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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bummer at Belmont


There's The Green Monkey. Well, actually, I missed him there. But that's who everyone is looking at.


There's the Toddster, with Johnny V and guys in suits. Saturday was not a good day for these guys. It wasn't really a great day in general. Rags and Riches' loss, and the season-ending injury that apparently occurred during the running of the Gazelle, is another example of our stars being unable to remain on the racetrack. .

I found the way the whole thing unfolded to be pretty bizarre; it seemed as if the events were all foretold by some unexpected action on the tote. I fully expected Rags to Riches to be 1-9; not because I necessarily thought she should be under the circumstances of her training interruptions. But just because she won the Belmont and that's the way people bet. So when she opened at that price, I figured that the hot action would be in the tote board. Well, it was, and back to that in a bit.

I didn't give it much thought when Lear's Princess started drifting down from 5-1 to 9-2, 4-1... After all, she's a nice, improving filly coming off a career best effort. But I and my two companions, Handride and a loyal reader stopping over in the course of his world travels, looked at each other in surprise and even dismay as Lear's Princess not only went even lower, but did so with much enthusiasm. She seemed to take a hit on every flash, 3-1, 5-2, 2-1, and even 9-5. Meanwhile, Rags to Riches was going in the opposite direction. We saw her as high as 3-5 before some late money settled her at .45 to 1.

Meanwhile, the action on Rags to Riches in the show pool was hot and heavy as expected. It's almost like the track is agreeing to give money away in the form of a minus pool when it agrees to accept show wagering races like this. The money poured in over the last couple of minutes; the total went from $250,000 to around $550,000. But in the meantime, Lear's Princess attracted some bridgejumpers of her own; over $110,000. I've never before seen a race with two horses getting bet in the show pool like that!

So things just did not seem quite right when they went into the gate. And they certainly didn't seem right when Lear's Princess swept past Rags to Riches with relative ease (and that's not to disparage her considerable effort to the wire, especially if she was indeed hurt when changing leads as Pletcher suggested).

It was a bummer, I must say. Once again, a horse with the potential to become a media star and fan favorite is simply unable to stay on the track. I don't know how much of it is just plain bad luck as opposed to issues related to the state of the breed. Nice to hear that they intend to bring her back, but I get the feeling that it's no lock that she does so.

Whatsmore, it's a real bummer that the crowd was only 7,361. That's not really different from a normal Saturday without the "Belle of Belmont," as the buttons that NYRA distributed called Rags to Riches, as well as three other stakes, including a look at the potential future stars of the sport. Not to mention The Green Monkey. It shows how far that a "New NYRA," or anyone else has to go to try and bring people back to the track.

The Green Monkey was 2-5, and brought Pletcher's first-time streak to 1 for 35 when he settled for a no-threat third. He had a little bridgejumper action himself with over $60,000 in the pool. And if anyone ever deserved to lose a bet, it's those who made that happen.

15 Comments:

superterrific said...

Hey Alan, I'm a regular reader, first time commenter... belated congrats on the BC blog gig!

Do you really think NYRA has a lot of work to do to get attendance up? I feel like they had gift in their lap with R2R back on the track (not to mention the Monkey!) and they didn't do a good job of promoting it. They could have taken out ads in papers, worked to get some special interest stories on NY1 & the local stations, but they seem to routinely ignore this route (potential fans, not existing).

We have some, if not the best racing in the country... it's not like they don't have good material to work with. Would you agree? Have they been better at it in the past (I'm a newbie fan). Have I just not seen what they've been doing? (because it feels like not much).

Give-aways definitely get people in the gates, but from what I've seen a family will bring all of their kids to get more of the giveaway item. This was definitely the case last weekend for umbrellas, I saw bunches of families, each member with an umbrella. This doesn't strike me as they way to get fans out to the races.

At any rate, I love your blog... thanks!

John said...

I noticed she was slow to change leads too in fact I wasn't sure she did change leads. For a minute I thought I was watching Nobiz who is famous for changing leads three jumps before the wire.

I was watching the pools with great interest and bet everybody but Rags when LP was still 5-1. I figured if she was going to get beat this was the time. I did the same thing in the Arc last year when the Japanese went ape-shit over Deep Impact. As betting strategies go I guess it's a dumb bet but it worked against Deep Impact, I made a profit that day; I lost a $1.80 on the strategy Saturday but got some satisfaction that Rags could be beaten and was.

Warstone said...

Alan:

Sorry I missed you at Belmont. I was there as well. Loved the way the Monkey looked in the paddock but he really didn't show anything at all.

On Rags to Riches, she looked horrible running down the strech a far cry from the Belmont. I am happy to hear that the injury is minor but I will be very surprised to actually see her run next year. I don't think she will be back.

rgustafson said...

On track attendance in New York has been abysmal for many years now. Considering the size of the metro population it is probably the worst in the country. The only place they draw decent crowds is Saratoga and then also on Belmont Stakes day if a horse is going for the triple crown. The two lowest attended Breeders' Cups were held in New York, one at Aqueduct and one at Belmont. I see no hope for changing this trend in the future. Very sad and an indictment on NY racing "fans".

ljk said...

superterrific says "We have some, if not the best racing in the country" and when I read articles about the franchise issue this is stated as a fact, a kind of mantra. I think there's room for debate. Yes, America's best graded stakes program, but racing programs that consist of 30-40% restricted races can't be considered "the best racing in the country".

Consider this, 40% of your racing program has produced zero grade 1 winners in 2007.

I'd put Keeneland's (or Oak Tree's) race cards up against a Saratoga or Belmont card any day.

At saratoga last year = 1 state-bred maiden claimer, this year at least a half dozen. Mark my words, next year we'll see state-bred conditioned claiming races
S CLM25000N2L

Good wagering races maybe (on this I disagree as well), but not the "best racing".

Anonymous said...

Not sure anyone could have success with the Belmont Fall Meet and to a lesser extent the Spring Meet.

Kids are back to school, summer vacations are over, baseball pennant races are in full swing, and the NFL and NCAA football are kicking off their seasons.

There is simply to much competition for the recreational dollar.

I live 15 minutes from Belmont and 3.5 hours from Saratoga yet get to more races at the latter.

In addition to being beautiful tracks in great towns, the SPA and DelMar work because of their spot on the calendar. Vacation time!!

If you moved either of those meets to September the tracks would be empty.

I am not defending NYRA, certainly more could be done, but Belmont will never average 20,000 in the stands again.

Sarah said...

I've read your blog for about six months now, sometimes with admiration for your acute understanding of horses and the racing game, but sometimes with astonishment, my jaw dropping over your blind spots. I've held my peace so far, but your "Bummer at Belmont" post really got my blood up.

As to Lear's Princess: you would do better to stop looking at the tote and start reviewing the DRF running lines and race replays. This talented game filly has knocked, knocked, knocked on the door at (or near) the Grade I level on multiple surfaces and always with ever-improving form. Your pronouncement that it "did not seem quite right" that she swept past Rags to Riches "with relative ease" betrays a failure to have watched the race and trip closely. The jock followed his main rival to the outside, knew LP had blinks for fewer destractions in the stretch run, and called on the considerable talent of this classy filly to garner a solid win.

As to the Green Monkey. How could you have followed his career since the legendary sale and found it surprising that he couldn't win first out? Physical issues notwithstanding, the difficulty he posed to train should have sent up a red flag to any alert handicapper.

More generally, your analysis of the franchise process has been a little odd. Your blanket condemnation of Empire, for example, has long sounded as if you have an agenda. It detracts from your otherwise informed and astute commentary on the process.

I won't stop reading, and I won't always read angry, but today I must say my piece.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous comment.
"Not sure anyone could have success with the Belmont Fall Meet and to a lesser extent the Spring Meet.

Kids are back to school, summer vacations are over, baseball pennant races are in full swing, and the NFL and NCAA football are kicking off their seasons."

There is simply to much competition for the recreational dollar.


I disagree.
Kids back in school? The attendance in question was on a Saturday, not a school day.
Baseball pennants in full swing, the Yankees and Mets games can be found on TV's around the track.
NFL and NCAA?
Well NFL maybe on Sunday, but Giant or Jet games are also on at the track.
There are no NCAA football teams in the NY area(except Rutgers)

Based on your above logic why do they keep coming out to Keeneland each spring and fall?

Poor or no marketing on the product.

theiman

alan said...

Sarah -

I appreciate you reading, but if you're saying that I'm surprised that The Green Monkey didn't win, then I don't think you're paying attention. I bet against him, and would have been surprised if he did win.

As far as Rags to Riches goes, yes, at the time, it "did not seem quite right" that she lost, as nice of a filly that LP is. I'll stand by that comment, which was merely how I felt at the time, regardless of what the trips may or may not have been. (And to be honest, I wasn't watching anyone but RTR during the running.)

And I had no agenda whatsoever regarding Empire until they caused me to do so with their actions. I wrote about the genesis of those feelings in this post:
http://leftatthegate.blogspot.com/2006/
10/blows-against-empire.html

Thanks for reading and for your opinions!

Anonymous said...

Well geez "Sarah" I wish we were all as "astute Handicappers" as you are. With all your "astute handicapping techniques" have you ever lost a bet ? You must be a zillionaire!!!!!!!!

alan said...

ljk - I've actually been wondering what's taken so long for an out-of-stater like yourself for questioning the common wisdom that we have the "best" racing overall...whatever exactly that means. Not that I'm prepared to agree with you at this time. But I think you make a totally fair point about the Keeneland cards as compared with New York....though I wouldn't say that about any typical California card. Since the Keeneland meetings are only three weeks, I think it's much easier to maintain the high quality that it does.

But given all of those miserable state-bred races at Saratoga, and as long as you acknowledge that the graded stakes program here is supreme, I'm going to let your comment stand without arguing too loudly at all!

ljk said...

Alan - during the last weekend of the meet at the Spa, Mark Cusano (or whatever his name is) ambushed Charlie Hayward in a Capital OTB TV interview, complaining about everything under the sun. One of his pet peeves was the large number of turf sprints. He asked Charlie if NYRA has analyzed the betting pools for these races compared to others. Charlie, of course, said no.

My hunch, in spite of the field sizes, is that the NY-bred races don't attract the wagering that open races do. It seems almost always there's a large field, but really all but one or two horses look completely hopeless. Poor betting races IMO. I'm certain NYRA hasn't analyzed these pools either.

Big purses for mediocre horses promotes more mediocre horses IMO.

I'm all for giving boatloads of money to NY breds; as bonuses when they beat a field in open races.

I realize however, that the restricted races are here to stay.

superterrific said...

I'm with theiman, little to no marketing of a very marketable product. I also don't buy the "there's too much competition for the recreational dollar" argument.

Yes, there's competition, it's the NYC metro area... there's a LOT to do here, however, people are always looking for new things to do as well. Every time I take folks to the track who have never been, they're always up for going back. We actually have a nice group of regulars, and it's growing.

New York is also full of sharky PR types who have could gotten and kept Rags to Riches & the Green Monkey in various media outlets to peak interest. My point is when did anyone in NYC, other than the NYRA, throw up their hands and say "there's too much competition, let's just not do anything."?

Sarah said...

Alan,

Sorry: I stand corrected about your take on the Green Monkey. A re-reading of the post set me right. I guess I had just gotten myself in a froth about about the "Bummer" label being pasted on a truly stirring victory in the Gazelle. In the immortal words of what's-her-name in "Clueless": "Oops! My bad!" I do hope you get a chance to review the stretch run, not only of the Gazelle, but also of the Alabama and Coaching Club Oaks: it is a beautiful clinic in the progress of a talented filly on a learning curve.

I don't intend here to spill more (electronic) ink on the franchise debate. Information (real, mis-, and dis-) has abounded and I feel that many of the political pressure points are beyond my ken. I just can't help but feel concerned and saddened that this golden opportunity for the NY TB business (from the foaling-barn, to the shed-row, to the starting-gate and finish-line) may be squandered by those who have their eyes on other prizes.

To "Anonymous" (always a busy author): though “Geez” I am hardly “a zillionaire,” I do supplement my income by handicapping and had an espcially good Saratoga meet this year. Hope the same for you. Cheers.

alan said...

Sarah - Thanks for stopping by again. I couldn't agree with you more about the wasted opportunity to fix what's wrong with New York racing that we're witnessing.

Regarding Lear's Princess, I have watched all of her races, and I don't disagree with you, but honestly, as I wrote over at the BC blog, I loved her grass races and would love to see her back on that surface at some point. Hard to criticize any horse for two close seconds and a win in three G1 dirt races....so I won't. BUT...I had her in the Alabama and thought she hung a bit, and same for the CCA Oaks. And we now know that she was facing an injured foe in the Gazelle. I love the way she accelerates on the grass, and she's bred for it too!