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The Dark Report – June 8, 2014

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Remember that from ABC’s Wide World of Sports back in the 70’s and 80’s? I think we all felt a little bit of that yesterday as California Chrome fell victim to Big Sandy as many before him did. It’s almost a surreal feeling this morning as I still think Chrome can win the Triple Crown. Ah, it was not meant to be. This week’s Dark (and sad) Report contains agony, a silver lining, a review, a lesson, and a trainer that’s heating up.
I was one of the millions of Americans that wanted to see California Chrome take the Triple Crown. After all it’s only been 36 years! I suppose it just wasn’t meant to be. I also felt that if Chrome didn’t take it, then Wicked Strong would. I was wrong there too. Tonalist at 9-1, who many had as a contender to take this race, except for me, beat Commissioner (28-1) by a head. Medal Count (24-1), my Kentucky Derby pick, finished third.
(Tonalist - thanks Nick Hahn!) 
Was Chrome a prohibitive favorite? Was he just too tired? DRF’s Barbara Livingston, one of the finest photographers in the business, captured a photo of Chrome’s foot after the race.
Apparently he had been injured by Matterhorn out of the gate. Was that the excuse for the loss? Many, many questions will be left unanswered.
I also didn’t get to hear or see the post-race interviews, but apparently Chrome owner Steve Coburn had a lot to say:

It was obviously a tough loss for the owners, and a nation. Coburn had a few strong statements during the interview with NBC. Let me break down some of his points:
- “These other horses, they always set him out. They set him out and try to upset the apple cart. I’ll never see another Triple Crown Winner because the way they do this. It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since day one.”
Well, yes Mr. Coburn, they are trying to defeat the potential Triple Crown winner. It’s no different than NFL teams trying to knock off a dynasty team like the 1970’s Steelers or today’s New England Patriots. The champion will always have a target on their back. Besides, horse racing is an extremely competitive sport, if you didn't know. The $1.5 million purse would cause all of the entrants to do whatever it takes to win. That’s a lot of money! And as far as it not being fair, well Chrome could have been entered to just run in the Belmont…
- “If you can’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races.”
Coburn makes an interesting point here. It seems as though the Kentucky Derby is the only race with a points system to be eligible for entry. Should the other races have such a system as well? How would it be determined? Or would it be as simple as calling it qualifying points for the Triple Crown and not just the Kentucky Derby?

Lots of questions to think about. What are your thoughts on this?
- “It’s all or nothing. It’s not fair to these horses.”
I really don’t think it’s a question of fairness. No rules were broken by having these other horses enter the race. Now, is it one of those unwritten rules like Baseball has? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, I think it was fair. If you have the best colt in the country, let him defeat anyone who gets in his way to prove that he is indeed the champion of champions. By the way, if you read Derek Simon’s Belmont wagering guide, he noted that every Belmont winner since 1990 had raced within 36 days of the Belmont Stakes.
- “This is the coward’s way out in my opinion.”
Again, I think not. No rules were broken, and anyone that has a horse with a legitimate shot their share of $1.5 million should take it.
- “Our horse had a target on it’s back,” in response to the question regarding the fact that teams gang up on a potential triple crown winner.
Duh, of course the horse has a target on his back. He won two of the biggest races of the year for 3-year-olds. Are the other jockeys and horses just supposed to lay down for Chrome?
- “If you’ve got a horse, you run ‘em in all three. If you’ve got a horse that earns points to run in the Kentucky Derby, those twenty horses that start in Kentucky are the only twenty eligible to run in all three races.”
Why do people get into this sport? Why do people breed horses? Why do people study pedigrees? For most, it’s to have a shot at the Kentucky Derby. It’s the race that most folks try to win. However sometimes a horse just isn’t ready for the Kentucky Derby. Or sometimes a horse is injured, or scratched, for the Derby. As horsemen, we must ALWAYS do right by the horse. Period.
So is he saying that he would have denied the great A.P. Indy a shot at the Belmont Stakes?

Or the amazing filly Rachel Alexandra being denied a chance to beat the boys in the Preakness? Bernardini in the Preakness? Drosselmeyer in the Belmont? Yeah I don’t think that would work.
I digress. Many think that his comments were out of line and that maybe he should be banned. I think that’s a little drastic. There was a man who just had a shot at a Triple Crown, first in almost 40 years, and was soundly defeated. How would you feel? Sadness? Anger? I don’t know about you, but I may have reacted in the same manner, right or wrong. On the other hand, it IS a horse race where ANYTHING can and does happen.
All was not lost on Belmont Stakes day however. We got to see a Breeders’ Cup-style card in early June. Most of the best horses in the country were in attendance and it was a treat for all of the fans to see.
The Ogden Phipps was probably one of the best races of the day in terms of the best older female dirt horses battling together. Featured in this race were Close Hatches, Azeri and Apple Blossom winner and a perfect record in 2014, Princess of Sylmar who had won 9 of her last 11, and Beholder, the nine-time winner and victor in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Check out the replay:

Wow, what a race! Close Hatches hung on to narrowly defeat a hard charging Princess of Sylmar to win by a head. Whoa.
The finish in the Just A Game was equally as exciting as Coffee Clique won by a nose with a head-bob at the wire. Check it out:

What a finish!
Finally, we got to see one of, if not THE best older horse in the nation with Palace Malice. Mega long shot Broadway Empire had the lead in the Met Mile for most of the race with Goldencents (ridiculous 10-1 ML) right behind. Goldencents took the lead in the stretch, but the class and power of Palace Malice could not be denied. Watch!

What an amazing finish by a great horse, finishing in 1:33 2/5.
The other thing to note was the HUGE mutual pools for these races. Millions upon millions of dollars were bet into these races, creating value for all folks playing yesterday. In the Belmont Stakes alone, $14 million was wagered into the Exacta pool and $16 million into the Trifecta pool! $2.8 million was wagered into the Pick 4 pool, yet I felt that payout was a bit disappointing (5-1, 7-5, 5-1, 9-1) as it only paid $425. Still, it was an amazing day of racing and I’m glad I got to watch! With a crowd of over 100,000 horse racing still lives strong!
Ok ok, one last time. Just to touch on the dosage index and how the Belmont Stakes finishers fared, Tonalist (2.78) is actually bred for distance though being by Tapit. Commissioner (2.60) and Medal Count (2.13 and bred to go all day) rounded out the top three. All of which under the magical 3.00 number.

Again, horses with a DI above 3.00 have won the Belmont Stakes before, though it hasn’t been many.
And still, no horse with a DI over 3.00 has won the Triple Crown.

Maybe Alan Dean is right. Perhaps the breeding has changed in such a way that the horses now don’t have the lethal combination of both speed and stamina. How does that get fixed?
Now to the handicapping for just a bit. I’m starting to hit that annual point where I pick a lot of winners and have nothing to show for it. So yesterday I tried going after the big Pick Four pool at Belmont. However with so many contenders in each field, without breaking the bank was it really hittable? And for $425, which isn’t life-changing money, was it worth the effort?
Though Coffee Clique was my top pick in the first leg there was a lot of competition and the horse only won by a nose. In the Met Mile I spread out the ticket a little bit just in case Palace Malice couldn’t get it done. I used Goldencents and a few others when in reality I guess I only needed the beast. The third leg was very competitive and would have been a good race to use ALL. I didn’t have Real Solution on the ticket, but I’m also not surprised that the Arlington Million winner took the race. Finally in the Belmont, I thought if it wasn’t Chrome then it would be Wicked Strong, but I was all in on the Triple Grown.
No amount of handicapping or analysis could have possibly got me to singles in many of the races. I suppose a Coffee Clique with Palace Malice, with ALL and ALL could have been a good play, but the payout wasn’t as large as I would have wanted.
Still, winning something is better than nothing. I just need to learn not to chase big pools if there isn’t much of a chance of winning them. At least for me. My strengths are doubles and exactas and I may just stick to that.
Chicago-based trainer Tom Swearingen is certainly heating up at the right time. With $374,000 in earnings and 24/45 in the money already in 2014, Swearingen has a couple of Illinois-bred horses that are taking Chicago by storm. Last week I Got It All dominated the Springfield Stakes by over 9 lengths.
Yesterday Countess Cashmere won the Purple Violet Stakes at Arlington Park by a half length, just one race after breaking her maiden! That makes two IL-bred stakes race wins in a row for Swearingen. I’m anxious to see how these horses perform later in the meet!
(Countess Cashmere - Thanks Four Footed Fotos!) 
Finally, I never, ever, get tired of watching this:



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Older Comments about The Dark Report – June 8, 2014...

I loved that Coburn's wife was telling him to stop his rant. I didn't like seeing him, on national TV, tell her to "STOP". She was correct, and I hope he at least apologized to his wife!
gelded, distance is only one component. Though they could get the distance, they were not good enough or compromised by health and too much racing.
How does the dosage philosophy/formula explain how horses like Samraat and General A Rod have gotten worse as the distance has gotten longer? If the idea is high dosage horses have difficulty winning races beyond 9 furlongs because of breeding shouldn’t the lowest dosage horses do really well?

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Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
While finishing school in Chicago, I spent every possible moment at Arlington Park with my dad.  We took the time to develop computer programs (on the ever popular Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS) to try to find patterns and handicap races more accurately.  My dad taught me a lot about handicapping races, paying particular attention to class moves!

Since then, I have become more involved with horse racing each passing year through a variety of different media-based roles. Once deemed the "second best racing ambassador in Chicago" (hey I've been called worse), 
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