-1 breaks from the outside and he too was a huge disappointment as the second choice in the Belmont Derby where he tired badly in the stretch and finished last of 11. If he runs back to his previous two races at similar distances, then he’ll contend. Jockey Felix Geroux rides for trainer Brad Cox at a healthy price.

Long shots Parlor (15-1), another Giant’s Causeway colt Makarios (20-1) trained by Nick Zito and Bonus Points, Pletcher’s other runner, round out the field.

A well-matched and difficult-to-handicap race with Castellano another Hall of Famer on the list. Afternoon thunderstorms (40%) are in the forecast for Saratoga Springs, NY, so confirm the race will stay on the turf.

Jail-Time Rule Change on the Agenda at CHRB Meeting

With field size a concern in California, the California Horse Racing Bard (CHRB) discussed a possible rule change at its July meeting that could potentially restrict in-state claimed horses from running outside of California.

The current rule in place restricts claimed horses from competing out of a state for a specific amount of time at most in-state tracks. CHRB and some industry stakeholders want to to expand upon the current measures in a more formal regulatory fashion.

The proposal for the rule change was sent to the CHRB’s Legislative, Legal, and Regulations Committee for review, and it seeks to ban a claimed horse from racing “in any state other than California until 60 days after the close of the meeting from where it was claimed, except (for) a stakes race.”

“There’s been considerable discussion over the last many months about short fields and about the fact that one of the contributing factors is the claiming and removal of horses from California (to) many locations east, where purses are enhanced with subsidies from gaming,” said CHRB Executive Director Rick Baedeker. “There are house rules in place at Del Mar and Santa Anita—where any horse claimed at the meet stays at the meet—(but) a horse could be claimed in the last couple of weeks and show up a day after a meet closes at one of those locations in the East.”

Baedeker also mentioned how legal restrictions that used to prevent “jail-time” efforts in the state weren’t impediments any longer, which was supported by CHRB Chief Counsel John McDonough.

“In 2003 we had an attorney general that thought instituting this rule would be in violation of the Interstate Commerce (Act),” said McDonough. “Since that period of time, some 27 of 38 states that allow wagering on (horse racing) have instituted rules similar to this and there’s been a dramatic change—in regards to Supreme Court decisions in the last few years—narrowing the scope of Interstate Commerce.

“Based on analysis done by the entire legal (team), we should ask for another opinion from the Attorney General, because we believe the board, if it chooses to, could institute this particular regulation and it could be defended.”

The proposed rule change will undergo further discussion before a final vote is tabulated.

50-1 Long shot Winner Not Horse Entered in Race at Youmouth

Wrong Horse Runs and Wins at Yarmouth

Imaging cashing a ticket on a 50-1 long shot winner, and then finding out it wasn’t even the horse that was entered in the race. Punters were left mystified Thursday when the wrong horse ran-in-and-won the opening race at Yarmouth, causing quite a commotion in the racing world.

The winner on the program of the 6 furlong novice auction race outside London was 50-1 shot Mandarin Princess, who beat the odds-on-favorite Fyre Cay by a neck. It later emerged the wrong horse had run and won, namely Mandarin Princess’ her 3-year-old stablemate Millie’s Kiss, who was scheduled to run late on the card in the fourth race, but was subsequently withdrawn.

The trainer Charlie McBride was responsible for both horses but the mistaken identity was discovered only when the ‘winner’ was taken for a routine sample and the scan by the veterinary officer discovered it was not Mandarin Princess but Millie’s Kiss.

Because the result had already been declared official, Yarmouth stewards could not amend it and have had to refer it to the British Horseracing Authority.

The BHA released a statement that read: “The incident at Great Yarmouth has been referred to the BHA’s head office in order that we can carry out an investigation, in accordance with our rules. Since we introduced the microchipping identification system an incident such as this is, as far as we are aware, unprecedented. The issue had not been established until after the result had been made official. After the weighed in has been declared on the racecourse, the result cannot be amended by the stewards.”

According to stipendiary steward Tony McGlone, the mix-up occurred after a stable girl took both Mandarin Princess and Millie’s Kiss out of their stable boxes before trainer Charlie McBride arrived from the weighing room to put the saddle on the horse.

The BHA said responsibility lay with the trainer to present and run the correct horse in the race, and “while we have not seen an incident of this nature in recent times, we will of course determine what steps need to be put in place to prevent it from happening again. We sympathise with the betting operators and betting public who have potentially been affected by this incident.”

Mike Hushion Retires From Training

Respected trainer Mike Hushion has reached the end of his career following two races this past weekend in the New York Racing Association (NYRA) circuit. The 69-year-old Hushion announced his plans to step away from training last September.

“I think like anybody my age, I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” said Hushion. “My owners have all been wonderful and this is the right time for it, that’s all. (The runners) keep us busy. It gives us a little something to do, but the winding down has gone pretty smoothly.”

“I’ve been with him for 25 years, so that pretty much says it all,” said long-time client Barry K. Schwartz said. “We’ve had a great relationship. He’s a terrific guy and a wonderful trainer. It’s sad to come to an end but I’m very happy for him. It’d be nice for him to win with one of them but, regardless, he’s done such a great job with so many horses over the years. We’ve had some amazing times together, a lot of highs.”

Hushion battled and beat leukemia in 2015 and plans to spend the early part of his retirement with this three adult children — sons Ryan and Quinn, and daughter Casey — as well his eight grandchildren. There’s a ninth grandchild on the way, so Hushion should be plenty busy with family time.

The 69-year-old trainer began his career in the mid-70s, with his first winner coming in 1975 — Tugboat Ryan. Since that initial victory, Hushion has gone on to train 1,426 winners and earned over $52 million in purses.

“With my past experience, the one thing I was sure that I didn’t want to do is go from here to basically the hospital,” said Hushion. “I wanted to take some time and enjoy everything that’s supposed to be in between.

“As soon as I made the phone calls to my owners, there’s never been a doubt in my mind, and that’s a good sign. My horses will be getting good care where they go, and I’ll move on and see what happens. Spend a little time out in the big world. We’ll see what comes along, but I have some ideas. No paying jobs, though.”

Getting Set for the Saratoga Summer Stakes Races

Saratoga Summer Meet Features 35 Graded Stakes Including 16 Grade 1’s

The best racing of the summer season starts this week with Del Mar out West in California and the Saratoga Summer Meet in Saratoga Springs, NY. Racing fans and horsemen look forward to these meets, which draw the best racing, and betting, in the world. The 40-day Saratoga Summer Meet starts Friday, July 21 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 4.

During the 2017 Summer Meet, Saratoga hosts 35 graded stakes races, including 16 Grade I races – 13 on the dirt track and 3 on turf. A total of 69 stakes worth $18.775 million in purses are set for this summer at Saratoga, the oldest track in the U.S. and voted one of the top-10 sports venues of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated, .

The two richest races at the carnival is the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 26, and the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes, the first ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup Challenge race of the Saratoga meet. The Travers is the traditional midsummer highlight for 3-year-olds, and the world’s best race horse, Arrogate, announced his arrival with a record-breaking performance in the 2016 Travers Stakes.

Travers day is August 26, and the biggest day of racing at Saratoga with six Grade I races including four ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup Challenge races. They include:

  • $700,000 Personal Ensign – (BC Distaff)
  • $500,000 Ballerina – (BC Filly & Mare Sprint)
  • $600,000 Forego – (BC Dirt Mile)
  • $1 Million Sword Dancer – (BC Turf)

Five graded stakes headline opening weekend at Saratoga, and the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) for top 3-year-olds follows next Saturday, July 29.

The Saratoga Race Course Guide provides all the information you need, whether you are a first-time track goer looking for the basics, or a life-long veteran looking for what’s new this year. The biggest and richest races of the summer at Saratoga are listed below. Let the races begin!

Sat., July 22 – Diana (G1), 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares on the turf – $500,000
Sat., July 29 – Jim Dandy (G2), 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds – $600,000                                                                                                                                                     Sat., July 29 – Vanderbilt (G1) 6 furlongs for 3-year-olds & up – $350,000
Sat., Aug. 5 – The Longines Test (G1), 7 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies – $500,000
Sat., Aug. 5 – The Whitney (G1), 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds & up – $1,200,000
Sat., Aug. 12 – Fourstardave Handicap (G1), 1 mile on the turf for 3-year-olds & up – $500,000
Sat, Aug. 19 – Alabama (G1), 1 ¼ mile for 3-year-old fillies – $600,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Forego (G1), 7 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up – $600,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1), 7 furlongs for 3-year-olds – $500,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Ketel One Ballerina (G1), 7 furlongs for fillies & mares 3-year-olds & up – $500,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Personal Ensign (G1), 1 1/8 miles for fillies & mares 3-year-olds & up – $700,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Sword Dance (G1), 1 ½ miles on turf for 3-year-olds & up – $1,000,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Travers (G1), 1 ¼ miles for 3-year-olds – $1,250,000
Sat., Sept. 2 – Woodward (G1), 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds & up – $750,000                                                                                                                                         Sat., Sept 2 – Spinaway (G1), 7 furlongs for 2-year-old fillies – $350,000
Mon., Sept. 4 – Hopeful (G1), 7 furlongs for 2-year-olds – $350,000

Handicapping the Indiana Derby

Indiana Derby Favorite Irap May Not be so Handsome

The $500,000 Indiana Derby is set for Saturday, and it’s time to pick a winner. The Derby is race 9 and the last of six stakes on a strong 10-race program that includes the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3) in race 8. While the American Graded Stakes Committee dropped both the Derby and Oaks to Grade 3’s this year, they still drew solid fields of 11 and 8 horses respectively.

Trainer Doug O’Neill saddles the favorite in both races for 3-year-olds with Mopotism (7-5) breaking from the outside post in the Oaks and Irap (8-5) drawing the No. 2 post in the Derby. O’Neill also trains the favorite in the Warrior Veterans Stakes, Gangster (5-2). O’Neill’s go to jockey Mario Gutierrez will ride all three favorites.

Have Fun betting Indiana Derby and All Stakes Pick Four

No Derby runners have more than two wins in their careers, but Irap is the lone millionaire having broke through for his maiden win in the Blue Grass Stakes to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, where he finished up the track in 18th place. But a victory in the Ohio Derby in late June when he finished well clear of Steve Asmussen-trained Untrapped (6-1) should have the Tiznow colt drawing plenty action as the favorite. Irap is the proven horse and best horse in the field, but will offer little value when wagering.

Awesome Saturday (8-1) is an up and comer for trainer Bret Calhoun who tries stakes company for the first time. He’s raced five times, all this year, and finished in the money each time with a pair of wins. His last race in June was an impressive 3-length win at this distance over Watch Me Whip (10-1), who drew the outside post for trainer Dale Romans. Brian Hernandez, Jr. has ridden Awesome Saturday in all his starts, and figures to be cashing in again Saturday night with a breakthrough win pushing the pace not too far-fetched.

Untrapped was 3rd behind Irap in the Ohio Derby, and while the cutback in distance may help him, the others mentioned including Hollywood Handsome (8-1) seem to be better shots. Hollywood Handsome fired a 5 furlong bullet work of 23 at the distance on July 3 and then breezed easy again for trainer Dallas Stewart on July 9 at Churchill. He should rebound well off his DNF performance in the Belmont when Florent Geroux was removed from the irons and did not finish. He was 4th in the Louisiana Derby in April, but the impressive performance was his allowance win when he won at this distance on the front end with a fast pace. Must include if you’re looking for a long shot winner and a score in your horizontal wagers.

The Derby is the cashing leg in an all-stakes pick four, and post time Saturday night is 9:49 ET.