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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Belmont Notes

Rather busy this week, so just a few miscellaneous notes on Belmont day.  I imagine many of you have read at least one of the hundreds of different accounts of the race and the day by professional and us amateur writers alike, so I'll try to add some stuff that just maybe you have not read elsewhere:

 - 85,811 people, wow.  Man, the people just kept pouring in all day, right up to the end.  This guy in my office got stood up by his buddy, he told me, and showed up just for the late Pick Three!  I got there by 10:30, definitely the earliest I've ever been at a track (not counting the barns, breakfast, or Thanksgiving).  The Head Chef joined me later, no way I was getting her out for the early double on this day.   Though there was still plenty of room in the Hempstead Ave lot and in the backyard (got prime spots in both), it was still far more crowded at that time than probably any other day of the year.  Knew it was going to get far more so, but I'd say it crested at around the 9th race, whereas I'd expect it to have done so an hour or two earlier.

It really was pretty packed; it was hard to navigate around.   Not at the betting windows though.  At least at the ones I used; didn't encounter a single line, either at a manned window or machine, that was more than one deep all day.  Anyone who was waiting to bet just wasn't trying hard enough.  Virtually always, at any track on any day in my rather long experience, one can find some place somewhere that doesn't have long lines.  On this Belmont day for me, it was the 2nd floor of the grandstand.  No one will give NYRA due credit of course, but one thing that will definitely discourage seldom-timers to come back is if they find themselves getting shut out. Similarly, there were concessions galore, and didn't notice any lines that were unmanageable; and none at all at a lot of small stations selling those 24 oz Heinekens for $15.

Only long lines I noticed there were 1) at the ladies rooms in the grandstand - though there were no lines whatsoever at some restroom trailers stationed in the backyard where the band was playing, as well as at an ample colony of porto-potties there;  2) at the porto-potties just out back of the grandstand building.  I was wondering why there were guys standing on those lines considering that the men's rooms were pretty much line-free.  I figured it out when I smelled all the pot smoke steadily emanating from there; and 3) at the ATM's.  Those lines were really long.  I only have a certain amount of sympathy however for those who run out of cash at 3PM on Belmont day.

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic day.  The weather cooperated, bringing only two or three very brief and very light showers after the forecast had grown ominous early in the day.

 - Once again, had to smile upon opening the NY Times on Sunday.  I don't really want to spend my time regularly commenting on, and criticizing the tone and tenor of their racing coverage.  But the way the paper flaunts its posture towards the sport is just so blatant and shameless, it's hard to let it pass without a chuckle and a comment.  This year, the Belmont had to share the front page of the sports section with all of the other (supposedly) big events that happened on Saturday - some tennis tournament, some boxing match, some hockey game (are they still playing?) (not anymore!!), Mets-Yankees (remember when that was a novelty before it was ruined by excessive interleague play?  Told you that would get old.. )   Inside, there was a full page of coverage in addition to a cute piece by Ryan Goldberg about a group of track regulars.  There on the 5th page of the sports section was Joe Drape's article on the race....and then a sidebar on the right.  One might expect that there you would read brief summaries on the other four graded stakes races.

But no.  Instead, there was an article by Walt Bogdanich - Congress Seeks Information on Doping.  This was taken from The Rail was posted there at 3:45 PM on Belmont day.  So, while the rest of us were enjoying the day at the track, this guy was tirelessly working to remind us of how corrupt and unethical the sport is.  And again, it's not like I don't think it's a news item worthy of being reported.  But, in the Sunday sports section on the day after the Belmont?  Really?  It's like, lest anyone think that this was actually a good day for the sport....or that there's any such thing....get a load of this.  And, just for good measure, a capsule underneath, led in bold lettering by: Fractured Leg in Undercard.  For heaven's sake.

 - An amazing betting card; in the 13 races, only three horses went off less than 2-1, none lower than Winter Memories at 1.15-to-1 in the Just A Game.  As you may have surmised from my picks, I got off to a fast start and spent the rest of the day giving it back.  Not actually a bad result, not complaining at all.  Got a big boost when the early double paid $44 for a 2-1 favorite and a 3-1 shot; not too shabby.  I tweeted at one point that if Michael Matz had a good day, I wouldn't.  Well, I still actually did, but, you know..

I loved Hungry Island in the aforementioned Just A Game, and was alive to her in the double with Caixa Electronica.  But I wasn't feeling nearly so confident as post time approached.  One would think that, with all the money in the pools, the concept of a horse being 'live' or 'dead' on the board wouldn't apply.  But something seemed wrong.  Hungry Island was the second choice in the morning line, and had defeated Tapitsfly fairly easily at Churchill.  So, it didn't at all ring true to me that Tapitsfly was a solid second choice over Hungry Island.  Why is it that I always seem to be right when I have that queasy feeling from the tote?  I guess someone knew that Ramon would take Tapitsfly out to the lead in 23 2/5 and then basically cut a 23 second per quarter pace home (actually 22.86 to come home for good measure).  Nobody was catching her.

And actually, it was almost as if "they" knew in the Belmont too, as Union Rags was favored for much of the pre-race period over eventual slight choice Dullahan, who was 9-5 in the revised morning line and seemed the clear choice on paper.  Man, I was dead wrong about the winner, who I gave no shot.  I did feel a little good though about discarding Dullahan and ending up on 20-1 Atigun, who gave me ample excitement turning for home.  Thought I was solid for at least my place bet, but Paynter held on unexpectedly in a grim and gritty performance.  As for the winner, all props to him, but I'm not buying the notion that this means he's back to his juvenile form and that he now jumps to the head of the three-year old class.  The result of the mile and a half race just does not, in my opinion, have much relevance to the relative ability of these horses at "normal" distance.  So I look forward to betting against him again.  OK, that's it for now, back to work..


Figless said...

I was on Tapitsfly simply because he appeared lone speed in a paceless race, I suspect many other punters agreed. He and Trinniberg (at unexpected generous price) were my lone winners and those short prices were nowhere near enough to overcome my "all in" play on Dullahan so another losing play this time on the first Belmont Stakes I have missed in person since 1989.

jk said...

I was on the apron and had a great time. We had lots of cigar smoke (ugh), would have preferred the sweeter smell out back.

The betting machines I used had minimal lines as well. Good job by NYRA.

I gave up on the Times. Their sports coverage has been a joke for a long time and I stopped paying attention.

Paul said...

I'm not sure who it was at TVG that was berating the chances of trinniberg and had to smile as he came in to win (here's your hat Frank? Hungry?)When are you gonna crank up the music in NYC part of the blog. Love to keep up vicariously. Delmar this year? I'm in 1st week of august co-scheduled with surf camp

John said...

Caixa Eletronica I learned means "cash machine" in Portugese, via Ryan Goldberg's piece.

It certaibly means that for Repole.

85,000 people at the track who don't bet won't "save" racing. When the Belmont gates open again, there will be 3-5,000 "regulars" who stroll in.

If it weren't for simulcasting, the sport would have atrophied a long time ago. I've been going to the track for 44 years, and every year I hear how this or that event is needed to "save" racing.

Baloney. It needs gambling dollars, and if it doesn't get them, good-bye. People go to and view the other sports. Any betting they do is not what keeps the sports going. It keeps Vegas going.

Would you go to the track to watch 13 races you couldn't bet on? I wouldn't.

As for the NYT, they are a doomsday publication whose eyes go wide when a tree is cut down. They invented "politically correct" and are a tiresome bunch.

Through the powers of telephone wagering and TV, I was "at" Belmont on Saturday. It sure beats the 9:00 AM entrance we used to make to grab the remaining free seats set aside for race day. Now, there isn't even that.

Did they lower the $350 per person buffet price in the dining room when it became evident that there would be no I'll Have Another?

I wonder.

Anonymous said...

In the NYT's article about the horseplayers - is the guy, Michael Genaro, related to "Brooklyn Backstretch" ?

alan said...

^^ Yes, he's Teresa's brother.

Anonymous said...

While I have fun gambling on horses now and them as do you, I'm gonna assume you have zero idea what it takes to kill a horse and perhaps a jockey. I wish you wouldn't make light of newsworthy events like 20 dead horses at Aqueduct by joking about cutting down a tree.Asshole.

Figless said...

NYRA apologized in an email today for the widespread difficulties on Saturday. At least they apologized but it was unacceptable to go down on the biggest day of the year, imagine IF the Triple Crown had been on the line.

Dan said...

I used NYRA rewards on Saturday. I had trouble at times logging on & did not get shut out. I was ready to make bets with their touch tone system. NO system is full proof. I heard on Derby Day that twin spires site had issues. This does happen & hopefully they will fix it for the next big day.

Figless said...

One of the problems in this industry is we accept mediocrity. On the biggest racedays of the year they need to have their systems functioning at 100%.

I was nowhere near a TV and could not watch the races. I made my wagers early so that was not my particular issue. I was counting on sneaking out to watch the races live on NYRA rewards, and could not log on, very disappointing.

When you are selling a product there is no excuse for failing to provide that product on your biggest sales day. You need to be ready.

I accept their apology and hopefully I will never be in that position again, but it left a bad taste in my mouth at the time which would have been worse had a Triple Crown been on the line.

Figless said...

I see that CD has finally addressed the ridiculous Graded Earnings qualification for the Derby, but instead of simply tweaking it they have created a point system that has many issues and could be construed as biased toward Kentucky's interests (both racing and Breeding).

Seems as if as many as 4 recent Derby winners may have been excluded under the new rules.

I commend them on making this overdue change but they need to take a hard look at their logic.

Anonymous said...

for goodness sakes, Alan, if you liked Atigun, the $496 triple was a lay-up. Too much time spent analyzing the snooze-worthy NYRA debacle and not enough time constructing tickets, I suppose...

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan - will you be voting for Charles Barron ?

alan said...

>>Hey Alan - will you be voting for Charles Barron ?

Not in that district.

alan said...

>>for goodness sakes, Alan, if you liked Atigun, the $496 triple was a lay-up.

I didn't like Union Rags.