It was tough to be a So Cal horse racing fan last week.
Several incidents exposed many of the current problems for not only the devoted horseplayer but also some of the obstacles investors in our great sport must overcome if the horse racing product is to thrive. Below are some of the events that occurred in California and to California-based horses.
• On Thursday, the veteran hard-knocking Cal-bred gelding Jimmy Bouncer returned to the races at Santa Anita. He was claimed (purchased out of the race) for $62,500 on February 20 only to have that claim voided due to unsoundness. He returned on April 14 to just miss while racing for a $20,000 claiming price, where he was once again claimed.
That claim was also voided.
In Thursday’s race, the 6-year-old pressed the pace and pulled away for career win number seven from 15 lifetime starts. He was again claimed for $20,000, and just like in his previous two races the claim was voided due to unsoundness. Per California Horse Racing Board rules, Jimmy Bouncer will now not be allowed to work out for 30 days.
Sometimes these old pros feel a little ouchy after a race, just like you or I may have a sore elbow after playing tennis. It doesn’t mean we can’t play tennis again next week or, in the case of Jimmy Bouncer, that he won’t be ready to perform again in a reasonable amount of time. However, the C.H.R.B. has basically taken him out of the available horse population for the next 45-60 days.
• Friday’s first race at Santa Anita had just five entrants when carded. A late scratch the morning of the race left a field of four, and two late scratches on the way to the gate left just two horses in the race. Watch Me Now won the claiming event by 11 lengths and was claimed, but he, too, had his claim voided due to unsoundness.
That puts four of the five scheduled runners from Friday’s first race on the veterinarian’s list. They must work out in the morning to the satisfaction of the state vet before they will be allowed to race again.
• Santa Anita accepted Exacta wagering on the two-horse field last Friday. What horseplayers should realize is that the takeout (amount withheld from the wagering pools to be used for purses, etc.) is 15.43% on win wagers and the takeout on two-horse exotic wagers is 22.68%.
Since playing an Exacta in a two-horse field is basically betting a horse to win, the right thing for the horseplayer would be for the track to cancel Exacta wagering and eliminate the extra 7.25% takeout. It didn’t happen.
• Not to be outdone, up at Golden Gate last Friday’s fifth race was carded at five furlongs on the turf. As the field rounded the far turn, there was a Golden Gate employee on the course reportedly working on the timing system. He rolled up into a ball, and luckily the horses and jockeys were able to avoid a catastrophe.
There was an inquiry into the race concerning the fact several of the horses were compromised having to avoid the employee on the track, but the stewards ruled that not over half of the field was affected and called the race official. Many horseplayers did not get a fair shake for their hard-earned wagering dollars.
• Finally on Sunday, So Cal based 3-year-old Royal Mo was putting in his final drill at Pimlico for this Saturday’s Preakness Stakes when jockey Gary Stevens heard a “pop” and pulled him up. Royal Mo suffered a career-ending broken sesamoid to his right front ankle. Luckily the injury does not appear life threatening and he should be able to stand at stud next year.
With Del Mar scheduled to race five days a week starting in about two months, here’s hoping there are enough race ready horses to make that a reality.
Play of the Day
Race 6 this Friday at Santa Anita, take No. 4 Whiskey Ginger. Three-year-old walked out of the gate in April 15 debut to lose all chance, but caught the eye, putting in a nice rally, and galloped out well. He gets a big rider switch to Bejarano and can make amends with a clean start.
Kentucky Derby winning favorite Always Dreaming figures to be even money or less this Saturday. The only major concern is his trainer Todd Pletcher is not fond of wheeling horses back on short notice.
Since he was lightly-raced going into the Derby, I expect Always Dreaming to come right back and win with Classic Empire likely his biggest challenger after getting eliminated at the start at Churchill Downs.
It is a good possibility we may have a horse that is eligible to win the Triple Crown after the Preakness is declared official Saturday afternoon.