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Monday, August 24, 2009

Nice Day for a Drive

In the weeks leading up to Saratoga, I warned on at least a couple of occasions that the quality of the cards would drop off precipitously come the third and 4th weeks. I think I've been pretty wrong about that, at least to this point. Sure, there's been a fair share of state-bred races and maiden claimers, but I think the cards have been pretty solid as a whole. And the races have certainly been competitive from a betting standpoint, even when the fields number "only" six and seven.

However, today's card is more like what I was talking about, especially with two races off the turf due to the weekend rain. (And Wednesday's card contains no less than four maiden claimers.) Two short-field state-bred stakes races, one of them consisting entirely of horses coming off maiden wins, ugh; three miserable state-bred maiden races, and an awful bottom level nw2 claimer. Looks like an advertisement for five day a week racing as far as I can tell. Weather seems nice up there (albeit with the usual PM storm advisory). Great day for a drive out to the Berkshires or Vermont, or a shorter trip up the Northway to Lake George or Lake Moreau; or, if driving's not your thing, check out the Tang Museum at Skidmore (never disappoints), and go and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Saratoga Springs State Park. Why anyone would instead spend the day watching crummy races like these I can't really say. Seems plain unnecessary, and certainly not in line with the tradition of great racing at Saratoga. Just a way to fill the coffers I suppose.

- Trainer David Jacobsen comes off looking bad in the New York Times today in the latest entry in Joe Drape's continuing Happy Series on thoroughbred racing. Jacobsen is tweaked in the article for claiming Tour of the Cat last fall, and bringing him back to the races this past winter in bottom level claimers at the age of eleven.

Jacobson’s subsequent campaigning of the horse was noticed by horse rescue advocates. In a span of 36 days in January, Tour of the Cat raced three times in New York and once in Maryland. He won twice and finished second and fourth at the lowest level of the sport. [NYT]
Hmmm, two wins and a second; seems to me as if the old boy was enjoying himself. Of course, the subsequent matter of his being shipped to Presque Isle after failing to pass the vet at Finger Lakes seems to be pushing things. “I believed he was in good condition, and had some races left,” Jacobsen said. Maybe so, but certainly an admirable gesture by Maggi Moss to claim the horse and have him retired to the farm, where he's reported to be getting fat and lazy.

Still, my recollection from earlier in the year is that some people thought it was pretty cool to see an old warrior such as Tour of the Cat still competing as long as he seemed to be enjoying it as he had. In fact, NYRA thought it was cool enough to feature on its Facebook page. Now, NYRA's COO Hal Handel is quoted here as saying that “The bottom end of the rung can be hideous for a horse;" and coming in the context of this article as it does, it seems as if NYRA has played this story both ways, and in the manner which happened to suit it best at the time.


jk said...

Cindy Adams in the Post has a good interview with Steve Wynn regarding the Big A project.


"I'm not exactly a first-time guy. The World Trade Center still isn't up. Me, I build my places. Just doing an office tower is a walk in the park. Kindergarten. My average place is 6 million feet plus another 2 million back of the house. Plus 25 acres of spas, lobbies, massage places, shops, restaurants, theaters, parks. I've created over 200 million feet.

"Aqueduct is a competitive environment. The Hard Rock's bidding, but they're more known for pool parties. S.L. Green's another. We have photos of vagrants sleeping at their site in Coral Gables. You don't find that anywhere near my places."

onecalicocat said...

Re: Tour of the Cat
At least the hypocrisy was relatively small on this one.

I just got around to reading the Joe McGinniss book, "The Big Horse," which highlights the late trainer P.G. Johnson, Volponi and Saratoga.
I knew of Joe from his Philly days. The book is a few years old but Joe always could write and he seems to have a long background with horse racing.
When I was a young reporter, I got stopped for speeding by a Philly cop at about 3 a.m coming home from work. He asked what I was doing out so late and I told him I was reporter.
"What do you think of that pinko columnist Joe McGinniss? he asked.
With the operative word clue being "pinko" I told the officer that I dsliked Joe intensely.
He let me off with a warning.

Anonymous said...

Wynn's name comes up at the end of the piece on the Ho family connection to Chinese crime and the partership with MGM.

Anonymous said...


Today's card is quite weak. clm $20,000 nw2life at the Spa!

They are off the turf today?

Alan Mann said...

4th and 6th are off the turf.

Rachel Alexandra to run in the Woodward.

El Angelo said...

The Woodward's actually an easier spot. Quality Road would probably be favored over all those other horses.

Anonymous said...

agree the woodward is easier than the travers, but think they are more afraid of the two extra furlongs than the competition.

just hope nyra manages to get her vs. zenyatta AND careless jewell and whatever fillies darley/godolphin decides to run in the beldame.

Anonymous said...

Seems you were waiting all meet to find a card to criticize at the Spa.

For fun I decided to take a peak at the Wednesday card at DelMar and even with their five day week that card rivals todays Spa card in lack of quality and quantity, including 3 maiden claimers and a total of 20 betting interests in the first three races, none of which make up for it in quality.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the silly $1m offer if they both run in the Beldame is even close to enough to get the job done. -JP from SD

Alan Mann said...

>>Seems you were waiting all meet to find a card to criticize at the Spa.

Well, I did say that I was wrong about that, didn't I? And what does Del Mar have to do with anything? Say what you will about the cards there, there's always this.

ballyfager said...

IMO yesterday's card was every bit as bad as today's. You people who praise the racing at Sar, I guess, aren't old enough to remember when the racing there was really good.

By the time Sar opened the two yr. olds already had established form and that racing was very competitive and very bettable. And there were NO races for NY-breds.

El Angelo said...

Ballyfager: yes, I'm not old enough to remember when Saratoga was a 4-week meet and horses ran earlier and more often. But that's pretty much water under the bridge, no? Comparing Saratoga now to 20 years ago is unproductive, IMO.

Alan Mann said...

Unfortunately ballyfager, I am old enough to remember the four week meets (today would be the last day), and no, today's racing doesn't even compare. Not even close. As you said, no state-bred races, and you'd see those solid Frankie Martin 40-50K claimer types run back three or four times. But as El Angelo said, I don't think it's an appropriate comparison nowadays. The problems afflicting the quality of the meet - less frequency, far less seasoning and experience for the two-year olds, state-bred programs to satisfy - are industry-wide for the most part. It will never be as it was before. So, I'm generally happy if the fields are full (though not too full) and competitive. The bar on quality is set far lower.

Unknown said...

The racing is clearly cheaper now than it ever has been. I've saved some SPA programs from the late 90's and early this decade. It's clear as day that the racing in NY has been cheapened.

I think the addition of slots at Mid Atlantic tracks has raised purses to a level that horsemen are running there. The good 50k and above claimers are running out of town. Another thing is PJ Campo. While he's highly regarded for putting together big fields, he's introduce the conditioned claiming condition and during his tenure they run 3 NYB races a day.
As much as I despise slots I think the added revenue is needed to increase purses. If that's what it will take to bring back good mid to high level claimers and allowance horses I'm all for it.

Unknown said...

PJ carded a real stinker on the day before the Travers. It looks like he is taking a page out the racing secretaries out in So Cal book. The day before a Million Dollar Pick 6 featuring a card where a carryover is almost guaranteed.

I was going to take off or work a half day. I was expecting a solid card capped off with the Baruch. Instead I see a card that is filled with horses who will be running at Aqueduct in 6 months especially from races 6 to 10excluding the Baruch.

ballyfager said...

El Angelo, et al,

It's much worse than you think. It started to go downhill in the Seventies. I remember a defining moment when a horse from W. Virginia, or maybe Ohio, won the Hopeful.

El Angelo said...

Okay, it's not what it was in the 70's (neither is pretty much anything in racing). So what? It's still the best meet of the year, and if some of the weekday cards stink, skip them.

ballyfager said...

It probably is the best meet of the year now, by default. But it wasn't ten or so years ago. GP was, but then Frank Stronach got his hands on it.