Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fitting End

Jeffrey Tucker, founding partner of hedge fund investment group Fairfield Greenwich Group, has abruptly stopped all new construction on his huge horse farm (Stonebridge Farm) in Schuylerville NY (just outside Saratoga NY). He also wants to sell his thoroughbreds after losing some $7.5 billion in the Bernard Madoff scandal, according to the Times Union.

How fitting that on the last day of 2008, this article about Tucker is run on the front page of the Times Union (Albany, NY) in an "above the fold" story.

It's been an interesting year, in and out of the racing game. We saw a big triple crown hope fail to live up to expectations, Curlin, Eight Belles, Zenyatta, more talk of synthetic surfaces, attendance and handle declines, rain and more rain at the Spa, and a new 2 day format of the Breeders Cup.

For all the latest news and more as 2009 approaches, grab the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance feed.

We now turn the page, hope springs eternal, for tomorrow our 2 year old crops turns 3, and the optimist in me begs to come out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recession Proof?

As we read news articles and blogs about the state of economy further killing track handle and attendance, this report from NBC Nightly News of 12/29/08 reports that not only are State Lottery sales up in 29 of 42 states that sell lottery numbers and scratch off tickets but 22 states will have record sales in 2008. Many people apparently feel that if they have a few bucks left in the week to gamble with, it is far easier and certainty less challenging mentally to throw a buck on the counter of the local convenience store and buy a scratch off ticket rather than bury ones head in the Daily Racing Form and figure out a horse to bet on.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday This n That

On this relatively mild day on the east coast NYRA runs its last Graded Stakes race of 2008, the $100,000 Grade III Gravesend Handicap over 6 Furlongs. When I think of Gravesend, I think of the Gravesend section of Brooklyn, having been there many times on business when living in the the NY City area. The Gravesend Handicap traces its roots back to the long gone Gravesend Bay Racetrack in Brooklyn New York.

For some great background history on the Racetrack and one particular race run way back in 1894, check out the Brooklyn Backstretch site.

As far as the 2008 edition, look for Lucky Island to run strong. With trainer Kiernan McLaughlin in Florida, assistant trainer Art Magnuson, who grew up a stones throw from Saratoga in Clifton Park NY, will saddle Lucky Island with Alan Garcia aboard.

On the west coast, Santa Anita opened with a opening day crowd of 33,100 -- an increase from last year's opening day crowd of 30,156. Check out Mary Forney's Blog for a report on the day featuring a Grade 1 Malibu Stakes win by Bob Black Jack.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

218 Days

Till opening day at Saratoga...Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

"The best menu for a horse is hay, water and oats"
-John B. Simoni, New York Racing and Wagering Board.

These comments were made with reference to the ban on certain type of anabolic steroids for Thoroughbred and Standardbred Horses in New York State effective January 1, 2009. There will be no grace period and apparently the Racing and Wagering Board will be tough in enforcing the ban.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quotes on Racing from Costas Now Year in Review Special

The HBO Costas Now Year in Review special as well as the follow up Costas Now Overtime on had some interesting quotes on Thoroughbred racing.

Bob Costas on Big Brown coming up short in the Triple Crown Chase:

"Another reminder that in the drama without a script that is sports, nothing is certain."

Charles Barkley responding to the question of Did he Bet on Big Brown:

"I don't bet on Animals"

Barkley on gambling on horses in general:

"Anything you hit, will run fast. That is not a big deal to me."

John McEnroe on Steroids in Sports:

"The dirtiest Sport right now is Horse Racing."

McEnroe speaking of past legal use of steroids in horse racing:

"Why was it legal"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Costas Now Year in Review Special

HBO Sports Show COSTAS NOW will have a live 90 minute broadcast on December 17 using a town hall setting. Hosted by Bob Costas, COSTAS NOW will focus on some of the biggest sports stories to emerge in 2008. Each segment will include a video segment, followed by a live panel discussion hosted by Bob Costas.

Any bets on if any Thoroughbred Stories will make the cut? Will The Big Brown triple crown chase get a mention, or perhaps the Eight Belles Tragedy? Or maybe these stories are no longer in the public memory bank, crowded out by other sports stories in the public eye this year such as Swimmer Michael Phelps, and the Giants dramatic Super Bowl Victory? The special will air on HBO from 9-10:30 pm Eastern time on Wednesday December 17th.

Ice Storm

As Saratoga County residents recover from the Ice Storm, a horse on a Saratoga County Farm peacefully enjoys the day.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sports Illustrated Pictures of The Year: Zilch

The advertising challenged Sports Illustrated December 12, 2008 issue titled "Pictures of the Year" with subtitle "The Best Sports Photos of 2008" has no horse racing photos of any kind.

We already knew that Sports Illustrated did not cover this years Breeders Cup, but now SI apparently has abandoned horse racing coverage entirely. Photos of Big Brown, Curlin, Zenyatta, the Triple Crown Series, and all International Horse Racing photos were deemed not worthy of making the the Pictures of the Year issue.

The magazine (back when people actually got ink on their hands and read magazines) was once known for its horse racing photos, including Cover Shots over the years featuring Seattle Slew (twice), Secretariat and Kelso. It now ignores the sport.

In this "Pictures of The Year" issue you can find photos of the NFL, NBA, MLB, College Football and Basketball, Synchronized Swimming, Golf, Amateur Wrestling, NASCAR, INDY Racing, Formula One Racing, Soccer, The Summer Olympics, Rodeo, Ping Pong (yes, Ping Pong), and Greyhound Racing from Coral Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium in Great Britain. But you will find not one Horse Racing photograph of any kind.

SI's last Horse Racing Cover Photo was of Smarty Jones, pictured above, in an issue dated May 10, 2004

Monday, December 08, 2008


Only 1 week after 7 year old Wanderin Boy was euthanized after suffering an injury in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, 2 year old filly Megadiva was put down after breaking her front right leg in the 4th race at the Big A on Sunday 12/07/08. Jockey Rajiv Maragh also took a tumble off Megadiva. Rajiv took off the rest of his mounts for the day but is apparently ok. Fatality rates have been low at NYRA tracks in 2008, I believe this is the 23rd, but as always you wish it was Zero.

Last week in reading about the death of Wanderin Boy, I came across several writers, including Alan over at Left at the Gate, write about something I always wondered about. If these same horses were just out in a field or just stabled on someone's farm would the injury rate be significantly any less?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

2009 NYRA Stakes Schedule

Hats off to reader/commenter LJK, who tipped me off to the news that NYRA has released the Stakes Schedule for 2009 including the 2009 Saratoga Meet. The good news here is that every Saturday has a Grade 1 race, unlike 2008 when the 3rd weekend at the Spa saw no Graded Stakes races whatsoever, which yours truly was not happy about.

As pointed out by LJK, you can find the 2009 Stakes schedule by following this link over at

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Maylan Studart on Fox Network

19 Year old Female Jockey Maylan Studart has been getting quite the attention in the press and in the blogosphere and now has hit National Television with an appearance on the Fox Network's Fox and Friends on December 2nd. Beware, my leftist friends, Maylan states on her own blog that she loves Bill O'Reilly and watches Fox Network all the time. Maylan has 7 wins, 10 seconds and 7 third place finishes out of 56 starts at Aqueduct this Winter.

You can find the link to the Fox Interview here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tough Day at the Big A

Instead of talking about the Harlem Rocker/ Tale of Ekati stretch duel in the Cigar Mile and subsequent DQ of Harlem Rocker, or the impressive win of 2 year old Old Fashioned in the Remsen Stakes, we are instead saddened by the death of Wanderin Boy, racing for the last time in the Cigar Mile. He fractured the sesamoids in his left front ankle, was vanned off and x-rayed, but could not be saved and was euthanized.

Check out Green But Game's comments including her link to a Steve Haskin tribute article written about Wanderin Boy this past October over on

Also troubling at the Big A was the injury to Springside, the 5-1 underdog who upset Sky Diva in the Demoiselle for two-year-old fillies. Springside suffered a fracture of the right-front pastern and was taken for x-rays. Lets keep our fingers crossed for this young filly.

These injuries always seem to happen on big racing days. Today I tackled a interior painting job of my basement family room. I had Capital OTB on my TV which allowed me to tackle my painting job and keep track of the day at Aqueduct. It was to be a good day, completing a home project but also keeping an eye on the days happenings at Aqueduct. What should have been a happy day of watching a Grade 1 and two Grade 2 races at Aqueduct instead leaves you feeling like someone punched you in the stomach.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Have a Cigar

Come in here, Dear boy, have a cigar.
You're gonna go far,
You're gonna fly high,
You're never gonna die,
You're gonna make it, if you try;
They're gonna love you.
-Roger Waters

The Grade I $300,000 Hill n Dale Cigar Mile on Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct offers nine horses one final chance for late-season glory as the
top-quality portion of the New York stakes schedule concludes this

The race, formerly known as the NYRA Mile, was renamed for the Great Cigar in 1997. Cigar won the NYRA mile in 1994.

This years edition attracts a nice group including Visionaire, 7 year old Wanderin Boy, A and R Stable’s Monterey Jazz, who ships in from California, Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati winner of the Grade 1 Wood Memorial here in the spring,Jay Em Ess Stable’s Arson Squad who won the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup, and Stronach Stable’s Harlem Rocker who won the Grade 3 Withers here in the spring. Vinery Stable’s Kodiak Kowboy enters Saturday’s race off his victory in the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap at Belmont Park. Bribon, a 5 year old gelding and Storm Play, an undefeated son of Smart Strike, and making his graded stakes debut round out the field.

The nine-race card at the Big A will also include the 95th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen for two-year-olds at nine furlongs and the 87th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Demoiselle for two-year-old fillies at nine furlongs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Anthony Knott breaks the schneid

United Kingdom Amateur Jockey Anthony Knott broke a 28 year old winless streak when he won a race today aboard 7-1 odds Wise Men Say. Knott also owns the horse. Not being used to being in front, Knott almost blew it when he stood up to acknowledge the crowd about 1/2 a furlong short of the finish in the Racing Post Hands And Heels Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

The News was big enough for Knott to be named today's Best Person in the World on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making a Difference-Saving Horses from the Slaughterhouse

Courtesy of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

Fridays Mega-links

Welcome aboard to 2 new members of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, the self titled Mary Forney's Blog, a frequently updated blog on what's happening in California Racing and The ThoroughMetrics Blog, a blog with statistical data on breeding and racing.

Over at Green but Game's blog a recent meeting of TBA bloggers with Breeder's Cup Peter Land is recapped.

Michael Amo of Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association is interviewed at Bloodhorse.

Web 2.0 must really be here, Shaquille O'Neal is using Twitter

and finally, NFL GM apologizes for E-Mail Expletive sent to Fan.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's New

Eureka-I have found it!- Archimedes

If you have not been to the Thorougbred Bloggers Alliance homepage lately, check it out. It includes a running feed of the TBA Blogs, news feeds and FREE Past Performances for upcoming races.

You want Calder Charts, Fair Grounds, or Aqueduct past performances? You can get them all at the TBA Homepage.

Wanna know who is saying what about Curlin, Winter Racing, upcoming 2 year olds? Than check out the TBA Homepage.

Also, if you want a cool feed for your own browser home page (I think that is what it is called?) this link will take you to a list of recently-updated Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance sites, providing the title, author, and first few sentences of the post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Characters-Anthony Tarracino

"All you need in this life is a tremendous sex drive and a great ego. Brains don't mean shit"-Anthony Tarracino

Some people are so boring, and than you come across someone like Anthony Tarracino.

Tarracino of Key West, Florida, recently deceased at 92, was described in news reports as a bootlegger, gambler, gun runner, saloonkeeper, fishing boat captain, ladies man, and saloon owner.

He was also a Mayor of Key West for 2 years and Jimmy Buffett wrote a song about him(Last Mango in Paris).

Tarracino, known as Captain Tony, had fled New Jersey in 1948 on the lam from Mobsters, after getting into a horse race betting dispute with the mob. Tarracino, in a 1995 interview, described the history of the dispute and subsequent escape to Florida as follows:

"In 1947, my father got one of the first TV sets in the neighborhood and one day fooling 'round with the set, we found we could get the sound, but no picture, from Garden State Race Track. My brothers found we could beat the bookies with this since it took them six to eight minutes to get their results. We started past-posting races and winning a bundle.

"That went on for a month. Then there was a problem and I was told to go down to Lehman's Bar in Newark. It was a mob place, so I took two football players with me. But soon as we got there, my heavyweights split and I ended up facing two big goons in Chesterfield overcoats by myself.

"They took me on a nice, long ride to the dump where they were getting landfill for the Newark Airport. They beat the hell out of me and left me for dead. I woke up the next morning with footprints on my chest. Right then I decided I needed a career change."

Tony high tailed it to Miami Florida, with $10,000 of swindled mob money which he soon lost at Hialeah racetrack, save for the $18 he had left to his name when he left Miami for Key West. Upon arriving in Key West, the legend grew. No slouch in the bedroom, Tony leaves behind 12 children from 4 wives.

Sources: Miami Herald Nov. 4, 2008
Washington Post Nov. 17, 2008
Life Lessons of a Legend-by Brad Manard

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kenny Mayne feeling the Love out there

Kenny Mayne of ESPN is one of those love 'em or hate 'em type of Sports broadcast personalities. Mayne, often seen on ESPN Horse racing cablecasts with Randy Moss and the rest of the ESPN gang, is known for his extremely dry wit and sarcasm.

I love 'em and like his contributions to racing telecasts on ESPN. His witty jab at Hank Goldberg criticizing Hank's decision to bet a very small amount on the BC Classic after just hitting a big score on the previous race was classic Mayne. I also think behind the humor is a guy who loves racing and knows more about it than people think.

ESPN is now featuring Mayne in “Mayne Street” – a new scripted online series from starring Kenny Mayne and others – it was viewed nearly 2.5 million times in the first 48 hours of being posted, making it the site’s most viewed single video in the past six months. If you like him, like I do check out Episode One here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going out of style

Only 9 more Graded Stakes races at the Aqueduct between now and the end of the year. Tomorrow you can catch The Stuyvesant Handicap for 3 years old and over at 1 1/8 miles. For some historical perspective check out Brooklyn Backstretch's blog on the The Stuyvesant Handicap, first run in 1916.

You can also go to the TBA Homepage for free PP's of the race.

As far as the race itself, keep an eye on Helsinki, who goes for the 1st time in '08. Helsinki was 3rd in the '07 Travers Stakes at the Spa. Stud Muffin and Solar Flare come off wins last time out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

VLT Aid Savings Proposal

NY State Governor David Patterson unveiled his plan for cutting $2 Billion from the State Budget. This includes cutting aid from VLT proceeds at Racino's given to local Municipalities. The aid will be reduced (except for the City of Yonkers) by 50%.

I can see why the State and Municipalities love these hypnotic machines, The City of Yonkers received a payment this year of $19,600,000.

The City of Saratoga Springs, if the plan sticks, will take a $1.6 million hit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thinning the Herd

We recently noted the imperceptible coverage of the Breeders Cup in Sports Illustrated. Well things are getting worse for the Time Inc. owned Magazine.

Time Inc. has asked for about 100 volunteers to give up editorial staff jobs at Time, People, Sports Illustrated and a few other Time Inc. magazines per published information on Nov. 10, 2008. According to an article published in the New York Times on 11/10/08:
Hardest hit in the first round is the group that includes Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Kids and Golf magazines. In a memorandum to his staff, Terry McDonell, managing editor of Sports Illustrated, asked for 40 people to leave voluntarily, out of an editorial staff at the magazine group of about 250 people.

We have also learned that if the number of volunteers falls short by Monday, December 1, involuntary layoffs will begin.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Weekend News and Notes

Female Jockey Jackie Davis rides home another longshot at the Big A Saturday aboard Americanus in the 3rd, paying $20.80 to Win

Keeping pace with Davis was fellow female apprentice Jockey Maylan Studart winning on Senor Enrico in the 5th at Aqueduct, $13.80 to win.

What caught my eye in the Daily Racing Form article on IEAH's decision to keep running Stardom Bound in 2009 on the West Coast was the last paragraph mention that IEAH's Ivarone would consider a run of the fine filly in the Kentucky Derby if Stardom Bound continues to impress. Gee, can you imagine the mock outrage to be spewed forth by the PETA loons should this actually happen?

Whereas Cable Television live horse racing coverage is sometimes limited to your local OTB simulcast feed on the tube, College Basketball fans have no such problem with at least 827 Division 1 College games set to be broadcast on Time Warner Cable in the New York Capital Region.

Finally, The TBA has added 4 fine blogs to our stable. Horseplayers Association (HANA), Pull The Pocket, Turk and Little Turk, and Triple Dead Heat.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Her Name is Rio

A day after female apprentice Jockey Jackie Davis gets her first win aboard a 64-1 shot, fellow female apprentice Jockey Maylan Studart picks up a win in the 2nd on the dirt at Aqueduct aboard Wood Winner returning $9.80.

Studart also picked up 2nd place in the 1st race today at the Big A. Studart is only 19 years old, hailing from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She made her United States debut this summer at Calder Race Course. Studart has already picked up a Stakes win, winning aboard Got Clearance in the $60,000 Lindsay Frolic Stakes for two-year-old fillies at Calder Race Course. With Davis and Studart expected to pick up more mounts this winter at the Big A, this should be fun watching these 2 young Jockeys ply their trade.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Go Jackie Go!

Female Jockey Jackie Davis, earned her first career victory at The Big A in New York on Wednesday, guiding Blue Hill Bay 64-1 long shot to a victory in a $35,000 claiming race on the turf returning $131 on a $2 bet. The daughter of retired jockey Robbie Davis, the 21 year old has been working as an exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens.

She made her professional debut at Saratoga Race Course on August 31, finishing 11th. A bit of pride for us locals here in Saratoga- Jackie- one of six children, graduated from Saratoga Springs High School. I had the opportunity to meet her 2 summers ago, when she was busing tables at a local Saratoga Restaurant and was impressed with her work ethic and desire to be a jockey. You go Girl!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Big get Bigger

One less local owner. Vineyard Haven, owned by Bobby Frankel, Joe Torre and Louis Lazzinarro, owner of Sergio's Restaurant just outside of Saratoga, have sold the promising Grade 1 Champagne and Hopeful Stakes winner to the mighty Maktoum family owned Goldophin Racing.

Would have been fun to root for the local guy but as Bobby Frankel said in the Daily Racing From: "I had an offer I couldn't refuse. That's why I sold"

Between Goldophin Racing and his brother's Shadwell Stable pretty soon we should have a chart of the Grade 1 Horses not owned by these two stables.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Coverage of the Breeders Cup..or lack thereof

I have been a subscriber to Sports Illustrated for over 25 years. Like the change in seasons, Sports Illustrated comes reliably delivered to my mailbox on a weekly basis.

But I find myself reading it less and less. The Time Inc. owned weekly magazine has gotten thinner and thinner every week, with less and less ads, and in my opinion, lesser quality articles and photographs. I remember as a young sports fan, 2 decades ago, looking forward to the feature length articles and photographs in Sports Illustrated each week.

They covered all the major team sports but also were known for excellent articles and photographs on the Olympics, Horse Racing and Boxing.

William Nack, in particular, was noted for his lengthy and illuminating articles on the big horse races of the year-the Triple Crown races, the Breeders Cup, etc accompanied by brilliant photographs.

No more. The issue of Sports Illustrated coming out after the Breeders Cup, dated 11/3/08, has a ½ page article (see photo above) with one tiny photograph measuring 2.5 inches by 2 inches of Zenyatta with 2 thumbnail size photographs of Raven’s Pass and Curlin. The entire article is a mere 4 paragraphs. The article only mentions 2 races-The Breeders’ Cup Classic and Ladies Classic and only mentions 3 horses by name in the entire article.

Paul Moran, writes in Paul Moran at the races that “Sports Illustrated, embroiled in an absurd dispute with Breeders’ Cup officials over ownership of photographs, declined to cover the races at Santa Anita.”

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Slots in Maryland

“Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” -Saint Augustine

In a perfect world, I don't like Slot Machines at Racetracks but I am not naive enough to dismiss the economic impact, especially in the short term.

This Tuesday, Nov. 4th, voters in the State of Maryland will have before them what is called Question 2-the question being-Should Slot machines aka Video Lottery Terminals be allowed at Maryland Race Tracks.

For some background information I defer over to two TBA bloggers (who are also thoroughbred owners) supporting the Slots at Frank Vespe's blog and Ted Grevelis' blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Opening Day at the Big A

The winter home of NYRA, the Big A, also known as The Aqueduct Racetrack opened Wednesday. Opening Day attendance was 1,848 with a total track handle of $1,294,890. Slots have been approved by the State Legislature and after all the political maneuvering to be played, maybe we see slots in 2010...but don't hold your breath on that date.

Opening day featured familiar names, particularly to New York Horse racing fans including National Pride (3rd yesterday in the Best of Luck Overnight Stakes for 3 year olds); Big Apple Triple Crown winner Tin Cup Chalice (a scratch in the 3rd); Darley Stable's Numaany (3rd yesterday in the 8th race-an allowance) and '08 Travers Stakes runner Amped (4th in the 8th). Helsinki who was 3rd in the '07 Travers was a scratch in the 8th race yesterday. For fans of New York racing, Aqueduct is fun because the horses racing up here for the winter typically have raced previously at Belmont and Saratoga, and familiarity sometimes helps on the handicapping front.

For a better understanding of the economic impact of The Big A on the New York Racing scene, I point you to Steve Zorn's recent post found here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

2008 Breeders Cup Ratings-A Closer Look

The three-hour “Filly”Friday broadcast on ESPN2 drew a 0.3 overnight rating. Ratings were flat when compared with 2007 ratings which were also 0.3 for a two-hour broadcast on the same network from rainy Monmouth Park.

Saturdays ratings are split as the broadcast was on ABC from 1-3:30 before switching over to ESPN from 3:30-7:00 pm.

The ESPN portion of the Saturday broadcast drew a 1.0 overnight rating, compared with a 0.75 last year when the entire Saturday broadcast was on ESPN, whereas the ABC portion drew a 1.3 rating, according to numbers provided by ABC.

A 1.3 rating corresponds to about 2 million viewers.
How does that compare to other sporting events this weekend. Not very well I am afraid.

Lets use the highest rated portion of the 2 day weekend cable/broadcast for comparison purposes-which would be the ABC Saturday rating of 1.3

Have a gander:

Horse Racing-ABC-Saturday-1-3:30pm: 1.3
NASCAR - ABC, Pep Boys Auto 500-Sunday-2:00pm: 3.2
College Football(regional games)-ABC-Saturday 3:30 pm:-5.2
College Football (Ohio-Penn St.)-ABC-Saturday 8:00 pm:7.2
Football-Fox-Sunday-4:00 pm (Giants/Steelers): 15.6
Baseball-World Series-Saturday –10 pm (rain delayed start)-6.1
Baseball-World Series-Sunday-8:00 pm- 10.7
Figure skating- NBC, Skating For Life (4 PM Saturday, taped)-1.0

The ABC Saturday afternoon college football game with a 5. 2 was up directly against the ESPN Saturday BC Coverage which was 1.0. The Taped NBC Skating special was also up directly against the ESPN cablecast. CBS also had a Saturday afternoon game, however results are currently unavailable.

NFL Football is a TV ratings monster, College football, The Baseball World Series (even a low rated one), and NASCAR all easily beat the Breeders Cup in the ratings. I have been known to be critical before regarding the ESPN coverage, but in an effort to be more positive let me highlight that the ESPN Saturday BC cablecast did tie the NBC Taped Nancy Kerrigan Skating Special on NBC.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Formula for Euro's winning the BC Races

Add one part Ban on Steroids in the Breeders Cup thus reducing strength of US Horses

Add one part Pro ride synthetic surface thus making it more enticing for the turf/synthetic friendly Euro horses to ship over.

Mix parts thoroughly, bake at 140 degrees, This should produce Euros winning at least half of the races at the Breeders Cup.

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is a very simple and effective one: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge”--Elbert Hubbard

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Post BC Thoughts

Post BC thoughts

In no particular order, here they are:

--I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the BC Classic was run on Dirt at Monmouth, Belmont or Churchill—I think Curlin would have won on any of those surfaces and been the 2 time BC Classic Winner and overwhelming 2008 Horse of the Year. I just have that nagging feeling that Curlin was a victim of the Pro-ride Surface

--Horse of the Year—let me think about this for a while –Zenyatta-awesome, I think she is a monster horse-but than again 8 of 9 wins are on Synthetics with most wins against the same group of horses over on the left coast.

--The Pro-ride track—some of the races reminded me of a harness race where the horses all line up and the in the last 100 yards they all dash to the finish. Also with no crown on the track it allows for more wide sweeping turns. This surface is just weird to me and I remain a dirt track fan who just wants a natural surface.

--Randy Moss on ESPN said after the classic that the Pro ride is a much safer surface than dirt (he cited the lack of any serious injuries over the 2 day BC Classic). I thought that was a premature statement. There are no definitive statistics that indicate the synthetic tracks are any safer than dirt tracks. There have been 5 fatal break downs over the Pro ride surface this fall at Santa Anita.

--On a Positive note the racing over the 2 days was good with some great performances including Goldikova, Zenyatta, Stardom Bound, Midnite Lute, Forever Together, Muhhanak, Raven's Pass and Midshipman.

A thank you goes out to the good folks at Thorofan for the Breeders Cup Party at the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway where the Cup was shown at the Vapor Club on the largest TV screen I ever saw. Made for a very convenient and enjoyable way to watch and bet the races.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Dartboard

"We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don't like?"---Jean Cocteau

Members of the Thorougbred Bloggers Alliance have posted what they feel are the winners in every Breeders Cup race over on the TBA Home Page. If you are looking for inspiration, consensus or amusement head on over to see who we are picking.

If your looking for an easy way to follow the various TBA Posts, you can grab the RSS Feed here and add it to your home page.

In speaking with casual fans today, most still don't even know about the all Filly & Mare BC card tomorrow-I will be very interested in the handle and TV ratings. My casual buddies all asked where I was watching the race on Saturday, not even one question about Friday.

But for those watching on Friday, the big race to catch is the F&M Classic aka Distaff: Looking for Zenyatta, Ginger Punch and Cocoa Beach to cross the wire in that order.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Travers-Breeders Cup Classic Double

In case your wondering if any horse has ever won both the Travers Stakes and the Breeders Cup Classic in the 25 years of the BC event, the answer is no. Thought we had a shot last year with Street Sense but he finished 4th in the Classic on his way to the breeding shed.

Who knows, maybe if Curlin does not take to the surface this year maybe the Travers Stakes winner goes on to take the Classic Crown. Certainly the morning line odds of the Travers winner Colonel John of 20-1 are attractive. He also has experience on these all weather or synthetic or whatever you call him fake surfaces and has won on them. He worked fine on the surface on Tuesday going an easy 4 furlongs in 49.50. Garrett Gomez has decided to jump on Go Between (morning line of 8-1) so Edgar Prado gets the mount aboard Colonel John.

I really see Curlin gutting this one out and finding a way to win, but I would not be shocked to see Colonel John finish in the money.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Great Unknown

The post positions are now out and Curlin will be in Post 9 in an 11 horse Breeders Cup Classic field. He is a 7-5 morning line favorite.

So now, how do you bet this race? I am completely confused by this Pro-ride synthetic surface and really don't know how to handicap the field. I just get this feeling I am not alone and wonder how much this will affect handle overall. Certainly if handle is down the economy will be blamed, but I wonder if the lack of familiarity with synthetics will be more significant. It appears even Steve Asmussen, trainer of Curlin as quoted in the Daily Racing Form is still uneasy about this surface.

"It's a huge variable," said Asmussen, who acknowledged Curlin's dirt speed figures are superior to those of his rivals.

"If he can transfer that to a third surface, the sheets do look that way," Asmussen said. "He's been very fast his whole career. The concern is being able to transfer those numbers to a third surface."

REMINDER: For those looking to bet on good ol' dirt and turf surfaces, try your luck at the Belmont Pick 6 Million Dollar Carryover on Wednesday.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pre- Breeders Cup Treat -Million Dollar Pick 6 @ Belmont

Looks like Wednesday will be an interesting Day at Belmont Park.

What would have been just an ordinary ho hum weekday at Belmont while most eyes are on the pre-past performance cards for the Breeders Cup has now changed as the Pick 6 carryover will be $1,019,102.24.

The intrigue started on Saturday, thanks to Stormy Smile, 75-1 underdog winning The Maid on the Mist. On Sunday we had some more bombs including Munition in the 8th, paying $49.00 to win. Prime Obsession won the final race on Sunday, paying $15.20 and then we found out no one had 6-6 resulting in the million dollar carryover.

For the Bettor, especially the East Coast Bettor looking for some action this is the perfect pre-Breeders Cup mid week opportunity to sharpen the pencil and get out the form and take a shot. Hey better than playing the stock market, right?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Rising Tide lifts up all boats

....and a low tide brings all boats down, including Horse Racing which is not immune to the current economic times.

NYRA has announced that they will cut purses by 10 percent for the Aqueduct winter meet starting October 29, 2008. CEO Charlie Heyward cited the bad economy and handle declines of 10.6% @ Saratoga this summer and 10% decline thus far at the fall Belmont meet. As previously blogged about here, admission and parking will be free at the Big A this winter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Breeders Cup TV Race Schedule

Here is the Breeders Cup Television Schedule. All times listed are Eastern Time.

Oct 24 ESPN2 3:35 PM Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
Oct 24 ESPN2 4:15 PM Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
Oct 24 ESPN2 4:55 PM Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies GradeI
Oct 24 ESPN2 5:35 PM Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf Grade I
Oct 24 ESPN2 6:15 PM Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic Grade I aka The Distaff
Oct 25 ABC 1:10 PM Breeders' Cup Marathon
Oct 25 ABC 1:50 PM Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
Oct 25 ABC 2:30 PM Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
Oct 25 ABC 3:15 PM Breeders' Cup Mile Grade I
Oct 25 ESPN 3:55 PM Breeders'Cup Juvenile Grade I
Oct 25 ESPN 4:35 PM Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
Oct 25 ESPN 5:15 PM Breeders'Cup Sprint Grade I
Oct 25 ESPN 6:00 PM Breeders'Cup Turf Grade I
Oct 25 ESPN 6:45 PM Breeders' Cup Classic Grade I

I already said my peace on the Television Coverage and ESPN promotion (or lack thereof) of the Cup over on Bloodhorse, and I thank you all for the articulate comments.

We now have a week to absorb the 180 pre-entries (including 35 Europeans) in the 14 Breeders' Cup Races at Santa Anita Park.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Breeders Cup Television Coverage-Is That It?

This Post was also published at The Bloodhorse as part of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance relationship with The Bloodhorse where members TBA's entries are now posted there.

After coming into it’s partnership with the Breeders Cup starting in 2006 the Disney owned ESPN/ESPN2/ABC Channels promised us the world in it’s coverage and promotion of the event including coverage leading up to the Breeders Cup. Now entering its 3rd year of coverage on the Cable network, I feel like an underfed kid at the dinner table, fed some leftovers instead of the 5 course meal I was promised.

ESPN2 will begin coverage of racing Friday Oct. 24 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. EDT and feature five Breeders’ Cup Championship races. The Friday card is an all fillies and Mare card complete with a very unpopular decision to rename the Distaff the “Ladies Classic’.

On Saturday Oct. 25, ABC will air 4 races between 1-3:30 p.m. EDT before switching to ESPN from 3:30-7 p.m. This will be the 3rd year of ESPN coverage since taking over the coverage from NBC.

The 2007 Saturday telecast drew a .75 national rating, up slightly from 2006’s .7 number. The .75 translates to approximately 1.05-million viewers.

Last years Friday card drew an anemic .3 rating. The ratings results of the last two years on ESPN represent a roughly 50% decline in viewers from 2005, the last year that NBC aired the Breeders’ Cup.

Moving to a cable network, the Breeders' Cup figured to have a falloff in viewership, although not as steep as it has been in the 1st two years of coverage thus far.

When the ESPN deal was announced we were promised By Breeders Cup President Greg Avioli that the promotion during the run-up to the event would be “unparalleled” and that ESPN and “would expose millions of sports fans to the Breeders' Cup brand."

After televising a few “Win and Your In” programs during August, ESPN had No live TV coverage during the entire month of September. That ESPN/ABC, home of the Breeders Cup, can go the entire month of September without putting on even one hour of Saturday racing is atrocious. Let me not even bother to list the Grade 1 races that we had in the month of September that could have been on the ESPN network. ESPN finally had a racing card on Saturday October 4th.

The promotion of the Breeders Cup during the October 4th card centered mostly on the potential Curlin-Big Brown(since retired) BC Classic matchup. This would have been a perfect opportunity to do a short feature on the dazzling undefeated filly Zenyatta. Why not promote this great horse, generating interest and also drawing attention to the Friday card, which most casual racing fans are not even aware exists.

On the Bloodhorse talking discussion page, Greg Land, Breeders Cup Chief Marketing officer said “the move to an all filly and mare schedule on Friday was a racing decision not a marketing decision. We believe that the fillies and mares deserve a Championship day of their own and that fans will enjoy two near equal days of Championship racing.”

Huh??? Does that quote make any sense to you? The fillies and mares deserve to be buried on a weekday afternoon card that will be seen by very, very few people??

It just seems like The Breeders Cup is doing everything possible to disenfranchise loyal fans and their broadcast partners, ESPN/ABC, are doing the same by barely promoting the event, in effect pushing the fans to the ground after the Breeders Cup gang punches us in the gut. In 2006 ESPN floated the idea of showing a race during Halftime of an ESPN October 2007 Monday Night Football Game. What happened to the idea????....nothing of course. Maybe you could have done that this year with Casino Drive in his allowance race. Expose the product-especially to new eyeballs already watching your existing programs such as football etc.

If the powers that be insist on giving the fillies and mares a day of their own, why not tinker with the time a bit and try prime time coverage Friday Night. You can do a 6:30-9:30 pm Friday Television card with the renamed Distaff going off in prime time around 9:15 pm (6:15 pm at Santa Anita). Now you are exposing great fillies and mares such as Zenyatta, Ginger Punch, Hystericalady, and others to a prime time audience; an audience certainly bigger than one would get on Friday afternoon. People can come home from work, eat dinner, settle in front of their TV sets and computer with their ADW account and bet and watch the race. This would also work out better for the overseas audience and increase the off track handle.

Now more than ever, competition for the consumer’s sports and entertainment budget dollars will be fierce. If the Breeders Cup intends to build itself as a 2 day showcase of racings best, they must learn to truly market and use their broadcast partner to promote and showcase the product. ESPN and its sister channels has the programming hours to broadcast weekly programs throughout August and September leading up to the Breeders Cup and cross promote during their other big time sporting events, but thus far they have treated horse racing like the unwanted step child.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What could have been

To all those who doubt the injury, here is the photo, courtesy of the Daily Racing Form:

Big Brown---8 Starts, 7 wins.

One bad race-The Bizarre Belmont Stakes.

Now look at the other races and show me what Big Brown ever did wrong.

It is so easy to bash Dutrow, certainly arrogant and loud at times, but what exactly did he do wrong in training Big Brown?

What do the other trainers and barns use on their horses that is so different than what Dutrow uses? Illegal drugs, you allege? Very easy to cast allegations, I say not fair.

Remember Big Brown was not originally trained by Dutrow and he looked pretty good then when trained by Pat Reynolds.

If you had the chance to ever see Big Brown in person you knew what an athlete this horse was. Big Brown was an athlete, a true competitor, and a 4 time Grade 1 champion.

Was Big Brown truly a great horse? I am not sure we had enough on the resume to conclude. I did want to see more from Big Brown to see if he was truly a "great" horse. I do believe Curlin would have beat him had they met up in the Breeders Cup Classic, but I bet Big Brown would have showed up, dug in and competed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Casino Drive wins his allowance prep

Casino Drive won today in a 1-1/16 mile allowance at Santa Anita in 1:42 with Victor Espinoza aboard. With only 3 wins, and only one Grade II win, this horse certainly has his fans and grabs alot of newspaper ink and Internet chatter. Today he was never really asked and had a huge class advantage but he did show he had no problems with the same synthetic track surface he will be running over in the BC Classic. He seems to be one of these horses that despite being so lightly raced people take an interest in and keep in their memory bank, probably due to his very good pedigree, a easy name to remember and the Japanese connections.

Thanks to Partymanners for the race clip

Friday, October 10, 2008

Free Admission

According to a post I read today by Paul Moran on his blog Paul Moran at the Races, The New York Racing Association will eliminate all admission and parking fees at the winter Aqueduct meet.

This has long been a pet peeve of mine and something I blogged about before.

For the life of me I could never figure out why you would charge admission to get into an event where the event promoters need you to spend more money after you pay your admission (i.e. gamble) in order to make the real money. No other gambling entity does this, not Vegas, the Racino's, the Indian Casino's etc. It just makes more overall economic sense to let everyone in for free and certainly gives the customer (us) the impression that our business is wanted and encouraged.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Autumn Leaves-Johnny Mercer

We had a frost in Saratoga Tuesday morning and again this morning. The nights are cold, the days are still warm, but we know the days grow shorter and before long even a bright sun will have a hard time pushing the mercury level up.

With seemingly less and less time for anyone to get anything done at all lately and looking to get away from work, screaming headlines, endless Presidential election chatter and general bad news all around, I took a walk on Union Avenue and East Avenue, taking in the sights of the Saratoga Race Course and the Oklahoma Training Track.

With a perfect blue sky and not a cloud in sight the peacefulness was comforting as I took in the sights around me..

The Oklahoma Training Track under a beautiful Sky

The leaves popping more each day, nearing peak

The Saratogian Pink Sheet dated 8/30/08 previewing the Hopeful Stakes, left behind, Pink now faded too yellow

A frayed and faded betting ticket, a non winner now to be recycled with the leaves

The main track backyard area-as things change around us, its timeless simplicity remains

Stock Markets go down, Money is made and lost, Presidents promise, But like Nature, the seasons will surely change, Summer will arrive and Saratoga will be open again.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Vineyard Haven to skip BC Juvenile?

Its looking more and more like Vineyard Haven, the gray or roan colt who won both the Grade 1 Hopeful and Champagne Stakes, may pass on the Breeders Cup Juvenile. As the only 2 year old male with 2 grade 1 wins, he would only be the 4th two year old Champ to skip the BC Juvenile. Steve Crist of the DRF has a nice chart detailing the history of past champs going into the BC Juvenile on his blog.

Vineyard Haven is Trained by Bobby Frankel, who co-owns the colt with Louis Lazzinnaro and Diamond Pride LLC. Diamond Pride LLC is Joe Torre, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Torre who always manages to land on his feet, left the Yankees after being told he was no longer welcome despite 12 straight playoff appearances and 4 World Championships, goes to the LA Dodgers, where the Dodgers tread water for 1/2 the year, than acquire Manny (no last name necessary) and take off from there. On the same day his team sweeps the "0 for a Century Cubs", his Horse wins the Champagne Stakes at Belmont. Torre was able to watch the game in the clubhouse with his General Manager and received a congratulatory call from Frankel afterword. The Yanks by the way, finished out of the playoffs under new manager Joe Giradi.

The other co-owner of Vineyard Haven, Louis Lazzinnaro, is well known here in Saratoga as the owner of the very popular Sergio's Restaurant in Wilton, just outside Saratoga. He also owns Spolini in Kew Gardens, Queens. Both spots are highly frequented by Saratoga and Belmont trainers, owners, and various hangers-ons.

Frankel tells Dave Grenig of the Daily Racing Form that he has not changed his mind about skipping the BC Juvenile. There was speculation that the horse would be sold after his win in the Hopeful at Saratoga, but now look for Lazzinnaro, Frankel and Torre to hold on too him and with Torre's luck of late, one would expect this horse to keep winning in '09.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Zenyatta- Can we get a shout out here?

ESPN finally had a Saturday Racing Program today, the first since August. Hard to believe That ESPN/ABC, home of the Breeders Cup, can go the entire month of August without putting on even one hour of Saturday Racing. Let me not even bother to list the Grade 1 races that we had last month that could have been on the network.

Anyway, about 1/2 way into the program today the ESPN show hosts, Joe Tessitore, Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey began a discussion about the BC Classic and who might win. The talk centered on Curlin and Big Brown, certainly understandable. Randy Moss also mentioned the strong European field including Henrythenavigator.

However none of the 3 even brought up Zenyatta the undefeated 4 year old Filly. Why not throw her name out as a outside possibility to run in the race, and if so talk about her chances to win the race? Zenyatta deserves mention in the discussion. This would raise awareness of this awesome horse, and if she runs in the Classic great, if she stays with the other fillies and Mares and runs the day before on Friday, maybe you have a few more eyeballs who turn on ESPN on Friday interested enough to check out the horse. Seems like simple 101 Marketing if you ask me.

In other Notes, Vineyard Haven looked very impressive today in winning the Champagne Stakes at Belmont.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Champagne Stakes

The 137th running of the Grade 1 $400,000 Champagne Stakes for 2 year olds will take place this Saturday at Belmont featuring A.P. Cardinal, Break Water Edison, Cribnote, Girolamo, Gone Astray, Hello Broadway, Munnings, Reynaldothewizard, Ventana and the winner of Saratoga's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes- Vineyard Haven.

This race always brings me back to the 1972 Champagne, where Secretariat won but was disqualified and brought down to 2nd for interfering with Stop the Music. That year I became hooked on two sports that remain my favorite sports to this day-Baseball and Horse Racing. My team was the NY Mets who I started watching because, like most 9 year olds at the time, that is the team my Dad liked. The Mets were horrible in 1972, but I was hooked and I remain a Met fan to this day, more bad years than good. As for racing 1972 is also my earliest tangible memory of racing. Like many, I was intrigued by a 2 year old horse named Secretariat, who came into the Champagne Stakes off 5 straight wins including the Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and the Futurity Stakes at Belmont. His only loss thus far was his maiden race at the Big A.

He would next run in the Champagne Stakes on 10/14/72. After staring out slow, described as "void of early foot" in the Daily Racing Form, Secretariat made a move on the outside at the top of the Stretch. He veered in toward the rail and brushed Stop the Music (2nd in the Futurity Stakes) at the 3/16th pole. Secretariat continued to charge in on the outside of Stop the Music, easily passed him and finished 2 lengths ahead to get the win. Or so we thought. The inquiry sign went up, and after a long look, Secretariat was disqualified and placed 2nd to Stop the Music.

The decision was controversial as many felt the contact had no bearing on the outcome and no interference had occurred. Veteran Sports Illustrated Writer William Nack was quoted later as saying that Secretariat should never have been disqualified.

Only 2 weeks later Secretariat avenged the loss by beating Stop the Music by 8 lengths in the Laurel Futurity. He closed out his 2 year old campaign by winning the Garden State Futurity. He won 7 of 9 races as a 2 year old, and was voted Horse of the Year. It was an a amazing year, 7 wins for a 2 year old and really 8 if you count the Champagne Stakes.

This "unofficial photo" taken in the winners circle before the stewards made the final call shows Trainer Lucien Lauren apparantly anticipating the bad news, judging from the look on his face.

Sources: NY Times, Daily Racing Form, Sports Illustrated,

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Smart Money

"Most women use more brains picking a horse in the third at Belmont than they do picking a husband." Lauren Bacall (Schatze)in How to Marry a Millionaire(1953)

So what do we do with all the smart bettors out there? How about embracing them, says Michael Konik, a best-selling author, television commentator, and former member of sports-betting syndicates. Good suggestions found here, like experimenting more with rebate amounts and lowering of track takeouts.

In housekeeping news, if you follow They're in the Gate and the other writers of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance via RSS, please note that the address has changed, and bookmark or join the new feed.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On too the Breeders Cup

In front of a paltry but appreciative crowd of 8,563 fans, Curlin wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup to become the leader in career earnings, moving him past Cigar.

Now, if he is too cement his legacy, Jess Jackson, Curlin's owner, must enter him in the Breeders Cup Classic. He is the defending Classic Champion and the Champion must defend his crown. I believe Jess Jackson will do the right thing and the fact that he is shipping to California to work on the Pro-Ride synthetic surface is a great sign.

Now the race everyone wants to see, Curlin, champion 4 year old, versus Big Brown, champion 3 year old can take place. People love rivalries in sport-think Red Sox-Yankees, Ali-Frazier, Palmer-Nicklaus, and now we can add in Curlin v. Big Brown. Of course with BB retiring this is only a one race rivalry but nevertheless it is the race everyone wants to see. Throw in probable entrants Go Between, Casino Drive, Duke of Marmalade, Henrythenavigator, and Student Council and possible entrants of Commentator, Pyro, Well Armed and the great filly Zenyatta and we have a Classic to salivate over.

Curlin had 2 straight wins in the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup, with no real challengers, and no real intrigue to bring more people out to see him. The BC Classic will be different. Fans will flock to the track and TV ratings will be strong. We have a solid month to talk up the race, and it should be alot of fun.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekend Preview

Big weekend for racing highlighted by The Jockey Club Gold Cup featuring Curlin. A win will put him past the 10 million mark and atop Cigar in the all time earnings list.

The forecast is horrible for the NY area. It is already raining heavily today and Belmont has cancelled Fridays card. The forecast is just as crappy for tomorrow and unless the rain moves out of here fast, do not expect any type of "crowd" to be out at Belmont to witness history. It will be interesting to see how Mambo in Seattle, last seen getting nosed out by Colonel John in the Travers, fares in the race.

Other Grade 1 races at Belmont include The Beldame featuring my favorite Ginger Punch (1st in the TBA Filly and Mare Standings) and the Grade 1 Vosburgh featuring First Defence (4th in the TBA TVG Spring Standings) and J be K.

Speaking of the Sprint Division, TVG is now sponsoring out Sprint Division and we welcome them aboard. Current TVG Spring leader Street Boss runs at Oak Tree-Santa Anita in the Grade 1 Ancient Title. Also at Oak Tree-Zenyatta, 2nd in the Filly and Mare standings, runs in the Lady's Secret.

Other horses running this weekend who are looking to rise in the standings include Well Armed-4th in the Older Division and running in the Grade 1 Goodwood at Oak Tree-Santa Anita; Mauralakana , 3rd in the Filly & Mare Turf running in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Inv. @ Belmont and Dancing Forever, 3rd in the Turf Division running in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic @ Belmont.

A great weekend with a chock full of Grade 1 races, lets just hope the rain lets up at Belmont.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ahoy Mates-Arrrrr is Coming

Arrrrr is racing again folks, albeit 7 days late as he missed International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th.

Arrrrr, the 4 year old gelding with 2 first place wins at Saratoga this summer is running at Belmont Thursday in the sixth race.

His wins were made that more exciting by the calls from track announcer Tom Durkin. He also ran once this fall at Belmont, but Durkin was off that day and Arrrrr ran out of the money. Durkin will be back tomorrow but he has hinted his exaggerated Arrrrr calls will be put to rest. However if Arrrrr is in contention down the stretch it will be interesting to see if Durkin can restrain himself.

Post time for the sixth at Belmont tomorrow is scheduled for 3:40 p.m.

UPDATE: Arrrr came in 4th. Missed the call but according to the Equibase Charts, Arrrr raced along the stretch, needed encouragement to keep pace with the leader during the run around the bend, and tired after entering the stretch.

All Things Marketing

Congratulations to the TBA bloggers Green but Game, Handride, Superfecta, The Aspiring Horseplayer and Left at the Gate for their work on the 48 page NTRA Marketing Report. There were other authors involved, whose complete names and Bios can be found at the beginning of the report. So Grab a cup of coffee and read it, it is actually a fast read and chock full of good ideas regarding marketing of this sport to a new generation of fans, particularly online marketing. You can read it here. Also the respective bloggers have great recaps on their own sites.

In other Marketing news, Curlin will be running in the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont this Saturday and NYRA has gone all out in promoting his appearance, particularly on the NYRA website. Of course, in typical NYRA luck, the weather forecast is for rain on Saturday.

However if you decide to stay home ESPNEWS found on most cable systems will televise the race live. Scheduled post time is 5:52 pm. MSG Plus will also provide coverage from 5:30-6:00 pm.

One of the marketing suggestions in the NTRA report is a "Take Back Saturday" theme where every Saturday from June or July up too the Breeders Cup there is a show featuring live races, race replays, features etc. Have you noticed no racing coverage on national TV outlets since the end of August? Why not? If you get them hooked starting in July, they will want to continue to watch into the fall, even with college football, pro football and pennant race baseball going on. I am a gigantic fan of those sports but I will find the hour on Saturday to watch horse racing if I know I can find it every Saturday on a set time and channel. And don't forget there is a thing now called DVR and TIVO.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Obama is a horse racing fan?

While reading todays edition of The Boston Globe to get a feel for the local coverage of this weekends Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs I came across Commentator owner Tracy Farmer stating that

"Barack Obama is a good horse fan and I think he will be good for our sport."

The article does not address whether he just like horses or actually horse racing itself nor does it address how Obama would be good for the sport. I have not seen any prior articles listing Obama as a fan of horse racing but I did find a mention that his "Heartland RV" tour of Ohio planned to stop at the Little Brown Jug harness race at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio on September 18th. Don't know if the current financial mess pulled him away from that event.

As for the Massachusetts Handicap itself I will go with the Chalk-picking morning line 3-5 favorite and 2 time Whitney winner Commentator. With gorgeous weather look for a nice turnout.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In, Out or Maybe?

With the Breeders Cup just 5 weeks away, it seems like we need a flow chart of who will be running out in California on the synthetic surface, who is in and who is still a maybe.

It is an indication of how dysfunctional and confusing this sport (or is just gambling?) can be. If you think the industry is just gambling and not sport- I guess you don't care. You just get the Past Performances a couple of days before, grab a pencil and start handicapping. As an old gambling buddy told me once, "I will gamble on ants running around on a sidewalk". However , If you consider it a sport and assume there are these type of people who follow horse racing because of a sporting interest, how do you ramp up sporting interest if you can't even figure out who is even running in it? Curlin-maybe, Commentator-maybe, Proud Spell-maybe. Big Brown-in-he's running in the Classic right (or is it the turf ?) at least I think he's definitely running in one of them??

Could you imagine if you followed NASCAR all year and some of the NASCAR drivers decided not to run their drivers in the year ending 10 race Chase?

How do you explain the Breeders Cup to a casual fan, when they ask how can it be a championship if all the potential champions are not competing in it?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Time to give the horse his due

The Associated Press describes the Big Brown win as a
..courageous front-running victory over older horses in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

I would agree. I was very impressed with Big Brown's win and the horse showed me he loves to compete and wants to win. A great horse should rise up and show us that he "wants to win" and I think Big Brown showed that yesterday. He showed me he can be the Horse of the Year, and I feel now Curlin would have to beat him in the BC Classic to take it away from him.

Remember this is a horse who got bashed after Belmont (okay maybe it was his trainer and owners-but still). Many said he would never step foot on a racetrack again. Well, he has stepped on a race track and is 2-0 since than. Watch this race again and tell me you are not impressed.

Doremifasollatido wins the Matron

In the Matron Stakes at Belmont on Saturday, 2 year old filly Doremifasollatido with Eibar Coa aboard split rivals at the top of the lane and pulled clear to secure her second win in four starts.

Enjoy Tom Durkin Singing the call.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mad Dog on Big Brown

On Monday 9/15/08 Chris "Mad Dog" Russo starts his daily sports talk show on SiriusXM satellite radio from 2-7 pm. If you are looking for talk on horse racing you will not find it on his show (stick with Steve Byk, heard weekdays on Sirius on Ch. 126). Mad Dog was part of the highly popular "Mike and the Mad Dog" show on WFAN radio in New York. Former partner Mike Franscesca is a huge horse racing fan, and he also owns his own horses and is partners with other horse owners including his Pal and Part time Saratoga Resident Bill Parcells. Mad dog was never a fan of horse racing and friction was always present whenever Mike Francesca tried to shoe horn in talk of horse racing on the show.

How ironic however when Mad Dog's prediction/hope of Big Brown's chance of failing in the Belmont came true. With Big Brown running Saturday in the Monmouth Stakes lets flash back to Mad Dog's rant against Big Brown after he won the 1st 2 legs of the Triple Crown.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Brown Talk

A google search for "Big Brown and Curlin" brings up 256,000 different results.

They are also both mentioned almost daily in the various horse racing publications generally read by those who follow the sport.

The subject has many interesting angles-will one or the other or both run in the BC Classic?, will Big Brown perhaps run in the BC Turf?, Will Curlin skip the classic and just go overseas?, will a Match race be set up between the two horses? and on and on.

In the blogosphere and elsewhere, many state they are tired of the whole thing, won't go to see Big Brown Run, aren't interested in Big Brown and can't wait to see Big Brown retire etc.

But I wonder if this is entirely true. Big Brown drew a nice crowd at the Haskell and will probably draw a nice crowd this Saturday for the Monmouth Stakes. Curlin has been less controversial and attendance figures for his races have not been as impressive, but you can bet if they were to meet in a Match Race, many eyes would be at the races and glued to the TV Set.

Looking at the Sports end of this game Big Brown does keep the Sport interesting and even relevant. Sports always need Villian's and the somewhat unlikeable handlers of Big Brown fit the bill. Throw in a bizarre run in the Belmont Stakes, mix in some crazy Rick Dutrow quotes and you have a story people will read about and watch.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Weekend Notes

With big races this past weekend at Belmont and Woodbine, there was movement in the TBA Standings with Tough Tiz's Sis (Filly & Mare division); Ventura (F&M Turf), Forever Together (F&M Turf), and Champ Elysees (Turf) all gaining points in the Standings.

When checking out our standings, you will note we have a new sponsor of the 3 year old colt division-- Trainer Magazine.

It's been said that if you put 2 horse racing fans in the same room, you will get one thing-two people who do not agree on anything. In this vein should horse racing be marketed as a sport or gambling or perhaps both?? I lean on the side of both-remember that gambling drives the horse racing train but I think we can market sports fans who love competition, bring them into the game and they will love betting and rooting for this sport. Check out Railbird's post with lively comments from all sides of the coin of this debate.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Getting them in the tent

Ask any good carnival barker and he will tell you it is all about getting them into the tent. NYRA on the last day of the 2008 Saratoga Meet, announced free admission to everyone and as a result a strong crowd of 28,000 plus showed up, more fans than showed up 2 days earlier on a Beautiful Saturday to see Curlin Run in the Woodward.

This Friday on Opening day at Belmont, General Admission on Opening Day is free and there will be $2 off the clubhouse admission of $5.

This may seem like common sense, which would call for automatic dismissal when brought to those in charge of track management, but why not always have free admission to get into the track-especially no charge for General Admission? I can see a small fee for clubhouse admission, for space considerations alone at some tracks, but charging for general admission never made sense to me. Why charge people to come into your gates only to ask them to pay some more money again at the windows??

The handle is a product of the churn and the more people to churn the higher the handle. The don't charge you to walk into a casino. Why would they? The casino's know their product, they know it works and they know, like any good carnival barker, that all they have to do is get you to come to the tent, then they got you once you are in. If the tracks can put out competitive fields, i.e a good product, forget the general admission charge. Of course without the good product, nothing happens, and I lobby for the free admission on the assumption (dangerous..I know) that the product on the track is also being focused on and improved everyday. The tracks are competing for bodies here, and the entertainment options available are greater than ever-the major team sports, the growth of NASCAR, MMA, High School Sports, and of course 900 channels on Cable TV and anything you could possibly think of on the Internet.

Rather than occasional free admission days, NYRA and other tracks that charge a fee for general admission should ban it entirely. Over the long run, attendance and handle will increase with the greater exposure to the product.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Exit Saratoga

The 140th Saratoga Meet is now in the books. Like every Saratoga Season before it, it seems like opening day was only yesterday. Luckily, I ended the meet in my grandstand seats sitting in glorious sunshine, so unlike the opening day rainstorm.

I exited Saratoga yesterday with my trusty companion, walking slowly out the gates, much like the rest of the crowd, for we know there will be no racing the next day at the Spa. The last day reminds me so much of my childhood on the day before the 1st day of school..that bittersweet feeling...hopeful of what is ahead, yet sad of what we leave behind. We know we have to go, and just like summertime for a child, too much of Saratoga is not a good thing. The season should be short, just like summertime for a child, but even though we know if it went on forever it would be ruined and no longer special, part of us wants it to go on forever.

The final day saw 28,578 come through the gates, and 872,627 overall. For all that came, memories were made, for me I remember the following:

Commentator winning the Whitney again

The stretch drive duel between Proud Spell and Music Note in the 'Bama

Ginger Punch by a nose in the Personal Ensign

The Travers Photo finish between Colonel John & Mambo in Seattle

Curlin taking care of business in the Woodward

Watching Alan Garcia beaming with Joy after winning the Hopeful and
clinching the Jockey Title

Some final shots from the closing day at the Spa:

Leading Jockey Alan Garcia heading to the Track for the 2nd Race aboard Pals First Lady

The Post Parade before the Hopeful Stakes

Shade descends upon the Grandstand & Clubhouse as the final race ends and the sun sets upon closing day at the Spa