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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Revenue Share vs. PPH Agency

Revenue Share vs. PPH Agency
Q & A with
Dalton Wagner, Founder V.O. Group, S.A.

Dalton Wagner, Proprietor of V.O. Group, S.A. has recently found himself in the middle of a controversy between Revenue Sharing Sportsbooks and his Price Per Head Agency Concept. We had an opportunity to catch up with Dalton Wagner and discuss the issue on his last visit to Curacao.

Vegas Offshore: We hear that the Price Per Head offering you launched several months ago has landed you in some hot water?
Wagner: Yes, it appears that my Price Per Head Software offering has been a little too popular with onshore bookmakers and it is making my competition a little upset.

Vegas Offshore: Can you be a little more explicit?
Wagner: Several offshore bookmakers have lost relationships with their agents because my Price Per Head offering has lured them away and toward my offering. Specifically, several of the largest credit sportsbooks in Costa Rica have lost packages to me in the range of 500-1000 head apiece. And, they are not happy about it.

Vegas Offshore: Why are so many people leaving their agency relationships with credit sportsbooks?
Wagner: Well, in the old days an offshore sportsbook might partner with an onshore bookmaker. The deal was based on the onshore bookmaker finding the business and the offshore operator writing it and doing the accounting for a fee. The deal was typically 50%/50%. However, with my Price Per Head offering, I can offer the same offerings, but only charge the onshore bookmaker a nominal fee for using my service. The fact is that 50% is simply too much to charge an onshore bookmaker. I charge bookmakers a flat fee based on the number of head I am writing and let the bookmaker keep the rest of the money.

Vegas Offshore: Wait a minute. How can you afford to write the business for a simple fee when it historically cost 50%.
Wagner: The simple fact is that 50% of the revenue is ridiculous. I can charge a fee as little as $25 per head, per week and allow a client to have access to sports wagering, casino wagering and horse wagering – and, make a profit. Furthermore, we have written a software interface that allows agents onshore to manage their clients limits, run reports, etc. from any computer in the world. The offering is robust, efficient and simple to use. And, unfortunately for offshore sportsbooks that share in revenue, agents and bookmakers simply love it.

Vegas Offshore: Is the PPH product only based on sports wagering?
Wagner: No. We actually have the ability to offer clients two (2) casino products including blackjack, baccarat, slots, 3 card poker, roulette, etc. And, clients may also bet on horses at over 350 tracks worldwide.

Vegas Offshore: How many bookmakers do you currently work with?
Wagner: We are writing business for over 250 bookmakers now. Some represent groups as small as 2 or 3; and others represent groups as large as 500. Again, remember the key is finding as many clients as possible. If you get to where you are writing 15 clients or more, it is almost impossible to lose for an extended period of time.

Vegas Offshore: Anything else you would like to add?
Wagner: Sure. If you’re a bookmaker onshore, call us or visit us online to learn how to save money and/or grow your business beyond your wildest dreams. The service is modestly priced, and we have never had a disgruntled user. The value proposition is simply huge for any bookmaker.

Vegas Offshore: So how does a bookmaker learn more about this?
Wagner: Simply go to any of the V.O. Group, S.A. sites to learn more. I suggest starting at www.BettorsNet.com or calling 1-877-512-1001 or emailing agents@bettorsnet.com to get more information.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Innovation In Bookmaking

Innovation In Bookmaking
Q & A with
Dalton Wagner, Founder V.O. Group, S.A.

As Founder and Proprietor of V.O. Group, S.A., Dalton Wagner has the reputation of ferreting out new markets and attacking while other companies sit on their hindquarters and watch. One market that has always eluded offshore bookmakers is the ‘guy who likes dealing with his credit bookmaker’. Typically this market has been untouchable for the offshore bookmaker, but NOT for Dalton and V.O. Group, S.A. We had an opportunity to catch up with Dalton Wagner on his last visit to Panama.

Vegas Offshore: Tell us about this new product that you are calling your Price Per Head Agency Relationship.
Wagner: As you know, one market that a post-up sportsbook has historically been unable to attack is the huge market of bettors that have been betting with their local guy for years. The reason this market exists is the personal relationship that an onshore bookie has with his clients. Sportsbooks have attempted to educate the player and lure him away from the local bookie, however we have taken another tact. We have partnered with local bookies around the world to make their offering better and more valuable.

Vegas Offshore: So instead of attacking the local guy, you actually approach him with your offer?
Wagner: Exactly. The fact is that the relationship is the last thread holding clients to a local guy. Yes, there is the fact that the local guy extends credit, but with bonuses and promotions we can overcome that offering. The key is the relationship.

Vegas Offshore: I’m confused, please explain.
Wagner: As you know, the onshore bookmaking market has lost steam to the offshore providers like V.O. Group, S.A. The reason is that the offerings that I can provide are far superior to those that any onshore bookmaker can offer. The PPH concept is based on allowing the onshore bookmaker to provide his clients my offerings on a purely anonymous basis via an online automated tool. Rather, by signing up with my PPH service, an onshore bookmaker can compete with all offshore sportsbooks on equal footing offering 24-hour wagering, 365 days a year. All the bookmaker does is use an online system to assign PINs and PASSWORDs and pay me a small fee per week for the service.

Vegas Offshore: Wait a minute. So, this means that a small time operator in Cleveland, Ohio can offer all the same things that V.O. Group, S.A. does without making the multi-million dollar investment?
Wagner: Now your catching on. For as little as $25 per head per week, a guy in Ohio can compete with the biggest sportsbooks in the world. And, better yet, never answer another wagering phone call again.

Vegas Offshore: OK, I get it. They use your automated tool to drive their clients to your software online, and they simply pick up the figures at the end of the week.
Wagner: Exactly correct with one exception. Their clients can bet on the phone via our call center staffed with 250 people OR bet online. Again, they have access to all of the offerings V.O. Group, S.A. provides including call center access, client services and technical support.

Vegas Offshore: Is the PPH product only based on sports wagering?
Wagner: Very good question. The answer is no. We actually have the ability to offer clients two (2) casino products including blackjack, baccarat, slots, 3 card poker, roulette, etc. And, clients may also bet on horses at over 350 tracks worldwide.

Vegas Offshore: Wow! That truly is incredible. So, a bookie that has one client can compete with the likes of MVPsportsbook.com on equal footing?
Wagner: Exactly correct. But, there are two keys to the success of the product launch. The first is being able to compete head to head with the biggest sportsbooks in the world. But, arguably the most important factor is that since the onshore bookie no longer has to answer phones or track plays, he can spend all of his time picking up new clients, NOT writing bets.

Vegas Offshore: I remember that in a prior interview you had stated that the key is not winning, but finding more losers.
Wagner: An embarrassing quote, but true. Amateur bookmakers think that the key is to beat the clients you have. That is a huge mistake. The key to getting rich as a bookmaker is finding a new client every single day of the year. The numbers take care of themselves, the key is to get more and more people playing. That is the TRUE BEAUTY of the PPH software and agency relationship.

Vegas Offshore: Do you have any success stories to tell?
Wagner: I have many, but will tell you one that emphasizes what the PPH program can do. I have a bookmaker that has been working out of San Antonio, Texas for 10 years. The guy has historically made $200,000 a year from his 25 or 30 players. He was introduced to our product in July 2004, and today he is writing over 185 clients. The ability to outsource answering calls and writing tickets to us has allowed him to grow his business 600% and his revenue over 1000%.

Vegas Offshore: Why did his revenue grow more than his business? Is it because your lines are sharper than his?
Wagner: There you go again. That is the obvious mistake that everyone makes. Again, don’t worry about beating the clients. Worry about getting more clients to play. But, to answer your question directly, the ability for his clients to play in the casino, play 24 hours a day, play games/halves/quarters, props, etc. is where the extra revenue comes from. Our lines might be sharper, but the advantage is more clients betting more often.

Vegas Offshore: How many bookmakers do you currently work with?
Wagner: We are writing business for over 250 bookmakers now. Some represent groups as small as 2 or 3; and others represent groups as large as 500. Again, remember the key is finding as many clients as possible. If you get to where you are writing 15 clients or more, it is almost impossible to lose for an extended period of time.


Vegas Offshore: So how does a bookmaker learn more about this?
Wagner: Simply go to any of the V.O. Group, S.A. sites to learn more. I suggest starting at www.BettorsNet.com or calling 1-877-512-1001 or emailing agents@bettorsnet.com to get more information.

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State of the Offshore Gaming Industry

State of the Offshore Gaming Industry
Q & A with
Dalton Wagner, Founder V.O. Group, S.A.

As Founder and Proprietor of V.O. Group, S.A., Dalton Wagner has the reputation of making one-dollar work like three in online marketing. With formidable competition, Mr. Wagner founded V.O. Group, S.A. in 1998 and has quickly risen to be one of the largest offshore operators in the world with over 50,000 active clients. We had an opportunity to catch up with Dalton Wagner on his last visit to Antigua.

Vegas Offshore: This year has been interesting for V.O. Group, S.A. and the offshore industry as a whole (advertising changes, etc.). How do you feel about the industry at the current time?
Wagner: I feel the industry is as strong as it has ever been. We are still finding that our advertising is bringing us new clients at an ever-growing rate. Some competitors are complaining that the crimp on advertising is affecting the industry, but we are not seeing this trend. Consolidation within the industry has begun, and I am sure you will continue to see smaller competitors gobbled up, and medium to larger companies merging. The weaker will go by the wayside.

Vegas Offshore: What about the rumors of V.O. Group, S.A. being bought?
Wagner: I am glad you used the term 'rumors'. The fact is that in July 2004 three suitors approached V.O. Group, S.A. because of our record-breaking profit year. In two of the cases we did see 'value' in a merger/relationship. However, at the end of the day, we could not come to terms that were agreeable on both sides. At this time V.O. Group, S.A. stands independent. And, we are happy being independent, profitable and growing.

Vegas Offshore: It is rumored that Bet On Sports (PLC; BSS.L) was one of the suitors. Is that true?
Wagner: There were three suitors that approached V.O. Group, S.A. And, in all cases confidentiality agreements were signed. For this reason, I cannot confirm or deny who any of the potential suitors were. What I can tell you is that one was a major sportsbook player, one was a major casino player and two were PLCs. I doubt that helps.

Vegas Offshore: Well, if Bet On Sports was involved, I bet you are happy you weren't involved in their November 24, 2004 stock debacle.
Wagner: The Bet On Sports stock debacle was an over-reaction by the market in my opinion. In one day you saw their stock drop 50% in value. And, the reason was poor performance in a very short period. If you looked at the other publicly held offshore gaming companies, you saw the same thing, just not as drastic as with BSS.L. Simply put, I know the founder of Bet On Sports, I know the management of Bet On Sports, I know the staff at Bet On Sports and I would not hesitate to invest in Bet On Sports. They were, and still are, undervalued in my opinion. They are a great competitor and a great company. I wish I had some of their stock at the new adjusted price. I just don't see how you can lose.

Vegas Offshore: It is rare to hear the 'competition' speaking so highly of a major competitor. Why would you do so?
Wagner: Simple. Bet On Sports is a great company. And, I am sure they would tell you the same about V.O. Group, S.A. The fact is, that there are companies out there that make our industry stronger. And, ones that make it weaker. Bet On Sports and V.O.Group, S.A. strive to make our industry stronger and more legitimate on a daily basis (as do BetCris.com; BoDog.com; etc.). What kind of ambassador for the industry would I be if I downplayed a 'good' competitor like Bet On Sports for my own benefit?

Vegas Offshore: If Bet On Sports did approach you, would you consider a merger?
Wagner: I like being independent. But, simply put, NEVER say NEVER.

Vegas Offshore: What of the rumors that you are looking at Panama as a potential relocation site?
Wagner: Our operation currently has offices in Costa Rica, Antigua and Belize. In Costa Rica we currently have over 400 employees. With employment costs in Costa Rica on the rise, the burden of Caja and the ever-changing political climate, we have looked at several alternative locations. One of the most desirable is/was Panama. However, due to the massive failure of BetPanAm.com and the political debacle involving their past gaming commission, we have decided to stay put for the current time. I think it is very safe to say that our primary location will be Costa Rica for the next 5 years. Pending any crazy licensing or governmental changes.

Vegas Offshore: I have visited your office in Antigua, however had no idea that you employed 400 individuals in Costa Rica. Why do you need such a large staff?
Wagner: Our industry has a reputation for being lazy and getting by on a shoestring budget. Most sportsbooks, casinos, racebooks and poker rooms answer phones when it is convenient and buy computers when the ones they are operating blow-up. Most are simply embarrassing to the legitimate operators. To run an operation like ours, servicing 50,000 bettors, you need lots of space, a 1st rate phone system, fiber and satellite phone and Internet backups, IT professionals, accounting professionals, etc. V.O. Group, S.A. is currently located in 35,000 square feet of space, operating 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, and we are busting at the seems. At the current time, we are negotiating to buy the building next to us for future expansion. I think we will employ 600 people come this same time next year.

Vegas Offshore: I have noticed that you are still branching into other products. How has this strategy worked for V.O. Group, S.A.?
Wagner: In 1998 we started with our sports product. We then branched into the casino product. In 2001 and 2002 we opened several major race books and poker rooms. The fact is that we are profitable in all products. However, our core product, and hub for our advertising, is focused on the sports product. The strategy has worked, but we will not desert our core product. You can look for our re-launch of interactive betting in early 2005 and bingo in mid 2005.

Vegas Offshore: What other changes do you see in 2005 for V.O. Group, S.A.
Wagner: I think you will see V.O. Group, S.A. work more on our Internet interface to make it more gamer-friendly; you will see our company move into land-based gaming; and you will see us acquire two or three smaller competitors. Rather, you will see what you have always seen, expansion.

Vegas Offshore: What other changes do you see in 2005 for the industry as a whole?
Wagner: The strong will get stronger. The weak will get weaker. And, the acquisition race will be on.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Nick Zito's 2005 Triple Crown Campaign And Now Comes The Belmont Stakes

Nick Zito's 2005 Triple Crown Campaign And Now Comes The Belmont Stakes

Will Andromeda's Hero Become His Birdstone? At the beginning of the 2005 Triple Crown season, Nick Zito was the trainer to beat sending off five strong contenders to the 131st Kentucky Derby. For a moment everyone seemed to know how it would all end, but fate was not about to agree.

He sent them all to Louisville: Aventura and Fountain of Youth stakes winner High Fly; Tampa Bay Derby numero uno Sun King; plus equally powerful starters Bellamy Road, Noble Causeway, and Andromeda's Hero. After the dust cleared, none of his five entries played a factor at Chruchill Downs. His highest finisher was the George Steinbrenner-owned colt, Bellamy Road, at a miserable 7th place.

The others settled for 8th (Andromeda's Hero), 10th (High Fly), 14th (Noble Causeway), and 15th (Sun King) places.

Bellamy was also his hope in the next Triple Crown race, the 130th Preakness Stakes, but a popped split was discovered and the colt was sent to the barn to recover. Not about to cop out he re-sends his “triple threat” to Baltimore – High Fly, Sun King, and Noble Causeway.

Once more, Zito was slapped with an awful loss when his horses failed to soar, Sun King finished 4th, Noble Causeway 6th, and High Fly 10th.

They say there is strength in numbers but so far it has only brought disappointing results to the soon-to-be-inducted racing Hall of Famer.

He now has at least two prospects for the 137th Belmont Stakes: Andromeda's Hero and the Sir Barton winner, Pinpoint. He is yet to confirm Bellamy Road's status, who was earlier reported to be Belmont-bound.

The Fusaichi Pegasus colt, Andromeda's Hero, is the one trying to follow Birdstone's footsteps. He finished eighth in the Derby, last year, Birdstone also finished eighth in the same race. As with Birdstone, he skipped the Preakness to point for the Belmont, and is doing his serious work at Saratoga, where Zito keeps his top runners at this time of year.

Andromeda's Hero, so to speak, is Zito's last chance to shine in this most revered horse racing season in America.

Zito appear both hopeful and resilient about his failed Triple Crown bid. "I'm extremely grateful we're still standing," he said. "We're extremely grateful we still have horses to run. That's how I look at it. Our experience shows just how tough the Triple Crown is."

Will Zito find redemption in Andromeda's Hero and win Belmont for the second straight year? Or will his Triple Crown season completely go to the bin?

Zito was recently elected to the racing Hall of Fame, it would be sweeter to get inducted in August if he wins his last hurrah at Belmont. He may be on a losing streak but all-eyes will still be on his entries for the last leg of the Triple Crown races.

The 137th Belmont Stakes, the culmination of the 2005 Triple Crown season, finally happens on June 11 at Belmont Park, New York.

Follow the 2005 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on the Triple Crown Trail beginning from the prep races then the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and Preakness Stakes at Pimlico all the way to the Triple Crown horse racing championship finale. Find all you need to know about the Belmont Stakes horse racing picks, horse racing tips, horse racing selections, race analysis, Belmont Stakes official race entries, past performance, possible race contenders, recent winners, race results and payouts, Belmont Stakes horse racing history, and Belmont Park race track information and history. Consider the 2005 Belmont Stakes on June 11, 2005, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, as your winning bet, after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, leading up the Triple Crown 2005!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Belmont Could Include Derby, Preakness Winners

Although the race is still three weeks away and the picture could change, the 137th renewal of the Belmont Stakes June 11 could serve as a rubber match between longshot Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo and the courageous Preakness (gr. I) winner Afleet Alex.


The last time a Kentucky Derby winner hooked up with the Preakness winner in the Belmont Stakes was June 9, 2001. While Derby winner Monarchos finished third, Preakness winner Point Given cruised to victory over A P Valentine before a Belmont crowd of 73,857.


According to the New York Racing Association, those two may be joined by any number of new contenders, with the top finishers from Belmont's May 28, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at nine furlongs likely to return in the Belmont Stakes. Chekhov, Golden Man, Mr Sword, Oratory, Reverberate, Robador, Saint Anddan and Survivalist, and possibly Better than Bonds and Confederation are expected to run in the Peter Pan.


NYRA reports that Andromeda's Hero and A.P. Arrow, nominated to the Peter Pan, may wait for the Belmont Stakes. Pinpoint, who won Saturday's Sir Barton at Pimlico, and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Buzzards Bay, fifth in the Kentucky Derby, is also likely for the Belmont. Scrappy T, the Preakness runner-up, is questionable for the Belmont Stakes at this point.


In addition to Point Given, other horses to complete the Preakness/Belmont Stakes double are Cloverbrook (1877), Duke of Magenta (1878), Grenada (1880), Saunterer (1881), Belmar (1895), Man o'War (1920), Pillory (1922), Bimelech (1940), Capot (1949), Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Damascus (1967), Little Current (1974), Risen Star (1988), Hansel (1991) and Tabasco Cat (1994) as.


Giacomo is out to become the 12th horse to complete the Kentucky Derby-Belmont Stakes Double, hoping to join Zev (1923), Twenty Grand (1931), Johnstown (1939), Shut Out (1942), Middleground (1950), Needles (1956), Chateaugay (1963), Riva Ridge (1972), Bold Forbes (1976), Swale (1984) and Thunder Gulch (1995).

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Afleet Alex powers to a win

There may be a cloud over the Preakness, but it was harder to discern its outlines yesterday - beyond some harmless cumulus tufts - on an afternoon so brilliant it seemed designed to defy the doomsayers.


Either that, or the middle jewel of the Triple Crown made its final Pimlico appearance in grand and memorable style.


The 130th running of the Preakness Stakes went to Afleet Alex, the odds-on favorite with Maryland ties, who rebounded from a third-place Kentucky Derby finish to charge to a 4 3/4 -length win.


A record crowd of more than 115,000 gasped when the charging horse and second-place finisher Scrappy T clipped heels on the final turn. But jockey Jeremy Rose kept Afleet Alex on course and rode him to his win. Rose and Afleet Alex's trainer, Tim Ritchey, both live in Maryland.


As it has so often before, the Preakness, which drew more than $85 million in wagers, served to bring some order to the racing season by putting the favorite in the winner's circle. Giacomo, the 50-to-1 long shot who won this year's Kentucky Derby, finished third yesterday.


Otherwise, though, such reassuring certainty was in shorter supply at Pimlico, at least among the most loyal and informed of Preakness fans. Scanning across the huge crowd, with its gaudy hats and black-eyed Susans, it was hard at first to believe Pimlico's Preakness was at risk.


But in quieter moments, in the stables and grandstand and corporate tents, fans spoke worriedly of the prospect - hardly a sure thing, but no long shot - that yesterday's Preakness could be the last, or one of the last, in Baltimore.


These fans had heard the growing rumblings from the track's owners and their local supporters: If Maryland does not legalize slot machines, a proposition that has failed to become law three years in a row, horse racing at Pimlico - and by extension, the Preakness - could be doomed.


That's because on days other than the annual extravaganza, Pimlico and the state's other tracks draw but a tiny fraction of yesterday's throngs.


Craig Neill had heard the talk as far away as Texas. He and his family have come from the San Antonio area to Maryland for 16 straight years just for the Preakness. Holding his 5-year-old daughter on his shoulders in the paddock to give her a view of the horses parading by - not for betting purposes, since she favored whichever horse was wearing pink - Neill said he worried that she may not get to enjoy the experience much longer.


"We're scared. It sounds like if we don't have slots we don't have nothing," he said. "It's sad. It's a hallowed tradition, and the people in Maryland should want to save it."


Others tried to take a fatalistic view. If this was indeed one of the last Preaknesses at Pimlico, then they were going to make the most of it, particularly on such a glorious day.


Ann Siegmund and Robbi Walls had been discussing the track's tough prospects in the grandstand with the rest of their 50-strong Baltimore group. But the women's spirits were high as they lined up at a window to collect their $5 winning on an exacta in the day's fifth race.


"It's kind of bittersweet. It's sad, but I'm enjoying it at the same time," said Walls, of Owings Mills. "When you're out there, you can't help being into it."


Some unaware


To be sure, plenty of those in attendance were blissfully unaware of the race's shaky future. Heather Kilroy and Renee Bentley of Philadelphia were modeling their newest dresses and hats at the front row at the finish line. "Aunt Maggie has had the seats for 30 years. I'm privileged to come," said Kilroy. They were disconsolate to hear of the track's troubles.


"That's depressing!" said Kilroy, 25, dressed in yellow and orange.


"You're bringing us down!" added Bentley, 30, who was in black.


In the track's infield pit, amid the usual maw of smashed beer cans and sun-burned bodies, word of a possible Preakness move provoked a more outraged reaction among the uninformed. One might as well have suggested that light beer was being outlawed.


"That's [garbage]!" shouted Nick Fanslau, a bare-chested 20-year-old from Lansdowne, Pa. "I had no idea!"

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2004 Belmont Stakes Results

It took 12 tries for trainer Nick Zito to win the Belmont Stakes. It took 2:27 2/5 for Birdstone to end that slump on Saturday afternoon at the expense of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, who was looking to become the 12th Visa Triple Crown winner in the 136th running of the million-dollar, 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion." And Birdstone's one-length victory took the heart out of the majority in a record crowd 120,139 and NBC's national audience. Birdstone is owned by socialite Marylou Whitney, who is a very big part of the Saratoga scene.


This was the day it was supposed to happen, a day racing would again embrace a Triple Crown winner. It had been too long, 1978 with Affirmed to be exact, and you couldn't have asked for a better hero than Smarty Jones.


The "Philly Flash" looked like a lock to become racing's all-time leading money earner, needing only victory in the Belmont Stakes to force Visa to deliver on its $5 million bonus . But the grind of running three times in five weeks at three different racetracks at three different distances had taken its toll on Smarty Jones. And Zito, who had five seconds and a third in his previous 11 Belmont Stakes tries; who had a full deck for the Kentucky Derby reduced to a few wild cards, was now waiting in the wings with Birdstone and another shooter, Royal Assault, who won the Sir Barton at Pimlico on Preakness Day.

Smarty Jones, breaking from the far outside in post 9, was put into contention immediately by Elliott, who had been flawless aboard him through eight straight wins. He quickly wilted Purge, whom he had beaten twice at Oaklawn Park, who faded after a half-mile of :48 3/5. The next challenge came from Rock Hard Ten, the Preakness runner-up, whose antics forced the starters to blindfold him in order to load him into the gate. He stayed in the mix and was a length off Smarty Jones after a mile in 1:35 2/5. At this point, Smarty Jones looked to have found the Holy Grail, but he wasn't alone for long, as Birdstone swept to victory. "Smarty broke very sharp," Elliott said, "and I got a hold of him, but a couple of horses came up on his inside and just kind of had him on the run. "I thought that maybe, if he could get on the lead by himself, he'll relax, which he might have. But I had a horse on the inside, then one on the outside and a horse on the inside again. So, he never got a chance to relax. I just had to keep letting him out a little bit at a time, and it just took its toll on him."


Smarty Jones will now get a well-deserved rest and point toward race later in the year, most likely the Pennsylvania Derby on Labor Day back at his home base of Philadelphia Park. "He's not done," Servis said. "You'll be seeing plenty of him and hopefully, we'll get to race next year. And he'll go on and do some great things and he'll be noted as the great horse -like Spectacular Bid that didn't win the Triple Crown."


Winning jockey Edgar Prado said "I feel a little bad. Smarty Jones is still pretty good but [Birdstone] is bred for the distance. I was very comfortable all the way around." The win was Prado's second in the Belmont, both times denying a Triple Crown. He was aboard Sarava in 2002. Winning trainer Nick Zito said, "What can I say? It was one emotional thing. It's sad because Smarty is great for racing."

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1974 BELMONT STAKES

Leader of the Pack-So now we apparently have a legitimate leader among the three-year-olds. Darby Dan's rangy chestnut Little Current, the seven-length winner of the Preakness three weeks earlier, duplicated his effort almost exactly in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 8 to join such select company as Damascus, Nashua, Native Dancer, Capot, and Bimelech, each of whom failed to win the Kentucky Derby, but went on to win the other two Triple Crown races.


He also became the first colt to win more than one of the 11 stakes with a value of $100,000-added or more in the division thus far this year; he became the second member of the division to account for three major stakes; he has soundly defeated the Derby winner, Cannonade, in their last two meetings, while the latter had no excuses in either race; and, when in the clear, he has blown past his opposition in both the Preakness and the Belmont with all the ease of a Learjet overtaking a Piper Cub.

In short, he is currently the leader of the pack. Favored, of course, was Little Current, principally off his Preakness victory in the impressive time of 1:54 3/5. ... Next in favor of the crowd was Cannonade, the Kentucky Derby winner, albeit in 2:04.

From an even start, Jolly Johu went to the front ... while Little Current dropped 11 lengths off the pace, where he was to remain throughout the first mile. Jolly Johu and Shady Character lumbered the first half in :49 3/5, the latter in front now; they dawdled the six furlongs in 1:14; they crept the mile in 1:39 1/5. Obviously, the riders were asleep, and the crowd was beginning to get that way. Fortunately, though, things began to happen.

On the turn, Little Current began to accelerate, slipping through inside the fading Shady Character, Sea Songster, and Hudson County before Miguel Rivera smoothly took him to the outside to shoot at the leaders.

At the quarter pole, Cannonade was on the lead after 1 1/4 miles in 2:04 1/5, with Jolly Johu second and Rube the Great third, while Little Current had clear sailing on the outside, and from here it was no horse race. He zipped past the leaders with no trouble and drew off to win by seven, with ease.

Meanwhile, Jolly Johu, one of the longest priced horses in the field, rallied again to take second by a nose from Cannonade, while Rube the Great finished fourth.

Little Current's final time of 2:29 1/5 elicited howls of anguish from trainers, the press, and other pundits. It was 5 1/5 seconds slower than the track record set by Secretariat in last year's Belmont, they said. And the track was fast, they said. Three races on the card had been run within three-fifths of a second of their respective track records, they said. It just goes to show what a group of louts this is, they said.

But wait. Secretariat's times have made a lot of horses look bad, and, if there were a group of louts in the race, it was the jockeys who dawdled along at the incredibly slow pace-or the others who allowed them to-through the first part of the race. Furthermore, Little Current actually ran both the final quarter and the final half-mile faster than Secretariat had last year. The time for Little Current's final quarter was :24, while Secretariat had coasted home in :25, and the final half was two seconds faster, Little Current going in :47 4/5 as compared to :49 4/5 for last year's champion.-Arnold Kirkpatrick

The Thoroughbred Record, June 15, 1974

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