Given the size of Saturday’s mutuel pools at Laurel, it’s safe to assume most of, well, everyone in racing wasn’t paying it much attention. I mean — less than $30,000 in the WPS pool for the fourth? On a Saturday? Yeesh.
Still, racing, as it always does, took place. Here’s whatcha missed:
- Peen on the green, and also the brown – Old local saying: Peen on the green. Meaning, bet on Mario Pino when he rides turf races. Also, lesser-known corollary: bet on Pino when he rides in dirt races. Pino rode the talented stakes-winning filly Red’s Round Table to victory in a stakes-caliber (despite the short field) money allowance in Saturday’s eighth. The win gave Pino, now 50, 6,389 triumphs for his career and sole possession of 12th place all-time for wins by a jockey. He needs 82 more to move into the top 10. Pino, best known for piloting Hard Spun during that horse’s stellar three year-old campaign, is a good rider and an astute handicapper, skills which have served him well during his career — including his one win for That’s Amore Stable, aboard Twisted Mister back in 2006.
- Oh, brother! At one level, racing is nothing more than a vast experiment in eugenics. (At another level, it’s the world’s largest insane asylum, but that’s a story for a different day). Breeders employ an array of tools and theories and, yes, superstitions all in pursuit of the big horse. When it all comes together nicely on, say, the first Saturday in May, you end up with a wisely crafted breeding that catches the world by surprise; you end up with Mine That Bird. When it works less well, you might end up with a modest but still useful horse toiling at the bottom of Maryland’s racing hierarchy; you might, for example, end up with Mine That Bird’s half-brother, aptly named Brother Bird. In Saturday’s second, Brother Bird, in for the tag of $4,500, zoomed to the early lead and never looked back, posting a two-length win. He was claimed out of the race.
- Your point is? What drives handle? Outside of a few big races and days, here’s what doesn’t drive handle: the quality of the horses in a race. Here’s what does: large fields of competitive horses. Saturday’s eighth, previously noted, was a stakes-caliber money allowance that, after a scratch, had just four starters; it generated a little over $48,000 in the WPS pool, which was only a bit more than the $41,000 for which the horses were racing. The ninth, on the other hand, drew 11 horses, with a lukewarm favorite going off at 2.2-1. The top four finishers were separated by just a head, a neck, and a nose; and the race generated more than $77,000 in the WPS pool — nearly eight times the purse of $10,000! Might be time to think about connecting purses to field size, eh?
- And finally… The head separating first from second in the ninth also –sigh — separated me from hitting the pick-four. It’d have been pretty chalky, but since I’d only invested nine bucks, that wouldn’t have bugged me much at all. But as the second and third-place finishers — both of which I had — hooked up in the final sixteenth and leaned on each other, 51-1 Ted’s Vision found a gap at the fence and shot past both of them to put his head in front. The chalky P4 I looked to have in the last jumps ended up being somebody else’s $3700 payday. As a friend said the other day after a tough beat, what you love about this game is the character-building aspect. Or something like that.