Numbers can lie thanks to Pegasus earning structure
February 06, 2018 3:06 AM
by Jon Lindo
Sometimes numbers do not tell the real tale.
In the $16 million Pegasus World Invitational held on Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park, the sixth through 12th place finishers – Stellar Wind, Collected, Sharp Azteca, Giant Expectations, War Story, Singing Bullet, and Toast of New York – were assigned “earnings” of $650,000.
Connections of runners in the Pegasus were required to pay a $1 million fee for a spot in the starting gate. The $650,000 was a minimum guaranteed return for running in the race.
The money was essentially an appearance and/or participation fee.
That is fine and dandy, and assuring a full field makes plenty of sense to the horseplayers who want full fields and also to the Stronach Group, owners of Gulfstream Park, whose goal was to maximize all sources handle with as many wagering options as possible.
But assigning those “earnings” to the yearly and career records of the participating horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners could lead to mistakes when it comes time for end of the year championships.
For instance, going into last Sunday, top Southern California trainer Richard Baltas was a close third in the Santa Anita trainer standings, winning 10 races and total purses of over $593,000.
However, he is nowhere to be found on the list of leaders trainers in the nation based on earnings. He is behind J.A. Osborne, who has a record of 1-0-0-0 in the U.S. this year, his only starter being Toast of New York and his last place finish in the Pegasus.
Osborne makes the list with earnings of $650,000.
Before his win aboard Itsinthepost in last Saturday’s Grade II San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita, jockey Tyler Baze was chasing Frankie Dettori in the national standings for leading jockey based on earnings. Dettori was the rider of Toast of New York.
Earnings help breeders decide what stallion they need to book their mares to.
Should Giant Expectations really be considered a millionaire ($1,099,200) since the bulk of his earnings are due to his ninth place finish in the Pegasus? Will anyone remember when he goes off to stud?
I don’t believe the reputations of the also-rans in the Pegasus should be enhanced just because the connections involved could afford to lose $350,000 by running up the track in the Pegasus.
At the end of the year, I just hope it doesn’t cost a horse or horseman a well-deserved championship.
The 2018 Eclipse Award for top horseplayer will be determined this week in the National Horseplayer Championship (NHC) tournament to be conducted Friday through Sunday at the Treasure Island hotel here in Las Vegas.
Players can’t buy their way in. The have to earn their spots in qualifying tournaments on track, at satellite facilities, or online throughout the previous year. The estimated purse for this year’s NHC is a record $2.9 million, with the winner from the field of 700 (570 individuals) being named Horseplayer of the Year.
There is a last chance tournament to determine the final five qualifying spots this Thursday at the Treasure Island hotel. Cost for an entry is $500.
You can follow the NHC via Twitter through @NTRA and also on NTRA Facebook Live from 2-5:30 p.m. PT each tournament day.
Santa Anita and the other California tracks are looking for ways to increase on track attendance and handle. One obvious solution? Rescind the state’s archaic simulcast rules.
Right now in California there is a limit on the numbers of races that may be wagered upon from out of state each day on track and at the satellite wagering facilities.
As an example, last Sunday’s simulcast schedule allowed only limited wagering on Gulfstream Park (starting with Race 4), at Laurel Park (starting with Race 3), and at Oaklawn Park (starting with Race 4).
As a fan of rolling bets like the Pick Five, that schedule just tells me to stay at home and play from my legal Advance Deposit Wagering accounts where I can wager on full cards from around the country. There is no admission fee, no parking fee, and the food and drink at my house are a lot more affordable than at the track.
In this day and age of easy access and viewing, the simulcast rules in California must be changed to at least give the tracks and satellite wagering sites an equal opportunity to get more horseplayers out for simulcasting and live racing.
Last Thursday, Princess Dorian had to be a late scratch from Santa Anita’s sixth race because the third-party Lasix administrators gave her the wrong amount of the legal medication at first, then gave her a second shot to correct the amount given.
Apparently the third party Lasix administrators (employees of the California Horse Racing Board), did not know (or follow) the rule that allows just one Lasix shot prior to a race.
This is the second time in the last week a horse had to be scratched due to a third party Lasix administration error. They are costing the track handle, the owners a chance to pay bills, and trainers their commissions on purses.
This is unacceptable.
Play of the Week
Santa Anita, Thursday, Race 8 – Starship Treasure: Maiden-Claimer finished willingly in debut and galloped out well. She should offer fair value for a low profile jockey Manuel Chaves and trainer Howard Zucker combination.