Yonkers is now available for wagering and watching on the NYRA Rewards site (also on Channel 71 for those of you with Time Warner Cable). (The Churchill Downs tracks have been added to the live streaming menu as well.) In addition, the Big A and the Belmont Cafe will remain open until 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.
To accommodate customers at Aqueduct that stay for the evening simulcasts, the MTA’s Aqueduct subway stop will remain open until 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.That's a scary thought. Won't be once the racino is open, and I'd expect the service there could be around the clock at that point. But wouldn't want to be a part of the crowd waiting there for the A train at 11 PM these days!
On Saturday evening, I was awaiting the Head Chef's latest feast, had a little time, so I downloaded the Yonkers PP's from Brisnet, and made my very first harness wager through NYRA Rewards a winning one! Either a great omen, or I'm suckered in for life, and we all know which one it probably is....especially since the horse is named The Awful Truth ($9.20). This six-year old gelding, making his 102nd lifetime start (gotta love these harness horses), went first over against the favorite, and somehow prevailed after going nose to nose with that rival for the length of the stretched-out stretch. Thought I lost for sure, but the track announcer and camera guys know the angle better then me, and had it all the way.
Immediately apparent from looking at the past performances is that the purses at Yonkers were recently cut, no doubt due to the drop in handle after the closure of NYC OTB. The race that I bet, for non-winners of 12K in their last six starts, was for $19,500 a few weeks ago, but for just $16,000 now. A steep reduction, and now the horsemen are facing the possibility of Governor Cuomo's surcharge as well. Also looked like there was a pretty significant dip in VLT revenues around the Xmas holidays, wonder if that came into play as well. In any event, hopefully this new exposure on NYRA outlets will help boost handle to the point where the purses can recover.
- Nice trip down to Tampa for Ramon Dominguez, who swept the three stakes races there on Saturday's card, displaying different aspects of his mastery in each race. In the Florida Oaks, on the grass for three-year old fillies, Ramon kept cool on Dynamic Holiday ($8) in and amongst horses, and found an opening on the rail turning for home. It was such a sneaky move that the track announcer totally missed him (and then mis-called him as Dynamite Holiday when he finally picked him up). Second stakes win in a row for this Graham Motion-trained daughter of Harlan's Holiday, out of a Dynaformer mare.
In the G3 Sam F Davis, Brethren ($3.80) broke a bit awkwardly from the treacherous outside post, but Ramon had him in perfect stalking position on the rail, behind a 53-1 shot, by the time they came out of the first turn. Easy win from there, and Ramon had him shut down inside the 16th pole. It was the first stakes effort, first try around two turns, and first race since November for this three-year old Distorted Humor half-brother to Super Saver (though against a modest graded stakes field to be sure); he earned a Beyer of 83.
And in the G3 Endeavor Stakes, New York's top jockey grabbed the lead shortly after the break on Silver Reunion ($6), slowed the pace down from 24.08 to 24.56 to 25.26 before burying the field with final splits of 23.94 and 6.14 seconds. Another offspring of Harlan's Holiday from the Motion barn, this five-year old mare was making her first start since just failing to last in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga.
- I caught TVG's hilariously self-deprecating Gate Crashers coverage of the Santa Maria stakes from Santa Anita. Apparently they've been doing this for awhile, but I don't generally have much reason to be watching TVG at that time of the evening this time of the year, so I hadn't seen it before. It culminated a shot of Frank Mirahmadi calling the race while watching it on TV. Funny stuff. Whatsmore, while doing the call from a monitor, this guy is probably better than 95% of what's out there in what is a weak crop of track announcers, at least in my view. As someone who was lured into the game in part by listening to race calls from guys like Dave Johnson, Ray Haight, and Chic Anderson, I find it disappointing that there's a dearth of promising young voices out there that excite me these days. Would love to hear of some suggestions if you think I'm missing anyone.