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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Odds and Ends

Eskendereya got a Beyer of 106 winning the Fountain of Youth. As you may know, for handicapping purposes I like to follow trainers on short-term hot and cold streaks; with Pletcher, the phenomenon seems to be playing out over a much longer period. We saw the Toddster become less dominant (if no less dapper) the last couple of years, with less high profile stakes wins, no longer a cinch for the Saratoga training title, and his win percentage slipping below 20%. But these days, it's like the Toddster of old, with his Big A win percentage still above 35%, and 23% at the far more competitive Gulfstream meet. Whatsmore, he seems to be headed to his usual Derby disappointment with a barn full of early prep winners, including the abovementioned son of Giant's Causeway. Eskendereya has certainly made no mistakes on dirt, but remains untested in my view, and is likely to remain so after he goes into the Derby with just one more prep - the Pletcher way, which has proven so very successful for him in Derbys over the years.

Of course, these days, that silly billy stuff like seasoning and foundation probably doesn't really mean too much. So maybe this will be his Derby year.

Eskendereya is out of a Seattle Slew mare, and he's a half-brother to Balmont, a G1 sprinter in the UK. His 4th dam is Queen Sucree, the dam of the 1974 Derby winner Cannonade.

- Sounds like Monday's court hearing didn't go too well for NYRA, at least according to Matt Hegarty in the Form, who reports that its arguments against OTB being allowed to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy seemed to fall flat with the judge.

Perhaps the most damaging bit of testimony for NYRA came when Charles Hayward, the company's CEO and president, was on the stand, called as a witness by OTB. Hayward attended the Sept. 1 press conference along with Paterson and Frucher. Hayward said he had no recollection of saying anything that was in support of the Chapter 9 filing. Attorneys for OTB, however, played a 30-second audio clip in which Hayward did in fact "thank the governor for issuing the executive order" authorizing the offtrack betting company to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy. [DRF]
Uh oh, maybe he should give back some of that salary!

- Finally saw The Hurt Locker the other day. And this Best Picture nominee fully lives up to its billing - it's absolutely gripping from start to finish, and it really does put you smack dab in the middle of a war. It presents the conflict in Iraq without judgment or pretension; if it comes off as an anti-war film, it's only due to the nature of the beast. I mention the film on this site because, at the end (spoiler alert), it actually had me thinking of The Gambler. Like Axel Freed, James Caan's character in that 1974 film, this movie's Sgt. James finds that he needs to get his kicks by playing games of chance with consequences far more profound than dropping a few bucks on the Lakers when Jerry West has a bad day.

It's funny how nowadays, we see a movie we like and then go out and buy the DVD so that we can have it at our fingertips to watch over and over again. But there are films, like The Gambler, which I saw for the only time some 35 years ago, that leave an indelible impression after just a single viewing. Of course, now we can always turn to You Tube if we want a little taste. So here's a little sample scene - Axel being unsociable.