30 April 2014

2014 Kentucky Derby Analysis

Since I started blogging, I believe I've put my picks out there for the Kentucky Derby every year.  This year will be different.  I don't have any picks, in fact, I am not even going to look at the past performances for the Kentucky Derby this year for the first time since I was around 10 years old (1971). 

I already made my mind up to stop betting any Churchill Downs track when they announced the takeout increase a week or two ago.  The exception would have been Kentucky Derby day.  But after reading the news about  Churchill Down's beyond dismal treatment fellow Canuckian Ron Turcotte today, Churchill Downs might as well be a racetrack on Mars.  This was the last straw.

I have bet on the Kentucky Derby every year ever since Woodbine introduced intertrack wagering, except for 1986.  That was the year my girlfriend at the time bugged me to go to Montreal on the weekend the Derby happened to be on.  She barely even let me watch the race.  We were in the hotel room, the horses were just entering the gate, and she decided to divert my attention.  I remember straining my back a bit trying to do two things at once, but I managed to see Ferdinand and The Shoe make an outstanding stretch run.  The one thing I don't remember is who finished first:)

Back to serious business, Churchill Downs Incorporated is ruining racing.  Increasing the track takeout in light of decreasing demand for short term gains is what has clobbered horse racing for years.  Since Churchill Downs and racing's (not so great only hope) Frank Stronach (he isn't innocent either when it comes to NOT putting customers first) have got their paws in the game, handle has tanked, and this isn't by magic.  Optimal takeout is not a consideration, nor is the horseplayer.  It is all about short term gain with no respect for the future of horse racing as a viable gambling product.

They managed to mangle the increased exposure through internet betting (people now don't have to leave their homes to wager on up to 20 tracks sometimes an hour).  Pricing of their product (takeout) is so high that despite the fact that internet poker has been banned in the US, handle keeps sinking, and new players are the customers left are starting to die out, bet less or just finding something else to do with their time.  I don't think we've seen the worst of the player exodus yet. 

I'm done supporting stupidity and greed.  And the Ron Turcotte dissing was certainly the last straw for me.

There is Players Boycott going on, mainly because of the takeout increase.  And even if you don't care about the takeout increase, consider the treatment Churchill gave Ron Turcotte, especially if you are a Canadian, before you bet on a track that directly makes Churchill Downs Inc. money.  These tracks include:   Churchill Downs, Arlington Park, Calder, Canterbury Park, Fairgrounds, Finger Lakes, Hoosier Park, Indiana Downs, Miami Valley, Oaklawn Park and The Meadows. 


7 April 2014

5' 2" Mickey Rooney Got Horse Racing Related Work

Mickey Rooney died at 93.  A Hollywood icon, he appeared in many horse racing themed movies throughout his career.

Typecast as a jockey, Rooney made the most of it.  Here is a scene from a  little known 1937 movie, Thoroughbreds Don't Cry:

Is it just me, or did the scene of the two guys on the horse have a sort of Brokeback Mountain feel to it?

Rooney of course was in National Velvet.   He played a retired jockey in The Black Stallion, in 1979.   For trivia buffs, the scene that starts around the 1:20 mark in this trailer was filmed at Fort Erie Race Track:

Mickey played a crooked jockey in the Twilight Zone episode The Last Night Of A Jockey.  A couple of observations.  First, was that Joe Drape on the other end of the phone near the beginning of the episode?  But more importantly, the program aired in 1963, when horse racing was mainstream.  Racetracks were full of bettors back then.  Still, there was the stigma that there were cheats in the game.  Jockey Grady was accused of drugging horses (back then, it was perceived that horses were drugged to run slower so they would lose at low odds) and race fixing.  He does admit guilt to both counts in the one actor show.  It was pretty much a given that cheating existed. 

The lifetime ban stuff is pretty much a joke since the 60s, though it looks like it might make a comeback very shortly.  But back to cheating, it may have hindered racing a bit, but the stands were still full.  Point is that the PETA claims aren't that huge a deal when it comes to the public perception and though racing needs fixing, its number one problem is competing as a form of gambling, the drug issue is secondary.

Rooney was also in a 1936 flick called Down The Stretch.  He played a jockey who had "been having a hard time living down the reputation of his father, a crooked jockey." 

There were plenty of racetrack movies from 1930 to the early 70's, and most had at least a few characters of dubious distinction, but the themes of the movies usually contained a plot or sub plot that included at least some foul play.  Horse racing was synonymous with cheating.

Here is the full version of The Last Night of a Jockey: