7:00 a.m.: Let's horse around
Seven o'clock--in the morning? Why such a crazy early time to get to the track, you ask? Because that's when horses are working out and because races from Dubai start at 8:15 a.m. and we want to be ready for them. And because this intrepid reporter is looking for new ways to challenge you to do dumb stuff. Not really. We'll all be doing this early thing together so I think a bit of camaraderie will happen. And that's not a bad thing.
FREE BASEBALL CAPS: As a memento for being an intrepid early-bird, the first 12 of you will receive a free Dubai World Cup baseball cap. NOW it's worth setting your alarm, right?
SEE JON RUN: We'll head to the training track to watch horses, one of which should be the beautiful 2-year-old chestnut colt, Jon's Golden Run, named for Manitoba Olympian gold-medal skeleton racer Jon Montgomery. You've seen the colt in The Insider, now see him in the flesh. Trainer Emile Corbel said he'll have Jon on the track and should be available to answer questions. Then we'll head to the Equicizer centre to watch horses making the rounds. Then we'll head back to the Clubhouse.
DISCUSS DUBAI: Then, over free coffee and pastry in the Terrace Dining Room we'll discuss the upcoming seven races from Dubai, the biggest of which will be the $10 million World Cup, the richest race in the world. Twenty top horses from the U.S. will be among the runners.
8:15 a.m.: Dubai races begin
The first of seven races worth $26 million begins from the most luxurious race track in the world, Meydan, which is estimated to have cost $2 billion to build. The temperature is also expected to be unseasonably hot, hot, hot, with a forecast of 37C at race time. Expect hoses to be at the ready.
Meydan Race Course
Richest race in the world
THE STORY BEHIND THE $25,000 SCORE: How did a local retired farmer win $25,000 playing Dubai races last year? I talked to him and I'll tell you how he did it. If some of you are interested, we can play some of these races as a group. I'll have transparencies of each race projected on an overhead screen for discussion purposes. In between, we'll look at the Aqueduct pick-6 which will be formally drawn up at the 11 a.m. "I won big" session.
8:15am $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G2) - Turf
8:50am $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) - Tapeta
9:25am $2 million UAE Derby (G2) - Tapeta
10:05am $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) - Tapeta
10:45am $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) - Turf
11:50pm $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) - Turf
12:35pm $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) - Tapeta
11:00 a.m.: Pick-6 wrap-up
Those of you who didn't join in on earlier discussions will now get a chance to listen to views expressed earlier about the Aqueduct pick-6 and to offer your insights. Everyone who attends this session gets a free $5 share. There's already $433 for the group's tickets since participants won a pick-3 and a pick-4 last week.
11:25 a.m.: Tourney begins
The monthly horseplayer contest, So you think you can handicap?, begins with races at Tampa Bay and Philadelphia (Parx racing). More than $2,400 in prize money is at stake. Never been in one? Give it a whirl. Your $25 sign-up fee gives you a free buffet lunch and 5,000 player rewards points so it's like playing in the contest for free! Make 10 picks from any track(s). See entry form here. You can sign up immediately by phoning 885-3330 ext. 225.
12:35 p.m.: Richest race is off
The richest race in the world by far, the $10 million Dubai World Cup will be run from Meydan Race Course in Dubai. Will you have a live pick-6 ticket? Need someone with a steady hand to hold it?
4:55 p.m.: $1m Louisiana Derby
This is Saturday's major prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Be sure to enter the contest to predict the winner and triactor in this race. You'll get $200 if you can predict the triactor ($100 if you do it at an OTB). If you predict the winner, you'll be a step closer to winning $500 at the end of the eight-week contest. See track entry form here. See current standings here.
5:15 p.m.: Awards ceremony
The prize winners in the "So you think you can handicap?" tournament will be announced and the cash awarded. And, as a parting bonus, one name will be drawn from all those who entered the tourney and that person will receive $50 or $100.
Getting wrinkled for you
What my bathtub study of Dubai shows
I do my best handicapping in the bathtub so, logically, I took last year's World Cup Dubai program into the bathtub this week and, after many hot water refreshes and fingers wrinkled to the bone, here are the trends I discovered in the five races simulcasted at the Downs last year. (This Saturday, you'll have seven.)
Winning starts here
(Although that's not really me)
(1) The top three finishers in last year's $10 million World Cup (a) had raced in March and (b) did their running at the Dubai track. Only five horses in the 14-horse field fit those two criteria. So, if you had played a triactor box for $60, for example, you would have collected $2,000. The fourth-place finisher, incidentally, was Gio Ponti from the U.S., who will be entered in that $10 million race again this Saturday. The superfecta paid $32,000. Nailing one of those would certainly be worth bathtub wrinkles.
(2) The $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby last year was the "easiest" race to handicap because all horses had already run at the track. Handicap normally. (I recall having won the superfecta in that race. It paid $348.)
(3) In four of the five races, the horse with the best win-record finished somewhere in the superfecta. So that’s a kind of key horse. (Example: In race 4, the horse that won all three of his lifetime starts finished third. The horse that had four wins for five starts won the race. In race 5, the horse with eight wins out of nine starts finished second.)
(4) Long absences from the races didn't affect horses in turf races. The horse that won the $5 million Sheema Classic turf race, hadn’t raced since November (at Santa Anita). The third-place finisher in that race had last raced in December.
I discovered other interesting patterns which I'll reveal Saturday morning with those of you who come to my continuing workshop in the Terrace Dining Room that begins at about 7:45 a.m. (after the backstretch excursion). You're welcome to attend.
Want to see last year’s program pages to do your own research? Here they are. The payoffs last year were huge because players are pretty much winging it. I hope my bathtub research offers you a better perspective. And, if you win because of it, a bar of soap for my next soak would be nice. See Saturday's entries here.
This is about wood
But not the lumber kind
"WOODY" PECKS A BUSHEL: He's known colourfully around the Race Book as "Woody" because you can often hear him at the self-serve touch totes poking at the screen at high speed like Woody Woodpecker, hammering out bunches of superfecta tickets on the fly. Some of them result in thousands of dollars in payoffs. Most go into the recycling bin. But last Saturday a crazy $3 ticket at Gulfstream produced $1,800 (see ticket). If you think he's just a number-caller, think again. He took the horses for specific reasons, he said: "Bravo always tries hard and brings in medium to longshots" (came second at 14-1), "the favourite looked good" (finished third), etc. Nice when it falls into place, eh Woody? NOTE TO WOODY: Good news! The installation of new Amtote touch totes overnight on Monday should give you the ability to TRIPLE your output. Bandages will be available at the supervisor's window should your fingers overheat.
Woody picked up $1,822 for this $3 bet
WOOD BECOMES A LUMBER YARD: Speaking about wood, New York's most important Derby prep race, simply called the Wood Memorial, now is a mouthful. This year's version on April 9 will be called the Resorts World New York Wood Memorial. Repeat that without reading it again! That's because Resorts World New York, the company installing 4,500 slots at Aqueduct, is sponsoring the famous race. The race, by the way, derived its name from New York politician Eugene D. Wood who had founded the now-defunct Jamaica Race Track where this race for 3-year-olds was first held in 1925. The sponsor will increase the purse of the race from $750,000 to $1 million, putting it on par with the Louisiana Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby, all million-dollar events.
Readers write . . .
Unfair to Grunder?
Dear Ivan: "Your choice of words regarding (Tampa Bay track announcer) Richard Grunder, his reputation and the Andy Beyer comments were unjust. (See Insider article here.) Mr. Grunder received much support after Mr. Beyer’s piece including Indian Charlie, letters to the editor at DRF and numerous letters to the track. I realize that you may not know Richard. However, there is not a person more dedicated to our little track than Richard. Yes, sometimes the words don’t always come out right but you can’t knock his enthusiasm or commitment to a sport that desperately needs those very traits." -- Margo Flynn, Vice President of Marketing and Publicity, Tampa Bay Downs
"Can't knock his enthusiasm"
Hi Margo: The Insider just was quoting what Andy Beyer had said about Richard in the DRF and in the Washington Post. As noted in my article, when Richard called races at Assiniboia Downs from 1980-82, he appeared to have a good reputation. Bravo to your "little" track for growing to the point that you're now rivaling some of the big guys in popularity.
Dear Ivan: "Uncle Mo will NOT win the Triple Crown; will not even win the Kentucky Derby. Quote me if you want." -- Roger Nolin
Hi Roger: Consider yourself quoted. I like when people take a stand--even when they're wrong. It's a joke, Roger! It is, after all, a horse race. Let's just hope the top contenders stay healthy so we get to see what they've got.
Quick bits . . .
Manitoba-bred claimed at New York track
Manitoba-bred filly Fleeing Fast looked hot enough to be claimed out of an Aqueduct race last Thursday for $10,000. The 4-year-old filly (by Yonaguska out of Arrastra) had been bred at Gary Strath's Stonyfield Farm near Brandon. She had finished second in the fifth race and paid $4 to place. She was claimed by trainer Michael Miceli (14-2-3-2).
HERE COMES WINTERS: As in Perry Winters, 48, a one-time leading jock in Alberta. He will join the Downs' strong jockey colony when the live season kicks off on Mother's Day, May 8, the day after the Kentucky Derby. He finished 12th in the rider standings at Northlands last year (262-24-26-31).