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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Sport A Tough Sell

It can't be a good sign at all that the weekend cards at Aqueduct were so very desultory after that extended break during the week preceding. I've always been a fan of winter racing here, but I'm having a really hard time sticking with it at this time. And it didn't help to be at the track on Saturday, when a) the card particularly sucked; and b) the cancellation of live racing steered me toward warmer climes and the far higher quality of racing they attract. Turf racing, cool! Maybe I'm wrong about this, and, in fact, other regulars I've queried haven't expressed the same opinion (at least up until this weekend). But the racing here now seems particularly drab to me this year, even for the heart of the winter.

- Interesting comment on the last post by Steve Zorn.

It actually wasn't the cold, but the track condition that caused yesterday's cancellation. I was talking with Rosie Napravnik this morning, in the warmth of the Belmont training track clockers' stand, and she said that the track material was clumping up and making the surface hazardous. And here I thought we'd finally found track maintenance folks who had a handle on how to keep things going through the winter.
The original explanation was that the racing was canceled due to "extreme cold," but a subsequent press release said merely that racing "has been cancelled [sic] effective after Race 3 on January 30, 2010." Additionally, Jerry Bossert reported in the News: It must have been a close vote as no jockey wanted to comment on the cancellation, including [Ramon] Dominguez.

So it definitely seems as if something was going on that both sides didn't want us to know, so thanks to Steve for pointing that out. NYRA obviously would rather not have questions raised about the safety of its surfaces at this point in time. The problem that he described sounds like something we sometimes hear about on synthetic tracks in cold weather at tracks like Woodbine or Turfway.

Hal Handel did his live chat on Friday, and you can read the transcript here. It covers a wide range of issues and seems worth checking out, though I wouldn't call it a frank and open exchange He did however take a couple of questions about the environmental violations, and when asked about the amount of fines, responded "we do not believe that the reality is even remotely connected with some of the news accounts." And that's the only public statement I've yet seen from the association regarding the matter.

Pletcher won the third with Sharp Instinct ($5.20), and ran 1-2 in the Coyote Lake with Tiger's Rock ($5.30) and favored Nite Light, continuing his torrid pace at the Big A. The Toddster has 23 wins from 52 starters on the inner track (44%), and 36 for 92 (39%) overall since racing switched from Belmont.

At Gulfstream, Bickersons (Silver Deputy) romped in the Forward Gal at 9-1, earning a Beyer of 97. She Be Wild was 5th at 7-5; at least I had that part right, as Sister Resistor, bet heavily to 7-2, far below where you would have expected based on the prices on her as the second leg of daily doubles, was a never-in-it 8th. Joanie's Catch, second in the Old Hat at 48-1, was second here at 51-1. What a race in the tenth as Busca ($12) survived a four-way blanket photo finish after being forced wide turning for home.


Anonymous said...

Well, that makes more sense. Weather conditions were MUCH worse on Friday when they surprisingly ran the full card, so I had a hard time buying the "extreme cold" excuse for Saturday.

And yes, the card were very dissapoiting after such a break, Philly Park is killing them.

Soon they are going to start carding non winners of five races in the last 23 months or 5 year olds, or perhaps a starter handicap for horses? gelded in the last 18 mos., the conditions are getting ridiculous, and I dont mean the weather.

Found my self trying to figure out if n/w race in 6mos for 7500 tag is actually a tougher spot than n/w race in a year for 16k.

Brain damage.

That said, if the VLT's were up and running this would not be a problem, purses would exceed Philly and the horses would return.

steve in nc said...

Thanks for the scoop on the track.

Glad they didn't cancel on Friday - the card was good (except for one race decimated with scratching of 4 of the 7 entered) and was good to me.

I noticed that on Sunday, a horse - Saratoga somethingorother - who had dumped his rider a week ago and "won" the race riderless, came back and won even with a jock on top. A new angle to follow?

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Because Steve Zorn says it was the surface that caused the cancellation we are supposed to believe him? Who died and left him as the final word on raing in NY? He seems to have a lot to say, mostly negative about NYRA, but I would hardly call him automatically credible. Sorry, but I find it hard to believe the track was fine on Friday, unraceable on Saturday, and fine on Sunday. And, in watching all 21 live races this weekend, ALL the races seemed to be run evenly, including the 3 on Saturday. Steve Zorn blaming the surface seems consistent with his constant NYRA bashing. Certainly if a rider told him that it wouldn't be the first time a jockey has given a bogus excuse. Or maybe I am wrong and everyone believes everything people around the racetrack say.

Alan Mann said...

Confused - That's a fair point, though I know Steve and personally would vouch for him anyday.

However, answer me this: Why did NYRA initially put out a press release blaming the cancellation on "extreme cold," and then later sent out another one with the heading **PLEASE USE THE REVISED VERSION OF THIS RELEASE BELOW** which deletes the "extreme cold" reference and gives no explanation for canceling the races at all. Isn't that a little odd?

Anonymous said...

That's a good question, but I can't speak for NYRA, just as I don't think Rosie Napravnik or Steve Zorn can. Maybe you could contact somebody there.

jamesp said...

Alan, your blog has grown and gained legitimacy over time. It's high time that you take that big step up to the big leagues and stop allowing anonymous responses here. I know that a screen name still allows a measure of anonymity, but we will at least be able to separate one person from another. I realize that others may not agree that this is important.

And not to lecture anybody, but you have someone today who has waxed pretty critical and questioned Zorn's credibility, but who? And I neither know Steve Zorn nor dismiss what today's poster has to say about him.

It's just that for someone to publicly criticize like this, it's way more respectful to the target of the criticism if there is one less degree of separation from the critic.

jk said...

Saturday's canceled card had 3 cheap claimers and 2 cheap maiden claimers. 5 crap races on a 9 race card on a Saturday. The feature race was the 3rd and it went downhill from there. Add in the dump that is the Big A and it is amazing anyone shows up.

Anonymous said...

to Mann the Gate,

good if you realign to NY racing's, bricks and mortar in your interesting blogs.

Forget about the complex, political Dr No Paterson and for God's sake, let any worn bidder, try to forward our cause, on behalf of ;

NY's racing/Stenched backstraight, NY community and most importantly a Paterson blackmailed budget fallstop - NY schooling, especially after all of the bidders painful political procrastinations.

PENN and SLG are maybe still worthy bidders, but there would have been, drawn-down backroom proposals, to compromise, other bidding issues, regarding upfront fees.

It is well published, Sheldon Silver is anti-racing in regard to the various gutsy, ripped off parties over past years, but Alan your reward ;

a scoop ; a couple of losing bidders are re-entering NY racing, under an 'inter-state', racing guise !!

But today, may the dice be community thrown, by NY's broad racing interests, or we won't even smell horse glue.