An announced crowd of 2,940 at Belmont on Friday for the normal 1 PM post time. The usual dreary weekday afternoon with the crowd simply dwarfed by the enormity of the place - if I read that the crowd was 940 I would have believed it - and dulled by the heat of the mid-day summer sun. I guess Munick didn't get the memo on no twilight racing, because I heard him playing in the tent on the way out. Forget about comparing the handle vs last year, when it rained and the 9th race was canceled. Besides, and on the other hand, with only 54 horses competing in the nine races, there wasn't much being offered with which to generate much pari-mutuel enthusiasm. I don't like to harp on things y'know, but those are some reasons why I believe that one has to sometimes look beyond the bottom line (and I know that's difficult for NYRA at this stage). Isn't it worth something to have a little buzz and excitement in the place?
I dunno, I find this all pretty depressing. The pre-Saratoga doldrums seem to already have started. Just look at today's $300,000 guaranteed late pick four - two maiden claimers, the five-filly Mother Goose, and a state-bred entry level allowance. Oh man, is there any soccer today? Speaking of which, at one point I was walking around the back looking for simulcast tracks, and all I could find was some damn soccer game between Chile and Spain....another exciting high-scoring affair. I don't like to harp on things y'know, but, despite the excitement over the US World Cup team, and, as pointed out by several readers, the popularity of the sport as a game that kids like to play, I stand by my assertion that horse racing is a sport which is ingrained into American culture, while soccer, despite this once every four years anomaly (similar to hockey, though I don't want to harp on that), is simply not. And it never will be.
Anyway, no twilight racing, short fields, and just three more weekends of racing after this. I don't like to harp on things y'know, but you move racing up to Saratoga for seven summer weekends - consider that the last day at Belmont will be July 18, and it won't resume down here until September 10th....nearly two full months - and people will get used to doing other things with their time. Red Bulls, anyone?
- Governor Paterson has prepared his ultimate budget extender, containing the remaining cuts and tax/fee increases necessary to finally close the $9.2 billion budget gap. No soda tax, but a repeal of the current law which exempts the first $110 of a clothing purchase from the state sales tax. I don't want to....well, y'know, but that makes zero sense to me.
- Welcome home, Norberto.
Arroyo was supposed to receive a sentence of 2-1/2 years in prison for felony criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was stopped by Saratoga Springs police on Aug. 16, 2009 for not wearing a seatbelt, and officers noticed the drugs. Arroyo pleaded guilty in March and admitted he had about 12 grams stuffed in his sock. [Saratogian]Let's see....12 grams of coke, and they're gonna throw this man into prison for 2 1/2 years. And that's with the reformed drug laws...
- Free music in Central Park on Wednesday night - two jazz veterans surrounding themselves with some immensely talented young studs. First it was the venerable and brilliant pianist McCoy Tyner, with Ravi Coltrane (sax), Francisco Mela (drums), and 25-year old Esperanza Spalding on bass (and her 2008 eponymous CD is amongst the Head Chef's current favorites).
(A far, far better view from a more professional taper here.)
Then, it was Stanley Clarke, and holy moley, Stanley Clarke? Being the one-time bass player for Chick Corea's Return To Forever, he's a name from way back in my progressive jazz phase some 30-35 years ago. But there he was, still plucking away, and in fine form. And with a rabid following too, though that may have been more for his piano player, Hiromi. Talk about mad skillz, man, this 31- year old Japanese lady has got them, wow!
(And yeah, the more professional taper was still there.)