Dec 07, 2007
Through The Binoculars
By: JOHN PIESEN
The highlight of the upcoming racing weekend will be the $1 million guaranteed Delta Jackpot Pick Four on Friday evening at Delta Downs, an obscure racing outpost located in Vinton, La., hard by the Texas border.
Normally, the most excitement in the Vinton area can be found in the slots room at Delta Downs. Either that, or by making the short hop to Houston to catch the Astros or the Texans.
But this is Delta Jackpot weekend, and the huge purses are attracting some of the biggest names in racing to Vinton. Such as jockeys Gomez, Borel and Albarado, and trainers Dutrow, Asmussen, Mott, Amoss, O'Neill and Hudson.
That would be James Hudson. And if the name James Hudson doesn't strike home right away, perhaps it will in a different context.
The year was 1969. The venue was the Orange Bowl. And Jim Hudson, doing business as the strong safety (No. 22) on the New York Jets, picked off a Baltimore Colts' fleaflicker in the end zone toward the end of the first half of Super Bowl III to preserve the Jets' lead.
It was perhaps the single biggest play of the Jets' victory, a victory that revolutionized pro football.
Quarterback Joe Namath, who happened to be Hudson's roomie, got most of the credit for the Jets' 16-7 win, but it was the defense, notably James Hudson, which was the key to victory.
A quarterback himself at the University of Texas, Hudson had a distinguished career as a DB for the Jets. Following football, Hudson tried several careers before surfacing as a full-time thoroughbred horse trainer, based mostly in his native Texas and Louisiana.
Hudson is at the top of his game, and is off to a fast start at the current Delta Downs meet, compiling a 4-4-3 mark from 19 starts. And, on Friday evening, he will run major players in two of the four Jackpot races - Game for More in race five, the $75,000 Treasure Chest for fillies and mares, and Magic Sunset in race seven, the $75,000 Sams Town for 3-year-olds and up.
If you get to watch the Jackpot races at your favorite simulcast venue, look for James Hudson in the paddock (or the winner's circle). You can't miss him. At 6-5, he towers over the field. And he'll be sporting his ever-present cowboy hat.
Let's take a look at the Jackpot races:
Game for More, a 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, may go off favored from the outside post in a field of six going seven furlongs (around two turns) in the Treasure Chest.
In her last start, back in July at Evangeline Downs, Game for More whacked an optional claimer by eight lengths under Gerald Melancon, who rides her back.
Ruling Class and Kathleens Reel, both 3-year-olds, have taken turns beating each other, and will be formidable from posts two and three, respectively.
But the filly to beat is Coolwin, who was stakes-placed in Chicago last summer before faltering when well-bet in the Arlington Matron.
Her owner is Jim Tafel of Street Sense fame, and her rider is Robby Albarado, a lifetime .400 hitter in the Jackpot.
The strength of the $300,000 Delta Princess mile for 2-year-old fillies clearly can be found on the outside - from posts seven thru ten.
No. 7 is Lady On Holiday, a $100,000 daughter of Harlan's Holiday who broke her maiden last pop at Churchill Downs from post 12 as the 13-10 favorite.
The trainer is Ken McPeek, who raced the sire, and the rider is Albarado.
No. 8 is By the Light, an unbeaten Malibu Moon filly trained by Richard Dutrow and ridden by Rafael Bejarano. The bay has won her three starts - including a pair of Finger Lakes stakes, beating males once - by a combined 15 lengths.
She looks to be the main speed.
No. 9 is Sky Mom, a Maria's Mon filly, who, in her last two starts, won the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, and was a troubled third to Pure Clan in the Pocohontas.
Pure Clan followed up with a victory in the Golden Rod, and is regarded as one of the top juvenile fillies in the land.
The trainer is Steve Asmussen. The rider is Shawn Bridgmohan.
No. 10 is Champagne Eyes, who placed in her two starts over synthetic surfaces in California.
Obviously, trainer Doug O'Neill would not be shipping a maiden halfway across the continent if he didn't believe she could win.
And a young man named Patrick Valenzuela makes the long trip for the mount.
Of the inside six, the best appears to be Miss Missile (#2), who boasts quite a race over the track - a ten-length romp in the $100,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes.
Jonesboro, the defending champion, clearly is the one to beat under Calvin Borel in the seven-furlong Sams Town.
Two starts back, Jonesboro was second in the Hawthorne Gold Cup to Student Council, who then shipped to California to win the $1 million Pacific Classic.
Borel interrupts his vacation for the call.
Magic Sunset will need to run back to his placing last summer in a $100,000 stakes at Evangeline to pose a threat to Jonesboro
Note that trainer Hudson cross-entered Magic Sunset in the Saturday stake at Fair Grounds.
Tom Amoss has a major contender in Thunder Mission, who was beaten a neck in the opening-day Thanksgiving Handicap at the New Orleans oval.
Prospectors Crusade gets props as the only 3-year-old in the seven-horse field. Unfortunately, he is completely outclassed.
This is the featured $1 million Delta Jackpot, and the winner, by virtue of collecting the $600,000 winner's share, gets a free ride into the Kentucky Derby next May.
Trainer McPeek, who won the Jackpot last year with the long-forgotten Birdbirdistheword, has the favorite in Racecar Rhapsody, who two weeks back closed like a thief for third in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill. One more jump and he wins it.
Albarado, who has ridden the Tale of the Cat colt in all three of his races, has the return call.
Other major players are St. Joe and Golden Yank.
St. Joe soundly whipped Racecar Rhapsody in breaking his maiden at Keeneland, and was then third to Court Vision in the Iroquois at Churchill. Court Vision then came right back to take the Remsen Stakes in New York.
Golden Yank steps up after winning his first three starts, two of them six-figure stakes, by a combined dozen lengths.
Then there is Z Humor from trainer Bill Mott and jockey Garrett Gomez.
A $240,000 son of Distorted Humor, Z Humor was an OK third to champion War Pass and Pyro in the Champagne, and then fifth to the same horses in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
You don't find many Breeders' Cup horses shipping to Delta Downs. But a million bucks is a million bucks wherever they play the game.
Once again, good luck this weekend, and talk to you again next Tuesday.
It's Investing, Not Betting
Mega-horseplayer Dana Parham made some interesting points at the opening session of this week's annual Racetrack Industry Program, hosted by Arizona University.
What qualifies a bettor as a mega-player? How about personal handle of $2.7 billion--that's billion, with a b--since 2000? His contributions to the game, vis a vis pari-mutual takeout? A mere $100-million this millennium alone.
He's a good guy, too, having quietly contributed $250,000 for the good work done by NTRA Charities.
His idea that marketing efforts geared to attracting more $2 bettors, a.k.a. "fans," at the expense of catering to "whales" is counterproductive does, on its face, have some merit.
But my question is why do efforts that target two distinct types of patrons have to be mutually exclusive? There's no reason the industry can't do both.
Where Parham is right is that racing never has taken the time to properly explain wagering to its audience. That's probably because so many in the game don't bet themselves and consequently don't understand it.
Maybe the reason why we believe Parham has something going here is because we've been writing about this exact thing for years, but the message has fallen on blind eyes.
Picking a winner and making the right bet are different animals. Much attention has been given to how to pick winners through scores of handicapping books and/or seminars. One could find a couple of handicapping seminars every racing day at Saratoga Race Course alone.
But no one ever bothers to explain that the odds players see posted on the tote board represents a financial market. As I've personally explained about a million times to anyone who would listen, there are prices at which each horse should be either bought or sold; bet on or passed over.
One often hears the term value thrown around as if every non-favorite represented a value play. A 20-1 shot actually could be an underlay. An 8-5 shot might be excellent value.
Pari-mutuel derives from the French, meaning "between us." Value is assessed by looking at the odds on a particular horse and asking, "4-1 is a fine price but compared to what?"
In the earlier example, that's what makes the 8-5 favorite a value play and the 20-1 chance not. Handicapping is the tool used to determine the difference.
An 8-5 shot is value if you believe its chances to win the race are 50-50. If it's 50-50, that horse by definition is even money; that makes 8-5 value.
If the industry leaves their annual meeting having learned the "betting market" principle and defines it as such; embraces the adoption of "betting exchanges" like those in Europe--a true marketplace concept--then markets both models to a young audience that enjoys solving problems, or follows Wall Street, it will be the most successful conference ever.
<< Back To Newsletter