The past performances are out for Saturday's 11 race Wood Memorial card at the Big A on what is supposed to be a gorgeous day. Even a couple of grass races on the program. But who knows, could be the last time the historic Derby prep will be run there. Maybe it'll go to New Jersey like the Cane Pace did after the slots debate moves to Belmont and the wrecking balls move in. They could have a one day meet at the Meadowlands and raise the purse by a few million bucks. The April 11th deadline for NYC OTB to close is approaching, and the New York racing world is watching with dread.
Many industry leaders are concerned NYRA might not be able to stay open this spring and summer.I'm sticking to my usual belief, confirmed up to this point in time, that, in the end, the politicians in Albany will not allow the industry to fail; especially in this case where the blame would be squarely on their shoulders. But today, on the E train home, I was listening to J Mascis sing, on Get Me from Dinosaur Jr.'s Where You Been LP: "You're not going to get me through this, are you?" And one sure couldn't blame NYRA and the horsemen if they're starting to think that way about their elected leaders who have put them in this position through their incompetence, arrogance, and unmitigated gall.
“It’s going to be close,” Rick Violette, a prominent trainer, NYRA board member, and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president, said on Wednesday. [Thoroughbred Times]
I mean, don't even get me started about these three stooges in the Senate who are fighting the Inspector General's subpoena into the all-too-blatant political favoritism they lavished on Aqueduct Entertainment Group. A state Supreme Court judge ruled against them on Wednesday, saying their objections were "without merit." However, they intend to appeal. Seriously, which is more blatantly obvious, the selection itself, or this clumsy attempt to cover it up? Man, I can't wait to see what they're trying to hide. And to hear what the governor has to say too, especially given his lame duck status and his continuing descent into paranoia and incoherency.
Anyway, back to the Wood, and, unfortunately, the race has no buzz or juice at all around here, despite the presence of the horse who I guess is considered the consensus Derby favorite at this time. Maybe they'll get 4500 people there. That's what happens when the headlining horse has only five career races at this point in time, and last raced in New York in an off-the-turf stakes race last October. I'm not intimidated by that 106 that Eskendereya earned some six weeks ago in the FOY.
Not to say he wasn't impressive of course. I particularly liked the way he calmly and effortlessly glided up into stalking position after breaking a bit sluggishly from a treacherous outside post. However, on the other hand, once he did so, he sat behind a moderate pace (slower to the half than the 10K claiming race which was the only other two-turn dirt race run that day) set by a horse making his first start on dirt, and with Buddy's Saint getting jostled down inside. He was set up well then to make the big move in the stretch that he did, finishing up in racehorse time of 12.33 seconds; final three-eighths in a solid 36.46. I'd be willing to take a shot against....
....though moreso in a deeper field than this where one might find some value. Just six entries (and only 23 betting interests in the four graded stakes); including a state-bred allowance runner with a standardbred name, and a recent maiden graduate. I was against Awesome Act on price in the Gotham, and suspect I'll be the same on Saturday in just his second start of the year, anticipating that he'll be a well-bet second choice.
Schoolyard Dreams is the kind of horse I like, and I'd take a look at decent odds. He's making his - gasp - 4th start of the season. It's been just three weeks since his grueling and improbable loss to the impressive Odysseus in the Tampa Bay Derby. These days, some might consider that to be too little for a horse to recover from such an effort, but I'm taking it as a positive in this case. He's improved solidly in his last two since adding blinkers, and should have the upper hand on the top two in terms of foundation and tough race experience. And you gotta love the bullet half mile on the 27th. In the money in all of his five career races, he somehow got beat at Tampa after changing tactics and making a bold sweeping move around the turn. Schoolyard Dreams has gone through jockeys like Governor Paterson goes through senior staff members; and here, for his sixth jockey in his sixth race, he lands Ramon (in fact, he's one of the reasons the horse is running here instead of in the Illinois Derby). Trainer Derek Ryan will be looking for a better timed move than the one supplied by Jeremy Rose in the TB Derby. "You can't hit the front too soon," Ryan said. [DRF]