The Friday Show: Population Problems, Early Derby Standouts?

by | 02.17.2017 | 12:12am
Travelator.Paddy-OPrado-foal-2015

It's no secret that foal crops have been diminishing for several years. Despite recent contraction in the U.S. racing industry, the shortage of Thoroughbreds appears to be on display in important races coast to coast.

In this week's Friday Show, Scott Jagow and Ray Paulick discuss the issue of field sizes, racehorse ownership, and the critical nature of the these issues for the sport. Plus, the path to the Kentucky Derby is starting to heat up. Who's been the most impressive 3-year-old so far?

Those topics in the latest edition of The Friday Show.

  • Tinky

    While not as obvious, nor important as the other repercussions of ‘short field syndrome’, it’s worth noting that stakes races with short fields often distort the quality of the accomplishments of placed runners. That is to say that the second, and especially third-place finishers, at times gain black-type by default, rather than through any notably strong performances.

    It would therefore be helpful for sales buyers to see notations in catalogues of field size next to all stakes-placings, but, for obvious reasons, that will never happen.

    • Michael Castellano

      I don’t know the stats on this, but it seems that there are more big money stakes, which allows less competition between the best horses and also allows the trainers to hunt for a race that’s easy pickings much easier to find. And we also see few horses shipping East or West, except for the TC and the BC, with the BC more and more on the left Coast. So you get a very average horse winning or performing well in a million dollar race.

      • Tinky

        Yes, this is a separate, but related problem, and a big one. As I’ve touched on more than a few times, it is ludicrous, for example, to award Derby prep races Grade I status, given that the best in the category are by definition, seeking to avoid one another.

        • Gls

          I think you all are reading to much into this. Go and win a black type race, it’s not that easy. Mostly if you put the money up, good horses show up. As far as pedigrees go, when you read a catolog you can tell the BS black type from the real.

          • Tinky

            Exactly which part of “second, and especially third-place finishers” did you fail to understand?

    • LongTimeEconomist

      I have long advocated that, in order to qualify for black type, a horse should have to beat at least half of the horses in the field.

      • Tinky

        Good, simple solution! Though Spectacular Bid’s Woodward would have caused some confusion…

    • ben

      There has not been any adjustment in the number from the Graded races. If there is no cutting in numbers, than these problems with the small fields will stay.

      Therefore it is easy to get them needed black type. But the quality is not there, for justification.

  • Genellen

    I’m curious to know why there are so many more close finishes in turf races than on dirt. What seems to be the reason? Anyone know?

    • Cgriff

      I think it’s the style of turf racing as much as anything. They sit back and make one big run. There are some front running types who can steal it once in a while, but most turf types – stalkers or closers – tend to like to be covered up and then kick on strong for home off the turn.

      • Michael Castellano

        Not as true in the distances of a mile or less for the front runners. You had many turf milers and sprinters that loved to be on the lead. Just a guess, but it might also be because it’s easier on a sore horse. And like most athletes in competition, they probably have their aches and pains.

      • Judoon

        But why do more horses tend to sit back in turf races and move late?

      • Flying J

        The wonderful Precious Passion was a great turf front-runner. He could go and go and go…..

    • john

      Yes…They all seem to close in the final furlongs….

    • Lehane

      The grass surface is so much better for the horse and consequently the horse performs better. Turf racing is far superior to dirt racing and it’s my belief that this is the main reason why elite horses from other countries are not interested in competing in America.

      • Judoon

        Making a big late run is performing better? And the op didn’t ask for your opinion of turf vs. dirt. Frankly, turf racing tends to bore me, too little variety in how races are run. Dirt is much more interesting. See, you were needlessly snitty about dirt, and i can be just as snitty about turf. Why bash, really? It’s unnecessary and rude. Anyway, foreign horses are not generally bred for dirt, and most owners don’t want to send their horses internationally very often no matter what the surface.

  • John Asgeirson

    Unless you are extremely wealthy it is impossible to enter the sport. You need access to a farm, trainer and somewhere to run your horses. If there was a way to invest in the business that was easier, still fun and educational I’d try again. I thought I had such an opportunity when Hialeah Park reopened. It is hard to get folks to go to the track when even the owner of the track thinks he is going broke in the process. The state may even screw up Gulfstream Park if given the chance to decouple slots and the parimutual industry. Mixed meets with QH and TBs, cooperation between track owners, better oversight of the product, and a review of regulation regarding partnership to allow fans to participate would help but it would require for all folks to work together, which isn’t happening in Florida.

  • Shasta Sam

    A few random thoughts on the subject: As Ray’s stats pointed out, too many races for too few horses. The number of races needs to contract. The only way to do that is to have fewer racing days per week (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Question: Why are the field sizes so large at KY Downs? Easy answer. Short meet and very large purses. THAT is the correct model for most tracks. Purses are much too low for the claimers who, lets face it, are the bread and butter of every meet. Participation fees need to be raised. Outsize purses for stakes races of questionable quality need to be reduced and redistributed to claiming races. Owners of stakes horses will be just as happy competing in a graded stakes worth $250k as $350k. Redistribute that $100k over 10 claiming races…it’ll have a big impact. Get a bit more creative with race conditions. Handicappers, owners and trainers like interesting (quirky) conditions. It brings together more interesting fields. Everyone likes grass racing. Provide as many opportunities as possible to race on the grass across all class levels. Finally, as mentioned, take care of the owners. I know I was thrilled when I was delivered, to my box, a lovely complimentary appetizer tray just because my horse was entered in a stakes race that day or when I was delivered the saddle cloth my horse wore in the stakes race…very nice touch.

    • Tom Davis

      It’s tough for Santa Anita to get larger fields because there aren’t many tracks in the area from which to draw. The lowered horse population over the last 10 years plays a part. Gulfstream Park draws horses from the many tracks in the East for their winter meet. Race days per week were cut in 2009 from 5 to 4 days. Maybe it’s time to do it again. 5 to 4 days and 4 days to 3 days…. P.S. And handicappers do not like quirky race conditions.

      • Shasta Sam

        Oh, don’t be a “stick in the mud”. “Creative” conditions are fun and give horses a chance to run in spots they traditionally can’t. Saw some fun races with crazy conditions at the conclusion of various race meets or when a grass course was closing and they were a hit with big fields.

      • Shasta Sam

        SA and GGF should offer free shipping in both directions if you enter and SA should adjust the bottom level of their claimers to $6,250 in every condition book. They should also try to synchronize their condition books to look at the combined total horse population on both tracks and at SLR and LA. Bottom line: with a little creative thinking, they both could do better.

  • A penny for your thoughts

    US # of races
    1989: 74,071
    2015: 38,941

    US Handle down $3.7 billion 2015 vs 2003

    • wjfraz

      I agree and it is mostly a self-inflicted situation. Racing refuses to run out the cheaters; some racing secretaries are pompous, overbearing and don’t walk the back side to see what is happening. Racing treats those who want to race fairly and cleanly, with complete disdain and cause owners and trainers to quit the sport. This is self-induced and will not change.

  • wjfraz

    Let me throw in my two cents on this issue. First of all there are plenty of horses in California but the racing secretary at Santa Anita refuses to give stalls to people or horses he deems not to be, in his opinion, not Santa Anita type horses. A few years ago I had a Grade I and Grade III winning stallion name Dime Que (Chi) that asked a stall for. He told me he was not the type of horse Santa Anita needed. What stupidity. He has also refused stalls to people wanting to get horses ready at San Luis Rey, which as a fantastic man running that operation and at Galway Downs in Temecula. On one occasion he called me on my cell phone while I was preparing a Tapit mare for the Miss America Stakes and took her stall away because she hadn’t run at Santa Anita in a while. How many others has he done this too? The reason Santa Anita has fields averaging 6 or 7 is his fault. He is a part of ones anatomy that I will not mention publicly.

    Now I quit racing and training because of his micromanagement of every horse that runs at Santa Anita and all of the training centers under his control. Does he even know that in order to get a horse ready to race, it takes five or six months of training? He favors those who are in the leader boards and will give them stalls of upwards 50-80 stalls and they race only a small percentage of them, maybe 30%, but he will not give 1,2, or 3 stalls to someone he believes is beneath his arrogant attitude.

    I retired from teaching on a good retirement rate and am 80% disabled from the Vietnam War which he probably protested against. I do not need racing and I will not allow anyone to treat me in a condescending matter. I will never train a horse in California again until this man is gone.

    Plenty of horses but many people, just like me, have been treated similarly. I easily have as much education as he does and I am a hell of lot better person than this obsequious man who talks down to anyone except his pets. He is the single reason for the small fields because he has singlehandedly run off many good people with his treatment of both owners and trainers of which I was both. No more. I am far happier that I don’t have to put up with his crap.

    • Lehane

      That is dreadful. Seems to me that he’s answerable to no-one.

      • wjfraz

        He is a petty bureaucrat ruling his own little fiefdom. Stronach doesn’t care either because he controls two thirds of the Thoroughbred racing in California. I don’t count Los Alamitos as it caters to bottom level claimers who are ineligible to race at Santa Anita.

    • Curt Muth

      I’m sure there is more to this story, no racing secretary would turn down stakes caliber horses with out a very good reason.

      • wjfraz

        No, not much. His reason is that I had “defied” him by racing a mare at Golden Gate to try to get black type on her rather than in an allowance race at Santa Anita.

        • Curt Muth

          So you made a choice, run at Golden Gate and ask SA for stables. And the response is a as expected, stable where you run. Don’t expect SA to provide stabling at no cost when you run at another track.

          • wjfraz

            Not really. On the same day Mandella, O’Neil, Miyadi and Hollendorfer all had horses in with no repercussion. I raced in the same manner they did except I had a two horse stable at the time.

          • Curt Muth

            Exactly, they did not run half their stable at another track.

          • wjfraz

            BS. I had run her at Santa Anita where she won. There were no stakes there for her and the stakes at GG are easier. What is your point? Stable size should not matter. It is a matter of equality and fair treatment. Are you oblivious to that or are you a Santa Anita mole?

          • wjfraz

            It costs for stabling through the insurance I had to have; $4 a day. That is not free. Stronach owns both tracks so there should not be an issue except petty jealousy.

          • Curt Muth

            You don’t pay squat for stabling at SA during its meet, insurance is mandatory at all tracks and have nothing to do with the track or their cost, they make money when you run horses in their races. You choose to run half your stable at another track, most racing secretaries would have asked you to leave under those circumstances. SA or any other tracks in the US are actually subsidising trainers businesses by supplying free stabling in exchange for them running their horses at the meets they arrange, you even had to fill in what kind of races your stock would be competing in when you applied for stalls. You knew the requirements before you applied for stalls. If you didn’t you’re better of not training.

          • wjfraz

            Ok Santa Anita advocate. You must also be against the small operations. The fact that Stronach owns both tracks is a mitigating factor. I ran 100% of my horses at a Stronach track when they were open, either GG or SA.. How can you know that “most” racing secretaries would do the same thing? Are you omniscient? You must be a stealth SA guy.

          • Curt Muth

            No, I have nothing to do with SA or Stronach for that matter, I’m just familiar with the requirements for getting stables at the track. And of course trainers with bigger stables will get perks like running at other tracks, it has all to do with starts per stall allocated to each trainer, if you don’t know how it works then ………………………..

          • wjfraz

            I actually don’t believe you. I never had a problem with previous racing secretaries. I know the protocol. If stalls allocated to a trainer were really based on starts then why do trainers with stables of over 50 have so few starts percentage wise? Inequality is not right. No matter. I don’t ever need stalls again, so what is your point ragging on someone who just won’t ever ask for another stall? I know at least five people who have been treated similarly. I am as familiar as you with the stall situation is. I’ve been, past tense, in racing since 1963 as a jockey, owner and trainer. I refuse to let anyone talk down or treat me unequally. You can have it.

          • Lehane

            Seems to me that the ‘requirements’ are questionable and far from flexible which is detrimental to racing.

          • Curt Muth

            No, the requirements are fair considering that trainers don’t pay the tracks for using the stalls and training facilities. In other parts of the world trainers have to pay for their stalls some even have to pay for use of training tracks, but then they are free to run where they want.
            All trainers know this when they accept stalls, as it is statet on the applications.
            Also it states that you can enter and run in stake races at any track (overnight stakes excluded) (without the permission from the racing secretary) where you have a nomination, all other races including overnight stakes you want to run in at another track requires permission from the racing secretary. This is to make sure trainers don’t fill up stalls with horses they don’t intend to run at SA in this case.

        • Lehane

          Surely to goodness that is your right.

          • wjfraz

            I thought so because all the big shots do it all the time. But he obviously didn’t like it and took away her stall.

      • Concerned Observer

        Racing secretaries get a “power trip”. Do not underestimate the impact of this trip.

      • wjfraz

        He did and that is the fact.

    • Jay

      Perhaps you should offer him a season to Dime Que?

      • wjfraz

        No! I have two young TB mares that I could put in training but I will not spend one dime to put them in training. He make money from the wagering and I refuse to let that happen. I will also not breed them. Both are Square Eddie’s as well. I am done with California racing. I have a great retirement and a disability from the Vietnam War and I don’t need the aggravation, and can spend my money on other things such as good concerts, fine food, maybe a new guitar but not one more dime into racing. I wouldn’t give him anything.

        • DanM

          With a career trainer win pct of 3.9% (8 for 207), you made a wise decision to be “done with California racing”.

          • wjfraz

            Yes. I had a very small stable, tried to run cleanly. I did very well racing Arabians; 3rd in the standings a couple of years and like it better than TB racing because the folks just treat you better. It was a hobby not a full time job so your snide remark is just that; a snide remark. I used racing and the horses to deal with PTSD from Vietnam. It was mostly for that so judge as you will but you too shall be judged for your negativity.

  • Concerned Observer

    What took everyone so long to figure out that no one is doing anything to bring new owners into the game? Don’t tell me about the TOBA seminars…those attendees are mostly already owners
    (I know, I’ve been there)..How about owner seminars before the races at Keeneland, CD, Saratoga, like breakfast with the works? You have an audience of bettors and enthusiasts….do something with it. Show them how much FUN it can be to be an owner, and some basic education.

    • Bryan Langlois

      I think NYRA did used to do “New Owner” Luncheons at both Belmont and Saratoga. Richard Migliore hosted them and they had people come in from all aspects of the sport to explain the different parts of racing and what ownership entails. I don’t know if they still do them or not. I think one thing that has to be explained to owners though from the start is that it is about the experience and not a huge return on investment. The racing clubs seem to have a handle on that aspect of things.

      • Curt Muth

        Your so right, don’t get into the Game if you can’t afford to lose the money.

        • Concerned Observer

          And you don’t get in the game if you are “Unwanted” and certainly the sport has treated lower level and regional owners poorly, even with disdain. In fact most tracks treat all owners poorly.

      • Concerned Observer

        How much is a person willing to pay for fun and excitement? Owning a race horse
        is like owning a boat, or a golf course membership, or a trip to
        Europe. How much will you pay for the thrill? You only go around once.

    • Curt Muth

      “You have an audience of bettors and enthusiasts….do something with it”

      What are you suggesting to do with them if the breeders keep on breeding less horses every year?

      • Concerned Observer

        In most cases they are breeding less horses because the market for them (especially for middle and lesser horses) is so weak. Why so weak? Fewer owners and fewer regional race tracks. It is all intermingled. No farmer continues to produce a crop if there is no market, and the “gurus” at the top of racing are only interested in stakes horses.

        How many New York breeders will fade away because of Finger Lakes and Suffolk closing? And how many Kentucky bred horses with lesser ability would have ended up at those tracks (but now have no market)?

  • Curt Muth

    This is what happens when you don’t realise that the breeders are what initially fuels the sport, you could have thousands of new owners willing to buy horses but keep bashing and screwing over the breeders and they won’t supply the needed horses, as declining foal crops prove.
    Racing starts with the breeders and it’s an ongoing cycle.

  • David Worley

    Good show, important topic.

  • Nell Ray

    This sport has been dying in America for a very long time now. But look on the bright side American Racing fans. the less and less Foals born the more likely you’ll see more and more American Pharoah’s ie Triple Crown winners. Because that’s all Americans care about when it comes to racing is the Triple Crown.

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