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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Saratoga Attendance-Look to the Sky

The biggest predictor of attendance at Saratoga is right above us-the sky. Clear skies bring out the folks, especially those living nearby between Albany and Glens Falls NY. If it is a nice day, out to the track they come, but rainy skies keep them away. We all saw what the rain did too attendance in 2008, attendance was down about 25% during the rain filled opening week compared to a sun filled opening week of 2007.

The photo above I took today, less than 20 hours before the first race of 2009, of the skies above Saratoga. Sun to the left, dark ominous clouds to the right. Pretty much what you get here in August. Fog in the morning, than humidity with a chance of rain in late afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow-hot, humid, chance of rain and thunderstorms. Dress your opening day best, but bring an umbrella.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saratoga online Tickets-too little, too late

I complained about NYRA's Saratoga ticket procedures a few days ago.
On Friday, 7/24/09, NYRA announced that grandstand seating with admission included can be purchased online through Ticketmaster.

Clubhouse seating is not available as they are long gone through the archaic "mail in" Reserved seating application seating lottery that NYRA makes fans go through. I took a quick gander on Ticketmaster to see what seats were left. Travers Stakes Day Tickets (8/29/09) are not even offered on the site. Two tickets for the 8th of August to watch the Whitney Stakes were available in Section Y, the farthest seats from the finish line. On the Alabama Stakes day (8/22/09), the bests seats available are in Section X, not much better.

Let's hope NYRA comes up with an online system that is available from Day One allowing everyone a transparent fair chance to secure both clubhouse and grandstand seating.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fight continues in Nassau OTB Vs. NYRA

The Nassau Off Track Betting Corp (OTB). continues their fight against the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which began when the New York Racing Association pulled its TV video signal from Nassau OTB, one of the state's six regional OTB corporations, in retaliation for some unauthorized video-streaming on Nassau OTB's website earlier this year.

NYRA pulled its signal on 06/03/09 because Nassau OTB was showing the live video stream of its signal on its website from Jan. 29 through April 15. The six state OTB outfits cannot show the video stream without NYRA's consent, which NYRA withholds because the OTBs don't allow NYRA to stream its own signal on its own website.

It seems so silly, and I have criticised NYRA often , but I side with NYRA on this one. Looks like they are merely trying to protect Intellectual Property they clearly own, ie, the racing product. Heck if NYRA can't even show their own product on their own website betting ADW platform, why would Nassau OTB expect they can, without even asking permission, no less?

So far no resolution and if you plan to watch the Saratoga meet from your house in Nassau County, Long Island starting next week by turning on the OTB channel, looks like you will be out of luck.

You can hear NYRA President Charles Hayward's take on this in an interview he gave to Mike Francesa on WFAN (660 am) in New York today by clicking on this link.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hey NYRA-Got my Tickets?

We are now one week from opening day of the Saratoga 2009 meet. I now excitedly prepare for the season, meticulously organizing and planning. However one thing is out of my control, obtaining my reserved seats from NYRA (New York Racing Association).

NYRA continues to have a maddeningly frustrating antiquated reserved seating process. There is no internet on-line option to buy tickets from NYRA. I can easily (at a steep price of course) obtain NY Mets or Yankees tickets on line at the team websites. Heck last week in a matter of minutes I was able to buy tickets to the local minor league Class A team (Tri-City Valley Cats) playing in Troy NY on the Teams website and was able to print them on-line at no additional charge. Telephone sales-nope-NYRA does not believe in using that form of technology either.

Instead in January of '09 I had to fill out by hand a ticket application and mail it in with a check payable to NYRA for the full amount of desired seating. Then NYRA will deposits my check in a NYRA account with the clear warning written on the application of:
"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 cleared on 01/19/09. It is now 180 days and still no tickets. A honest mishap you think? No, this is regular procedure for NYRA. Tickets are not mailed out till mid- June with a slow roll out of tickets to all customers. Customers who order tickets for every day of the meet get mailed out first with those suckers who only ordered for select dates forced to sweat it out and wait by the mailbox. Should you have the courage to call the NYRA ticket office, brace yourself for the rudeness you will receive for having the audacity to inquire about your tickets.

Last year my tickets were received 2 days before the meet. I was also owed a refund, which I did not receive until August last year. I was not given any escrow interest on my refund, apparently NYRA gets to keep that.

Oh, and should you be looking for Day of Sale tickets, NYRA ends a long tradition- reserved seats will no longer be available this year at the Holiday Inn on Broadway in Saratoga. You can buy them at the box office on the track-CASH only of course.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New York....Like Russia

You may have read about the ban in Russia effective on the 1st of this month shutting down all casinos and gaming halls nationwide in Russia. Gaming Industry heads put the job loss at 300,000.

The ban allows for gambling in 4 remote sections of Russia that will require require investment of up to $40 billion and have not yet been built. One casino head is quoted as saying:

"The zones have no roads, water or electricity. We fulfilled the law by shutting, the government did not fulfill it as the zones are not ready yet,"

Government not fulfilling a promise, You mean kinda like the much proposed not yet built Aqueduct Racino In New York??

Friday, July 17, 2009

Will Tom Durkin be Singing Today?

Doremifasollatido, a 3 year old filly with 2 wins out of 7 starts on dirt, will try the turf for the 1st time in a NY-Bred 1 mile $65,000 added Overnight Stakes in the 8th race at Belmont's Twilight card today.

Fans may remember the 2 wins, both called quite musically by Tom Durkin. We blogged about one of the calls at Belmont last year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bailey in the Morning

I would expect a mostly soft interview but nevertheless Jerry Bailey will appear on "Mike & Mike in the Morning" July 15th during the "Don't Give Up ESPYs V Foundation Auction" on ESPN RADIO and ESPN2.

He is scheduled to appear in the 7 am to 8 am eastern time slot. According to a e-mail I received from the The Breeders Cup he is scheduled to talk about the Breeders' Cup and the effort to raise money in the race against cancer. The V Foundation was started by the Late college basketball (NC State) coach Jimmy Valvano, who died of cancer.

As Bailey is appearing on behalf of The Breeders Cup, don't expect too much criticism of the "Win and your in Format" or any talk about the horses mostly likely not running (i.e. Rachel Alexandra) in the Cup this year.

Bidding for the VIP ticket package to the Breeders Cup starts at $2,000 and comes with 2 seats to the Breeders' Cup World Championships on November 6th and 7th, and a three-night hotel stay.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Remembering Lawyer Ron

Lawyer Ron was put down on Friday after complications from colic Surgery. He was only 6 years old. Unlike many promising horses on the Derby trail who often disappear from the racing scene so quickly, Lawyer Ron continued to run after his 3 year old season, starting in 26 races lifetime with 20 finishes in the money. His career earnings were $2,790.008.

I was fortunate to see Lawyer Ron race in person several times, including his Whitney Handicap recording winning time in 2007 at Saratoga and his win several weeks later at the Spa in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. Such a shame that his breeding career and life was cut so short.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Morning Workouts at Saratoga

Check out the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) site for a nice piece by Marcie Heacox on the physical beauty of our racetracks and the special pleasure in viewing morning workouts.

After reading the piece the racing fan might put it on his agenda to check out a morning workout at the upcoming Saratoga meet. After all the track and setting is beautiful and what could be better than watching the horses workout on a crisp sunny Saratoga morning?

Don't bother, The Oklahoma Training Track morning workouts at Saratoga is not open to the general viewing public. Because of Security reasons, NYRA prohibits the general public from watching morning workouts at The Training track. While the working press, and various tour groups can get in, if John Q. Public just feels like waking up one morning and going to the track at 5 am-he/she will be turned away. I certainly understand the security concerns, but there has to be a way to safely allow access to the general public so that the beauty of the morning workout can be exposed to more fans.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Belmont Attendance vs. Handle

I have always been an avid newspaper reader and one habit I can't seem to break is reading baseball box scores and NYRA daily attendance and handle figures. Luckily my local paper still prints both in the Sports section.

Regarding yesterdays Holiday Belmont crowd, over at Left at the Gate it was noted that "The crowd of 7,667 wagered almost $1,378,300 into the mutuel pool. With the benefit of one extra race, that's some $20,000 more than was bet on Rachel Alexandra day the Saturday before, when the crowd was announced as being 13,352."

A closer look reveals that the Belmont card on the 4th also drew more in both Intra-State wagering and Inter-state Wagering than on Rachel Alexandra Day. Here are all the figures:

Saturday June 27th (feature race: Mother Goose Stakes featuring Rachel Alexandra):
  1. Attendance: 13,352
  2. On-Track Handle: 1,357,534
  3. Intra-State: 2,657,212
  4. Inter-State: 8,361,822
Saturday July 4th (Feature race: Grade 1 Prioress Stakes):
  1. Attendance: 7,667
  2. On-Track Handle: 1,378,296
  3. Intra-State: 2,969,277
  4. Inter-State: 9,564,986
Yesterday's card also featured two Grade II stakes races (The Dwyer and The Suburban), so maybe a full racing card with varied betting possibilities brings in better handle than a card featuring a Star filly in a walk-over race. Also, I am always suspect of any NYRA released attendance figure on a Spinner Giveaway day.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Don't Blink

We now enter the time of year when times seems to speed up and the days although filled with daylight seem to pass so quickly. It seems you reach the 4th of July Holiday, than you blink and Labor Day is upon us.

On the racing front, we enter such a busy time. Starting this holiday weekend we have a stakes filled card at Belmont and Monmouth Park and Hollywood Park out west has the American Oaks.

Opening Day at Delmar is only 19 days away and Opening Day at Saratoga will be here in just 26 days.

The Churchill Downs meet ends on July 4th. Churchill track officials are beaming with last nights "Downs after Dark" night racing experiment drawing 33,481. The 3 night experiment drew 27,623, 28,011 and last nights high of 33,481. I had read that some people feared with college over that the final night would not draw but those fears were put too rest. The old adage of putting out a usable product with great customer service and fair pricing worked for the night racing experiment.

On the Churchill Downs website you will find a poll where you can vote on whether to keep the experiment going as part of the regular meet schedule. I'm no Nostradamus, but this seems like a 1-9 lock on a "Yes" vote.