And nobody’s better at playing the poker side of it than Mike Mitchell. Over the years, Mitchell has made his name as a savvy claiming trainer. And sometimes trainers must drop valuable horses in class for easy wins. If they only dropped the bad ones, then nobody would claim off of them.
So, in order to sell a horse with problems, other trainers must believe that they are claiming a good runner and getting a great bargain.
In Friday’s $25,000 maiden claimer, Mitchell saddled first-time starter #6 Wicked Mischief. I became curious because somebody, it seemed, spent serious money on this horse as a yearling and now it was being risked for just $25,000. In Wicked Mischief’s past performances, it showed that a winning bidder in 2005 either paid $160,000 for the horse at the Keeneland September auction, or the owners at the time bought it back for that price.
The stud fee alone for sire Distorted Humor is $150,000, which was six times the claiming price for Friday’s race.
Furthermore, Wicked Mischief was a 5-year-old and had yet to run his first race. But somebody was paying years of bills for this gelding, who must have suffered from serious problems at one time.
On the other hand, current owner Desperado Stables could have recently bought this horse privately from the original bidder for $15,000. It’s hard to tell.
Anyway, Mitchell and the Desperado Stables partners probably concluded that it was unlikely that anybody would take a chance and claim Wicked Mischief. So they ran him in an easy spot.
It was the best of all worlds. This horse’s well-documented problems allowed the connections to cash an easy bet at excellent odds while picking up a purse of more than $11,000. All of this with a horse that was vastly superior to his competition and had little chance of being claimed.
In the race, jockey Joel Rosario took Wicked Mischief to the back of the pack then he made a move 7-wide on the turn toward the leaders. In the stretch, the others were no match.
Wicked Mischief paid $16.80 and nobody dropped a claim.
In my race preview, I liked Wicked Mischief , but only at odds of 3/1 to 6/1. I figured if the horse was live then the stable would be betting. Wicked Mischief opened cold on the board at 12/1 or so then the money gradually came in before he closed at 7/1. I spread a total of $500 on three other horses — #7 Sven Diesel at 4/1, #10 Megillah at 7/2 and #11 Hotsie at 15/1.
To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.