- Thanks a million to Steve in NC, and this Mr. Anon for some excellent insight into the trends at the current Big A meeting. Great stuff, and good for me since I admit that I tend to tune out from the local details this time of the year and turn my attention elsewhere. Just maybe, the non-compelling product up here is one of the reasons I don't sense much angst at all over the upcoming January 23 franchise deadline; certainly not as compared to the run-up to December 31. Again, I understand how important it is to the local horsemen who stick around that racing continues, and I certainly don't mean to disrespect them. But I don't think that too many racing fans (except I guess for the likes of Steve in NC) would be too upset if the place went dark for awhile.
One of the real conundrums of the simulcasting era is that tracks, such as Aqueduct in January and February, offer product that is far more compelling than its own. I'd still make my way to Aqueduct just for Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn even if there was no live racing. No TVG/HRTV exclusivity problems there. This is one of my favorite times on the racing calendar. I will often arrive after 3 PM, just to catch the live late double and, especially, the simulcasts that follow. The atmosphere can't be beat - it's hardcore, and with an edge of sleaze, just the way we like it. With the few hundred bettors in relatively cramped quarters, you can feel that the sport really does have a pulse, as opposed to those dreary October days at Belmont, when the few thousand fans barely make a dent in the massive plant.
The seeming lack of deadline urgency may also simply be because we're all really sick of this whole ordeal. The real drama is gone, and the remaining issues - the NYRA board and slots at Belmont - are not at all compelling to you and me, at least in the short term with respect to the latter. Whether or not the percentage of slot money devoted to purses is really an issue that's being discussed is not at all clear. Matters that really could have made a difference have been ignored. Enough already.
According to this report in the Saratogian, there's little concern about a long-term stoppage, at least as reflected in the summer rental market. Charles Hayward told reporter Paul Post that another temporary extension is possible, as long as negotiations are moving forward. Yippee.
- Turning to Gulfstream, you can't get much more detailed analyzes of the day-to-day racing than in Steve Zacks' weekly reviews at Brisnet. Maybe too much, at least in the case of his daily track bias commentary; over-analysis of supposed biases is one of my real pet peeves. At one point, Zacks writes: "I would suggest that if it is possible to figure out whether or not the pace will be contested is a big help in assessing where the winner will come from." Well, yeah!! My view is that such pace analysis almost always trumps what many perceive as a track bias. Regardless, these columns are an excellent tool for those who can't be there everyday.
- Rags to Riches is in "light training," having just arrived in Florida, and the Toddster is in no rush.
"We will gradually increase her training; the most logical scenario is running her sometime during the Belmont spring meet. Our obvious focus is for races in the summer and the fall of the year with the Breeders' Cup (in October at Santa Anita) being the main goal." [Albany Times Union]Pletcher told Brad Free that Ravel does not like the Cushion Track at Santa Anita, at least in its current composition.
"Garrett [Gomez] said when he tried to quicken, the ground was slipping away from him."Santa Anita officially announced that they will go on with a reconstituted Cushion Track surface. The LA Times reports that, should rain arrive before the Sunshine Millions on January 28 (which is before the resurfacing will be completed), those races may be moved to Golden Gate, which is also owned by Magna.
Pletcher said Ravel would be nominated to the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 1, and the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 8 at Fair Grounds. [Daily Racing Form]