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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where's The Action? (Updated)

- The email I got from communications director John Lee at NYRA this past week read:


There is no live racing at Aqueduct until Dec. 26.
I didn't need to be reminded. Instead, the missive had a mocking tone.
I will be in sporadically and will be available by email & cell phone.
Maybe I'll give him a call and ask him what the hell I should do this weekend.

Of course, given the wintry storm we had here today, no doubt racing would have been canceled at least for Friday anyway. And, truth be told, I actually have plenty to do between a family holiday event on Saturday, and Sunday's crucial Jets game at 4PM in Seattle. But I miss the racing in the days leading up Christmas, when, once upon a time, in an era when people received such a thing, the crowd would be swelled with b-b-bonus money to burn, and the atmosphere would be noticeably livelier. Being the sentimental sap that I am, I also think back fondly on roving carolers who once roamed the clubhouse, and even the cheap menorah in the lobby.

I have to laugh, thinking back to that Plonk column of a few weeks ago, with his pipe dream slimmed-down racing schedule. He was talking about months with no racing at the Big A. I'm having withdrawal pains because they're off for ten days. So the hell with that as far as I'm concerned. The more the merrier, I say. I suppose you could make a reasonable case that the sport might be better off, but the glut of action is a big part of the fun for me. Aqueduct is actually open this weekend for simulcasting, and I could see going there for awhile before the game on Sunday. Since the Big A is the, ahem, only track I know of which is closed this weekend!, there's plenty of action there. That's the fun of it to me; I sure as hell wouldn't be there if there were only two or three signals. That would be like watching TVG during the winter.

- Interesting turf stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday; the Woodchopper for three-year olds. Macho Again (Macho Uno) makes his first start since his second to My Pal Charlie in the Super Derby in September. That winner went on to run a close 4th in the BC Dirt Mile, while 4th place finisher Golden Yank won the Ohio and Zia Park Derbies. The Jim Dandy winner is clearly the class of the field. However, as the 3-1 second choice in the morning line, this could be one of those classic situations when a horse with some name recognition is overbet trying grass for the first time. There's nothing obvious in his pedigree to suggest he'll take to the surface - he has a weak Tomlinson number of 247. And, in fact, his two Polytrack races, one at Keeneland, have been bad. So I would throw him out and look for value elsewhere if he is indeed first or second choice.

My head tells me not to pick a second time starter whose only race was a win in a six furlong sprint on the Woodbine Poly in this stakes with some formidable grass runners. But the pedigree is intriguing, the connections supremely confident, so what the hell (though I'd prefer odds closer to 12-1 than his 8-1 morning line). Naturalyontherocks is by Empire Maker, whose only graded stakes winner of 2008, Acoma, accomplished that on grass. He's out of Icy Warning, a Cavaet mare who, according to the Form's Closer Look, won eight grass races and has produced three turf winners including stakes winning Snow Cone. And Icy Warning is a full sister to the multiple graded turf winner Ops Smile.

Myboycharlie (5-2) wired an allowance field in his last, but doesn't figure to enjoy an easy lead here. Instead, there could be a lively battle between he and Jimmy Shimms (7-2), for Asmussen. Evade (8-1) changed tactics successfully in his last, rating slightly off the pace in an allowance on the Poly at Keeneland. That strategy could serve him well here, with Leparoux aboard.

- UPDATE: Pick at Hollywood today from DiscreetCat.


Anonymous said...


What is your position on closing Aqueduct for racing, not for a month or two, but forever, and making accomodations for some sort of a short winter meet at Belmont?

Alan Mann said...

Aqueduct has a particular soft spot in my heart, and as such, I would hate to see it go. In addition, the idea of a winter meet at Belmont as it is presently constructed, is unacceptable. It's far too cold and stands in total shade during the winter months. Whatsmore, I find the one turn routes there tedious with the current schedule - without the angle of one-turn to two-turns that we see now when racing changes venues, I think it would be unbearable.

However, the economic and practical reality is that we don't really need the two tracks, and I accept that one day the Big A will be no longer. Hopefully, a separate and smaller winter racing oval with a small grandstand to accommodate the snowbirds at Belmont will be part of the deal.

Alan Mann said...

Hollywood - Race 9

#3 Mr. Chairman (5/1 ml)

Drops out of the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup where he was quite tough on the lead, shaking off Winchester and opening up some daylight into the lane before getting run down by Champs Elysses and company in the late stages of that 1 1/2 race. Turns back to 1 1/16 miles here, very similar to the distance turnback which resulted in his Cal Cup Classic win. Figures to revert back to the stalking style of that win, and is perfectly drawn to the outside of probable pacesetter Lang Field. Looks pretty tough here, with the positional advantage on Lang Field and the recency edge on Neko Bay and Great Hunter, each of whom are returning from long layoffs. Expecting a good run at a square price.

Anonymous said...

Just learned that Mr. Chairman has been scratched.