- Horsemen have griped over the six-hour pre-race detention barns at NYRA tracks, but that’s nothing compared to the precautions being taken at Woodbine in advance of Sunday’s Queen’s Plate.
Horses aiming to run in the Queen's Plate must be on the grounds 48 hours before entries close -- by 8:30 a.m. the Tuesday before the race. All entries will be strictly supervised, with specially assigned security guards monitoring the horses, even accompanying them to and from training sessions.Woodbine president David Wilmot was shaken by the blood doping scandal involving driver Eric Ledford at the Meadowlands and was puzzled about an 11 ½% decrease in the betting handle at the track’s harness races over the winter. But he became aware of sudden improvements in horses' performances at both Woodbine and at Meadowlands in New Jersey, where Ledford raced.
Only approved people may have access to the horses during that period to feed, groom and train them, and all medical treatment must be documented. The horse may face blood testing at any time. [Toronto Globe and Mail]
"I've been in this game too long to see its integrity compromised by short-sighted, self-interested, greedy people who are prepared to do things that hurt the industry for their own short-term purposes," he said.And what ever happened to the investigation of that little betting coup, in which owner Dan Borislow smugly announced how much he'd won? It seems to have gone the way of the “Phase 2” investigation of pre-war intelligence.
Eventually, every race may face the same scrutiny, but Willmot said Woodbine is starting first with the biggest races.
He is still unsettled by last year's Queen's Plate, won by U.S.-owned Wild Desert, who showed no public workout during a 10-week layoff before the race.
"I wouldn't suggest that there was any wrongdoing, with prohibited drugs or non-therapeutic substances in that case," he said. "What bothered me was the appearance that they had hidden some workouts. And our Queen's Plate looked to the public as if it was just a betting coup for the connections of the horse. . . . We were not pleased with it."
Woodbine, of course, is one of the tracks making the switch to Polytrack, and in California, where the switch has become mandated by the state Senate, Hollywood Park will apparently be the first to make the change, perhaps for its fall meeting, and at a cost estimated at up to $8 million. But even amidst the reflexive calls for the artificial surface following Barbaro’s breakdown, some trainers think this is too much, too soon.
"Obviously, everybody's for what's best for the horses," trainer John Sadler said. "But there's other things to look at (to make horses healthier). What about running fewer dates? What about cleaning up the medication laws?Another unknown in California is how the surface will stand up to the extreme heat and heavy equine traffic, two questions not answered by Turfway Park.
"It's an unknown to me. I'm not in the camp that says it's a cure-all. We were kind of hoping they'd put it on the training tracks first and see what it's like."
Said trainer Mike Mitchell: "I want change, but I think they're jumping into it too fast.” [LA Daily News]
(And by the way, in answer to Walter’s query, Sadler, over the last five years, has 10 wins out of 198 first-time starters, for a percentage of 5%. For second time starters over the same period, the percentage improves to 12%.)
- Lawyer Ron has been pronounced ready to return to training. "We'll try to have him ready to run sometime around the first of September."
And Bernardini had an unofficial workout as Tom Albertrani starts to crank him up for the either the Haskell, or, more likely, the Jim Dandy. "He went three furlongs in :39....Just to stretch his legs." [NY Daily News]
- NYRA officials met with horsemen for the second time in the last couple of weeks. While the first one dealt with business issues, including the upcoming battle for the franchise, this one was concerning the Belmont main track, which has been producing fast times and, according to trainer Phil Serpe, “some injuries in the morning." [Daily Racing Form]
- The Form’s Steve Crist addresses a couple of the questions I’ve raised here about the New York franchise process. Regarding the partnerships that are vital to the financial prospects of bidders such as NYRA and Empire Racing Associates, Crist reports that some bidders say privately that those potential alliances are still in the exploratory stages. And as to why exactly the committee will have just a month to make a selection?
The unrealistic and accelerated timetable for completing the bidding process is entirely a function of a Pataki committee's trying to resolve the matter before Pataki leaves office. Why else does a winner need to be announced a mere 30 days after proposals are hurriedly due, with no public comment or outside scrutiny of the bids, a full 15 months before the end of the NYRA's franchise? [Daily Racing Form, sub. only]- And NYRA will accommodate those of us who don't wish to spend an hour on line waiting to get into Saratoga on giveaway days. They'll have a special non-giveaway window for people who would prefer to bet the early double than to receive their Todd Pletcher bobblehead doll.
- I know this should go without saying, but, just to make sure, when I mention a horse such as Haze the Man, who is 5-1 morning line off a layoff, but goes off at 10-1, it doesn't count. You knew that, right?
Big day of stakes racing today; sorry, no time for analyses and predictions from me, but the way I've been going, you're better off without me. And besides, I'm being forced to spend the day at the beach. Have a great time without me.