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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Not Like the Old Days

- Nick Kling, writing in the Troy Record, writes of an unhappy horseplayer named Mitch who he encountered at Saratoga on Wednesday.

"What the (deleted) is going on this year? Racing was good opening week, but it stinks now. What is this - Aqueduct....We wait all year for this meet. The racing is supposed to be the best in the country. And this is what we get?"
Kling concurs, noting that it's "hard to argue with Mitch's complaint," and spends the rest of the column trashing this week's cards.

Well, there's no doubt that the quality of the races, with 'quality' being defined in terms of the 'class' of the races being run, has leveled off, putting it mildly, since the first week. However, Mitch and Nick, I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I warned you about this back in June when I wrote, after a particularly cheap day of racing at Belmont:
You can be certain that we'll be seeing many cards just like this once we get into the third and fourth week of Saratoga. The better horses just don't run back that often, there's a sizeable population of NY-breds to acommodate, and the meet is at least a week too long. But hopefully, those cards will be like today's in that, of the 72 horses in the nine races, the lowest odds on any was 8-5; only four runners went off at less than 2-1.
I don't really know if there are less good horses on the grounds these days - though maybe there are in order to make room for the NY-breds which were not part of the game during much of Saratoga's illustrious history. But I do know that they certainly run less often over the course of the meeting; less, in fact, then they used to when it was only four weeks long.

However, Thursday's card, while not 'quality' as defined above, was none too shabby from a wagering standpoint (if you can deal with sloppy tracks). (I'm going to dismiss Wednesday's card, with its six straight maiden races, as a fluke. You don't see that even at Aqueduct, or anywhere for that matter that I've ever seen.) Only two out of the ten races (one a steeplechase) had a favorite lower than 2-1; Study Abroad, lowest odds of the day at 13-10, was that price in a five horse off-the-turfer, an advertisement for synthetic surfaces with nearly 45 lengths spanned by the five well-spaced finishers in the icky goo at the end, yuck.

Of course, there was a time when the cards at the Spa were high quality and great to bet on. But there's absolutely no way to maintain both these days with 36 cards jammed into six weeks. Go back to four weeks, or to a five day racing week, and maybe it would get a little better. However, for now, it is what it is, and I'm adjusting accordingly. I know, it's Saratoga, with all its beauty and charm and tradition, but look, I'm basically going up there to gamble. I don't know about you, but if I was given the choice between a parade of high class allowance races with 3-5 favorites, or 35K claiming races for non winners of two lifetime that are wide-open betting affairs, I would opt for the latter.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you Alan - I felt today's card was an excellent betting card. There was no graded stakes race but the 4 100k races made up for it. There is too much racing around the country for any track to have a quality card for 36days. Enjoy your stay at the Spa.

Bob from NJ

Anonymous said...

Data needed: Last year's total purses to date vs this year's. Anyone know? Anyone have time to compile the data?! /S/Green Mtn Punter