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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Saratoga Staycation

- Remember way back around five or six weeks ago when we were discussing the prospects for the Saratoga meeting? I thought that the effect of gas prices and the weak economy would be too much even for the Spa to overcome. Some of you disagreed, and argued that the town and the track would benefit from people taking 'staycations.'

Of course, the awful weather during the first two weeks makes it hard to draw any conclusions. Besides the disappointing attendance figures, everyone who I spoke to who was up there during that time said that the town was dead. But the weather has improved since then, and business during Travers week was good.

Attendance was up 3.3 percent comparing the fifth week of racing this year with the fifth week of racing in 2007, according to NYRA. On-track betting was also up 2.6 percent comparing this past week with the same week in 2007. [Schenectady Gazette]
The numbers remain down overall. But NYRA is hoping for a boost on Saturday, which has officially been proclaimed Curlin Day by Mayor Scott Johnson. Charles Hayward told Sherry Ross of the Daily News: "If we got less than 30,000, I'd be disappointed, as long as the weather holds up." I imagine that he's nervously tracking the progress of the remnants of the pesky Fay as it moves north, as am I.

Anyway, our trip to Saratoga for which we leave on Thursday morning is actually a perfect example of the staycation model. We'd been considering a trip to Europe this fall, but the airfare and exchange rate were just too much. Instead, we went in with a couple of others, took advantage of one of those last minute specials and rented a house in town, just a couple of blocks up the street from the main entrance to the track. The cost to us, including a couple of tanks of gas, is just a fraction of that of our scuttled plans. The Head Chef's brother and sister-in law, her good friend Eileen, and two teenage girls will be on hand. They're all curious enough about the track to devote one day to it, probably on Saturday. The pressure will be on me that day for sure, and I hope they don't have their hopes up.

Otherwise, I should be able to slip away and walk over to the track as I please.....make it to the harness track one night (at least) too.....and still be on hand for all of the delicious home cooking that's sure to ensue. So I suppose that it would be greedy of me to hope for a winner or two?

- Just Zip It is doing fine, and is slated for the Schenectady Stakes, another state-bred affair at six furlongs, at Belmont on September 7. Rap Tale earned an anemic Beyer of 62 for her allowance win at Philly Park. Yikes. She hated the track according to jockey Kendrick Carmouche, but dug in managed to get the job done. Trainer Bruce Brown has nominated her, at no cost, for the Twin Lights Stakes for three-year old fillies, at Monmouth on Saturday; it's a nine furlong grass race, and I'll let you know what he decides.

- Another franchise extension for NYRA, this one until Sept 28. However, Paul Post reports in the Thoroughbred Times that meetings were held with state officials earlier this week, and that Hayward expressed hope that the deal will be sealed within a couple of weeks.
“We need to get out of bankruptcy. It’s costing us $80,000 a day in interest fees and bankruptcy charges. We’re very close to a deal.” [Thoroughbred Times]
No word, of course, on the Aqueduct racino.

- In the 9th on Wednesday, I'll take a shot with Yield Bogey (10-1), for trainer Pat Kelly, and jockey Jean Luc Samyn (1 for 41). This barn is always good for some nice-price winners up there; Kelly's two winners, from 26 starters, at the meeting thus far were 10-1 and 8-1. It's been three weeks and ten races since then, but he's been in the money ten other times, and got close recently with first-timer Pynaformer, a close third at 17-1, and Upper Gulch, who missed by a nose at 11-1 on Sunday. Yield Bogey actually has very similar form to the latter, coming into this a few weeks and a solid string of works following a disappointing performance at Belmont. A return to the form of his June 14 effort, in which he closed for second in 11 flat and earned a competitive 78 Beyer, could put him in the mix here.

- Full day of work on Wednesday, tickets for the Yankee game at night, off to Saratoga Thursday morning, and uncertainty over the internet connection happy Labor Day (and Curlin Day) everyone if I don't speak to you until then! But I probably will.


Anonymous said...

The weather was perfect for the Travers this year (vs. last year when I was there for the wicked heat/humidity) and the wagering opportunities huge yet it was still down on turnstile numbers. Not sure if gas/travel/economy aspects are to blame. I would think the miserable weather for the whole meet has been a bigger culprit. The racing has been less in the news and thus off the radar for that added layer of fat with would-be attendees.

Spa will always have a core of maybe 15k people, above that it expands based upon the buzz of runners, inviting weather, a lack of competing entertainment choices, and how much of a hassle it is to go there. If the media says "this might be the biggest crowd seen ..." that turns off more folks then it entices some to show up and be at an event.

Anyhow, NYRA’s hope of getting 30k at Saratoga this Saturday (assuming decent weather) isn't too much of a stretch. If they expect upper 30's I think they're dreaming a bit. Sorry to say but Curlin running in nothing more then a Grade 1 public workout isn't going to pack the stands.

That said I do hope that Bobby Frankel does enter ‘Out of Control’ against Curlin in the Woodward for an honest race. Otherwise does anyone this that the nice Zito runner Wanderin Boy has much of a prayer for an upset? I never count out a Zito runner but on dirt Curlin looks tough and the graveyard of champions might not claim the Jackson horse as a victim.

Anonymous said...

Divine Park is going and he is capable of a big performance.

Anonymous said...

Right now Yield Bogey boxed with Weaver's horse is an $80 exacta. Same as Col John and Mambo. I'm giving it a shot. If your wrong about Yield Bogey I'll...

Anonymous said...

Nice handicapping! If only I had paid attention ...

G. C. said...

Great call on Yield Bogey. He bullied his way through the pack like a ram. It was an exciting race for the old man.

Anonymous said...

Missed Yield Bogy and Cagey Girl in the P6, like many others of course.

Painful part is my wife played Cagey Girl (and I had runner up Nedjma), and Alan touted Yield Bogey, both of whom I ignored.

At least the wife sprung for dinner :)