Dear Santa:

I have been a very good racing fan this year.  I attended live racing meets at Oaklawn, Keeneland, and Churchill Downs this year, contributing lots of much-needed cash into the track economies.  I also supported TB retirement foundations like ReRun and Old Friends.  I had a blast at the Bourbon County Secretariat Festival, and started this blog to promote racing and sharpen my handicapping skills.  So Santa, can you help a girl out and bring me these few things to make my Christmas bright?

1) Triple Crown winner — Why not start big? 

2)Lower Takeout — A co-worker who frequents Southland Greyhound Park came to me in disbelief when he heard the track bragging about its 17% takeout rate.  I told him that some places have a 20% take.  He told me he would never bet on a horse race.  Since then, I’ve looked deeper into the issue, and must totally agree- the sport is fabulous, but bettors don’t get back enough for their trouble.  That doesn’t mean I will stop playing the game.  But I’m already a degenerate.  My co-worker loves gaming and would enjoy the horses if he didn’t feel like he was getting ripped off.  So Santa, please lower takeout.

3)Make the Arkansas Derby a Gr1:  This is the biggest disgrace from the 2009 Graded Stakes Updates.  The Arkansas Derby is still a Gr2, despite a rich recent history of runners and the promise of attracting many more with its real dirt surface.  Smarty Jones, Lawyer Ron, Curlin, Afleet Alex, Purge, Borrego, even Gayego have all come out the Arkansas Derby.  If that is not Gr1 quality I don’t know what is. 

4)Another injury-free Breeders’ Cup:  It seemed like a longshot this year, until it actually happened.  Santa, can you make it happen again?

5)Greater Cooperation among various Racing Industry Players:  The BC ended its stakes program, totally screwing the breeders who have contributed so much to its coffers.   Then they reinstated it.  The California Racing Board refused to allow TVG to accept wagers on Hollywood this fall bc of disputes between the Horsemen’s group and the ADW providers.  Med rules vary by state and enforcement is just as fluid.  Racing testifies before Congress as a pitiful mish-mash of competing interests that don’t have many good ideas for improvement.  It all sucks, because Santa, you and I both know this sport has a lot going for it. 

6)Uniformity in Medication Policies/Testing/Enforcement:  Casual fans and the public at large see meds as a terrible plague on the sport.  Each time a horse breaks down, our med rules get called into question, regardless of whether they had anything to do with the injury.  There is also a paranoia of rampant cheating, despite all the testing that is already being done.  More has to be done on this front to present a better, cleaner, safer sport to the world.

7)Fewer Early Retirements:  I hope Curlin set a new trend.  If the next year’s Derby winner is sounder than this year’s, I hope he stays for a 4yo campaign.  We need more stars to root for and wager on.

8)Better Promotion of Racing’s Major Events:  The Man O’War, a Gr1 at Belmont, was NOT on the REGULAR ESPN SCHEDULE!!!  This is always a major turf race, and this year it featured 3 -count ’em- 3 Breeders’ Cup winners, including the reigning Horse of the Year, and it was smashed into a brief segment of ESPNEWS! 

9)Meet Bob Baffert:  Bob has always been my favorite trainer.  I even have his bobblehead on my nightstand.  It is the last thing I see before I turn out the lights at night.  He trained so many of my favorite horses over the years that I could talk with him for hours.  Silverbulletday, was she a sweet horse or a diva?  Who was more of a wild horse, General Challenge or Point Given? 

10)Talk to Steve Byk on At The Races:  I always have good Derby picks.  I’m a young fan who knows a little about handicapping in general.  I’d be the perfect guest! 

See Santa, I don’t really want a lot.  It’s not like I’m asking for world peace or a boyfriend or anything (though a boyfriend would be awesome, too).  Please, Santa, I’ve been an angel all year, I promise;-)

Love,  Candice/Filly

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