The Donn Handicap may not be what it used to be, and it's certainly debatable whether it remains a legitimate Grade 1. But it sure was a great betting race...and isn't that, in fact, the most important thing? I'd take this race over those five horse true Grade 1s we see all too often any day. Eight horses between 3-1 and 9-1 (and three horses designated correctly by the bettors [other than me] as rank outsiders which brought up the rear); including overrated horses like Ruler On Ice and Shackleford who never win, as well as Flat Out, the Breeders' Cup Classic favorite who hasn't been close then or since. If there's ever a horse who needs a lengthy vacation, this is it. This horse has been in training virtually non-stop since last spring.
It was also an exciting finish, and a pretty fast race too. The 106 Beyer earned by the top two finishers was a career high for both. Watching them turn for home, one might never have thought that Hymn Song ($15) would have won this race. Mission Impazible was creeping up on the inside with Castellano motionless on top; while Hymn Song was under a drive with Johnny V while a full five wide, at least. He covered 68 feet more ground according to Trakus - he was also caught five wide around the first turn - so it was pretty impressive the way he stormed down the stretch, especially since he was impeded midstretch by the drifting Redeemed. He didn't quite "go right by" Mission Impazible as Larry Collmus mis-called, but he closed the last furlong in a compromised 12.79 seconds and hung on for the win, in what was his first effort going two turns on a fast main track.
Though this six-year old son of Arch (out of Vespers, a minor stakes-winning Known Fact mare) made his early reputation as a modest turf allowance winner, he's really come into his own on the dirt. Two wins and two seconds in his prior dirt races, all one-turn efforts, including seconds in the Suburban and the Cigar Mile; and this latest effort stretching out to two turns. Your usual late developer for Shug, could be an interesting player in the handicap division going forward; the Oaklawn Handicap is a possible next race.
In the prior race, the Suwannee River, Shug came up just short with Hit It Rich, and I mention that because I would have had the Pick Three to Hymn Book and Get Stormy ($7.20) had he won. Some useless whining there. Tom Bush's now-six year old turf specialist took his third Grade 1 race in winning the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in his first race since the Breeders' Cup. And interesting to note that all four of the horses who ran that day that have run back since have all won (Mr. Commons, Jeranimo, and Compliance Officer being the others). The Maker's Mark in April is slated to be the next start for Get Stormy.
- Union Rags was tabbed at 7-1 in the Derby Futures Pool, by far the lowest odds of any of the specific horses (the "all other 3 yos" field was 3-2). Son of Dixie Union will make his 3 yo debut a week from Sunday in the Fountain of Youth, and Javier Castellano interestingly has opted to ride Algorithms instead. I would have gone the other way, but I couldn't make the weight anyway. I figure at this point, with all the uncertainty inherent in this sport and with the colt not even having started this year, that 7-1 is probably closer to fair odds on Union Rags making the starting gate than him actually winning the race.
- A new poll now shows that voters do in fact favor the construction of a convention center at the Big A. This time, respondents were told that Genting will pay for the project in full. So Governor Cuomo can say that he told you so.
The convention center....has the support of every segment of the population polled by Siena except Jews. [Times Ledger]Don't quite know what to say about that, except maybe oy gevalt.
Crain's New York reports that Resorts World is attracting an average of 20,000 locals every day. Oy gevalt!
“I come here now one to three times a week,” said Regina Recchio, who lives in nearby Valley Stream, L.I. “On New Year's Eve, my husband and I were here for 12 hours.”Doesn't take much to build up a customer base in this industry...and, in fact, I'm sure Yonkers helped Genting build one for them. Business has picked up at Resorts World in the last couple of weeks; after a few weeks of win per machine figures around $315, the numbers have picked up to $354 and $355 the last two. NYRA is budgeted for $385 as we've mentioned before, but NYRA officials are confident that those numbers will be achieved once marketing efforts, seasonal trends and the casino's rewards programs take effect.
Its closest rival, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, knows only too well about people like Ms. Recchio. Since the racino opened in South Ozone Park, Empire City has watched its growth disappear.
“Our numbers are flat,” said Tim Rooney Jr., whose family owns the racino in Yonkers. “I'm envious of how quickly they built up a customer base.”