Sunday, August 30, 2009

Post Travers Reflections

Random Reflections from Travers Weekend at the Spa:

-I wonder if any of my loyal 5 readers bet the Summer Bird/Hold me Back Exacta I gave out on Friday.

-Very glad I was at the track Saturday and not at home betting on my NYRA Rewards Account-Many commenter's on Steve Crists' Cristblog complained about slow service and getting locked out of the site when trying to place an online bet.

-I was a little perplexed at the low crowd figure on Saturday of 34,221 (the lowest since 1979). I realize the dropout of Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird hurt, but you still had the Belmont winner, plus Quality Road and a competitive field of seven. Yeah the forecast was bad, but it was not raining all that hard once the races started. I would have thought 40,000 or so fans would have still showed up, with rain gear in hand. Maybe everyone is just coming next Saturday to see Rachel Alexandra. Everyone says they are showing up, but my guess is less than you think will actually be there.(more about that later this week).

-Here are a few photos I took on Travers Day:

Quality Road unseats Velasquez while trying to load in the Gate

Summer Bird looking relaxed and ready going into the Gate

and they're off in the 140th running of the Travers Stakes!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Travers Weekend

Can you spot the error in the official NYRA "Shadwell Travers Stakes" Souvenir Glass? (Special thanks to Reader LJK for finding the error and the photo)

Looking at today's card, the races seem only so-so (except for the Baruch), I would have expected a stronger card for the Friday before Travers day.

On the Travers day card, the King's Bishop is loaded. I like Big Drama in this one. I won't touch Vineyard Haven, having raced only once since last October, placing 4th in Dubai for the Goldophin crew, but would not be surprised either if this horse beats me.

In the Travers, I like Summer Bird at this distance, I think the pace and distance sets up well for this bird. Looking for a nice exacta payoff, I like Hold Me Back, who returns to the dirt after running a 106 on the Turf at Colonial on July 18th. If this colt manages to grab 1st, the color of the canoe stays the same (Winstar Farm owned Colonel John).

Latest weather forecast has rain coming in heavy tonight but moving out of Saratoga by 11 am tomorrow with only a chance of showers after that. Look for a crowd in the mid-40's under a cloudy sky and a good track. See you at the Spa.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jockey Title at Saratoga: What a battle

With 11 days left at the Saratoga meet, Ramon Dominquez and Alan Garcia are in a fast and furious battle for the Leading Jockey Title. After Wednesdays action, where Dominguez had 4 wins, he now vaults on top of the leader board with 31 wins , 2 more than Garcia who has 29 wins. These 2 have been have been alternating multi-win days this past week pulling way ahead of the rest with Rajiv Maragh far back in 3rd with 19 wins.

You can bet Dominquez and Garcia are taking all mounts seriously as the margin of victory might come down to one win. Just look at the last 4 racing days:

8/22/09: Dominquez 4 wins, Garcia 1 win--Dominquez pulls ahead 26-25
8/23/09: Dominquez 1 win, Garcia 1 win--Dominquez stays 1 ahead 27-26
8/24/09: Dominquez 0 wins, Garcia 3 wins-Garcia leaps ahead 29-27
8/26/09: Dominquez 4 wins, Garcia 0 wins-Dominquez leaps ahead 31-29

I'm pulling for Dominquez, as my betting interest is with him in the Equispace Toga Party Contest.

I would watch who these guys are on in the last race on each race day-a place some Jockeys mail it in on what is usually a low level claiming race- these 2 cannot afford to relax and will be looking to steal a win wherever they can.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Winner-NYRA

They might want to add the Woodward Stakes on Septmember 5th to this Hotel sign, now that Rachel Alexandra will be running in it.

I certainly understand the historical perspective if this great filly dusts the field of older males in the Woodward, and I fully expect she will dust the field, but I think the Travers would have been a harder test, even if she did already beat the 3 year old boys (twice at that). I think the Mile and a 1/4 length would have been a challenge, especially against a healthy Mine That Bird, Summer Bird and Quality Road.

But the choice has been made, and the real winner is NYRA, which now gets rewarded with all 3 Triple Crown Race winners running in the final 2 weekends of the meet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pictures from Alabama Day

Light Bulb problems again for NYRA as the Infield Tote Board (Grandstand side) Winner Place and Show payouts are not visible all day for the customers.

The Day at Saratoga Started cloudy with the dirt listed as muddy and the turf soft

Ramon Dominguez aboard Winner 3 year old Happy Bull in the 5th, one of 3 winners for Dominguez on the day, putting him on top of the Jockey standings for the Saratoga Meet.

The Saddlecloths are all Pink in The Breast Cancer Research Foundation 8th race won by 2 year old Discreetly Mine with Edgar Prado aboard

The Sun shines before the Alabama on a track now labeled good

Careless Jewel pulls away from the field down the stretch in The Alabama Stakes

Notes: Photo Credit: Me

After Sunday, 22 racing days in the books, only 14 days left.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rachel Alexandra: One down, Four under consideration

Scratch one off the list, Rachel Alexandra, will not be running this Saturday in the Alabama Stakes. Not that anyone thought she would, but it was on the list of 5 races the RA camp said they were considering. Originally a decision was possibly to be made this week on where RA will run next. Now, we are told, a decision will come next week

Owner Jess Jackson was quoted in a Daily Racing Form article written by Dave Grenig as saying:
"I know delaying the decision makes it harder for the press to follow, but it's all about the horse."

Hey Jess--Let's not forget the fans and horse players who want to see Rachel run in person but can't yet plan a weekend because they don't know whether to book on Travers weekend or Labor Day weekend for the Woodward. And how many on short notice can turn around and make all the arrangements to get to Pennsylvania on Labor Day if Rachel is sent to the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 7th?.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guess we will have a Jockey Change Announcement

Looks like Norberto Arroyo Jr. will not be making his mounts on Races 1, 2,4,5,6,7, and 8 today at Saratoga.

The Times Union is reporting that Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. was arrested Sunday morning in Saratoga Springs for possession of an illegal substance after police said they caught him with more than 11 grams of cocaine. As of 10:40 am this morning they reported he was still in Jail pending $25,000 bail.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Completing the Saratoga Double

The Saratoga Double is now complete-that being my attempt to run the Fasig-Tipton 5k Road Race in Saratoga Saturday morning and than return to Saratoga to enjoy a full day of racing at the track.

The race itself was great. I finished 78th out of 239 finishers, running it in 25 minutes on the nose (25:00); with a pace of 8:03 and a place of 13th in my age group (40-49 male). Coming off a recent surgery, I was happy with the results.

It was hot but the scenic course made it a pleasant run, especially the parts on Union Avenue with a view of the grandstand side of the main track, and Fifth Avenue with a view of the Oklahoma Training Track. It was a very well run race and 4 racing charities will receive the racing proceeds. I will definitely be back to run it next year. It was neat to see all the racing related runners-other bloggers, writers, horseman, as well as the out of town runners from Florida, Canada and of course, a bunch from Kentucky. You can peruse the finishers and their hometowns here.

The runners were allowed to park in the Oklahoma Training Track parking area, and upon returning to my car after the race, I stopped for a few minutes to watch the horses in action on the training track. As the sun rose above the track I was once again reminded that there is no better place to be in the a.m than on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.

I later returned to Saratoga and watched a full day off long shots win at the Spa, including Telling in the Sword Dancer Stakes. My heart was with Better Talk Now, and the 10 year old warrior made a nice late move on the outside, but it was not enough as he finished 2nd to the long shot Telling.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Saratoga Double

The weather forecast for this weekend at Saratoga is Hot and Humid, not exactly the perfect weather conditions for my attempt at the Saratoga Double on Saturday. I will be running in the Fasig-Tipton 5K road race to benefit New York Racing Backstretch Charities. The race starts at 8 am looping around Union Avenue and onto 5th Avenue, affording all runners views of the back of the Saratoga Grandstand, The Oklahoma Training Track and some prime real estate in between. You can still sign up if you want to give it a shot and help out some great racing charities.

After returning home for a shower and some nourishment it is back to the Track for a full card of racing featuring the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. Personally I would love to see 10 year old Better Talk Now somehow pull out a win. If Better Talk Now were to pull out a win, he would become the oldest horse in North America to win a Grade 1 Stakes race. John Henry, John's Call and The Tin Man all won a Grade 1 at 9 years old.

I don't know who is the oldest horse outside of North America to win a Grade 1. Perhaps our international readers or fans of racing outside of North America would know the answer?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Saratoga after 2 weeks-Good Stuff

With 2 weeks in the books, attendance for the Saratoga meet is up 4.8 % compared to last year and on-track handle is up 8.3%. Pretty good news when compared to the meet figures at other tracks where attendance and on-track handle have been down this year.

What do we attribute this too? Here's my take:

Moving the Whitney Stakes back-Last year the The Whitney was moved from it's traditional weekend spot to the 1st weekend (Saturday), sharing the spotlight with the Jim Dandy Stakes being run that same weekend. This resulted in a lopsided meet leading to a stakes less weekend later on in the meet. This year it was moved back to the 2nd weekend resulting in the traditional schedule of running the Whitney a week after the Jim Dandy. Attendance for this year's Jim Dandy was 33,954 and the Whitney this past Saturday was a very healthy 39,568.

Decent weather-this year has had far less rain and more sunny comfortable days. Good weather equals good attendance, bad weather equals bad crowd. More than any other meet, Saratoga is weather dependent.

Familiar names-Saratoga visitors love to see horses, owners and trainers they know and plenty of familiar names are up here this summer-Commentator last week, with Mine That Bird, Summer Bird and maybe even Rachel Alexandra later on in the meet. I saw Mine That Bird Trainer Chip Woolery milling about at Siro's Saturday night and he was instantly recognized and treated like a rock star by the Siro's patrons.

Crowd makeup-It seems out of town visitors and week and meet long house rentals are down-but local "walk up" attendance by the locals seems to up-the Capital Region economy has faltered not nearly as badly as the rest of the country and I have seen far more frequent print media and local TV advertising by NYRA in an effort to draw the locals.

Still 4 weeks to go, but so far so good

Monday, August 10, 2009

Strange Days

Watching Da' Tara race today in the 3rd race at Saratoga won by stablemate Cool Coal Man, I thought of Jim Morrison of the Doors- what with his singing being wonderfully unpredictable, his lyrics often intentionally off base, sometimes bizarre.

Da' Tara looked more like a green 2 year old maiden than a seasoned 4 year old with a Belmont Stakes win on his resume.

Here is his how Equibase described his strange last place run today:
"Da' Tara lunged in the air at the start, rushed up four wide, raced up close for a quarter, than dropped back abruptly and raced well out
in the course before being eased late"
Trainer Nick Zito basically said Da' Tara checked out mentally during the race. The good news is that the post race check of Da' Tara by a vet indicated the horse is apparently fine health wise.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Rachel Alexandra on the Hot List

Super Filly Rachel Alexandra made the "Who's Hot, Who's Not" feature in this weeks Sports Illustrated (August 10th, 2009 edition).

Although we all loved the Mine That Bird story, it is Rachel that has that true "star" quality, you can't explain it, but you know it when you see it. She's hot enough to make the mainstream media and Sports Illustrated took notice. She's got that something special that extends to both the die hard fans and the casual fans. Compare her star quality and name recognition to Zenyatta.

Zenyatta has a perfect racing record of 11 wins in 11 starts, and had a head start on the racetrack (debuting 11/23/08) , but ask most casual fans who Zenyatta is and you will get a puzzled look in response.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Goodbye Sidney

Sidney Zion, a prolific journalist and author, died this past Sunday at 75. He was what bloggers would probably refer to as part of the "dying breed" type of journalist, who at various times wrote for the NY Times, the NY Post, the NY Daily News, and the New York Magazine among others.

He loved the NFL NY Giants and loved the racetrack. The NY Times, where I have read the best obituaries over the years, describes Sidney as:
"Rumpled and Runyonesque, a habituĂ© of Gallagher’s, Elaine’s, Sardi’s and other celebrity watering holes, Mr. Zion was a loud, cigar-smoking storytelling die-hard New York Giants fan who railed against what he called fitness fascists, passionately defended Israel and counted horse-players, mobsters, actors and politicians among his friends."

He weaved his love of the racetrack into his columns. Check out this paragraph from a 2005 NY Daily News column on the NYC Mayoral Campaign (later won by Mike Bloomberg):
"The odds against Tom Ognibene winning City Hall are north of what Giacomo faced in the Kentucky Derby. But in the former Queens councilman's run against Mike Bloomberg for the Republican nomination, he's no Tom Who? He'd be rated in the Racing Form as "can't be dismissed."

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rachel Alexandra-A clear Picture

NYRA is ever so gradually replacing the simulcast TV sets at Saratoga with Flat Screen TVs, but plenty of the old TV sets with horrible reception can be found throughout the clubhouse and grandstand area. The set showing the Monmouth Park simulcast closest to my seats in Section L (photo above) showed a grainy, fuzzy feed-kinda like when you watched TV with the old antenna connection at your grandmothers house.

Rather than going on a hunting expedition through the Spa grounds for a clear TV feed to see Rachel Alexandra run in the Haskell, I listened to my inner voice to bail on the situation and sped home, where a Flat screen TV with a clear feed of Monmouth awaited me.