INTERLUDE: An Important Life Update, and What I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving

If you’ve followed me for the past several years, chances are you’ve noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet for the past few months, both on my site and on social media. There’s a rational explanation for this, and I’m ecstatic to report that it comes with a happy ending.

To tell this story, I need to go back to early-September. I had just worked, by my estimation, roughly 34 hours over Labor Day weekend, which included a lot of racing at Saratoga and Del Mar and a shooting outside the latter establishment. The following Wednesday, I was informed that, due to corporate cutbacks that are all too common in the fields of journalism, publishing, and horse racing, my position at The Daily Racing Form was being transitioned from full-time to part-time. This was not a performance-based decision, but strictly a money move.

At this time, it’s important to point out that I have no ill will towards anyone at DRF. I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of people who are among the best in the world at what they do, including my boss (editor in chief Jody Swavy), fellow web producers Neil Bisman and Matt Brennan, writers/handicappers, and people whose names you don’t know, but without whom nothing would get done. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done, which included massive gains in social media metrics and providing some fun audio-visual and written content. Additionally, that I was able to stay on in a part-time role (plus pursue other freelance work) as opposed to being cut entirely allowed me to at least have SOME financial security while I looked for a full-time opportunity.

I kept this pretty quiet for a number of reasons. I don’t enjoy being a burden to others if I don’t have to be, and I also didn’t want people feeling sorry for me. For the things I know how to do in social and digital media, I’m in one of the best places imaginable. While this situation was completely out of left field and threw me for a loop, I was confident I was going to be okay in the long run.

It’s with that in mind that I can make the following statement: I’ve landed on my feet.

I have accepted an offer to join the team at Outpost Capital, a venture capital firm located in San Francisco, as a Content Writer. My duties will actually be pretty similar to the things I’ve done at DRF, TVG, HRTV, The Saratogian, Siena College, and NBC Olympics, just in a different environment. I’ll be handling a lot of social and digital media tasks for one of their companies, MOAC (a tech company specializing in blockchain development), while also taking on some PR responsibilities and assisting in production of their weekly webinars. It’s a great job, and I’m excited to get started.

Now that I’ve lined up a full-time gig, I need to spend a LOT of time talking about those who have helped me. This list is filled with many different types of people, but it’s headed by a select group that I’m incredibly grateful for.

First and foremost, I would never have been able to get through this without my family. My father, mother, stepfather, sister, and stepsister, among others, were as supportive as a family could be (no small task from 3,000 miles away), and it’s a tremendous relief to be able to tell them that they don’t have to worry anymore (at least not about this!!!).

Just as important in all of this has been my girlfriend, Alicia. I moved to Northern California nine months ago to spend more time with her. She’s been a rock in a time that wouldn’t have been easy for anyone, all while teaching a classroom of 26 third and fourth-grade students. We’re celebrating our five-year anniversary this weekend, and it’s great to have something else to celebrate on top of it. She’s amazing, and I love her very much.

Without freelance work, the past two-plus months would’ve been incredibly tough (have you SEEN rent prices in the Bay Area?!). Most importantly in this regard, I need to thank Joe Nevills, who introduced me to several contacts that provided work and helped me survive. A little less than two years ago, he listened to me vent my frustration about a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone when he absolutely did not have to. That’s sparked a friendship I’m incredibly proud of, and one where I hope to someday repay the debts I’m quickly racking up.

In that vein, I also need to thank Patrick Mahan and Giles Anderson for allowing me the opportunity to work for them, as well as my bosses at Granite Media (Eric Ortiz, Michael Howerton, and Tony Mamone). With that in mind, I’m going to point out that just because I’m employed outside of the racing industry doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing and producing racing/sports-centric content. I enjoy what I’m fortunate enough to do, and I’m not just going to disappear (quite the opposite, actually, as a steady income means I’ll be able to play the races more!).

I dealt with a lot of recruiters and prospective employers during this process. I applied for almost 600 jobs in a 2 1/2-month stretch (if you don’t believe me, I have a running Excel spreadsheet that helped me keep track of everything), and in doing that, I met a lot of people. Naturally, with that kind of sample size, I’ve got some great stories and some really bad ones (including what will go down as the worst interview of my life with someone who couldn’t quite understand the concept of organic social media). To the recruiters that took time out of their schedules to help me in some way, and to the hiring managers who treated me with respect and honesty (and called/emailed when they SAID they were going to call/email), thank you.

Finally, there’s a long list of friends and professional acquaintances I need to mention that provided valuable support, whether they knew it or not. That list, which I hope is complete and reserve the right to edit at any point, goes as follows: Danny Kovoloff, Gino Buccola, Pete Aiello, Jason Beem (yes, the five of us and Joe Nevills talk; somewhere, there’s an emergency meeting being called by a terrified racing executive!), Ted King-Smith (and the entire King-Smith family, which put on one impressive wedding last month!), Jack Powers, Nate March, Nick Karski, Natalie Nevills, Nicole Russo, Barbara Livingston, Craig Milkowski, Craig Gorbunoff, Dan Illman, David Aragona, Mike Dubose, Nick Kling, Nick Hines, Rich Perloff, Mike Joyce, Scott Hazelton, Ed DeRosa, Matt Dinerman, Jeremy Balan, Alicia Wincze Hughes, Tom LaMarra, John Gaburick, and Norm Macdonald (yes, THAT Norm Macdonald). I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of a close-knit group of people, and in that regard, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, the guy who sometimes has a VERY hard time shutting up may have just gotten a bit more of a license to be vocal!

On a serious note, the last few months have been a pretty trying time. To those who knew, thanks for being there for me. To those who didn’t, thanks for keeping the faith (even though you probably didn’t know you were doing it). I hope to be around a lot more moving forward, and I REALLY hope I can use that time to give out some winners!

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Gulfstream, Santa Anita (12/30/17), PLUS a Special Message of Thanks

Before we dive in to the analysis of Saturday’s cards at Gulfstream and Santa Anita, I want to take a moment in my final post of 2017 to say thank you.

I started this website nine months ago, and I started it for several reasons. Obviously, writing and handicapping are two of my biggest passions, and this gave me an outlet for that, but there were other factors at play as well. Admittedly, a large part of starting this website was in response to being told I wasn’t good enough to do certain things, and as anyone who knows me can attest, the best way to motivate me to do something is to tell me I’m incapable of doing it.

I didn’t start this site to get a certain amount of page views, so the data I’ve got knocks my socks off. In the nine months that this site has been online, it’s gotten almost 25,000 hits. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a ton, but for one guy doing this site for no money and no ulterior motive other than providing relevant content for the sport he loves, it’s powerful stuff.

To those of you that have come along for the ride, thank you. 2017 was a banner year for me professionally. In addition to the launch of this site, I landed a fantastic job at the Daily Racing Form, and I emerged as the Saratoga meet’s leading handicapper across all media. As I tell people, “128 winners at a single Saratoga meet” is fast becoming my version of Al Bundy’s “four touchdowns in a single game!”

On a serious note, whether you visited from the start or came on at some point during the year, I’m incredibly grateful for your support. It’s my hope that 2018 provides even more excitement, and maybe even some more winners to boot. As a reminder, there’s a “contact” feature on this website, and I read every message that comes in. If you have a question, comment, or concern, use that and bring it to my attention.

Now, let’s see if we can make some money on the Saturday cards at Gulfstream and Santa Anita. My analysis, selections, and tickets are below. Let’s get to it!


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 2,7
R3: 6,8
R4: 2,3
R5: 7

96 Bets, $48

On the whole, I think this is a pretty formful sequence. However, we may be able to make some money by getting lucky in the second leg, and even if the rest of the ticket chalks out, there may be some avenues to a profit.

The opener is a sprint for 3-year-olds, and I’ll use the two likely betting choices. #2 VENCEDOR may be favored on the class drop for Antonio Sano, but I actually prefer stablemate #7 CORONADO AGAIN, who figures to be the race’s controlling speed. He does step up in class, but he’s run against some tough opposition in the past and may get a dream setup if he’s allowed to coast to the front early.

I’m buying the second race, which, for my money, is the toughest race on the entire card. Several of the longshots are worth long looks, and the favorites aren’t without their flaws. It’s tough to predict which horse gets the early lead, and with many of the shorter prices being one-run closers, they may be crawling early. I want maximum coverage, and with a little luck, we’ll get a price home to knock out some tickets.

I’ll use the two favorites in the third, a bottom-level claimer going the one-turn mile route. #6 GOODTIMEHADBYALL and #8 ENDERS CAT drop out of the same Claiming Crown race, and by the numbers, they appear to have this field over a barrel. I’ll go a similar route in the fourth, using #2 BULLDOZER and #3 MR. BAKER, who’ll both be short prices.

That leads to the H. Allen Jerkens, a two-mile race on turf where I have a single. #7 BULLARDS ALLEY wants to run as long as possible, and a repeat of either of his last two efforts would make him tough to beat. He was beaten less than four lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and anywhere close to that type of performance would mean someone else would need to run a career-best race to win. I usually don’t like singling in marathon races, but this one makes sense.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 1,4,11,13,14,15
R9: 2,3,5,7,10
R10: 9
R11: 2,3,10

90 Bets, $45

I found this late Pick Four sequence baffling, especially since three major contenders in the opening leg are also-eligibles that may not run. For now, I’m putting them all on the ticket, and we’ll adjust the value of the ticket downward if there are any scratches.

The eighth is a claiming event on the turf for non-winners of three, and it’s not an easy race to decipher. I’ll use three also-eligibles and three other horses, two of which are prices. #1 TAGORE is a son of Giant’s Causeway who somehow has yet to try turf, and #11 SECOND STREET comes back to the appropriate level after a failed try against much better earlier this month.

The ninth isn’t much easier. It’s the Tropical Park Oaks, and I’m five-deep. Your guess is as good as mine with regard to which horse will be favored, and my top pick is a reluctant one. #2 TAPERGE loves this turf course and makes her second start following a brief freshening. She seems to be getting better with experience, and we may get a decent price.

I’ll take a stab in the third leg, the Via Borghese. My single is #9 BEAULY, a 4-1 shot last seen running a close-up fourth in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl. She’s run up against some classy distaffers this season, and she gets the services of top-notch rider Luis Saez. This sequence requires a single somewhere, and I’m hoping this one’s back class carries her through.

I’m three-deep in the final leg, the Tropical Park Derby. I’m throwing out runners exiting Aqueduct’s Gio Ponti Stakes, as that was a strangely-run race that may not hold water here. My top pick is #3 PROFITEER, who gets some class relief, but I’m also using two big prices. #2 TIZ A SLAM has hinted at major potential this season for Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield, and #10 DANCE STRIKE has done very little wrong in three starts and could be ready for a big effort in his stakes debut.


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 5
R2: 1,4
R3: 3,4,5,6,9,10
R4: 1,4,5,6
R5: 3

48 Bets, $24

I really like this sequence, and my ticket boasts singles on each end of it. We may get reasonable prices on each given the field sizes in those races, so if this ticket hits, we could be in line for a nice score.

My first single is #5 PROUD HEROINE in the opener, a turf sprint coming down the hill. This one has shown plenty of early zip, and “run-off” horses like that tend to settle going this route of ground. Additionally, she’s bred up and down for turf. She’s by Proud Citizen and out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare, which results in a strong 317 turf Tomlinson number. 5-1 is a very fair price, and I think she may be the horse to beat.

I’m not getting cute in the second, a maiden event for 2-year-olds going two turns. #1 PEACE and #4 RESTORING HOPE will take the lion’s share of the betting action, and those are the two I’m using. Both just missed in their last outings, and it would be surprising if one of them didn’t get the job done here.

The third race, though, is much more wide-open. I’m six-deep, and if you want to cover your bases, hitting the “ALL” button isn’t a bad idea. I’m also using most of the field in the fourth, the Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel. I’m four-deep in that six-horse affair, and if there’s a silver lining, it’s that there’s no clear-cut favorite (at least on paper).

I’ll finish with a single in the fifth, a maiden claimer for 2-year-old sprinters. #3 CHARLIE COWDEN has yet to run a bad race around one turn and gets the services of Rafael Bejarano. His matching 61 Beyer Speed Figures in his two one-turn races are far better than anything any other horse in this field has produced, and he should get a bit of a pace to run at. Hopefully, he finishes things off and gets us in line to cash the ticket.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 1,5,6,8,9,10
R7: 9
R8: 4,5,6
R9: 4,9,10,13,14

90 Bets, $45

The cost of this ticket is likely to come down, as two of the five horses I used in the last leg are also-eligibles. With those taken out, it’s a $27 ticket, and given the field sizes, we could be looking at a sequence that pays more than it should.

I thought the hardest leg was the opening one. It’s an optional claimer that drew a field of 11, and the morning line favorite is 3-1 despite being 0-for-his-last-7. That’s #10 SHEER FLATTERY, who I’m using but is in no way an unbeatable favorite. Want to hit the “ALL” button if scratches elsewhere make the ticket cheaper? Go ahead.

The seventh is the Grade 1 American Oaks, and I’m living and dying with #9 NEW MONEY HONEY, who is 7/2 on the morning line but may go off lower than that. Toss the Grade 1 Alabama on dirt and the two races at Keeneland, and you’re left with a horse that has lost just once (in her career debut). She won the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks at this distance, and while I respect stablemate #8 RYMSKA, the only two times they’ve tangled, New Money Honey has dispatched her with relative ease. I’m singling last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, and if she doesn’t win, I lose.

The eighth is the Grade 3 Midnight Lute, and while I’m using two of the heavyweights, I also had to throw in a longshot. #4 MASOCHISTIC returns for new trainer Bob Baffert, while #5 AMERICANIZE has developed into a strong one-turn horse for Simon Callaghan. Those two will be tough, but there’s a lot of speed signed on, and because of that, I had to use #6 SOLID WAGER, who should be flying late. He won this race last year, and while he’d be outclassed at six furlongs, this race’s extra sixteenth of a mile works to his benefit. Maybe he’s a bit overmatched on numbers, but given the likely race shape, I had to have him on the ticket.

We’ll finish things off with a claimer on the grass. The two also-eligibles will be tough if they draw in, but that’s no sure bet. Because of that, I’m spreading a bit, and hopefully, I’ve gone deep enough.

Ending a Chapter and Saying “Thanks”

As many of you already know, May 7th is my last day as an employee of TVG. I’m leaving the network, but I’m NOT leaving the racing business, as I’ve accepted an offer to join the fantastic team at the Daily Racing Form. For many reasons, this is the right move for me, but it’s not easy to close the door on a 3 1/2-year run with TVG and the station formerly known as HRTV.

In addition to my family, my friends, and my girlfriend, there are many people at both stops that did a lot for me. Southern California has a reputation as a place where those who shake your hand are looking to stab you in the back the second you turn around, but I’ve been fortunate enough to deal with a lot of supervisors and co-workers that helped to mold me into the person I am. This column is my way of saying thank you to the following people.

Phil Kubel: We need to start here, because without Phil, there’s no way I’m in California. He met a 24-year-old kid from upstate New York in September of 2013, and despite having no obligation to help, offered me a job in HRTV’s digital media department. I gradually took on more responsibilities, and when TVG acquired HRTV a year and a half after my arrival, I was hired, in large part due to the body of work I put together under Phil’s tutelage. I’m grateful for him allowing me to get my foot in the door when he could have easily slammed it shut.

Jeff Siegel and Aaron Vercruysse: There are three on-air people I’m specifically going to call out. Although I consider many current and former TVG and HRTV hosts and analysts friends (Gino Buccola, Scott Hazelton, Kurt Hoover, Rich Perloff, Nick Hines, Joaquin Jaime, Christina Blacker, Mike Joyce, Simon Bray, Dave Weaver, and Matt Carothers, to name a bunch), Jeff and Aaron were the first two to give me a shot and let me help them on several key projects. I was a producer and fill-in talent for Santa Anita Uncut, which served as the predecessor for both HRTV/TVG Extra and XBTV’s live broadcasts, and being in that kind of an environment was one heck of an education. They didn’t have to bring me into the loop, or let me contribute as much as I did, but they did.

Caton Bredar: It’s story time. HRTV sent me to the 2014 Belmont Stakes to help cover California Chrome’s attempt to capture horse racing’s Triple Crown. While there, I assisted Jeff Siegel on a primitive version of the “Uncut” broadcasts from just outside the Belmont Park paddock. It was a good show (would’ve been better had Commissioner held on in the Belmont at ridiculous odds!!!), but what I remember most came after it was over.

I was in the rickety HRTV trailer close to the Long Island Railroad platform after the races were over when Caton walked in. We’d just met for the first time earlier that week, and we didn’t know each other too well, but she got my attention, looked at me, and asked, “Are you trying to steal everyone’s jobs? You were really good!”

In my brief career to date, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, both good and not so good, from some pretty powerful and/or well-known people. I can recite many pieces of hate mail from memory, including one from a Kentucky Derby-winning owner and another from upper management at a VERY prominent racetrack! There is no question that what Caton said to me is still the best compliment I’ve ever received from anyone in the horse racing business, and it’s something I won’t soon forget. Caton, if you’re reading: Thanks.

Kip Levin, Phil Dixon, Enrico Rusi, Bhavesh Patel: I needed to lump all four of these current or former TVG executives into one spot. We’ve all had bad experiences with higher-ups at companies at one time or another. However, I need to thank the members of this quartet for being an easy group to work with and/or for.

I’ll keep this short, but I want to point stuff out individually that marks how instrumental each person was in what I was able to do. Kip saw my passion for racing immediately, and he backed a lot of what I wanted to do on social media. Phil was always receptive when I had a line on a horse and never once tried to limit my enthusiasm for what I did despite having an office five steps from my desk. Enrico, the head of the TVG marketing department, was my second-line manager for a while, and the way he dealt with me following a key moment several weeks ago stands as a shining example for how to treat people in an honest, respectful way.

I ended with Bhavesh because there’s another story I need to tell. When I was hired from HRTV, he and Stephen Kennelly (more on him later) took me to lunch. Bhavesh’s management style was to ask challenging questions, and he asked what I felt the most pressing issue in horse racing was. Unbeknownst to him, I’d been asked that question many times before, so I had an honest answer ready about how the breeding industry commands racing’s best horses to leave the track earlier and earlier while also breeding for speed instead of soundness or stamina. As I recall, I did not take a breath for a solid minute when putting forth my answer, which may or may not have sounded like a sticking point in a politician’s stump speech.

My guess is that Bhavesh wasn’t prepared for that kind of reaction. Not only did he not ask me a single question for the rest of lunch, but over the next few months, I became the guy entrusted with growing HRTV/TVG Extra, as well as acquiring eyeballs on TVG’s audio-visual products through YouTube, Twitter, and other forms of social media. I need to thank him for acknowledging that I knew what I was doing, and also for letting me do it. This sounds REALLY simple, but sometimes, it doesn’t take a lot to manage your employees well.

Stephen Kennelly and Rebecca Somerville: If all managers were as talented as these two, all workplaces would be a lot more pleasant. Stephen managed me in marketing, Rebecca (also known as Becky Witzman) managed me in live production, and I’m grateful to both for the work I was allowed to do on their watch.

The reason you saw blog posts, videos, tickets, and Periscope broadcasts from me on TVG’s platforms for so long is because Stephen allowed it and, for the most part, didn’t tell me to stop. Meanwhile, under Rebecca, I’ve coordinated TVG’s Facebook Live streams and continued to grow our social media audience. For better or for worse, I wanted a career in media production because it just seemed more fun than 99% of the alternatives out there. In this case, my first-line managers did what they could to keep my fire lit, which made me more productive and also allowed me to enjoy what I did.

The TVG marketing department: If I seem wordy, or loud, or pompous to you as you consume this (or anything else I’ve written or produced), imagine dealing with me in-person in a bullpen-style setup all day. Not exactly a duty that inspires much enthusiasm, is it? Well, that’s the unfortunate task that was hoisted upon members of the TVG marketing department beginning in 2015, and whether you realize it or not, these people are some of the hardest-working employees in the world of online gambling.

If there’s a promotion happening, it’s their doing, from the planning stages all the way to when gamblers get paid out. Stuff changes all the time with little to no advance notice, and if technological failures arise, they deal with them as much or more than any other part of the company (quick aside: If you’ve tweeted mean things at TVG over the past two years, I was the one who saw them; if you got really mean, I accept apologies in the form of donations to your local no-kill animal shelter and gift certificates to sports bars). This cast of characters that includes Danny Kovoloff, Luciana Bach, Freddy Sundara, Tommy Gaebel, and Pedro “Cache Flush” Friere is among the best in the business at what they do, and these people don’t get anywhere near the props they deserve, either for doing their jobs or for dealing with my motor mouth as well as they have.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. From my standpoint, it certainly took a lot of people to mold me into the person I’ve become. I could go into the reasons why I’m leaving to take on a new challenge, but what’s more important is to recognize all of the people that helped me succeed in the jobs I’ve held for 3 1/2 years. Without the people I’ve mentioned, you’re probably not on this site right now.

To those I mentioned, it’s been a pleasure working with you, and this has been my way of expressing that.