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Friday, May 27, 2005

Mechanical Animals and No Fans

- Back from Belmont, where it was a wonderful day, even though the live races weren’t great and I only made a few bets, mostly out of town. Didn’t come too close until my last race, the 7th at Arlington, in which I got beat late with 11-1 shot Le Jester. Man! If the Derby did one thing for me, it’s loosened me up a bit. I’m approaching races with a more open mind, using the Beyers more as a guide than doctrine, and thus coming up with more creative predictions. It's fun and the results haven’t been too bad either.

I was watching the 9th from Pimlico and there was a hot horse, an import from the UK named Battle Chant (Coronado’s Quest) who was stuck out in the 11 hole. He was the 5-2 morning line favorite and got hammered from 2-1 to even money in 3 quick flashes towards post time. He got hung out 4 wide on the first turn with jockey Ramon “The Windmill” Dominguez, settled in behind dueling leaders, moved up 3 wide around the final turn, and opened a lead at the top of the stretch. I was watching closely to see the rider in action, and he peeked back midstretch, eyed a couple of persuers, and sure enough wound up with the right hand and gave him a whack; though it didn’t seem to be anything near the wallop he gave Scrappy T. Being the diligent reporter of the news I try to be, I went to the replay center to watch the head-on view, but it wasn’t available. Anyway, I just love when the money comes in like that, and the horse justifies it on the track. It just seems to make sense.

I’ve mentioned that I don’t do hunch plays based on names, but in the 6th at Belmont, I found it hard to resist Classic Marilyn, even though I don’t imagine she was named in deference to Mechanical Animals, one of my all time great and guiltiest musical pleasures. I managed to pass. Lukas took the 7th with his 3 yo filly Winning Season (Lemon Drop Kid), a $500,000 Keeneland yearling who defeated 4 older horses. She’s already graded stakes placed, having run 3rd in the G2 Demoiselle last year. She’s out of multiple stakes winner Topicourt.

The track filled up a bit as the day went on, and the place showed signs of life. Still, I was disappointed to see that there were only around 4800 people on a lovely day; I seem to remember them doing better the Friday before Memorial Day last year. It was certainly no surprise to read about the decline in attendance and handle at the last Aqueduct meeting. NYRA can pin the 10% decline in handle on their decision to cut off some rebate shops, but the 18% drop in attendance is really, really ominous. I mean, where does this stop? They’re citing the new wagering machines as one part of the reason; that’s a reach.

Secondly, there was a decline in the size of our fields. At one point, we had to be very restrictive of horses coming in from racing jurisdictions where horses were infected or in contact with the disease called `strangles' and in recent weeks, equine herpes. Finally, the uncertainty of weather caused many problems, particularly in a very unseasonably cold March." [Bloodhorse]