Racing! A Thanksgiving treat with Jim Murray

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as I give thanks to Eric (Manny) Sondheimer for filling in for me the last two newsletters.

Here on this Thanksgiving Day, I can’t think of better thing to be thankful for than the career of Jim Murray and his connection to horse racing. One of the most popular newsletters we did was when we reprinted Jim’s last column, written off the Pacific Classic.

That sent newsletter reader Douglas Potts to his scrapbook, where he kept this long-lost Murray column on racing. It ran on April 23, 1975, and it is priceless. Let’s also give thanks to Douglas for finding it and sharing.

So, here’s another Jim Murray column on horse racing. (By the way, I had to look it up, but “sicut” is Latin for “just as” or “like.”)


Horse players as a class fascinate me. They should have their own flag, government and anthem--$5 win tickets rampant on a field of George Putnam’s silks, a bugle and front-leg bandages.

They live in a world all their own. They have their own language, their own code. Happiness is a claiming race with 12 separate betting interests. Don’t be fooled by their gloomy looks. As the late Joe E. Lewis, a dedicated player, said, “They’re happy but their face don’t know it.”

They never lose. The boy rode him like a rickshaw. The stable wasn’t trying. The track is off. The stewards let Shoemaker get away with anything. And so on. Their figures were right. They had the horse. It’s just a lot of lousy, stinking coincidences or a conspiracy that beat them…. Their nightmare is, they’ll come up some day and find the windows closed and the track padlocked and a shopping center where the finish line used to be.


A golfer might come in scowling after a poor day and admit he shot a 95 and played lousy. A horse player will come home on foot with a pawn ticket where his watch used to be and insist he swept the card.

I love them. You want to get away from Vietnam, inflation, the mortgage, taxes, the kids, your boss for the day? Go to the race track. You know all you need to about racing when I tell you the Morning Telegraph headline on the day the Allies invaded Normandy was “Twenty-five Go In The McClellan Today.”

They insist their game is a “science” but the biggest single score I ever saw at a race track was at Hollywood Park three years ago. A young bettor from Compton bought $50 worth of tickets on No. 9, a 135-1 shot. He really wanted $50 worth of tickets on No. 10, favorite. When he saw his mistake, he screamed. He insisted the mutuel clerk take them back. The clerk stubbornly refused. Unless another buyer showed up, he was stuck with them. No. 9 was such a dog, none did.

The young man became hysterical. Then, abusive. Then, threatening. He demanded to see the track president—or the U.S. President, he didn’t care which.

As he was being escorted to see the track president, the race was run. A buddy raced up to him, pulled at his sleeve. “Shut up, dummy!” he hissed. No. 9 WON!” The “wrong” horse paid $279.80—or $6,745 for $50.

None of this impressed the player. As that Denver editor once said of sex, “you can rail against it, legislate against it, expose it, or punish it—but you’ll never make it unpopular with the masses.” Sicut horseplaying.

There are successes. Col. E.R Bradley parlayed a successful season at Saratoga to a gambling casino in Florida, a million-dollar breeding farm, and FOUR Kentucky Derby wins. Art Rooney parlayed a day at Saratoga into the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I have tried to join their company. But I am a slow learner and progressed only painfully from the “If I bet a horse to ‘show’ and he wins, do I still collect?” stage to the intricacies of wagering, and I have struggled manfully to master their lingo. I’m not sure I succeeded but here is how it seemed to translate for me anyway.


“PARLAYING”—A system by which you keep betting until you lose.

“BASEBALLING”—Pooling your losers with each other combinations which usually add up to three “outs” which gives the system its name.

“EXACTA”—Picking two horses in exactly the order they will finish which, in your case, will usually be fifth and sixth which they don’t pay off on.

“FIVE AND TEN”—Where you will be buying your eye glasses and other household needs if you play this system.

“QUINIELLA”—You pick two horses to finish 1-2 or 2-1 and they finish 9-10 or 10-9.

“WHEELING”—You pick the favorite in the first race and notch him in the Daily Double with every horse in the second, the charm of which is that a Daily Double with a favorite in it will not pay back expenses.

“THE BOTTOM HORSE”—Usually the position of the horse you bet on in the program before the race but, more often, the position of the horse you bet on after the race.

“OVERLAY”—A horse that pays half of what he ought to.

“UNDERLAY”—A horse that pays what you ought to be able to buy him for.

“TRIFECTA”—A three-horse million-to-one shot that pays off one cent on the dollar, played by the type of people who play cards with strangers on trains or buy the Brooklyn Bridge on time.

Oh, well, as Nick the Greek (or maybe it was Jimmy) said, “Money is just something you keep score with,” and what is really at issue is whether you are as smart as the horse, trainer of rider, all of whom are millionaires.

Gary Stevens retires

Jockey Gary Stevens is hanging it up for good. He told Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form that a recent spinal-cord injury made it too risky for him to continue to ride. This is the third time Stevens has retired but we’re pretty sure that this time it is sticking for the 55-year-old hall of famer.

You can read Jay’s story, with lots of quotes from Gary, by clicking here.

You can read my story, with some different background, by clicking here.

Del Mar preview

A real yummy card (needless Thanksgiving verbiage) at Del Mar with a tasty 11 a.m. first post. Honest, it’s a pretty good card. There is a stakes and three allowance races and you can be done by 3 p.m. The feature is the Grade 3 $100,000 Red Carpet Stakes for fillies and mares going 1 3/8 miles on the turf. It’s one of four turf races on the eight-race card.

It’s a pretty even field, with Vexatious the 3-1 favorite for trainer Neil Drysdale and jockey Rafael Bejarano. She’s two for five this year after switching to the turf. She was second last out, but moved up to first on a DQ, in the Dowager Stakes at Keeneland. She was also fourth in last year’s Kentucky Oaks.

The Tulip is the second favorite at 4-1. Paddy Gallagher conditions her and Drayden Van Dyke will ride. She is two of 10 this year and last out was fifth in the Swingtime Stakes at Santa Anita. She won the Luther Burbank Handicap at Santa Rosa back in August. Post time is around 1:30 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 5, 9, 6, 9, 8, 9, 7, 12.

Bob Ike’s SA play of the day

SIXTH RACE: No. 3 Vexatious (3-1)

Long-fused turf filly from the Neil Drysdale knocked heads with some tough competition when shipping out of town for her last two starts but returns home after getting the DQ win last time at Keeneland. Her win here during the summer was most impressive when making her first start at the marathon distances and she has blossomed since then. Rafael Bejarano fits her well and she should run by these late.

Sunday’s result: Allaboutaction was a program scratch from the sixth race.

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

Golden Gate preview

We are back with our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. Race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman is our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.

“A busy four days of racing is scheduled at Golden Gate Fields with large field sizes, many races and a trio of stakes that highlight the racing week. Here’s the rundown.

“Golden Gate Fields runs an eight-race program this Thanksgiving afternoon, with a special first post time of 11:15 a.m. Friday offers a strong 11-race card, which features the Golden Gate Debutante for 2-year-old fillies. On Saturday and Sunday, we have 10 races each day, with a stakes double on Saturday: the $50,000 Oakland Stakes and the $100,000 Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap. First post on Saturday and Sunday is at our normal 12:45 p.m.

“Let’s talk stakes racing. The Golden Gate Debutante goes as the eighth race on the 11-race card on Friday, with a scheduled post time of 3:45 p.m. Ten have signed up to compete, with Brahm’s Command and Tomlin looking like two major players. The aforementioned fillies ran second and third in the Pike Place Dancer Stakes last month (and the winner of that race, Lakerball, is a major player in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at Del Mar on Saturday.)

Also entered in the ‘Debutante this Friday are recent impressive maiden winners Noble Contessa and La Aguillila, and the Jerry Hollendorfer team of Silk Ransom and Stealthediamonds. The Oakland Stakes was originally scheduled to be run last Saturday, but poor air quality caused the cancellation of last Friday and Saturday’s cards. The Oakland, redrawn on Wednesday afternoon, attracted a field of eight, led by dominant Southern California allowance winner Awesome Anywhere for Hollendorfer.

“Local sharpies Annie’s Candy, J C’s Nightcap, Sir Vronski and Sunset Dragunn are other major players entered in the Oakland. The Oakland is the seventh race on Saturday, which is the first leg of a super competitive late pick 4 sequence, with a 3:45 p.m. post time.

“The Berkeley Handicap, a Grade 3 event with a $100,00 purse, is the feature race of the fall meet at Golden Gate. A field of 12 is assembled with last year’s winner Editore figuring to get plenty of support. Also entered is San Francisco Mile winner Flamboyant, stakes winners Gabo’s Macondo, G. G. Ryder and Bella Luma, and stakes performers Camino Del Paraiso and More Power To Him. The Berkeley goes as the ninth race on the 10-race Saturday program with a post of about 4:45 p.m.

“The Stronach 5 Wager Leg E (the last leg) is Golden Gate’s fifth race on Friday. The event: a maiden $12,500 claimer with a field of 10 2-year-olds set to spring from the gates. Take a look at price play #8 Hennessy On Tap (10-1 on the ML), who broke poorly in his only start, rallied down the lane and just missed third at this level. Second time out, he goes an extra half-furlong and will hopefully break better. If things go right, maybe he can surprise.

“With Thanksgiving at our front door, horse-racing fans have a lot to be thankful for heading into Thanksgiving week racing. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may you have a profitable week.”

Final thought

Still looking to jump the circulation of this newsletter. Can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, then you’re probably not reading this. Either way, send to a friend and just have them click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more.

If you have any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa

And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Del Mar Entries for Thursday, November 22.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar, California. $2 Win, Place and Show; $1 Exacta, $2 Quinella, 50-cent Trifecta, $2 Rolling Double, 50-cent rolling Pick 3; 10-cent Superfecta; 50-cent Pick 4 last 4 races; 50-cent Players Pick 5 first 5 races; $2 Pick 6 last 6 races; $1 Place Pick All; $1 Super High Five last race. Trifecta needs 4 betting interests; Superfecta needs 6. 9th day of a 16-day meet.


1 1/8 Mile. Purse: $48,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $50,000-$45,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Very Very StellaAgapito Delgadillo122Anna Meah7-250,000
2El HuerfanoFlavien Prat122Peter Miller8-550,000
3Kristi's CopilotRafael Bejarano120Richard Baltas4-150,000
4Little ScottyEdwin Maldonado120Vladimir Cerin3-150,000
5Shane ZainGeovanni Franco118Richard Baltas4-150,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $53,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1BashfulMike Smith122Richard E. Mandella5-1
2Ria MunkDrayden Van Dyke122Michael Machowsky12-1
3Storming LadyFlavien Prat122Simon Callaghan5-2
4Whoa NessieMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill10-1
5Magical GrayAgapito Delgadillo122Victor L. Garcia9-2
6Smiling AnnieTiago Pereira122Mark Glatt10-1
7RancorHeriberto Figueroa117Jerry Hollendorfer10-1
8Madaket SunsetRafael Bejarano122Philip D'Amato8-1
9StrengthinnumbersGeovanni Franco122Philip D'Amato7-2


1 Mile. Purse: $22,000. Maiden Claiming. 2 year olds. Claiming Prices $32,000-$28,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1JonathantoquickAngel Cruz120Genaro Vallejo4-128,000
2Irish PoloDrayden Van Dyke120Peter Miller6-128,000
3R B EyeFlavien Prat122Vann Belvoir2-132,000
4Nations HopeTyler Baze120Jack Carava10-128,000
5Anvil RockHeriberto Figueroa117Thomas Ray Bell, II4-132,000
6Lagoon MacaroonEdwin Maldonado122George Papaprodromou5-232,000


1 3/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $56,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Oscar Dominguez Joseph Talamo120Peter Miller5-162,500
2Majestic EagleMike Smith118Neil D. Drysdale7-2
3Morse CodeRuben Fuentes120Richard Baltas6-1
4UnapologeticGary Stevens120William Spawr9-262,500
5Starting BlocRafael Bejarano122Alfredo Marquez6-1
6High PromiseFlavien Prat122George Weaver5-1
7AccountabilityTiago Pereira120Rafael Becerra8-1
8Whoop Whoop Tyler Baze120Jeff Mullins12-1
9Arms RunnerDrayden Van Dyke120Peter Miller8-1


1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Spirit MissionEvin Roman122Robert B. Hess, Jr.6-116,000
2Jersey's HeatRuben Fuentes120Reed Saldana8-114,000
3RhettbutlerTiago Pereira122Sam J. Scolamieri8-116,000
4Secret TouchHeriberto Figueroa119Peter Eurton5-116,000
5Original IntentGeovanni Franco122Jerry Hollendorfer3-116,000
6Typhoon HarryAgapito Delgadillo122William E. Morey7-216,000
7TopgallantMartin Pedroza124Dan L. Hendricks5-116,000
8Midnight SootTyler Baze120Jack Carava8-114,000


1 3/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $100,000. 'Red Carpet Handicap'. Stakes. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1VictressJoseph Talamo118Robert Gilker20-1
2Pantsonfire Geovanni Franco120Richard Baltas5-1
3VexatiousRafael Bejarano123Neil D. Drysdale3-1
4The Tulip Drayden Van Dyke118Patrick Gallagher4-1
5India MantuanaTyler Baze117Thomas Ray Bell, II6-1
6Siberian Iris Flavien Prat117Richard E. Mandella6-1
7Lucy DeKent Desormeaux120Richard Baltas6-1
8So Hi Society Tiago Pereira114Jeff Mullins20-1
9Escape ClauseRuben Fuentes121Don Schnell5-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $54,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Danuska's My GirlGeovanni Franco122Jerry Hollendorfer12-1
2AmuseMike Smith120Richard E. Mandella2-1
3Conquest FlattermeTyler Baze122Vladimir Cerin8-1
4OozleFlavien Prat120Jeff Mullins5-2
5Sheza ChattykatRafael Bejarano122Leonard Powell7-2
6Lady NinjaRuben Fuentes122Richard Baltas4-1
7KindredMario Gutierrez122John A. Shirreffs20-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $54,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Oleksandra Mike Smith120Neil D. Drysdale7-2
2Amandine Drayden Van Dyke118Jeff Mullins6-1
3Tell Me MoreHeriberto Figueroa115Peter Miller5-1
4PoeticEvin Roman118Richard E. Mandella8-1
5A Little Bit MeGeovanni Franco120Vladimir Cerin8-140,000
6Lynne's LegacyRafael Bejarano120Steve Knapp15-140,000
7KatherineMario Gutierrez118Peter Eurton8-1
8TyfoshaFlavien Prat118Doug F. O'Neill8-1
9Drift AwayTiago Pereira118Andrew Lerner20-1
10Wind Tartare Aaron Gryder120Vann Belvoir20-140,000
11Miss Boom BoomRuben Fuentes120Richard Baltas6-140,000