I spent a few days earlier this week at the Racing and Gaming Conference. By and large, it was a fantastic event that drew people from around both the horse racing and gambling industries. I met officials, horsepeople, and reporters alike, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
However, they whiffed on a panel discussing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, or HISA. While hearing from HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus was insightful, highly-respected trainer John Kimmel was part of the panel. The group took 49 minutes to ask Kimmel, the only person in the group to works with horses on a daily basis, a question, instead deferring to political types (one of whom went on a 15-minute monologue about the process behind the nominating committee).
As a colleague pointed out during the session, this is an awfully good example of why horse racing has struggled at times. Want to know if HISA is working? Talk to a horseperson who’s in the trenches every day. We don’t need more suits. We need more horsepeople.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: I couldn’t have given you the winner of the fifth race without the “ALL” button, and my $36 Pick Four ticket fizzled.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: My action comes early. I’ll lean on #4 CARAGATE in the second race in hopes she’ll run her record at this meet to 2-for-2. She’s a single for me in $10 doubles starting in the second that end with #4 GET THE CANDY and #6 JILL’S A HOT MESS.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20.
Best Bet: Busy Morning, Race 9
Longshot: Ableton, Race 10
Lucky Mucho Man
#6 OLYMPIC DREAMS: Is a reluctant top pick in one of two highly-perplexing races on the Thursday program. He was bet first time out in a turf route, when he wasn’t persevered with downstate. The blinkers go on, and maybe he improves at second asking on the class drop; #1 SENSIBLECONCLUSION: Makes his third start of the season, which is no small feat, and he’s shown a new dimension in his last several outings. A speed horse over the winter, he’s shown he can rate and pass others, which could prove helpful; #2 LUCKY MUCHO MAN: Was third in a race at this route last month, as well as a similar race at Belmont two back. At a minimum, you know he’s been reasonably competitive at this level, and his usual race likely gets him a slice.
#4 CARAGATE: Ran away with a first-level allowance race last month, and while that was far from the strongest race for the level, she sure seems to be going the right way on speed figures. That 79 Beyer Speed Figure was a new career-high, and Castellano stays up; #5 IFIHADACHANCE: Hasn’t won in a while, but is competitive on numbers and sports two solid efforts over this surface last year. This barn usually wins a fair bit up here, and it’s due to get rolling at some point; #1 OK HONEY: Likely went a bit shorter than she prefers last time out, and she gets some added ground here. That day’s runner-up came right back to win, and she should get some pace to run at in this event.
Jil’s a Hot Mess
Get the Candy
#6 JILL’S A HOT MESS: Does her best running at this route and was a good second behind a stakes-caliber filly last time out. She won here twice a season ago, retains John Velazquez, and may have enough speed to save some ground going into the turn; #4 GET THE CANDY: Sure seems like the one the rest will have to run down. She hasn’t won in a while, but she’s certainly the speed on the speed on paper and has every right to get very comfortable out of the gate; BUCCI ENTRY: I prefer #1A SASSY MELISSA, who was wide last time against several of these and may have bounced off of some solid efforts downstate. A return to form gives her a shot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s a bit closer in the early going.
Mexican Wonder Boy
#5 FLAMINGO HAWK: Ran a career-best race last time out and is protected off the claim in this spot. However, that was a pretty strong race for the level, and this event includes several rivals he beat last month. Anything close to that lifetime-best performance would make him tough; #4 STAGE LEFT: Romped against first-level allowance foes last month and clearly enjoys the Spa. He’s 3-for-5 over this main track, rarely runs a poor race, and would benefit from a battle up front; #2 MEXICAN WONDER BOY: Didn’t run poorly when second last time out, but he gets wheeled back very quickly first off the claim. His best may be good enough, but I don’t think he’ll be alone up front, and the short turnaround time is a definite question mark.
Clear the Deck
#2 CHILDERS: Is kin to three multiple winners, including Grade 2-winning 2-year-old Shotski, and has been working well ahead of his unveiling. Several of those drills have been from the gate, which leads me to believe he’ll be prominent right away; #6 FORBIDDEN SECRET: Checked back early in his debut a few weeks ago, which was won by a runaway victor. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides back, and the experience edge he has over most of this group could be a sizable asset; #5 CLEAR THE DECK: Has hit the board in all three starts to date and wouldn’t be a shock. He adds blinkers for Ken McPeek, and he’s shown an ability to rate, which isn’t common among 2-year-olds at this point in the season.
Dream On Cara
Sarah’s Dialed In
#8 ORANGE FREEZE: Remember the two confounding races? This is the other one. In a field of 2-year-olds without much proven form signed on, this one intrigues me the most. This daughter of Freud is out of a mare that won on the turf, and she hammered for $112,000 across the street last summer; #3 DREAM ON CARA: Rated in a race without much early speed last time, which is rarely a recipe for success. Castellano rides back, the blinkers go on, and I think there’s a chance she gets a friendlier race shape here; #5 SARAH’S DIALED IN: Debuts for Mike Dini, whose first-out numbers on turf aren’t great. However, she’s kin to a few OK grass runners, including a couple that won going long. Against a field full of question marks, that may be enough.
#7 IMMORTALIZATION: Showed speed against better last time out, when he faded to fourth in a non-winners-of-one allowance at this route. That zip he showed wasn’t a fluke, and I don’t know if any other runner in this field can match strides with him early; #3 CHARLES CHROME: Makes his first start for David Jacobson off of a four-month break. His prior connections ran him in a few stakes races last season, and he didn’t run poorly in either event. If he’s ready, he’s got a big shot; #2 VETERANS BEACH: Has had far too many chances for my liking and is impossible to endorse on top, but he does generally run the same race every time out and drops into the claiming ranks. His last-out effort here was fine, and that day’s runner-up came right back to win at next asking.
#3 NABOKOV: Spat the bit in the Grade 3 Dwyer and wasn’t persevered with that day, when he went off 2-1 in a race won by Travers hopeful Charge It. He gets Lasix again today after leaving the stakes ranks, and that could enable him to run back to a strong two-back effort downstate; #2 COMPLETE AGENDA: Has been chasing some very good ones of late and was most recently fourth behind graded stakes winner Keepmeinmind. That was his first race off a three-month freshening, and perhaps he’s rounding into form in the back half of his 3-year-old campaign; #5 WARRIOR JOHNY: Ships in for a barn that’s won at a high rate with a small string this season. He may have moved a bit early last time out in his first start against winners, but he’s been putting up decent speed figures and may be a bit of a price in here.
#6 BUSY MORNING: Took a step forward last time out with an impressive score where she powered away to win by six. She also wasn’t disgraced when the winner of her debut race turned out to be an OK runner, and I think she’s sitting on a new career-best effort at third asking; #5 HOWDYOUMAKEURMONEY: Hasn’t won in quite a while, but her 2022 season includes several tries against open stakes company. She hasn’t been beaten too much in those races, and while I question if she really wants two turns, I don’t question her ability at this level; #4 DREAM CENTRAL: Sat a perfect trip last time out in a similar race, when she made the last move the winning move. The runners from that event haven’t come back to run well, though, and it’s telling that Lezcano hops off to ride my top pick (who probably goes off the favorite).
#8 LOZ: Drops in for a tag and has been working considerably better the past few weeks ahead of his first start against maiden claiming company. It’s possible that doesn’t mean much, but between that and the return to a two-turn configuration, I think there’s stuff to like in a wide-open finale; #6 LOOKIN GRAND: Comes up from Belmont and was one-paced in several one-turn route races. That running style likely fits this two-turn race far better, and John Velazquez sees fit to hang around and ride back for Charlton Baker; #2 ABLETON: Finished third behind Shinsun last time out, and I think that one’s got some talent. Blinkers go on this John Kimmel trainee, and a repeat effort gives him a chance at a big price.