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Friday, August 05, 2005


- On Wednesday, for the first time in 82 racing days, the total handle for Saratoga failed to exceed $10 million; no surprise, given the two steeplechase races on a 9 race card. Paul Moran of Newsday, apparently not soothed by the clear Adirondack air, adds that a generally unbettable program brought the streak to a grinding halt. What did they expect when they decided to run 2 hurdles races like that. As far as I’m concerned, they might as well be racing giraffes. In addition, NYRA confirmed what was apparent just by looking at the attendance figures each day. Business was down sharply at the spring Belmont meet.

According to the NYRA, the decision to terminate simulcast agreements with 10 offshore rebate shops was a key factor in the decline in business, and the fact that there was no Triple Crown on the line this year in the Belmont Stakes won by Afleet Alex caused for the numbers to drop. "If you erase Belmont Stakes Day from the equation, we were down only 3.6% in attendance, 6.14% in on-track handle and 7.7% in total commingled handle," said NYRA Senior Vice President Bill Nader. "Additionally, field sizes declined as compared to the previous year, which is a problem that has plagued the entire industry this year." [NY Daily News]
- I'd love to bet the Hambletonian-Haskell double if for no other reason then to support an innovative and pretty cool wager. But as much as I look at the race, I can find no alternative to Hambo favorite Classic Photo, and I don't know that the double with he and any of the three logical contenders in the Haskell is gonna pay many bills. It’s true that his elimination win last week was a fifth slower than that of Vivid Photo, but Classic Photo's driver Ron Pierce says of the heat victory:
"It was a walk in the park"....and added: .."but (in the final) I'll have to watch out for Vivid Photo "We don't want him getting to the top and getting his way." ["NY Daily News]
Vivid Photo is quite a story; just a couple of months ago, he was racing for $3600 purses at Pocono Downs and $5000 at the Meadows. (Check back in a couple of years to see what the purses are for races like that after slots come to Pennsylvania). The Hambo elimination was his first real test for class, and he passed it with flying colors. In fact, he looks like the only pure speed trotter in the field. But for $1.5 million, the other drivers aren’t going to be content to sit behind, and I think the pace scenario will be more than sufficient for Classic Photo’s closing brush. From the 5 post, he should be able to sit midpack and glide past the field by midstretch for the Hambletonian win. Pierce said of this year’s huge purse: “The Hambletonian can go for $10, and it would still be the great race that it is. There’s something about it. It’s the race we all look forward to, and the race we want to win." [US Trotting Association]

- They’re still expecting a crowd of 40,000 for the Haskell, and I have to say that I’ve underrated Park Avenue Ball, associating him with his mediocre form earlier in the year. Honestly I hadn’t noticed his recent form and Beyers, and his big improvement in both cagtegories is the type of improvement I always like to see. He was good in the Long Branch, as Chris DeCarlo rode with confidence, sitting behing leader Shark, and moving up to the lead with absolute ease around the turn.

Sun King’s late addition adds an element of uncertainty to the race, though his win in the Leonard Richards doesn’t do anything for me as far as clarifying just how good this horse is (or not). He got the lead against 4 horses in his first try with blinkers on, including one who had raced the day before. and maintained his lead in the stretch under a “steady drive” in :31 4/5 for the last 2 1⁄2 furlongs. But his presence does open up the race from a betting standpoint.
“It makes it a great betting race," said Mike Dempsey, the racing secretary. "It makes it a wide-open race.

"Roman Ruler probably would've been 4-5 before. Now he's 9-5. This makes it more interesting for the bettors."

More interesting in a number of ways....Instead of having Roman Ruler and Park Avenue Ball simply sitting off a fast pace and waiting to slug it out in deep stretch to see whether the exacta pays $5.60 or $8.40, the race now has new dimensions. [Asbury Park Press]

Are you buying into Baffert’s hype of Roman Ruler? All his triple-digit efforts were around 1 turn, and although he won 1 of his 2 two-turners, that was with an 87 Beyer against 3 undistinguished runners (he was 1-20). But Baffert insists
"He's doing really well right now. He showed his brilliance last year and he's coming back to that form.
"The Dwyer race was fantastic off a layoff and he beat a really nice horse that came back and won [Flower Alley in the Jim Dandy, with a 112 Beyer]. He's doing better now than he was for that race, so we're really excited." [Daily Racing Form]
I’m going to take a look at the doubles at the Meadowlands tomorrow, hoping that Sun King gets enough money to make the Classic Photo – Park Avenue Ball double at least a little worthwhile.