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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Del Mar Notes

Novato ($41.80) got his nose down on the wire to take an exciting blanket four horse photo in the 7th on Wednesday; a big win for me. I'm having a decent run of luck, maybe I should spend the rest of the summer here? Nothing fancy in this case - just a plain old overlay on a horse with steadily improving figs, the last one of which put her right in the mix on least to me. This four-year old daughter of Bartok is out of a Crafty Prospector half-sister to the Grade 1 winner Degenerate Gal.

Novato was part of a series of longshots throughout the Pick Six sequence; but one bettor managed to hit five and collect over $44,000 - nice consolation there!

Wolf Tail ($37.40) got up late to take the state-bred Graduation Stakes for trainer Doug O'Neill. This is a juvenile son of Strive, a son of Deputy Minister who won four of 24 career races, and who must no longer be with us on this planet or in this country since he's not listed on the stallion directory sites.

Seemed like a nice midweek crowd, as the track gave free grandstand admission (normally six bucks) to anyone who filled out a form with their address and email address. In return, I got a Del Mar Diamond Club card which I'm told is good for life, so hopefully I'll get a lot of use out of it. And hopefully, Del Mar will get a lot of use out of the marketing information they gathered from a mostly young crowd. Seems an effective strategy, and it ain't rocket science.

But on the grim side is the news that six horses have already been fatally injured at the track, five of those on the Polytrack. That's not good, and if this surface is not safe, then it renders the whole debate moot. Del Mar officials are trying to rationalize this cluster as a natural occurrence related to the change of racing surface....but that seems like grasping at straws.

"I hate to be anthropomorphic, but think about if you were jogging on the side of the road and then you started jogging on the sand or the beach," Arthur said. "Apparently, you are putting different stresses on different structures when you change surfaces."
This story was the main headline in my daily Bloodhorse email today, and expect to see more about it in the racing press and blogosphere which wants the synthetic experiment to fail. I don't recall reading any headlines whatsoever about, for example, last year's Presque Isle meet which produced only four fatalities from some 5,677 starters.

- Jess Jackson said "maybe, maybe not" when asked if he would have raced Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell had they not, at his behest, raised the purse from $1 million to $1.25 million. And you wonder why I'd like to see his filly get her butt kicked? Maybe he'll change his mind about the Breeders Cup if they raise the purse of the Ladies Classic to $2.25 million?


The_Knight_Sky said...

Left at the Gate wrote:

This story was the main headline in my daily Bloodhorse email today, and expect to see more about it in the racing press and blogosphere which wants the synthetic experiment to fail.


I do not think any of us want The Great synthetics experiment to fail.

It's just that there are too many people who have embraced it as the cure-all end all to what really ails thoroughbred racing: The perpetually weakend breed.

At a cost upwards of $80+ million at various racetracks around the country you would think that by now (in 2009) we would have incontrovertible evidence that it works while preserving the integrity of American main track racing.

It does no such thing.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the note about the lack of headlines on the low breakdown rate at Presque Isle. The deathwatch thing is a bit of a pet peeve for me...

A while back, breakdowns, especially fatal ones, became a hot news item. This was, I think, a wake-up call for the industry. And in response, changes were made. This is how things are supposed to work in this country - concerned citizens speak their concerns (and are either heard on their own or find a voice in the free press) and those who are in a position to make change are put on notice. They can then respond to those concerns or choose to ignore them. In several racing jurisdictions (not just CA - look at Arlington, for example), those in a position to do something about equine safety chose to respond. The call for equine safety was heeded on several fronts, not just synthetic surfaces.

Synthetic tracks have a lot of detractors. But leading every racing-related news story with a death toll no longer serves the original purpose. The people in a position to make change are monitoring their surfaces very closely and take their injury rates very seriously. What once served a noble purpose - a wake up call for change - now does nothing but give fuel to the people that would like to see racing stop. The people who responded to that initial wake-up call and wanted to make change for the better are being unfairly punished for their efforts. Perhaps synthetics aren't the answer, but a daily public roasting of those who tried to make change only makes change less likely to occur in the future.

And there is also now a double standard in the press (or even a triple standard, if you count the lack of positive headlines about low breakdown rates). The opening day 3rd race breakdown at Del Mar was front-page news industry wide. Yet Saratoga only made it one race further on its opening day card. The euthanasia of a horse in the 4th race was eerily absent from the Thursday headlines. Whether it's true or not, this certainly gives the appearance that the trade pubs are only interested in reporting about synthetic breakdowns.

My point is this - the industry is taking equine safety very seriously. Front-page stories about breakdowns are not urging anyone to action right now except an increasingly vocal anti-racing contingent. There is so much good going on in racing right now. I wish on-site reporters would take more time to explore them.

forego is my witness said...

Is the Haskell going to be on TV anywehre this Sunday?

The_Knight_Sky said...

Live feed of the entire Haskell card:

Just hook up your computer monitor to your HDTV and you're in business. ;-)

steve in nc said...

It's not that you guys don't have a beef, but I think you should stop asking that racing get special treatment from the media.

I don't remember seeing lots of injuries about a run of NASCAR races having few crashes, Amtrak having completed another month with no injuries, or a scandal-free hour for the Congress. There are instances, but not many, and those articles don't get the black type that coverage of death and scandal gets.

The issue with the media is more pervasive and insidious -- a need to splash, highlight controversy (or create it if necessary), and view every event out of its longer-term context.

steve in nc said...

Oops. Make that "don't remember seeing lots of articles" (not lots of injuries). Sorry 'bout that.

Anonymous said...

Synthetic tracks and Obamacare- it's always the unintended consequences that getcha. And with Obamacare we didn't even have to wait for the unintended consequences- it was "scratched" en route to the starting gate. And hats off to Jess Jackson for pointing out the futility of plastic tracks. When will CA Racing Board wake up? /S/greenmtnpunter

forego is my witness said...

THANK YOU Knight Sky!!