Horse racing newsletter: Meet our new TV critic

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for a highly anticipated allowance race at Los Alamitos.

Just when you thought this newsletter couldn’t get any better (hold your laughter, please), we’re adding a new feature that I think you’ll like a lot. We’re calling on my longtime friend Mike Tierney to pen an occasional piece as our new horse racing TV critic.

Mike has big-time journalism chops. In addition to doing some horse racing for the Los Angeles Times (yes, that’s us), he’s also worked for the other Times, the one in New York. He was a long-time staple at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he was even the sports on TV critic for a couple years.

Does he really know horse racing? Yes, indeed. He has owned horses, including being part of the group that recently owned Spiced Perfection.


Final question. What does “occasional” mean. Well, it’s whenever Mike feels he has something to say. We’re hoping he has a lot to say. He would also like to hear from you with any thoughts you might have. If you want to reach Mike, you can email him at

Mike, the floor belongs to you.

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“Typically four days a week, horseplayers are gifted with a double shot of overlapping televised racing programs. Those among us keen to catch every possible race beamed into our homes wear out the remote control as we toggle between Fox Sports and TVG (which is simulcast in some time windows on NBC Sports.)

“Handicapping is all about comparing horses, so naturally we compare how the two networks approach their coverage. Similarities abound, given that the not-so-subtle goal of both is to drum up wagering and promote the sport. Some differences are related to TVG’s challenge of airing more races than Fox, which can explain the sometimes more hurried pace of its programming.

“Let’s start by dishing out props to all analysts for the depth of knowledge on display in evaluating each field. Across the board, they offer tasty tidbits on this horse or that, whether on the recent troubled trip with the No. 3 or the impressive appearance by the No. 7 in the paddock.

“Yet head-and-shoulders above the rest is Fox’s Jonathon Kinchen, who might use Head & Shoulders on his long locks. Anecdotally, he seems the most accurate prognosticator, and his angles tend toward the intriguing, even unique.

“J.K.’s work shift usually begins in the show’s latter half, just before the late Pick Fours and Fives, so viewers who lean TVG in the earlier segments will not miss him.

“Another checkmark in Fox’s column relates to the post parades.

“Its personalities, particularly Michelle Yu, are disciplined enough to convey brief, concise remarks on every horse. Too often, their TVG counterparts — here’s looking mainly at you, Eurton and Gaudet — jump in late and miss a number of entrants. Compounding, they get locked onto one or two horses, spill out TMI on those and ignore the rest. Viewers seeking intel on all, or at least the contenders, are left unfulfilled.

“Overall, TVG excels at juggling multiple tracks and rarely misses a race, live or taped. But when it resorts to split-screen for tracks running simultaneously, only about one-fourth of the screen is devoted to each — too small to discern the saddle-cloth numbers. And what’s with the psychedelic blue pattern gobbling up the rest of the screen?

“To TVG’s credit, its cast avoids the combative sports talk show style on display from Andy Serling. He is too eager to spar with ex-jockeys Richard Migliore and Gary Stevens over a perceived substandard ride, or with Kinchen over their selections. The mute and channel-change buttons can get overworked when Serling escalates what should be a healthy discussion into a tense back-and-forth.

“Both sides are occasionally guilty of disclosing the analysts’ race picks too close to post, a self-punishing tendency that cost the networks revenue by denying viewers sufficient time to place bets. TVG can be partly excused because its more crowded race menu reduces the minutes available.

“The downside of Fox’s lighter schedule is the sporadic need for time-killing canned features. By now, we can recite almost every line from the oft-repeated Run Happy clip.

“In some respects, both camps could stand improvement.

“—The familial nature of the crews, with many analysts being the offspring or spouses of trainers, can result in helpful inside info but leads to excessive praise and congratulations. It is unnecessary to waste verbiage extending kudos ‘to all the winning connections,’ especially when they are named, following every race.

“—When a horse appears injured and analysts vow to update viewers on their condition, the odds of a follow-up report are greater if the news is encouraging than heartbreaking. All info, good or bad, must be shared.

“—Analysts are prone to joke about or speculate on the origin of a catchy horse name, sometimes sidetracking the post parade. Whenever one is tempted to babble on about a name, just say no to yourself.

“—As a whole, they are lousy at predicting the outcome of an objection or stewards’ inquiry. They’d be better served to stop the guessing and wait on the verdict.

“But enough quibbling. How blessed are we that TVG and Fox continue to deliver races during the pandemic, even with its scattered analysts mostly working remotely. For this, we can put down the TV clicker for a minute and clap.”

Sadler gets lengthy suspension

John Sadler, one of Southern California’s most revered trainers, was hit with a 60-day suspension, which was reduced to 15 days, after three horses tested positive for drug overages last spring. Sadler was also fined $15,000 by the Los Alamitos stewards, who handed down the penalty in this negotiated settlement. It sounds like a complicated story that was best told by others. Steve Andersen of the Daily Racing Form first broke the story and you can read his story here. Ray Paulick of the Paulick Report followed up a short time later including a statement by Sadler which attempts to explain what happened. You can read that here.

Los Alamitos daytime preview

I’m guessing there has never been a one-mile allowance for horses 3 and up with as much anticipation as Thursday’s fifth race. But, before we get there, let’s do the basics, seven races starting at 1 p.m.

Thursday’s fifth race has Cezanne, a $3.65 million purchase, making his second start. He won his first race by 2 ¼ lengths but didn’t look spectacular while winning. A good win but not the “wow” win most anticipated. But how many great horses didn’t win their first race in “wow” fashion, even losing the race? The colt is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden by Flavien Prat.

No doubt partially to make sure the five-horse race filled, Baffert also has Bronn, who is listed at 2-1, as the second favorite. He is owned by Natalie J. Baffert, otherwise known as Jill, Bob’s wife. She is always so wonderfully cordial and a pleasant addition at the track, but she, like all owners, is barred. Bronn has won one-of-three races, a maiden special by half-a-length. Drayden Van Dyke rides. Post is listed at 2:58 p.m.

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

Ciaran Thornton’s LRC pick of the day

RACE THREE: No. 2 Show Business (8-1)

Show Business won last out under Flavien Prat on June 14th and Thursday moves up in class and is racing protected off the claim for trainer Steve Knapp. This trainer is 21% first off the layoff, 19% first off the claim and red hot jockey Juan Hernandez who is winning 29% at the meet and 31% for the year takes the ride. This 8-1 morning line value looks too good to be true. I am using ALL in this race for my Pick 5 ticket.

My Los Alamitos FULL CARDS are free for the entire meet for L.A. Times readers. Just click on this link daily.

Sunday’s result: Gallantly Streaming looks good for half a race tracking in third but had no gas when it mattered in the stretch.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

A final thought

I love getting new readers of this newsletter, and you certainly can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, you’re probably not reading this.

Either way, send this along to a friend, and just have them click here to sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email address, nothing more.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Now, the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Los Alamitos Race Course Entries for Thursday, July 2.

Los Alamitos Race Course, Los Alamitos, California. 4th day of a 7-day meet.


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $14,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $8,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Luv Is All U NeedAlexis Centeno114Lorenzo Ruiz5-18,000
2Drop the MicGeovanni Franco124Gus Headley5-18,000
3Family TripsFernandez Rojas120Sally Rivera20-18,000
4Laker JetEdwin Maldonado124Robert A. Bean6-18,000
5At the MarginVictor Flores117Jairo B. Monascal6-18,000
6Mama's KidAssael Espinoza124Sal Gonzalez5-28,000
7PurdueEdgar Payeras124Eddie Truman2-18,000


5 Furlongs. Purse: $21,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Best LadyVictor Flores115Rafael DeLeon8-150,000
2Feeling GrazefulRicardo Gonzalez122Steve M. Sherman7-250,000
3MonicatEdwin Maldonado122Jose Hernandez, Jr.3-150,000
4Spicy SommelierRuben Fuentes122Peter Miller2-150,000
5Mucha WomanJ.C. Diaz, Jr.122Sal Gonzalez6-150,000
6Exchange VowsEdgar Payeras122Sal Gonzalez9-250,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Starter Allowance. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Shane ZainAgapito Delgadillo124Richard Baltas9-2
2Show BusinessJuan Hernandez120Steve Knapp8-1
3AntitheticalTiago Pereira120Steven Miyadi10-1
4Wild BeanRamon Guce124David E. Hofmans5-2
5Quick FinishDrayden Van Dyke124Dan Blacker2-1
6Commander Assael Espinoza120Peter Miller3-1


5 Furlongs. Purse: $21,000. Maiden Claiming. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Dennis CeleryAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill3-150,000
2Rousing SlammerEdwin Maldonado122Jeff Bonde8-150,000
3Hot BoxRicardo Gonzalez122Kristin Mulhall2-150,000
4Wedding GroomEswan Flores122Sal Gonzalez7-250,000
5Hard to DoCarlos Lopez, Jr.122Ricardo Zamora15-150,000
6None Above the LawAaron Gryder122Peter Miller4-150,000
7Govenor BernsteinJuan Hernandez122Jorge Periban12-150,000


1 Mile. Purse: $45,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ItsthattimeHeriberto Figueroa120Jeff Bonde4-1
2Never EasyAssael Espinoza121Andrew Lerner10-140,000
3Mongolian LegendRuben Fuentes124Enebish Ganbat15-1
4BronnDrayden Van Dyke117Bob Baffert2-1
5CezanneFlavien Prat117Bob Baffert4-5


1 Mile. Purse: $20,000. Starter Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Majestic DivaTiago Pereira124David Bernstein2-1
2Tiz ToffeeAssael Espinoza124Rosemary Trela4-1
3Perfect Ice StormFlavien Prat124Peter Eurton7-2
4Mongolian WindowRuben Fuentes124Enebish Ganbat12-1
5She CherieEdwin Maldonado124Mark Glatt4-1
6MesoJuan Hernandez124Juan Leyva7-2


5 Furlongs. Purse: $40,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1I'm So AnnaRicardo Gonzalez122Steve M. Sherman7-2
2Stars of BluegrassDrayden Van Dyke122Andrew Lerner5-2
3Miss Ever ReadyFlavien Prat122Brian J. Koriner7-2
4RighteouslyMario Gutierrez122Edward R. Freeman8-1
5Mamba QueenGeovanni Franco122Jeff Bonde9-2
6Will Take a KissJuan Hernandez122Mike Harrington10-1
7Koko's MomCarlos Lopez, Jr.122Charles R. Stutts50-1
8SteinwayEdwin Maldonado122Jose Hernandez, Jr.20-1
9Complete ControlJ.C. Diaz, Jr.122Edward R. Freeman20-1
10Clare's Irish EyesEdgar Payeras122Marcia Stortz20-1
Also Eligible
11September SecretRuben Fuentes122Peter Miller6-1