By Jeff Moss
September 30, 2016
As many of you know, I am a degenerate horse player. I have been this way — for better or usually for worse — since I was six years old and I first laid my eyes on my grandfather’s Daily Racing Form. I immediately started handicapping thoroughbred races.
My obsession with the Sport of Kings is well known to any longtime reader of this website as my life has been consumed with every aspect of horse racing, from attempting to pick winners to obsessively studying breeding patterns to spending almost every vacation I have ever had at a racetrack.
In fact, I am writing this article from a hotel room in New York City on my wife’s 40th birthday and part of the festivities include a trip to Belmont Park to watch Breeders’ Cup preview on Saturday. She’s a real lucky lady.
I mean, my horse racing bonafides really need zero solidifying, but let me put it this way. Do you know how my grandpa figured out I was nearsighted? I was squinting while trying to read the odds on the infield tote-board at Detroit Race Course when I was 13 years old. We went home that day and he told my mom to immediately take me to an optometrist. I have been wearing corrective lenses ever since.
And when I get back from New York next week, I am then heading to Lexington, Kentucky to spend next weekend at Keeneland Race Course. Horse racing is my first love and I’ll probably die in the middle of a Pick-6 sequence.
But it hasn’t always been fun and games. There have been times when I was so fed up with the sport/gamble that I could have literally thrown my remote control through a television. It’s one thing to gamble your hard-earned money when you believe the action is legit, it’s another when you feel you have been conned.
And in the 38 years I have been wagering on these beautiful equine animals, I have never been more aggravated, disillusioned and outright fucking pissed off than I was on May 3, 2014.
That date just happened to be the day of California Chrome’s Kentucky Derby and I was, of course, wagering on the incredible card at Churchill Downs. Starting with the second race of the day, there was a wager called the Pick-4.
Now, a Pick-4 is a bet where you have to select the winner of four races in a row. The catch is you have to lock in your wager before the first “leg” goes off. It’s basically a parlay and, depending on the prices of the four winners, the payoff can be monstrous.
I placed my wager for this particular Pick-4 and it was substantial. $450 worth. These were my tickets:
So, I win the first leg of the Pick-4 with the “1” horse meaning both of my tickets were still viable. I was feeling really good about my bet until I saw the opening odds for the third race. The “1” horse in that event was getting absolutely pounded at the windows. My recollection is that this horse opened at under even money.
And if I live to be 500 years old, I will never forget that four-year-old gelding’s name … Masochistic. The problem with the aptly named horse was there was absolutely ZERO reason for him to be favored.
In his career debut in March of 2014 at Santa Anita Park in California, Masochistic barely did any running at all. In a race restricted to horses bred in California, Masochistic finished fifth, beaten by 4 1/4 lengths.
Now the horse was being shipped to Kentucky to run against FAR SUPERIOR competition with absolutely no state-bred restriction whatsoever. There was zero reason the public would be supporting the horse at the windows like this. I knew immediately after a lifetime of gambling that the horse’s connections knew something that WE didn’t.
Even before that race went off, I knew I was fucked. My $450 was as good as gone. Furthermore, the early money was no anomaly. Masochistic went off as the favorite at 2-to-1 when the gates sprung open and the gelding then delivered an absolutely jaw-dropping performance.
He won by 14 lengths without being aggressively ridden by his jockey.
Gate to wire.
To put this sequence of events in proper contest, just imagine that in his next UFC bout, CM Punk gets in the octagon with Conor McGregor and Punk forces McGregor to tap-out within 30 seconds.
With the added bonus that, for some remarkable reason, the former WWE champion is inexplicably the gambling favorite in Las Vegas for his second career “real” fight.
That’s basically what occurred on the first Saturday of May back in 2014 and I was irate. Hell, I am still furious as I type this over two years later. But it actually gets worse.
Because of the obviousness of what went down while the entire horse racing world was watching on the sport’s biggest day, several people immediately called for an investigation into Masochistic’s dubious victory.
The state of California investigated the circumstances of Masochistic’s career debut at Santa Anita. Particularly the behavior of the horse’s trainer A.C. Avila and jockey Omar Berrio.
The following is what the California Horse Racing Board discovered according to the industry’s bible … the Daily Racing Form:
Look, even before Masochistic came back two months later to destroy that field on Derby Day, the stewards ALREADY had an inkling that Avila and Berrio were up to some funny business.
It’s very rare that the governing body would notice a jockey not trying to win with his mount, but it’s pretty obvious what occurred with the horse’s trainer and jockey.
Masochistic was given an excessive dosage of a TRANQUILIZER and his jockey was most likely ordered not to give his mount the best opportunity to win, setting up a potential score when bettors would have no reason to think Masochistic would greatly improve at Churchill Downs in his next race.
I still am not sure why the horse went off at 2 to 1 on May 3rd. Either the connections just absolutely slammed the worse with both fists or they had big mouths and the word got out that this gelding was a monster.
Whatever occurred, this was a sham on the gambling public and a disgrace to horse racing. Avila had to know from day one that Masochistic was a great horse. He eventually became one of the best sprinters in the country as you can see by his past performances above.
After Avila was served with his $10,000 fine and 60-day suspension, did he show any remorse or contrition? Not at all.
What a piece of shit.
So after 1,000 words you are probably asking yourself what the hell Masochistic or an Avila not named Alex or Al have to do with Detroit sports. Well, I am glad you asked.
You see, 97.1 — The Ticket host Mike Valenti is also a fan of horse racing. He grew up in upstate New York going to Saratoga Race Course and he caught the bug just like me.
Recently, Valenti went into a partnership with his cousin and, I believe, some other folks and they purchased a horse. The name of the partnership?
Loudmouth Racing, LLC.
And I don’t think I have to explain to you why the group is called “Loudmouth” …. do I?
(Well, if you are dubious, another relative of Mike’s, Roddy Valente — a major horse racing owner from New York — confirmed in an interview with Steve Byk on SiriusXM recently that they are called “Loudmouth” because of Valenti’s reputation as a talk show host.)
Loudmouth Racing, LLC, owns a four-year-old filly they claimed for $40,000 back in July named Aussie Prayer. By this point I am sure you can guess who Valenti’s trainer of record is ….
Yep, a crook who it would seem purposely gave a thoroughbred an excessive tranquilizer dose in an effort to dupe the people who fund this sport out of their gambling dollars.
You are better than that, Mike. I can only imagine the rant emanating from your mouth about a baseball, football, hockey or baseball scandal like this on the airwaves of 97.1.
Look, Valenti is a casual horse racing fan. I am guessing he had no idea about Avila’s past. This is probably the first he is reading about it.
But, now you know, Mike, and ya gotta take Aussie Prayer away from this scumbag.
Which takes me back to where this story began — May 3, 2014.
After that dominating 14-length win, I decided to check out who the owner of Masochistic was and I discovered this ….
Los Pollos Hermanos Racing.
Yep, the name of drug overlord Gus Fring’s chicken joints on “Breaking Bad.”
It’s was like they were rubbing our noses in it.
(You can follow the writer of this piece on Twitter @JeffMossDSR. Also, you can join in on the discussion of this article on Facebook by clicking here.)