Monday, June 28, 2010

Saratoga Swag

Just Like Christopher Moltisanti, people love getting their free swag. Thus we have the Saratoga Race Course 2010 Track Giveaways, 4 of them in all.

Here is a quick take on the items with my initial thoughts and Grade for each item:

Mid Summer St. Patrick's Day T-Shirt-7/29/10 (Thursday): Your typical Wal-Mart quality T-Shirt worth about 2 bucks, a dollar less than the $3 admission you pay to get in to the joint. But its "free" so people will line up for them like heroin addicts at a methadone clinic. I don't quite get the tie in to St. Pats day- seems strange. Grade: C-

Rachel Alexandra Cap-8/8/10 (Sunday): The cap has a Woodward Stakes emblem on the front and Rachel lettering on the back-looks like pretty good quality from the photo, probably worth a walk over between bets to pick one up. Grade: B+

Umbrellas: 8/22/10 (Sunday): Always a popular item, although the last few umbrella's given out have been poor quality, like the ones you buy outside Grand Central in a rainstorm. The ones given out years ago were big with a nice wood handle-I still have one I got about 15 years ago and use it all the time-you can't kill the thing. This years model looks like it might be pretty good quality. Grade: A-

Long Sleeve T-Shirt: 9/05/10: Slightly Better quality than the T-shirt, but don't expect it to be in the same condition you got it after about the 2nd time through the wash & dry process. Grade: B-

Friday, June 25, 2010

Straight Talk from Charlie

New York Racing Assocation President and CEO Charles Hayward spent 90 minutes on the Friday Night NYRA Live Web Chat answering questions from the web chat participants. For the most part the answers to the questions were detailed and straightforward.

Of course one question posted was based on the misconception that NY State gave $25 million to NYRA as a bailout so it could continue operations. It must be frustrating for Hayward to deal with this all the time. Charlie shot back with this answer:

"First of all, the state loaned NYRA money under the terms of our franchise agreement. That obligation of the state will be assumed by the VLT operator at Aqueduct when a VLT operator is selected and repays the state $25 million. I am extremely optimistic about the current state VLT operator procurement process. New York State Lottery is running the selection of the Aqueduct VLT operator under strict NYS procurement rules. This has not been the case in the past."

Charlie also was asked to address the possibility of reducing the racing days at Aqueduct. Charlie gave a detailed answer citing the state requirement under the franchise agreement to run 250 dates a year on NYRA tracks. He also cited the money issue:

"....this year the Aqueduct meet from January through late April, NYRA paid $5 million less in purses than we earned on wagering on Aqueduct. At Saratoga this summer, NYRA will pay $2 million more in purses than will be earned during the meet. What that means is that racing at Aqueduct in the winter subsidizes the purse structure at both Saratoga and Belmont Park."

Lastly Hayward put to rest (thank goodness) the rumor that Saratoga is looking to further expand it's racing season (this year increases from 36 to 40 racing days)

"For innumerable reasons, I think the 40 days has maxed out the Saratoga meet for the foreseeable future."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Zenyatta and the East Coast Crowd

Those west coast fans may constantly proclaim how much they love Zenyatta but they sure don't show up for her. On a beautiful Sunday (June 13th) at Hollywood Park with a Giveaway day (Zenyatta Bobblehead) and Zenyatta trying to go 17-0 by winning the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap, only 12,232 fans showed up.

Compare that to the east coast this past Sunday. At Monmouth Park, 24,262 fans (on track handle of $1,116,879) were in attendance. At Belmont Park, with no Giveaway and no Graded Stakes on the card, ( The feature race was the Mike Lee Stakes for NY Bred 3 year olds) attendance was 11,304 with an on track handle of $1,225,384.

A combined 35,566 showed up at the 2 tracks, which are 70 miles apart. Can you imagine if Zenyatta had been running at either of the two tracks this Sunday instead of last Sunday at Hollywood Park? For fun, throw Rachel into the mix and the numbers go even higher (RA drew 31,171 at Saratoga last summer to see her run in the Woodward Stakes).

Plus you had 49,240 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. I'm not even counting the thousands who showed up at NY Watering Holes all over the Metro NY-NJ area to watch the World Cup with their drinking buddies. Too bad Zenyatta will probably never run on NY-NJ east coast soil, she deserves that east coast crowd.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Great Races on a Vuvuzela Weekend

Two big wins in the racing world - First we got to see Rachel Alexandra return to form at Churchill Downs on Saturday with a 10 1/2 romp and than on Sunday we witness Zenyatta win in heart pumping fashion at Hollywood Park. Like many of you, these two wins have me looking forward to this summer to see what is next for Rachel and Zenyatta (man, would I love for them to battle it out at the Spa this summer).

Unfortunately the victories came on a very big sports weekend and getting space in the Sports headlines and News pages is a battle.

ESPN, the self proclaimed Worldwide leader in Sports, did not have it in it's list of top headlines on either its website or Sportscenter Shows. Top headline was the Celtics Game 5 NBA Finals victory, followed by Stephen Strasburgs 2nd win for the Washington Nationals, Tennessee Titans' Vince Young's altercation at a Strip Club, World Cup results and and a story on the World Cup officials considering silencing the vuvuzelas.

The vuvuzela is a plastic trumpet that the fans blow into at the World Cup. I am sure it is fun if you are in attendance, but at home watching on TV, it gets pretty annoying and that swarm like bee sound the horns make get stuck in your head. ESPN/ABC are lowering the sound mix from the crowd to keep it down, but after watching the US-England game and parts of 3 other World Cup games over the weekend, I feel like a war vet with shell shock syndrome, I can't get the bees out of my head.

I swear I heard bees swarming at Hollywood Park during Vic Stauffer's call of Zenyatta's win in The Vanity Handicap.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Funny

Credit: In The Bleachers by Steve Moore

Sunday, June 06, 2010

At the Park for the 2010 Belmont Stakes

Yours truly was on hand at Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes, extending my streak of consecutive Belmont Stakes attended at 7 (I missed the Funny Cide failed Triple Crown attempt in ’03 due to a wedding thrown by someone who can’t read a racing schedule).

Despite a pretty hot and humid day the crowd appeared to be in good spirits and happy to at the big Park for the day. It was real hot walking around the Paddock area, but after the Big Brown Humidity-Toilet Fiasco of 2008 all future Belmont Stakes will feel comfortable to me.

The crowd was announced at 45,243. I always wonder about these numbers and whether they are accurate or not. Before I heard the announced #, I calculated in my head what I thought the right number was by comparing the crowd I saw in the seats and out in the backyard area to last years # of 52,186. I came up with about 48,000 so the 45,243 figure is probably right. This years crowd did not appear to be to be that much lower than last years crowd.

After meeting up with Geno of EquiSpace fame at the Paddock, I returned to the Clubhouse to prepare my pick 6 ticket with 2 others in our group. We rolled through the first 3 races before Champagne d’Oro hit at 39-1 in the Acorn. All my worries about leaving Tanda off the ticket was for naught once Champagne whoever crossed the line and crashed our Pick 4 ticket also.

I’ve read criticism elsewhere of Jasmine Villegas’ version of “Empire State of Mind” sung live before the big race. Hate to pile on the young singer, but it sucked. While I didn’t join the fray I can confirm about half the crowd in my section of the clubhouse were booing as the song played.

As for the big race, I loved Fly Down and First Dude and had both in a bunch of exactas and Tri’s but Drosselmeyer was nowhere to be found on any of my tickets. Don’t know what to think about this year’s 3 year old crop-lets see how the Haskell and Travers shakes out.

The Starting Gate being driven onto the dirt track before the Belmont Stakes:

Photo credit: Me

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Coming out to Belmont Park

We all know the Belmont Stakes packs in over 100,000 fans when the Triple Crown is on the line but with no Triple in the offering this year lets take a look at attendance this decade going into non-Triple Crown Belmonts.

New York is an event town and the Belmont Stakes remains an event, drawing an average of 60,694 fans in non-Triple Crown years this decade. So far the weather looks good for Saturday-partly cloudy, low 80’s. Assuming you can see the Sun in the sky Saturday Morning, and with 5 graded stakes on the undercard, I think a tad higher than last years #, lets say 53,000, looks like a realistic number.



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