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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


So A-PEELING! ....BOLD FINISH loves his bananas and is pleading with Susan Gracey and Maggie LeBlanc to let him finish his morning snack!

NEW POLL on Thoroughblog...I want to know who is reading please!! (see my sidebar at right)


As a reader noted on the comment section yesterday, HPI TV will have a short feature Sunday morning on the QUEEN'S PLATE WINTERBOOK ODDS, to be released this week by Woodbine.

I will talk about the top contenders for the June 22 Plate sometime during the STARTING GATE SHOW Sunday morning between 11:30 and 12:30.

Trainer MIKE DEPAULO said recently that GIQUERE (Mutakkdim) will be debuting for 2008 shortly at Gulfstream in a one-mile event. The colt is “one breeze away” said the trainer. Giquere won his only career stat last year at Woodbine.

D. FLUTIE (PHOTO AT RIGHT from the Aiken website, story re-printed on THOROUGHBLOG in the last couple of days) worked 4 furlongs yesterday at Aiken in 49 3/5 for trainer Mike Keogh. The colt is by Langfuhr.

TOOK THE TIME (Greenwood Lake) worked at Ocala Training centre in 1:00 4/5 (stablemate OFFICER CHERRIE, a top 2yo filly of last year worked in 59 4/5). The gelding won his only race last year with a 75 Beyer Figure.

Stronach Stables’ HARLEM ROCKER sped 5 furlong in 1:00 flat at Palm Beach Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher. The grey Macho Uno colt is nearing his 2nd career start.

HANDSOME BLUE, also a Stronach Plate hopeful, worked in 48 flat at Palm Meadows yesterday. He’s by Touch Gold.



By Andrew Beyer

Tuesday, March 11, 2008; Page E03

BUENOS AIRES For years I have harbored a gambling fantasy: to live in a foreign country and play the horses seriously by using American handicapping techniques. I did so in 1990 when I spent three months in Sydney, declaring before my departure that I was going to become the King of the Southern Hemisphere. This didn't happen -- my profit was minuscule -- but the experience was such an adventure that I wanted to repeat it.

So last week my wife and I arrived for a month-long stay in Buenos Aires. The city is grand; the country has a long and illustrious horse tradition; the racing people I have met are astonishingly hospitable. I am armed with handicapping information that no one else on the continent possesses. Yet I already know the outcome of this venture. I will not make a meaningful profit, because Argentina's racing industry is discouragingly inhospitable to bettors.

I started my preparations nearly a year ago, studying data on an Argentine racing Web site and trying to craft speed figures like the ones I use in the United States. I have tried to do so for other foreign countries, with results ranging from modest (Australia) to dismal (Sweden). But Argentina proved to be an ideal place to make figures; most of the races are run on the dirt between five furlongs and one mile, and they are speed-oriented. I became obsessed by the project. By the time of my departure for Buenos Aires, I was convinced that my numbers are as accurate for Palermo and San Isidro, the country's two major tracks, as they are for Belmont or Hollywood Park.

Every gambler's dream is to have such an edge, but I have discovered that such an edge won't amount to much here, because Argentina confronts bettors with three difficult obstacles:

Handicapping information is insufficient. The two main tracks' Web sites do contain valuable archives of video replays, but the published racing data is sketchy at best. Horses' past performances don't indicate their positions during the running of a race, so it is impossible to tell if an animal is a front-runner or if he comes from 20 lengths behind -- a rather important distinction in five-furlong dashes. Statistics on trainers' records are hard to find. The daily racing publication, Palermo Rosa, presents its meager information in a format that is barely comprehensible.

The betting pools are too small -- particularly for a gambler whose native currency is not the peso. When Argentina's economy collapsed in 2001, the government devalued the peso by two-thirds; the slash in prices was a delight to tourists, who can buy for $10 a good bottle of Malbec wine that used to cost $30. But the once-healthy betting totals at the tracks were reduced by two-thirds in dollar terms. On an ordinary day, the wagering at Palermo or San Isidro (from on- and off-track sources) totals only about $700,000. The Argentine tracks love to run interminable cards with countless exotic bets; when that $700,000 is spread over a 17-race card there's not enough money in any pool to make a big win possible.

Argentine tracks take a cut of about 29 percent from every peso or dollar wagered -- one of the most burdensome rates of any important racing nation. In the United States, where the takeout rate averages 20 percent, the most sophisticated gamblers with the most sophisticated information struggle to eke out a profit of a couple percentage points. How could anyone using the limited data in Argentina overcome a 29 percent takeout?

I asked Tony Bullrich, the top executive at Palermo, if his track had any serious professional gamblers. "There are a couple who think they are," he answered. "But, no, we don't."

Why is Argentine racing so unkind to bettors? Acknowledging that the premise of my question was accurate, Bullrich replied that racing had been in difficult straits since 1988 and had been thrown into utter crisis in 2001. With its survival in jeopardy, the thoroughbred industry had to rescue owners and breeders.

In 2002 the government made this rescue by authorizing Palermo to install slot machines, whose revenue boosted purses enough to make buying racehorses a rational investment. "If you win one 2-year-old maiden race [with a winner's purse of about $11,000], you have covered your training expenses for the year," Bullrich said. "No place in the world has the same equation. Now the owners are coming back. . . . We are coming out of the crisis. Later we can think about gambling and takeout."

I have my doubts that much will change here -- sooner or later. Argentina's racing industry seems tradition-bound and resistant to innovation -- even when its necessity is obvious. In an age when gamblers like the fast action of slot machines, the tracks run cards that drag on from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., with one race every half hour, yet they resist adding simulcasts that would enliven the day for gamblers. Indeed, I have heard few people talk about strengthening the sport by appealing more to fans and bettors. Instead, Palermo relies on its slots, San Isidro on a government subsidy and their main concern is owners and breeders. The customer seems forgotten.

Yet despite these negatives, I would rather have this experience in Argentina than win a Pick Six at home. I like the tracks: The scale of San Isidro is breathtaking, with an emerald-green turf course 1 3/4 miles in circumference and vast grounds that include five training tracks and four polo fields. I love the similarities that bind the racing experience everywhere on earth. When I bet a horse named Curius Emperor, and watched the jockey steady him three times before making a suicidal five-wide move, I cursed A. Giorgis at Palermo just as I would curse Joe Bravo at Gulfstream Park, and I searched for the Spanish word for "pinhead." I love the challenge of handicapping and betting in a foreign country; when I employed my almost-nonexistent Spanish to call out all of my combinations in a wager called the qu¿ntuplo, I felt as satisfied as if I'd actually won the bet (which I didn't). And I have accepted, with stoical resignation, that fact that I'm not going to be King of the Southern Hemisphere, at least not in this country.



Quarantine ordered at track pending test results of 4-year-old filly
CHARLES TOWN — Live racing has been suspended at Charles Town Races and Slots through at least Thursday following a horse barn quarantine imposed Monday at the racing facility.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture announced the quarantine after a local veterinarian reported treating a 4-year-old filly with neurological symptoms of an unknown origin. Races and training have been suspended at the track through Thursday, pending test results on the horse.

“Because we are unsure of what we’re dealing with at this particular time, the Department’s state veterinarian, the Charles Town track veterinarian and the racing steward have agreed it would be best to quarantine the barn and suspend events at the track until we can determine what this horse is suffering from,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass in a press release issued by his office.

Test results should be complete later in the week, State Veterinarian Joe Starcher said.

Charles Town last imposed a brief embargo on Feb. 22, 2007, on horses shipped in to the track from the states of Virginia or Maryland since Feb. 1 as a result of suspected cases of equine herpes in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Charles Town also imposed a quarantine in Jan. 2006 to prevent animals from contracting equine herpes, which surfaced in racehorses at tracks in Maryland. No cases of equine herpes were reported at Charles Town, and that quarantine was lifted after approximately three weeks.

Under the quarantine, breeders cannot bring horses to the track or remove horses to race elsewhere and then return. Approximately 1,500-2,000 horses are kept at Charles Town on a continual basis.


  • At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Cangamble said…

    At a 29% track takeout, Argentina is only a tad higher than Woodbine who charge a takeout of 28.2% for triactor bets.
    But seriously, Beyer gets it, and the Argentina racing execs are absolutely clueless. But calling racing execs clueless is sort of redundant anyway.


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