The Week in Review

Don't Bet On Most Accomplished Colt Being Favored in Derby

The Week in Review by T.D. Thornton Epicenter (Not This Time) is the first horse on this year's GI Kentucky Derby trail to arrive back in the proverbial clubhouse. His afternoon work is finished for the next six weeks, and he's earned his berth in America's most important horse race in a thoroughly professional manner that checks many of the boxes on the Derby desirability list. Epicenter's never-in-doubt dismantling of the GII Louisiana Derby field serves as a microcosm of his overall body of work: He's an adept breaker from...

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'Oath' No Secret, But Measuring Her Talent a Pleasant Conundrum

The Week in Review by T.D. Thornton Secret Oath (Arrogate)'s big winning move despite trip trouble in Saturday's GIII Honeybee S. at Oaklawn Park launched the 3-year-old filly to the forefront of conversation just at the precise time the sport needs a little diversion from anything having to do with lawsuits, trainer banishments, and the GI Kentucky Derby. There is no question that the D. Wayne Lukas trainee looms large atop the leaderboard for the GI Kentucky Oaks and that her 86-year-old conditioner isn't crazy for at least considering running...

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Do 2021 Handle Figures Tell the Whole Story?

The Week in Review, by Bill Finley The announcement from Equibase that handle on U.S. racing in 2021 set a nine-year high with over $12 billion bet was understandably well received. During a year where an awful lot went wrong for the sport, at least the wagering numbers were healthy. But, and sorry to rain on the parade, we need more information before we can celebrate. How much was bet is only part of the story. We need to know where the bets were made and by whom. If the...

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Derby Prep Season is Upon Us; Get Tied On for Litigation

The Week in Review by T.D. Thornton Oaklawn Park readjusted its series of prep races for the GI Kentucky Derby this year by moving back the date of its premier stakes, the GI Arkansas Derby, so it now sits five weeks out from the first Saturday in May instead of the traditional three. That changed the overall complexion of the prep-race picture so that the final three nine-furlong stakes that award 100 coveted Derby qualifying points to the winner will all take place Apr. 9. This means that for the...

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The Week in Review: Remembering Bob Neumeier and Sam Spear

The sport not only lost two great people on Saturday, but also two thoroughly professional and highly entertaining media personalities whose genuine zeal for racetrack life shone through in ways that neither could have scripted. Almost within minutes over the weekend, news began filtering out that both Bob Neumeier and Sam Spear had died Oct. 22. Over the course of a broadcasting career that spanned parts of five decades, the Boston-based Neumeier, 70, parlayed stints as a hockey announcer and popular TV sports anchor into a mainstay role as an...

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Glut of Early Speed in The Classic? Not So Fast

The Week in Review We're inside the five-week mark to the Breeders' Cup, and the top five contenders for the GI Classic all won their final graded stakes prep starts over the last two weekends. This past Saturday, three of those horses wired 1 1/8-miles graded stakes and earned roughly equal Beyer Speed Figures of 107, 107 and 104. At first blush, those performances look similar on paper, and it's tempting to make the leap to say the Classic will be glutted with early gunners who could hook each other...

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The Week in Review: Vitali Starting a Horse at Saratoga Is Not OK

The system, whatever that has come to mean, failed badly last week when Marcus Vitali, one of the sport's most controversial trainers, was allowed to start a horse at Saratoga. Then again, should anyone have been surprised? This was just the latest example of this being a sport that is so dysfunctional, its regulatory systems so weak, that it is completely unable to police itself. Help is on its way. Some day, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) will be implemented and a central body led by the U.S....

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CDI Reportedly Asks for '22 Illinois Dates Application

The Week in Review, by T.D. Thornton Two months before Arlington International Racecourse is scheduled to run what is feared to be the historic track's final race, Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI), the gaming corporation that owns the up-for-sale landmark, has reportedly requested an application for 2022 race dates from the Illinois Racing Board. But as columnist Jim O'Donnell of the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago put it in his Friday scoop of this story, "What the carnivorous CDI will do with the application remains to be seen." With a July...

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Eight Wins Already in '21–And It's Only June

The Week in Review, by T.D. Thornton We're not even at the midpoint of 2021, and one North American Thoroughbred is already taking aim at a ninth win on the season. For perspective, the eight wins racked up so far this year by Arizona-based Six Ninety One (Congrats) are equal to the number of victories achieved by the four horses who co-led the continent during the entirety of 2020. Such a fast start through the first 5 1/2 months puts Six Ninety One on a trajectory to blast past what...

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When An Ambulance Follows You at Work, the Job is Never Easy

The Week in Review, by T.D. Thornton A couple of decades ago, I knew a press box wiseguy who faithfully played what he called "ambulance chaser" bets. Every time a rider got unseated in a spill, he would put two bucks to win on the next mount that jockey rode back. The wagers didn't have to involve an actual ambulance ride--he believed the very act of hitting the dirt and having to dust yourself off might give a jockey extra incentive once he or she got back in the irons....

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Observations From a Whip-Free Weekend at Monmouth

The Week in Review, by Bill Finley We will need a bigger sample size before being able to fully evaluate how Monmouth's experiment with whip-free racing has fared. But this much is certain: Three days in and after hysterical fomenting from the pro-whip side of the argument, the whip-less races amounted to a big nothingburger. That is to say there were no incidents, no major form reversals, no mass boycotts from the horseplayers, etc. Perhaps this was just round one in what figures to be a long, drawn-out battle that...

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The Week in Review: Sorry Bob, It's Not OK

When Bob Baffert told us last week that he thought the positive drug test for Medina Spirit (Protonico) following the GI Kentucky Derby was the result of his having been treated with an anti-fungal ointment, he seemed to be suggesting that the whole thing was an honest and forgivable mistake. No harm, so why the foul? "This has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage," he said. On that, he's likely telling the truth. That Baffert would use a rather benign corticosteroid...

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