Showing posts with label Steven Crist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steven Crist. Show all posts

Monday, March 29, 2010

Great Article About Synthetic Horse Racing Surfaces

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

I copied and pasted this article from It's written by Steven Crist, publisher and editor of the Daily Racing Form.

Crist Blog | March 27, 2010

Dubai World Crapshoot

The richest horse race in history was staged in Dubai earlier today, and it was a $10 million advertisement for how synthetic surfaces can make a complete mess of so-called world-class championship racing. For all that it proved about the quality of the contestants either individually or as a group, the results of the Dubai World Cup might as well have been drawn out of a hat.


The winner, front-running Gloria de Campeao, is an admirably durable Brazilian 7-year-old who was beaten 16 1/2 lengths by Curlin in the 2008 World Cup and 14 lengths by Well Armed in the race last year. Those two editions, like the 12 before them, were run on dirt but this year's version at the new Meydan Racecourse was run on Tapeta, a synthetic surface which until this year had never been used for anything more prestigious than a Grade III race at Golden Gate Fields.

The runner-up, Lizard's Desire, came into the $10 million race with a field-low bankroll of $207,442, having finished 10th and 11th in his two prior starts in Group 1 company in his native South Africa. Allybar, who was third, was 0 for 6 in graded or group races of any kind. America's supposed synthetic specialists -- BC Classic runner-up Gio Ponti (who finished 4th), Goodwood winner Gitano Hernando and Pacific Classic winner Richard's Kid -- had no impact on the finish.

Tapeta may well be a lovely training surface, and it has gotten high marks among synthetic tracks, but no one can really explain why anyone needs a third type of horse racing to go along with the dirt and turf racing that has defined the sport and its great horses for centuries. The Maktoums' decision to replace dirt with Tapeta at their gaudy new racing palace was a premature guess that these new surfaces might somehow magically combine dirt and turf racing into one globally-accepted footing. That hasn't happened and isn't going to anytime soon, or probably ever.

Instead, it remains entirely unclear what this World Cup proved other than Bob Baffert's adage that synthetic tracks make good horses look ordinary and ordinary horses look good. (And put down your torches -- this has nothing to with Zenyatta, a transcendently great horse who handles everything and is probably as good or better on dirt than on synthetics.) Sure, plenty of major dirt races end with befuddling finishes (cf. Kentucky Derby, 2005 and 2009) and there were even bigger upsets on grass today than on Tapeta. But in the past, the World Cup was a true showcase for champions, such as Cigar, Silver Charm, Dubai Milennium, Invasor and Curlin. Now? Step right up and spin the wheel.

That's how I roll.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Like to Think I Put the "Playa" In "Playa-giarism"

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

T.R. Slyders scholars know that I'm a lover. I love primates, the Cubs, horse racing, and plagiarism. So why not combine all four? Since my pictures take care of the two former, I'll just plagiarize an article about horse to cover the latter two.

Of course I was trying to be funny but the article I'm plagiarizing is actually a very serious one. Daily Racing Form Publisher Steve Crist was asked months ago to make a speech the Jockeys Club about the state of drug usage in horse racing. On Steve's blog, which I have previously linked to, he did racing fans like me a great service and gave us a voice by asking us what we thought his speech should be about. Of course a man in Steve's position did not have to do that, but he modestly and wisely knows who butters the bread of horse racing and was kind enough to invite the everyday folk to opine. The link to Steve Crist's speech to the Jockey Club can be found here, as well as below in plagiarized format.

Jockey Club Roundtable
August 23, 2009

Thank you for inviting me to speak today, and for recognizing the often unheard voices of racing’s customers. My assignment for today was to report to you on how Thoroughbred racing’s medication issues are perceived by our fans. When I received this assignment back in June, I decided to make this an exercise in participatory journalism. It seemed that the best way to find out how our customers perceive medication issues might simply be to ask them. So I posed the same question put to me by the Jockey Club to the readers of my blog on I did not ask them any specific questions or attempt to frame the debate. I simply told them I needed their help to write this speech and asked them how they perceived medication issues in Thoroughbred racing.

The response was astounding -- in its volume, in its tone and in its content. I’ll share a few thoughts on each. The sheer size of the response was unexpected and overwhelming. On a busy week, we might receive a dozen letters to the editor at the racing form. A typical blog entry might attract 25 responses. But on this topic, I knew we were seeing something profoundly different when I received 200 responses in the first three days. Our blogging software only accepts 100 comments per topic, so I actually had to repost my initial inquiry six times to accommodate what turned into 550 responses in less than a month.

As for tone, I can’t emphasize strongly enough that these were not the complaints of horseplayers who had just lost a photo. They were, for the most part, lengthy and thoughtful responses. There was more sadness than anger, more frustration than complaint. Dozens if not hundreds of responses began along the lines of, “I love racing, but...." And where they went from there surprised even me.

Comment after comment repeated the same themes:

*Drugs in racing are out of control; the inmates are running the asylum;

*There must be swifter, harsher justice, and more punitive penalties -- zero tolerance, three strikes and you’re out of the game.

*Punish the owners.

*Suspend the horses.

These are our fans’ perception of what racing needs to do about the abuse of medication in racing. And please keep in mind that while these may sound like the demands of an angry vigilante lynch mob, these are in fact the sentiments of some of your most loyal and most thoughtful customers.

I felt their pain at what they think has happened to their game, but I also felt that it was time for a reality check. And after the first 400 comments, one presented itself. On July 16, the Texas Racing Commission ordered a six-month suspension of the nation’s leading trainer because of a positive finding for a topical anesthetic in the winner of a maiden race a year earlier. Without belaboring the details of the case, this penalty was ordered despite the absence of any plausible veterinary scenario in which this drug had been administered, and of a finding so infinitesimally small that no one credibly could argue it had had any pharmacological effect on the horse’s performance.

I asked the respondents who had already posted comments, without agreeing or disagreeing with them, if what they really wanted was what they had been suggesting. Assuming the suspension – which is under appeal – were sustained: Did they really want the trainer to be thrown out of the game? Did they really want all of his horses removed from their stalls and turned over to outside trainers rather his assistants? Should all of the owners he trains for also to be sanctioned? Should the hundreds of horses who have run under his name this year barred from competition? Should Rachel Alexandra not be permitted to race again this year? As it turned out, no one really wanted to answer those ques tions. Only a few even tried. And after another week, the discussion simply petered out. Since then, I have been trying to digest and interpret the strange turn that this exercise took as it neared its end. And here is what I think.

Our fans are convinced, with good reason, that there is something rotten in the state of racing, but more than anything else they are completely confused about what is really going on – and so are almost all of us who work in the industry or represent it.

We make virtually no distinction between therapeutic medications that have a proper and even humane role in the treatment of these animals, and the abusive use of serious drugs. We make no distinction between marginal overages of medicine and the deliberate use of nefarious chemicals. And thus we have a seemingly constant barrage of news about failed drug tests and repeat offenders -- yet absolutely no one seems able to distinguish between minor administrative matters and serious crimes, between overzealous regulation and evidence of truly criminal activity.

Of course we have a problem with drugs in racing. We probably always have, and perhaps we always will. But we’re not going about rooting it out the right way. And in failing to do so, we’re both worsening the perception, and failing to address the reality, of the problem. It has been tempting in the past for racing to throw up its hands over this issue and act like a helpless victim. We’re good at saying that we don’t have the money, or the authority of a league office, to effect real change. Sometimes we get so disheartened that we start going down the cowardly and dangerous road of throwing up our hands and saying, “Let’s invite the Federal Government to take this whole thing over,” which strikes me as a prescription for disaster.

I personally don’t believe we need to go down that road. I think we can do a lot better on our own. And occasionally we do. The industrywide ban on anabolic steroids may have happened for all the wrong reasons – a coincidence of language involving a serious problem in baseball that may not have been that serious a problem in horse racing. But it was something that had to be done because there was simply no way, in a frenzied atmosphere about steroids and sports, that we could defend injecting horses with steroids if we ever wanted to create another new fan. But whatever the reasons, it worked. The industry decided it had to happen, and it did.It was done quickly and accepted quickly. Not one of my respondents even mentioned steroids as a problem. The steroid ban may have been cosmetic, but it can and should be a model for our getting equally serious about other abuses and other drugs.

I will leave you with a final thought: Despite doping scandals in baseball and cycling that may well be even more pervasive than our own, baseball stadiums are doing brisk business and Europeans still line the streets for the Tour de France. After spending years in denial, officials of both of those sports eventually came clean and said something simple and straightforward that racing’s leaders need to say:

We have a problem with medication, and we’re going to do something about it.

While it may be a tough road from there to reality, it’s past time for racing to make that simple statement – and I guarantee you that it would be a giant first step in changing the perceptions of our fans and bettors, without whom we will have no sport at all. Thank you for your time and your attention.

While Steve didn't drop the hammer, point fingers and spew venom, this speech was very important for horse racing. Much like how baseball was around 2003, no one in power really talked about it openly as a serious problem. So it was great that the Jockey Club wanted the issue to be addressed, and that they wanted it to be address by someone as powerful, intelligent and thoughtful as Steve Crist. It's a good start and has the right people behind it. A plagiarizing vigilante who rides alone in the night mysteriously but who the humble and helpless townsfolk have grown to know, trust and love, and hail as a modern day El Cid meets Zorro, but a man who is too mysterious and humble to accept their overwhelming adulation, a man these townsfolk know simply as "TR Slyder".

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Daily Racing Form EIC Steven Crist

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

He makes some excellent points here. Glad to see someone else is disappointed that no one is broadcasting this awesome weekend of horse racing. This article at can be found here.

TV networks conspicuous by their absence

By Steven Crist

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - What a first weekend of August for racing: The gelding, filly, and colt who won this year's Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes are all in action, heading for a possible showdown in the Travers; the 15-length winner of the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup, makes his return to American soil; it's opening weekend at Saratoga, and the second weekend at Del Mar, the two biggest race meetings of the summer.

It's an extraordinary collection of talent, a showcase for the closest thing racing has to household names, and a fabulous opportunity to capitalize on the strong television ratings for this year's Triple Crown and the emergence of Rachel Alexandra as a national heroine. Instead, not a single one of these races is being broadcast by ABC, CBS, NBC, or ESPN.

Existing racing fans will probably figure out a way to see most of the racing, on simulcasts at the track or teletheatres or if they have access to TVG, which is unavailable in some major markets, including New York City. But for casual fans, who might have been attracted to the game by major national network coverage of this year's unusually compelling Triple Crown stories, it amounts to a blackout.

The most disappointing absentee from any coverage is ESPN, which promised a major new commitment to racing when it gained the rights to the Breeders' Cup more than two years ago. Since then, ESPN has has done little except slash its racing coverage to less than half of what it used to be before that new commitment.

This weekend may well represent an all-time low in racing's national visibility. Even as coverage has waned over the last two decades, there was a good chance that someone would find a way to get national exposure for a winner of a Triple Crown race, much less for a clash between two of them such as the meeting of Rachel Alexandra and Summer Bird in Sunday's Haskell. The appearance by Mine That Bird in Saturday's West Virginia Derby would, just a few years ago, have been a virtually automatic broadcast for ESPN.

Beyond ESPN's virtual abandonment of racing, it's unclear where the blame lies or what could be done differently. The invisibility of this weekend's racing reflects the vacuum of authority or coordinated power at the top of the sport. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has much less money to work with than when it was founded a decade ago. The Breeders' Cup, running an operating deficit this year, is using its scarce marketing and television funds on fall races closer to its own events that it needs to promote.

In addition, individual tracks are playing off the various account-wagering companies such as TVG and HRTV against one another, taking whatever money they can get for exclusive rights to their top races in the absence of national coverage. Even if some organization in racing had the authority or willpower to seek wider coverage of this weekend's racing, it's unclear whether they could get the rights to these events away from simulcasting networks that the average sports fan has never heard of.

Bigger races at smaller tracks a growing trend

Mine That Bird is the first Kentucky Derby winner to race in a West Virginia Derby, which speaks to both his individual circumstances and to looming changes on the national racing landscape.

Since Mine That Bird is a gelding, his connections can have more fun with him than a group trying to establish his value as a stallion might. They can barnstorm with him instead of running in the races with the most prestige and tradition or highest grades.

But we also could be seeing the start of a shift in where those richest and most prestigious races are being run, and it's directly tied to the widening gaps between the haves and have-nots on the "alternative gaming" (slot machine) front. Tracks with slots, such as Mountaineer - which is running races worth $770,000 Saturday in addition to the $750,000 West Virginia Derby - are putting on stakes races with soaring purses that are going to attract better horses and higher grades in the years to come. Mine That Bird's emergence from the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico will probably make that race a Grade 3 next year. Philadelphia Park frequently puts on rich races that will climb the graded-stakes ladder once eligible.

With Hollywood Park's future uncertain, and tracks in California, Kentucky, and Florida cutting back on racing dates and stakes purses without slots, we could be looking at a very different set of "premier" tracks and races a decade from now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Day of Racing at Saratoga

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Let's get some links out of the way:

Starting at 11:45am ET the above link will be home to a daily handicapping seminar for that day's card, hosted by the always informative and entertaining Andy Serling. I would recommend it. update: get it here's Saratoga Page

Andy Serling's Twitter

Steven Crist's Blog
- he's the editor of the Daily Racing Form and probably the most influential bettor in America. He is also the first guest on Andy Serling's show on Wednesday.

It's gonna be an awesome season.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.