All of the inside scoop on Virginia's biggest day of Steeplechase racing -- the Virginia Gold Cup. Hey, 50,000 of your closest friends can't be wrong! Do you have your tickets yet?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Look, Horses! I Wonder Which One Is Going To Win?

Here’s how this goes. Everybody has said, “I went to the Gold Cup and I never saw a horse.” Har-Har. It’s an old joke. Let it go. This year, there is the best reason ever to watch the races: YOUR MONEY.

Yes, this year you can place a legal pari-mutuel wager on the races, so, you might as well pay attention and watch your investment at work. 

There are wide cross sections of groups at the Virginia Gold Cup with various levels of interest.
There is the "horsey" set that actually cares what happens. Usually because they know somebody involved with one of the horses or, better yet, they know one of the horses.

Then there’s the “non-horsey” set who simply finds the racing action fascinating.
Then there is the “interested to be polite” group. They pay attention to the races so as not to offend their host or hostess.

After that you have the “modestly interested” set who will watch a race if they happen to be looking in the right direction when the race starts. And, finally, there is the “don’t care” group.
Now there is a subset of each group, and eventually these subsets morph into the “interested” category.  That subset is comprised of people who may or may not care about watching the actual race until they place an actual wager on said race.

Having a horse to cheer for based on a $1 investment makes the race much more exciting. Mind you, a modes wager won’t make you rich, but it makes those few minutes much more interesting.
Fact is there are six, maybe seven race with purses of $240,000. The Gold Cup is now run for a  $75,000. That’s real money.

People spend a large part of their lives looking for the “right horse” that can jump 23 big immovable obstacles while running four miles. The horses can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. Trainers spend years and years honing their skills to condition these horses properly, and the jockeys basically risk life and limb.

Now, you can spice it up by wagering on the horse you think will win.

Then you WATCH the race.

It’s pretty simple… 

(Don't forget to bring some cash!)

Virginians Win Maryland Hunt Cup

THE WINNER (LEFT) (Douglas Lees Photo)

For a day with only one race, the Maryland Hunt Cup packs more drama than a week of Law and Order episodes. Run for the 117th time Saturday, the timber classic delivered again.

In his third try at the race, Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Professor Maxwell ran and jumped near the front throughout, emerged with a clear lead from a near-melee at the 21st fence and made it stand up to win by 5 lengths over Sand Box Rules with Guts For Garters third. Virginian Richard Valentine trains the winner, a 14-year-old son of Buckhar bred in Pennsylvania by Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot.

The race – and its true plot twist – was about four fences. Four fences jumped without stirrups by the winner and jockey Mark Beecher. An awkward touchdown at the ninth fence sent Beecher out of his irons but still aboard. The Irishman called on a lifetime of riding show jumpers, sat tall and still and navigated – around a turn, over the 10th, 11th, 12th and yes even the mighty 13th – without stirrups. By 14, Beecher was back in the irons and order was restored. His horse kept jumping, gave up the lead to Battle Op over the 17th and 18th, reclaimed it going to the 20th and crossed Tufton Avenue (where he nearly fell last year) with an advantage.

At the tricky, trappy, 21st – the smallest fence on the course – Prospectors Strike balked and lost jockey Justin Batoff. Professor Maxwell didn’t jump it smoothly, but landed running and flew the last and headed to the win – Valentine’s second, Beecher’s first and the first for the Ohrstrom family in decades of trying.

To read the rest of the story at, click here.

Picture Of The Day

Pay not attention to the weather.  Gold Cup weekend will be here soon, and all will be well!
(Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe)
Runners make their way to the start at Windsor racecourse on April 29, 2013 in Windsor, England.
(Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Maryland Grand National

All photos by Douglas Lees.

 The 9th fence at the 111th Grand National in  Butler, Md. Left to right: Brands Hatch (Jackson Roberts, Alfa Beat (James Slater) and Justpourit (George Hundt, Jr.)
The fourth fence at the Grand National.
Terko Service won the Western Plate for owner Frank Bonsal, Jr., trainer Ann Stewart and jockey Nick Carter.
 Grand National winner Alfa Beat (IRE).
Approaching 9th fence of the Grand National Steeplechase eventual third-place finisher Battle Op and Connor Hankin lead the field.  Eventual winner  Alfa Beat and James Slater is 6th from the left.
Foyle and Jamses Slater on their way to victory in the $15,000 Benjamin H. Murray Memorial at the Maryland Grand National.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Picture Of The Day

Tim Donworth riding Zest For Life make their way through 'Joe's Water Splash' to win The Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup at Punchestown racecourse on April 23, 2013 in Naas, Ireland.  (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Almost always one of these critters ends up running in the Virginia Gold Cup...

All photos by Douglas Lees.
Amelia McGuirk savors her first win aboard Nelson & Traveller Stable's Moonstruck (Kevin Boniface, trainer) after capturing the $30,000 The My Lady's Manor timber stakes last Saturday in Maryland.

The 10th fence My Lady's Manor, left to right: Sand Box Rules (Diana Gillam, up) - 4th;  Moonsox (Amelia McGuirk), the winner, and Straight To It (Willie Dowling) - 2nd.
Approaching the 13th fence, left to right: Sand Box Rules (Diana Gillam), second place finisher Straight To It, Grinding Speed, third place finisher Bon Caddo, Eye Said Scat Cat and the winner Moonsox.

The finish: Moonstruck and Amelia McGuirk, Straight To It (William Dowling) and Bon Caddo (Christopher Read)
The first division of the John Rish Streett Memorial left to right: Old Timer (Diana Gillam), He's Got Mojo (Martin Rohan), Worried Man (Connor Hankin), Spencer Road (Jackson Roberts) and Mohave Moose (Blair Wyatt).

Happy trainer Neil Morris leads Kinross Farms's Old Timer and Diana Gillam to the winners circle after capturing the John Rish Street Memorial.
John Rush Streett Memorial 2nd division left to right: The winner Ebanour (James Slater) and Raven's Choice(Blair Wyatt) who finished second.
John D. Schapiro Memorial13th fence left to right: Woodmont (Diana Gillam), Prospectors Strike (Justin Batoff), Justpourit (George Jundt, Jr.), the winner Snow Blizzard (Nick Carter) and Haddix (Cormac Farrell).

Friday, April 12, 2013

It’s Official: Virginia Gold Cup To Feature Pari-Mutuel Wagering

Add to the list of cooler, picnic, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses a new must have item:  CASH.

Yes, one of the nation’s largest steeplechase races celebrates its 88th anniversary with the approval of pari-mutuel betting on the races. The Virginia Gold Cup (and the International Gold Cup in October) are now the only two steeplechases in Virginia to offer legal pari-mutuel wagering.

Yes, the real kind. Not a dollar bet with your friends, but actual pari-mutuel wagering where you wager against everybody else who is wagering at Great Meadow. 

Just like a traditional racetrack, the types of betting will include what the industry calls “straight” wagers known as “win,” “place,” and “show.”  A “win” pet pays out when the horse you bet on wins. Tough one, huh?  A “place” bet pays if your horse finishes first or second, and a “show” bet pays if your horse comes in first, second or third.  The payout amounts typically decrease as the wager becomes less exact – win wagers pay more than show wagers as a rule.

OK, that was the easy part. The Gold Cup will also offer “exotic” wagers – sounds sexy doesn’t it?  The first exotic is the traditional “daily double” where you win if you can pick the winners of the first two races.  Two things are required: You have to be there before the first race and you have to place this bet before the first race begins.  So if you think the #4 hourse is going to win the first race and the #6 horse is going to win the second race, you can buy a 4-6 daily double.

That brings us to the “exacta” which is derived from the word exact.  If you think #3 is going to win and #9 is going to be second, you buy a 3-9 exacta ticket and you win that wager if the those two horses finish first and second in that exact order.  In short, #3 does in fact finish first and #9 finishes second.

The inexact version of the exacta is the “quinella,” which stems from the Spanish word that means “game of chance.”  This game is a little easier, because you win if your horses come in first and second no matter the order.  So if the final result it #3 first and #9 second or the other way around, you win as long as those two are first and second. Simply put, the quinella pays less than the exacta, but it’s a little easier to win.   

Finally, there is the “trifecta” which, of course, derives from triple. This wager requires that you pick the first three finishers of the race in the exact order. Because of the difficulty of getting this exactly right, this wager usually produces the largest payout.

So bring your CASH. The minimum needed to place a bet is $1. Yes, one, uno, a single.

There will be betting kiosk around the race course and you can simply stroll over and place your bets.  The information on the horses running in each race will be available in the program or you can bet on colors and numbers like most of us usually do.  But, if you want to be scientific about it, the data will be available.

Have fun. 

What The Heck Is Pari-Mutuel Wagering And How Does It Work?

Don’t panic, it’s easy.

Pari-mutuel wagering is the kind of wagering you will find at any racetrack in America.  The easiest way to explain is that the wagers are place in a pool and the winning bettors receive the winnings.  The difference between pari-mutuel wagering and casino wagering is when you lose a bet in pari-mutuel your buddy who backed the right horse gets your money (along with everybody else who backed the winner). When you lose a wager at a casino your money goes in the casino operator’s pocket.

Here’s how it works technically speaking.  You place a $2 wager on Old Rosebud (not his real name) to win the second race. That money goes into a pool exclusively for all the “win” wagers placed on that race.  The odds (which will be shown on the Gold Cup’s jumbotron) are calculated based on how much money is bet to win on each horse in the race.

If Old Rosebud is popular and a lot folks wager on him, his odds will be low and he will be considered one of the “favorites.”  If few wagers are placed on him, his odds will be high, and he is considered a “longshot.”

Just before the race ends, the wagering is stopped and the final odds calculation is made – thankfully by a computer and not some guy in a truck wearing a visor using an abacus. The final odds will determine the payouts.

So for the purpose of this discourse, lets’ say Old Rosebud wins and he was a popular choice with final odds of 4 to 1.  All the money bet to win (less a modest commission for various expenses) is paid out to the winners.  So all the folks that bet on Old Rosebud get a payout based on 4 to 1 odds and all the losers get the satisfaction of knowing that they contributed to the economic well-being of the winners.

Each 4 to 1 winning wager will pay $10 for a two dollar bet.  Here’s how that works: The odds tell you how much has been bet on each horse relative to all the horses and how much your payout will be.

The first number, the 4 in this case, tells you the multiplier of your wager, and the 1 in all cases simply means you get your wager back.  So if you wagered $2 to win on our now dear friend Old Rosebud, you win $2 x 4 plus your original wager (1) = $8 + your original $2 bet = $10.  If O.R. had gone off at 10-1, you would have received $2 times 10 plus your original $2 bet = $22.

If you had bet $5 to win on Rosie, as we now call him, at 4 to 1, the formula is the same but the original wager is $5 not $2, so it’s 4 x $5 plus your original $5 bet = $25 payout.

See, it’s not complicated at all.  It’s just math.

The wagers on place and show betting are similar, but harder to figure out since the odds board doesn’t show these wagers.  However, they will be less and will follow the pattern of the win wagers.

The same is true of the exotic wagers – the daily double, exacta, quinella and trifecta. Each of these wagers is kept in their own separate pools. 

Q: Speaking of Old Rosebud, will you be able to bet on the Kentucky Derby?  

A: No, not through the Gold Cup's wagering pools. Hopefully, next year you will be able to wager on the Derby. We're working on it...

Monday, April 8, 2013

English Grand National At Aintree

Auroras Encore ridden by Ryan Mania celebrates winning the John Smiths Grand National at Aintree Racecourse on April 6, 2013 in Liverpool, England. Auroras Encore won at 66 to 1. There were just two falls in the race with no serious injuries or fatalities. (Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe)
Auroras Encore ridden by Ryan Mania on their way to winning the John Smiths Grand National at Aintree Racecourse on April 6, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe)
Ryan Mania riding Auroras Encore (L) clears the last to win the John Smiths Grand National Steeple Chase at Aintree Racecourse on April 6, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe)
Tom Scudamore riding Dynaste (L) clear the last to win the John Smith's Mildmay Novices' Steeple Chase at Aintree racecourse on April 05, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
A general view at the start of the John Smiths Grand National at Aintree Racecourse on April 6, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe)
Horses pass the Queen Mother Stand during The John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle Race at Aintree Racecourse on April 6, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe)
Paul Carberry riding Solwhit clear the last to win The John Smith's Liverpool Hurdle Race at Aintree racecourse on April 06, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe)
Quel Esprit ridden by Paul Townend (4) clears The Chair ahead of eventual winner Ryan Mania (blue & yellow) riding Auroras Encore and Swing Bill (24) ridden by Conor O'Farrell during the John Smiths Grand National at Aintree Racecourse on April 6, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe)
Mumbles Head ridden by Jamie Moore (L) and Roberto Goldback ridden by Barry Geraghty refuse the last fence during the John Smiths Grand National Steeple Chase at Aintree Racecourse on April 6, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe)
Tony Dobbin riding War Singer win The John Smith's Aintree Legends Charity Race at Aintree racecourse on April 06, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Ugliest Jack Russells Ever To Race At Gold Cup?

(Samir Hussein/Getty Images)
Man, Jack Russells are supposed to be cute, but this lot is downright ug-lee.


These aren’t terriers, they’re sheep.

Well now, that’s a completely different story.

No sheep racing at the Virginia Gold Cup (that we know about), but the ever-popular Jack Rusell’s will be racing at 11:30 a.m. so plan accordingly.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Opening Day = Spring and Spring = Virginia Gold Cup

Yes, chilly temperatures aside it is Spring.  Today, actually feels like Spring. Some flowers are blooming and the grass is getting serious about greening up.

However, we KNOW it’s Spring for a variety of other reasons.

The Final Four is this weekend, as is the Old Dominion Point-to-Point races out in Ben Venue in Rappahannock County – a pleasant drive from Northern Virginia and points beyond. The course is one of the most scenic on the circuit.

The Nationals opened their season on Monday and the sun was shining and the air was warm for one whole inning!  Then the temperature dropped and the clouds rolled in and it drizzled off and on the rest of the afternoon.  

No matter, the Nats beat the Marlin’s and promptly swept the series and as this is typed they are the only undefeated team in MLB.

Nice, Nats, NICE!

So we know it’s Spring and we know the Virginia Gold Cup is a month away.

Saturday, May 4th at Great Meadow in The Plains.

If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you’re slacking and you are running out of time as a lot of good stuff is selling out.

Also…NEWS FLASH…for the first time this year the Gold Cup will feature LEGAL pari-mutuel wagering!  That’s right, you can place a real bet just like at a real racetrack. 

More on that early next week.

Get busy – tickets, clothes, tailgates – you've got stuff to do!

Pictures Of The Day

Joel Rosario, jockey of Animal Kingdom celebrates winning the $6,000,000 winner's purse for the $10 million place Dubai World Cup at Meydan racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, March 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Maiden Hurdle 1st Division Orange County Point-to-Point, left to right: the winner Beamer (Jeff Murphy, up), third place finisher Arrow's Conquest (Jacob Roberts, up) and fourth place finisher Sharp Numbers (Sean Flanagan, up). (Douglas Lees Photo)
Levitate (C) ridden by Darren Egan wins the William Hill Lincoln (Heritage Handicap) (Class2) race at Doncaster Racecourse on March 30, 2013 in Doncaster, England. (Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Europe)
The first division of the Novice Rider Flat at Orange County left to right: second place finsher Pierrot Lunaire (Keri Brion, up) and the winner Bruce Smart’s Bonded (Wladimir Rocha, up). (Douglas Lees Photo)
Amateur/Novice Rider Hurdle race at the Orange County Point-to-Point, left to right: the ultimate winner Slaney Rock (Woods Winants, up), Mischief (Annie Yeager, up) survives this fence and wins race, but is DQed for crossing fishing line on wrong side of finish line pole. (Douglas Lees Photo)
Kinross Farm's Sand Box Rules (Chris Read) won the novice timber race(Douglas Lees Photo)
Open Hurdle race at Orange County Point-to-Point left to right: Trappe D'O r(Jeff Murphy, up) who finished second and the race winner Wahoo (Jacob Roberts, up). (Douglas Lees Photo)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Horse Racing Hat Of The Day

(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
A woman poses for a photograph during the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, March 30, 2013. The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom won the big race and the winner's share of the purse: $6 million!

When he’s not racing, Animal Kingdom lives in Fair Hill, MD.