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Monday, August 23, 2010

Good Card, Bad Card?

Steve Crist wrote on his Cristblog prior to Saturday's card:

It's a great Alabama showdown, but the rest of the Saratoga card? Yeesh.
I might have said the same up until pretty recently; but these days, when I go to the track, I wanna gamble. A six horse field with two overwhelming favorites; if I was there or playing on Saturday, the Alabama might have been the race that I was least interested in. Blind Luck vs. Devil May Care? Yeah, whatever.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch where the Alabama Day card includes two statebred maiden races, a $20k maiden claimer, and three conditioned-claiming races.
Well, I love the conditioned-claiming races, they're some of the most bettable races on the cards these days. Ample form, class and distance moves, trainer angles; plenty of juice. On Saturday, the 4th race wasn't too great with six horses and a winning even money; but the 7th had a ten horse field with a (redboard alert) suspicious dropdown favorite from a cold barn who finished out of the money. (A race with a big field and a vulnerable favorite is just as good if not better than one with a 4-1 favorite, so we shouldn't reflexively complain when horses are odds-on. They often present opportunity, whether subsidizing the odds on others, or serving as a welcome "free" marker in the multi-race bets.) The 9th was also a solid ten horse field, with co-favorites at 5-2.

Additionally, to note nowadays that a card features maiden claiming races is no longer necessarily a terrible thing, at least to me. Though I've always railed against those races and avoided them religiously, I must say that I find that the ones for turf have become eminently playable and formful. The 11th on Saturday, which Crist summarily dismissed, was a highly competitive ten horse field which produced a (redboard alert) fair payoff on the second choice 2-1 Recharged, from Linda Rice. (I've always believed that you can generally get good prices on favorites in the final race because bettors are shopping for prices in an attempt to get out.) The two state-bred maiden races that Crist mentioned had fields of nine and 11, and not a horse under 5-2.

You might be thinking that I've lowered my standards and have become accepting of mediocrity. But I'd say that I'm merely adjusting to reality. The quality of the races at Saratoga when it comes to class will never be what it was; that's a fact. To mope about that is to do so about Sunday doubleheaders or civil political debate. But the racing can still be compelling to handicap and thrilling to watch even if the horses are for sale.

Or, I guess you might be thinking that I'm no longer a fan, just a gambler. And that might be true to a point. To be honest, I just don't find following the stakes divisions to be that interesting anymore given the nature of racing in the 21st century, as discussed here ad nauseum over the years, and the way that the Breeders' Cup has reduced the once climactic fall season to a series of preps.

And if that makes me a degenerate gambler rather than a true racing fan, that's fine with me. After all, it's a gambling game, and I think that's how the game should be marketing itself anyway. You could have an extra 5,000 people at Saratoga next Sunday going "Oooo, Rachel, she's so gorgeous, yeah, go Calvin, honey bet a dollar to win as a souvenir" and it ain't gonna do a thing for future business. I can almost guarantee you that virtually none of them will ever see her race in person again. Bring them in to a comfortable setting, present some good brew and food, provide some wholesome entertainment (or some scantily clothed chicks), turn them on to trifectas, 50-cent pick threes, and dime superfectas, and just maybe you have a shot.


jk said...

Here is an update to my rant about the DRF lacking pp's for Del Mar and Arlington on Saturday:

I e-mailed my comments to customer service at and have not heard back.

I submitted my comments to Steve Crist's blog at and he chose not to publish them.

Ignoring me will not make me go away, I will be contacting the CEO directly. I have kept the cover page of Saturday's DRF as my "smoking gun".

jk said...

I thought Saturday's Spa card was playable but definitely a cut below the quality of past years. Not so long ago there were allowance races which were closer to graded stakes in quality. Nothing close to that on Saturday. Still, a good betting card. If you played Johnny V and Linda Rice you did ok.

jk said...

Genting hopes to expand beyond Aqueduct
August 23, 2010 11:00AM

Genting Berhad, the Malaysian company that is close to getting final approval for its $380 million bid to operate the city's first gambling parlor at the Aqueduct racetrack, has big plans for the Queens raceway and for expansion into the rest of the country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

El Angelo said...

You know Alan, I see your point on the "good card/bad card" issue, but it's just frustrating to see certain types of races no longer exist. For example, when was the last time we saw an allowance race for 2 year olds? Or a non-winners of 3? Hell, even an overnight stakes on a weekend?

alan said...

>>For example, when was the last time we saw an allowance race for 2 year olds?

Yeah, we still have those, but they're now called Grade 1 Stakes Races.

El Angelo said...

On your other point, I agree that the gambling angle needs to be played up more. The general public is never going to embrace the majesty of the sport the way they do in England and Ireland. Better to show that it's actually a beatable game if you're good.

Anonymous said...

Bring them in to a comfortable setting, present some good brew and food, provide some wholesome entertainment (or some scantily clothed chicks), turn them on to trifectas, 50-cent pick threes, and dime superfectas, and just maybe you have a shot.

You forgot 26% Takeout.

alan said...

>>You forgot 26% Takeout.

Fair point, but a new player isn't going to know or care. If he/she wins $100, they're not going to be like 'oh, it would have paid $110 in Kentucky.'

Figless said...

jk - Crist was crowing about the great card at Arlington on Million Day and his paper doesn't publish the pp's? He is obviously too embarrassed to publish your complaint.

Did he bother to reply personally?

Once or twice he replied personally to me when he felt my complaints were not justified.

As for races I miss?

The old straight, non conditioned 25 claimer when it used to be the bottom at the Spa (all of three years ago, but it seems like ages). It would overfill with horses from around the country, a virtual claiming crown event, hot horses moving up, big dropdowns, pure fun.

We lost the nw3 alw condition when they began writing the overnight stakes, so I dont mind that too much.

Why we need five horse NY Bred 2yo Stakes this week when there are almost identical races at Finger Lakes next weekend is beyond me. And they will likely scratch down to four I surmise.

These deserve to be nw1 allowances if any ever did.

Getting tough up there when they need to compete with Finger Lakes for horses.

Anonymous said...

Alan, please don't give up the ship on the stakes divisons as we need all of the fans we can muster to put pressure on owners, trainers, breeders, and racing journalists to return the handicap division to prominence. The first step is to go backto a point system for Eclipse Awards which will force owners to run their stars in more than just a few preps for the Breeders Cup. This is the only way to re-build a fan bringing the division contenders to the best tracks all over the country. /S/greenmtnpunter

El Angelo said...

Fans like us would love to see the stars run more often, but how much national interest really would be generated if the Quality Roads ran 8-10 times a year? Cigar, Skip Away and Silver Charm ran frequently and the long term uptick has been at best negigible.