Friday, April 12, 2013

If It Looks Too Good to Be True - It Probably Is

We’ve been looking to claim now for going on two months.  So far we’ve been out-shaken three times and had one of our targets scratched out of a race.  From time to time we come up with targets that look too good to be true and, of course, they are.  For example, take the horse below, Basilone.  Basilone was a 5-year old son of Giant’s Causeway out of the Alydar mare Twenty Eight Carat.

Basilone was purchased out of the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale for $220,000 and came back and was sold in the 2010 OBS Open 2 Year Old sale for $425,000.  Obviously big things would be expected of this young colt.  We found him heading into an $8,000 Maiden Claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs today.  Our heads were turned and more research was necessary. 

Looked up the colt’s lifetime works and, as you can see below, a disturbing pattern emerged.

Track    Date  Distance Course      TrkCnd                 Time                     Effort    Gate Rank/Num in Rank

PMM 03/22/13 5F           Dirt         Fast                       01:02.03              Breezing              7/12

PMM 02/23/13 4F           Dirt         Fast                       :48.55                   Breezing G           12/56
PMM 02/17/13 5F           Dirt         Fast                       01:02.33              Breezing              39/45

PMM 02/10/13 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :50.03                   Breezing              20/39

PMM 02/02/13 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :49.62                   Breezing              37/76

PMM 01/14/13 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :50.57                   Breezing              32/42

PMM 01/07/13 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :49.44                   Breezing              26/44

PMM 12/31/12 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :49.63                   Breezing              34/81

PMM 12/12/12 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :49.88                   Breezing              5/16

PMM 12/05/12 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :49.82                   Breezing              6/11

PMM 11/28/12 3F            Dirt        Fast                       :36.66                   Breezing              1/8

SAR 07/02/12 4F               Dirt training Fast               :49.08                   Breezing              6/66

SAR 06/26/12 5F               Dirt training Fast               01:01.44              Breezing              1/3

SAR 06/20/12 4F               Dirt training Fast               :49.34                   Breezing              1/18

SAR 06/14/12 4F               Dirt training Fast               :48.88                   Breezing G           1/30

SAR 06/07/12 4F               Dirt training Fast               :48.03                   Breezing              1/36

SAR 06/01/12 4F               Dirt training Fast               :49.44                   Breezing              13/41

SAR 05/26/12 4F               Dirt training Fast               :49.66                   Breezing              14/54

SAR 05/20/12 3F               Dirt training Fast               :37.06                   Breezing              4/39

SAR 05/12/12 3F               Dirt training Fast               :37.40                   Breezing              5/31

PMM 04/17/11 5F            Dirt        Fast                       01:02.90              Breezing              7/8

PMM 04/10/11 4F            Dirt        Fast                      :50.90                   Breezing              20/27

PMM 04/03/11 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :50.05                   Breezing              26/36

PMM 03/27/11 4F            Dirt        Fast                       :49.00                   Breezing              15/60

PMM 03/20/11 3F            Dirt        Fast                       :37.00                   Breezing              6/18

As a 3-year old, Basilone worked five times at Palm Meadows – not once impressively.  Then the youngster disappears for a year and emerges at Saratoga as a 4-year old and works nine times over the Spa’s training track including four bullet works in a row, one from the gate – but not a single start. 

Then after his July 2nd work (not a bullet but a more pedestrian :49.08 for four furlongs) Basilone is gone again until November 28 and proceeds to work steadily another eleven times but nowhere near the top of his class like he was at Saratoga.  But he is finally set to debut as a five year old maiden.

The setting for this nearly half million dollar horse’s unveiling was Gulfstream Park’s winter meet, the meet of champions – where Kentucky Derby contenders are born.  But Basilone didn’t debut in a high level maiden race, but rather a $12,500 Maiden Claiming race.  His connections were saying: if you want our $425,000 horse, you can have him for $12,500.  He ran a credible 2nd at 3-1, but I have to wonder for the roughly $3,000 odd they won in the race, couldn’t he have covered a few mares as a gorgeous unraced son of Giant’s Causeway in Nebraska, Washington, Massachusetts or some other less than major league racing circuit and try and prove himself as a stallion and make more money?  Any possibility for a stud is gone once you prove he can’t run even if, given his frequent long absences from training makes it appear, he was too often injured to be successful.

Instead of calling it quits, he heads up to Tampa Bay Downs and drops to the very bottom maiden claiming rung there, $8,000.  Given the above, while he was interesting to look at, there was no way on God’s green Earth I was even going to think about dropping a slip for him.

He raced well in the forward group for a while, 5th within 3 lengths of the lead at the second call of the seven furlong race and jockey Daniel Coa started winding him up for the stretch drive when the unthinkable – though maybe not wholly unpredictable – happened: a leg snapped and Basilone hurtled forward on three legs, throwing his rider over his head onto the dirt and nearly flipping on him.  Coas escaped serious injury and was able to ride later on the card.  Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey, Daniel Centeno, aboard Duppyzapper was unseated while trying to avoid the fallen horse and was more shaken up and sent to the hospital where he was checked and released according to the Daily Racing Form (video of the race accompanies the DRF article).

Maybe it was a bad step.  Maybe it was a chronic problem.  I don’t know what the issue was that lead to Basilone breaking down and being euthanized but the perception is horrible and, as a partner noted, is “why racing gets a bad name.”

Just scanning the workouts shows there was a history here of an animal with a problem.  If I could afford a $425,000 purchase, I’m pretty sure if he couldn’t race by 4 I wouldn’t keep pushing on – especially with a history of problems and steadily declining works.  And I certainly would not enter him for an $8,000 fire sale price tag as a 5-year old maiden.  I can say that with confidence since our group retired our $10,000 claim with an ankle issue that she could have raced on for one more season at $5,000 but would have been good for nothing at all when her career was over.  The group chose to retire her while she could still be a trail horse or possibly even a low level performance horse and I couldn’t be prouder of our blue collar team for doing right by our mare.  I wish I could have seen the same for poor Basilone.


Anonymous said...

A sad fate for a horse with such a fine name. If he was named after USMC Sgt John Basilone who won the Medal of Honor at Guadacanal in WWII, he indeed did not get treated like the hero. Your so right Ted, it is incidents like this that continue to give horse racing a bad name. An incident that could definitely have been avoided.

Justin said...

I'm glad you wrote about this Ted. After you showed me Basiline's workout pattern I was afraid this might happen. I even considered trying to raise the funds to purchase him privately before the race, thinking he might make a good MN stallion prospect. I found some pictures and video online and he was a beauty.

Now I'm haunted by the picture of this poor horse getting up and trying to continue the race on three legs. I watched the race on my phone from an airport in Chattanooga TN, with two coworkers. I had told them the whole story of Basilone before the race. When it was over one of them looked at me and said "how can you participate in a sport that would treat a horse like that?" It was a good question, and I didn't have an answer.