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Friday, June 26, 2009

Turf Luck

(With apologies to the Quinella Queen.)

NYRA couldn't leave the Mother Goose out of the Pick Six (it's on MSG at 5PM), but, in order to make the wager as difficult as possible, it scheduled the other Five for the grass. However, after the deluge this evening which wiped out Friday's 9th race, there's the matter of whether some or all of them will be washed off the grass. The courses were already labeled 'yielding.' and the possibility of more showers exists. Could be another tough break for NYRA.

The problem with this scheduling is that if the worst ensues and they all have to be taken off, then, after the first four races (all on the dirt), you're left with a card consisting entirely of off-the-turfers and a five horse race with a 1-5 favorite. That would be a deal breaker for me as far as going to Belmont on Saturday. I've been psyched to go, and not to get a fucking pink bracelet. I'm ready to gamble. Haven't been to the track much at all of late. Been a nice, and necessary break. Now, I need at least a couple of tuneups before my next big horseplaying event - a return trip to Del Mar late next month; and with the Head Chef happily and otherwise occupied, here's my chance. We'll get the scoop early tomorrow from NYRA's Turf Update on the status of the races, but it'd be nice to know the night before. Not that I'm complaining or anything.

In any event, I give NYRA credit for putting together, at least on paper and at this point (with the weather having cleared, a horseplayer is always optimistic), a card chock full of full fields that look highly competitive, at least on first glance and based on the morning lines. That's what NYRA should be promoting!!! At least in a more perfect world, perhaps sometime in the not-too-far off future, when, flush with cash from the Aqueduct Casino, it can offer first class racing along with first class facilities; and convenient transportation from Manhattan with a revived Long Island Railroad service, with roving musicians and Serling handicapping over the loudspeaker system. "We have great horse racing, big fields, tons of action, slots if you prefer, either way, come, drink, laugh, meet hot guys and chicks, woo-hoo!!!" Rachel's Sandbox? C'mon.

This is the crux of my disagreement with those like my buddy Handride who think that the industry shouldn't market the gambling. I think it's the only shot. Based at least on my interactions with family, friends and co-workers, nobody cares about Rachel Alexandra, at least in the world beyond thoroughbred websites and blogs. And even if they do manage to attract a few thousand extra people, so what? When's the next time you think she's gonna run here? You think she'll really race at four? Will NYRA endeavor to market the real action to any new fans who might stop by, so that they might come back if and, in any event inevitably and in relative short order, when she doesn't?

Except in the rarest of occasions, I don't believe you can't market the game on specific horses anymore because they don't race enough and don't stick around nearly long enough. I wrote in that comment on Handride's blog that people won't watch sports in which they don't have a rooting interest; but as I was watching the US Open last week, I realized I was wrong about that. The players become familiar, the top ones more so, and the stars have ample opportunity to shine. Even as an extremely casual golf fan, I can turn on almost any tournament and have a certain amount of familiarity and context. That wouldn't be the case if the best golfers retired to a life of limitless faceless sex after their second competitive season.

Harumf. In the second, Burley's Gold is 5-2 morning line favorite for IEAH and Dutrow in his first race since his debut last July at Calder. You can see on his pp line that he beat the multiple GSW Big Drama, and he lost by a head to Miles And Miles, who won his next time out, and has since thrice run third (ha1 say that one ten times fast!). In addition, 4th place finisher Stately Character went on to win the Foolish Pleasure Stakes, and earned a 94 Beyer running 4th in the Florida Derby. Sweetlandofliberty (5th) is a two-time winner who ran a respectable 4th in the G3 Palm Beach. Livingston Street (7th) has won four times including a minor stakes at Calder last month.

So I think we can expect that this horse is going to get pounded at the windows as if he'd run last week month. We'll see if the Zito entry (2-1) is really the favorite. In any event, a couple of other ones seem interesting to me. Winged Hero (7-2) was third, at 21-1, in his debut, finishing behind Cabaret Cowboy, subsequently an impressive winner moving up to face winners; and Ricoriatoa, second in his next to the impressive Convocation. This son of Fusaichi Pegasus goes from the barn of the always-live Frank Alexander, with a winner (also with Cornelio) and a close second (with a 5-1 shot) in his last three starts.

Cat in the Sky
(6-1) goes first time for Michael Trombetta. Most of you are probably aware that he's been a very good first-out guy over the years. But I believe in seeing what one has done for us lately, which is why I prefer to set my Formulator defaults to recent history. Checking this barn's stats.....oh. He's 11 for his last 30 (37&), and seven for his last 12! So, I guess he still pops them from time to time. This gelding is a three-year old son of Sky Mesa, a half-brother to stakes winning Cat Tour, and out of an Unreal Zeal half-sister to the venerable Tour of the Cat.


Anonymous said...

"Based at least on my interactions with family, friends and co-workers, nobody cares about Rachel Alexandra, at least in the world beyond thoroughbred websites and blogs."


some anecdotal evidence: we're having a family and friends outing at BEL on sunday and no one has asked, "hey why didn't you have it saturday so we could see rachel alexandra?" but everyone is extremely psyched to bet some horses, go to the paddock, drink some beer, eat some food, pet some goats and sheep, jump in the bouncy castle thing, run on the playground and do all the things people from age 2 to 72 can do at beautiful belmont park.

i'm mostly excited about the betting part. and the beer.

cheers, chris

Sunny Jim said...

Alan, I think you are spot on too about getting people out to the track with a little pizazz. You are thinking big, and why not? The reality is, though, that if they can still get their $6 million in daily handle with only a few thousand actually in attendance, there is no motivation for NYRA to change.

I liked those (fantasy) photos of the Aqueduct Casino: Sports bars, decent food, colored track lighting. And roving musicians, too? Hell yeah, why not? This is New York City, not some podunk town in Indiana.

Once you get the slots in, go for table games. Then why COULDN'T you get a Vegas-like space in there for sports betting? Head to Aqueduct to bet an NFL or Sweet Sixteen game on a gray afternoon in November or March? Yes, lots of people would do it in a heartbeat.


QQ said...

Alan, Did you know there are tracks without TURF racing. Like, say, Prairie Meadows? Where some of us simply can't hit a pick three to save our lives? I ENVY you those 5 turf races!