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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

News and Notes - March 13

- Jeff Scott of The Saratogian noticed some method to the madness that is Todd Pletcher:

Of the 14 horses who won or placed in a graded stakes over the past two weekends, none had raced within the previous four weeks. In addition, all 14 had been away from the races for at least two months during the late fall and winter; four of them hadn't raced in four months or longer.

Pletcher's runners also followed a similar workout pattern. Of the 13 for whom figures are available, all had their last published work six or seven days before racing - and all worked at the same five-furlong distance. (Many of their rivals worked three to five days before racing.) It is interesting that none of the 13 worked on the track where they'd be running that weekend. Eleven worked in Florida at either Palm Meadows or Palm Beach Downs, and two on the Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park.

The bottom line is that all of Pletcher's horses appear to have gone into their races well rested.
So it's no suprise that the Toddster is looking at the Wood for Circular Quay, who may have become his top prospect with his win on Saturday. “The main thing is that it is four weeks out [from the Derby]....I like that extra week.” [Thoroughbred Times]

Yeah, we know that. But why, taking a look at the spreadsheet of upcoming preps over at Pulling Hair and Betting Horses, is Any Given Saturday slated for the Blue Grass, which is on April 14, just three weeks before the Derby? Does he not really think that he's the one to get him off his Derby schneid? Do I need to reevaluate my opinion that Any Given Saturday is the most likely of his to come up roses? I don't want to hear him bitch and moan about the short rest if the colt doesn't fire, like he has with Scat Daddy, referring to his Juvenile.

- I've been absolutely astounded looking at the entries and purses for Yonkers Raceway of late. It wasn't long ago that the track had trouble filling entries for four nights a week. Now, with purses swelled by slots money, they're racing six nights a week, with 13 races the minimum amount I've seen.

But veteran harness writer Ray Brienza, reporting in the Newark Star Ledger, reveals that all is not as rosy as it may seem.
As successful as Yonkers has been in breathing life in its racing program, there is also an ominous aspect too. Racing there has been averaging a pari-mutuel handle of $407,000 since it returned on Nov. 17. Of that average, only $48,000 has been bet on track. [Ed. note: !!!!!] The remainder is being bet through Off Track Betting parlors or simulcast outlets. The low on track handle means that there are few bettors in the stands, even though there are crowds at the 4,200 Video Lottery Terminals next door. The harness handle has increased on Saturday nights with over $800,000 being bet. But only 12 percent of those wagers were made on track.

So although horsemen can delight in the increased purses which help insure the future of the sport from the horsemen's standpoint, the sport's future seems bleak from a different view. Attendance has been declining at all tracks and little is being done by management to draw fans back to the races. Slot machines were supposed to be the cure for the sport. In a narrow sense, they have been for some tracks. But in another sense, there are fewer fans watching the sport make its supposed bring back.
Do a little math here. Say the handle was the average $400,000 last night, probably a high assumption for a Monday. Even if that was all on track, and even if the takeout was 25%, which is a high estimate, that would mean that the track retained $100,000. Now, consider that the vast majority of the handle was off-track, which means that the track got a far lower percentage. And there's the money paid out in taxes to the state. The total purse money last night was an astounding $182,000. It doesn't take a mathematician to realize that the racino/track is getting murdered on the racing part! And I would imagine this is not an atypical situation. How long before these places get tired of subsidizing a money losing situation like this and go crying to their states for help?

And then there are tracks like upstate Vernon and Tioga Downs, where they're competing with an Indian casino that pays no taxes, and where the slots are taking in less than $100 per machine per day. So there, the whole operation is losing money. I imagine that will become less and less atypical as more states get slots, table gaming, Indian casinos, etc., etc.,


Harl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harl said...

Just a quick comment about ANY GIVEN SATURDAY...

This colt is following the same path that Pletcher used for BLUEGRASS CAT and, as I recall, that runner fared well against any other horse not named BARBARO in the Derby.

I like the trainer pattern unveiled by Jeff Scott, but I wouldn't say that's the only way Pletcher can come up with the Roses. Heck, Pletcher may have gotten the monkey off his back last year had he not run into one of the more talented 3yos in recent history.