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 NTRA.com 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.