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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Racing on Saturday Too

- We're all hepped up about the Arc, but there are some good stakes races here, on Saturday, as well. I tend to get overwhelmed as these stakes-filled weekends approach; there are so many races that I want to write about in detail, that I sometimes end up writing about none of them!

So I'll try writing a little about a few of them. The Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park is a faux Classic prep. Not because it's being run on Polytrack, though there may still be some who feel that way. While we all admire Perfect Drift, and I do think we'll see an improved effort after his disappointing run in the Pacific Classic, I don't think anyone considers him a top contender for the Classic this year. And even if he runs huge on the Polytrack, people will be skeptical of his being able to reproduce the effort on a real track.

Of course, it may not be long before the real dirt tracks become the minority; we'll have our first Grade 1 stakes races run on Polytrack next weekend - the Lane's End Breeders Futurity for 2-year olds on Oct 7, and the Juddmonte Spinster for 3-yer old fillies the following day. I suppose the angst will really be cranked up when the Blue Grass is run on the surface next spring, but could the results possibly be anymore meaningless than they were this year?

Anyway, Perfect Drift will have to be sharp to beat the Woodward winner Pleasant Tap, and I think that Good Reward should run closer to his second in the Pacific Classic then his disappointing, and incredibly overbet performance in the one-turn Brooklyn.

I tried to be skeptical of Wait A While in the Lake Placid at Saratoga, and won't make the same mistake twice in the mile and a quarter Brade 1 Yellow Ribbon, not even against some hard hitting older fillies and mares. They may be older, but they're all slower than Wait A While. But I suppose I could be tempted to take a flyer at the right price on Live Life. She held well for third after throwing a shoe in the Beverly D. She set a pace that was four seconds faster to the three quarters than The Tin Man in the Million the same day. She's shown steady improvement throughout the year, and is proven at the distance.

I loved The Tin Man in the Million, and just in case you missed it, I feel compelled to point out that I picked him in print in my professional handicapping debut in the Saratoga Special (as well as the cold exacta with Cacique). There ain't much speed in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch, and though I don't know if Espinoza will get away with quite as slow of a pace as last time, this looks like an easy tuneup for the Turf. Sure, he cut some slow fractions at Arlington, but, as Richard Mandella points out:

"I might be prejudiced, but I've watched the replay of the race and you know, the favorite and the second favorite were both within a length at the quarter pole."
"They had every chance he did. It's not like he had five (lengths) on them all the way and then just held on. It wasn't a walkover. But he doesn't need me to defend his record." [LA Daily News]
I think that Cacique's subsequent win in the Man O'War certainly backs the trainer up. There could be a lot of talk about Bernardini on Breeders Cup day, but the eight-year old The Tin Man will have a chance to be a major storyline himself in the Turf should he perform as expected on Saturday.

Point Ashley (Point Given) is getting a lot of hype, and she should be favored in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf. It will be her first try around two turns though, as it will be for most of the two-year old fillies in the field. Baffert's filly will have to contend with the 11 post as well, so she's hardly a lock in here. She showed another dimension rating behind a blistering pace in her last. I posted about that race and her pedigree in this post. But if you scroll down to the comments section, you'll see that Walter noted her slow final eighth, and indeed, the time was 13 4/5. Seems like a good race to poke around a little..

Ashkal Way will "go Kelso" at Belmont for Godolphin in the one mile race. He's four for five in the U.S., and came home in 11 1/5 in his last, a win in the G2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga. Godolphin horses, or at least those for which the mysterious bin Suroor Saeed is listed as trainer, have won 15 of 37 races in this country over the last calendar year.

Art Master, a Grade 3 winner in France, makes his U.S. debut for Frankel. He's a half-brother, by Royal Academy, to the trainer's three-year old Latent Heat. Meteor Storm turns up for his 2006 debut, but trainer Wally Dollase told the Form: "We're kind of giving him the race." I'm a bit interested in Free Thinking (Unbridled). The mile distance on the grass seems to suit him quite well.

There is a National Pick Four on all of the above races save the Oak Leaf, with the Kelso leading off. If you didn't know about the bet, Steve Crist suggests this reason why:
The NTRA's recent cutback of staff and services has diverted resources from promoting these national wagers, and both the presenting and receiving tracks have never fully embraced them anyway. Ontrack announcements and graphics reminding patrons about the National Pick 4 are usually minimal, and track officials sometimes view and treat them as a confusing distraction from their own local pick fours although the numbers say otherwise. [Daily Racing Form, sub. or print ed. only]
The four races will be on ESPN during a 4 - 6PM broadcast as part of its leadup to their initial Breeders Cup. Anytime the sport can get four races on national TV, it's an opportunity to get creative and try and involve the public in some way. Do something! I've suggested using contests with big jackpots to get people to watch and have a rooting interest.

Hell, show the races in Trakus animation and promote it as a cool video lottery game with an expected $1 million jackpot. Jay Cronley, on, points out that for many people, racing is just a numbers game anyway - they bet their birthdays, or their street addresses, and sometimes they win big.
The point is this: Why play the state numbers lotteries, which is like making a bet on a 40-horse field, when you can sometimes play the horse race lottery involving but ten or 11 chances?

Thoughtless gambling blows a horse player's intellectual cover but is good for the game. []


Anonymous said...

How can someone as wise and perceptive as you be a lefty? The folloiwng is a fabulous remark and should be talking point #1 for Keeneland officials defending Polytrack next year: "I suppose the angst will really be cranked up when the Blue Grass is run on the surface next spring, but could the results possibly be anymore meaningless than they were this year?"

Alan Mann said...

>>Steve D said:

How can someone as wise and perceptive as you be a lefty?

Hmm, not quite sure how to take that, but, thanks! I guess...

Anonymous said...

I suppose I was trying to reconcile how simpatico we are in racing issues with how different we are in politics. Perhaps I could have phrased it better.

By the way, I'm really struggling with Polytrack. I feel like I have to re-learn everything. I still haven't recovered from when they re-surfaced Gulfstream around 1997! In the three years prior, it was very Keeneland-esque: Speed on the rail. After that, things changed. My best meet lifetime, from an ROI standpoint, was Keeneland this spring. I'm utterly depressed that I won't be able to replicate that this fall.

That said, if this leads to fuller fields and more starts per year by horses (will Polytrack work for these 7-8 week between races types?), I'll be happy