- Hunch bets for today:
I Have No Idea 5th Penn National (You can say that again...)- Greg Hall reports in the Courier-Journal that the Breeders' Cup is considering Santa Anita, the 2008 host, to again stage the event in 2009. That would be the first time that a venue has hosted the races two years in a row. Churchill was mentioned as the other possibility, but the bottom-line oriented public company reiterated the fact that they don't make enough money to make it worth their while. Churchill makes what it would on a regular Saturday -- or a little more, track President Steve Sexton has said. An absolutely shocking attitude from the home of the Kentucky Derby.
Rockin' Again 8th at Penn National
I'm No Cheerleader6th at Philly Park
Running two years in the Los Angeles market at Santa Anita would give good odds for decent weather, allow extended marketing opportunities and help the event engage the music and entertainment industries, [BC CEO Greg] Avioli said.I wonder too if the Cushion Track, which would preclude the sloppy mess we saw this year and which seems to have received generally good reveiws despite its present problems, is a factor as well. I'm sure that Avioli has seen enough sloppy tracks to last for quite awhile. (And note that New York was not mentioned at all, fallout, no doubt, from the uncertainty over the franchise. I'm sure, however, that such consequences of the gridlock, while important to NY fans and horsemen alike, have never, ever entered the minds of the clueless politicians involved....and that goes for all of them.)
Speaking of synthetic tracks, I highly recommend the current print issue of Bloodhorse, which is devoted in its entirety to the subject. The articles are not available online, and I imagine that Dan Liebman wouldn't appreciate it if I excerpted large portions of it here. So you'll have to find it on your local newsstand (good luck with that if you don't live in Kentucky). But it's an excellent issue, with a wide sampling of opinions from track executives, horse owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders, track supers, and vets. Just briefly, from what I've read thus far, the general attitude is, yes, there have been less fatal and career-ending injuries, but horses are still suffering ailments. However, they seem to be to the upper body and hind legs, whereas the opposite has mostly been the case in the past. Another interesting and recurring point is that when the surface is installed, the old track is dug up, and a new base and cushion is installed. Some people seem to think that that's what has made the tracks seem safer as much as, if not more than, the synthetic surface itself. Prairie Meadows, a track which has had problems with fatalities, recently chose the course of merely replacing the base and keeping the dirt; so it will be interesting to see how that works out.
What is for certain is that the jury is still out. Liebman points out in his preface that there are no new synthetic installations on the horizon at all; so the nine current ones will serve as the laboratory for the time being. And indeed, we have surfaces by three different manufacturers in a wide variety of climates, so it just may be that these nine tracks will prove to be a large enough sample for the industry to see where it goes from here.
- Off topic, but I just discovered today that the NY Times, buried deep beneath their online sports section, has a hockey blog, and a superb one at that. I know there's at least one other hockey fan out there, so check it out. This entry concerns the connection between Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin's hand-picked