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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No more rolling Doubles at Santa Anita

The Daily Double, as it was called, was one of the first if not the first exotic wager offered at race tracks and it was offered on the first race of the day.  To win a Daily Double, you had to select the winners of the first and second race.  As exotic wagering began to expand so did the Double wager.  As I remember a Double would also be offered as the Late Double for the final two races of a card probably around the early 1990's.  Currently, many race tracks offer rolling Doubles with a $1 minimum, but it has always been a $2 minimum in California as far as I know.

The Double is my favorite exotics wager.  I can remember I hit 11 straight Doubles at Del Mar one season when it was the Early and Late Double.  It's the "keep it simple" approach which makes it attractive for me and I usually have success at the track when I stay away from many of the other exotic wagers available. 

It was announced (among other things) at the latest California Horse Racing Board meeting that there will no longer be rolling Double wagers at the upcoming Santa Anita meet.  Instead, there will be three Doubles offered per day with a takeout of 18% which is down from the current 22.68% rate.  The Double will be offered in race 1, race 4 and for the second to last race on the card.

From a race track point of view, I can see why they think this will work.  There will be larger pools with only three Doubles offered a day and that in theory will lead to bigger payoffs.  However, with the already large pools wagered at Santa Anita I do not think it will make that much of a difference.  

After reading a few forums about this news of only three Doubles a day, it appears that many horseplayers are upset at Santa Anita.  Taking away something rarely makes anyone happy and I believe horseplayers have a right to be upset.  Sure, the takeout is lowered, but why can't it be lowered for rolling Doubles?  It was bad enough that takeout rates in California were risen a few years ago and now they want to take away at least four Doubles per race day? 

With a near six month meet upcoming for Santa Anita, they should be trying to attract horseplayers and not give them a reason to stay away.  They should allow the Double takeout at 18% and bring back the rolling Double.  This may help to build the pools and give more back to horseplayers.  Isn't more business good business?  Let's hope Santa Anita will change its mind.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Final Days of Hollywood Park

(originally written May 13, 2013. I've added updates)
Ever since Bay Meadows Land Co. bought Hollywood Park back in 2005, we knew that the track would be torn down someday.  With this week’s announcement, the last day of racing at Hollywood Park will be Dec 22, 2013.  This is the 75th and last year at the track since opening its doors in 1938.  The same fate happened to Bay Meadows race track in 2008 where the rubble laid there for a few years (and still may be).

A few things delayed the closure of Hollywood Park as there was a chance it would remain open if slots were to become available on-track, but that was shut down by the voters of California.  The real estate market also plunged with the recession that has happened the last few years, but has now started to pick up some steam.  The land will eventually be developed into condos, a retail district, a hotel and a park among other things while the casino will still remain.

California racing in 2014 should see quite a change.  There is a need for stalls for all the horses who usually stay at Hollywood Park year round.  There likely will be more racing dates at Santa Anita and Del Mar.  Also in the talks has been opening Fairplex Park or Los Alamitos.  Will those that worked at Hollywood Park now shift to the other tracks or will they just lose their jobs?

Stalls should be the first priority as all these horses now will need a place to live.  Fairplex may have some room, but most likely we will see training tracks such as San Luis Rey Downs to help fill the need.  Along with the horses, trainers and their help would need a place to work and live as well.

(Updated for 2014: Santa Anita will race from Dec 26 thru July 6.  Los Alamitos will race from July 10 thru July 20.  Del Mar takes their usual spot from July 16 thru Sept 3.  Fairplex will race from Sept 4 thru Sept 23.  Racing goes back to Santa Anita from Sept 25 thru Nov 2.  Del Mar will race from Nov 5 thru Dec 7.  Finally, Los Alamitos will race from Dec 11 thru Dec 21.)

It is no secret that California racing has declined in recent years.  Smaller fields, higher takeout and higher living costs have all had an effect on attendance and wagering.  Trainer John Shirreffs took his string of horses to Belmont Park as he said he could not see a better future in the short term for California.  It would not be a surprise to see a few others follow.

Now that a change has to be made for the survival of racing, maybe now the leaders of horse racing in California can help turn things around.  Sometimes it takes something drastic to happen to make something drastic happen and change is certainly needed.  Unfortunately, we will lose a track filled with lots of history.

For this blogger, I can remember attending the 1997 Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park, but nothing prior to that.  I do remember going to closing day on a December Monday in 2001 and it was a first look at greatness.  Azeri made her second career start in an Allowance race and I was in awe when she raced through the stretch.  I really thought she was going to be a top-class horse and she proved me right.

 Azeri 2nd start 001
Azeri in the Hollywood Park paddock Dec 17, 2001.

My last visit was in 2010 for Zenyatta’s final race before heading to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  There were 25,000 fans that day and she made it 19-for-19 as she thrilled the crowd once again.
Zenyatta at Hollywood Park in 2010 approaching the gate.

If you would like, share some of your Hollywood Park memories below.  For now, we will have a few more months of racing to enjoy and we’ll hold our breath hoping for a better future for California racing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2013 Breeders' Cup recap

This was my fifth in-person Breeders' Cup and third at Santa Anita.  The other two were at Hollywood Park and Arlington Park.  I won a contest on Twitter which included four Grandstand seats for Saturday only which included admission and program along with a signed hat by the winning jockey of the Classic.  Thank you Lockerdome!

The seats were not bad, but as you can see the finish line was a furlong away and the retail price was $200 each.  No way would I pay that much for these and it seemed obvious not too many others did either as the section I was in and further down were pretty empty.

I'm guessing the section that was most crowded in the picture was the least expensive seats while closest to the finish line.  

In past Breeders' Cups I've attended, it was usually a routine of standing in the betting lines for at 20 minutes for each race with large crowds surrounding the area.  Well, that was not the case in this area as wagering was no problem.

I would not be surprised to see a substantial decrease in the price of these seats next year as I was surprised that attendance was up for both days.  The plus side of this was that it was a really relaxed atmosphere and wagering was no problem.  

The first Breeders' Cup race was the Juvenile Fillies and while it turned out to be a controversial finish, it was really sad to see the breakdown of Secret Compass.  I don't think too many fans witnessed it, though, as there was not that "ohhh" you hear when something dramatic happens.  I did not see it either, but I could see that the horse was injured and I knew it was not good.  

Fortunately, that was the only significant injury that happened the rest of the card.  I collected my first winner with the Dank-Romantica Exacta for $11.60.  I followed my betting list almost to a tea throughout the day and I was never close in the following three races. 

I turned it around with the 9th race, the Turf, as Magician at a generous 12/1 wore down favored The Fugue to kick off my Double wager.  Secret Circle was one of my three key plays of the day and he just held on to win the Sprint giving me a payoff of $110.20.  I knew then not only was I going home with cash in my wallet, I would also have a winning Breeders' Cup.

In the Mile, Wise Dan proved he was the best turf miler in this country as he overcame a troubled trip to win at odds-on.  This is where I added to my betting list as I played a $5 Double from Wise Dan to Mucho Macho Man in the Classic.  Wise Dan also received a nice applause when he returned to the winner's circle which is always nice to hear.

The Classic was next and there were cheers from the crowd as every horse was introduced.  The biggest cheer was for the favorite Game On Dude with the next loudest for Mucho Macho Man.  The race proved to be one for the ages as Mucho Macho Man held off the 3-year-old Will Take Charge and the foreign invader Declaration Of War in a thrilling three-horse photo.  

I actually think Will Take Charge was in front just before the wire, but he lost the head bob at the wire.  It was fun cheering on Mucho Macho Man in the stretch and keying a Double that returned $19.20 for every $2 wagered.  My winnings for the day was $100.20.  Of course as you noticed, all these wins were in the late Pick 4 which I did not wager.  That paid $381.45 for a $.50 bet.  

The celebrity performances by Toni Braxton and Kristin Chenowith received solid applause from the crowd and was well-deserved.  However, we have to question the Richie Sambora performance of a 12 second guitar solo which I think received maybe three claps.

Six of the nine Breeders' Cup races had payoffs of $10.00 or less and that is probably why handle was up as many people collected and churned it back into the pools. 

I did spend the day with a pair of friends I met at my time at U of A and I hadn't seen them in 13 years.  It was great to catch up and we promised it would not be another 13 years for the next meet-up.  

As I was leaving the track and headed to the car, I ran into another RTIP friend of mine Jim Mulvihill.  It was amazing how we each left from different places of the track and at the same time to meet in the darkness of the parking lot.

And of course, there is not a complete day at the races without dinner with another RTIP friend and current horse identifier Jennifer Paige.  

The day started at 6:00 am as my wife and I made the journey to Santa Anita and we did not get home until around midnight.  We were both beat, but it was worth it to enjoy a day at the Breeders' Cup!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Breeders' Cup Saturday selections

Here are my selections and wagers I will make for Breeders' Cup Saturday.   My car broke down this past week so I won't have a lot to play with.  My three best bets of the day are in stars. 

4th race: Untapable, Sweet Reason, She’s A Tiger
Bet - $.50 Trifecta box 7,9,10 = $3

5th race: Romantica, Tiz Flirtatious, Dank, Marketing Mix
Bet - $3 win 2, $1 Exacta 1, 3, 6 with 2 = $6

6th race: *Dance To Bristol*, Book Review, Starship Truffles, Sweet Lulu, Judy The Beauty
Bet - $6 win 8, $1 Exacta 2, 3, 12 with 8 = $9

7th race: Havelock, Capo Bastone, Rock Me Baby
Bet - $2 win 2, 9, 10 = $6

8th race: *Smarty’s Echo*, Havana, We Miss Artie, Mexikoma
Bet - $6 win 1, $1 Exacta 3, 10, 13 with 1 = $9

9th race: Magician, The Fugue, Point Of Entry
Bet - $2 DD 7, 8, 11 with 9 = $6

10th race: *Secret Circle*, Justin Phillip, Gentlemen’s Bet, Bahamian Squall
Bet - $6 win 9, $1 Exacta 1, 3, 6 with 9 = $9

11th race: Olympic Glory, Wise Dan
Bet - $2 DD 5 with 1, 6, 12, $2 DD 8 with 1, 12 = $10 (If no hits $2 DD 5 with 6)

12th race: Mucho Macho Man, Flat Out, Last Gunfighter, Game On Dude, Declaration Of War
Bet – $1 Exacta box 1, 6, 12, $2 win 1, $1 Exacta 9 with 1, 12 = $10

Total = $60

Good luck and look for a recap next week.