Monday, June 30, 2008

Heatseeker retired-what it means too me.

Heatseeker, # 1 in the TBA older horse standings, is now retired because of injury. What a bummer. In an older horse division lacking stars, we now have one less horse to root for. I wish Invasor, Bernardini and others were still running but they are all retired. The news can give you the history but For me, the average fan, what does this mean? Well this means one less horse that I know by name, one less horse I can follow, one less horse I can look forward to see race this summer and one less horse who will run in the Breeders Cup this fall.

When my downstate NY buddies come up Upstate to hit Saratoga this summer this is one less horse to talk about when we talk about not only who is running at the Spa but who looks good out west. We love this game and long for name horses to stay in the sport so we can see them compete, see them run. This is why we need to pay attention to the TBA standings and enjoy these horses when they do run, because their time before us is always so short.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Morning Ramblings

Yesterday was a busy Saturday for Racing with 2 Grade 1's at Belmont and the Hollywood Gold Cup out west. The most interesting was probably the Mother Goose with Music Note (now 3-0) the winner over Proud Spell (2nd in TBA 3 yo Filly standings). My feeling is this was a Riders Race, with a slow pace, and Gabriel Saez did not have a good ride. I know he had bad luck with a terrible start out of the gate, but he still had a chance coming around the final turn-I thought when he was on the rail he had a chance to squeeze by but Saez did not take it.

Look for Music Note to turn up at the Alabama at the Spa on the 16th of August.

In other thoughts, there are 2 Two year old races today at Belmont -take a look at Mr. Mistoffelees in the Tremont Stakes-this colt won debut on Poly surface by 9.5 lengths-lets see how he does on the dirt today. In the Astoria Stakes, Stewart Elliot comes up to Belmont to ride Bold Union, the 2 y.o. filly won big at her debut at Monmouth Park.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend Grade 1 Races

We have 2 Grade 1 races at Belmont this weekend-but the field is questionable, especially for the Suburban Handicap which has no actual Grade 1 winners in it. Even the NYRA website describes the field with a left handed compliment stating: "Saturday’s 122nd edition of the Grade 1, $400,000 Suburban presented by Shadwell Farm has drawn a most unique assemblage of eight horses" Meanwhile Oaks winner Proud Spell (2nd in 3 yo filly TBA standings)faces just 3 opponents in the Mother Goose.

I am an east coast racing fan but I must look to the West this weekend.

The Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday is a Grade 1 that actually has a bunch of Grade 1 horses in it including Heatseeker (1st in older horse TBA standings), Tiago (3rd in TBA), Student Council and the old but graceful Perfect Drift. This is a legitimate older horse race (I only hope the Whitney on Saratoga's opening weekend can be as good)and a good race to bet as odds will be spread out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2 Old-Timers we can root for.

On a day where we heard some more bad news for racing with Dutrow's suspension in Kentucky and Jockey Jeromy Rose getting suspended for whipping his mount in the face at Delaware Park, here is some good news: In todays Times Union newspaper (Albany NY-article in print edition only) staff writer Tim Wilken (and a good writer at that) reports that 10 year old Evening Attire will run at Saratoga this summer. His Trainer, Pat Kelly, is looking to put him in an allowance race at the Spa. Evening Attire is a fan favorite and look for the appreciative Spa crowd to root this horse on strongly this summer.

Speaking of old-timers, 9 year old Perfect Drift will run in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup this Saturday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wait, I got was a loose shoe.

Excuses given by the Big Brown owners and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr as to Big Brown's failings in the Belmont:

1. Nothing-the horse was fine
2. Wait, we changed our mind- it was The bad ride of his Jockey
3. No wait-The condition of the Track surface-it was too deep
4. and this too- it was The Hot weather
5. No wait- how about The Starter
6. No wait-it was....The Loose Shoe!!

The owners and trainer's would also like to give their first (and hopefully only) excuse for skipping the Travers to run in the Haskell at Monmouth: Even though we told you before the Belmont we would next run in the Travers, we now will not, because we just found out that it gets hot in August in Saratoga. Had we known this piece of information before the Belmont we would have honestly never had said we would run the Travers...honest...we least for now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. Bobblehead Day

NYRA held a press conference today in Colonie NY to announce the giveway days this year at Saratoga. Last year there were 6 giveway days, this year only 5. They are:

July 27: Saratoga Baseball Cap Sunday

Aug. 3: Saratoga T-Shirt

Aug. 10: Saratoga Stadium Seat

Aug. 17: Saratoga Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Aug. 31: Saratoga Cooler Bag

Gone this year is Bobblehead Day. As I go to the track to watch the races and bet, the giveway days are not of interest to me. However I enjoyed Bobblehead Day as I would take my kids with me. They got a kick out of the Bobblehead and looked forward to going every year. It is not easy to constantly drag your young kids to the track with you, and keep them occupied while I insist on staying for the whole card, long after my children have lost patience.

In typical NYRA logic, a NYRA spokesperson said the Bobblehead promotion was let go because it was the least popular of the giveway days. What they failed to mention is that is was held on a Thursday, the second day of the meet, which is historically the lowest attended day of the entire meet. All other promotion days are on Sundays, when people are off and can run to the Track and get their giveway booty. Also the racing card is better on Sundays and vacationers tend to come up on weekends. When they started this Bobblehead promotion in 2002, attendance kicked up dramatically for the Thursday held event. I felt it kicked up an otherwise lowly attended day. Any giveway on a Thursday would be lower than a Sunday giveway. But this is NYRA logic, not exactly the Mensa society of Marketing. So instead of a neat looking Bobblehead to put on your shelf or give to your kid, you can get a crappy T-shirt that reminds me of the garbage T-shirts I would buy in the parking lot at the Meadowlands after a Judas Priest concert in the 80's for 5 bucks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Morning Ramblings

As we always focus on the Saratoga Race Track at this site, let me give kudos to Will Springstead of the Post Star (Glens Falls NY) for his opinion piece on Big Brown written 6/21/08 running in the Haskell instead of The Travers. Will points out that before the Belmont, the connections to Big Brown talked up the Travers, stating how it meant something, especially to them as they were New York Guys. You can find the article here

Person who looked the best coming out of the Congressional hearings this week-ESPN's Randy Moss. He said it best when he said the best thing for the sport and the horses is if they all ran on "Hay, Oats and Water".

Today's Queen Plate Selections-Grade 1-3 years olds-Dirt

1. Ginger Brew
2. Solitaire
3. Sebastions Song

Friday, June 20, 2008

Belmont Stakes TV Ratings

Nielsen Media Research Inc. Television ratings indicate that all 6 games of the NBA Finals were the top six watched sports programs on US Television in the month of June 2008. The Belmont Stakes was the top non-NBA most watched sports event with 13.1 million viewers.

Here are some of the sports programs the Belmont beat out this month: The NHL Finals (Game 5 & 6 were broadcast in June), The US Open ( all days including The final round on Sunday June 15th and the Playoff on Monday June 16th), all NASCAR TV Events, All Fox National Baseball Broadcasts, the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and all WWE wrestling broadcasts (Nielsen ratings count the WWE as a sports program).

PETA and Churchill

Churchill Downs Inc. President Bob Evans has agreed to a meeting between CDI executives and PETA Representatives. While I support all honest efforts to improve Horse Safety at the Track, I wonder where PETA comes up with their proposals which include banning racing of 2 year old horses, putting a limit on the number of races a horse can run in a year and changing to all synthetic surfaces. I am not a doctor, but not running a horse at 2 years old seems like telling your teenager running on the High School Track Team would be dangerous for him because he is not yet fully grown and his bones are not fully formed yet. Seems crazy to me, how about you?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Big Brown to duck the Travers-will run in the Haskell

Michael Ivarone of IEAH annouced today that Big Brown will run in the Haskell at Monmouth Park on August 3rd and skip the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 23rd. According to quotes of Ivarone in the Daily Racing Form, Ivarone feels it will be less hot and humid at Monmouth than the Spa in August. It is also a tighter race track which should be more to the liking of Big Brown. Ivarone after the Belmont was critical of the Belmont dirt surface and no doubt has litte faith in NYRA to give him a favorable track up at the Spa. He will get that at Monmouth plus an additional $50,000 to the owners and $50,000 to Dutrow as bonus money from Monmouth officials as Big Brown won 2 Triple Crown Races. That money would not be given to run in the Travers. So, for you east coast fans of Big Brown you will have to travel to the Shore this summer to see Big Brown as he won't be at the Spa. After that it is possibly off to the West Coast for the Breeders Cup and than bye bye Big Brown.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

5 Weeks till Opening Day

With the Belmont meet winding down, Willie Randolph getting fired, congressional hearings beginning, NYRA takeouts increasing, it's time to look forward to something more upbeat- Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course-exactly 5 weeks from today.

Monday, June 16, 2008


The Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) will present to a Congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection a report on thoroughbreds, standardbreds and quarterhorses that have died at racing facilities. According to Ed Martin, president of RCI, the numbers in the report show that 99.875% of all starters in a race, finish the race safely.

You can read more here as reported by the Joe Drape in the NY Times. What the committee does with this information going forward will be interesting. Will they digest all the numbers or skew the #'s to fit their own view of the racing industry. What will anti racing groups like PETA have to say? Historically it looks to me like racing fatalities have remained about the same. Of course, soundness of the horse, use of medications, quality of racing, durability of the horses are all deeper issues that the #'s won't easily show. Will the Congress subcommitte hearing, which begins Thursday, be anything more than a dog and pony show? I guess your answer lies in what you think of big government's ability to fix racing problems. I for one, remain dubious that government can figure out a better way to run things than the private entities already involved in the sport.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Curlin Wins the Stephen Foster

Curlin has just won the Stephen Foster in convincing fashion, winning in 1:49 with Einstein 2nd, long shot Barcola 3rd and Grasshopper 4th. I was lucky enough to catch the race live on CapitalOTB TV channel on my Time Warner Cable system. Curlin was boxed in early in slow fractions with Jockey Robby Albarado patiently waiting with the long shot Barcola leading the way. Around the final Turn Curlin found an opening, made his move and sped pass the field. He passed a tiring Barcola and won comfortably.

NTRA response to lack of TV Coverage

Well, Alex Waldrop of the NTRA has responded to the excellent open letter posted by fellow blogger greenbutgame. I give him credit for his response and hope that the NTRA can be more forward thinking in their promotion of the sport. We need more foresight in TV coverage (the recent TV ratings have been good), more promotion of non Triple Crown events, better marketing of the handicap division and promotion of the TBA standings (see the right hand column of this blog). It is a shame that media coverage of today's card is limited. Lets hope the ESPN NEWS channel will at least have the replay of this race on their coverage later today.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How not to promote the Sport

Let see, This Saturday only one week after the Belmont Stakes we have Curlin running in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill against some pretty good horses-Einstein, Grasshopper, etc. Curlin is having a monster 4 year old campaign and everyone not talking about the Big Brown follies is talking about this horse. This is also the Northern Dancer stakes on the undercard featuring Pyro, Visionaire and RecapturetheGlory. Perfect for one of the ESPN channels right? Especially since Disney owned ESPN/ABC will be telecasting the Breeders Cup this year. Fresh off the Belmont what a way to keep the sport in the spotlight. Well of course, TV minds think differently and the Churchill card will only be seen on Horse Racing Television Network (HRTV) which can only be found on certain Satellite Systems. If you have regular cable, such as Time Warner or Comcast, etc you are out of luck. Green but Game blogger posted an excellent open letter to the NRTA on this. As a cable subscriber myself,I will have to rely on waiting for a reply are a posting of the video clip on You Tube,, etc later in the day. As Curlin was known to be racing in this race for months, why wouldn't ESPN get on the phone and get this race live on one of their channels???

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Curlin draws rail in the Stephen Foster Handicap

With the Triple Crown behind us, it is time to move away from the Dutrow-Kent squabbling for now and watch Curlin this Saturday. The great 4 year old drew the 1 post position in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. We are fortunate to have this horse run as a 4 year old. With so many of our 3 year old horses retiring, it is a pleasure to watch this magnificent horse get better and better. Unfortunately, unless you have Horseracing TV network on your cable or satellite system , there is no network or ESPN coverage. Too bad, because the whole card is good and the race itself features Curlin, Grasshopper, Einstein and other fine horses. In any event, with all the talk of what is bad in racing, lets remember what is good-horses like Curlin that stick around and keep racing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dutrow blames Kent

Well, the finger pointing has begun. Trainer Rick Dutrow has wasted no time blaming Kent Desormeaux for the ride on Big Brown. He also did not like that Kent pulled him up on the final turn, claiming Big Brown was not sore, so why pull him up. I have to agree. Unless Kent truly felt his horse was injured(and then he should jump off and help the horse immediately..i.e. like Prado did with Barbaro ) why not just ease him up a bit, forget the whip but continue to run through the finish line, finishing last or next to last. I don't get it. This does not look good for Kent, especially since he has been criticized in the Press and in the blogosphere for pulling up horses in the past if they are not in the money.

I had a great vantage point from my seat in section 3N in the Grandstand and I can tell you Big Brown was absolutely through on the final turn and would not have finished in the top 5, but he still should have run through the finish line, even if he had to gallop.

Photos from the Belmont Stakes

Here are some photos from my day at the track from top to bottom they are:

This was taken just as the horses leave the Gate. It looked like a clean start for everyone.
Next is the horses loading into the gate-no problems loading anyone
Next is Big Brown (#1-red) walking towards the gate-Big Brown looks calm.
The last photo is the track just before the horses entered the track for the Belmont Stakes. Little did the crowd know what they were about to see.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Post Belmont Thoughts-Triple Crown Bid Falls

What a hot sweltering day at Belmont Park. Fist things First, from my seat in the Grandstands, Section N, I had a gret view of the final turn. It was clear that as the Da' Tara came out of the final turn that Big Brown would not be going with him. This horse just had no gas, and the acceleration BB showed in the Preakness was absent. We can now say he is a very good horse, but not a truly great horse, as he did not win the Test of Champions. He will not run as a 4 year old, so he does not even have the chance to prove he can be a great horse. Hat's off to anyone who picked Da' Tara. I looked at him and threw him out as a non factor. Speed held all day on the track and who would have thought a speed horse would win wire to wire in the Belmont?

As for the day itself at Belmont, the heat was real tough and my hats off to the ladies who had to deal with non functioning ladies rooms. When I went to the men's room before the 10th race, there were 3 women in the men's room because the lines for the ladies rooms were at least 60 deep. The crowd was under 100,000 (94,000 plus) and I think my predictions in earlier posts about bad weather (hot weather ) and the cost of gas kept the crowd down a bit. I also felt the crowd was much more up and electric in 2004 for Smarty Jones. Lets face it, Dutrow and the ownership group of Big Brown were hard to like, and I think the racing gods may have bit them yesterday. The fans were stunned but I can't say we were sadenned like we were when Smarty Jones lost in the stretch.

The photo in this post was taken on my cell phone camera of the start of the Belmont Stakes. I will post more photos from our day at the track all this week.

Friday, June 06, 2008

This Just in-Casino Drive misses training run

According to Bill Finley of the NY Times, Casino Drive missed a training run and he is being evaluated by his management team-no decision has been made for tomorrow. At this point, might want to throw him out of your exotics even if he does run. Lets hope he is okay.

Belmont Stakes Picks

I will be at the Belmont Stakes all day tomorrow so here are my picks a day early.
Something may happen between now and when I approach the betting windows on Saturday around 6:25 pm but notwithstanding that here is how i see it.

I believe Big Brown is a worthy Triple Crown type horse and I don't see anyone else in the field in his class. I do believe Casino Drive is a very interesting horse with great breeding, but he has only run twice. I worry about his race maturity and whether he has the great turn of foot that great horses need. He won both of his races, but looks very green at this point. Other than Casino Drive possibly being in Big Brown's class none of the rest of the field is. That does not mean they can't win on any given day, including Belmont Stakes day. This is horse racing and great horses do lose. Big Brown can feel less than 100% and come in 2nd or even off the board. That is why this sport is so interesting and tough to handicap.

I will bet a bunch of collectible $2 win tickets on Big Brown to win and then bet the following:

1. Big Brown
2. Denis of Cork
3. Casino Drive
4. Tale of Ekati

Just in case BB bombs out I will play a safety 4 horse tri box of Denis of Cork, Casino Drive, Tale of Ekati, Ready's Echo (I have changed my mind on this horse and think he can get a piece late and might hit the board).

Hope to see you all at the track, enjoy the day, take it all in and may all your tickets be winners!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Belmont Posts Drawn-Preliminary Thoughts

Big Brown draws the rail. I won't repeat the post postions, they can be seen here. With the Belmont 2 days away here are my early thoughts. I will keep an eye on the weather, thunderstorms possible on a humid hot day, and make my final picks while I am actually at the track on Saturday. For blog purposes I will post my picks here on Friday, as I will be at the track when the gates open at 8:30am and away from the Internet all day. I encourage all of you within a tank of gas away from Belmont to come on out. Belmont Park has plenty of room, and although crowded, we can fit you in. So turn off the computer and come on out and say hello. I will be milling around the park all day.

As far as my picks, I keep looking for a way that Big Brown can lose but I just can't see it. He looks ready, rested and fresh. I like Casino Drive, but just don't know enough about the type of horse he really is, especially after just one race on American soil. I do know the breeding is impeccable on him, so for that alone I will put him in my exotics. Throw out Da' Tara, Anak Nakal, Readys Echo. The horses fighthing for places 2-4 should be Casino Drive, Icabad Crane, Denis of Cork, Tale of Ekati. I am undecided on where Macho Again and Guadalcanal fit at this point.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ivarone says Big Brown will run after Belmont

Good news for for fans who hope Big Brown will continue to run. Much criticized Michael Ivarone, co-president of IEAH Stables said today: "We’re definitely going to point him for the Breeders’ Cup Classic." While there are many doubters out there who believe he will retire after the Belmont, assuming he is healthy my bet is he will run in the Breeders Cup. He will need to run a prep before this and the Travers on August 23rd, 2008 would be the perfect Grade 1 prep for the Classic. Racing fans will be aching for this horse to continue to run if he wins the Triple Crown, and I think is handlers will love the attention Big Brown will get if he runs the Travers up at the Spa and then tries the Classic and a possible duel with Curlin.