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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Long on Eggs, Short on Press Conference

- Thanks to everyone for the compliments about the Breeders' Cup coverage. It was a pisser, that's for sure. I didn't lose that much money because I just didn't bet that much, especially considering I was there for four days. Between the sloppy track, working on a BC post, Friday's lack of simulcasting, doing the live blogging thing, night time activities, and just generally being in a daze, I found myself unable to focus much on betting.

We went to the Press Breakfast this morning. It said in the Media Information: Winning Owners, Trainers, and Jockeys...will be present for a press conference/breakfast in the Breeders' Cup Paddock Tent at Monmouth Park. That wasn't quite the case. All of the riders and trainers had already left for their home bases. So a press conference it was not. But there was certainly breakfast. The Breeders' Cup certainly knows how to treat and, in particular, feed, its guests, and the working media as well. There was a buffet breakfast that included scrambled eggs, French toast, hash browns, and berries with whip cream that the Head Chef thought was superb. She thought the eggs were too sweet (?), but was fascinated by the silverware. It looked to the eye be the real deal, but it was really plastic with a silvery sheen. She swiped some extras to bring home.

After a while, Dave Johnson stepped to the podium, and spoke of how it was like there was a glow evident in the tent after the great day of racing we experienced. It was clear that there was to be no talk of George Washington here, even as mention of the tragedy was prominent in the newspaper headlines around the country. The spin was strictly upbeat. Greg Avioli spoke of the record handle of $147 million, and acknowledged that the figure could have been significantly higher had the weather been as it was today (a brilliantly sunny, but cool and windy day. One gust blew over some tables in the Lady's Secret Cafe as we were walking by.

Dennis Dowd, from the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority, spoke with a smile about the rain, doing an excellent job of hiding the frustration he must have felt. He said that he received only two customer complaints, one about the mutuel lines, and immediately corrected the situation. I see that Christina had some complaints in the comments section - and I did get stuck in a bottleneck inside that seemed like poor planning. But, other than that, I didn't see any unhappy people myself, and Denman's calls were booming throughout the grandstand seats. The mutuel bays on the first floor grandstand as you walked in from the paddock barely had lines at all.

All of the speakers raved about the "great races." Anytime you have races of this caliber, with so many top horses, you can call the races "great." The day definitely had its share of scintillating moments - in particular, Midnight Lute's stunning rally to take the Sprint. But in all honestly, many of the horses did not run well in the slop, and I don't know that you can call the races "great" in the sense of their competitiveness. Only in the Distaff was the winner of the race in any question inside the sixteenth pole. When you see horses as honest as Smokey Stover, Greg's Gold, and Any Given Saturday hardly lifting a hoof, you know the track is having a profound effect.

We wondered before the event how the horses which have been racing on synthetics will fare on the dirt. Yet it seems to me that there's a much bigger discrepancy between fast dirt/sloppy dirt form than there is between synthetics/fast dirt. I've always thought that the elimination of tracks such as the one we saw on Saturday is second only to safety as the best reason to hope that synthetics succeed. Next year around this time, when, if I'm lucky, I'll have a chance to do this again, we won't be worrying about handicapping for a sloppy track. (Though I think we'd take that over raging wildfires anyday.)

So the rest of the breakfast was basically just watching replays of the races. "We have to watch all the races?" the Head Chef asked. The only trainer, jockey, or owner that appeared was English Channel's owner James Scatuorchio. Dave Johnson, in a bit of desperation, tried in vain to summon War Pass' exercise rider, but even he was absent.

Johnson praised Trevor Denman for his calls, and I have to say after hearing them at the breakfast, portions for the first time, that I think he pretty much nailed them. The Distaff was vintage Denman, as he picked up the move from Octave early on, identified his jockey silks to the crowd, and followed her progress while never losing sight of the battle up front between Hystericalady and Ginger Punch (two of the fillies who I specifically did not like in the race). In the Turf, he did a great job of keeping appraised of the progress, or lack thereof, of Dylan Thomas. I'll likely have more comments on his calls as I really get to sit and review the races.

One difference between he and Durkin is that the latter has an extra reserve of elevated drama in his vocal chords that he can tap for the truly special moments. Denman's voice doesn't have that kind of range. His calls for these races don't differ much in dynamics from those of a 'regular' stakes at Del Mar or Santa Anita; at least for me. But having said that, I think Denman is great, and I'm glad, and quite relieved for his sake, that he had a good day.

Once they finished showing the races, that was it. Scheduled to run until 11, it was not long after ten. Having eaten well though, nobody seemed disappointed at all.

And one the way out, we noticed that the Merchandise Tent was open, and hopping. Everything was being sold for half price. I knew that if we stopped by later (the track was open for simulcasting), we could get stuff for five bucks, but picked up a couple of t-shirts anyway.

- Garrett Gomez got some award for being the best jockey on the day; he rode Indian Blessing and Midnight Lute. He also won two of the races that preceded the BC races, and I don't know if that counted towards giving him the nod over Corny V, who also won twice, including with a perfect ride on Kip Deville. Gomez went from first to last on Cobalt Blue in the Select, in addition to doing so on Midnight Lute. He tried to do the same with Octave, but fell a bit short. It looked she was going to do it, but fell short as she so often has, even with a final eighth of almost 14 seconds.


Anonymous said...

I am glad I found you. It made the BC alot more fun. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I agree - Denman's distaff call was great - he started following Octave as she moved out of last plave. maybe 15 lengths off the lead.

Anonymous said...

Found the answer to my question from yesterday. No decision has been made yet on Curlin's future. Please, please, please! Seems like it would be worth it for everone with a stake in the highest level of the sport (ESPN, tracks that host major races, etc.) to offer to sweeten the pot for his owners if they keep him racing.

Anonymous said...

Alan - I strongly second the comments on your writing -- its great (and I'm not extravagant with compliments!) Plus, its informed by a thoughtful but humorous point of view (and a keen sense of irony) with which I often (not always) agree, but always find thought-provoking. I expect some of it came from your late grandfather, to whom you introduced us all eloquently after his death.

PS -- I, too, had a lousy day at the (virtual) windows on Sat . . it wasn't just you!

Teresa said...

In today's Post, Ray Kerrison ripped the trainers/jockeys for not sticking around the morning after.

Anonymous said...

It speaks volumes, that conversation regarding George Washington's tragic demise was verboten at the breakfast. Once again the leaders of this industry have manifested a tin ear. If Greg Avioli and the folks at the Breeders' Cup try to describe this years event as anything but a disgrace then they should be presented with the Joseph Goebbles Propaganda Medal. Monmouth Park is a third rate track, in a stae known for coruption, mobsters, and more coruption. How ironic was it that the actor who sang the national anthem made his bones by playing Uncle Junior and Johnny Olla. The Breeders' Cup calls itself a World Championship. It is not. The festival in Dubai has a better claim to that title. Santa Anita, Churchill, and Belmont should rotate the event. I saw in the program Sam Houston, wants to host...pleae you have got to be kidding me. Did anyone join me in the marshy field waiting for the train? Did anyone notice the Europenas, for the most part stayed home. The sporting folks from Coolmore who have supported this event generously saw a champion die on the track. If they decided not to come back, this event is done.

Teresa said...

I didn't make it to Monmouth, but I know a number of people who did, all of whom lauded Monmouth's efforts to put on a big-time event. They said that despite the rain (both days), the atmosphere was great, people were psyched, and the amenities pretty serviceable. From what I've heard, the place made the best of a terrible situation. It actually made me sorry that I didn't make the trip down.

Anonymous said...

Teresa, I heard the exact same thing.

There were a few less Euros than usual, but had more to do with the horses than the venue. Sour grapes.

If blame needs to be placed it is on the connections of GW themselves, not the surface. The horse did not belong in this race, plain and simple, especially once the rains came.

They were so confidant about DT they threw GW to the wolves in the mud and paid for the decision in both regards. GW, on soft turf, may have hit the board once the Turf fell apart.

As far a future venues, if the good of the sport is indeed to goal it should be run in warm weather venues exclusively, leaving both Belmont and Churchhill out of the mix, like the Super Bowl.

Rotate Socal, Fair Grounds and So Fla. Never happen, of course.

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

If you see the New Gulfstream, you'll realize there will never be another Breeder's Cup in FL.

Unless of course a miracle happened at Hialeah. Someone with some vision and $$$$ could do well at Hialeah. A Saratoga/Del Mar/Keeneland style winter meeting at Hialeah would be huge. And if the Breeder's Cup would guarantee a few visits that would only help.

Stronach ruined Gulfstream for the horse fan.

Anonymous said...

This article from the South China Morning Post says it all,
,the Breeders' Cup is becoming the laughingstock of the racing world. How do you have a "world championship with only 13 foreign horses, none from Asia and Australia, run on poor courses and outdated facilities, with train stations in muddy fields. Visit Hong Kong and Dubai, or even Ascot as I have and see what real world championship racing is about. By the way leave your drugs at home!