- I made my first and last visit to the Meadowlands for their short thoroughbred meeting last night on the second to last night before it goes back to harness racing, which has always been far more popular there. The quality of the racing at the Big M has never approached that of New York’s, but there was at time when at least the fields were full and competitive. That’s no longer the case, and nowhere does that show more than at the place where it hurts the most – the mutuel windows. On Election Day, the track went head-to-head with Aqueduct, and though it drew more people, with $609,000 in on-track bets, the Big A's in-house handle was three times that of the Big M.
Total handle spoke to the wide-scope appeal of New York's thoroughbred racing over New Jersey's, as Aqueduct's total handle was $5.6 million, five times more than what was bet on the East Rutherford product.The sparse on-track handle comes despite the fact that the Meadowlands enhanced their players rewards program for the meet, and as you know, rebates are not permitted at all in New York. The benefits were doubled, with big players able to earn back up to 6%, depending on how much they bet, and only if they are at the track, for now anyway. It says on their website that they’re working to make internet and phone wagering eligible as well.
So will we ever see a time when the Meadowlands offers harness racing only, leaving Monmouth as the Garden State's lone thorougbred track?
"Our costs are escalating and our handle is going down on the (Meadowlands) thoroughbred meet," said [VP Dennis] Dowd. "It's something that we've obviously got to look at, but it couldn't happen before Monmouth hosts the Breeders' Cup in 2007." [NY Daily News]
- Brad Thomas, who does the pre-race analysis shtick at Monmouth (he’s the guy with the funny sunglasses) does the same at the Meadowlands (without them). I generally have little use for these guys, and don’t even get me started on some of the women! (LOL, I know I shouldn't say that, and I hope Cookie Jill forgives me, but I just couldn't help myself. And I did say some.) But Thomas is one who is definitely worth giving a listen to. He does his homework thoroughly (he had a huge stack of notes with him last night) and I'd guess he often refers to Formulator. He presents information that is absolutely right on in terms of being relevant and useful to the race at hand. That’s not to say I necessarily agree with his final selections but his opinions are at least worth considering.
Thomas was discussing the third race, specifically the six horse, and his trainer Scott Volk, a local guy who doesn’t have many starters. He was saying that Volk does well with layoff horses first time off a claim like this one. The problem was that this was a longer layoff than the others, but the price was right, so I was considering it as I ventured out into the chilly but still night to see them on the track. Down on the rail was an idiot yelling at the riders. “HEY BRAVO, YOU’RE A CROOK! HEY ELLIOT, YOU’RE A CROOK!” Then, to Julian Pimentel, rider of that six horse – “HEY PIMENTEL, YOU GOT THE HORSE, BABY!”
Sometimes, that’s all the information on a race that one needs. None of the scenes in Let It Ride ring more hilariously true for me than the one in which Trotter comes up with the winner by going around the track and eliminating the choices of certain unseemly characters there. I’m willing to toss a horse on this basis even if I’ve been looking forward to it all day, and I don’t recall a single instance in which I’ve regretted it. I don’t even have to tell you that the six finished dead last, more than 40 lengths behind the winner.
Following the race, I saw trainer Mike Miceli out on the apron, and went to say hello. I know him from a brief stint I had in a short-lived partnership that he trained for last year. He’s a very nice man who was always gracious and accommodating to me at his barn, and I think he does a nice job with the quality of stock that he has. I’d been happy to note that he’s scored a couple of winners at the Big A this month. I hadn’t peeked even for a second at the card in advance and didn’t know he had an entry; he pointed out that he was running World of Wonder in the next race. I took a look in the Form, and saw, just as immediately as if I was introduced to someone who had an unseemly wart in the middle of his face, that he was dropping sharply in class to $22,000 after winning for $35K in his last at the Big A. A classic “Psst..Hey, Buddy” horse, and not only an automatic throwout, but an almost must bet-against.
“Er....he’s dropping off a...”
“Yeah, he’s dropping.”
“Is he OK?”
“Yeah, he’s fine. You won’t get a price on him though.”
I had also met the owners of this horse last year, and recalled another circumstance in which they dropped a horse off a win, remembering the discussion I had with them about it. That was a different situation though. They had claimed that horse, moved him up in class and won; and were now dropping him, but still above what they bought him for. They explained that it was a good spot for the horse, that he was ready for a race and this was an opporunity, and that if they won and lost the horse for a price above what they paid, so what? (The horse won and wasn’t claimed.) I’ve since filed that away as an exception to the “Hey Buddy” horse; but World of Wonder was not the same situation.
While he still didn’t seem worth betting on despite what the trainer said, I decided not to take a major stand against. All the owners were there, and I got the sense their intentions were sincere. I mean, it was a solid $25,000 purse in an extremely soft spot (no slots in NJ but the Atlantic City casinos subsidize the purses in an attempt to keep it that way), so why not take a shot. Who’s going to claim a horse dropping like this? World of Wonder won the race, paid $6.80 when he could have been 3-5, and wasn’t claimed, so great job by the connections pulling this one over.
Other than that, a pretty un-compelling night of racing, and no winners nor close calls to report. It will be a much livelier track once the trotters return next Friday.