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- Got a chance to watch Versus' coverage from Saratoga on Saturday after missing it last week due to the minor inconvenience of being at the track. And a nice job, as you might expect, with on-air talent like Randy Moss, Donna Barton Brothers (got her name right this time....and she got a nice plug for her new book), and Jay Privman on hand. Laffit Pincay Jr. does a good job with the hosting gig, avoiding the shrill overdramatic shtick that we hear from some others in that role. Rosie Napravnik and her broken wrist did the guest commentary this week.
I really liked seeing the race preceding the Sword Dancer get the royal treatment with the fancy camera angles and expert commentary even though it was nothing but a NY-bred entry-level allowance race. I've always contended that the industry has wasted valuable time trying to promote its sport via particular horses and stakes races rather than finding ways to involve people by making them invested in the result of the races, no matter what class horses they are; it doesn't matter. And it seems as if the sport is finally realizing that, as we now see free race-picking contests such as NYRA and Equibase's Facebook game; as well as the initiative announced in Saratoga on Sunday by the Jockey Club:
The new [proposed, though unspecified, TV] series will feature advertisements and promotions of two other projects that the Jockey Club intends to launch and fund: an Internet site that will allow people to make cost-free wagers and a social-networking game on racing, Jockey Club officials said. The intent of the site and the game is to allow people to become familiar with racing and wagering at minimal or no cost, a strategy that was a recommendation of the report, citing complaints in focus groups conducted by the report’s authors that the game is too complex and intimidating.The report referred to was the one developed by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. But, hello? I mean, I don't want to toot my own horn too much here, but I was imploring the use of such contests years ago, before I got sick of repeating myself. So maybe somebody at McKinsey read my post from almost four years ago on the Breeders Cup site (when they had better taste in hired bloggers). Or perhaps this one.
“Putting more Thoroughbred racing on television could be a very effective way of raising awareness and improving perception of the sport,” the report said. “However, new TV content should be different from previous efforts.” The report went on to say that new national television broadcasts should be aimed at “new fan segments” such as single male sports fans, seniors who like to gamble, and adult females, and that the broadcasts should be integrated with the free-to-play web site and social game. [Daily Racing Form]
Back to Versus, it was a brisk production, with a nice piece on the sales, expert pre-race interviews by Ms. B-B and Privman with Sword Dancer connections Christophe Clement, Emma Jayne-Wilson, Bert and Diana Firestone (nice to see them at the Spa, and looking so good!) Ron Moquett (with some interesting comments on the disadvantages presented by the small stature of his Bim Bam) and Dinny Phipps, who waxed poetic about his youthful years at the Spa, and how he came to bring his grandchildren, which prompted the Head Chef to ask me if we would bring our grandchildren there someday, which prompted me to tell her to shut up.
And a thoroughly professional job afterwards covering Alan Garcia's objection against Winchester, with an excellent camera angle for the slow-mo replay. Had to laugh when Randy Moss tried to downplay the contact, saying that the winner came "kinda sorta into the path of Al Khali" even as the replay showed Winchester drifting in a full two paths and clearly knocking the complainant sideways. Comments from each of the jockeys involved were relayed to the audience - Privman noted that Garcia did not give the stewards "a very long speech on his behalf." Bert Firestone didn't look like he was that worried. Interesting point by Rosie, who said that a big horse like Al Khali is particularly affected by even the slightest interference. However, I've never known that to be a criteria in these decisions, and I think it was the right decision to leave the result unchanged. (And a great job by the producers feeding Pincay the information that Theatrical, Winchester's sire [also bred by the Firestone], won this race by disqualification.)
- Dreamingly ($10.40) held off favored Brilliant Future in Sunday's first. Four-year old daughter of Giant's Causeway is out of a Lasting Approval half-sister to the dam of the Breeders' Cup Classic Raven's Pass. Does anyone other than those who had him remember much about that race?
First-timer Welcome Dance ($57.50) won the second, on the grass, for Michael Matz, who is now not-so-quietly three for 12 on the meet - his other winners, one of them, And Why Not, also making its debut, paid 7-1 and 14-1. Two-year old filly is by Henny Hughes out of a Dynaformer mare.
The Toddster got his 22nd winner (from 78 starters) with his two-year old filly Stopshoppingmaria (5.30). Pletcher's juveniles are getting bet by rote at this point (though this one looked well-deserving on paper), and you're just not going to get any value on them at this point. Almost pays to try to beat them by rote at this point, particularly the first-time starters, just from the standpoint of value. This one romped however, and earned a Beyer of 101, ten points higher than My Miss Aurelia ($3) earned for winning the "G2" Adirondack. That filly dug in gamely to hold off Millionreasonswhy, who seemed to be going easier than the winner as they rounded the turn for home. She's two-for-two now, but may very well not be favored if she meets up with Pletcher's filly next time.
- Saratoga rocks, but if I was there all summer, I'd miss nights like Friday at the East River State Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In perfect weather under a cloudless sky, Sonic Youth performed a magnificent set that fully spanned their 30 year career, from the oldest to the newest. They were preceded by Kurt Vile (and the Violators), whose Smoke Rings For My Halo (Matador) is surely one of my favorite albums of the year; and by buzz band of the moment Wild Flag. This all-fillies band closed their set with a song called Racehorse, as seen in this video (which also features the back of my head).