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Bad Trip Cost Team Calabrese-Canani in Ninth at GP; Famed Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Monopoly At Risk

By Warren Eves

          Owner Frank Calabrese had to be steaming after the last race at Gulfstream Park Wednesday.

          Far away in Hong Kong the richest gambling mecca is under siege via the internet.

          Calabrese’s Stage Deli, making his first start off the claim, ran second in the 9th in Florida.  He should have won for red-hot trainer Nick Canani.  Fate had a big say in the outcome.

          Canani, who won with 79 of 215 starters last year, should have been standing in the winners’ circle with his 18th winner of the meet at Gulfstream Park.  Instead the groom led Stage Deli, a $6,250 claim, back to the barn area.  If Stage Deli had not encountered such a troubled journey he would have improved Canani’s current win percentage of 44%.   Instead, he dropped a few percentag points.  Last year Canani won an amazing 44% of the time. 

          Calabrese put up the dinero to halter Stage Deli from Michael McDonald early in January.   Canani waited the 30-day jail time so they could wheel their newly acquired 5-year-old gelding back at the same $6,250 claiming price.  Only a horrendous trip cost them first money.

          Stage Deli, who had finished 9th of 12 “failing to menace” last time, broke from post two in the one mile test on the main track.  He jostled the foe to left in the opening strides.  Stage Deli then came out to jostle a foe to his right before Paco Lopez angled him in several lanes crossing the gap.  Stage Deli drafted behind the first flight but Lopez had to check him sharply into the turn, costing him several positions. 

          Once in the straight Stage Deli rallied out of fourth and was up to finish second.  Calabrese does not like to finish in the place hole.  Canani had worked Stage Deli two half mile drills since he was claimed and he had improved eons.  He even galloped out well into the turn.

          Thursday afternoon we received a story written by Frederick Balfour on World Sports regarding a serious threat to the Hong Kong Jockey Club–the single most successful horse racing gaming operation in the universe.  According to Balfour, internet wagering poses a serious threat to The Jockey Club of Hong Kong

           For years now our longtime friend Jay Richards, formerly the turf writer for the Las Vegas Review, has reveiwed tapes for a Hong Kong patron who bets at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  Richards knows the racing there well and that’s how we became aware of  the Balfour story.  Wagering dwarfs anything we have ever seen here in the states because roughly $105 million is bet on every race at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  Yes, that’s not a misprint–$105 mil per race.

          “After prizes and winning bets are paid out, the Hong Kong government takes at least 72.5 percent of what’s left in taxes,” wrote Balfour.  “That compares with 25 percent in Singapore.   “The windfall for Hong Kong is threatened by a rise in unauthorized Internet betting sites, which avoid paying gambling taxes or royalties to the track, enabling them to offer more attractive odds.”

          “Online gaming has eroded racing’s capacity to ensure it achieves a fair return from all the wagering that takes place,” says Andrew Harding, the secretariat of the Sydney-based Asian Racing Federation.

          According to Balfour some racetracks are trying to fight the problem of “free riding” by online bookies by linking with race courses in other countries to take bets on each other’s race.  Called co-mingling, this sort of system broadens the pool of gamblers the race operators can access.  It allows them to offer better odds.

          Interestingly, growth in the club’s racing revenue is failing to keep up with online betting.  Internet gambling last year grew 10.4 percent.

          Notes scribbled across my official program–The Factor, who won opening day in a dazzling 1:06.98, was awarded a 102 Beyer number for that effort.   The Beyer people, however, have upgraded the three-year-old colt’s number to 108.   Bob Baffert’s colt will head the field in Sunday’s San Vicente at seven panels.  The Factor drilled seven furlongs in 1:24 2/5 on Monday at Hollywood Park.   That’s a remarkably fast workout for a colt who has run only once…………….Took a look at the Oaklawn races on Sunday.  A maiden named Toga’s Storm caught our eye.  He won the sixth race on the card on a day when forwardly placed horses had their way.  Toga’s Storm, with Ricardo Santana, Jr., may be a player at the next level if his much BTL’d(better-than-looked) graduation run is any indicator.  He broke alert from post two and was bumped from the right crossing the gap.  Fifth and along the rail he was put in tight and checked midway on the backside and fell back.  Toga’s Storm was at least eight lengths out of it when he began a run on the turn.  He was six-wide entering the lane and kept coming.  It certainly will be interesting to see where trainer Robby Robinson brings him back………………..Don’t know why Santa Anita Park still has these timer glitches, but it was like turning back the clock to the days when I was clocking for the Feb., 12, Robert B. Lewis.  They had runaway leader Tapizar setting fractions according to the timer that a gazelle could not record.  Tapizar, rank as he could be, was given fractions of 19.11, 42.00, 1:09.52 and 1:32.02.  Of course, anyone with any kind of racetrack prowess, knew the timer had malfunctioned.  Even though there is no notation that the race had been hand timed they listed the fractions in the chart as follows: 22.48, 45.64, 1:09.92 and a more believable 1:35.07.  Since Jeff Tufts has long departed the job of linemaker and clocker for Santa Anita, we don’t know whose watch provided those early splits.  The final time was 1:48.63.  Anthony’s Cross was under a vigorous hand scrub to come on again and best Riveting Reason for the win.  Eoin Harty trains the winner who is by Indian Charlie and we don’t think there was a valid Kentucky Derby colt in the field…………………We want to thank those responsible for the opening of the Mike Willman show on Sunday’s over KCAA in Los Angeles.  They open the show with my late friend Harry Henson’s call of Native Diver.  And that’s something SoCal racing should never forget.  Harry’s calls in the summer at Hollypark should never be forgotten.  Just like the great Joe Hernandez at Santa Anita.  Native Diver was owned by Mr. & Mrs. L.K. Shapiro.  He went to the post 81 times and won 37.  Ralph Neves rode him when he broke his maiden at Bay Meadows in 1961.  Merlin Volzke rode him to win the El Camino Handicap in the slop the same year.  Jerry Lambert rode him for the first time in 1963 at Tanforan.  He would ride him 42 more times before he won the Del Mar Handicap in his final start at Del Mar in 1967……….Steve Asmussen has a bona-fide candidate for the Kentucky Derby in Brethren.  He couldn’t have picked an easier spot for the colt to debut.  Brethren won the Sam F. Davis from post 10 at Tampa Bay Downs with a second over trip.  The race certainly did not take much out of him………………..A Australian bookmaker we know e-mails his take on what can be done for the fading business in California.  “Rebates for on track punters in the game,” he began.  “Put machines in pubs so people can bet with vdieo screens, when you pay slightly lesser dividends.  They need to look at the oz medel which has success.”………….Too Amenable seemed to be intimidated by the temporary railing in race seven Wednesday at Gulfstream Park.  Jose Garcia rode him well, saving ground all the way, but once in the straight he simply seemed unsure about being so close to the fence.  I’m certain he would have won the one mile event if he’d been outside in the run to the wire………..I’m going to be adding over 25 names to my “Horses To Watch” list on Thursday, Feb., 17.  If you have not yet subscribed go to Pay Pay and get the list.  Over a hundred horses will be listed.

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Warren H. Eves

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