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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Surf. No Turf.

It was just a week or so short of a year ago that we were in Solana Beach, CA, just down the road from Del Mar; and when we (or just I) weren't at the track, we might very well have been watching the omnipresent surfers out in the Pacific.

Well, on Monday evening, we were watching surfers again.

No, we're unfortunately not at Del Mar, which opens on Wednesday (thus leaving just two short days for those people I know who used to be able to catch five or even six days there and be back in time for Saratoga). But rather, we were at Rockaway Beach in Queens. So instead of looking back from the ocean, and seeing this...

we were seeing this.

It's sometimes said about us New Yorkers that we can live here all our lives and be totally oblivious to anything even just slightly off the well-beaten paths. Who knew that just a short drive down to Woodhaven Blvd., a left turn, and a straight shot 20-25 minutes down the road lands one at the Atlantic Ocean! (I generally don't make it past Rockaway Boulevard, where one hangs a left to get to the Big A.)

And in a way, a beach is a beach no matter where you are; they each have some common elements of beauty.

(Though not all of them have nearly this much trash strewn about.)

Another big difference here from Solana Beach is that there's no racing nearby....not even close. 3 hours and 42 minutes to Saratoga, according to Google Maps. Not for the next seven weekends anyway. No thoroughbred racing in the New York Metropolitan area for eight weeks in the summer, hard to believe! And just one short weekend up there presently on the schedule for us at this time.

Del Mar is sticking with the shorter five-day-a week schedule that it cut back to last year....but the outlook for the meet is questionable at this point.

Available horse inventory in Southern California is down more than 25 percent, from 3,800 horses a year ago to 2,800.
Not long ago, most horsemen wanted to be at Del Mar. This year, [Racing director Tom] Robbins said the stables are "not as filled up as we have been in the past." Del Mar historically has 2,200 horses on the grounds. This year there will be an estimated 1,900.

Some horsemen are remaining at Hollywood Park and monitoring the Polytrack surface at Del Mar before committing to a start. "They are waiting to see," Robbins said. [Daily Racing Form]
It's the 4th year of Polytrack at Del Mar, and it's obviously not encouraging that horsemen still have this kind of doubt (though this article is deficient in that Brad Free doesn't go on to tell us what exactly they are waiting to see. Safety? Or whether the track suits their horses' running styles?)

In any event, I really do miss not going there this year. Saratoga is still Saratoga, but the quality of the racing there as compared to Del Mar, the horse population at the latter notwithstanding, no longer compensates for the far superior weather and the spectacular beaches as far as I'm concerned.


Figless said...

Its not just DelMar, although I am sure there are a few horsemen reluctant to ship until they see how the track is playing (it has been inconsistant in the past), there is a big decline in California horse population in general.

Plenty of stock has permanently left the state for tracks offering true dirt tracks. It was not difficult to predict that once the surfaces were defined the horses that did not fit the surface would ship out of town, for good, since there was not dirt option.

Same thing is happening to Keeneland, horsemen are not going to run horses on a surface that does not fit them, they will find other options, so they now skip those short meets.

The initial stats touting the increased field size on these surfaces were way overhyped, of course everyone gave their horses a few shots over the new surfaces.

But would they come back? That was the question that should have been asked. They have not.

Even with the extra day I suspect Saratoga's average field size will top Del Mar, and the quality on the top end will remain superior, and make no mistake a big reason will be the surface.

Anonymous said...

Quite agree with Figless in re Del Mar-Spa comparison. The marketplace is voting for dirt tracks and once again, as in the case of Del Mar, those who would defy the market are going to be the losers.

CA went ahead anyway and regulated synthetic tracks into existence. And like so much regulatory overreach at the federal and state levels, which includes most regulatory policy, it turned out to have severe, unintended consequences.

Over regulation is killing business and the sputtering economic recovery.Politicians and government bureaucrats are just not smart enough to understand markets. And that includes racing regulators in NY as well as CA. /S/greenmtnpunter

El Angelo said...

Ah yes, over regulation is what just killed the financial sector, caused the housing economy to bubble and burst, let derivatives run wild, allowed AIG to insure securities with no assets on hand...oh wait, never mind.

Figless said...

A nice article explaining the Del Mar surface issue from today's drf.

Consitancy is the issue.

One trainer indicates he did not take stalls at DelMar simply as a cost savings measure, opting to ship from HOL instead, likely explaining some of the decrease in stall requests.

Why incur the cost of moving your whole operation when you can just charge the individual owners who actually start a horse at the meet?

As for the CAL AWT decision, whatever your politics it is now clear that this particular mandate was premature and had unintended consequences.

Anyway, good luck to all at both premier summer meets, although Monmouth is knocking on the door to join them.

Anonymous said...

hard to believe but rockaway has better fish tacos!

Alan Mann said...

We passed right by Rockaway Taco! The Head Chef was there recently and highly approves!!

El Angelo said...

First Saratoga card's out, and it's not bad. Odd that there's no 2yo maiden race for colts, which I recall being a staple of opening day. The ungraded stakes race looks fun.

Alan Mann said...

I think there are more horses entered in the first four races than for some entire Belmont cards!

steve in nc said...

If you like beach, you shoulda been at Monmouth. There's even a clothing optional beach in the federal area (don't tell the tea party) or at least there used to be.

Not so many "Coney Island Whitefish" as on the NY beaches, either.

And I know the quality of NY racing has sucked, but I sure wish i could get away to Saratoga for a week. Crisp clear mornings at the Oklahoma training track. Dips in Lake George. A nice town to walk around in at night. Big contentious fields. Glimpses at future stars. Check out the sales auctions - you can look for free.

If you have friends to say with and don't have to pay $200 a night, it can be heaven. No racing at all down here except some jumps for a day or two in Tryon. Everything is relative, so before you moan too loud about Saratoga, remember that July afternoon among the dozens of people and handful of horses at Belmont.