Thursday, December 22, 2011

Where's the Money?

The New York State Racing & Wagering Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to admonish the New York Racing Association for overcharging bettors millions of dollars over the past 15 months.

Not exactly the year end publicity NYRA was hoping for.

More importantly, when do the bettors get refunds? The payback totals 8.6 million. If you have a NYRA Rewards account, you will probably get your refund first I would suppose. For non NYRA betting accounts, expect a much longer wait and for those cash bets, well know what they say.

And this gem as reported in the Times Union (Albany, NY)

"I don't expect this will ever happen again,"
Racing Board Commissioner Charles Diamond said.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pilot Episode of Luck on HBO-DVR Alert

Certainly seems like HBO is putting a big push on promoting the new fictionalized series "Luck" -a behind the scenes look at the world of racing. If it fails it won't be for lack of talent. Headed by Dustin Hoffman, the show is loaded with veteran actors.

HBO has been running numerous promotional trailer ads on its' network and this Sunday, 12/11/11, the show's pilot episode will be shown at 10 pm following the season finale of the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

The details of the pilot episode arrived in my hands and here is the cliff notes version:

As the series opens, Chester "Ace" Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) is released from three years in federal prison and is eager to get back into the racing game. We soon meet his buddy/driver/bodyguard Gus Demitriou (Dennis Farina), who will front as the owner of the $2 million Irish horse that Ace just bought.

The episode than introduces a talented but disreputable trainer (have you heard that one before?), the Peruvian Turo Escalante (John Ortiz). His girlfriend is track veterinarian Jo (Jill Hennessy).

Meanwhile we meet the veteran trainer-turned-owner Walter Smith (Nick Nolte). He also has a promising horse but he's wary as we get hints there is some sort of scandal behind the horse. Filling out the pilot we meet Four hard luck gamblers, Marcus (Kevin Dunn), Renzo (Ritchie Coster), Jerry (Jason Gedrick), and Lonnie (Ian Hart), as they pool their monetary resources to bet Jerry's Pick Six ticket.

In addition to the above actors the show also features Richard Kind, and current Jockey Chantal Sutherland and retired Jockey Gary Stevens.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Attendance Figures No More

With the opening of the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack, another long standing tradition seems to have gone out the window.

Attendance figures are no longer tallied. You can't find the published attendance in your daily newspaper or on the Equibase Company LLC Charts.

Still staunchly old school, I look forward to my morning cup of coffee with a newspaper in hand before I even consider checking any website or twitter news feed. The sports section of the paper gets read first, including a look at the previous days track results.

But with the opening of the Resorts World Casino (or lets call it what it is-a glorified slots hall) and people (zombies?) wandering in from the slots hall there is no more accounting of actual track goers and hence no attendance figure published. You can still get an idea on who was there by looking at the On Track handle figure and backing into a number but where is the fun in that? I particularly liked checking attendance on the brutal winter days at the Big A marveling at the hearty souls who would show up to bet the ponies in person.

And going way back I remember when my local candy store in the Bronx used the last 3 digits of the attendance of the NYRA tracks for the "daily number". Most NYC "numbers" outfits would use the daily on track handle figure but the folks running this candy store numbers racket went with the attendance figure. As the mob still extends credit, unlike the NYS Lottery system, the numbers still have their loyal players- but it will have to be with the handle and not the attendance figure.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Breeders Cup Day 2

Day 1 is over. Friday seemed to be pretty formulaic, except of course for the two longshots in Musical Romance and Perfect Shirl. The crowd seemed muted, but I guess that is what you would expect one year Post Zenyatta.

Many seemed suprised at the favorite odds for Uncle Mo. But that is the name people recognize (sorry Goldikova fans) so that's what happens. I like Flat Out, Havre De Grace, Drosslemeyer, Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty in a Trifecta Box bet.

For the Juvenile I love Union Rags, but will take a stab with Daddy Long Legs and Speightscity to fill out my exotic tickets. Good Luck

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Breeders Cup Betting Scandal-Can it Happen Again?

As the interwebs and Twitterverse become alive with betting strategies, workout results, and scheduling of Twitter meet ups, my mine wanders on to the Pick Six Breeders Cup betting scandal. After all it's been 9 years since 3 men attempted to cash in on the Pick 6 bet at the 2002 Breeders Cup by manipulating a weak link they found in the Autotote system used to process OTB bets. The plot was masterminded by Chris Harn, a senior computer programmer at Autotote. Harn was smart enough to figure out a weak link in how Autotote processed the Pick 6 live tickets and he and 2 others than used that weak link to cash in on a 3 million payout. Had the 43-1 longshot (Volponi) not won , making them the only ticket to cash in, they probably would have gotten away with it. The 3 were ultimately caught however, and plead guilty.

What's the chances of it happening again? Well with the increased use of Advance Wagering Accounts hackers are busy at work searching for a vulnerability in the various systems.

Hacking is alive and well-just ask Sony, who lost 3.2 billion when their PS3 console system was hacked exposing 77 million account holders earlier this year. Our schools are putting out hundreds of thousands of computer trained young people, many who are busy at work and better at finding weak entries into the various website and computer systems of corporations and businesses. While you are busy studying Past Performances and workout results someone much smarter than you is studying harder than you and it will result in a bigger payout than you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Charismatic Documentary Thoughts

Thanks to my trusty DVR, I was able to watch the ESPN Documentary on Charismatic. In reading other blog recaps on the race, it seemed the diehards wanted more storytelling on Charismatic, the horse who won the first two legs of the 1999 Triple Crown. However the Documentary focused on the rise and subsequent fall of Jockey Chris Antley.

From a Documentary making standpoint, ESPN was wise to focus on Antley and his battles with drug addiction. The average viewer remains interested in an athletes struggle with addiction. One day after the Charismatic doc, ESPN went the same route again, as they aired a "E-60"documentary with former NY Mets Pitcher Dwight Gooden revealing was in a drug-induced haze and missed the Mets'1986 World Series victory parade.

If you wanted to learn more about Charismatic, you really didn't learn much but the storytelling on Antley was effective, although a bit rushed.

In other documentary notes, if you are in the Saratoga area, The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will host a pair of screenings of the documentary film "The Last Train from Bay Meadows" on Wednesday, Nov. 2 and Thursday Nov. 3 at 7 pm. "The Last Train from Bay Meadows" portrays the history and the eventual closure of the longest continually running Thoroughbred track in California. The track closed in 2008 after nearly 75 years of operation. A discussion of the documentary with producer and director Jon Rubin will follow the screening each night. And the price is right as Admission is Free.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Muddy Super Saturday

Seems like the track will play in Stay Thirsty's favor today in what looks to be a card playing to form. Really like the trio of Stay Thirsty, Flat Out and Drosselmeyer. I figure eventually Ice Box will pop one, but not with my money today. You can catch my preview of the race over at Thorofan. The all stakes pick 4 would seem chalky also, but have some fun with it and throw in some longshots.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

24/7 for Racing

The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will be featured on HBO's Emmy award winning 24/7 reality series in this years "24/7 FLYERS/RANGERS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC". The HBO series on the NHL debuted last year and the show received across the board fan and media critics approval. I'm sure it also brought more attention to the sport and only helped to bring in some new fans.

We wrote last year that Horse Racing would be perfect for the 24/7 reality series. HBO at the time was reportedly looking to pick up a new sport for the 24/7 franchise but so far no decision has been made.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Here's to the Winners

What will you be doing at about 10:25 pm EDT on Friday night? Well, yours truly after 3 weeks of adjusting Irene claims 24/7 will be looking to relax with friends and a few drinks. And heck I might even turn on my OTB simulcast channel and watch the feed from Charles Town where Rapid Redux attempts to win his 17th consecutive race in a $20,000 starter allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

If nothing else, this 5 year old gelding out of Pleasantly Perfect has been a model of consistently. He also has been managed well by his connections, owner Robert Cole J. and trainer David Wells, as he was claimed last October for $6,500. Since than he has raced 19 times and 15 times alone this year. He might not beat a Stakes level horse, but he has some decent Beyer figures and his connections have proved you can turn a profit if you pick your spots and have a horse that likes to run.

He last ran 12 days ago. Funny I have not come across any articles about how Rapid Redux is being abused and his trainer should be investigated for continually sending Rapid Redux out to the gate.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Saratoga Final Weekend

As usual the last weekend sneaks up on all of us. Making it more bittersweet is the severe flooding from Irene in the upstate area, which has affected many of my fellow residents in the surrounding counties around Saratoga, particularly nearby Schoharie County, Greene County, Schenectady County and Warren County. The storm cancelled out Sunday's card and attendance has been down a bit this week. Being in the insurance biz yours truly has been busy trying to service all the victims of this storm.

This will take me away from the final weekend but will be watching from the road. My must use horses in the Woodward Stakes are Rule, Flat Out, Mambo Meister. Don't count out Ice Box also, especially if the price is right.

Good luck and enjoy the weekend.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A look at the Travers

As I leave shortly for my Long Island trek to attend a wedding on Saturday and battle Hurricane Irene, here are my quick thoughts on the Travers Stakes.

From my NYRA Rewards Mobile betting platform on my smartphone I will play around with some Trifecta's and Win bets centering on 4 horses: the favorite Stay Thirsty, Bowman's Causeway, Shackleford and Moonshine Mullins. I think these four horses more than the others will like the track surface and run on it the best.

I keep coming back to Bowman's Causeway to upset the cart and win the whole thing. He has been stabled at Saratoga since the spring under trainer Chad Brown. Brown is great at placing his horses where they have a chance to win. A son of Giant's Causeway, he is coming off three consecutive races in Canada, the last being a close second in the Prince of Wales. He has had a nice 6 week rest and I think he is more than ready. Good luck and for my friends on the East Coast be safe.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Travers Streak is Broken

There comes a time when all streaks are broken, and this is my year.
I have been lucky enough to be at Saratoga Race Course for the Travers Stakes every year since 2004. This year I will be in Long Island, attending my cousin's wedding.

Luckily the wedding couple are racing fans, and they have already arranged for the wedding Bar TV to be on NBC at 5 pm so the guests can watch the King's Bishop and the Travers. And of course thanks to NYRA's neat mobile wagering platform I will be able to bet straight from my Blackberry. But alas it will never be the same as being there live.

Looking back I was able to see some pretty good Travers races and horses since 2003. Here is a look back at some of the memories:

My favorite memories from the past 7 Travers Stakes:

2004: I will never forget the dark sky as the horses turned for home. Seconds after Birdstone crossed the finish line the winner the rain came down like nobody's business

2006: Never a doubt as Bernardini swept the Jim Dandy/Travers Double. One of the best looking horses you will ever see.

2007: Street Sense in a squeaker over Grasshopper

2008: Colonel John nips Mambo in Seattle by a nose (or was it 1/2 a nose) at the wire

2010: I hit my first ever Travers Trifecta taking home $970 on Afleet Express/Fly Down/1st Dude

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Questions at the Track

I don't know why you would need the costly McKinsey Report to figure out how to draw more folks to the racetrack and to betting on the races. Just take a novice fan to the track and listen to them. This past Sunday I took a married couple in their 40's to Saratoga Race Course with me and my better half.

They like casino and slot gambling and take frequent trips to Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, and Atlantic City. They were last at a racetrack at a New England Fair 20 years ago. Here were some of their questions they threw out at me during the day.

Upon reaching the gates and stopping to pay the $5 Clubhouse Admission:

Q: How come you have to pay $5 a person to get into the track when you already have your pre-paid Clubhouse seats.? We don't pay to get into a Casino?

My Comment: Good Question, I always thought it made no sense to charge for the privilege of just walking into the track. Charge for the grandstand & clubhouse seats and let everyone else in for free. Don't ding the customer.

Q: What's a Quinella bet again?

My Comment: I pointed them to the Program and gave them a basic primer on the various bets they could make. I think we forget that most people want their gambling to be easy and they find the slots and poker easier to learn and easy to figure out. The tracks need more visible education guidelines with companion online guides, games, etc.

Q: Why are there 11 horses in the race but the infield center video board is showing only the odds for Horses 1-9.

My Comment:
This one had me confused as I knew there were 11 horses in the race but only 9 were on the board until I realized that NYRA was playing video ads on the right side of the screen which eliminated the odds on Horses 10-11 in this particular race. The ads eventually stopped and Horses 10-11 showed up, but how is a novice better supposed to understand the game if they want to bet Horse #10 and the odds are nowhere to be found on the main video board ?

These were all good questions and the cost to hear them was nothing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saratoga Mid Meet Thoughts

Summer is flying by and so is the Saratoga Meet as we approach the 4th weekend of the meet.

Some thoughts thus far….

I have stayed away from most of the Todd Pletcher / Johnny Velazquez horses due too the short odds. However on. On Saturday, a Pletcher/ Johnny Velazquez 3 year old, Katz My Song, went off at 7-1 odds. I ignored it and the horse wins paying $16.60.

The Grand Slam bet has been paying pretty well this meet. On Sunday it paid $1,359 and on Monday, it paid $396. Even on Saturday with 3 of the 4 races in the Slam won by the favorites (Higher Court, Turbulent Descent and Tizway) with one long shot (Trix in the City) the bet still paid a decent $29.60. The payoffs are pretty nice if you look at it as a $2 bet for picking 3 show horses and one horse to win.

After 3 weeks of walking out of the track and over to Siro’s with a near empty wallet, I finally hit my first big bet of the meet with an Exacta win on Trappe Shot-Sean Avery in Sunday’s Vanderbilt Stakes. For once I placed the same bet as the one I hit over at The Knight Sky Racing Blog. On to week 4.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Wet Whitney?

Looks like it will be a muggy Saturday at the Spa with dew points around 70 with mostly cloudy skies. In other words a typical muggy August Day.

I guess its time to look at who can run in the mud. Best of bunch would be Duke of Mischief with 3 wins out of 4 starts on off tracks.

Maybe Todd Pletcher's due with Mission Impazible. After all he went 0-fer on Friday and his 2 year old filly Heather's Feather finished 4th as the post time 1-1 favorite in the 2nd race.

Let's try a Trifecta Box of Duke of Mischief, Mission Impazible, Tizway and Morning Line.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Saratoga Friday

Today is the first of two twilight Friday race cards at the Spa or as NYRA calls it "Party at the Spa presented by Coors Light". First post goes off at 2:30 pm followed by free live music from the band Rockjunky at the Post area adjacent to the Paddock.

Expect a big crowd (although the weather calls for afternoon Thunderstorms to roll on through) for the card. Actually you can't even call this a twilight card as the last race goes off at 6:56 pm and Sunset is at 8:18 pm. I would love for the card to start at 3:30 and finish up just before 8 pm, allowing the after work crowd to see more of the card.

However the downtown restaurants and bars feel the late finishing time kills their early business so don't expect any additional late Friday cards to be added in the future.

If you do skip out of work early today and get to the track by 3:30 pm you have time to place a bet on the 3rd race, featuring the return of Ice Box, up against 5 others in an $57,000 Allowance Optional Claiming race of 1 1/8 miles. There is not much speed in this race for Ice Box to close on, so I'll take a pass, and go with Neil Howard's Wilkinson, who should go off at attractive odds if enough money flows to Ice Box and Convocation.

On Saturday, the Jim Dandy is all set on what should be a splendid weather day. You can see my take on handicapping the race over at the Thorofan website.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saratoga Opening Weekend Recap

Opening Day weekend was an all around success for NYRA and the fans who came out to the Spa. Credit goes to NYRA for not panicking and going forward with Opening Day despite the heat. Yes, it was hot, but not as hot as the cancelled day in '06. 25,155 fans agreed and showed up for Opening Day. Strong crowds and handle followed on Saturday and Sunday and with 37 days to go, the meet is off and running strong. Here's some photos I took this weekend at the Spa with my thoughts:

A photo of the new video screen as seen from Section C of the Clubhouse (no more light bulbs)

A look at "A Taste of Saratoga" featuring food from 4 local Restaurants

The backyard and Paddock Fencing is now wood, changed from the tacky vinyl of old.

The Post Bar just outside the Paddock, now in its 2nd year, but feels like it has been here along, like a trusted friend.

Offspring of Yours Truly, enjoying Shake Shack Shakes from the Yummy Shake Shack

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ready for Opening Day

Like a kid looking forward to Christmas Day, these couple of days before Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course are filled with a mix of anticipation, impatience and anxiety. It will be hot for sure. Many are already wondering if the track will close if indeed it hits the Upper 90's.

Funny how memories fade about the last time the Track had to close for heat. Most people can't remember the date and of course the recollections of the temperature high for the day are all over the map.

The date was August 02, 2006, a Wednesday. As a midweek card with no graded stakes the decision to close was far more easier than it would be for Opening Day this Friday. The decision was made relatively early, around 9 a.m. The forecast was for temperatures to approach 100 degrees, although the actual high temperature around Saratoga that day was 94 degrees. The humidity was oppressive, with humidity levels around 75%. Compare that to today where it hit about 90 degrees in the Saratoga region but humidity was only around 60%. It will be uncomfortable for sure this Friday at the track, but not as humid as cancellation day in 2006 and expect the gates to be open for business come Friday morning.

In addition to the racing card, I will be interested in checking out the streamlined food stands. In an effort to open up the walking space a bit, many of the food vendor stands have been eliminated, including a centralization of the lemonade stands. Hard to imagine the Spa without the ever present lemonade stands. There were 27 lemonade stands throughout the facility, most staffed by friendly high school and college students. Let's hope the new locations for the lemonade can be easily spotted come Friday.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

One week Away

Sparkling weather for the last weekend at Belmont. A pretty good crowd of 8,204 turned out Friday for the Twilight Card.

Took a jaunt through downtown Saratoga yesterday as the town gets ready for Opening day on 7/22/11. The sidewalks were busy and many visitors were already up and settled.

As usual several restaurants have closed and opened since last year. Most notably, the splendid Maestro's which was located in a tiny little space just adjacent to the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway, has now moved into a 90 seat space a few spaces down into the Rip Van Dam Hotel. It is now known as Maestro's at the Van Dam.

There is always new places to try but there is nothing like the tried and true places that never change and are just always around, like a favorite pair of jeans. Amongst all the activity present downtown during this weeks visit, I was probably most happy walking past old familiar places like Hattie's (get the fried chicken) and Compton's (breakfast of course).

If your coming Opening day, bring light clothing and sunscreen, temperatures will in the 90's come post time.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

What did we miss?

Back from a month break from the blogosphere. And except for a peak here and there at select blogs and twitter feeds, I stayed away from the game, only watching a few races and not betting on any of them. But alas, there are only 3 things that seem almost impossible to stay away from for most of us mere mortals, that being Gambling, Sex and Drinking. We can all put our hand on the bible and swear off the the above 3 alleged vices, but we all return soon enough all trying to get our share.

And so Saratoga is just 2 weeks away promising to deliver some of the rewards we seek. Complete with National TV weekend coverage on Versus and NBC, NYRA seems poised for a good meet, despite the parity in the 3 year old division.

In social news, Mary Lou Whitney will skip her usual Whitney Ball. The gaudy gala, held annually the night before the running of the Whitney Stakes, is famous for attracting socialites, and wanna bee's to the Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs.

Some would criticise the display of opulence but I had no problem with it, especially when considering all the fundraising and charity events Mary Lou Whitney conducts for the backstretch workers.

The annual "Travers Celebration", held at the Saratoga Race Course the Thursday before the Travers Stakes, usually a formal dinner, is now labeled as a cocktail party with food stations. Tickets are $175 and the proceeds in part go to the BEST Backstretch group.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Belmont Stakes Current Odds and Selections

The Late morning Belmont Stakes Odds show Animal Kingdom as the favorite at 5-2 with Nehro at 7-2 and Master of Hounds at 4-1.

Preakness winner Shackleford getting no love from the early bettors and currently stands at 10-1. I'm sure his odds will lower by post time, but he could still be at 7-1. I originally was going to throw him out of my picks but if he stays at 7-1 worth a shot.

Mucho Macho Man
is 7-1 and Brilliant Speed getting some play at 9-1.

Looks like the rain has moved out and I'm optimistic the track will play fast by post time.

As for the race itself, it seems more often than not a horse that skips the Preakness scores in the Belmont. Master of Hounds has the breeding, he's fresh and has been pointed towards this race.

Here's the picks: 1. Master of Hounds 2. Animal Kingdom 3. Shackleford 4. Brilliant Speed.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Howard Stern & Jockeys

Guest today on The Howard Stern Show on XMSirius radio were Jockeys Ramon Dominquez and Jesus Castanon. They were there to promote the Belmont Stakes (Ramon is aboard Mucho Macho Man and Castanon is on Shackleford) and a new Jockey Beefcake Calendar. Although ironically Jesus does not appear in the calendar.

Unlike the usual vanilla drivel Jocks will spill out when interviewed, Howard got honest and frank answers out of the Jockey's on several subjects.

Money: Ramon estimates only about 3% of all Jockeys actually make any real money. He cited the sobering statistics. After he gets his 10% winners share, 25% goes to his agent, 5% to the Valet and 1/2 of what's left goes to Taxes.

Making weight: Ramon said some vomit to make weight, but Ramon claims to he doesn't and lasts all day on just a cup of coffee and toast in the morning.

Whether the Horse knows they won
: Both Jesus and Ramon agreed the horse does not know when he wins a race. I found this answer refreshing as most jockeys after a race when interviewed will always claim the horse knew he won.

: Ramon said female Groupies for the top jocks absolutely exist and chided Jesus Castanon for claiming he never partaked in his single days. Both Jocks are now married.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Belmont Stakes Week Television Coverage

A nice expansion of Belmont Stakes coverage by NBC Sports on NBC and Versus.

On Friday there will be live coverage from Belmont featuring the Grade 3 Poker Handicap on the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap on Versus from 5-6 pm.

On Saturday live coverage starts on Versus at 3 pm featuring the Grade 1 Just a Game, the Grade 2 True North Handicap, and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens.

At 5 pm NBC takes over with the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap being shown before the Belmont Stakes. As was done for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Versus will have a 30 minute post race recap after NBC signs off.

How many times do you think we will hear from NBC that this is only the 2nd time in the last 15 years that the Derby and Preakness winner have faced off at Belmont? I give the over/under for the Versus/NBC Saturday coverage at 14 times. I don't mind the stat, but a half dozen times it was impossible as a horse was going for the triple crown.

With Animal Kingdom and Shackleford both showing up I expect a nice turnout at Belmont Park. On non triple crown years, the weather is always a big factor in attendance and the early forecast looks good with temps in the 70's under Partly sunny skies.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 Preakness Thoughts

I had the wrong washed out horse in Sway Away

Luckily the audio problems with the NBC race call of the Kentucky Derby were solved for the Preakness. I though the call of Larry Collmus was adequate but I miss Tom Durkin.

A lot of people complained about NBC not showing the Dixie Stakes won by Paddy O'Prado but I knew this was coming so no complaints here. NBC sticks with what works best-pre-taped emotional driven human interest stories, quick interviews and than the race.

107,000 strong for the Preakness, looks like the Kegasus promotion worked. Someone gets to keep his job at Pimlico.

Is is just me or does Bob Costas look as uncomfortable as he did the first time he ever did a racing gig? It seems his inner voice is just screaming, "get me out of here and onto a baseball broadcast!". Costas looks like he is out on a blind date he wants no part of.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Horse Racing Coverage-Versus Good...SiriusXM Bad.

I enjoyed the Versus Television Coverage of the Kentucky Derby weekend and look forward to it again for their Preakness coverage. In addition to the coverage of the Black Eyed Susan on Friday and Undercard coverage on Saturday-remember after the NBC Coverage there is a 30 minute wrap up show on Versus from 6:30-7:00 pm.

On the radio side very disappointed to learn of the changes (cuts) on SiriusXM Satellite radio's horse racing coverage. Steve Byk's At the Races show was broadcast live from 9 am -12pm weekdays on Sirius Channel 93 (and Channel 210 On XM). When Steve signs off the channel picks up the audio feed of TVG. I make my living on the road driving from appointment to appointment with ample windshield time. When I am driving, I can't be looking at a computer, Smartphone or TV, so listening to Steve Byk on Satellite radio and his many regular guests (Steve Haskin, Gary West, Steve Davidowitz among others) and hearing the audio of TVG was a godsend.

However this week SiriusXM made a programming change, broadcasting only 1 hour of Byk's show (from 8-9am) and no TVG coverage at Noon. Instead at 9 am SiriusXM listeners tuning to the channel now hear sports talk from 3 ESPN owned radio programs- ESPN Chicago’s Waddle and Silvy, ESPN New York’s Mike Lupica Show and Michael Kay Show.

WTF....instead of hearing something I can't hear on regular radio, I now lose racing coverage for simulcasts of general sports talk shows that can be heard on regular AM radio. No word yet if SiriusXM will find another station for Steve Byk's show and TVG coverage. Of course, SiriusXM Executives felt that the middle of Triple Crown season would be the perfect time to cut racing coverage and replace Byk and TVG.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Wrap Up of the Kentucky Derby TV Coverage

The Good:

Production Values
: The NBC Sports Production crew shined as the production value was first rate. And if you watched it in HD, it looked even better. If ever a sport was made for High Definition it is Horse Racing.

Broadcast Crew
: On Derby Day Laffit Pincay III and Randy Moss handled the coverage on Versus while Tom Hammond and Gary Stevens took over on NBC. Always love the old pro Tom Hammond but much prefer Randy Moss over Gary Stevens. Randy Moss explains just enough for the casual viewer to understand without dumbing it down for the hardcore fan.

Hours of Coverage
: No complaints here as Versus had the coverage from 11-4 pm, NBC from 4-7 pm and than Versus with post race coverage from 7-7:30 pm. 6 races including the Derby were shown on the 2 channels.

The Bad:

The segments featuring correspondent Maria Menounos: Like any red blooded male I enjoy seeing a short 30 seconds or so interview with Maria interviewing a hot chick, but it got quite campy when throughout the 2 broadcasts they paraded hot chick after hot chick telling us that they are betting on Pants on Fire because she has a female jockey.

The audio on the race call
: The call by Larry Collmus was actually pretty good, that is if you could actually hear it. I only know what he said because I played it over a couple times on the NBC Sports Website. Collmus followed the golden rule of calling every horse in the field and their position by the first turn, he correctly noticed Animal Kingdom's move down the final stretch,called him the winner smoothly right before the line and than quickly called out the 2nd-4th finishers seconds after.

But let's be honest, who really heard the call? Watching live on NBC all I could hear was an annoying echo combination of Collmus and Churchill Tracks announcer Mark Johnson in the background. Try explaining to the casual fan why two announcers are calling the race at the same time with one slightly louder than the other.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Kentucky Derby Picks 2011

Well here we go, the day is here, the 2011 Kentucky Derby. For a field like this, with no superstar favorite, I look for value. I also look for who looks to be in the best form and looks to be peaking for the Derby. The worst value (now that Uncle Mo is scratched) will be Dialed In and Twice the Appeal. I first considered 9 horses: ArchArchArch, Twice the Appeal, Comma to the Top, Pants of Fire, Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man, Shackleford, Midnight Interlude and Nehro. I than looked at the running style, odds and workouts to narrow it down to a final four.

From the day Shackleford almost held off Dialed In in the Florida Derby, I just keep coming back to this horse, his ML odds are attractive, and he has looked great at Churchill this week and has a win on the track. Can he get the Mile and a Quarter? Who knows, but we can say that for he entire field. He is my pick to hold off the late chargers and win the Kentucky Derby.


1. Shackleford
2. ArchArchArch
3. Mucho Macho Man
4. Nehro

Friday, May 06, 2011

Kentucky Oaks Day brought to you by Twitter

Oaks Day at Churchill as followed on Twitter per select Tweets from people I follow:

Is anyone surprised? RT @TTimes: BREAKING NEWS: Uncle Mo scratched from #kyderby

The world must be coming to an end.....First Dude won a photo!

How weird is it to see Randy on Versus?

What channel is Versus? I can't find it.

Home w/the#KYOaks on now. Don't think I've heard of most of the 'celebs' mentioned in the teaser for tomorrow

Racing in HD is through the roof....years better then what you get on TVG and HRTV

That was some ride by Rosie on St. John's River. Tough beat, but Plum Pretty was best, first move into the strong pace. Figs didn't lie

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Smooth Start for NBC Sports Derby Coverage

Day one of NBC Sports Coverage of the Kentucky Derby started today with a 2 hour slot on the NBC owned Versus channel. The first hour was a "Derby Classics" special featuring the NBC footage of the 2004 Derby won by Smarty Jones.

The second hour was the Derby Draw Coverage. The hosts for NBC/Versus were the venerable Tom Hammond, Gary Stevens and Randy Moss.

Production quality was high and the 3 hosts worked fine together. Based upon the opening introduction in the first hour it appears NBC will focus on the following 3 story lines:

1. Can Calvin Borel , winner of 3 of the last 4 Derby editions, win again on Twice the Appeal
2.Can Rosie Napravnik become the first female Jockey to win the Derby aboard Pants on Fire
3. the heart warming story of Trainer Kathy Ritvo and the Mucho Macho Man ownership group.

The Derby TV coverage draws in a huge amount of female viewers and NBC wisely chose 2 stories with female angles. The Borel story is also a no brainer as most casual fans only know one Jockey, and that is Borel.

Appears NBC is also wary of the Uncle Mo story line. With the chance probably 50/50 that Mo scratches, NBC is not taking the risk to plug a horse that might not even load in the gate.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Top 20 in the Derby

Wednesday at 5-6 pm you can watch the Derby Draw on Versus Network. Speaking of Versus, very happy to read on the Thoroughbred Times website that NBC & Versus will be broadcasting live racing from Saratoga this summer.

The 20 horses in has been in a state of flux- with Toby's Corner dropping out today, and Derby Kitten apparently in, most viewers will need the Derby post position draw to figure out who is even in this years Derby. I don't know about you, but interest has seemed muted this week. Probably a combination of lackluster preps, downfall of any favorites winning the preps, horses dropping out and big National and International news of interest. I don't think it would be a stretch that most fans couldn't name 10 of the horses running this year and even die-hards would have a tough time running off all 20 without peeking.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Versus Kentucky Derby Coverage?

I will be watching the Kentucky Derby next weekend with some casual racing fans. In order to help them with some pre-race background, I told them Versus network would have coverage during the week including the Derby Oaks, the Derby undercard other pre-derby activities including the Derby Draw.

Problem is, if I didn't tell them about the Versus coverage, how would they know?

The hardcore racing fan who reads all the blogs such as you and I know, but once again it seems racing is marketing in a vacuum. Versus is running ads on its network touting the coverage, but unless you are a NHL fan (Versus has been showing the NHL Playoffs) and actually have the network on, you don't see those ads.

Honestly, how many casual racing fans who don't follow the NHL know about the Versus racing coverage.

Versus as of last week had its own website at but now that address takes you to the parent network (NBC) website There is a "Horse" tab at the top which I figured would take me to a page prominently listing the Versus racing coverage schedule for the week. Shouldn't the entire Versus week TV schedule be neatly listed front and center on this page? No such luck, the page has no mention at all of the Versus coverage. It instead features generic articles such as "Uncle Mo is a go for the Derby". Oh gee, thanks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Durkin Steps Down

It was announced today that Tom Durkin has stepped down from his TV Gig with NBC Sports calling the Triple Crown Races.

My guess is that Larry Collmus, a real pro, will get the nod.

Durkin isn't going anyway, his calls will continue to be heard for NYRA at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. Like all of us, he made mistakes every so often but I love Durkin because he has all the qualities I look for in a race caller:

Call the entire field at least once.

Durkin, even in the 20 horse Derby field, would always call every horse and their race position at least once. It is amazing how many race callers don't regularly do this. There is nothing more frustrating they betting on a horse, trying to follow where he is in the field, and never hearing the horse called.

Call the splits.

Durkin would quickly and clearly call the 1/4, 1/2 & 3/4 mile splits so you knew how the speed of the race was going.

Know when the race deserves a big call.

Durkin is great at turning it on when the race calls for it. Durkin knew when a race was big, when the stars of the sport when running, and when the audience was watching.

One of his best calls containing the above qualities was his call of Rachel Alexandra winning the 2009 Woodward Stakes

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mudder, Mudder, Father, Father

Is it too early to check out the long range weather forecast for the Kentucky Derby? It would seem so, but already I have seen some folks on Twitter with certainty predicting rain all day for Oaks day and Derby day. Seems too early for me, although definitely appears the Kentucky area is stuck in a wet pattern and it is expected to continue into next week.

For some reason it always seems to rain either the Friday or Saturday of Derby weekend, or at least I seem to remember it that way. But in actuality only 4 Derby races since 1990 have been run on a "sloppy" track. Here is the list with winners:

2010: Super Saver
2009: Mine That Bird
2004: Smarty Jones
1994: Go for Gin

Oh, one more thing if you are going this year, Umbrellas are listed as a "Banned Item" not allowed at Churchill Downs.

Photo Credit: The Weather Channel (

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Calling the Race Caller

Man was that a particularly bad race call by Terry Wallace calling the Arkansas Derby. I realize a 13 horse field makes it difficult but this was a big race and he blew it.

If you just turned on the TV set the last minute and didn't know it was a big race, you almost would think it was a lesser race being called by a celebrity showing his hand at race calling.

Wallace lost control of the race early on when at the first turn he literally stopped calling the race for 5 seconds when he had trouble coming up with who was leading the pack.

He also never called the entire field. In fact if you were rooting for Elite Alex or Caleb's Posse, and wanted to know where they were in the race, you were out of luck.

Wallace never mentioned Elite Alex or Caleb's Posse at all the entire race.

He did spot winner Archarcharch coming strong on the outside in the final stretch, but otherwise the race call was a disaster. 5th place finisher Alternation got his name called for the 1st time after he finished, after first being called Altercation by Wallace.

I guess I am spoiled with the great race callers calling my local tracks up in New York with Tom Durkin, Larry Collmus calling Monmouth and even Tony Calo at Finger Lakes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Uncle Who?

Who knew everyone would have fun with the name Uncle Mo after his less than stellar Wood Performance at the Big A. Various twists on the 3 year old's name heard and seen out there include:

Uncle Slow

Uncle No

Uncle Schmo

Uncle Slo Mo

and my favorite:

Uncle NO MO

I mean really, can there be more than one Mo in New York? There is really only one Mo in New York and that is Mariano Rivera. This New York Yankee Reliever and Future Hall of Famer is affectionately known as Mo Rivera. He is an 11 time all star and 5 time Champion. Short of taking the triple crown, can Uncle NO MO come even close to ringing up these numbers?

Imagine the 5 Yankee World Series Wins since 1996 without Mo. Impossible, can't happen. He is the best. When the pressure is amped up he excels, unlike Uncle NO MO who wilted under the pressure, the real Mo never does. The Real Mo holds the record for post season saves and Earned Run Average. And he is still going strong at 42 years old.

I still see good things ahead for Uncle NO MO, but We should have known all along that there can only be one Mo in New York , anything else is just a "not quite reasonable facsimile".

Notes: Photo Credit: My Brother Dave

Friday, April 08, 2011

Here Comes Uncle Mo

Fun weekend on tap, especially if you happen to be a New York Sports fan. The NY Rangers play for their NHL Playoff lives at the Garden Saturday afternoon, The NY Mets Home Opener in Queens is today, the Yanks go up to Beantown to face the 0-6 Sox. And of course Uncle Mo faces 9 others in the Wood Memorial at the Big A on Saturday.

Actually with a little bit of planning and proper use of our fine NYC Subway system, one could take in the Ranger Game at Madison Square Garden at 12:30 pm, watch it to completion, hop on the Subway and get to Aqueduct in plenty of time to watch the Wood which goes off at 5:48 pm. Once that's done, stay right in Queens & head up to Citified to catch Uncle Mo Owner Mike Repole's favorite team the New York Mets for an opening pitch of 7:10 pm.

As for the Wood, Uncle Mo is just too fast and too good for the rest of the field, none of who have ever won a graded stakes race. I do like Preachintothedevil as a live underdog to get a piece of the board. You can read my full take of the race over at the Handicappers Corner at the Thorofan website.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

I asked for Shaq, they gave me Shackleford

As the blogosphere and Twitter land debate on whether the win of Dialed In was impressive or not, this blog author's mind drifts off to wonder about more odd things such as: How did Florida Derby 2nd place finisher Shackleford get named?

As a lover of all things sports, and especially at this time of year I associate the name with Charles Shackleford, former NBA player who starred in college at NC State.

Maybe if the connections of Shackleford the horse knew about Shackleford the man, they would have named him something else. Although there is a gambling connection.

Charles Shackleford was accused (although never arrested) of point shaving along with 3 other players at NC State in 4 games during the 1987-88 season in exchange for cash payments from 2 men, one of them a known gambler.

Shackleford denied the point shaving but admitted taking $65,000 in cash from the 2 men, terming it a "loan".

Shackleford has had further trouble with the law since, being convicted in 2006 of weapons possession and being arrested in 2010 for selling prescription medication.

Well, Dale Romans, the trainer of Shackleford the horse is funny and always a good quote but can he top this gem of a quote from Shackleford the man, who, when talking about his shooting prowess, said:

“Left hand, right hand, it doesn't matter. I'm amphibious."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Put some Duct Tape on it

Time for the annual "lets see how the NTRA screws up this one" event. The NTRA has announced on their website that NTRA Live! returns in April with 3 live Webcasts of the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial and the Blue Grass Stakes.

Always one to toot their own horn, the NTRA Senior VP Keith Chamblin states:

"Last year's NTRA Live! Webcasts were extremely well received..."

Really?- by who? The host, Randy Moss, who returns again this year, did a nice job hosting, but technically the webcasts were a mess, with the debut performance of NTRA Live! in 2010 resulting in a feed seen by virtually no one in what the NTRA termed as "technical errors".

My advice: Log in early ( you must have a NTRA account set up) and plan to have an alternate video feed to watch.

Friday, March 25, 2011

First Time, Long Time

Former New York Governor David Paterson will put on the Sports Talk Radio Host hat as he hosts a 3 hour shift on Sports talk radio Giant WFAN in New York this Monday from 10 pm until 1 am. For those not in the listening area you can hear it live on the web with this link.

Will be interesting to see if the call screener's let any questions on racing get through to the former Governor. With Politics and Horse Racing so incestuous in New York State, where you really can't talk about one without the other, I would love to see how candid Paterson would be.

He most likely will get peppered with a bunch of Yankees, Mets, Jets and Knicks questions but would love to hear him give his take on the background skinny on the VLT award to Genting and what really happened with the whole AEG fiasco.

This story plus questions on NYRA, takeout fees, the closing of the New York City OTB, the future of OTB's outside the city, the expected saturation of racino's and Indian casino's, and legislation and penalties for drug usage could take the whole 3 hours up.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware the Ides of March

I'm not planning on attending the Theatre of Pompey, so I guess I will be okay today. But the 15th of March is always a turning point in the calender for me.

Back in High School it was always the first official day of Spring Track practice. It also usually falls right around the time that the NCAA March Madness begins, an unofficial start of spring for me. And of course it is just short of the midpoint of the Derby Prep chase. The Saratoga Race Course Union Avenue gates may still be blocked with snow (as they were in this photo taken by yours truly on the 13th) but believe it not, the mounds of farch will eventually melt.

I'm enjoying the prep races thus far, still deciding on who I think will give Uncle Mo a run for the crown. As for Uncle Mo, sure last Saturday was a glorified workout, but the horse seems like the real deal, and with owner Mike Repole as his spokesperson, I hope you enjoy hearing about him, as it will only get louder after he wins the Wood at the Big A. Remember, this guy became a billionaire by selling you something you drank for free as a kid. Water.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Chantal and the Big Cap stay in the News

It is good to see that 5 days after the Santa Anita Handicap, people are still talking about the controversial outcome. In past years the Big Cap would get a one day review in the media and talk would go back to the Derby Trail. We are in an age when everything is news for a minute and than it is gone, turn the page, on to the next story, always looking forward, no time to dissect what has happened. Egypt one day, than forgotten and on to Libya next. Yet 5 days later and still talking about the Cap. In this day and age for anything to be talked about more than a few days, is pretty amazing.

With the added publicity of winning the Santa Anita Handicap aboard Game on Dude, Chantal Sutherland picked the perfect time to redesign her website.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Charlie Sheen the right choice to lead the Breeders Cup

Ray Paulick reports on the Paulick Report that Greg Avioli is resigning as president and chief executive officer of the Breeders’ Cup. Paulick lists 8 potential replacements. In a sidebar poll readers have chosen "none of the above" as their choice.

With such lack of enthusiasm for the usual suspects to replace Avioli, why not think outside the box. We need a winner and who sells winning better than Charlie Sheen.

The timing is perfect as Sheen is currently on the open market.

The Breeders Cup Twitter site has 4,323 followers. Why not turbo charge that number and grab Sheen as your CEO who just set a Guinesss Book World record for being the quickest person on Twitter to gain 1 million followers, doing so in 25 hours, 17 minutes.

Some may say Sheen is on a classic downward spiral but I would argue the man is a marketing genius and he is acting like a business minded positive forward thinking CEO, something the Breeders Cup needs. Are not these recent quotes from Sheen reminiscent of great leaders of the past, like Winston Churchill and Vince Lombardi. Breeders Cup, may you consider these quotes as part of Sheen's resume:

"You can't process me with a normal brain"

"I have Tigers blood and Adonis DNA"

"Defeat is not an option"

"Drug tests don't lie. Scoreboard doesn't lie"

"Plan Better applies to everything where an excuse now sits. Try it. U won't be wrong. EVER"

I believe his first decision will be to replace the confusing "Win and your In" slogan with his more concise classic line:

"Duh Winning!"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Here to Stay

No sport or game is perfect and naysayers are plentiful but there are people like Sports Talk Personality Jim Rome who just "get it" and understand how great this game is. With people like him around this game will never die.

You can just feel his enthusiasm in his tweet yesterday on his Twitter account (@jimrome) about his Stable's win with 3 year old Diamond Geezah in the 7th at Santa Anita yesterday.

Jim Rome
jimrome Jim Rome
Just saw the replay:Diamond Geezah with huge heart! @JoeTalamo tearing up the hill. Big ups to Mike Mitchell. Congrats to Dan Capen. Insane.

He posted 10 separate Tweets about the win on his Twitter feed.

And with over 228,000 followers to his Twitter site, that's a good thing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Poll Numbers

In today's edition of USA Today, they published the results of 325 people who were asked: What Sports Commissioner needs to Go?

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig led all vote getter's with 42% saying he should go, followed by David Stern (NBA) with 20%, Gary Bettman at 14% and NFL's Roger Goodell with 10%. 14% said none-they are all doing a good job.

The Thoroughbred Industry does not have a commissioner but the closest thing we have is Alex Waldrop, the NTRA President and CEO. What do you think the % of Yes votes would be for him needing to go?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

NYRA continues to Brand

In the wake of the closure of the New York City OTB, The New York Racing Association (NYRA) continues to move forward and further brand the NYRA name.

After the NYC OTB closure NYRA quickly reached out to the abandoned OTB players with incentives to sign up for a NYRA Rewards betting account.

They than opened up the Belmont Cafe on the ground floor at Belmont Park. The cafe is a clean, heated simulcast facility with a cafe and bar. They pay track prices on all payouts too.

Yesterday, NYRA announced the debut of a NYRA produced Television program to be shown in the New York City area on Channel 71, which was the old NYC OTB Simulcast channel. NYRA has taken over the channel, now called the NYRA Network. The show will be shown live twice a week, (Wednesday & Saturday at 9:30 am) and focus not only on the NYRA circuit, but the National scene as well as the Triple Crown preps. Jason Blewitt and Andy Serling will host.

All pretty good branding if you ask me. Important stuff, just ask Arianna Huffington how important branding can be for your properties- as it did with The Huffington Post.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Power of Education

With Dialed In swallowing up the field in the Holy Bull Stakes we now have another interesting New York owner among the Derby chase leaders. Uncle Mo and owner Mike Repole garnered most of the early 2011 Derby talk but now another original New Yorker in Dialed In owner Robert LaPenta joins him.

They both followed the same template in achieving success and entering the horse ownership business. Both are native New Yorkers, Repole was born in Queens, LaPenta in Yonkers. Both came from humble beginnings and were the first generation in their families to attend college. LaPenta's father worked in a warehouse, Repole's father was a waiter. Both attended and commuted to nearby New York City Metro area catholic schools-LaPenta graduated from Iona College (New Rochelle, NY) and Repole from St. John's University.

Repole and LaPenta used their college degrees as a springboard into the business world, where both became highly successful. They than parlayed that success into horse ownership. Neither has forgotten their alma matter, in fact it would be rare to hear an Repole or LaPenta speak longer than a few minutes without acknowledging St John's and Iona College. LaPenta's silks are maroon and gold in honor of his alma mater. He also has donated 7 million to Iona. Both are big sports fans outside of racing, LaPenta with college basketball and Repole is a fanatical NY Mets baseball fan. His silks are blue and orange, in honor of the Mets. Repole was quoted yesterday in the NY Daily News as being interested in owning a piece of the Mets.

You still got to have a little bit of luck to get that Derby horse, but it was not luck that got them in a position to get that portential Derby winner, it was education.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Zenyatta-Bernardini comes Full Circle

It seems somewhat logical for Bernardini to be announced as the first mating partner for Zenyatta. Not from a pedigree standpoint but from an Eclipse Award view.

We all know about the Zenyatta debates for Horse of the Year in 2009 and 2010. But Bernardini was involved in Eclipse Award debates himself in 2006. Bernardini had to battle the ghost of the ill fated Barbaro as the 2006 Eclipse Awards approached. That year, Bernardini won the Preakness, The Jim Dandy Stakes and The Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the BC Classic to Invasor.

In the 3 year old Male Horse of the Year, Bernardini won despite the sentimental pleas for Barbaro to pick up the award. Bernardini won the award going away with 210 votes to 56 for Barbaro.

But even though Bernardini trounced Barbaro in the 3 year old vote, he finished 3rd in the Horse of the Year tally with 16 votes and behind the 2nd place Barbaro, who garnered 21 votes. Invasor won convincingly with 228 votes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blasphemy-How dare we slam the Shake Shack

Veteran racing scribe Michael Veitch of the Saratogian wrote an article on the upcoming capital improvements expected at Saratoga, courtesy of VLT money from the to be built racino at Aqueduct, with emphasis on a local advisory committee formed to discuss the proposed changes.

Veitch discusses how the Saratoga Race Course is now a part of the fabric of the city, linked to the local architecture and culture. In the article he than says this:

"Shake Shack, the new dining area thrown together quickly before the 2010 meeting, upset many Saratogians on this count."

Veitch does not expand on this statement, nor does he include any quotes from the "upset Saratogians".

Gasp! How dare the esteemed Veitch slam the almighty Shake Shack. Has he not ever tasted the high caloric burger fans happily line up for at the Shack? Has his lips never touched a sumptuous Black and White Shake?

Yes the building might seem a tiny bit too big and modern looking at first glance, but after the first weekend it blended in nicely, like it had been there all along, like a familiar friend at the Spa. And let us not forget it replaced a tacky looking Paddock Tent, not what I would consider exactly high end architecture.

And with the Blue Smoke and Paddock Bar mere steps away, I dare say this was the best Trifecta bet placed at the track all year

Thursday, January 06, 2011

24/7: The Road to the Kentucky Derby?

If you like the National Hockey League like I do and have access to HBO on your cable or satellite systems you had to love the HBO "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic" series.

The series was great, with candid interviews, nice game action editing and the dulcet narration of Liev Schreiber ( I could listen to this guy narrate the dictionary). In the past HBO has had success with the 24/7 shows on boxing and last year they did one on Jimmy Johnson leading up to the Daytona 500.

The template is fairly simple: an all-access look at the athletes and teams in a sport that leads to a climax.

What better climax to chronicle and lead up to than the Kentucky Derby?

The First Saturday in May movie by the Hennegan Brothers did this brilliantly but the movie was put out after the Derby outcome was known. This HBO series would be done in real time, creating a suspense and interest in the outcome as you invest time in the horse, trainers and owners being serialized. I think this would work great, profiling 4 or so horses and their connections as they lead up to Derby.

According to a NY Times article by Richard Sandomir, HBO is looking to take on a new sport. Sandomir suggests gold's Ryder Cup. Golf, Smolf, I say do the Derby.