A Dark Day For Racing
The Needle & the Damage Done
Definition of a Handy Workout
Definition of a Breezing Workout
Rolling with the Wiseguys
Mucho Trabajo, Poco Dinero
The Day the Music Died Biography
To key down on the definition of a breezing workout, I will begin by focusing on an individual who all morning is seated at his table facing a wall in the clocker's booth high above the track’s surface. On his table sits a phone, a voice box, and a means of rapidly recording, first, a horse's name, then, the corresponding workout time beside that thoroughbreds’ name. He sits at his table with his back to the rest of the clocking crew. The crew stands peering out and clocking the morning movements below. Soon someone from the crew yells back to the TAB WRITER, seated at his table, the name of each horse he has timed and the tag on the workout. "I got Dr. Fager, 47 breeze." "Give Watch Your Fingers 111-2."
The tab writer never times or tags a workout breezing or handily himself, being seated at his table facing a wall all morning, but the tab writer types the letter 'B' that appears after a breezing workout on that morning's worksheet, e.g. Dr. Fager 47B.
You would imagine that marking a 'B' next to a workout time would be an easy task. However, I've experienced a tab writer who would rarely type the letter 'B', thus a 46B (breeze) would appear on the work tab as 46H (handily). Because of this tab writer's habit of listing all the works as ‘H’ or handily, the few members of the clocking crew who would tag a work (handily or breezing) ceased that practice, for their tags would never appear on the worksheet. (Several clocking crews listing their tracks’ workout tabs in the DRF have every workout labeled ‘H’).
I've worked around a tab writer who often omitted the ‘G’, which denotes that a horse worked from the gate. Thus, 35HG (handily-gate) would appear on the worksheet as "35H".
It is easier for a tab writer to standardize and tag each work with an 'H' (handily). If a tab writer doesn't punch a 'B' (breeze) then the workout is automatically recorded as an 'H' (handily) which is one reason such a high percentage (over 90%) of all workouts are tagged 'H' (handily) when in reality morning in and morning out, about 60% of all workouts, are 'H' (handily) and the remaining 40% some degree of 'B' (breezing).
The top priority of a tab writer is to take the calls over the phone or from his voice box and relay the calls to the clocking crew by shouting over his shoulder,"Waya is going a half for Penna." "I'll get it," snaps that member of the clocking crew, working for a touting phone service. " Orange Soda Kid is going 6 for Tammaro."
A call is the name of a horse, the distance the thoroughbred is going to work, what pole the working horse will break off from, or whether the workout is from the gate and the trainer's name. A call tips the clocking crew as to what horse, what pole, what trainer and, thus, what combo of saddle towel, pony, equipment (Lukas uses white reins) and exercise rider to look for.
Most calls emanate from a trainer or exercise rider who gives the information to the gap man. A gap man is stationed at the gap leading from the barn area to the main track. Santa Anita has only two gaps to enter and exit the main track for workouts. The main gap is at the quarter pole chute. A gap man is stationed there, in a booth, to take calls. The other gap, where the horses enter the track in the morning, is the tunnel under the clubhouse from the saddling paddock. A trainer entering the track from the paddock will telephone the call of the horses working from his stable in that set to the tab writer. The gap man will take a call from a trainer, an exercise rider, or an assistant trainer.
The call is then relayed by the gap man through headphones or wires to the tab writer's voice box or telephone. The tab writer will then relay the information contained in the calls to the clocking crew, so they know the name of the horse that will be working, from what pole, the distance and the trainer. "Exceller is going a mile for Charlie." "I've got it," the member of the clocking crew reporting on the workouts for a secondary publication will jump in.
Most workouts each morning occur during two hectic periods known as "after the break." The main track opens for workouts at 5:30 a.m. (summer) and 6 a.m. (winter). The first break occurs around 7:30 a.m. The second break occurs around 8:45 a.m. Before each break, the track is closed and cleared of all horses. Then, the tractors and water trucks take about twenty minutes to groom and water the surface. A herd of horses waiting for the track to re-open for morning activities (usually the better stock) backs up, at either the gap or in the saddling paddock. Once the harrowing and sprinkling is completed, the gate is swung open from the barn area to the main track. The trainers rush to work their thoroughbreds over the freshly minted surface.
"After The Break" is when a tab writer will be flooded with calls on his phone and voice box. He will quickly shout the calls to the clocking crew, "Miss Iron Smoke is going a half from the gate for Mayberry." "I got it," steps in the clocker with the heaviest hitting betting client. "Bid is going 5 with ‘the little man aboard’." The Tab Writer scribbles the names of the horses scheduled to work. Then, after they are timed, the clocking crew shouts the name and time. "Give Miss Iron Smoke 45 flat." "Spectacular Bid gets 57 and a tick."
Then the tab writer must record the time next to the horse's name and, shortly thereafter, have various people call and ask, "What did you get Miss Iron Smoke from the gate?" "Shoemaker wants to know what you gave Spectacular Bid." If a member of the clocking crew shouts a time with a breeze tag, amid all this, he will usually get an "H" tag, period.
So who gets a breeze notation? Usually, a horse that works early or late in the morning, when the voice box and phones aren't crackling with calls. Then, it is easier for the clocking crew to observe, and for the tab writer to record a breeze. Or, at times, an owner might be putting a bug up his trainer's ass over his horse's workouts so a trainer will request a breeze notation. Or a sculptured blonde pony-tailed female exercise rider in black leather chaps over tight starched blue jeans might get a breeze more than other exercise riders. But overall, the main weight on the clocking crew as they are walking out of the plant at 10:00 a.m. is not, "did they tag that morning's workouts correctly for the public" but "what did they harvest from that morning's workouts that will keep the cash flowing from the secondary publications, betting-claiming clients and touting phone services."
The tab writer's objective is to get the correct thoroughbreds’ name and time attached to every workout that morning, publish that information on a worksheet, print the worksheet, put a stack out in the racing secretaries office and then walk out of the plant around 11:30 a.m. with little on his mind.