McDove Finishes 3rd For ERC

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McDove (green & white silks) chases Jerre to Carrie (red) and Kiss My Lulu (blue)

McDove gave it a good try Saturday at Emerald Downs, finishing third in the fifth race on a cloudy and wet afternoon.

Jerre to Carrie, the 9-to-5 betting favorite, was victorious by 2 1/4 lengths in a very fast 1:08.66 for six furlongs. Kiss My Lulu held off McDove by a head for second place, and one more stride and we would have finished second. McDove earned $1,680 for finishing third.

It was McDove’s first race since February 16 and her first at Emerald Downs, and all things considered a pretty good effort. Trainer Sharon Ross and jockey Javier Matias both were pleased with with the showing, and it showed McDove clearly fits at this level and should benefit from the race. The feeling is that McDove should be even better at longer distances

According to the official Equibase chart, “McDove settled off the leaders early, moved five-wide through the turn and finished with good late energy.”

There was a claim in the race, but it wasn’t McDove. Jerre to Carrie was claimed for $15,000 by owner Richard Craswell and trainer Kay Cooper.

Sunday’s work for Distinguishable is off. Everything is fine but Mike Puhich said he prefers to wait a couple of days. Distinguishable will gallop, however, at 7:30 a.m. with Javier Matias aboard.

I will be out early to watch Distinguishable train and also visit McDove to see how she came out of the race.

Enjoy the weekend!

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McDove in the stretch run

McDove 7-2 On Morning Line

Just to reiterate McDove runs in Race 5 Saturday at Emerald Downs, but there is a slight change in post time to 4:19 p.m. That’s 12 minutes later than previously listed and I want to make sure people can plan their day accordingly.

The morning line lists McDove at odds of 7-to-2 (3 1/2 to 1) which makes her third choice behind Annisquam (5-to-2) and Jerre to Carrie (3-to-1). The morning line is what the track line maker believes the odds will be for each horse at post time. The actual win odds are determined by the amount of money wagered on each horse, and the horse with the most money is the “betting favorite.”

It sure looks like the race is evenly matched with McDove ranking as one of the main contenders.

Here is the field for Saturday’s race: 1-Annisquam, Rocco Bowen, 5-2; 2-Sugarseeker, Kevin Orozco, 10-1; 3-Mary Lois, Jennifer Whitaker, 5-1; 4-Kiss My Lulu, Juan Gutierrez, 9-2; 5-Justitia, Eliska Kubinova, 12-1; 6-McDove, Javer Matias, 7-2; 7-Jerre to Carrie, Leonel Camacho-Flores, 3-1.

Once again, this race is for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up which have never won two races with a claiming price of $15,000. However, in parentheses at the bottom of the condition (listed below) it states “maiden races, claiming races and starter races for less than $12,500 or less not considered”. That distinction is extremely important.

PURSE $11,200. FOR FILLIES AND MARES THREE YEARS OLD AND UPWARD WHICH HAVE NEVER WON TWO RACES. CLAIMING PRICE $15,000, if for $12,500, allowed 3lbs. (Maiden Races, Claiming Races and Starter Races For $12,500 Or Less Not Considered)

In the case of McDove, she has two career wins, but one of those is a maiden victory and “not considered” a win for Saturday’s race condition. In fact, of the horses in the race, Sugarseeker, Justitia, McDove and Jerre to Carrie all have won twice, but in each case one of the victories was a maiden race and thus are eligible to run.

This is where it get a bit tricky. Annisquam and Mary Lois each have nine career wins and Kiss My Lulu has four career wins. What gives? Why should McDove have to compete against horses with nine wins?

It all goes back to that bold faced clause in the condition. Annisquam, Mary Lois and Kiss My Lulu have been racking up victories in races with claiming prices of $5,000, $7,500 and $10,000, etc. Remember, in addition to maiden victories not counting as a victory, any victory in a race with a claiming price less than $12,500 also doesn’t count as a win.

It can be confusing, I know, but being able to understand the terminology is vital to any successful trainer and owner. Horses must be spotted in races where they have a good chance for success. As their 7-for-24 record clearly indicates, Sharon and Larry Ross have done a great job over the years of picking out races for ERC horses.

Distinguishable is tentatively slated to have a workout Sunday morning at Emerald Downs. It will depend on weather and track conditions, but Mike Puhich said he would like to get a “maintenance drill” into Distinguishable, and it looks like there might be a race for her on May 14.







McDove Race On Saturday

Good news, Emerald Racing Club.

McDove runs in the fifth race Saturday at Emerald Downs. Post time is 4:07 p.m.

The race is for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up which have never won two races (not including maiden races). The claiming price is $15,000, the distance six furlongs (three quarters of a mile).

I will handicap the race in more detail Friday, but there are three dedicated front-runners in the seven-horse field–Annisquam, Kiss My Lulu and Justitia–so it looks like McDove can take aim at an honest pace. I also like that she drew outside–post-position six–which usually helps in a one-turn race.

McDove and Distinguishable both galloped one mile Wednesday.

I will be out 8 a.m. Thursday to watch the horses train. Everyone is welcome, of course, to come out and watch training. Let’s hope for some better weather!


McDove Possible Race Friday Or Saturday

McDove Friday

McDove and Gilbert Ramirez

We mentioned Sunday that horse racing is fluid, that things change constantly. A great example is entering a horse for a race.

Our plan has been to enter McDove for a race Saturday, April 22. It’s for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up which have never won two races (not counting maiden wins) with a $15,000 claiming price. The purse is $11,200 ($6,160 to the winner) and the distance 6 furlongs.

In addition to races listed in the condition book, like the one above, the racing secretary adds several extra races that are used when the condition book races do not fill. It can get a bit confusing, I know, but trainers must pay close attention to these “extras” because the conditions can be nearly identical to the race you have targeted in the condition book.

Which is a long way of saying there is an extra race Friday, April 21, and McDove is going to be entered in it. The extra race is for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up which have never won three races (including maiden wins) with a $15,000 claiming price. The purse is $11,300 and the distance 5 1/2 furlongs. In other words, practically identical to the Saturday, April 22 race.

There simply aren’t enough $15,000 claiming fillies and mares that have never won three races to fill both the Friday and Saturday race. So we shall enter the Friday extra race, and if it doesn’t fill we will enter for the Saturday race as planned. And if neither race fills, we will have to figure out something else. Like I said, it’s fluid!

It will take a few days to get a final answer. Entries for the Friday, April 21 race will be taken Sunday, and entries for the Saturday, April 22 race will be taken Wednesday.

Meanwhile, McDove continues to gallop strongly and is pretty much ready to race. As Sharon Ross said Sunday, McDove trained all winter and was fit when she arrived from Golden Gate Fields. And the process of acclimating to Emerald Downs has gone well, even with the lousy weather.

Distinguishable Friday

Distinguishable on the mechanical hot walker 

Over at the Mike Puhich barn, our other 4-year-old filly was back on the track Friday and galloped one mile under Javier Matias. Distinguishable appears to have emerged from Sunday’s victory in great shape and we can start looking for another race soon.

I will email out some billing information Friday afternoon, and friendly reminder, because they have horses racing Sunday no visitors at either the Ross or Puhich barns.

Dani Griggs, groom of Distinguishable, was named Quarter Chute Cafe Groom of the Week. She also is a pretty good photographer. Check out this photo she took of 4-year-old gelding Lord Walton enjoying the opening night fireworks show at Emerald Downs.

Lord Walton

Lord Walton







Distinguishable Wins!

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Distinguishable and Javier Matias victorious Sunday 

Distinguishable got the 2017 Emerald Racing Club off to a great start Sunday at Emerald Downs.

With Javier Matias sporting the green and white silks of ERC, Distinguishable cruised to a 1 3/4-length victory over Elusive Riches in 1:02.59 for 5 1/2 furlongs. The victory is worth $6,840 (the winner earns 55% of the purse).

The race was never really in doubt. Distinguishable broke on top and pretty much led gate to wire, setting fractions of :21.97, :45.10 and :56.95. Elusive Riches took a couple of cracks at us, but our filly was clearly the best horse today. We’ll find out her Beyer figure in a couple of days.

As most of you know, the race was a $15,000 claiming race for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up which have never won two races. Distinguishable was not claimed, so she will race for us again–but with two career wins she is no longer eligible to compete in races for non-winners of two. So the competition figures to be a bit tougher in her next race.

I received a text from trainer Mike Puhich, and he said Distinguishable appears to have come out of the race in good condition and that she was attacking her dinner voraciously. Good. She earned it!

For those that wagered, Distinguishable was the betting favorite and paid $3.60 to win.

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Distinguishable getting her game face in the paddock

Several of you inquired about winner’s circle photos. They are available for purchase at Reed & Erin Palmer’s photo office located next to the clubhouse lobby. Cost is $15 for an 8 x 10. Palmer Photography Phone # (253) 288-7051.

All in all a good day. A great turnout at Orientation and hats off to our guest speakers: Phil Ziegler, Mike Puhich, Sharon Ross, Jody Peetz, Joe Withee, Matt Dinerman and John Lindley. All of you were great.

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Emerald Racing Club and Distinguishable-victory!

Incidentally, this is the second straight year Emerald Racing Club won its season debut, as Archie Graham rallied to win last year’s opener.

Emerald Racing Club now has eight wins in 25 career starts for a 32 percent mark.

I will swing by the barns in a couple of days and post updates on Distinguishable and McDove.

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Mike Puhich, groom Dani Griggs, Javier Matias & Distinguishable

Distinguishable Morning Line Favorite

Emerald Racing Club’s Distinguishable is the 5-to-2 morning line favorite in Sunday’s 5th race at Emerald Downs. The race appears to be evenly matched as Our Silver Lining at 6-to-1 is the longest shot on the morning line.

For those unfamiliar with what that means, the track’s morning line maker predicts the final odds for each horse in every race. The actual odds, of course, are determined by how much money is wagered on each horse. John Lindley and Gary Dougherty, our guest handicappers at Orientation, will handicap the race in detail and explain the various symbols and numbers in the Daily Racing Form.

As I mentioned yesterday, we will have a special drawing Sunday to determine the paddock winners for Distinguishable’s race. The goal is to let everybody have at least one chance to be in the paddock this season.

Sunday’s weather forecast is sunny and 60 degrees with zero (!) chance of rain.

Here is the field for Sunday’s 5th race: 1-Pebble Beach, Kevin Orozco riding, 3-1; 2-Knife River, Rocco Bowen, 5-1; 3-Web of Demons, Eswan Flores, 4-1; 4-Elusive Riches, Jose Zunino, 7-2; 5-Our Silver Lining, Eliska Kubinova, 6-1; 6-Distinguishable, Javier Matias, 5-2.




Busy Sunday For ERC


Distinguishable in her stall Friday

Sunday, April 9, is going to be a terrifically busy day for Emerald Racing Club.

In addition to our annual Orientation, which begins at 12 noon, we also have our first starter of the racing season as Distinguishable will run in Race 5 at 3:51 p.m. The race is 5 1/2 furlongs for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up which have never won two races, with a $15,000 claiming price and 11,000 purse. Distinguishable drew the outside post position in a six-horse field with Javier Matias the jockey.

So we should have a full day to say the least. Check-in for Orientation begins at 11:30 a.m., and former jockey Vicky Baze will help help to get people checked in and pass out Sunday’s official racing program. (Don’t purchase one!)

The most important thing is for you to meet our trainers, Sharon Ross and Mike Puhich. We will talk about their training careers, review the rules for ERC visitors at each barn, and answer questions from Club members. Think of some good ones!

Other guests include Phil Ziegler, President of Emerald Downs Racetrack & Casino; Jody Peetz, one of the top owners at Emerald Downs; and Matt Dinerman, Emerald Downs track announcer who will help with the Emerald Racing Club this spring and summer.

At 1 p.m. handicappers John Lindley and Gary Dougherty will discuss the basics of reading the program and Daily Racing Form, and also field any questions from our audience. I also will pass out Daily Racing Form past performances of Distinguishable and McDove, and John and Gary will teach you how to read them.

We will use a hat drawing to determine the paddock winners for Sunday’s race. Since there are only six horses in the 5th race, we should be able to get 15 ERC members into the paddock no problem. Sunday’s winners then become ineligible for the paddock until every ERC member has had the same opportunity. Also, do not despair first-time Club members, as you still will have a close-up view of the paddock activity.


McDove (far left) finishes a four-furlong workout Friday

Sharon Ross called an audible Friday morning and had McDove work four furlongs (half mile) under Javier Matias. The official time was :51 and 1/5 seconds. Sharon and Javier both were pleased with the workout.

McDove probably will have one more work before her tentative race Saturday, April 22.

Distinguishable did not go to the track Friday, although she did walk for 40 minutes on the mechanical hot-walker.

If anyone has questions, I will be back in the office by 1 p.m. Saturday. You can reach me at (253) 288-7723.

McDove Photos

I just wanted to share a couple of nice photos of McDove taken Wednesday by freelance photographer Wayne Nagai.

_DSC8322Wayne’s wife, Ellen, is a member of Emerald Racing Club and both are huge horse racing fans. Wayne also puts together a photo scrapbook of the Longacres Mile which we annually present to the winning jockey, trainer and owners._DSC8358



Distinguishable Arrives

Both of Emerald Racing Club’s 4-year-old fillies–Distinguishable and McDove–are now stabled at Emerald Downs. Distinguishable arrived safely Monday night and appeared to be adjusting nicely to her new surroundings Tuesday morning at Emerald Downs.


Dani Griggs, Javier Matias and Distinguishable at Emerald Downs

Five Emerald Racing Club members and myself visited her at Barn 3 West, home to trainer Mike Puhich’s runners at Emerald Downs. Groom Dani Griggs said Distinguishable acts “classy” and enjoys visitors.

Javier Matias, the veteran jockey who has been aboard Distinguishable in two recent workouts at Pegasus, also visited Distinguishable. Matias, 46, has 375 career wins at Emerald Downs and is going to ride Distinguishable when she races. Speaking of which. . .

We find out Wednesday if Saturday’s race is a go or not.  I don’t want to guess one way or the other, but I understand people have plans to make and I shall update as soon as possible.


McDove and Gilbert Ramirez head back to the barn

McDove, meanwhile, galloped strongly again Tuesday morning with exercise rider Gilbert Ramirez aboard, and Sharon Ross said a workout is likely in the next few days in advance of a possible race Sunday, April 22.

If anybody would like to see the fillies train, I will be out at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Hope you can make it!

How We Buy Horses

In response to a recent blog, a club member asked an excellent question regarding McDove and Distinguishable.

It basically involved the process in buying horses for Emerald Racing Club.

As I’ve written earlier, there are four main ways to a acquire a Thoroughbred  racehorse: buy at a sale, claim, purchase privately, breed your own.

For our purposes, the first and last options don’t make sense, simply due to time constraints. Thoroughbreds do not begin racing until age 2 and since the vast majority of horse sales involve yearlings, it takes a year for your newly purchased horse to get to the races.

Breeding your own Thoroughbred is even more time-consuming. A broodmare is bred to a stallion, followed by an 11-month gestation period, followed by two years of growth, breaking and development. A three-year process, and that assumes that all goes well. For reasons of mental and physical maturity, it’s not uncommon for horses wait until age 3 to debut.

Incidentally, buying at a sale or breeding your own are both fine ways to be involved as owners, and there is always a chance of hitting a home run; California Chrome earned over $16 million despite having rather humble breeding. But a 5 1/2 month racing season simply isn’t long enough for either of those endeavors.

So for the Emerald Racing Club it has always been to either claim or purchase privately. Archie Graham, for example, was claimed for $8,000 last year, and Anelina (2014), Charlie Thomas (2015), Dancing Yodeler (2014), Diamonds Dena (2016) and Tribal Waters (2015) were all acquired for ERC via claim.  More on how claiming works.

The results have been excellent. In its first three years, Emerald Racing Club has won 7 of 22 starts with earnings of $59,307–32 percent wins and nearly $2,700 per start. (20 percent is considered excellent in Thoroughbred racing.) At the end of the year, too, ERC members got back $178 in 2014, $403 in 2015 and $278 last year.

But the problem has been finding horses to claim, a situation that seems to get a bit tougher every year. Last year, for instance, we claimed Archie Graham in late spring and he didn’t race until May 15. Things turned out well, of course, as Archie Graham won twice and earned over $18,000. Our second horse, Diamonds Dena, we claimed until late July and she didn’t fare nearly as well. Combined they made nine starts which was great, but we want to up that total a bit if possible.

In my talks this winter with Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler, he repeatedly suggested trying to acquire horses that would be ready to race in April at the beginning of the season. Toward that end, we hired Mike Puhich to join Larry and Sharon Ross on our roster of trainers, and as ERC Registration began in February we immediately began to scout potential claims. Larry Ross was looking in Northern California and Mike Puhich predominantly at Oaklawn Park, a track in Hot Springs, Ark. renowned for its full fields and fertile ground for claiming activity.

All of us study past performances in the Racing Form, watch videos of races and look for horses that might be a good fit at Emerald Downs. We generally look in the $5,000 to $15,000 claiming range, preferably horses with either a penchant for winning and/or room for improvement. It’s an inexact science, to say the least, and even a horse that looks promising on paper still has to pass the eye test, as we want to have  a sound and sturdy racehorse for the season.

We looked and looked and looked, and anybody that follows Golden Gate Fields realizes its slim pickings down there. Meanwhile, Puhich along with Emerald Downs Director of Publicity Joe Withee spent several days at Oaklawn Park, and although they saw a few interesting prospects, they saw nothing to pull the trigger on.

So for this year, buying privately began to seem like the way to go. Our trainers all have a good idea of what to look for, and we discussed several potential horses. McDove and Distinguishable both had a big advantage in that they were reasonably fit and ready to go, and neither would be changing trainers; McDove remaining with Ross and Distinguishable with Puhich.

Before transferring any money, however, we did our due diligence. I watched Distinguishable train in person, on video, and watched all of her previous races several times. McDove was checked over at Golden Gate and given a clean bill of health, and I might add that given the Ross’ track record with the Emerald Racing Club, they would seem to know a good candidate for ERC when they see one.

There was no quibbling over the price of either filly. In our judgment, Steve McDonald with McDove and Dr. Mark Dedomenico with Distinguishable were both very reasonable and the deals were made. That both are 4-year-old fillies is pure coincidence, but since McDove has two career wins and Distinguishable only one, they won’t be competing against each another for now.

Hopefully this sheds a little light onto the process. We won’t really know, of course, until we race them, but for now we like our two horses.

Also, a major part of this year’s ERC is to explain specifics in what to look for when buying racehorses and how to form owner/trainer partnerships. Jody Peetz, one of the leading owners at Emerald Downs, has offered to spend an entire day sharing her knowledge on these very subjects and we plan to do it.

One other thing, Larry and Sharon Ross train McDove and Mike Puhich trains Distinguishable, and we rely on their expertise to select races for their horses.

And speaking of Distinguishable, Puhich said she most likely will arrive here Tuesday afternoon, and I’ll let everyone know when they can see her at the barn and on the track.

I will be out Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. if anyone would like a tour or to answer questions.