Charlie Hayward didn't mince words regarding Rachel Alexandra next racing in the Lady's Secret at Monmouth.
"We are puzzled and disappointed that Rachel Alexandra, who performed so well at Saratoga last year, is passing up the Grade 1 Ruffian to run in a non-graded race at Monmouth over the same distance." [Daily Racing Form]Well, Charlie, I can give you some reasons....around 150,000 of them. That's the difference in the purse money between the Ruffian and the Lady's Secret, whose purse was sweetened, and date was changed in order to appease Her Majesty. Perhaps they'll send a private plane for Jackson and bring in Chris Christie to shine his shoes while they're at it.
Can't blame NYRA for being pissed. Rachel is currently stabled there at the expense of some other owner who can't get stall space, and she spent quite some time there during and after the meeting there last year too. Not that that obligates her to race there, but c'mon, the Ruffian is a Grade 1, it's perfect for her, and so is the stage, no offense to our friends in Jersey. How obvious that the purse is the main consideration? I would think they would be tempted to tell Jackson not to bother bringing her back.....if, that is, the Saratoga meet wasn't (too) long enough to make an appearance at the Woodward a possibility. In that way, NYRA will be playing the appeasing game too.
The matter of tracks offering extra incentive to pry a star such as Rachel away from another track or, in even more jaded terms, owners extracting those incentives as a condition for them going there, is the topic of the day at the TBA homepage (www.tbablogs.com), the best place on the internet to link up with the latest racing news and opinion.
My take is that business is business, and Monmouth is certainly free to do whatever it wants, however bad a precedent it sets by appeasing greedy owners who will go strictly where the money is. The competition is keen in the present era for the very few horses who have any kind of star power, and these tracks are fierce competitors, not cooperators as we know. As far as whether it's a good idea, I wonder if it does pay off. Assuming other purses aren't cut to compensate, it will cost Monmouth an additional $250,000 in purse money. Let's say they'd have to handle an extra $1 million to make that up (of course, there's admissions and concessions too). That seems possible if you figure an extra 10,000 who may show up, not to mention a boost in the online horse betting with the card being featured on TVG. On the other hand though, many of those who show up may not be bettors at all, and a short field with Rachel 1-5 ain't gonna generate much. So we'll have to wait and see.
- In the 4th at Belmont on Friday, Rollofthetundra (12-1) returns to the one-turn mile distance after two unsuccessful tries on grass for trainer David Adel (unfamiliar to me). That last dirt race, in which this three-year old gelded son of Tomorrows Cat rallied quite well for a close second, was a maiden claimer, and a fairly cheap one, so he moves up significantly off that one here. It proved to be a pretty strong race though; not only did the winner, 3rd, and 4th place horses win their next races, but all three have now beaten winners. This is the only horse in the field with any success at this particular route (on a fast track) and he figures to be running well late. Winning Token (6-5) blows these away on the 75 Beyer he earned in a narrow loss in his last (and third place finisher Wise Stop dropped and popped by 7 in his next race), but tries an extra quarter mile here. Raffinator (7-2) ran well in the slop at this distance two back, finishing third behind two next-out winners (albeit on the grass).
In the 5th, Hello Gold (4-1), the one horse stable of trainer Michael D'Amelio, takes a drop in class off three solidly even efforts against better. Five-year old daughter of Gold Fever seems to have found a niche in these grass sprints and this could be a winning spot in a flawed field. Lorraine in Spain (3-1) also drops and ran pretty well at this distance two back; race produced two good seconds and a winner. Been rather disappointing considering her odds of late though. Come From Away (5-2) takes a steep class drop off a long layoff, no thanks, at least at those odds.