Monday, May 26, 2014

"There's Live Racing, Here, Today?"

I kid you not.

That was one of the first questions I fielded on Saturday in my first endeavor as a volunteer race "ambassador" at Monmouth Park.

Brick By Brick

Recognizing that festival days at Monmouth draw outsize crowds but fail to translate to bigger wagering pools or consumption of the real product -- thoroughbred racing and parimutuel wagering -- the marketing team put out a call on Facebook this winter, looking for passionate folks (I bit) to help increase the racing customer base. 

Building new racing fans, I hope
So, I went to Monmouth about a month ago to be briefed by marketing manager Brian Skirka and two representatives from America's Best Racing, Dan Tordjman (of Danonymous Racing fame) and Victoria Garafalo, who were on hand to reinforce the notion that even if we as ambassadors come away enticing even a single person to come back to the track, then "job well done." 

I kept this in mind throughout my day, which amounted to around four-and-a-half hours of mingling with customers hanging around the food trucks and spending lots of times with three groups in particular.

Raul & Co.

The crowds were a little slow to build after gates opened at 11:30 a.m., so after a quick briefing from Mr. Skirka, I talked strategy with my four colleagues about manning our booth and roaming the grounds in search of our marks.  

I hit the pavement, getting a feel for the expanded food truck layout (a wise move by track management) and introducing myself to random groups, explaining that I and the other ambassadors were on hand to assist with any questions about racing, Monmouth Park itself of anything to improve their visiting experience.  

Shortly after the first race ended, I approached a party of 5-6 noshing and sipping around one of the lounge tables and otherwise looking bored, and without so much as a track program in reach.  

After introducing myself to the group, a man from Staten Island named Raul asked me whether Monmouth Park had live racing.

"The first race just ended about 5 minutes ago," I responded, probably looking somewhat vexed. 

"No, seriously, they have live horses here?," questioned Raul. 

"You're pulling my leg, aren't you?!," I said.

So, without hesitation and to prove my case, I told Raul that I would take his group inside the winner's circle to watch the next race and was taken up on the offer.  

Equipped by track management with a few $2 betting vouchers, I asked Raul's son and wife as we cut from the food-truck area and through the grandstand toward the track what numbers they liked and wagered a $1 exacta box for them (2-4 did not hit, unfortunately), then ushered them trackside to watch Race 2 and subsequent winner's photo from inside the winner's circle.  

From there, we ambled over to the paddock to watch horses for the next race get saddled and mounted.

Within the course of discussion, I learned that New York-bred Raul's parents had taken him as a kid numerous times to Aqueduct and Belmont back in the day, but Saturday was his first trip to Monmouth, largely to check out the food trucks.  

Raul also said he and his wife went to Aqueduct often, but for the casino.

James and the Birthday Girls

Still getting over the shock of Raul's question about live racing, I shared the story (and a few hearty laughs) with my colleagues, and moments later was approached by "James," also on hand for the food trucks and a first-timer to Monmouth.

James asked where he could buy a program.

Hmm, here I am expecting beforehand to be asked by visitors to pick winners or the finer aspects of handicapping and, instead, get some real softball questions.

James took up my offer to walk him over to the program booth, and along the way I explained that I am a passionate horse racing fan on hand to help, hopefully, future racing customers embrace the game.  

Upon learning that James also was on hand to celebrate the birthday of one of his three lovely lady friends with a day at the trucks, I offered the same tour provided Raul.

This time, we started at the paddock, getting a bird's-eye view inside the walking ring of horses being saddled and trainers giving their jockeys some last-minute instructions before heading to the track.  

To my amazement, I was then bombarded with questions about reading the program, condition of the race and horses, jockey-trainer significance and so forth.

Hey, these folks were getting into it, and I did my best to educate them in the time we had on our walk from the paddock, and a quick stop at the automatic teller, to the winner's circle.

Perhaps I am gullible, but as with Raul's group, I got the sense that James & Co. (replete with a handful of free passes) had an unforgettable experience and will be coming back to Monmouth Park soon.

The Blue Hen

Anyone who knows me can attest that I am notoriously bad with names on first encounter (apologies in advance to anyone cited here who stumbles upon this post...share your info in comments below).  

On the golf course, I write down the names of my counterparts on the scorecard, along with a notable article of clothing; i.e. Tiger, red Nike shirt. 

I forgot to do this on Saturday, however, caught up in the moment. 

So, for my third and final lengthy encounter on the afternoon, I can honestly say I turned two seemingly apprehensive "sorry, I bought at the office" types into prospective Monmouth Park customers.

Mrs. NJ Horseplayer...
another famous Delaware grad
A twenty-something University of Delaware grad and her boyfriend were, like many others, on hand for the food trucks, but came toward the tent to grab a brochure, upon which I lassoed them into a tour.

My modus operandi was no different, as I reassured the clearly skeptical boyfriend that I had no motive or pitch about buying a timeshare or something absurd, and that I am merely a racing fan interested in cultivating a fresh, young fan base so that my sport passion does not go extinct in 20 years as feared.

Reassured, the couple joined me on the tour and equally asked as many questions as James & Co.

"So which one do you think is going to win?," asked Blue Hen.

"I would probably lean toward the 2," I said, noting that in a maiden special weight field of very inexperienced males, the Kelly Breen-trained Encryption made the most sense, since he had probably the top local trainer and one decent run in his debut, whereby horses often do much better on their second try.  

Blue Hen listened, turning her $2 win voucher into a whopping $6.60 of pay dirt (the equivalent of 2 pieces of chocolate-covered bacon back at the food trucks), while the boyfriend plunked his $2 on a Todd Pletcher B-teamer who ran a distant fourth.  Oops.

But, for her, watching the winner cross the wire first and then cashing a free voucher elicited the kind of reaction typically reserved for hitting Powerball.

The elation was priceless. 

Several Conclusions

I enjoyed Saturday's experience and cannot wait to get back in the saddle again (scheduled for Sunday, June 8 -- Irish Festival), but come away with mixed feelings.

First and foremost, I have a far greater appreciation for what Monmouth's marketing department is up against, because they do a great job with limited resources creating events, namely this weekend's Food Truck Festival, where Sunday's attendance of 23,278 more than doubled Saturday's 10,248.  

In all seriousness, I felt wiped after spending what amounted to the duration of 6 races on my feet with a mere 3 groups of people, opting for quality time over quantity in the spirit of Danonymous' advice.

The task of hoofing around the track for an afternoon marketing the product is rewarding, but tiring; and, as I sense marketing professionals would attest, offers no guarantee that Raul, James or Blue Hen ever return.

Running into Mr. Skirka on my way out around 6 p.m., he lamented that he had been at it since 6:30 in the morning, so I could only imagine his exhaustion...and probably with a few more hours to put in at the office yet. 

Big Attendance Not Equal To Bigger Betting

Perhaps the threat of rain kept more people away on Saturday, but the reality is that 20,000-plus in attendance on Sunday is a substantial figure these days at Monmouth Park and more than four times the last Sunday's attendance. 

Problem is, looking at Daily Racing Form's stats, the average visitor wagered a meager $35.23 on an enticing, deep betting card and back on the turf this Sunday after Saturday's scratch-laden program, down nearly 40% week over week.  

Meanwhile, Saturday's on-track pool averaged $50.89 per person, while the previous Saturday (Preakness Day), $60.62 was bet per person (8,476 on-track attendance) on Monmouth's racing (13% of the total pool into Monmouth), indicating a 16% week-over-week decline. 

(On-track betting on Monmouth on Sunday comprised 22% of all wagers, up from 17% on Saturday and less than 10% last Sunday; I cannot glean anything from those data points, but wanted to share in the event they prove valuable to anyone.)

Let's assume that half of the 15,000-person rise in attendance are paying adults and the other 50% are children or got free passes for Food Truck Festival.  At a $4 admission, that's $30,000 in attendance fees, plus parking and whatever they spend on track unrelated to food trucks, i.e., racing programs. 

Nothing to scoff at, but not really the core of Monmouth Park's business, which is racing product.

Ideas Once Visitors Get In The Door

The ambassador program is a nascent great step in the right direction, but could be expanded in any of a number of ways to foster a more-valuable racing experience. 

Assuming the five of us this Saturday spent quality time with 3-5 groups apiece, and generously 100's a start, but a lot of missed opportunity as well.  

The biggest detriment to events like Food Truck Day is that all of the events take place behind the grandstand, where no one is ever really in direct view of the live racing product. 

People entering the main gate take a sharp left toward the trucks, various other tables (including NJ Lottery, which seemed to do livelier business than the track's tellers) and the live music venue.  Based on the so-so headcount track-side, I'm guessing at least half of the big crowd never watched a single race.  

Trackside Food Trucks

First order of business is to snake the 30 or so food trucks from the current location through (at the very least) the back of the picnic area and perhaps onto the track's apron.  

The emphasis has to be on converting Food Truck Festival consumers into horse racing consumers, whether this requires temporary reconfiguration of utilities or of the ubiquitous picnic tables; or if the on-track concessions take a hit for a weekend, so be it.  

I'm sure a lot of hard work goes into preparing for any festival at Monmouth Park, and that not translating into wagers perhaps builds the Monmouth Park brand, but as a festival ground, not a racetrack. 

Expanding the physical footprint of the trucks this year was a huge improvement over last year, but steps should be taken next season to put the racing product squarely in visitors' faces.  Maybe give anyone who buys X dollars worth of food a $2 betting voucher in a cross promotion with the track.

Personal Ambassadors

I would never profess to be anything near a Brad Thomas as a handicapper, but I know enough to get by, and my four colleagues on Saturday, including @StormKittyKat, @RutgersKev and @MonmouthParkKid, could serve as personal liaisons to special interest groups, including parties that rent picnic space, companies hosting outings or others looking for more of a value-added experience.

Monmouth Park's group sales could offer our services for an hour or two, giving these customers (who, mind you, are already trackside) personal liaisons, complete with tours of the paddock, a view from the winner's circle, advice on reading the track program, or what have you. 

In all likelihood, someone on hand in a big picnic group setting for burgers, beers and a few friendly parimutuel wagers is more likely to return for another afternoon of racing and betting than some foodie or wine blogger who will never return and has never physically viewed the main product -- racing.  

An Early Success

Several other ideas come to mind, but I have droned on long enough.

The bottom line, as a racing fan, is that volunteering time to press some flesh and share my interest in thoroughbred racing with prospective new fans is extremely fun and rewarding.

At the same time, I find myself learning a lot by talking concepts through with complete strangers, much as I would seated at a table with fellow handicappers in a tournament and talking through race scenarios.

Certainly, I aim to represent Monmouth Park well, even as a volunteer, which I would argue enhances my credibility among the unsuspecting recipients of my tours and diatribes; my time has no strings attached.

I am pretty confident that Raul, James and Blue Hen can attest to this, and look forward to spending more time hopefully cultivating a racing fan base as the Monmouth Park 2014 meeting progresses.

Friday, May 23, 2014

That's "Mr. Ambassador"...To You

As my poor wife, family and community, can attest, I am a sucker for voluntarism.

Need someone to devote years to a generally belabored and sometimes difficult (though always rewarding) role as an unpaid Board of Education member?

"Sign me up."

Overextend myself to coach kids' recreation sports so other parents can not raise their hands, then sit in the stands and either socialize or rudely have loud conversations on their cell phones while ignoring their kids games, or worse yet deride the referees when they themselves do not understand the rules?

"Sure thing."

Raise my hand at work to take on more responsibility and not receive additional compensation for it (less, in fact)?

"Well, welcome to the 21st-century workforce."

So, when Monmouth Park this winter put out a call to do some volunteer work at the track this season to promote thoroughbred racing, I jumped at the opportunity!

New Monmouth Park Ambassador Program

Tomorrow, from around 11 a.m.~3 p.m., I will mill (hopefully dryly) about the Oceanport track, among other things, to help people in attendance for the hotly attended 3-day Food Truck Festival become fans of the game as part of a new "Ambassador" initiative run by marketing manager Brian Skirka.  I have committed to other days as well, but will not bore you with the details.

It's this guys fault if the patrons
at Monmouth Park don't like me
The premise is simple, as I see it -- engage patrons who are there to eat from more than 20 "food-trucks" (fancier parlance for the grease-trucks of my Rutgers heyday) and educate them on the Sport of Kings (at least a little) in hopes they'll come back at some point for the racing product, not the food.

Based on anecdotal observations, it seems to me that festival days at Monmouth Park, although nice, bring horse racing's brand of NJ shore "bennies" who crowd the place for a short time and have a great time, but really do not produce a recurring customer.

Bigger crowds, sure, but are these visitors so much as putting $2 on a horse or ever making it track-side to enjoy the real on-track product?

Are they increasing the track's handle, which could lead to better racing product down the line?

Are they encouraging their friends to visit Monmouth Park for all that it has to offer?

I'm not so sure.

Now, extremely fortunate for those patrons, my role will not revolve solely around handicapping (see Brad Thomas instead), which has produced little this season in my quest to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship.

I will impart whatever wisdom I can (when asked) on particular races or betting strategies to interested parties on Saturday, but otherwise am tasked with introducing people with an inkling of interest in touring the grounds and paddock, explaining how to use a remote betting terminal, understanding what the "L" inside the black circle of the program means, and so on.

As a big fan of horse racing, the need for more grassroots-level marketing is a brilliant idea, as I see it, as evidenced by me becoming a part of it.

Reflecting back on how I have become to embrace the contest circuit in particular, I owe a debt of gratitude to one particular numskull for reintroducing me to a game where I merely dabbled to that point.

In the course of Red Rock sharing his enthusiasm over the intellectual aspects of the handicapping contest circuit, the industry picked up a recurring customer who also happens to provide free marketing and unsolicited commentary (albeit admittedly not always favorable) via this blog.

The game can be very rewarding, and I hope to share my passion without turning away customers.

I'll keep you posted on how things go on Saturday, but not until finishing some other non-paying business (i.e., yard work) over the Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Voices Carry

Monmouth Park earlier today re-issued registration forms for the upcoming $300 National Handicapping Championship (NHC) qualifier with one subtle change.

Pimlico, not Churchill Downs, will serve as the third track in play for the Saturday, May 31 contest card, signaling the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC) was receptive to the voice of a horseplayer with valid objections about Churchill's recent shenanigans.

Mission Accomplished

Kudos to the NJRC for letting me submit a letter for consideration at Wednesday afternoon's meeting at Monmouth Park.  

On account of my professional obligations, I could not attend, and so contacted NJRC last Friday and spoke with Michael Vukcevich, expressing my objection to Churchill's inclusion in May 31 NHC qualifier at Monmouth, where 4 seats to the Vegas championship are up for grabs. 

Mr. Vukcevich graciously entertained my request to submit a brief letter for public consideration.

Apparently my comments carried some weight, as my cell buzzed this afternoon with a tweet from "Jersey Capper" friend Ray Wallin about the altered contest card.  

"Looks like (Monmouth/NJRC) replaced it with @PimlicoRC"

Evidently, the state's racing commission saw my side!

Pimlico in, Churchill out.

Simple Thesis, Easy Substitution

Signed on for a late-afternoon bankroll-builder contest last week, I soon discovered that Churchill Downs' video feed (and betting) was unavailable on 

ADW operator TVG quickly confirmed that this was because of a dispute over simulcast signals.

More bean counters at the revered Twin Spires, I imagined, trying to squeeze more money out of horseplayers in the end.

Thoughts of Horseplayers Association of North America's (HANA) boycott of Churchill over higher takeout, in addition to Churchill's well-documented unconscionable treatment of Ron Turcotte, only raised my ire and emboldened my case for approaching the NJRC about removing Churchill from Monmouth's upcoming NHC qualifier.

Kudos to NJRC

Even though I cannot play on May 31 on account of a family wedding, the concept of concerned NHC Tour member horseplayers in a live-money contest betting into the pools at Churchill did not sit well philosophically.  

In short, why should Churchill profit from New Jersey players in any way in the wake of recent unfavorable treatment?

On account of solid decision-making, now Churchill will not profit, at least off the backs of players in the May 31 contest.

Horses, matter
Monmouth could have substituted the Iditarod as the third contest track for all I cared.

Pimlico, which mind you could stand to lower its own takeouts as well, will do.

I will reach out to Mr. Vukcevich and the rest of the NJRC on Friday to applaud their open-mindedness and for siding with not just one, but all New Jersey horseplayers on this one, particular since the Commission had already approved the tournament slate and could have simply ignored my plea.  

As an anonymous poster to this website commented minutes ago, "chalk one up for the little guy."

Friday, May 9, 2014

Get Churchill Out of May 31 Monmouth Park NHC Contest

Trust me, my goal in life is not to embark on a crusade over Churchill Downs' anti-horseplayer, anti-paralyzed jockey mindset, but the track operator's latest simulcast feed dispute with New Jersey's ADW operator justifies replacing Churchill with another track for Monmouth Park's upcoming National Handicapping Championship qualifier, scheduled for Saturday, May 31.

No feed? No problem...
(Photo Courtesy of WebMD)
No longer a journalist, but as someone who writes on a niche through personal experience and third-party reading, I prefer to make observations and arguments and let the Ray Paulick's of the world unearth factual details to craft the nuances of topics, such as how entities pay to receive each race track's video feeds.

One fact is clear, however, after this week -- customers are shut off from viewing or wagering on Churchill Downs-operated tracks amid the latest battle with someone over simulcast rights.

A customer service representative from 4NJBets, operated by TVG, confirmed this with me via email on Wednesday with a terse "there is currently a contract dispute. Once this has been concluded, (Churchill tracks) will either be available or not."

Time to Up the Ante...

In the spirit of the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) wagering boycott of Churchill-owned tracks, I spoke Friday afternoon with New Jersey Racing Commission's Deputy Director, Michael Vukcevich, to share my opinion, and have submitted written commentary to accompany NJRC's meeting agenda for Wednesday, May 14, at Monmouth Park, 1:30 p.m.

I would encourage anyone who has the time to attend and support my simple position for the NJRC to empower Monmouth Park to replace Churchill Downs with another track, such as Woodbine or Delaware Downs...or any other track that promotes player-friendly values.

The other two tracks on the contest docket (already pre-approved by NJRC, but not yet ratified) are Monmouth and Belmont.

Subbing another track for Churchill without NJRC approval is apparently akin to misdemeanor.

I emailed contest coordinator Brian Skirka with a recommendation to ditch Churchill, but he noted that the Commission had already approved the May 31 slate.

The simpleton in me suggests changing one track is not so radical a plan, since it is a simple, presumably low-cost matter of changing the contest registration form PDF to read something other than Churchill Downs.

And, based on past experience, where weather washed out one contest track and forced last-minute replacement of another in a Monmouth-hosted contest, I doubt the notion of player backlash (i.e., revolt over tossing Churchill) is a credible concern.  

As someone in local government, I can attest that processes often move much more slowly than most would understand, so before ratification on Wednesday, I would argue that NJRC can give the go-ahead to change tracks for the May 31 contest.

...Here's Why

Monmouth Park contests are live-money tournaments.

Unlike competing online or on-track tournaments where players pay an entry fee and bet notional dollars (typically mythical $2 win-place wagers but no real parimutuel money exchanges hands), contestants on the Monmouth Park circuit pay an entry fee and are tasked with making real bets on races at contest tracks.

Using May 31 as an example, contest players would be betting real money into the wagering pools at host Monmouth, plus Belmont and (currently) Churchill.

Let's assume 250 people sign up on May 31 to compete, and each loses every bit of their $200 live bankrolls on a 99-to-1 shot to win the opener at Churchill.  In my unscientific view, that's $50,000 into the Churchill pool (perhaps there's sharing behind the scenes, but Churchill makes money nonetheless).

Now, let's say the same 250 people all hit the same $200 win bet on a 4-to-1 shot at Monmouth, then parlay that collective $250,000 into one losing horse at Churchill.  That's a quarter million to Churchill.

I can keep citing examples of the compounding of player bankrolls into live handle, but the point is clear -- Churchill will profit in some way from players in a state there there's an ongoing dispute over simulcast fees.

The pro-HANA voice in me says this is unfair to the horseplayer, and so I am hopeful the New Jersey Racing Commission allows for a subtle change in the track makeup of Monmouth's May 31 NHC contest.

I would hope that my peers hold our sport to higher standards, and so I made my case to NJRC.

Now if I could only get them to have my distant cousin change her wedding party date (also May 31, which will keep me away from the contest).

Friday, May 2, 2014

Feeling Dirty

In a way, I regret the decision to host a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday.

It has nothing to do with the preparation, expense or subsequent cleanup after 50 or so friends and some of their kids ransack my house and/or liquor cabinet.

Hell, I relish the notion of introducing 50+ mostly novices to the sport I truly adore.

Besides, the theme is a chili cook-off as well, so you cannot beat the themes -- socializing while eating and drinking too much, pitching some horseshoes out back, and some friendly bets in the name of camaraderie.

What is disconcerting, particularly in the wake of several disappointing media stories and corporate developments at Churchill Downs, Inc., is the utter lack of respect for people who support thoroughbred racing on a regular basis.

On that note, I plan on muting the TV until race time, for fear of what should be a slew of stories on television centering on corporate greed and the lack of humanity in horse racing -- themes that embellish my view of the host of the 140th Kentucky Derby caring less about racing outside of Oaks and Derby Days.

Churchill is nothing but a casino company, pimping its racing in order to keep its "racino" licenses.


At the same time I want to enjoy the product and share it with my friends, I feel filthy in doing so.

Yet another of the many contradictions of fan of a sport where the customer is constantly getting squeezed, and where conflicts of interest are increasingly the norm.

I would rather not belabor the details discussed in digital media, but the most appalling tidbit to derive from Louisville, KY in the lead-up to the 140th Derby is Churchill Downs' treatment of the legendary jockey Ron Turcotte, 2-time Derby winner on Riva Ridge (1972) and the legendary Secretariat (1973); Turcotte is boycotting this year's race on account of brutally inhumane treatment of him by Churchill Downs.

Legendary trainer Graham Motion did not appear surprised by the news.

Speaking of inhumane, Churchill did nothing to keep trainer Steve Asmussen from saddling horses in Friday's Oaks or Saturday's Derby after startling allegations of cruelty to animals.

Around that same time, Churchill Downs announced an increase in parimutuel "takeout" on wagers at its namesake track, conveniently starting one week prior to Derby 140.  The announcement sparked a boycott of Churchill among horseplayers, who according to some reports helped to dent Churchill's handle (or profit on horse wagers) by 12% alone last week.

In all, the corporation pissed on its own, though I am not even sure that legendary horsemen and the horseplayer public even fit that description anymore, since Churchill's basically a casino operator focused on concepts like "enhancing shareholder value."

Turcotte, along with the folks who actually keep the horse racing business going, can screw themselves, unless of course they are sitting on loads $88 shares of CHDN stock.

Rock and a Hard Place

On the heels of such knowledge, I sometimes wonder why I (or others) even follow the sport, or care at all about the Kentucky Derby.

After all, it is just 1 race, and one increasingly watered down in some cases by horses who have yet to win anything but a maiden race to this point -- a byproduct of the "points system" used to gain entry.

I care because I love the game, and this year the Derby party at my house is the springboard to introduce friends and family to a sport that, despite its warts, remains absolutely brilliant, in my mind.

This summer, in fact, I will be serving as an "ambassador" at Monmouth Park, where I will share my enthusiasm with other patrons at the track in a grassroots bid to revive interest in horse racing.

So, on Derby Day, I am more focused on showing my house guests a great time around the big race.

From a betting perspective, there is no greater intellectual challenge than sitting down to past performances to decipher which of the 19 thoroughbreds scheduled (as of 5 p.m. ET on Friday) has the best shot to finish first in a mile-and-a-quarter classic.

On that note, and in my own bit of protest toward Churchill Downs, I am more than halving my annual Kentucky Derby bankroll and generally focusing on making a sound pick for the 2014 contest starting today at Public Handicapper.

We Miss Artie is my 2014 Kentucky Derby selection.

There are several reasons to dislike this pick -- namely a horse with a grass and synthetic surface pedigree who in 3 prior tries did not seem to like running on dirt.

On the other hand, the more I pick apart the race, the more I can poke as many holes in the other horses I closely considered -- Danza, Intense Holiday and Wicked Strong -- and so decided to stick to my guns off what I thought was the most impressive Derby prep performance.

We Miss Artie, at 50-to-1 and perhaps capable of being sent off at even longer odds, showed glimpses in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park to suggest distance and a "troubled trip" are not a problem, as in the Spiral, We Miss Artie pretty much ran 3-4 paths wide of the others the entire mile and an eighth, and ran 5-6 paths wide down the stretch to nail the winner at the wire.

The Derby, to me...and this is no secret handicapping angle, is about getting a good trip.  See Calvin Borel's ride on 50-to-1 Mine That Bird a few years back.

We Miss Artie might have been unimpressive in training earlier this week, but I have confidence that high-percentage jockey Javier Castellano can keep his horse out of trouble for one big run at the end after half the field burns out on the lead, and surface is not that big a concern as I see it, since there is no dead ringer in this field (despite how some people feel about California Chrome).

So, in much the same way that several others have had dirt kicked in their faces by Churchill Downs the corporation and prevailed, I anticipate that We Miss Artie will not mind overcoming adversity and some dirt in his face to upset the apple cart in Louisville.