In the weeks leading up to Saratoga, I warned on at least a couple of occasions that the quality of the cards would drop off precipitously come the third and 4th weeks. I think I've been pretty wrong about that, at least to this point. Sure, there's been a fair share of state-bred races and maiden claimers, but I think the cards have been pretty solid as a whole. And the races have certainly been competitive from a betting standpoint, even when the fields number "only" six and seven.
However, today's card is more like what I was talking about, especially with two races off the turf due to the weekend rain. (And Wednesday's card contains no less than four maiden claimers.) Two short-field state-bred stakes races, one of them consisting entirely of horses coming off maiden wins, ugh; three miserable state-bred maiden races, and an awful bottom level nw2 claimer. Looks like an advertisement for five day a week racing as far as I can tell. Weather seems nice up there (albeit with the usual PM storm advisory). Great day for a drive out to the Berkshires or Vermont, or a shorter trip up the Northway to Lake George or Lake Moreau; or, if driving's not your thing, check out the Tang Museum at Skidmore (never disappoints), and go and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Saratoga Springs State Park. Why anyone would instead spend the day watching crummy races like these I can't really say. Seems plain unnecessary, and certainly not in line with the tradition of great racing at Saratoga. Just a way to fill the coffers I suppose.
- Trainer David Jacobsen comes off looking bad in the New York Times today in the latest entry in Joe Drape's continuing Happy Series on thoroughbred racing. Jacobsen is tweaked in the article for claiming Tour of the Cat last fall, and bringing him back to the races this past winter in bottom level claimers at the age of eleven.
Jacobson’s subsequent campaigning of the horse was noticed by horse rescue advocates. In a span of 36 days in January, Tour of the Cat raced three times in New York and once in Maryland. He won twice and finished second and fourth at the lowest level of the sport. [NYT]Hmmm, two wins and a second; seems to me as if the old boy was enjoying himself. Of course, the subsequent matter of his being shipped to Presque Isle after failing to pass the vet at Finger Lakes seems to be pushing things. “I believed he was in good condition, and had some races left,” Jacobsen said. Maybe so, but certainly an admirable gesture by Maggi Moss to claim the horse and have him retired to the farm, where he's reported to be getting fat and lazy.
Still, my recollection from earlier in the year is that some people thought it was pretty cool to see an old warrior such as Tour of the Cat still competing as long as he seemed to be enjoying it as he had. In fact, NYRA thought it was cool enough to feature on its Facebook page. Now, NYRA's COO Hal Handel is quoted here as saying that “The bottom end of the rung can be hideous for a horse;" and coming in the context of this article as it does, it seems as if NYRA has played this story both ways, and in the manner which happened to suit it best at the time.