Racing! A deeper look at postponing the whip rule

23 November, 12:06
Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as Roadster returns to race today at Del Mar. And, we have another handicapping lesson from Rob Henie.

So, I go to one of my doctors (having more than one doc is code for being old) on Friday and she says, "Man, you look tired." I say, "Well I stayed from the very beginning of the meeting to the end of the public comment period at Thursday's CHRB meeting." She referred me to a mental-health specialist. (The only true part of that is I went to the doctor.)

Near the end of the 248-minute meeting (not including lunch), Aidan Butler, acting executive director of California racing for the Stronach Group, who was also still there, texts me. "You're a trouper," he says. (That is true.)

After the meeting, I see Fred Maas, a soon to be ex-board member at his last meeting, with a big smile, clicking his heels as he walked out of the room knowing he doesn't have to go to another meeting this long. (OK, made up that, too.)

Here's the deal. Love them or hate them, the members of the board are essentially volunteers, earning a whopping $100 a month, or about a penny an hour. They make good decisions, they make bad decisions.

It got me thinking as I made my long drive back to the Los Angeles area about one of their decisions -- the one to delay the vote on a new whip rule. There were people who came a long way to speak on that issue, including Terry Meyocks, who lives in Lexington, Ky., and is chief executive of the Jockey's Guild.

Oscar Gonzales, the new vice-chair, made a motion to postpone the decision so it could possibly align with the new Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. Maas, the only board member to vote against Gonzales for vice chair, said it was good idea. Wendy Mitchell, one of Gonzales' closest allies, voted no.

Now, here's why Gonzales' motion was really smart.

First of all, the two proposals, especially the second one, were badly written. If you bought into the second one, which allows use of the riding crop in a very limited fashion from the reins or neck, it did not take into account the safety aspects of the first proposal, which has been amended to include horse disqualification. I purposely have not taken a stand on the whip rule but I know I would hate to be the owner of a disqualified horse because the jockey went to the whip, intentionally or by instinct.

But here's the brilliance of Gonzales putting a hold on things. California has been losing horses, trainers, owners and jockeys for a variety of reasons. You know the reasons, or to borrow a much-used phrase from the Stronach Group, multi-factorial.

In the past few weeks, Southern California has or is losing Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, veteran Martin Garcia and now popular mainstay Joe Talamo.

Their reasons seem to be valid. A horse population shortage, a non-equivalent purse structure and fear of the future seem to be enough. But, if you add in jockeys not being able to use every riding tool they believe should be available to them, it could be another reason to leave.

So, how do you combat that? How about if every other jurisdiction has the exact same rules as California. Hmmm. That would take at least one reason off the table. Maybe that was Gonzales' end game, to stop the bleeding or at least take an excuse for leaving off the table.

And, from what we hear, the TSC is eager to get moving on what to do about this issue.

Here's our weekly contribution from Rob Henie of the WCHR (West Coast Handicapping Report) and the ECHR (East Coast Handicapping Report). Today's analysis comes from the fifth race at Del Mar and incorporates some handicapping angles into the mix. Rob, take it away.

"This is a $40,000 claimer at a mile on the turf. We've addressed the significance of field size previously, but you can never emphasize a worthy point too much. We've got a large field of 10, which may seem like a side note, but in reality, field size, especially on the turf, is so important. In a small field, runners accustomed to the front end, hold an advantage, doing what they do best, leading others, often at a leisurely pace, forcing the hand of the other riders to stay close up, not wanting the front runner to get away. In a large field, there's more often than not, multiple runners at all points, on the front end, just off the lead, mid-pack, as well as deeper closers. With this in mind, we'll assume a fair look for all, and top selection is POSH HOLLY (#10). She's faced some decent types this year, but is still not overworked, making only her fifth start since June, which is actually encouraging considering her past inability in stringing more than a couple races together. Last time out, her running line looks mediocre, but the reality is, it was a good try, even coming home in 23.1 seconds. Notice the effort prior to her last? She raced close up, despite the slower splits, meaning, she showed an upfront tendency when things were quick up front, and tried to close from off the pace when things were slower, both mentalities/strategies were a bit backwards. Saturday, she's likely gonna get a fair pace up front, with a jockey in Giovanni Franco, who's simply stronger running on late compared to Tyler Baze and Aaron Gryder. She fits well class-wise here, and a good effort seems well within reason, if not, we'll look to beat next time out. SWING THOUGHTS (#1) won here on Aug. 10th at 7-2, and again on Aug. 29th at 9-2, both times as our top pick and Saturday she enters this offering in good order. Bob Hess claimed her and, rather than rest her while waiting for Santa Anita, he wanted to get another race into her down here, moving back out in distance, adding the turf, along with Drayden Van Dyke to the equation. He could easily have waited seven or eight weeks before returning considering she's run 12 times this year, but instead, he shows up here with the mentioned changes in place.

"4 Seaside Dancer - Back on the west coast where she had nice success up at Santa Anita last Spring, she's been freshened and pointed to this effort, with Abel Cedillo riding live horses for so many barns right now.

"5 Querelle - Good level, and whenever Victor Espinoza rides for Jim Cassidy, it's a good thing.

"7 Clockstrikestwelve - Freshened, west coast debut, Mike Smith riding for Paddy Gallagher, interesting.

"Negative Notes:

"3 Italia - Gryder on the turf going long does nothing for us, and really, never has.

Del Mar review

Friday's feature was an allowance/optional claimer for fillies and mares going a mile and it was a runaway for Carressa, who took the lead at the start of the backstretch and won by 8 ¼ lengths. Jockey Victor Espinoza hand-rode the horse in the stretch and could have won by whatever distance wanted.

It was he second win in five starts for the John Shirreffs trained filly. She paid $6.40, $2.80 and $2.40. Persepolis was second and Meso finished third.

Del Mar preview

Racing returns to the turf at Del Mar on Saturday with four of the nine races on the grass. First post is 12:30 p.m. The feature is pretty good in that we get to see Roadster run in the Grade 3 Native Diver for horses going 1 1/8 miles.

Now earlier this year, or even late last year, if you had told trainer Bob Baffert that Roadster would be running in the Native Diver, I'm guessing he would be disappointed. Roadster was the "A" horse as a 2-year-old in Baffert's barn. But then, in last year's Del Mar Debutante, Roadster finished a disappointing third to Baffert's Game Winner, who became the new "A" horse. A throat issue was discovered and Baffert sent him away to get better. He came back strong, real strong, even winning the Santa Anita Derby.

Game Winner was still the choice for the Kentucky Derby but Roadster was lurking nearby in pre-race discussion. Roadster finished 16. Since then he's finished second in the Damascus and Affirmed Stakes. So, here the $525,000 purchase is the 5-2 favorite in this, shall we say nice but not prestigious race. Drayden Van Dyke is the jockey.

The second favorite, at 3-1, is Two Thirty Five for Richard Baltas and Abel Cedillo. This 5-year-old gelding has won five-of-19 lifetime races. His last race was a second in the Comma to the Top at Santa Anita and he won the Harry F. Brubaker at Del Mar. Both are ungraded stakes. In 2018, he finished seventh in the Pacific Classic and then ran fifth at Fresno. So, what do make of these two horses? It's up to you. It's a five-horse race that goes off about 4:05 p.m.

Very competitive $40,000 claiming race for 3-year-old fillies going one mile on turf and I like the chances of this Doug O'Neill trainee who returns to SoCal after a three-race Eastern swing. She's a five-time winner (four for six on turf and three for three at this distance) with good tactical speed and a fine rider in Abel Cedillo. Don't see any knocks on this one.

Friday's result: Catoca raced mid-pack early, angled wide into stretch, closed well but couldn't get to the winner while settling for second as the favorite.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here's a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Big races preview

A look at graded stakes or races worth $100,000 or more on Saturday. All times PST.

12:47 Aqueduct (9): Grade 3 $200,000 Red Smith Stakes, 3 and up, 1 3/8 miles on turf. Favorite: Sadler's Joy (8-5)

1:41 Woodbine (8): Grade 2 $175,000 Kennedy Road Stakes, 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Pink Lloyd (1-1)

2:13 Woodbine (9): $225,000 Coronation Futurity, Ont-bred 2-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Muskoka Gold (7-5)

4:05 Del Mar (8): Grade 3 $100,000 Native Diver Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Roadster (5-2)

6:11 Delta Downs (8): $100,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes, 2-year-olds, 1 mile. Favorite: Sir Winsalot (5-2)

This mare exits a powerful Grade I race vs. males in her last seventh-place outing when showing energy crossing the wire. The sixth-place finisher, Hotstepper and the eighth-place finisher, Jesstacartel, both won Z Wayne Griffin Directors trials last weekend. She was bumped back sharply at the start of prior ninth-place Mildred Vessels outing vs. top mares and is upset contender with clean break. I suggest keying Fenian Faith in exotics with #1 Conquering Marie, #8 Thermonuclear Energy and #9 Matilda Czech.

Final thought

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And now the stars of the show, Friday's results and Saturday's entries.