Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NYRA Live Race Streaming gets an A

Living in a State where bureaucracy reigns, kudos must go to NYRA for overcoming the nonsense that is New York State Legislation. After the demise of the New York City OTB, NYRA has moved swiftly to finally receive approval allowing live steaming video on their ADW site(NYRA Rewards).

The Live streaming video debuted today. I visited the website (nyrarewards.com) around 11:30 today before the Aqueduct first race post time of 12:30 pm. I hit the "Live Video" icon and to my surprise I was taken to the "NYRA Replays and Talking Horses" show that runs daily for an hour before each day's racing card on track and at simulcast outlets, allowing me to view NYRA Handicappers Jason Blewitt and Andy Serling as they previewed the entire Aqueduct Card.

The nice thing is that the live video opens up in a separate window, allowing you to stay on the main page, and view odds and bet while you are watching the live stream.

At 12:17 pm, the feed came back on again, with Blewitt and Serling handicapping Race 1 as the live video showed the saddling of the horses and than the Post Parade. If you are a visual handicapper, you know how important this video is.

The site is easy to use and requires no advanced degree designation or computer knowledge to navigate.

I'm the first to knock NYRA but when so much goes wrong for so long, Lets give credit where credit is due. NYRA gets an "A" grade from this reviewer for the integration of Live Video Streaming onto the NYRA Rewards site.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Also Ran Again

Despite a superlative career Zenyatta keeps missing out on the big awards. The recently retired mare missed out on the 2008 and 2009 Horse of the Year awards and this years award is very much in question with 2010 Breeders Cup Classic winner Blame quite possibly getting the 1st place vote.

First in her career 19 times out 20, Zenyatta seems to have contracted the deadly "seconditis" disease.

Last year Zenyatta missed out on the 2009 Female Athlete of the Year award as chosen by members of the Associated Press, finishing second. This year Zenyatta also falls short of the AP award, finishing second once again as Skier Lindsey Vonn takes top honors. Of course, to make matters even worse for the dark haired beauty Zenyatta, she finished second to a blonde.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ok, time to take some Pictures

The 2010 Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance Photo Contest is now accepting Submissions.

You can find all the contest information over on the TBA website.

Entries can be a professional or amateur photograph. I submitted a photograph last year and finished well behind the field. The competitive bastard that I am, I once again submit an entry for 2010.

My photograph (see below, double click to enlarge) was taken at Saratoga Race Course on 8/29/10 during the The Personal Ensign Stakes. The photo features Rachel Alexandra and Persistently during the stretch run of the race ultimately won by Persistently. As the voting is open to the public, I unabashedly ask for your vote, with my reasons why I deserve to win as follows:

My photograph does not feature Zenyatta, the most over photographed horse of the 21st century and for that reason alone my photo deserves your vote.

My photograph was taken with a $39.99 dollar point & shoot camera. I am competing against people with high resolution cameras with lens attachments. I deserve your vote for having the courage to compete with such poor equipment.

Unlike the professional photos that will be submitted, this photograph was taken among the masses in the grandstand who cannot afford the clubhouse or special access granted to those with connections. Imagine how much better the photo would be if I was given a cushy position near the finish line, are at least a little bit closer to the actual race I photographed.

Although Rachel Alexandra finished second in the Personal Ensign Stakes, my shot features Rachel Alexandra when she was still in the lead, at the 1 1/8 mile mark of this 1 1/4 mile race. This photo features the last time ever in her career she was in the lead before being passed by the winner. Some credit must come my way for the timing in taking the photo of Rachel in the lead for the last time ever.

My fiancé was with me that day, and I always seem to get great shots when she is with me at the track, probably because I love her so much. This proves I am a romantic, and horse racing is a game of romance -yet another reason deserving of your vote.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

NYC OTB Debacle

The closure of the NYC OTB affects more than the direct customers of the OTB Parlors.

Remember, this is a state where NYRA's online wagering site, NYRA Rewards is not even allowed to show the post parade or a live stream of its own product on its online wagering site. If you live in NYC, you just lost the OTB Simulcast feed on the OTB Broadcast channel available on broadcast and cable TV. If you don't have access to TVG or HRTV and you have a NYRA Rewards site, good luck on wagering without a look at what you are wagering on.

Here in upstate NY, I can still have access to the Capital OTB TV Station to utilize in conjunction with my NYRA Rewards account. But if you are in the Metro NYC area and have only a NYRA Rewards account, you are now stuck.

Another problem is limited hours to bet on the NYRA Rewards state, again limited by New York State Law.

I have hope we will see a new NYC OTB reorganization plan surface, and this plan should include allowing live online streaming and expansion of hours you are allowed to bet on the NYRA Rewards site.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Title Slips by Zenyatta


As the debate rages on for Horse of the Year, I suppose Zenyatta had a shot at the Sportsman of the Year (won by Drew Brees) awarded by Sports Illustrated every year. She certainly qualifies as an athlete who has had success in her sport and had a large effect on the sport beyond her winning. And yes, you don't have to be a man to win the title. Chris Evert won in 1976 and Mary Decker in 1983. Teams have also won, the last being the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

No horse has ever won the title, but Jockey Steve Cauthen won in 1977. I went back and read the article on Steve Cauthen by legendary writer Frank Deford. The first thing I noticed is how journalism has changed from when the article was written 33 years ago, back when magazines were filled with ads and readers had attention spans that would read behind 140 characters.

This years article in SI on Brees is a mere 11 paragraphs and 666 words. The article by Deford on Cauthen is a novel by current standards at 62 paragraphs and 4,332 words. You can read the entire article here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks...

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I hustled to finish my last work appointment in Saratoga. It is a cold today, but clear, and with the sun blazing it felt rather mild for this time of year. As I traveled back home down Union Avenue, I passed the grand old track, 3 months since the last patron entered, gates now closed, not to open again until half way through 2011. Seeing the track reminded me of one of my favorite quotes (by the wise Jesuit Balastar Gracian):
All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.
So enjoy the time we all have and I hope for everyone it is filled tomorrow with good cheer, good food, family and friends. And if nothing else, if you get tired at the Thanksgiving table arguing about politics, religion, and the economy, just throw a question out about who should win the Horse of the Year award to get the gang riled up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Post Zenyatta Life

Now it is official as Zenyatta is retired and will be sent to Lane's End farm in Kentucky.

So how does the game proceed post Zenyatta? In the short term the Horse of the Year debate will rage on, perhaps fueled even more by the fact that she is now retired. Judging by what I have read and heard thus far, I feel that Zenyatta will win the Horse of the Year vote. It is my opinion that turf writers are an emotional sort and are protective of the game they cover. I don't see how most of them can take emotion of out of the decision making. Emotion will win out and Zenyatta will win.

The most amazing thing is how late her popularity bloomed, especially in the mainstream. It was like a huge surge starting about 30 days prior to the BC Classic, pushed ahead by a 60 Minutes piece and a long feature article in Sports Illustrated. I can only wonder how much wider known she would have been had she ventured East a few times in the past 2 years, to dirt tracks such as Belmont, Monmouth or Saratoga.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Breeders Cup Also-Rans

With so many words now being written on the Thrilling finish Blame and Zenyatta gave us in the Classic , I don't know if I can add much, so let us take a look at some of the weekends also-rans as described in the Equibase Result Charts:

Mine That Bird (Dirt Mile, finished 1oth out of 12 starters):

Steadied at the start when Morning Line drifted out, raced three wide and was no factor.

This pretty much describes his year where he was never a factor in 4 starts. Mine That Bird was retired today.

Lookin at Lucky (Classic, finished 4th out of 12 starters):

within reach of the leaders the opening half while unhurried, advanced four wide past the three furlong marker, rallied in company with the winner approaching the stretch, battled that one to inside the final furlong and weakened

Part of my Tri-Box with Blame and Zenyatta, it looked for a minute that he would go with both of them all the way to the line, but he didn't do it and also allowed Fly Down to beat him by a neck at the finish for 3rd.

Quality Road (Classic, finished 12th out of 12 starters):

close up along the inside, moved off the rail on the second turn and stopped after six furlongs

Man did he stop.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

BC Friday Winners and Losers

WINNERS:

Churchill Downs: Lights worked; Great Friday attendance of over 41,000
ESPN: Great video of the Borel-Castellano Fight; Jumped right on Life at Ten story
Longshot Bettors: All winners paid double digits with Shared Account paying $94
Bobby Flay: He made me $29 bucks and change on Real for More, plus he loves the sport

LOSERS:

Track Vets: Gotta do a better job of checking on Life at Ten
Borel: Can't say I blame him, but this will tarnish his good guy image
Chalk Players: You took a bath, only paying favorite was Awesome Feather

Saturday's Predicted Winners:

Sprint: Big Drama with Supreme Summit underneath
Juvenile: Uncle Mo with Biondetti underneath
Mile: Gio Ponti
Classic: Lookin at Lucky, Zenyatta, Blame

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Breeders Cup 2010 Prop Bets

I direct you to the Thorofan "Handicapper's Corner" for a serious look at each BC race authored by many of us at the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, including your truly where I took on the BC Sprint (love Big Drama).

You can also head over to the TBA Home Page and check out the Public Handicapping page for the BC races, where thus far 16 bloggers, writers, and tweeters have checked in with their picks (where 2 other 'cappers join me in picking Lookin at Lucky over the Superstar Queen Z).

For some less than serious bets, here are some Prop bets, culled from various gaming sites and my own curious mind:

How Many times will Zenyatta's name be mentioned in the race call-Over/Under: 8.5

How Many times will the ESPN TV crew mention Zenyatta's name during the entire 3:30-7:00 pm Saturday broadcast: Over/Under: 100

How Many times will ESPN mention BC Classic Longshot Pleasant Prince: Over/Under: 3

What will the Saturday ESPN TV rating be: Over/Under: 1.9

First adjective/expression to be used by winning BC Classic Jockey after the race:

"Amazing": 3-1
"She's the Greatest": 7-2
"Thrilling": 6-1
"He's the Best": 8-1
"This is the greatest feeling in the world": 10-1
"Unbelievable": 12-1
"I believed in my horse": 15-1
"I just would Like to thank God for all this": 20-1

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Zenyatta on 60 Minutes = Web search buzz

If you are reading this blog, you most likely found your way to a TV set or computer Sunday evening to watch the 60 Minutes piece on Zenyatta.

It was purely a puff piece, nothing to be learned if you are already a fan of the great Mare. But the exposure of being on 60 Minutes cannot be discounted. Even in this age of a fractured television audience 60 minutes is a ratings juggernaut. More people watched her last night on CBS than did last year in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

A search on Google Trends at 9:00 pm Eastern time on Sunday, about an hour after the piece ran on Zenyatta, showed that she had zoomed all the way up to #14 on the Google "Hot Search" Chart for searches in the USA. The search "Breeders Cup 2010" zoomed all the way to #5, indicating the casual fan was intrigued enough by the Zenyatta piece to do a little research on this Breeders' Cup gig. The only sports themed search higher, at #3, was the search for "Brett Favre Injury". Below is the Google Trends search volume index graph for Sunday on Zenyatta:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BC Pre-Entries in-Now it gets serious

Now with all the Pre-Entries for the Breeders' Cup races in, the build up begins in earnest. Past Performances will be studied, trainer interviews will be published and Horse of the Year debates will continue.

The biggest of all is the return to dirt, The Breeders' Cup Classic, set to go off at 6:45 pm.

Looking at the field, if the great Zenyatta is to retire at 20-0, she will have earned it. Two horses have my interest at this moment. I have been reading alot about Blame, and I am intrigued by the amount of fans who absolutely stand by this horse and feel he will beat Queen Z. And what about Lookin at Lucky, who always runs, never quits, and looks really ready to go in this one.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Arrogance of Power

Joseph Fisch, New York State Inspector General has released his report on the Aqueduct Entertainment Group VLT fiasco and as expected, it is a treatise on New York State Politics and its corruption filled, lobbyist controlled, greed fiefdom.

One of the culprits slammed by the Inspector General includes State Senator Malcom D. Smith (D). Just how can these shenanigans involving our elected officials continue to occur in New York State?

Easy, when you are continually reelected no matter what you do in office a sense of entitlement reigns. This goes for both sides of the aisle, whether Democrat or Republican. The New York State Senate has members each elected to two year terms. There are no limits on the number of terms one may serve.

Senator Malcom D. Smith (D) has been a senator in the 14th district since 2001. Despite what can kindly be called a checkered career with many questionable activities, he wins all his reelections and ran unopposed in 2008. He is up for reelection this November. Should he win as expected, he enters his 10th year in office. This is par for the course in New York State, once you get it, you are basically in, provided you play the game and don't piss off your fellow long term incumbent fellow state politicians. The residents of New York State, the constituents they are elected to represent-they don't count.

For all the sleazy details, you can read the entire 304 page Inspector General report here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shirreffs on Zenyatta-Just Sayin'

Like any good campaign manager John Shirreffs is telling all who will listen that Zenyatta should win the Eclipse award for 2010 Horse of the Year, even if she loses the Breeders Cup Classic. You can find all the quotes in Jeff Lowe's article in the Thoroughbred Times. I have no problem with the quotes, he believes in his horse and should say so, plus planting the seed into the writers (and voters) heads about winning the award even if she loses the BC Classic is pretty smart.

He further said, should she lose out on the award this year:
“For what she has done for the last three years, I would have to say that would be a real slap in the face"

He also said he thinks the award should have been split between Rachel and Zenyatta in '09.

It seems that Shirreffs feels Zenyatta's continued dominance in 2010 diminishes Rachel's dominance in 2009. For 2009, Rachel was 8-0, with 3 Grade 1 wins against males. You can't go back in time and make the award a "Lifetime Achievement Award". If so, Zenyatta wins hands down. But the award is for Horse of the Year, and that is a whole different animal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Of Hope and Promise

Another great weekend for a sports junkie, and if you are like me, your remote control got a big workout this weekend. Saturday was big, juggling between the MLB playoffs and watching Belmont and Keeneland on the OTB channel. I could not watch the ESPN Classic television coverage from Keeneland on Saturday card as ESPN Classic is no longer part of my cable package-thank you Time Warner.

The Saturday highlight was 2 year old Uncle Mo, now unbeaten in 2 starts and headed to the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Is he the real thing? Let's wait and see, his time on Saturday was impressive and he certainly looks to have the type of body to endure a 3 year old TC campaign run. But the Champagne field was really of an allowance quality and not Grade 1 stakes material. On Sunday at Belmont, 2 runners coming out of Uncle Mo's Travers undercard debut win, Research Report and King Congie looked very unimpressive finishing 4th & 5th in a 5 horse field.

Someone who did look impressive was 5 year old gelding Little Nick in winning an $70,000 Overnight Stakes race at Belmont on Sunday, beating a nice field. I touted Little Nick and trainer Anthony Quartarolo last month on this blog when Little Nick was an Alternate Entry in an $47,000 turf at Belmont. Hopefully you remembered his name and cashed in on a $22 winning ticket today. In usual Murphy's Law fashion, yours truly forget to get his bet in.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Slots Welfare

Using the funds from casinos and VLT's to prop up horse racing has been described by some as "slots welfare" for racing. Well, who would have thought that some of the money spent on slots and at casinos is actually generated from our welfare system. The LA Times has reported that between January of 2007 and May 0f 2010 about $11 million dollars in cash was spent or withdrawn from California issued welfare aid debit cards in Las Vegas with $1 million spent directly on the Vegas Strip. Ya can't make this stuff up.

Maybe in a strange way this makes sense, the Taxpayer funds the welfare recipient who than spends his welfare cash at a slot machine to than fund an industry also in need of help.

In reaction to the Times article, The Schwarzenegger administration is now cutting off use of state-issued welfare debit cards at casinos across the country and on cruise ships.

Before we start amping up the NY Breds Program in anticipation of slot-infused mega purses, Maybe we should ask the New York candidates for Governor, Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino, their position on the use of welfare debit cards at the soon to be built Aqueduct VLT's.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Super Saturday Coverage

Unlike most weekends, there will be sufficient television coverage of the big races this weekend if you are not lucky enough to get yourself to Belmont Park or Hollywood Park this weekend.

In addition to the usual TVG and HRTV coverage, MSG+ Network will broadcast from Belmont Park on 5-6 pm eastern time Saturday with live coverage of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. They will also show taped coverage of the 3 other Saturday Grade 1 races at Belmont. You can find my analysis of the Jockey Club Gold Cup over at the Thorofan website.

In the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic I'm looking forward to see how Paddy O'Prado does going 12 furlongs and against older males for the 1st time. Paddy is fast becoming one of my favorite horses to watch. He reminds of me of a reliable baseball player-someone like ex-Met Keith Hernandez-he shows up to compete and is always looking for a way to win.

ESPN actually decides to parachute into the Horse Racing scene and will be broadcasting live from Hollywood Park from 6:30-8:00 pm eastern time with live coverage of Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret Stakes as she shoots for her 19th consecutive win in the Lady’s Secret Stakes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rachel Alexandra-Something we can Remember

So now it is official, Rachel Alexandra is retired.

She ends with a race record of 13 wins and 5 seconds from 19 starts with career earnings of $3,506,730.

In an age where the news cycle spins and spins and we just go on the next thing, the next name, the next item and forget everything we just saw or learned, Rachel Alexandra stands out for being memorable and remaining in the news these last 2 years. Hard to do in America, where only Zenyatta is on equal par as far as name recognition to the everyday casual racing fan.

In a country where seemingly everything that is new gets old quick and than forgotten, like the oil spill we were all riled up about but now gets nary a mention in the media, Rachel continued to get her media ink ,website, and social media mentions. Heck she might even be trending today on Twitter, although the twitless seem to think the topic "signshesahoe" seems to be important enough today to be a trending subject. If only I was joking.

On a personal note, I was lucky enough to see Rachel race in the flesh twice, in the Woodward Stakes in '09 and this past summer in the Personal Ensign Stakes. I will always remember her Woodward Stakes victory. I have never heard the crowd roar like they did that day at the Spa. Here is a picture (click to enlarge) I took as Rachel entered the final furlong of the Woodward Stakes. I love how everyone in the crowd is looking intently at the race as Rachel roars down the stretch holding off Macho Again and Bullsbay. We all know it takes a special horse to hold the attention of an entire crowd like that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Travers to BC Classic Drought Continues

It is now official, another year will pass without a horse winning both the Travers Stakes and the Breeders Cup Classic. Not that he was confirmed to even run in the BC Classic anyway, but it won't be Afleet Express as he will not run for the rest of the year after being injured. He was slated to run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup next on October 2nd.

No Travers winner has gone on to win the Breeders Cup Classic since its inception in 1984, despite great Travers Stakes winners in the past such as Point Given, Lemon Drop Kid and Easy Goer. In the last decade Medaglia d'Oro, Flower Alley and Bernardini all came close. The one to come the closest recently was when Bernardini lost a stretch duel to the great Invasor in 2006. Here is a look at the last 10 Travers winners and how they fared in the Breeders Cup Classic and if/how they raced as a 4 year old :

Horse

Year of Travers Win

BC Classic Finish

# of Wins as 4 year old

Point Given

2001

Did Not Run

None-Retired @ 3

Medaglia d'Oro

2002

2nd

3 (5 Races)

Ten Most Wanted

2003

8th

None (1 race)

Birdstone

2004

7th

None-Retired @ 3

Flower Alley

2005

2nd

None (3 races)

Bernardini

2006

2nd

None-Retired @ 3

Street Sense

2007

4th

None-Retired @ 3

Colonel John

2008

6th

1 (4 races)

Summer Bird

2009

4th

None-Retired @3

Afleet Express

2010

Will Not Run

??

Friday, September 17, 2010

Names of Interest at Belmont Park

Coming off the high of the summer season at Saratoga, it takes me about a week to get into the fall meet at Belmont Park. 4 Days into the meet and I have yet to place a bet. But today has some familiar names on the Belmont Card so maybe today is the day I come out of my cave and take a look around.

The familiar names include 3 year old's Aikenite and Radiohead in the 1st in a $60,000 overnight stakes on the turf.

In the 3rd we have a $60,000 NY-bred Overnight Stakes with a short field but familiar NY-breds in Manteca, Giant Moon and the senior warrior Naughty New Yorker.

In the 7th, an allowance optional claiming for $47K over the Widener turf, keep your eye on also eligible Little Nick, shipping in from Monmouth. He will have to scratch into the race but if he does, worth a shot if he doesn't come down too much from his morning line odds of 6-1. He's trained by Anthony T. Quartarolo, who returned to the training game this summer at Monmouth after a long layoff. He may be familiar to Harness fans at the Meadowlands as he was a harness driver there back in the day, than a harness trainer, before jumping over to train the Thoroughbred's.

At Monmouth this summer he was 50% in the money out of 10 starts.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blue Skies, 9-11 and Belmont Park


Those who expect to reap the blessings of Freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. -Thomas Paine, "The American Crisis"

As I went out for my morning run this morning, I was struck by the crystal blue skies above my head, with nary a cloud in the sky. Of course, 9 years ago today on 09/11/01 the sky was also crystal blue above the greatest city in the world-New York.


Today as you go about your activities try and make today a day of remembrance and reflection for the 2,976 victims who were murdered on 09/11/01.

If you make your way to beautiful Belmont Park for opening day of the Fall meet, throw a few bucks on Aces Mark in the 8th race, an allowance for NY breds. Aces Mark is named after Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis, scouts for the Los Angeles Kings, who were aboard United Airlines flight 175 when it was deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11. You can read more about the story of Aces Mark over at Teresa Genaro's Brooklyn Backstretch site.

Never forget the what happened that day, and never forget how lucky we are in this country, to truly pursue liberty, do work of our choosing, and enjoy our leisure time unencumbered and of our choosing at home with family and friends or at various destinations across our land including our local track.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Saratoga Numbers

NYRA's Dan Silver puts his best spin on attendance and handle at Saratoga over at the NYRA website. It seems just silly to compare this years 40 day meet with the 36 day 2009 meet plus the last three days at the Belmont 2009 meet. I only took 9th grade Prob and Stats but somehow I conclude this is an apples and oranges comparison.

Just compare Saratoga 2009 vs. Saratoga 2010, something like this:

2009 attendance : 854,424 (36 days) Average: 23,734
2010 attendance: 878,284 (40 days) Average: 21,957

2009 on track handle: 112,005,864 Average: 3,111,274
2010 on track handle: 114,693,168 Average: 2,867,329

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Day 36 and the Trap Door

Day 36 is usually Labor Day, where we watch the final race, tally up the Jockey and Trainer titles and say goodbye to the Spa. Instead we plow on with 4 more days of racing.

Attendance stands at 758,153 after Day 36, an average of 21,059 per day- about 5% down from 2009 figures. Maybe I'm getting old, but it doesn't seem that long ago that attendance was in excess of 900,000 for the 36 days of Saratoga racing.

Today was a weird day at Saratoga with the very popular 3 year old filly Lisa's Booby Trap going off at even money odds in the second division of the $70,000 Riskaverse. At one point with about 15 minutes to post she was at 3-5 odds, even though she had never run a race on turf before. I guess this shows how everyone loves a good story. However you were shown the trap door if you bet on her, as Lisa's Booby Trap finished dead last, 17 lengths behind the winner.

Supposedly Dateline NBC had a film crew following around owner/trainer Tim Snyder and Lisa's Booby Trap all day for a possible network special on the horse. It's unknown if the Van seen speeding down Union Avenue towards I-87 South right after the race was indeed the NBC crew getting out of town.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Travers Weekend Recap 2010

69,111 folks showed up Saturday and Sunday for the 2010 Travers Stakes and to see Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign Stakes. Almost 70% of that number showed up on Saturday (45,764) proving at least in this case, that great weather and a traditional stakes race (The Travers Stakes) trump any one individual horse as 23,247 were on hand Sunday to watch Rachel Alexandra.

Count me among the ones who attended both days, although I did not arrive until midway to see Sunday's Card after spending the entire day at Saratoga on Saturday with my party of 5.

The Travers Stakes this year won't go down in history as one of the fastest (2:03.28), but it was a thrilling photo finish on a sun drenched humidity free day. For me, that's all I need to have a great day at the track.

Besides, I hit the Trifecta in the Travers. The photo finish fell in my favor with the winner Afleet Express tipping the $2 Trifecta bet to $970.00. Special track salute to Geno at EquiSpace for stopping by to say hi during the card and strongly tout Afleet Express. His thoughts helped me go confidently to the window. I had drawn an O-fer the first 11 races so hitting the Trifecta out the door sure made the drinks at Siro's taste sweeter.

Sunday at the track for me was a day for light betting and just enjoying the day with the better half, and seeing Rachel win the Personal Ensign Stakes...I mean err...place. Oh well, don't think we will see that RA vs. Zenyatta BC Classic matchup after all.

I leave you with a photo I took Sunday at the 1/16 pole of Rachel still in the lead in the Personal Ensign Stakes. If the race was a mile and eighth she wins, but it was not and RA was gasping the rest of the way home.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Travers-a Holy Race of Obligation

This week I have been reading the marvelous "The History and Art of 25 Travers" by Vic Zast and featuring the wonderful art & posters of Greg Montgomery. While reading it I came across Bob Summers, racing columnist for The Buffalo News quoting a horseplayer who called The Travers a "Holy Day of Obligation".

How perfect I thought-- for me that is what it is. Some people never miss Sunday Church, but for me my Church is on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs NY and it would be a sin to miss a Stakes day, especially the Travers Stakes. This will be my eighth attended Travers in a row and though it might seem silly to some, I can't see myself missing one anytime soon.

We all have our favorites but among the ones I have attended I remember 2004 when Birdstone proved the Belmont upset of Smarty Jones was no fluke. I never forget how dark it got when the race went off and how the heavens opened up with a violent thunderstorm as Birdstone crossed the finish line the winner.

As for the 2010 Travers, every time I look at the past performances I come up with another horse I think can win the thing. For me it comes down to who can get the classic Mile and a quarter distance. Maybe come post time I will change my mind yet again, but right now I like Fly Down on top with First Dude, Afleet Express and Ice Box underneath.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Travers Exotic Bets/Play on Words

As you study the PP's here's a few exotic bets to ponder:

The Afleet Alex Trifecta: Admiral Alex., Afleet Again, Afleet Express

The Nick Zito Trifecta: Miner's Reserve, Ice Box, Fly Down

The Restrained Exacta: Miner's Reserve, Super Saver

The Friends Exacta: First Dude, Friend or Foe

The Antipodal Exacta: A Little Warm, Ice Box

The Air Force Exacta: Fly Down, Trappe Shot

Monday, August 23, 2010

Travers week off to Soggy Start

Not the way you want to head into Travers week with 2 days of rain dampening the usual festive feel of the Spa. NYRA had ordered 60,000 giveaway umbrella's for Sunday but had leftovers with an announced crowd of 45,171. My experience on giveaway days is too divide the attendance # by 3 to get the real #, which in this case would be 15,057. Probably the right number if you look at on track handle, which was $1,956,816. If you believe the 45,171 figure that is only $43.32 spent on track per person there.

Monday saw similarly crappy weather and 69 souls kept the # over 10,000 at 10,069. Mondays on track handle was $1,374,511 which equates too a more healthy $136.51 per person.

If you use my divide by 3 formula, the Sunday per person handle (1,956,816/15,057) would actually be $129.96.

On to the rest of the week, where you know NYRA has one eye on the weather forecast. So far the extended forecast shows rain on and off through Thursday but than clear, dry and cool Friday through Sunday.

NYRA is betting heavily on the promote Rachel Alexandra angle, including announcing today a special Travers-Personal Ensign Double (would it be called a weekend double?)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A betting angle is a betting angle

I just read about abut two public handicappers-one who swears visual handicapping, (i.e. watching the horses in the paddock and the walk up to the gate before making a bet) is a great way to bet and one other handicapper who says he never does it-They both have good ROI records-so who’s to say what really is a good betting angle or not?

Here are some betting angles I have been using lately with some success.

When a jockey is injured and is than off his mounts for the rest of the day, bet the very next mount that Jockey would have had. Yesterday when Rajiv Maragh was thrown off Pico Dinero in the 7th race at Saratoga and sent to the hospital for observation, he could not make his next mount aboard Glacier Bay in the nightcap. I always feel this is like a freebie for the jockey getting the mount-he wasn’t expected to race and all of a sudden he gets a chance to make some extra coin-most jocks seem to ride with an extra zest when this happens. Eibar Coa got the mount and I jumped all over Glacier Bay who won at long odds paying $26.20 to win.

Another angle is to bet against the very, very hot trainer when every horse he sends out gets automatically bet down. Trainer Chad Brown was red hot the first 2 weeks of the meet, and his horses were getting bet down like crazy. If you took a stand against him with one of the long shots starting in week 3 you did ok. For instance on Sunday at the Spa, Brown’s horse Payout at 1-2 odds finished fourth with long shot winner Who’s Willie Fitz paying $44.80. Of course, knowing when to keep with the hot trainer or jump off board is the tricky part, you don’t want to jump too soon, but when the odds get crazily bet down, I’m well off board.

Conversely at some point a slumping trainer breaks his streak, especially a good one. Nick Zito was 0 for twenty-something entering Today's card at Saratoga, but when everyone stays away in droves at some point you gotta jump back on him as the odds should be pretty square. Today in the 5th, 2 year old Mountain Town paid $16.40 for winning trainer Zito and his pal Marylou Whitney.

Speaking of betting, you check out the handicapping selections of your favorite bloggers and writers at the TBA home page here for Arlington Million Day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saratoga Midterm Observations and Comments

21 Days in the book, 19 to go for the 2010 Saratoga Meet.


Here are some midterm observations:


Jockey Title: It’s a 3 man race at this point; Javier Castellano came out red hot, but has cooled off a little and sits at 24 wins with Johnny Velazquez the hot one and your leader at 28, winning 3 races on Sunday. And beware Ramon Dominguez sitting with 21 wins and plenty of good mounts left in the meet.


Trainer Title: This has been a two man race from the start between Todd Pletcher and local trainer Chad Brown. Chad came into Sunday’s card with a remarkable win percentage of 43% but failed to cash in on any of his 3 horses going on Sunday including 2-5 favorite Payout in the 3rd race, who finished out of the money. When we look back at this meet I think Sunday will be the day Pletcher pulled away and never looked back- he picked up 2 wins and leads Brown 17-12.


The “Golden Sombrero times 5” award goes to Nick Zito currently an ice cold 0-20 in the win column with only 2 seconds and a third to show for his efforts.


The new infield Tote Board: I’m mixed on this one. I often sit over in Section J, so from those seats I have a dead on center view of the new infield Tote Board. It has a nice clean look and the odds can be clearly seen on the board, something the old infield Tote never reliably did, with multiple blown bulbs seemingly every day. But the new board does not show the post race payouts so if you are seated anywhere in the middle of the track you have to rely on the side totes or the small overhead televisions to figure out what they are. The right side of the tote is reserved for ad space and announcements-can't the race payouts be rotated in this space with the ads?.


The Paddock Bar: NYRA gets an A-Plus on this one. I relished the first few days of the meet, when significant other and I saddled up to the bar behind the Paddock in relative small company with great drinks, betting machines and a view of the Paddock to boot. But of course, despite my best attempts to keep the place a secret, word has gotten out and the place is jammed, especially on Saturday.


Other Track Amenities: NYRA gets kudos on this one also, adding the Shake Shack and the Blue Smoke to the grounds. Moderately priced with lines that move pretty quickly- both places serve tasty food, with betting windows in between the two places to boot, so you can still get your bet in. You really can’t go wrong with the Shake Burger and a Shake.


A returning eatery however remains my favorite. Hattie’s formerly on “restaurant row” moved to a separate location to a bigger space this year just outside the clubhouse escalators. I find a Hattie’s fried chicken sandwich eaten around the 6th race or so has just the perfect mix of ingredients to give me the proper nourishment to continue on for the remainder of the card.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 20 at the Spa

We are half way through the 40 day meet at Saratoga. Just a few quick notes before I zip off to the Track for this beautiful Saturday where it is 80 degrees now with a nice breeze.

NYRA gets lucky two weekends in a row with the weather-last week on Whitney weekend and now again where the feature race is the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) on Turf. You can read my thoughts about the race here at the handicappers corner section of the Thorofan website. This is probably the weakest Stakes weekend of the meet, so this great weather will help to bring up a few more souls at the track, that might otherwise pass. The attendance this week has been pretty strong, so expect a good turnout today.

I'll be back in a day or so with my midterm report card on the highlights and low lights thus far of the meet.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Completing the Saratoga Double Whitney Style

The 2010 Grade 1 Whitney Handicap is now complete as is my long but fun day at Saratoga. I started the morning bright and early running in the 2nd annual Fasig-Tipton 5K, where all racers got off well right at 8 am. I was happy with my finishing time of 25:38 among the 266 finishers. This is one very well managed race benefiting 4 backstretch charities. For more details on the 4 racing charities and some of their upcoming benefits along with her recap of the race you can read writer Teresa Genero's account at her blog Brooklyn Backstretch.

I later returned to Saratoga with family and friends for the full racing card at the Spa.

With the race under my belt and a 11 race card ahead of me, plus drinks at Siro's, dinner downtown and than post dinner nightspot visiting, I was in for a long day. But I was bred for distance so I relished the waking hours still ahead of me.

Regarding the Whitney Handicap, like many others I really loved Quality Road on top. So confident was I, that I keyed him on top in my Trifecta, over Blame and Musket Man. However, this is one of these races when you look back at the Past Performance charts and it seems so logical that Blame was primed to win this race. He is one fine looking race horse, and man did he cruise down that final stretch.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Saratoga Double-Whitney Version

This year I attempt my Saratoga Double for the second year. This consists of running in the Fasig-Tipton 5K in Saratoga Saturday morning followed by a full day stay at the track highlighted by The Grade 1 Whitney Handicap.


My training for the 2nd running of the Fasig-Tipton 5K has not been as strong as last year so beating my finishing 2009 time of 25:00 minutes may be tough, but I will give it the old college try. If you are in the area and want to give it a shot you can sign up on race day, 08/07/10, starting at 6:30am at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion.


All proceeds from the race will be divided equally among the New York Racing Association's four charities: The Anna House, Backstretch Employee Service Team, New York Racetrack Chaplaincy and The Backstretch Education Fund.


Regarding The Whitney, you can read my preview at the Thorofan Website. The weather will be pristine and it should be a great day.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Saratoga holds up well for Weekend #2

Blessed by near perfect weather, NYRA has to be very happy with the weekend 2 results at Saratoga.

74,649 fans walked through the Saratoga gates Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a nice healthy number, especially considering this was a "non-spinner" weekend as there was no giveaway day on Sunday. Monmouth Park had 58,175 fans over the same 3 days.

Monmouth was a big winner on Sunday with 40,904 fans coming to see the Haskell, but the Spa still drew 22,190 on Sunday and almost drew even with on track handle ($3,270,939 at Monmouth vs $3,152,520 for Saratoga).

On Saturday it was no contest as Saratoga had 28,682 fans with $4,682,285 in track handle compared to only 9,890 fans and $720,090 in on track handle at Monmouth. I guess it was so nice, everyone in Jersey just stayed at the Shore.

Friday was a big success for Saratoga as 23,777 fans came out for Twilight racing with an on track handle of $2,762,008. Monmouth on Friday drew 7,381 fans with $622,391 in on track handle.

NYRA heavily promoted the Friday Twilight card as "Party at the Spa" with tons of signs throughout the track and ads in the local media. They had a band, The Sean Dolan Band, playing after the last race outside the Clubhouse gates. I don't know if they are any good, but Ernie Munick said they are, and that's good enough for me. Plus Ernie himself was there playing in the backyard on Friday.

With such nice weather, the fans showed up all weekend and with the oppressive humidity of week one gone, everyone I bumped into over the weekend seemed happy. I also had my first Shake Shack Shake, a black and white Shake, on Saturday. After drawing a goose egg all day Saturday at the betting windows, the $13.00 for 2 Shakes, (one for the better half) was the best bet I made all day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

40 Day Spa Meet-Around the Horn 4 days In

After 4 days of racing, I thought it would be interesting to see what people in the know are saying about the first week of the expanded 40 day meet at Saratoga.

NYRA has declared the first week a success, boasting that it outperformed the final weekend of racing at Belmont in 2009. This is an apples and orange comparison if there ever was one, and the comparison by NYRA really seems silly.

NYRA did report that attendance and handle met expectations with an average of 18,113 fans and a little over 2.5 million in daily on track handle. Considering 2 of the 4 days were pretty awful weather wise- the all day rain for the Opener and the oppressive humidity on Saturday, I think the attendance and handle figures are good numbers.

Fellow TBA Blogger Steve Zorn has a fact filled post up comparing all the numbers for the Spa weekend 1 vs. Monmouth Weekend.

Steve Crist
of the DRF is happy so far stating:
"It looks like opening up a few days early was a good idea, and it is hard not to be optimistic about the 36 days of racing still ahead."


Even Paul Moran, the Debbie Downer of racing writers, seems happy about the first 4 days in his ESPN website column, describing the meet thus far as :
"So far, so good."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saratoga Opener in Pictures



As Geno would say, there is nothing like a Saratoga Opener.



Despite persistent showers that got worse as the day went on, 23,178 fans showed up.



A hearty fan not afraid of a little rain scopes out Tar Beach, winner of the 4th race.



Note the garish looking Shake Shack Restaurant Building behind the paddock on the left side. Doesn't make the Spa Paddock seem so quaint anymore.

Notes from the Day:
Yes it rained but you could find many worse places to spend a Friday afternoon. Vineyard Haven was impressive, Le Mi Geaux wins the Schuylerville, but I will keep my eye on the very green but talented Show Me the Bling. Even with all the scratches five of the ten races saw the Win bet pay over 20 dollars with 4 of them paying over 25 bucks. After placing a $5 win bet on Bank Merger in the 3rd race, bringing home a $63 return, I had my drinking money for the night and all was well. 39 days to go.

Photo Credits: Me

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Opening Day at the Spa-Full Field Friday

It’s still a little weird for me getting used to the early start at Saratoga, but the juices are starting to flow for me. It seems the people are ready if you want to go by anecdotal evidence of the buzz around town. Yesterday I had some business to do in downtown Saratoga around 2 pm and it was crowded. Everything seemed to be bustling and no one was around griping about the 40 days. I guess even if you think this year the Meet is too long, once you get up here, you just feel in a better mood and forget about it.


The entries for opening day at Saratoga are out and available for viewing at the NYRA website.


First thing I noticed was the full fields, quite a difference from the last few weeks at Belmont, where short fields and short purses seemed the norm. Of the days 10 races, 7 have at least 10 entries.


The feature race is the Grade III $100,000 Schuylerville Stakes for 2 year old fillies, won last year by Hot Dixie Chick.


Another nice race is the ungraded James Marvin Stakes (won last year by Gold Trippi) featuring familiar names such as You and I Forever, Cool Coal Man, Vineyard Haven, Friesan Fire, and Le Grand Cru. With betting spread out in this10 horse field, this should be one nice betting race.


In addition to the Schuylerville Stakes there is a 2 year old Maiden Special Weight race (the 7th), for fillies with a $50,000 purse.


On a down note, for the first time in recent memory, no races for the 2 year old colts, something I always looked forward to on opening day. Don't understand the logic of having the 2 year old colts skip opening day.


Last years opening day had two races for 2 year old colts, a Maiden NY Bred race won by Come From Behind and a $55,000 Maiden race for 2 year old colts won by Westover Wildcat. The hot 3 year old of this years early summer season, Trappe Shot, finished out of the money in that race.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Guess who's coming to dinner??

Jimmy Vielkind of The Times Union (Albany, NY) confirms in the Capitol Confidential Blog that Sarah Palin and her husband Todd Palin have been invited to the annual Whitney Gala thrown by Mary Lou Whitney and her husband John Hendrickson. Like past years, it will be held at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park in downtown Saratoga on the eve of the Whitney Stakes.

In deference to the state of the economy, the socialite couple cancelled last year's invitation only gala. But this year, the party is back on.

The Palins were also guests of Whitney and Hendrickson at this years Belmont Stakes. The Belmont appearance drew the expected mixed reaction. As the Whitney event is invitation only, and with tight security, forget about getting inside the event at the Canfield Casino.

But the public can assemble in Congress Park outside the Canfield Casino building to welcome or heckle guests, including Palin, as they seem fit. No word yet if fellow TBA blogger Alan from Left at the Gate who previously voiced his feelings about the Palin Belmont appearance over at Teresa Genaro's Brooklyn Backstretch blog, is on the invite list.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Saratoga Heat

It is an official heat wave in Saratoga County as we hit our 3rd straight day over 90 degrees (apparently you need to hit 3 straight days over 90 in these environs before you can call it a heat wave).

As of this post writing, the Thursday NYRA card at Belmont is on, as temperatures are expected to be less humid and in the high 80's at Belmont. With an east wind blowing over Long Island, they should be good to go. That wind won't be anywhere near Saratoga as we face another humid day where temperature should easily eclipse 90 once again on Thursday.

The water sprinklers were going full blast on the Saratoga Race Course Turf surfaces on Wednesday, as the staff did what they could to keep the turf from becoming rock hard. If you look closely at the photo here taken of the track today, you could see a few brown patches on the turf, something rare this time of year.



Unless we get a significant amount of rain between now and opening day, don't expect any soft turf at the Spa.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Puzzling Rachel Alexandra Camp

Yesterday, I received via e mail the media advisory statement from the Jess Jackson camp that Rachel Alexandra will be running in the ungraded Lady 's Secret at Monmouth Park. The Monmouth people were kind enough to move the race up a week and also kick up the purse from $150,000 to $400,000.

The subject of tracks increasing purses and offering other incentives to attract stars is the big topic of the day at the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance home page (www.tbablogs.com). Check it out throughout the day for various takes on the subject.

Didn't see this one coming, but I can only imagine the reaction by NYRA, as it was hoped Rachel would be running in the $250,00 Grade 1 Ruffian on August 1 at Saratoga.

NYRA President Charles Hayward had this to say:

"We are puzzled and disappointed that Rachel Alexandra, who performed so well at Saratoga last year, is passing up the Grade 1 Ruffian to run in a non-graded race at Monmouth over the same distance"


Puzzled is right.

What really struck me as weird was this statement from Jackson in the media advisory release:

“We had a great experience at Monmouth Park and we appreciate the overwhelming show of support the fans there have given us."

No doubt the Haskell victory by Rachel at Monmouth last year was well appreciated by the fans who came out, but no less appreciative were the 31,171 fans in attendance roaring Rachel down the stretch at the Spa during last years Woodward Stakes.

Said Jess Jackson about running in the Lady's Secret at Monmouth:

"It’s the perfect place to start what we hope will be another championship run.”
Maybe I am missing something here. What championship run exactly? Wouldn't a true championship run be better served by running in an Grade 1 race instead of a ungraded race?