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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are Full Fields Full Of It?

Racing resumes here in Southern California on Wednesday after a two-day break; and Hank Wesch reported in the San Diego Union Tribune that it's the first time since 1946 that a Monday has been dark. Hollywood Park couldn't even sustain five days a week; so far at least, the field sizes here have been pretty good. While having breakfast out on Monday morning, I overheard a trainer noting that the extra day off certainly doesn't help him pay the bills; he can probably sympathize with the California state employees being furloughed three days a month as part of the budget finally signed off on by Governor Arnold on Tuesday.

From a vacationing horseplayer's standpoint, the two days are a welcome chance to explore the beautiful surroundings, thus helping to recharge oneself for a full five days of racing ahead. No shortage of things to do around here, even if only to hang at the ocean right here in Solana Beach. The water temperature here is absolutely perfect; bracing for just an instant beore giving way to delightful We also did some hiking and swimming at Torrey Pines State Park, checked out the scene at La Jolla Cove, and visited the Old Town and Gaslamp Quarter sections in San Diego.

Two days off would be no problem in Saratoga either. Maybe the subject for another post back east; there is plenty to do as well, especially if you're willing to devote at least a couple hours of scenic driving in order to reach some very worthwhile destinations.

However, maybe you don't have the time for any extracurricular activities because you're too busy handicapping 134 potential starters for ten races. NYRA did some self-back patting when the card was released back what seems like weeks ago, and it's well-deserved. Field size is reflective of the vitality and attractivness of a racing program, and tracks will trumpet their successes in that regard. It also means increased handle, especially I'd imagine in the multi-race sequences for which there are no free squares.

Accordingly, I've read a lot of people singing the praises of the oversized fields...but who besides NYRA, jockeys and their agents really actually like it? Trainers and owners know they have a better shot at purse money with short fields. Durkin has to hate it. The starting gate crew should sleep well Wednesday night. And how about public handicappers, especially those people who write the Closer Look blurbs in the Form!? They have to write up all 16 in the grass races with the main track only....hope they get paid by the horse.

Us horseplayers say we love full fields. But do you really like them this large race after race? Don't you multi-race wager guys especially need a break from time to time....One race, at minimum, which you can confidently single or double up at most? To be perfectly honest, eight to ten is full enough for me; start getting to 12 and 14 and my head starts to spin. People say you get better prices, but does any premium on a horse you like properly compensate for the increased dose of random element injected with each additional entry?


ballyfager said...

Before anyone gets carried away about today's card, take a look at Thurs. card. There's no getting away from the fact that Sar. is a pale shadow of what it once was.

Those NY-breds that populate current cards wouldn't have been allowed on the grounds years ago.

Anonymous said...

Jeesh, Bally, if Saratoga can not bring a smile to your face you really need to get a new hobby (profession).

The entire world has changed not just horse racing, time to accept the facts on the ground.

Anonymous said...

Alan, as for full fields, comparing the Thursdays Spa entries which have been critcized above with the 8 race menu at Del Mar the same day, I think you will be dabbling in East Coast simulcasting.

Spa has 9 flat races averaging 10.33 starters with only two NY Bred races.

Delmar has carded only 8 races averaging 8.63 starters (12 in the CAL Bred maiden claimer finale), three of which are maiden claimers with three restricted to CAL Breds.

Bally, you may disparage the quality as compared to the old days, but Spa is still by far the best summer meet around, nowadays.

Anonymous said...

Carping about the size of large fields in races at Saratoga, the premier meet in the country, Alan? You need a vacation, or you need to go in for rehab to detox off all that synthetic material you've been inhaling in the paddock at Del Mar, and the rest of those wanna be racetracks in California. Don't let the dreaded synthetic kickback hit you in the face, you will become a marked man.

ballyfager said...

It is the best summer meet nowadays. But the way people gush about it is over the top IMO.

El Angelo said...

I agree with Alan that Saratoga should go to a 5-day week, and think Tuesday & Wednesday should be the dark days. Lets people take a 3-day weekend with Monday as the 3rd day, and they'd have a monopoly over good racing that day. Wednesdays after opening day are the worst days at the Spa (which in fairness, still beats the best days at almost any other track).

The_Knight_Sky said...

Left at the Gate wrote:

....Durkin has to hate it. The starting gate crew should sleep well Wednesday night. And how about public handicappers, especially those people who write the Closer Look blurbs in the Form!?

They have to write up all 16 in the grass races with the main track only....hope they get paid by the horse.

Us horseplayers say we love full fields. But do you really like them this large race after race?


I think there comes a point where too much of a good thing isn't all that good. Overflow fields of 11 or 12 horses or more entered in a race are an automatic caution "red flags" for me, because in the past I've tended to spread out more in the vertical exotics.

To try to handicap a field of 12+ horses and not knowing the precise conditions, surface, scratches, pace scenario the night before is not my thing. So I don't indulge in that arena. The time is better spent on other races.

Also, the costs versus reward must be taken into account. And not just the raw dollar payouts that elicits the oohs and ahhs from the novices.

If Saratoga would do anything to this great meet it would be to stress 5 racing days or run four weeks with six racing days with a higher caliber of horses consisting of 8-9-10 in every field.

New York breds, Claiming races, Turf sprints all contribute to lowering of the standard for this great meet called Saratoga.

By the time September rolls around,
if you get the feeling that this was a drawn out, diluted meeting well it's time to take some steps to correct it.

DiscreetPicks said...

Saratoga - Race 7

#2 D'bigcat (5/1 ml)

2yo firster by the fast sprinter D'wildcat worked the fastest quarter-mile (20.2) at the March Ocala sale, tied with two others. More recently, he worked heads-up on July 5 with the older allowance winner New Member, who came out of that drill to set fractions of 23.01, 45.99, and 1:09.91 in a one-mile allowance event on July 12. Looks certain that this horse has some keen speed, and he could very well pop the gate from his inside post here and prove tough to catch. Also worth mentioning that today's rider Castellano is showing nearly a 50% flat-bet profit from over 40 mounts for Weaver. He also happened to ride New Member in the afore-mentioned allowance race. Looks very live here.

DiscreetPicks said...

D'bigcat went off @ 5/1 and indeed popped the gate, leading to the top of the stretch, but he tired thereafter and failed to hit the board. Simply wasn't good enough.

McCarron said...

Full field results are often more formful than short fields, as 5,6,7 horse fields, etc., tend to produce plenty of unforeseen pace scenarios. It does force the punter to be more precise with both horizontals and verticals, but ostensibly the payoffs are larger as a result even with chalky outcomes.

Anonymous said...

In case you missed it, 6 horses (5 on polytrack) have died over the first 10 days of training and running on that "safer" plastic called polytrack at Del Mar.......