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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Belmont Stakes Top Ten

- This is the Left at the Gate Belmont Top Ten of horses, people, and things I think will be in the news on or around Belmont day:

1) After previously distancing himself from the comments of Michael Iavarone and Richard Dutrow, Big Brown resigns from I.E.A.H. following the latest controversy. Dutrow was quoted mocking Casino Drive, saying: "I really believe that he just always thought ‘This is mine. I’m Better Than Honour's son!' Then out of nowhere came Big Brown, and he said, ‘Oh damn! I’m entitled! There’s a big brown horse stealing my show’!”

2) Tale of Ekati has been way up and way down to this observer. I soured on this colt after his lethargic return return to the races at three, and his win in the awful Wood Memorial did nothing to change my mind about that. But now I'm coming back around. His 4th in the Derby wasn't bad at all, and you can make a case that he's rounding into top form....and he certainly hasn't left it on the racetrack in his morning workouts! The class and stamina in this one's pedigree could get him to break up those chalky exactas.

3. Denis of Cork gets Robby Albarado in place of Calvin Borel for the Belmont, not the first time that Calvin has been replaced in the irons on this horse. Albarado did so for his win in the Southwest, easily the most impressive race of this colt's career. In fact, it was so good, that it threw this horse right off course with the ill-fated attempt to use the Sheets to time his bounce and recovery. The time off since his rail-skimming third in the Derby seems to have served him well based on his workouts, which drew raves before the Derby as well. We don't generally see deep closers win the Belmont, but Denis of Cork seems primed for a minor share, and at a fair price too.

4. Michael Iavarone is ejected from the grounds and misses the race. He's slips on a penny and is apprehended while trying to run away from the Nathan's stand without paying for his hot dog.

5. The record crowd for the Belmont is the 120,139 who came to see Smarty Jones' hopes dashed by Birdstone in 2004. But this year, I think they'll be doing well if they crack the six figure mark at all. It's hard to say if the fact that Big Brown's story is the stuff of Chiller rather than Lifetime will have any effect. But I think that gas prices and the general bad times is going to persuade people who might otherwise have undertaken a long journey not to do so. The fact that you can't bring cheap six-packs into the track won't help either. (And remember, those rebate checks are for stimulating the economy, not the mutuel pools!)

6. Hillary Clinton attends the race, but is disappointed when she receives seating for only half of her delegation.

7. Ready's Echo is a go for Pletcher; this son of More Than Ready has been progressing ever so slowly, at least on the Beyer scale. He was no threat to Casino Drive in the Peter Pan. But if his past exploits are any indication, the big stretch out should only help his chances. His best effort was his only one around two turns, a sharp second closing into fast fractions at Keeneland. Continued improvement could have him in the hunt late for a share.

8. Macho Again looked like he was flying home to get second in the Preakness. The fact is that his closing three furlongs of 44 3/5 seconds was more than two seconds slower than he closed in the Derby Trial, and his 92 Beyer was seven points lower. However, he gets due credit for winning the race within the race. I still think this colt's potential is as a sprint/miler type; but he's an in-form closer with a chance to get a piece.

9. For Casino Drive, the mind and body gets the nod over the genes, and the colt finds the mile and a half journey to be too much. Win the Belmont Stakes off just two races and a workout regimen seemingly more appropriate for the National Horse Show, are you kidding me?

10. Ian McKinlay is summoned to the White House to patch up that ever-present quarter crack protruding up from Vice-President Dick Cheney's mouth. "It's a walk in the park," says the confident McKinlay. "He'll be talking out of both sides of his mouth again in no time."


Anonymous said...

Regarding Casino Drive's workouts (and his strange career path), it shouldn't come as any surprise that Japanese horsemen might handle their animals in a different way than Americans.

I think the fact that Casino Drive was ready to win the 1 1/8 mile Peter Pan so impressively after such a long absence says a lot about the horse's overall conditioning. And considering how long he's been pointed at this race, i can't believe he'd be under-prepared.

I'm sure he's no Deep Impact, but Casino Drive is a quality animal, and should be viewed as such.

Anonymous said...

Once again a brilliant list, especially numbers 6 and 10.

I think attendance will be high. Did you see all the Casino Drive fans at Belmont for the Peter Pan? ............

Anonymous said...

Regarding your re-evaluation of Tale of Ekati, I agree that the offspring of any sire that can produce a Rap Tale should be held in high esteem.

El Angelo said...

I think they may break 100k for the Belmont, but it'd be quite a shock if they got near Smarty Jones' 120,000 figure. They've raised the price of attendance enough and put a ban on alcohol that, in a flagging economy, I think a lot of people will stay away.

The 45 seconds after Birdstone crossed the finish line in the '04 Belmont were among the eeriest of my lifetime. The entire place was dead silent, and you could have heard a pin drop.

Anonymous said...

Regarding attendance at The Belmont this weekend, the NASCAR race in Dover, DE suffered from a less than capacity crowd. Here is and excerpt from the local paper:

"The win capped a weekend at Dover that was both sensational and ordinary. The race was run on a glorious, sun-splashed day, with plenty of pomp and pageantry to go around, including an Air Force flyover and the parade of race cars.

But it was clear that the sagging economy had an impact on the attendance at the race.

There were four sponsorship banners covering unused sections of grandstands. That had not been done since the track achieved its present capacity of about 140,000 back in 2002. There were gaps of grandstand seats that were unfilled. NASCAR doesn't release attendance figures for its races, but it was clear Sunday's crowd was several thousand short of capacity."

Anonymous said...

The economy has slowed but these certainly aren’t bad times. The unemployment rate was 25 % during the great depression. I guess Alan had to settle for a smaller high def tv. (lol)

You want bad times – wait until Obama gets in. That is some “church” he attended for 20 years. Maybe the reverends that speak there need to have their mouths shut.

Bob from NJ

Alan Mann said...

Bob - Things may not be so bad for those who have benefited from the Bush tax cuts for the rich...or for oil company execs. But I think many people are feeling otherwise, and I believe that we'll see that reflected in the attendance on Saturday (as was apparently the case at the NASCAR race that Case brought up).

El Angelo said...

Alan: I'm not even sure that's true--check out today's (or yesterday's?) NY Times article on how the wealthy even in NYC are "struggling". It's tough when your bonus is only $2 million.

I will say that with gas prices well over $4 a gallon in New York, you're going to see a lot more people taking the LIRR on Saturday, and they're already overcrowded on Belmont Day. But if you're driving, between parking, admission and gas, it'll cost you $30 to get in the front door. That's not chump change in this economy.

Anonymous said...

With General Admission only $10, it will keep the rifraf out, but it's not like the $10 is too much for people affected by our shaky economy.

The weather should be terrific. The difference between this year and '04 is that SMARTY JONES had developed a rep as the people's horse. He had connections you could really cheer for. This year there's no such fairy tale. However, CASINO DRIVE adds Asian sizzle to the event. Plus the weather is supposed to be great. I think we're looking at 115,000 and it wouldn't shock me to see it go over 120,000. Big race days are healthier than ever. Comparing NASCAR is not valid because most of those fans drive very far in their gas-guzzling RMVs and this is a totally different scenario.

Now what's this about an alcohol ban? I need to have bourbon on track.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan,

I'm going to be in New York next weekend and some friends and I were planning on going to the Belmont.

So the crowd might be a mere 100k, but that's still a lot of folks. Can you give me any insight as to whether this'll be a fun day or not? Is it mostly just standing in lines all afternoon? Got any tips for getting there, where to stake out a spot, least busy beer stand, etc?


Alan Mann said...

>>With General Admission only $10, it will keep the rifraf out, but it's not like the $10 is too much for people affected by our shaky economy.

Agreed, but I think that gas prices and the alcohol ban will be bigger considerations. I put the over/under at 105,000.

>>I need to have bourbon on track.

While all coolers will be searched for beer, it will only take a minor effort on your part to sneak in a flask or bottle on your person...or even mixed into an innocuous looking juice container. I have my bottle of Blanton's ready to go. (But you didn't read that here. :-)

Alan Mann said...

Sam - If you and your friends are looking for a quiet day in a beautiful park setting, then go on Friday! Otherwise, you'll still have a good time, if you go with the right attitude, and are willing to do some footwork. If you're planning on getting there by 1, I wouldn't worry about driving; otherwise I'd suggest the Long Island Railroad. My personal preference is to stake out a spot in the vast backyard. (And remember, spots that are in the hot sun early will likely be in the shade by mid-afternoon...) As far as avoiding lines go, I recommend trekking up to the third floor, at least for wagering purposes. The betting lines in the backyard will be crowded, and, if my brief visit there yesterday is any indication, slow. Seems like they were trying to break in a lot of inexperienced clerks. (I'd advise anyone with a NYRA betting account card to forget about complicated tasks such as adding or taking out money from your account...)

It's a huge track, and I had a great time when there were 120,000 people there in 2004. I don't expect the crowd to be quite that large on Saturday. Lemme know if you have any other questions.

El Angelo said...

My biggest advice is if you're not getting there early (and I mean when the gates open early), bring folding chairs to sit in. The good benches and tables are gone about 3 minutes after the masses are let in, and the remaining area, while vast, is dirt and/or grass, and you need to improvise.

Anonymous said...

Leave plenty of time for the bathroom lines, and expect to share them with members of the opposite sex.

Make your bets at least 15mtp, and preferably two or three races at a time.

If you are a hard core horseplayer, this is not the day for you.

If you go you are there for the event, which includes 100k people in 90 degree heat and the inevitable fallout from that.

I am one of the few regulars who thought Smarty Jones 120k was about 20k too many, the facility simply can not handle that many.

Bring folding chairs if you have any intent of sitting, and binoculars so you can see the big screen TV's.

You will not see the race live unless you have a reserved seat, they are now very strict at enforcing seating area entry, and the front rail will be a mosh pit by 1pm.

Anonymous said...

Alan, do we know if the Japanese wagering pool is comingled with NYRA??

Is it being simulast to Japan?

If so, Casino Drive may be under 2-1, with the Japanese hometown support and the exchange rates.

A lot of value for the non Brownie Americans.

Btw, I am a Belmont Super Delegate, have one extra seat for Hillary if she REALLY wants it.

Anonymous said...

There would be a lot of great value for the non brownie americans IF any of them could run a lick or showed any signs of being Grade One caliber.

Anonymous said...

Value is value, at the right price any of these are worth a wager, they still have to run the race.

For the record, there is another Grade One winner in the field for what it's worth.

To get 20-1 on the Wood Winner who was third in Kentucky presents value.

Anonymous said...

Just watched AP Indy's Peter Pan, immediately followed by Casino Drive's and they are not disimilar in style, the final time or quality of competition.

This is a very good horse, BB will have to earn his crown.

Anonymous said...

Thanks all, for the tips, keep 'em coming!

This is for sure helpful. I'll be going with some folks that probably won't be that into racing, and I just want to anticipate some of their gripes. Hopefully we can win a whole pile of money and it'll make for a fun experience.

Anonymous said...

TALE OF EKATI is not a bad horse. I like him more than DENIS OF CORK.

but the Wood memorial was a false Grade One race. The closing fracs were horrid. No thank.s

Alan Mann said...

>>Alan, do we know if the Japanese wagering pool is comingled with NYRA??

Is it being simulcast to Japan?

No comingled pools as far as I know, but I'm guessing that a fair amount of Japanese money will find their way into the US pools. I think Casino Drive is going to be lower in odds than we might think.

Anonymous said...

I am a White Liberal with a trust fund.
Deal with It!

I live in a predominately White neighborhood.
Deal with It!

You guys call this a recession....please.
Deal with It!

Vote Obama!

El Angelo said...

Here's my total guess as to what the post-time odds will look like:

Big Brown: 1-2
Casino Drive: 5-2
Denis of Cork: 12-1
Tale of Ekati: 20-1
Ready's Echo: 30-1
Everyone else: between 40-1 and 60-1

Anonymous said...

They decided NOT to patch BB today, which is definately a bad sign.

Going to wait until Friday, wonder if he will even breeze?