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Friday, November 27, 2009

Death Valley (Compared To) '69

Hope that you all had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that, as an unpaid blogger, I was under no obligation to write one of those "what I'm thankful for" posts. However, I can tell you that, in addition to a hearty meal and quality time with my family, I'm thankful that I was also able to experience a truly transcendent performance by Sonic Youth in Brooklyn on Wednesday night; and catch a few races on a sunny and unseasonably comfortable late Thanksgiving morning at the Big A.

A tad less than 3,000 people were on hand, with the first race going off at 11:25 A.M. I seem to recall the opener going off as early as 10:30 in the past. Forty years ago, post time was 11 A.M., and the crowd, "many of whom were attracted by the...early post," as reported then by the New York Times, numbered 35,665, a figure absolutely unimaginable at this point in time. According to the article, published on 11/28/1969, the early post was instituted in 1959 by NYRA's CEO John W. Hanes, and drew at least 30,000 each year up to that point. The largest such attendance was in 1964, with 38,284 on hand.

Two years later, in 1971, OTB began operations, and the crowd that year was 21,968, as bettors chose to spend their holiday mornings at the local parlor instead. A graph of the attendance since then would look roughly like that of Paterson's approval ratings.

In the first, the bettors fell hard for a Contessa entry; 5-1 in the morning line, they went off as the 2-1 favorite. This isn't the first time I'm mentioning that entries are liable to get overbet given the promise of two-for-one; especially perhaps on the day before Black Friday. Both Debbie's Fast Girl and Tempest Storm were dropping moderately in class after fair tries against better - and the latter was stretching out too. Clearly, neither was worthy of those odds alone, and I'm personally not of the belief that two horses who look like they should be 4-1/9-2 should be half that price just because there are two of them. Meanwhile, Elena's Princess, the 2-1 morning line favorite off a (top last-out Beyer) win in the same conditions, returned a generously overlaid $9.70 for Enrique Arroyo. There are situations in which I would have considered her to be dead on the board, but in this case, the overbet entry provided a reason to think otherwise. (So maybe if I had arrived early enough to thoughtfully analyze the race, I would have had her.)

Been noticing a lot of big dropdowns in the claiming ranks here lately; more than in the past, or am I just noticing them more? It might make sense for there to be more these days given a couple of factors - the larger purses provide sufficient rewards at lower levels; and, on the other hand, the poor economy, less racing opportunities, and the ever-increasing costs gone uncompensated due to the continued lack of slots money have owners desperately seeking the winner's circle, and willing to lose their horses to the claim box in order to get there.

But on the other hand, there are, as always, connections desperate to have a problem taken off their hands. To me, determining the motive behind the drop is the key in determining whether the race is playable. Unfortunately, it's often a guessing game.

With all of the various conditional claiming conditions, it can also sometimes be a challenge just determining whether a move is really a significant drop at all. How, for example, does a 25K NW2 lifetime compare to an open 15K claimer? This is one of the many ways that Formulator can help, as one can view the past performances of all of the horses your subject horse has competed against in its last five races.

In the second, A Zero Trap was 4-5 dropping to an open 7500 claimer off a second place finish in a 12,500 affair limited to horses who hadn't won in the last six months. Is that really a class drop? I didn't like that fact that he was dropped, by trainer Joe Imperio, to that prior 12.5K level two races after being taken for 25K in the first place. So I would have bet against him if I'd found anyone I liked. A Zero Trap finished sixth.

But in the third, there was no doubt that Formal King was dropping in class; drastically, in for 20K in his first race, for Richard Dutrow Juan Rodriguez, since running second in a NW3x allowance at Monmouth in June. I thought this one demanded a skeptical pose, for a variety of reasons but mostly out of fear as to his soundness. But Formal Gold sprinted to the lead and, though hardly dominant, was never seriously challenged (and he went unclaimed). I ran second and third, if you care.

The Fall Highweight Handicap, graded again, was taken by Cherokee Country ($26.20) - a son of Yonaguska, the leading sire in Louisiana; and it's his second stakes winner of the year, after Illinois Derby winner Musket Man.

Gary Sciacca took the 9th with Classofsixtythree ($12.20); this barn was also a close second with 56-1 Strummer on Wednesday.

- I've seen Sonic Youth a number of times over a number of fact, I'd just seen them Saturday night at Terminal 5. But seeing them at the far more intimate Music Hall of Williamsburg, with its crystal clear sound (the best system in the city that I've heard), was a whole other ballgame. Don't remember last time I'd seen them at such a small space; and in a way, I feel like I've now really seen them live. They performed all of their superb latest release, The Eternal, which came out on Matador earlier this year, threw in a few songs from Daydream Nation, and delighted their old-time fans by closing with Death Valley '69 from their album Bad Moon Rising, released on Homestead nearly 25 years ago.


Anonymous said...

Alan- are you following the news from Dubai via the London papers? Bet they are "blue" down in the Blue Grass about now, among others.
The marketplace sooner or later rules, no exceptions.

Anonymous said...


David Jacobsen dropped one in last week for 7500 after the horse had just run well at the 16000 and finished third with a big beyer. The horse was bet down to 3-5 and went lame during the race and did not finish. In other countries there would be an investigation. Here, business as usual.

Also, the same day at Philly park was a MSW for 2 yr olds with 8 horses going postward. 3 horses had to be scratched after they had already been loaded into the gate. Horses were taken out of the gate and there was a lengthy delay. Here is the OUTRAGEOUS part. During the delay after the 3 scratches but before the race went off Philly had listed the race as "off" so I could not cancel or change any of my bets. Do all tracks do this ?

Also, no mention of the fact that none of us in the mid Atlantic have been able to bet fairgrounds or Churchill for over a month now ?

Anonymous said...

Yea,but you can bet Churchill and FG in Atlantic City. Go figure?

steve in nc said...

The dropdown issue is even more complicated in Philly with its slots-inflated purses. Horses with $5k tags running for, what, $20k or more? Why not drop 'em down.

Has Jacobson ever moved a horse up in class? It seems like his modus is always claim, layoff, big drop. How can his owners pay the bills? Must have an incredible ROI in their betting.

I am thankful for being in NY for a brief family visit. Got to the Big A for most of the Friday races. Who cares about the amenities. It is so much better to smell the manure than watch via satellite TV.

And I got to see Fela! Incredible music and dancing. Highly recommended to all except conservatives (the politics will piss you off).