Tuesday, July 27, 2010

40 Day Spa Meet-Around the Horn 4 days In

After 4 days of racing, I thought it would be interesting to see what people in the know are saying about the first week of the expanded 40 day meet at Saratoga.

NYRA has declared the first week a success, boasting that it outperformed the final weekend of racing at Belmont in 2009. This is an apples and orange comparison if there ever was one, and the comparison by NYRA really seems silly.

NYRA did report that attendance and handle met expectations with an average of 18,113 fans and a little over 2.5 million in daily on track handle. Considering 2 of the 4 days were pretty awful weather wise- the all day rain for the Opener and the oppressive humidity on Saturday, I think the attendance and handle figures are good numbers.

Fellow TBA Blogger Steve Zorn has a fact filled post up comparing all the numbers for the Spa weekend 1 vs. Monmouth Weekend.

Steve Crist
of the DRF is happy so far stating:
"It looks like opening up a few days early was a good idea, and it is hard not to be optimistic about the 36 days of racing still ahead."

Even Paul Moran, the Debbie Downer of racing writers, seems happy about the first 4 days in his ESPN website column, describing the meet thus far as :
"So far, so good."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saratoga Opener in Pictures

As Geno would say, there is nothing like a Saratoga Opener.

Despite persistent showers that got worse as the day went on, 23,178 fans showed up.

A hearty fan not afraid of a little rain scopes out Tar Beach, winner of the 4th race.

Note the garish looking Shake Shack Restaurant Building behind the paddock on the left side. Doesn't make the Spa Paddock seem so quaint anymore.

Notes from the Day:
Yes it rained but you could find many worse places to spend a Friday afternoon. Vineyard Haven was impressive, Le Mi Geaux wins the Schuylerville, but I will keep my eye on the very green but talented Show Me the Bling. Even with all the scratches five of the ten races saw the Win bet pay over 20 dollars with 4 of them paying over 25 bucks. After placing a $5 win bet on Bank Merger in the 3rd race, bringing home a $63 return, I had my drinking money for the night and all was well. 39 days to go.

Photo Credits: Me

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Opening Day at the Spa-Full Field Friday

It’s still a little weird for me getting used to the early start at Saratoga, but the juices are starting to flow for me. It seems the people are ready if you want to go by anecdotal evidence of the buzz around town. Yesterday I had some business to do in downtown Saratoga around 2 pm and it was crowded. Everything seemed to be bustling and no one was around griping about the 40 days. I guess even if you think this year the Meet is too long, once you get up here, you just feel in a better mood and forget about it.

The entries for opening day at Saratoga are out and available for viewing at the NYRA website.

First thing I noticed was the full fields, quite a difference from the last few weeks at Belmont, where short fields and short purses seemed the norm. Of the days 10 races, 7 have at least 10 entries.

The feature race is the Grade III $100,000 Schuylerville Stakes for 2 year old fillies, won last year by Hot Dixie Chick.

Another nice race is the ungraded James Marvin Stakes (won last year by Gold Trippi) featuring familiar names such as You and I Forever, Cool Coal Man, Vineyard Haven, Friesan Fire, and Le Grand Cru. With betting spread out in this10 horse field, this should be one nice betting race.

In addition to the Schuylerville Stakes there is a 2 year old Maiden Special Weight race (the 7th), for fillies with a $50,000 purse.

On a down note, for the first time in recent memory, no races for the 2 year old colts, something I always looked forward to on opening day. Don't understand the logic of having the 2 year old colts skip opening day.

Last years opening day had two races for 2 year old colts, a Maiden NY Bred race won by Come From Behind and a $55,000 Maiden race for 2 year old colts won by Westover Wildcat. The hot 3 year old of this years early summer season, Trappe Shot, finished out of the money in that race.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Guess who's coming to dinner??

Jimmy Vielkind of The Times Union (Albany, NY) confirms in the Capitol Confidential Blog that Sarah Palin and her husband Todd Palin have been invited to the annual Whitney Gala thrown by Mary Lou Whitney and her husband John Hendrickson. Like past years, it will be held at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park in downtown Saratoga on the eve of the Whitney Stakes.

In deference to the state of the economy, the socialite couple cancelled last year's invitation only gala. But this year, the party is back on.

The Palins were also guests of Whitney and Hendrickson at this years Belmont Stakes. The Belmont appearance drew the expected mixed reaction. As the Whitney event is invitation only, and with tight security, forget about getting inside the event at the Canfield Casino.

But the public can assemble in Congress Park outside the Canfield Casino building to welcome or heckle guests, including Palin, as they seem fit. No word yet if fellow TBA blogger Alan from Left at the Gate who previously voiced his feelings about the Palin Belmont appearance over at Teresa Genaro's Brooklyn Backstretch blog, is on the invite list.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Saratoga Heat

It is an official heat wave in Saratoga County as we hit our 3rd straight day over 90 degrees (apparently you need to hit 3 straight days over 90 in these environs before you can call it a heat wave).

As of this post writing, the Thursday NYRA card at Belmont is on, as temperatures are expected to be less humid and in the high 80's at Belmont. With an east wind blowing over Long Island, they should be good to go. That wind won't be anywhere near Saratoga as we face another humid day where temperature should easily eclipse 90 once again on Thursday.

The water sprinklers were going full blast on the Saratoga Race Course Turf surfaces on Wednesday, as the staff did what they could to keep the turf from becoming rock hard. If you look closely at the photo here taken of the track today, you could see a few brown patches on the turf, something rare this time of year.

Unless we get a significant amount of rain between now and opening day, don't expect any soft turf at the Spa.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Puzzling Rachel Alexandra Camp

Yesterday, I received via e mail the media advisory statement from the Jess Jackson camp that Rachel Alexandra will be running in the ungraded Lady 's Secret at Monmouth Park. The Monmouth people were kind enough to move the race up a week and also kick up the purse from $150,000 to $400,000.

The subject of tracks increasing purses and offering other incentives to attract stars is the big topic of the day at the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance home page (www.tbablogs.com). Check it out throughout the day for various takes on the subject.

Didn't see this one coming, but I can only imagine the reaction by NYRA, as it was hoped Rachel would be running in the $250,00 Grade 1 Ruffian on August 1 at Saratoga.

NYRA President Charles Hayward had this to say:

"We are puzzled and disappointed that Rachel Alexandra, who performed so well at Saratoga last year, is passing up the Grade 1 Ruffian to run in a non-graded race at Monmouth over the same distance"

Puzzled is right.

What really struck me as weird was this statement from Jackson in the media advisory release:

“We had a great experience at Monmouth Park and we appreciate the overwhelming show of support the fans there have given us."

No doubt the Haskell victory by Rachel at Monmouth last year was well appreciated by the fans who came out, but no less appreciative were the 31,171 fans in attendance roaring Rachel down the stretch at the Spa during last years Woodward Stakes.

Said Jess Jackson about running in the Lady's Secret at Monmouth:

"It’s the perfect place to start what we hope will be another championship run.”
Maybe I am missing something here. What championship run exactly? Wouldn't a true championship run be better served by running in an Grade 1 race instead of a ungraded race?