Sunday, August 29, 2010

Travers Weekend Recap 2010

69,111 folks showed up Saturday and Sunday for the 2010 Travers Stakes and to see Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign Stakes. Almost 70% of that number showed up on Saturday (45,764) proving at least in this case, that great weather and a traditional stakes race (The Travers Stakes) trump any one individual horse as 23,247 were on hand Sunday to watch Rachel Alexandra.

Count me among the ones who attended both days, although I did not arrive until midway to see Sunday's Card after spending the entire day at Saratoga on Saturday with my party of 5.

The Travers Stakes this year won't go down in history as one of the fastest (2:03.28), but it was a thrilling photo finish on a sun drenched humidity free day. For me, that's all I need to have a great day at the track.

Besides, I hit the Trifecta in the Travers. The photo finish fell in my favor with the winner Afleet Express tipping the $2 Trifecta bet to $970.00. Special track salute to Geno at EquiSpace for stopping by to say hi during the card and strongly tout Afleet Express. His thoughts helped me go confidently to the window. I had drawn an O-fer the first 11 races so hitting the Trifecta out the door sure made the drinks at Siro's taste sweeter.

Sunday at the track for me was a day for light betting and just enjoying the day with the better half, and seeing Rachel win the Personal Ensign Stakes...I mean Oh well, don't think we will see that RA vs. Zenyatta BC Classic matchup after all.

I leave you with a photo I took Sunday at the 1/16 pole of Rachel still in the lead in the Personal Ensign Stakes. If the race was a mile and eighth she wins, but it was not and RA was gasping the rest of the way home.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Travers-a Holy Race of Obligation

This week I have been reading the marvelous "The History and Art of 25 Travers" by Vic Zast and featuring the wonderful art & posters of Greg Montgomery. While reading it I came across Bob Summers, racing columnist for The Buffalo News quoting a horseplayer who called The Travers a "Holy Day of Obligation".

How perfect I thought-- for me that is what it is. Some people never miss Sunday Church, but for me my Church is on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs NY and it would be a sin to miss a Stakes day, especially the Travers Stakes. This will be my eighth attended Travers in a row and though it might seem silly to some, I can't see myself missing one anytime soon.

We all have our favorites but among the ones I have attended I remember 2004 when Birdstone proved the Belmont upset of Smarty Jones was no fluke. I never forget how dark it got when the race went off and how the heavens opened up with a violent thunderstorm as Birdstone crossed the finish line the winner.

As for the 2010 Travers, every time I look at the past performances I come up with another horse I think can win the thing. For me it comes down to who can get the classic Mile and a quarter distance. Maybe come post time I will change my mind yet again, but right now I like Fly Down on top with First Dude, Afleet Express and Ice Box underneath.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Travers Exotic Bets/Play on Words

As you study the PP's here's a few exotic bets to ponder:

The Afleet Alex Trifecta: Admiral Alex., Afleet Again, Afleet Express

The Nick Zito Trifecta: Miner's Reserve, Ice Box, Fly Down

The Restrained Exacta: Miner's Reserve, Super Saver

The Friends Exacta: First Dude, Friend or Foe

The Antipodal Exacta: A Little Warm, Ice Box

The Air Force Exacta: Fly Down, Trappe Shot

Monday, August 23, 2010

Travers week off to Soggy Start

Not the way you want to head into Travers week with 2 days of rain dampening the usual festive feel of the Spa. NYRA had ordered 60,000 giveaway umbrella's for Sunday but had leftovers with an announced crowd of 45,171. My experience on giveaway days is too divide the attendance # by 3 to get the real #, which in this case would be 15,057. Probably the right number if you look at on track handle, which was $1,956,816. If you believe the 45,171 figure that is only $43.32 spent on track per person there.

Monday saw similarly crappy weather and 69 souls kept the # over 10,000 at 10,069. Mondays on track handle was $1,374,511 which equates too a more healthy $136.51 per person.

If you use my divide by 3 formula, the Sunday per person handle (1,956,816/15,057) would actually be $129.96.

On to the rest of the week, where you know NYRA has one eye on the weather forecast. So far the extended forecast shows rain on and off through Thursday but than clear, dry and cool Friday through Sunday.

NYRA is betting heavily on the promote Rachel Alexandra angle, including announcing today a special Travers-Personal Ensign Double (would it be called a weekend double?)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A betting angle is a betting angle

I just read about abut two public handicappers-one who swears visual handicapping, (i.e. watching the horses in the paddock and the walk up to the gate before making a bet) is a great way to bet and one other handicapper who says he never does it-They both have good ROI records-so who’s to say what really is a good betting angle or not?

Here are some betting angles I have been using lately with some success.

When a jockey is injured and is than off his mounts for the rest of the day, bet the very next mount that Jockey would have had. Yesterday when Rajiv Maragh was thrown off Pico Dinero in the 7th race at Saratoga and sent to the hospital for observation, he could not make his next mount aboard Glacier Bay in the nightcap. I always feel this is like a freebie for the jockey getting the mount-he wasn’t expected to race and all of a sudden he gets a chance to make some extra coin-most jocks seem to ride with an extra zest when this happens. Eibar Coa got the mount and I jumped all over Glacier Bay who won at long odds paying $26.20 to win.

Another angle is to bet against the very, very hot trainer when every horse he sends out gets automatically bet down. Trainer Chad Brown was red hot the first 2 weeks of the meet, and his horses were getting bet down like crazy. If you took a stand against him with one of the long shots starting in week 3 you did ok. For instance on Sunday at the Spa, Brown’s horse Payout at 1-2 odds finished fourth with long shot winner Who’s Willie Fitz paying $44.80. Of course, knowing when to keep with the hot trainer or jump off board is the tricky part, you don’t want to jump too soon, but when the odds get crazily bet down, I’m well off board.

Conversely at some point a slumping trainer breaks his streak, especially a good one. Nick Zito was 0 for twenty-something entering Today's card at Saratoga, but when everyone stays away in droves at some point you gotta jump back on him as the odds should be pretty square. Today in the 5th, 2 year old Mountain Town paid $16.40 for winning trainer Zito and his pal Marylou Whitney.

Speaking of betting, you check out the handicapping selections of your favorite bloggers and writers at the TBA home page here for Arlington Million Day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saratoga Midterm Observations and Comments

21 Days in the book, 19 to go for the 2010 Saratoga Meet.

Here are some midterm observations:

Jockey Title: It’s a 3 man race at this point; Javier Castellano came out red hot, but has cooled off a little and sits at 24 wins with Johnny Velazquez the hot one and your leader at 28, winning 3 races on Sunday. And beware Ramon Dominguez sitting with 21 wins and plenty of good mounts left in the meet.

Trainer Title: This has been a two man race from the start between Todd Pletcher and local trainer Chad Brown. Chad came into Sunday’s card with a remarkable win percentage of 43% but failed to cash in on any of his 3 horses going on Sunday including 2-5 favorite Payout in the 3rd race, who finished out of the money. When we look back at this meet I think Sunday will be the day Pletcher pulled away and never looked back- he picked up 2 wins and leads Brown 17-12.

The “Golden Sombrero times 5” award goes to Nick Zito currently an ice cold 0-20 in the win column with only 2 seconds and a third to show for his efforts.

The new infield Tote Board: I’m mixed on this one. I often sit over in Section J, so from those seats I have a dead on center view of the new infield Tote Board. It has a nice clean look and the odds can be clearly seen on the board, something the old infield Tote never reliably did, with multiple blown bulbs seemingly every day. But the new board does not show the post race payouts so if you are seated anywhere in the middle of the track you have to rely on the side totes or the small overhead televisions to figure out what they are. The right side of the tote is reserved for ad space and announcements-can't the race payouts be rotated in this space with the ads?.

The Paddock Bar: NYRA gets an A-Plus on this one. I relished the first few days of the meet, when significant other and I saddled up to the bar behind the Paddock in relative small company with great drinks, betting machines and a view of the Paddock to boot. But of course, despite my best attempts to keep the place a secret, word has gotten out and the place is jammed, especially on Saturday.

Other Track Amenities: NYRA gets kudos on this one also, adding the Shake Shack and the Blue Smoke to the grounds. Moderately priced with lines that move pretty quickly- both places serve tasty food, with betting windows in between the two places to boot, so you can still get your bet in. You really can’t go wrong with the Shake Burger and a Shake.

A returning eatery however remains my favorite. Hattie’s formerly on “restaurant row” moved to a separate location to a bigger space this year just outside the clubhouse escalators. I find a Hattie’s fried chicken sandwich eaten around the 6th race or so has just the perfect mix of ingredients to give me the proper nourishment to continue on for the remainder of the card.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 20 at the Spa

We are half way through the 40 day meet at Saratoga. Just a few quick notes before I zip off to the Track for this beautiful Saturday where it is 80 degrees now with a nice breeze.

NYRA gets lucky two weekends in a row with the weather-last week on Whitney weekend and now again where the feature race is the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) on Turf. You can read my thoughts about the race here at the handicappers corner section of the Thorofan website. This is probably the weakest Stakes weekend of the meet, so this great weather will help to bring up a few more souls at the track, that might otherwise pass. The attendance this week has been pretty strong, so expect a good turnout today.

I'll be back in a day or so with my midterm report card on the highlights and low lights thus far of the meet.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Completing the Saratoga Double Whitney Style

The 2010 Grade 1 Whitney Handicap is now complete as is my long but fun day at Saratoga. I started the morning bright and early running in the 2nd annual Fasig-Tipton 5K, where all racers got off well right at 8 am. I was happy with my finishing time of 25:38 among the 266 finishers. This is one very well managed race benefiting 4 backstretch charities. For more details on the 4 racing charities and some of their upcoming benefits along with her recap of the race you can read writer Teresa Genero's account at her blog Brooklyn Backstretch.

I later returned to Saratoga with family and friends for the full racing card at the Spa.

With the race under my belt and a 11 race card ahead of me, plus drinks at Siro's, dinner downtown and than post dinner nightspot visiting, I was in for a long day. But I was bred for distance so I relished the waking hours still ahead of me.

Regarding the Whitney Handicap, like many others I really loved Quality Road on top. So confident was I, that I keyed him on top in my Trifecta, over Blame and Musket Man. However, this is one of these races when you look back at the Past Performance charts and it seems so logical that Blame was primed to win this race. He is one fine looking race horse, and man did he cruise down that final stretch.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Saratoga Double-Whitney Version

This year I attempt my Saratoga Double for the second year. This consists of running in the Fasig-Tipton 5K in Saratoga Saturday morning followed by a full day stay at the track highlighted by The Grade 1 Whitney Handicap.

My training for the 2nd running of the Fasig-Tipton 5K has not been as strong as last year so beating my finishing 2009 time of 25:00 minutes may be tough, but I will give it the old college try. If you are in the area and want to give it a shot you can sign up on race day, 08/07/10, starting at 6:30am at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion.

All proceeds from the race will be divided equally among the New York Racing Association's four charities: The Anna House, Backstretch Employee Service Team, New York Racetrack Chaplaincy and The Backstretch Education Fund.

Regarding The Whitney, you can read my preview at the Thorofan Website. The weather will be pristine and it should be a great day.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Saratoga holds up well for Weekend #2

Blessed by near perfect weather, NYRA has to be very happy with the weekend 2 results at Saratoga.

74,649 fans walked through the Saratoga gates Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a nice healthy number, especially considering this was a "non-spinner" weekend as there was no giveaway day on Sunday. Monmouth Park had 58,175 fans over the same 3 days.

Monmouth was a big winner on Sunday with 40,904 fans coming to see the Haskell, but the Spa still drew 22,190 on Sunday and almost drew even with on track handle ($3,270,939 at Monmouth vs $3,152,520 for Saratoga).

On Saturday it was no contest as Saratoga had 28,682 fans with $4,682,285 in track handle compared to only 9,890 fans and $720,090 in on track handle at Monmouth. I guess it was so nice, everyone in Jersey just stayed at the Shore.

Friday was a big success for Saratoga as 23,777 fans came out for Twilight racing with an on track handle of $2,762,008. Monmouth on Friday drew 7,381 fans with $622,391 in on track handle.

NYRA heavily promoted the Friday Twilight card as "Party at the Spa" with tons of signs throughout the track and ads in the local media. They had a band, The Sean Dolan Band, playing after the last race outside the Clubhouse gates. I don't know if they are any good, but Ernie Munick said they are, and that's good enough for me. Plus Ernie himself was there playing in the backyard on Friday.

With such nice weather, the fans showed up all weekend and with the oppressive humidity of week one gone, everyone I bumped into over the weekend seemed happy. I also had my first Shake Shack Shake, a black and white Shake, on Saturday. After drawing a goose egg all day Saturday at the betting windows, the $13.00 for 2 Shakes, (one for the better half) was the best bet I made all day.