Saturday, 17 October 2009

Of Canadians, Cinderellas & Solar Cells

Late entry, but not too late (also, the third Raceday 360 post with a title starting with Of... in only two days). I intended to handicap the E P Taylor and Canadian International today, then got carried away, first by Newmarket’s Champions Day, then by a quite stunning press release issued by Dresden Racecourse.

The Champions Day’s highlight, the G1 Champion Stakes produced a mild surprise in Twice Over’s win as well as a surprisingly-surprising-to-a-surprisingly-large-number-of-surprised-people hapless performance by the favorite Fame And Glory (which came telegraphed to everyone who paid attention to the Arc).
The undercard – if you want to use the term for 5 group races and one of those “Heritage” handicaps that really deserve the title - the Cesarewitch over Newmarket’s entire Beacon Course – saw a 33-1 G1 Dewhurst upset by yet another colt named Beethoven (in yet another case of 1-2-4 Ballydoyle dominance), Ashalanda extending the Aga Khan’s Awesome October in the G2 Pride Stakes, and Dresden File favorite Akmal topping a rags-to-riches-y season with a 7th win in 11 starts by ways of an impressive victory in the G3 Jockey Club Cup.

On the homefront, Dresden Racecourse announced that it has entered an agreement to install Germany’s largest inner-city plant of photovoltaic collectors in the racetrack infield, which may not look all that great in combination with the wooden landmark-registered grandstand. On the plus side, the 25 million € project should ensure the quality of the racing product (Dresden itself is comparatively well off, thanks to attendence figures which habitually outnumber all but the very big German tracks, but due to the remote location problems of the other East German tracks hurt Dresden, too).

As to the initial topic of the post, the Canadian International at Woodbine once again falls short of what a 2 Mio race could offer if it was scheduled a little better, with the European contingent looking particularly weak. It's a wide open field with 7/1-longshot Buccellati probably representing the value bet; 11/2 Champs Elysees and 6/1 Quijano being the underlays.

Not falling short at all is this year’s edition of the E P Taylor Stakes:

#1 Treat Gently – on class alone, the Vermeille-3rd and Opera-4th is a ridiculous overlay at 8/1 ML, but this is only her second start of the year, the other one being a convinving Alw win at Belmont in July; again competes on a track where her running style shouldn’t be that much of a disadvantage and look to be a contender here

#2 Rainbow View – British-based Dynaformer filly was the winner of the G1 Matron at Leopardstown last out and has also shown she can stay the distance, but she has had a long season and looks questionable at an 8/5 ML; then again, there is the dreaded First-Time-Lasix factor

#3 Lahaleeb – unimpressive in her last two starts, and on Euro forms has to be rated below #1 and #2; long season too and runs without Lasix; jockey switch doesn’t help either

#4 Eastern Aria – good forms in high-level Conditions and Handicap races in Britain and France, but has yet to make her graded debut; second-to-last form upgraded considerably by winner and 3rd-place finisher; campaigning without layoff since early February though, and 16th start of the year might prove one too many; FTL

#5 Princess Haya – first graded victory winning the G2 Canadian S. Over course last time out; class, speed figs and added distance remain concerns and make 7/2 ML an underlay in this field

#6 Look Herehmm, a Hernando horse on FTL! The 2008 Epsom Oaks winner kept herself in the best of companies in Europe and didn’t look half-bad; distance may be too short for her and trainer’s inexperience with transatlantic shipping is a concern, but 3/1 ML looks reasonable

#7 Roses n’ Wine – only Canadian filly in the field comes of an OSS Algoma romp, but has repeatedly shown limitations in graded company

#8 Salve Germania – mind-boggling improvement when winning the Ballston Spa in her North America debut, thus hard to handicap here; this is still a major step up in class for the now Pletcher-stabled filly;


Six European runners in a field of eight plus Princess Haya (the filly) make for more than this race’s fair share of sporting interest, but also make this another tough one to bet.
Rainbow View and Look Here are the obvious choices, but the Euro trio of Treat Gently, Eastern Aria and Lahaleeb represent better value at hard-to-believe MLs of 8/1, 12/1 and 12/1, respectively. If it wasn’t for Woodbine’s exotics takeout, this one would look like a perfect case for the dime superfecta, but with things the way they are, my tip is #1 Treat Gently, who, if coming anywhere near last fall’s form (and according to her Belmont form and workouts, she likely will) should make this one a memorable race for any across-the-board bettor. I might play a trifecta (or triactor) with some combination of her and #2 and 6 just for the hunch, takeout be damned.


First: Woodbine's morning line person had a really bad day; I've never seen MLs so far off under normal weather conditions, let alone for two major races in a row.

E P Taylor: huge upset by #3 Lahaleeb (eventually 45-1) because a) she's a pretty good horse, and b) because all of the more likely candidates got used up in an almost comical (if I hadn't had money on this race) chase after a no-hoper (#7) to fade hopelessly in the stretch.

Cdn Int'l: Won by #1 Champs Elysees, a horse I've come to memorize several years ago for his uncanny ability to find a way to lose even when he looked unbeatable, who then deviated several times before seemingly returning to his path, but who closed his career in style.
He profited from the fact that Buccellati would have won easily if aiming forward, but unfortunately wasted half his energy struggling against the jockey to get a closer look at the grandstand and was ultimately lucky to finish third.

In both races, a moderate early pace was followed by plain crazy mid-session bursts; both races were won by horses who kept out of that freak show and passed tired horses, ridiculing the "superstar jockeys" part of the whole affair.
That being said, congrats to William Buick, the young English rider who scored his first graded/group win in the E P Taylor, then made the best out of a tough ride on Buccellati.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Oh, the Humanity!

More than a month has passed since my last post, but at least I have a great excuse as I was pretty occupied with putting the finishing touches on my diploma work in Social and Economic Geography. High time to get back into the game with a four-in-one post.

In fact, the only thing I’ve handicapped over the last three weeks was the German general election. This election was, however, more than just the usual opportunity to show how much we have descended mentally and morally over the course of just four years (this time we learned that Germans, as a people, are so mind-numbingly stupid as to vote the most market-liberal option into power, just one year after the neoliberal agenda completely went bankrupt - in every possible sense of that phrase). Nope, when I started reviewing the candidates (talk about a field of bottom-level claimers), it dawned on me that this election was also gonna be the greatest spot play in betting history, thanks to the fundamentally undemocratic ramifications the “overhang seats” in MMP systems can have under very specific constellations, all of them in place this time. The kicker is: no one who doesn’t have an increased interest and at least some formal training in political systems research knows about those ramifications, and that’s why I was in every bettor's dream situation with a few minutes to go until the polls closed: knowing the outcome beforehand, and getting more than 4/5 on a lock. On that note: a hearty “ha ha” to everyone who told me that a minor in Political Science would never earn me a cent (now if I could only find a 'ha ha'-reason for the same accusation concerning my other minor in Social and Economic History...).

Otherwise, living shielded from the outside world for four weeks certainly adds perspective. As in, when you return to everyday life, the whole thing just seems too outrageous to be believable.
A nobel peace prize for a guy who has (not yet, even) closed exactly one part of a giant torture camp system while letting the rest operate freely? The rest, that’s things like Bagram Prison, where according to Europe’s biggest newsweekly, Der Spiegel, the nobel peace prize winner’s army tortured a human being by (among other things) destroying his leg so many times that the coroner’s report notified its ‘gelatinous’ consistency. The fun part: when they finally tortured him to death, the prison guards were already aware that the guy was entirely innocent, and not just because there never was any actual charge. Yep, sounds like a regular second coming of Gandhi, I suppose.
What’s next? Giving humanitarian awards to amok shooters if they don’t empty their entire magazine? Parenting awards for people who vow to only beat up their infants twice a week from now on? How ‘bout an animal advocacy award for Ernie Paragallo? He chose not to starve all of his horses, after all!

Meanwhile in German racing, Baden-Baden escaped the very real threat of having to cancel their three-day October meet for shortness of funds. In the same press conference, it was announced that there will be a 2YO BBAG auction race for 200.000 € during that very meeting.
That’s right: 45K more than the standard German G1 purse, pooped out for a number of horses who, if history has told us anything, will almost certainly never amount to even G3 level. A little more perspective: most German top horses make a mere prep start or none at all as juveniles. In fact, fields are so short that many racedays don’t even include a juvenile race, and the 100K Auction race for 2yo fillies during Baden’s summer meet looked like a farce (none of the contestants warranted a fifth of that purse), but certainly turned notable when three completely green horses collided mid-stretch, leaving a seriously injured reigning jockey champion (Eddie Pedroza) in their wake. All but two of the fillies in said race have yet to break their maiden, most haven’t been close either, and not one of them has won a race since. The tragic part: the BBAG is independent of the Internationaler Club, and while the Club faces a dire future, the BBAG is alive, well and hell-bent on its mission to destroy what’s left of German racing.

Overseas, it seems like I’ve missed one more Indian Charlie controversy. Unfortunately though, the mock paper ridiculing him had about the same level of humor ("basement") as the original.
Every time I get more behind-the-scenes info about Musselman’s rag, I’m reminded of Ridicule, a French film about a nobility so infatuated with their self-amusement and shallow intrigues that everything else becomes merely a joke to them, and all their resources are wasted for the pettiest of causes. The wit of their mockery and the gamesmanship involved have an alluring quality, and it takes both the hero and the viewer some time to free themselves of it, to see the destructive effects of the nobility’s obsession with itself. In any case, the lure is strong enough that none of the “players” ever realizes how rotten the game is until it finally comes crashing down – and then it’s too late.
I think about Ridicule a lot when I think about American racing’s “nobility”. Or today’s politics, for that matter.