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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I'll Take The Under

I'm told by a reliable source up in Saratoga that the over/under on the attendance for Rachel Alexandra's appearance in the Woodward on Saturday is 35,000. I think that's high; 30,000 seems more like it to me. Last year, NYRA was able to attract only 22,572 for Curlin's appearance in the same race despite an all-out publicity effort. Do you think they'll be able to draw some 13,000 more this time? (Of course, I'm talking about actual attendees, not the full-of-baloney crowd figure announced for the Mother Goose, inflated by at least 25% in my humble but highly experienced opinion.)

Granted, my source and I agreed that Rachel Alexandra is probably a bigger draw than Curlin was....a notion which, if true, is, in my opinion and with no disrespect intended to the filly and her followers, a pretty pitiful reflection on the efforts of this industry to promote its biggest event and showcase award...the one we debate and argue over throughout most of the year. After all, if that is indeed the case, it basically means that the Breeders Cup Classic and Horse of the Year award don't really add up to jack shit when it comes to the public consciousness. Preakness + Haskell trumps BC Classic + Horse of the Year? That shouldn't be, regardless of the spectacular nature of her victories, and despite the fact that she's a filly beating boys.

Still, the Saratoga meet as a vacation destination basically ends after the Travers in my view, as evidenced by past Labor Day weekend crowds, and reinforced in part by the sparse crowd under perfect weather conditions this past Monday. I believe that it would take a mammoth event to draw fans back up there on the last weekend. We already had plans to go because we've come to enjoy this time there - the crowds are thinner, I find that the fields are generally full, and the weather tends to be better (the forecast is glorious and probably even a bit unseasonably warm). And the Final Stretch Music Festival in town is awesome. Almost a reason in itself to come. (And note that its hours have been moved back to 7 - 11 PM this year.)

But no way I'd make the trip specifically to see this race. Are any of you? In a far, far more perfect world, perhaps she'd be facing opponents like Big Brown and/or Street Sense, Hard Spun, or Curlin himself. Then, I'd be up there in a would I'd guess some 50,000 other people. But to see her face this field? NYRA is certainly pulling out all the stops. But as I said last year, you can't market in a vacuum. And this is basically the main problem that dogs this industry - the early retirement of its stars, and the complete lack of any sustained rivalries.

So, NYRA can tout the historic nature of the filly's probable victory in this race; Jess Jackson can bluster about finding her place in history; Steve Asmussen can tell us with a straight face that she'll need to be at her best. Perhaps she is the greatest filly of all time as some are saying. Too bad she won't be able to prove it on the least not this week, or this year as long as Jess Jackson selfishly and vindictively gets his "revenge" on those of us who "forced" him to run Curlin in the synthetic Classic. And you never know how a filly will come back at four after some time off, so you can't take it for granted that she'll be the wonderfilly she is now in 2010.

Oh, and my attendance prediction? 28,743. (That's actual people through the turnstiles, not a tally by vote counters from Iran or Afghanistan.)


El Angelo said...

I'll bite--I think they'll hit 35,000. There's a huge difference between Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Curlin, while talented, was pretty much indistinguishable from any other good older horse in the eye of the public. In particular, last year it wasn't helped that he didn't run too often in the US. By contrast, Rachel Alexandra is truly something unique, and I think even female non-fans would be mildly interested in seeing her run.

Also, I think basing anything off of Monday's attendance figures is a mistake, Monday's one of the worst days to be at the track, good or bad weather. Especially the last Monday of August, when a lot of schools have already started.

Anonymous said...

My beef is with the slogan that appears on the newly created Rachel Alexandra flags hanging from the lampposts in Saratoga..."Run like a girl"....Were there flags for Curlin stating, "Run like a boy"?

o_crunk said...

This is a tough call. There was absolutely no buzz surrounding Curlin. It was billed as a champ in Saratoga. There was no story, no reason to see it other than that.

Though this race may not have a compelling storyline that the non-racing public understands, I think Rachel Alexandra is already more of a household name than Curlin. So that's a plus, somewhat.

Monmouth is worse than NYRA with announced figures - the 37k on hand for the Haskell was complete nonsense, so that barometer is out the door.

And still I'll take the over 35k and I'll be one of those 35k in attendance.

One thing to add about the Haskell + Preakness stuff. It's not just the spectacular nature of the victories, it's that the horses (granted, just 3YO's) are coming back out of those defeats and winning big races. Crushed RA victims won the Acorn, Test, Travers....and probably a whole lot more I can't remember.

El Angelo said...

Even more than that, RA has beaten this year Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, the other 2 horses anyone that's read a paper about racing has heard of. Curlin didn't beat a single horse that had any publicity or fame last year.

Anonymous said...

Have some faith brother! Bad weather Travers Day + gates open at 7am. Closer to 40K than 30K and yes I will be there.

Anonymous said...

Now that the recession has ended I'm going with Little Timmy Geitner's predition of 36,789.

Anonymous said...

Tough to attract anyone anywhere at the last minute for the last weekend of the summer, plans are made long in advance, kids go back to school next week, college kids are already back to school.

Probably 50% of he fans there on any given day are daytrippers that are booked in the Catskills and Adirondecks for a week or more and make one trip to the track each summer. They will not be there.

Actually the best chance they have to draw is the college kids back in town that weekend, but they will all presumably be there the night before the frat party.

I'll take the under 30k, announced, even with the perfect weather.

In truth, they would have done better if this event was at Belmont.

Anonymous said...

I've got the under. Nice piece, Alan. Mike D.

SaratogaSpa said...

You hit all the right points. Don't forget last year for Curlin the weather was also splendid and it did not make much of a difference. I will throw in another 10,000 to last years Woodward of 22,572 for a prediction of 32,572 and the under.

Anonymous said...

"In truth, they would have done better if this event was at Belmont".

Yeah right!!!