Monday, December 28, 2009

Take No Prisoners

As 2009 draws to a close and we approach 2010 many of us are taking a look at the changes this decade has thus far brought us.

To me the technological changes in the media field have been vast, particularly how the consumer gets his news, both general interest news and specific news in nature. It appears that most of us get it for free, and like well fed consumers buying cheap goods at Wal-Mart, we like it that way.

With regard to obtaining racing news content I get most of my news and information on free websites and blogs. I start with the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance (TBA) homepage each morning where I can access anything I want to know from both TBA and non-TBA bloggers on the big Stakes races, National and International Issues as well as issues of a specific interest to me such as the ongoing NYRA slots issue.

I'll still buy the Daily Racing Form when I am at the track, ( I think I would feel naked without a copy of it under my arm) but other than that, the writing available on the web is so good, so well researched and accurate I don't need to pay for a newspaper or subscriber website to get the information I am looking for.

I have no problem paying for quality content, I just don't know how you make it work, when the information available now for free is of equal quality. In fact on the NYRA issue alone no paid newspaper can compare on a consistent basis to the information I have read from my brethren at the TBA including Alan at Left at the Gate and Steve at The Business of Racing.

For more on this issue, the NY Times reports on publishers trying to reverse the trend, by setting up systems where some of the online content will be available for paying subscribers only.

However, it may be too late. The most telling comment in the whole NY Times article is this quote from media consultant Alan D. Mutter:

“One of the problems is newspapers fired so many journalists and turned them loose to start so many blogs,” Mr. Mutter said. “They should have executed them. They wouldn’t have had competition. But they foolishly let them out alive.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

New York Racing-50 years ago & Today

Sometimes things really don't change, they just happen over and over again.

Sports Illustrated writer Whitney Tower in an article 50 years ago dated September 14, 1959 wrote:
...Thoroughbred racing in New York has had some great days. But it has also been saddled with an apathy and an inertia that at times forced New York to take a back seat to such race-conscious states as New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Illinois and California, where year after year striking new tracks sprang up to attract the sports-minded pubic.
But in 1959 New York got its new track, a brand spanking new Aqueduct and it opened that fall with much success.

On December 20, 1959 The New York Times ran an article with this lead line from author Joseph C Nichols:
"Horse racing in New York enjoyed the most prosperous financial season in its history as a result of the opening of the new Aqueduct track in September"
Fast forward 50 years to 2009 where now New York once again has been saddled with an apathy and an inertia that at times forced New York to take a back seat, this time falling behind in the slots mania, a now 8 year long and counting debacle brought to you by our wonderful New York Legislature.

Perhaps exaggerated a bit (by quotes from Charles Hayward of NYRA), but now on December 21, 2009 we get this article from the NY Daily News with this paragraph:
A top racing official says the Belmont Stakes- the third leg of the fabled Triple Crown - could be scratched this year because the governor and legislators can't agree on a plan to revitalize the state's premiere racetracks.
At least 50 years ago, it seemed optimism was at least alive, whereas now most of us just expect to get shafted.

Much like our Federal Government over the last 8 years, The New York Legislature falls deeper and deeper into dysfunction, not doing much but lining their own pockets where all but the most naive wait in line to see OZ.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Easy Gambling

The average U.S. residents large appetite for easy and fast gambling continues. According to the Census Bureau's annual Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. residents last year spent over $53.4 billion on lottery tickets, up from $52.4 billion in the previous year.

Most decided to skip the "more complicated" type of lottery where you have to pick a bunch of numbers, as about $3 of every $5 went toward instant scratch-off tickets. Despite a poor economy the numbers climbed from last year as they have every year-you can check out the numbers here (PDF)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saratoga in the Snow

Aqueduct canceled its Wednesday card due to heavy rain and wind but it was all snow in Saratoga where about 8 inches of the white stuff fell in Saratoga Springs yesterday.

Photo Credit: Capital News 9 (Time Warner Cable)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Horse for Sale: Best Offer

For Sale:

5 year old Horse

Name: Christy's Night Out

Previous Sales History: $80,000 as a one year old to Bazaguma LLC from NY State former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno convicted of Federal Corruption.

Current Value: Virtually worthless on the track but horse will have value as a conversation starter and symbol of our dysfunctional New York State Government. Serious inquiries only.

Off Track Sammy

If you happen to be flying in or out of Albany International Airport (Albany, NY) this Tuesday around 11 am you might want to stop by the new "Silks Saratoga Bistro" which is having it's grand opening at the Airport, replacing the Saranac Brew House in the Food Court. Sam Grossman,aka Sammy the Bugler, NYRA's official Bugler will be playing "Call to the Post" at 11 am. If you are around stop by and say Hello to him.

Sam is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. I have had the opportunity to speak with him several times. Most people at the track are friendly, but lets face it,some are complete jerks and quite unapproachable. Sam is always approachable, always nice and also quite knowledgeable about the sport. He is someone you can count on, someone familiar, someone always there. When I am at a NYRA track, I know that 10 minutes before every race I can count on hearing Sammy playing "Call to the Post" better than anyone else can.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rachel Alexandra has arrived

Today the UPS man knocked on my door for a signature required package. Upon opening the package I discovered that my Rachel Alexandra wine made by Kendall-Jackson had arrived. So what did my 50 bucks get me?? The wine came with a glossy card insert with a photo of Rachel on the front and a message stating:

This limited bottling commemorates the 2009 racing campaign of Rachel Alexandra, the extraordinary horse who inspired millions

Unless of course you are a Zenyatta fan, for by judging various comments in the blogosphere and Twitterverse, Rachel has really not inspired you at all. I wonder, when Zenyatta’s wine comes out will it one up Rachel and say..the extraordinary horse who inspired billions.

Anyway, what to do with the wine? The back of the card describes the wine as a 100% Pinot Noir, Vintage 2007 from the western slope of the Arroyo Seco appellation in Monterey County. I don’t know what that means, as yours truly buys his wine by waltzing into the Exit 9 Wine & Liquor Warehouse in Clifton Park NY once a week. I ask the friendly staff for a good bottle of wine for under $20 bucks to match whatever I am cooking/eating that day/night wherein they promptly point me where I need to go, just like the old guy who greets you when you walk into Wal Mart looking to buy a flat screen TV.

The glossy card provided to me free of charge with my bottle goes on to say the wine was aged 10 months in 100% French oak barrels, 41% new. Is that good?? who knows, I can barely interpret all those #’s in the Daily Racing Form despite years of reading it, now I am supposed to absorb numbers on wine stuff so quickly.

I guess I have some time to figure this out, as the card says:

Enjoy now or cellar for five years.

What about the temperature in the cellar?..Doesn’t say…oh well for now it will sit on my desk, keeping my NYRA calendar company,while I go get a beer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Dual Option Vote on Horse of the Year-Good!

I don't know if it has been reported elsewhere but I first read it on the Crist Blog by Daily Racing Form Publisher and Columnist Steven Crist that Eclipse Award voters will not be given the option of naming Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta as joint Horse of the Year winners. It was decided Today by a 2-1 vote of the three organizations that present the awards.

I for one say Yippee!!! I think the raging debate on who deserves the Horse of the Year (HOTY) is great for the sport and the more debate, the more discussion the better it is for Horse racing. Once one of them gets the nod from the Eclipse Award voters the debate will continue on as the losing camp will likely go bonkers (unless the unlikely event of a tie happens).

There is a reason it is called "The Great Debate" by the Daily Racing Form, because it is. As we approach the cold days of winter ahead we can sit by the fire, the laptop, the twitter thingy, and we can type, discuss, argue, and scream over who is better, who raced more, the racing surfaces, the different tracks, the number of races, and on and on and on.

Racing needs more of this and any Co-Horse of The Year would mute The Great Debate. I say , vote one, get a winner and debate on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Legend of Jimmy The Greek

"My favorite racetrack is the track closest to where I am at the time"-Jimmy The Greek

may screw up coverage of Horse racing but their documentary series "30 for 30" is pretty good. They have run 6 documentary films so far with the last one premiering last Tuesday 11/10/09 titled "The Legend of Jimmy The Greek" . You may only remember Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder from his firing in 1988 by CBS for making racially insensitive remarks, but like all tragic figures, there was much more substance to the man.

I can't think of anyone more influential in the public acceptance of gambling. It was Jimmy that openly discussed sports gambling on network television. There are great behind the scenes information about the "NFL Today" show, which featured Jimmy from 1976-1988. This show ruled the pre-cable television era and it dominated the ratings every Sunday.

Jimmy clearly loved horse racing and there are great tidbits in the film which the horseplayer & racing fans will enjoy, including funny quotes from Jimmy and great shots of Hialeah Park racetrack.

This documentary shows the good side of Jimmy The Greek as well as the bad side. The film is well done on its storytelling. It's worth catching - here is where you can catch a replay:

11/20/09 1 am on ESPN2

11/29/09 9 pm on ESPN Classic

12/25/09 9 pm on ESPN Classic

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rachel or Zenyatta: Debates and Discussions

I have been reading many media columns and blogs on the Horse of the Year. Sprinkled in are comments stating that the Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta Horse of the Year debate is bad for the game. I could not disagree more. I think this debate and discussion is the best thing to happen to this game/sport in years.

I think Bill Simmons would agree. Simmons, author of the Sports Guy column on as well as the current best seller "The Book of Basketball" is profiled in Sunday's NY Times.

The Times highlights what makes Simmons such a good writer, he understands how a fan thinks, and how important debates, discussions and lists are to the sports fan. The Times article highlights a recent column by Simmons where he debates what is the better sports month- April or October? Simmons describes it as an "underrated argument". The NY Times writer, Noah Cohen than goes on to say this:
"Perhaps that is because it can never be resolved. Can you ever really answer which is better, October or April, or, more profoundly, who is the better N.B.A. center, the prolific scorer Wilt Chamberlain or the prolific winner Bill Russell?"
Rachel vs. Zenyatta can be added to the list. It can never be resolved and that is what makes it so appealing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Colonel John Retires

Colonel John, last seen finishing 5th in the 2009 Breeders' Cup has retired and will stand at Winstar farm, joining his sire Tiznow. I liked Colonel John in the Breeders' Cup and had him in my 4 horse box trifecta on Breeders Cup day with Zenyatta, Gio Ponti and Summer Bird. The Zenyatta stretch drive was thrilling, but I sure wished Summer Bird or Colonel John could have held on for 3rd instead of leaving me with a worthless betting slip.

I have an affinity for all Travers Stakes winners, so I continued to follow Colonel John after his win by a nose over Mambo in Seattle in the 2008 Travers Stakes. It seems so many of our 3 year old stars retire as a 3 year old, so it is always pleasing when a 2 time Grade 1 Stakes winner as a 3 year old (he also won the Santa Anita Derby in '08) goes on to run as a 4 year old.

He also won a race on all 3 surfaces earning a place in the Omnisurface Stars list winning a Grade 1 over dirt (Travers Stakes), a Grade 1 over synthetic (Santa Anita Derby) and a ungraded Stakes over grass (Wickerr Stakes) .

He retires with over 1.7 million in earnings with wins on both coasts and all 3 surfaces-not bad at all. Here he is winning the '08 Travers Stakes at the Spa.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 Breeders Cup TV Ratings Comparison

Select weekend overnight ratings for other Sports/events compared to the Breeders' Cup:

  • NFL-Eagles/Cowboys-Sunday 8:15 pm-NBC: 14.3
  • College Football*-Saturday 3:30 pm-CBS: 4.4
  • College Football**-Saturday 3:30 pm-ABC: 3.8
  • NASCAR-Sunday 3:15 pm-ABC : 3.1
  • MMA (Strikeforce) 9:00 pm-CBS: 2.6
  • College Football***-Saturday 2:30-NBC: 2.3
  • Breeders' Cup-Saturday 1:30-ABC : 1.0
  • Breeders' Cup-Saturday 3:30 ESPN: 0.9
  • Bull Riding- Sunday 4:00 pm NBC: 0.8
  • Figure Skating-Sunday 2:00 pm NBC: 0.8
*: LSU vs. Alabama
**: Ohio vs. Penn State
***: Navy vs. Notre Dame

The 2008 Breeders Cup rating on ABC was 1.3. Last years ESPN rating was 0.9.
Friday's ESPN2 rating was 0.3, same as the 2008 figure.

The rating figures above are all overnight ratings data, national final figures will be released later this week.

In a sign that maybe the world is really ending in 2012, Sunday's two-hour episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, featuring Lakers' Forward Lamar Odom's wedding drew a 3.2

Source: Nielsen Media Research

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Zenyattá Mondatta

I'm a stickler for details particularly when reading articles from the mainstream media, prepared by highly skilled paid writers, broadcasters and paid editors (as oppossed to the unpaid unskilled writer of this blog). I heard mentioned twice yesterday on TVG that 2009 BC Classic winner Zenyatta was named after The Police album called Zenyatta. Later on ESPN one of the commentators said it was a Police song called Zenyatta. Now this morning I read in the Times Union (Albany, NY) the following written by Tim Wilken:

"We're over the moon," said Jerry Moss, co-founder of A&M Records and owner of Zenyatta.

Moss named Zenyatta for the album of the same name by the Police, a group that was under his label in the 1980s.

Of course there was never a album called "Zenyatta" by The Police. The Album was called Zenyattá Mondatta. No song named "Zenyatta" was ever released by The Police.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Wierd, the Wacky and the Fun

The Breeders Cup is here, time to put away the complaints about the surface, the West Coast location, the 2 days, because it is all water under the bridge and we might as well watch the event, plunk down some money and win. This is the weekend to contact one of your offshore accounts and play the proposition bets like these supplied to me courtesy of the Bodog outfit.

Here is a sampling:

Which call will Trevor Denman use to describe Zenyatta's move?
"Jumps in at the quarter pole" 5/2
"Moving like a winner" 11/4
"They'd have to sprout wings" 4/1
" Poetry in Motion" 3/2
(If none of these phrases are used then all wagers will be no action.)

My pick: Stay away, I think you will here none of them used

If Zenyatta wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic will she break the Santa Anita track record for 1 1/4 miles?
Yes +150
No -200

My pick: NO-even if she wins don't see her breaking any track record

What will attendance for Saturday's Breeders’ Cup Races be?
Over/Under 51,000

My pick: Under, close but under.

What will the national television rating be of ESPN's Saturday broadcast of The Breeders’ Cup Classic be?
Over .7 -160
Under .7 +120

My pick: Over -last year did a 1.0, should get that many again with enough people curious to watch with Zenyatta running

Will the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic be bred in the United States?
Yes -400
No +300

My Pick: Yes-got a good shot with Summer Bird, Zenyatta, Mine That Bird, and even Colonel John

My overall advice: Don't get lost in the Stats this weekend, go with the gut and have fun

You can also check out the Thorougbred Bloggers Alliance (TBA) Home Page where yours truly and others have posted their selections in each race.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuning in to the Breeders Cup

With the 2 Day Breeders Cup at Santa Anita Park only days away I find myself still trying to muster up some excitement. I would guess I am not the only one that is looking more forward to the 2010 BC when it returns to dirt at Churchill Downs and than hopefully to Belmont Park in 2011.

The action starts on Friday and for those not actually out west ESPN2 will broadcast from 3:30 till 7:00 pm. On Saturday ABC has it from 1:30 -3:30 with ESPN taking over from 3:30 till 7:00 pm.

As for the TV ratings, look for the Friday rating to be flat compared to last years rating figure of 0.3. Last year on Saturday, ABC drew a 1.3 and ESPN drew a 1.0. I expect the ABC number to be the same or a tad lower than last year. I see ESPN drawing a tick higher than 1.0 as maybe some casual viewers tune in to see what the Zenyatta story is all about.

Ratings Source: The Nielsen Company

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Grey Ghost

The fun race for this Halloween is The Grey Ghost, a $35,000 Starter Handicap at the Meadowlands Racetrack reserved only to horses grey or roan in color. The race goes a mile and 1/16th on the Turf. Clever marketing by the Big M and the grey on green contrast coming down the stretch should be fun to watch. There are 9 horses entered in the race.

I also have a vested interest in watching the race as I am somehow still alive in the Meadowlands Survival Challenge Contest after 23 Days of racing. 3,602 players have been eliminated with yours truly among the 1,223 players still active.

The Grey Ghost is one of the 3 races on today's card that active players have to pick a horse in as part of the contest. I put my money on Lightning Power, a 7 year old gelding who was 2nd in last years Grey Ghost.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NYRA returns Funds

This past July I bitched and wined about the customer disservice reserved seating system "lottery" used by NYRA for clubhouse and grandstand reserved seating at Saratoga. Long story short, you mail your check to NYRA in January, you wait to see what tickets you get, and than wait again for any ticket refund. I wondered when I would get my refund from NYRA as I was not "lucky" enough in the lottery system to get my 1st seating choice this year and would be due a refund from NYRA for the difference in price seating. Here is the NYRA official policy:

"Depositing your check does not guarantee seating. NYRA will not mail any ticket until at least twenty days after your check was deposited to permit your check to clear. If you do not receive seating NYRA will return your funds"

My check was mailed to NYRA on 01/19/09. Well, NYRA did "return my funds" (without interest-NYRA keeps that)...10 months later. See below the envelope mailed by NYRA with the 10/20/09 postmark date.

And they wonder why people just stay at home and bet through ADW accounts.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yankee Omen

Probably no other sport has as much superstitions as does Baseball. Tonight is Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. With the Yanks up 3 games to 2, Yankee fans should be confident. However they were up 3-1 against the Angels and lost game 5.

Now the nervous Yankee fan is thinking maybe this is an omen as they can't help let this creep into their mind- the 2004 ALCS against the hated Boston Red Sox when the Yankees led the series 3 games to 0 and than collapsed losing 4 straight. They must close out this series to slay that dragon. Until they do, the nervous and superstitious Yankee fan will look for signs from the heavens, at the ballpark, across the street, or anywhere, that they will win. And they must avoid all ominous signs also.

Let's hope they avoided yesterday's rain soaked NYRA card at Belmont where Fenway Faithful with Ramon Dominguez aboard was an upset winner in the 2 year old $100K Sleepy Hollow Stakes paying $21.40 to win. A further sign of doom could be seen in the 5th race where Joba, a 2 year old running in a Maiden Special Weight, failed to make a late move, finishing a far behind 9th.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another one off the List

Maybe it is me, but two weeks to the Breeders Cup yet it seems the anticipation for the event is not building much. Maybe it is the West Coast location again or maybe the number of "name" horses who will not be running in 2 weeks.With Macho Again off the trail, I think I can name more horses not going in the BC this year than those that are showing up.

Trainer Dallas Stewart did not want to go west with a horse not 100%, deciding to "do right by the horse". Don't ever think these trainers don't care about these animals. They are treated better than most pet dogs I have met, something I wish those outside the industry would understand better.

Now I am off to read some European blogs so I can learn about some of these horses.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Racing needs KISS, no not the rock group but the acronym for Keep it Simple Stupid.

Let's be real, we are living in a real dumbed down society where the basic american will not go out of his way to do anything even remotely complicated or try to learn something he believes to be confusing.

Market racing for the exciting gambling game that it is and market it as easy to try, not hard. I mentioned at the start of the month that I had entered the Meadowlands Survival Challenge, a simple game with a simple concept of picking horses to win, place and show with losers going home and winners advancing with real prizes given out at the end. We are now a quarter way through the meet and I am still alive in 669th place out of 4825 original players.

Hats off to Meadowlands Racetrack for getting a mostly NYRA track bettor like me to pay attention to another track on a daily basis. I have just focused on Jockey/Trainer combos I like, pick my 3 horses in the 3 races every day and let the computer tell me who placed where. Suddenly, instead of just looking at the Belmont Results every day, I also check the Meadowlands results...heck now names like Elvis Trujillo have daily meaning to me. This can only lead to more betting at the Big M, using a very simple concept appealing to the basic tenet of the game-gambling.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh Well

As Sea the Stars is now retired, all pre-race speculation on whether he would run in the Breeders Cup Classic is now gone. So instead of talking about a potentially spectacular BC Classic field of Sea the Stars, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and Summer Bird, the air is out of the balloon and talk has shifted to who will win the Horse of the Year. So maybe no one is talking about the Breeders Cup, but the various horse racing channels of chatter have filled up with who the Horse of the Year should be.

People say horse racing is dying, but I see this type of debate as evidence it is not-sure seems like people care to me. I love these debates, it's like the Mays/DiMaggio/Snider debate, it just goes on and on depending on who you love and why.

What seemed a month ago to be a lock for Rachel Alexandra has tightened up with Summer Bird taking the Jockey Cup Gold Cup against older males and Zenyatta winning another one last week.

Over at the Paulick Report there is a Poll running asking who should win the HOTY if Zenyatta runs in the BC Classic and wins it? At last look 55% go with Zenyatta, 41% for RA and 4% for Summer Bird. Not much love for Summer Bird, but what if he were to win the BC Classic? And if someone else besides Zenyatta and Summer Bird win the the BC Classic, does Rachel still get the nod? As awesome as she is, if RA wins the HOTY she would do so without ever racing the "classic" distance of a 1 mile and a 1/4.

Friday, October 09, 2009

No Surprise

In the least surprising news of the week, Jess Jackson released a statement today confirming what everyone knew-That Rachel Alexandra is done for the year.

Sure I'd love to see her make a go of it in the Breeders Cup, but Jackson just won't send her out west to race on the fake stuff.

She had in a year what most horses never see in a career-8 races, 8 wins, 5 Grade 1 wins, 3 of them against the boys. I look forward to her 2010 campaign.

As for racing this weekend, ESPN Classic will show 3 races from Oak Tree at Santa Anita starting this Saturday at 5 pm- The Goodwood Stakes, Lady's Secret Stakes, Oak Tree Mile Stakes, as well as the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes from Keeneland. The one that interests me most is the Goodwood Stakes-I have a feeling Colonel John is due to pop one and I'll probably take a long look at Tiago also.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Saratoga Expands to 40 Days-Good??

By now you have probably read/heard that NYRA has announced today that they will expand the 2010 Saratoga meet to 40 days.

As a fan I always wish I could wake up every day and go to the Spa, and living close by, it would be easy for me to do-but I think I love the meet so much because it is fairly short. I am old enough to remember when the meet was 24 days, than it expanded to 30, than 36 and now 40. When I think of 40 I think of fasting, not Saratoga.

I thought the expansion from 30 to 36 days was too much. The 5 week meet seemed just about right. With the expansion to 6 weeks, it seemed that that all the air was let out of the balloon once the Travers was over. At 40 days, I can see the meet feeling a little tiresome. I think part of what makes Saratoga special is that it is supposed to be short, a boutique meet of 30 days or so of large fields and a bunch of stakes races. Now at 40 days , it is danger of feeling less special with a bunch of non-stakes races filling up the day.

What makes it so unique is that every year we wait, than it is here, and than- Wham!- it is over...or at least it used to be that way. Now the short meet is close to being a season.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sour Grapes

Very interesting post race quotes following the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup win at Belmont by Summer Bird. Despite accurate observations from early one, such as this from Foolish Pleasure, critics are still here. This from Quality Road Jockey Johnny Velazquez:

"I think my horse is better on a dry track. I would like to see both horses on a dry track to see which horse is the best horse. "
Quality Road trainer Todd Pletcher had this to say:

"Summer Bird relishes this type of service. Sometimes you get lucky and it rains when you need it and sometimes it doesn't."
I guess Pletcher and Velazques have decided to throw out the Belmont Stakes win by Summer Bird over a dry and fast track. At this stage the argument is moot, the answer is in the scoreboard and the scoreboard shows 3 Grade 1 wins over both wet(The Travers, JCGC) and dry (The Belmont Stakes) surfaces. Game over.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Survive and Advance

Grand Avenue

I'll never understand the logic of playing slots or the lottery as oppossed to sports gambling and gambling on the ponies-to me the latter is much more engaging, is a game of skill (with luck thrown in) and entertaining.

Yesterday was opening day at the Meadowlands Racetrack in Jersey and I survived Day one of the Meadowlands Survival Challenge. The premise is simple, pick one horse in each of pre-selected 3 races per race day, and you advance if you pick up a 1st, 2nd or 3rd in any race. If no one falls in the money, you are out.

Playing under the moniker of SaratogaSpa, I stand 1842 out of 4825 players. When it comes to betting, I pretty much play the NYRA tracks only, save for the Breeders Cup, the Triple Crown Series and an occasional odd bet thrown down once in a blue moon at other tracks. So, this contest will be a real challenge.

I love games like the Meadowlands Survival Challenge. and believe all racetracks should set up these "Survival" type games on their respective websites. It creates interest, draws people to the website everyday, and I am sure increases handle with real bets thrown in.

Between playing the challenge and playing/watching the great 11 race card at Belmont on Saturday, this will be a full horseplaying weekend. Head over to out TBA home page for all the Belmont entries, picks and PP information.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Joe Talamo on The Tonight Show

Light on Substance, heavy on Fluff, I wonder if I Want Revenge feels slighted, as Joe and Conan talk about the The Kentucky Derby without mentioning I Want Revenge by name.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Young and Old

In the 3rd race at Belmont today, New York Bred and fan favorite Naughty New Yorker finished 6th and last in a New York Bred $65,000 race. It was his 50th start. We last saw him run at Saratoga in the Funny Cide Stakes on August 28th when he rallied for 2nd place. His 3 races before that in '09 have been clunkers. Maybe the 2nd place finish at the Spa, where he made his patented stretch run was his last hurrah??

On the younger front, while watching Jockey's last night on Animal Planet, they focused on the filly Stardom Bound, showing her win in the Santa Anita Oaks and than her 3rd place finish in the Ashland at Keeneland on April 4th. Well, she hasn't raced since. It's funny how horses like that, so promising, often fall off the radar and out of our racing memory. But she has had 4 workouts at Aqueduct and apparently is a possibility for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.

Speaking of the Breeders Cup, for news on who's running, and who's not, check out the Breeders Cup Divisional Blogs on written exclusively for the NTRA by my fellow members of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance.

Friday, September 25, 2009

State of the Nation?

The apparent return of 8 year old gelding Lava Man from retirement to training has brought out the predictable "the sky is falling" mass hysteria. I guess in this day of instant commenting on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter or whatever it is, we have to expect instant commentary and opinions.

Myself, I cannot give an instant opinion. I would rather wait and see before commenting on the issue. I want to see the workouts of Lava Man, read the Trainer's and Vet's comments to the press, see what type of races they are thinking about actually racing Lava Man in, before I make any comment. Maybe bringing back Lava Man is a bad decision, maybe it is a good one- but can we wait a few weeks before declaring this a bad decision?

It gets really weird when a blogger named soothsayer99 on the popular left wing site The Daily Kos decides to blog on the issue. The blog is filled with the typical bashing of the game quotes you would expect including this gem:
"Horseracing is now an obscure and sullied sport, left to the gamblers and those who love horses too much to turn away."

"Left to the gamblers?"-does anyone want to explain to soothsayer99 that the game only exists because of gambling. Take away gambling, bye, bye horse racing.

Of course soothsayer99 also pulls out the "death" card with this quote:

"This is a recipe for disaster. Horseracing is a brutal sport that claims the lives of at least 3 horses per day - Barbaro, Eight Belles, Inesperado, and tens of thousands of nameless more. It is rife with drugs, risk, and tragedy.

Lava Man was one of the lucky ones to make it out alive - he has earned his retirement."

"tens of thousands of nameless more?" Soothsayer99-- is that tens of thousands figure per day, week, year? soothsayer99 does not specify, but I figure it was just thrown in the sentence because soothsayer99 knows it sounds so evil and will surely fire up the crowd, so who cares about specific data and numbers.

Perhaps it is cold to say it but the truth is the Thoroughbred is specifically bred for the game and is only alive today because of Horse racing. But I have also witnessed many a Thoroughbred being taken care of so lovingly, often treated better than any pet dog or cat, by the trainers and backstretch workers who see to it that the horse gets the chance to do what he/she is bred to do, which is race.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Calling Jerry Jones

While watching the Cowboys-Giants game last night on NBC, if I received a dollar for every time they mentioned the new Cowboys stadium or showed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in his owners box, I would be a millionaire. Give Jerry credit, in a down economy he managed to fill his place and get the media to hawk it.

Maybe the NTRA should give Jerry a call for tips on marketing the Breeders Cup.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mildly Interested?

Midshipman, last years Breeders Cup Juvenile Champ, finally makes his 3 year old debut at Belmont Park today. According to NYRA, the debut is "eagerly anticipated". I don't know if "eagerly anticipated" is how I feel.

I am more "mildly interested" to see how Midshipman does after the long, long layoff.

I will make sure to read the results online tonight; or if I forget peruse the Belmont Results in the paper tomorrow morning or maybe even check out the race on my OTB simulcast channel if I remember this afternoon, but no, I am not eagerly anticipating today's 3rd race at Belmont.

And at 3-1 morning line odds, he won't get my money and I would recommend playing one of the 5 others at more attractive odds.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Breeders Cup Gambles on Football

There has been mixed reaction to the decision to air Breeders Cup Qualifier races between a College Football doubleheader on ESPN on October 10th, 2009.

Depending on the schedule, viewers tuned into ESPN on that day will get the chance to see either Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret or Mine That Bird in the Goodwood Stakes.

Some may be offended at being sandwiched between the 2 games, but lets face it, Horse racing (besides the Triple Crown races) just can't draw the #'s that college football brings in for ESPN. Just this past Saturday for instance, USC's victory over Ohio State drew a 6.3 rating and 10.6 million viewers on ESPN. If the college football telecast on the 10th is only half that , say a 3.1, and say only half of that # stay to watch the racing between the games, that still is a rating of 1.5. By comparison last years "Filly Friday" drew a 0.3 rating and the Saturday portion of the Breeders Cup telecast on ESPN on Saturday drew a 1.0 rating.

Much as many people won't like the truncated short coverage, the potential viewing audience can't be ignored.

source: Neilsen Media Research

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Still Dancing

After 6 weeks of great times at the Spa, this is the week I usually crash and enter into a deep morose period. I tend to get cranky, and bitch about things like: is there ever gonna be a time the light bulbs are all working in the Saratoga infield tote board? (wait, is that 8-1, 3-1, or is it 9-1???) But thanks to the historic Rachel Alexandra win in the Woodward on Saturday, I'm still on a high. I suspect many other fans who were there that day, are feeling the same way. How many of you have watched the replay at least 4 or 5 times?

I will remember a ton of stuff from my many days spent at the Spa this summer-the overall better weather than '08 (except for yet another crappy Travers weather day), Linda Rice's incredible win percentage of 27 % and her "in the money" % of 43%, the 6 way turf photo finish on Alabama Day, seeing Chip Woolery having such a good time at the Spa, watching Summer Bird duplicate his Daddy's feat with the Belmont/Travers double, seeing 2 year old filly Hot Dixie Chick blow away the field in 2 races- but nothing compares to Rachel winning the Woodward Stakes.

I have attended a ton of sporting events in my time, some I remember vividly, some barely at all, but I believe I will always remember standing in the clubhouse on Saturday and watching Rachel come down the stretch while the crowd all around me roared.

How often does a potential great Graded Stakes race suddenly fall apart when "the" horse pulls out a few days before or maybe scratches that morning with a fever or minor injury? Or if the horse makes it to the gate, often we are disappointed-the horse gets a bad trip, gets beat out by a lesser known, or simply never picks up his/her feet to run.

But Rachel did none of that, this athlete would not let us down, this time the race was better than we could have imagined and the Spa roared as loud as it ever had in its storied history.

A native of New York City, now living in Saratoga County, 46 weeks of the year is dedicated to awaiting opening day at the Spa, my justification for living through very long Upstate NY winters. Thanks to Rachel, I suspect I will recount the Woodward Stakes more than a few times this winter and that will help to make the winter seem a little shorter, a little warmer and a lot happier.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Rachel Alexandra- A Fan's View

Wow-call me impressed! Today at the Spa, I was a fan, not a horseplayer.

I have been to Saratoga, many, many times but I am hard pressed to find a more exciting day at the Spa, than the one I had today watching Rachel Alexandra win the Woodward Stakes. It reminded me how much fun the game can be, not just from playing the card, but as a fan.

It was funny, early in the day; the crowd seemed subdued and muted, almost like they were saving their energy for the big race to come.

And than it happened, as the 9th race ended (The Forego Stakes) the crowd at the rail, which usually leaves before reconvening a few minutes before the next race, stayed put as if they were fearful of losing their spot on the rail. I quickly ran to the clubhouse ground floor to view the Paddock Post Parade and found people lined 4 deep in the Parade area between the Paddock and the Track. As Rachel walked towards the track, the excitement was palpable and the crowd grew excited. I took the photo above of a very calm Rachel and Borel as they walked by me in the Post Parade.

I raced back to my seats, and heard an audible gasp from the crowd when Rachel unseated Borel shortly after she entered the track. All was fine though and Borel was back on her safely. I then arrived back in my seat in Section K and watched history unfold.

As Rachel came around the turn and entered the final stretch, the entire grandstand and clubhouse crowd stood up, section by section, in unison. It seemed everyone in the joint was rooting for Rachel. I know my kids, age 15 and 12, were screaming the loudest I have ever seen them scream at a sporting event or game. My girlfriend compared the crowd noise to a rock concert.

As Rachel crossed the finish line, withstanding a furious run by Macho Again, the crowd was going nuts, still standing, still screaming. The crowd of 31, 171 made a noise level that was one of the loudest I ever heard at the grand old Spa. The crowd reaction reminded me of the fan excitement at a NY Giant football game in Jersey or a NY Ranger game at the Garden.

This horse is simply a true champion. She is a premier athlete, seemingly always ready, always wanting to compete.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Schooling with Rachel

For the faithful who showed up at Saratoga today, it was obvious the main attraction was Rachel Alexandra, who schooled in the Paddock at around 3:00 pm. As evidenced by the photo above taken by yours truly, the fans were standing 4 deep at the paddock gate.

I will say this, this horse is very impressive looking. She has that rare look that a truly great athlete has, that look of always being ready to compete. She looked fantastic in the Paddock, walking calmly around like she owned the place. I'm sure her current winning streak will end eventually, but she does not look ready to lose anytime soon.

Alan at Left at the Gate hits all the right notes on his blog regarding attendance for the Woodward in his post titled "I'll Take the Under".

Thus far this week, attendance has been disappointing despite 3 days of crystal clear blue skies without a speck of humidity. Monday brought 10,006 out, Wednesday had 10,983 and today had 11,809.

The forecast will be fantastic for Saturday, so NYRA can't blame the weather. I just think too many of the out of towners are long gone and the walk up sales on a Labor Day weekend can only increase so much, even when a Curlin or Rachel is running. The attendance will be good, just not crazy good. Curlin brought in 22,572 last year. Throw in another 10,000 for my guess of 32,572 fans who will witness the Rachel walkover.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Question and Answers

Q: I can't make it to Saratoga this Saturday, can I watch the Woodward Stakes on national Television?

A: No, It is available if you have TVG, HRTV or on MSG+ network ( a regional network available in the Middle Atlantic region of the US)

Q: I don't live in the Middle Atlantic area and my cable provider does not carry TVG or HRTV. Can't a national network broadcast it. I thought Rachel Alexandra is a national sensation?

A: In the racing world yes, outside of it no. College football starts this weekend. Football is a television sport. People love watching it as much as they love gambling on it. Advertisers know that, hence you will see many, many games this weekend.

Q: Really?

A: Yes, ESPN will televise 28 college football games this weekend across the various stations that make up the ESPN network including ABC.

Q: Oh, maybe NBC will pick up the race, they broadcast the Derby and Preakness right?

A: Yes, they did broadcast those races, and No- they will not pick it up, NBC will be broadcasting the Notre Dame-Nevada college football game this Saturday.


A: Nope , they have the Tennis US Open

Q: Your kidding me, what else would they broadcast instead , an NFL Exhibition game?

A: Yes, they would-and happily so, last Sunday's NFL Exhibition game on NBC drew 10.6 million viewers and a 6.5 rating.

Q: But doesn't everyone want to see Rachel run?

A: Yes, but against horses she has a rivalry with, not against older non-stars. The Preakness with the feel good story of Mine That Bird going against Rachel Alexandra was a story the networks love and can sell. The Woodward is a much harder sell.

Q: What should I do?

A: The weather will be great this weekend in Saratoga. Come up and watch the race.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Post Travers Reflections

Random Reflections from Travers Weekend at the Spa:

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

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

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

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

Quality Road unseats Velasquez while trying to load in the Gate

Summer Bird looking relaxed and ready going into the Gate

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Travers Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jockey Title at Saratoga: What a battle

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Winner-NYRA

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

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

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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pictures from Alabama Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes: Photo Credit: Me

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rachel Alexandra: One down, Four under consideration

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

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

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guess we will have a Jockey Change Announcement

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

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

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Completing the Saratoga Double

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Saratoga Double

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Saratoga after 2 weeks-Good Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still 4 weeks to go, but so far so good

Monday, August 10, 2009

Strange Days

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

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

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

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Rachel Alexandra on the Hot List

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Goodbye Sidney

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

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

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

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rachel Alexandra-A clear Picture

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

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weekend TV Coverage for Rachel Alexandra

....only if you have TVG or you like watching simulcast feeds.

As pointed out by Steve Crist in his Daily Racing Form column of 07/30/09, no major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC or ESPN) will be covering the major races this weekend, which includes Rachel Alexandra and Summer Bird in the Haskell, Mine That Bird in the West Virgina Derby as well as big Stakes races at Saratoga and Delmar.

Crist mentions viewers will be relegated to TVG or an OTB simulcast but other TV options are out there, albeit on a limited scale and not on a national TV basis.

The West Virgina Derby will be broadcast on Saturday at 5 pm on Fox Sports Net (FSN) which is available on many cable systems throughout the country.

The Grade I Diana and Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga will be broadcast Saturday at 5 pm on MSG Plus network (MSG +) which is available on most cable systems in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Of course, probably the biggest race of the weekend, The Haskell at Monmouth is only on TVG which is available on satellite systems but not available on many major cable systems. I figured one of the ESPN family of channels would pick it up and checked the latest ESPN TV listings (last year ESPN Classic broadcast the West Virginia Derby). The Haskell goes off around 6:15 pm. From 6pm-7pm ESPN Classic is showing a repeat of "Hot August Nights" .....a nostalgia car auction show.

07/31/09 UPDATE: NYRA announced today that they have partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) to air the MSG Plus series “Saturdays at Saratoga” on MASN, expanding the distribution of the program from the 4 states mentioned above to now a seven-state region that extends down to Charlotte, North Carolina. MASN will carry all dates live from 5-6 p.m. beginning Saturday, August 1. Also HRTV, found mostly on Satellite Systems will also have the Haskell feed.

Saratoga Opening Day Post Race Notes

Opening Day is something I really anticipate as my usual crankiness and daily disdain at all things around me seems to disappear as I walk through the Wright Street Gates into the grounds of Saratoga Race Course.

Suddenly I feel like a kid again, when everything seemed brighter, prettier , and more optimistic.

The handicapping day started well when I hit the first Daily Double of the day when Johnny V brought Freedom Rings home in the 2nd. I also had Mythical Yarn for the consolation double, who was a late scratch at the gate when she saw a paper on the ground and spooked-rearing up sharply. Apparently Mythical Yarn is otherwise ok with no injury incurred.

The attendance was 25,444- a increase of 40% off of last years rain deluged opener of 18,127. All I heard on the television news when I got home was the 40% increase as well as the 30% on-track handle increase that NYRA trumpeted on its website. But last year the weather was so bad, the attendance today, short of a another monsoon, had to increase. It did rain late and the 10th race was moved off the turf, but the rain seemed to me only a minor annoyance compared to 2008.

Attendance was down this year when compared to the 30k that showed up for the sunny 2007 opener. (I thought for sure my attendance guess of 26,500 would nail me the early lead in the Equispace Toga contest but I was beat by the Saratoga Residents' guess of 25,750)

Just before race 4 I noticed Dana from Green but Game and her group sitting a mere stones throw from me in the same seating section. Dana noted the threatening gray skies and pointed out to me that Get Stormy would be the logical hunch bet. Alan Garcia promptly brought Get Stormy home for a $7.90 win bet.

The fan favorite of the day was clearly Saratoga Russell in the 8th. There was a noticeable roar in the crowd when the 4 year old cruised home for the win. I had the trifecta bet early until Presto Change O decided to stop running after 4 furlongs. I managed to nail the trifecta in The Schuylerville Stakes when Hot Dixie Chick romped over Beautician and Cowgirl Mally, giving me a small profit on the day.

It started to rain heavily after the Schuylerville and a logistical mishap caused me to have an aborted 5 minute visit to Siro's. During my brief visit it seemed that despite the post race day downpour the Siro's crowd was in the usual state of opening day giddiness.

It poured heavily between 6pm and midnight. I would not be surprised if some of the early turf races today are moved to the main track. But the sun is supposed to be out, so the later races should be fine. But for now, with opening day at the Spa in the books, you leave a little tired but with the knowledge that this is just the beginning, and it feels good to be happy like a kid again.