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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big Check

- Nearly two weeks after the tornado which hit Queens, our internet service continues to be an iffy proposition. So, sorry for the intermittent posting, which will continue until Time Warner and Con Ed put their heads together and finally figure this out.

You see, I told you there would be one of those giant checks. Five days before deadline too.

The Governor wasn't there, but he got to issue a statement.

“All along, I’ve said that securing this deal and moving ahead with the project at Aqueduct is critical for the future of New York....The state, in partnership with Genting, has the opportunity to create jobs for the community [blah blah blah]"
While Paterson is certainly played a role in the delay with his failure to take charge, and ultimately acceding to the Senate Democrats' attempted AEG power play, his decision to re-bid the process, which seemed absurd at the time, turned into a stroke of genius. Not only are we getting an operator which is at least equally, and quite arguably, more qualified than any that bid before, the state is getting more money than it ever imagined it would. So nice going there, gov.

So, we're looking at one to two months of environmental review, and then six months, we're told, until the first 1,600 machines are up and running.
..many of the architectural flourishes, such as the remade facade and a gigantic fountain at the main entrance, will take more than 2 1/2 years to complete. [DRF]
Yeah, we're gonna have to wait longer for that fountain, damn. I fear that we're also going to be waiting for significant improvements on the racing side at the Big A, as I've read statements from NYRA indicating that Saratoga will be the first priority. I dunno, other than the much-needed renovations to the backstretch there, it seems to me that Saratoga is in pretty good shape compared to the barely acceptable conditions at the track where racing is conducted far longer than the other tracks, and where the hardcore loyal horseplayers do their part to support the sport during the harsh winter months. So here's hoping that it's not 2 1/2 years before they spruce the place up.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday News and Notes

A million bux bucks on the line at Parx Racing in the Pennsylvania Derby; with Friend Or Foe expected to scratch from the field of seven, and the local entrant Severe Weather appearing hopelessly overmatched (despite him being a clear hunch bet around here), it's a real shot for some nice though hardly overwhelming Grade 2 animals to pick up a big check for their connections. "It didn't look like it came up a real million-dollar race," noted Anthony Dutrow, explaining why he reversed course and entered A Little Warm (3-1).

I recall before the Travers that Dutrow wasn't particularly enthused about his son of Stormin Fever's chances. "Good means good, it doesn't mean a winner. I hope he's a winner," he remarked before the race. Here, while still being cautious, he definitely seems more optimistic.

"He's not a good enough horse to go out there and run the way he runs every time he runs. The Travers wasn't his day. He seems like he's very, very good now." [Philly Daily News]
With John Velazquez having committed to Zito's Morning Line (9-2) when it appeared that A Little Warm would not run, Garrett Gomez is in for the ride. And Dutrow may not be that upset with that considering that Johnny V managed to get his colt hung out a solid four wide on the first turn despite breaking from the five hole with a long run to the turn. He was similarly wide turning for home and thus had every excuse for not firing in the lane; especially considering how tiring the Saratoga main track seemed to be in the route races late in the meet (as I discussed in this post). He also could have simply bounced after running two career best Beyers, and I look for him to bounce back strongly here. It is a concern that his close-to-the-pace running style mirrors that of First Dude (8-5), Exhi (5-2), and the aforementioned Morning Line, but seems like a good spot to just go with the horse who I think is best of an unproven lot.

- The claim box has seemed rather quiet at Belmont, but a couple of horses changed hands for a hefty 50K in Friday's second; including the winner, Ea ($12.20). Tom Albertrani may have tried to slip this one by first time for a tag, but he was taken by Rick Dutrow for Vincent Scuderi. Seems like a useful claim for Belmont and the mile distance at the Big A given this six-year old gelded son of Dynaformer's excellent record of 3-1-1 in one-turn routes; so could be a sharp claim here.

First-time starter Silver Horseshoe ($7.60) took the 4th for trainer Barclay Tagg and Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms. Tagg is off to a good start at this meeting with a record of 17-5-1-1. This is a three-year old daughter of the sophomore sire Value Plus out of an Old Trieste mare.

Bill Mott shortened Erma Lee to seven furlongs in the 9th, and that did the trick for this two-year old daughter of Stormy Atlantic from the distaff family of G1 winners Inside Information, Smuggler, and Educated Risk; and the PA Derby winner Gone Astray. It was the second winner of the day for the stable, which bookended the card with Midnight Mischief ($7.80) in the first; Mott is off to a blazing start here with a record of 12-5-0-2. [Updated: Actually, he's won his last four in a row.]

And, going back to Thursday, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the curious case of the first-time starter Pike Place. 20-1 in the morning line for trainer Frank Martin, who doesn't have a debut winner in at least five years, this son of Smarty Jones was inexplicably sent off at 3-1, and promptly ran dead last every step of the way. He even left our verbose chart-caller speechless; he could only muster a one-word description of trailed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Belmont Notes

Tahitian Warrior lost the third on Wednesday at odds of 1-4; and Dave Litfin notes in the Form that Godolphin Stable is having a down year, with just seven U.S. winners, none in graded stakes. Of course, that's not the only problem facing the Sheikh of Dubai these days. Godolphin purchased this three-year old son of Maria's Mon after he won his debut at Gulfstream early in the year, defeating 11 horses who have combined to win a grand total of four races since then, all maiden claiming races. There's a big red-board for you.

From there, Tahitian Warrior was shipped to Dubai and ran 10th on the grass at Meydan before coming back here to win two out of three allowance races on dirt, earning triple digit Beyers in those wins. He therefore earned the tag useful form on the Godolphin website; but I imagine they were looking for more than "useful" when they bought him. He wasn't very useful to the early Pick Four players who singled him on Wednesday, as he was unable to collar Birdrun ($11.20), who proved to be unintimidatable when confronted by the heavy favorite.

Humilarity ($5.80) won the 6th for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who continues to win at a hefty win percentage, as opposed to his record as a jockey. This was his 6th winner from 15 starters at this meeting. The verbose NY-based chart-caller must have gone to the bathroom during this race, as the entire comment section was shorter than we sometimes see for a single horse. Refreshed, he made up for it in the 7th.

RJ HOPE bumped several times lightly with JOSHUA REYNOLDS, was unhurried racing along the outside, found room to angle sharply five wide into the lane, took off in earnest after being straightened away, charged down the center of the course with powerful strides towards the frontrunners during the run through the furlong grounds, then sustaining the momentum got a nose in front right on the finish line.
No need to go to the videotape here; obviously a tough beat for those who had second place finisher Deflationary Fears. Based on his halting performances since Paladino won the primary, Andrew Cuomo might think about hiring this guy.

Tough Sell

- Will try to get this post up before the internet goes down again. I started it on Monday when service came back up, but didn't finish before it went back down. Time Warner has fashioned a temporary solution with a Honda generator humming away across the street until Con Ed gets its act together (or so they tell us). But I dunno, I guess the generator is running on batteries, so no time to waste.

Pathfork is coming to run in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, and I mention that only because I'm eagerly looking for material to post in time, and because he has an interesting (and mostly turf-based) pedigree rather than that I could really give much of a rat's ass about him coming. Yeah, I suppose there's some appeal about Ireland's "top juvenile" (based on his three career races) coming here to run on a strange surface against what figures to already be an indecipherable hodgepodge of lightly races dirt horses. But it seems like a tough sell to all but the most devoted.

But then again, so is the entire Breeders' Cup event at this point, and most efforts to give it some mass appeal seems to have been abandoned entirely with too many races and the unwieldy (and untelevised) Win and Yer In races leading up to it. Last week they announced with some fanfare an initiative to draw in more foreign-bred horses to the annual Thoroughbred championships. And the reasoning behind this is not to entice new fans with even more unrecognizable names and a complete lack of any competitive context with which to promote the races, increase the anemic ratings on a cable network on which the event is amongst the lowest of its priorities, or make the races the kind of betting propositions that are attractive to those of us who prefer homework to guesswork (though, on the other hand, they could be successfully promoted to lottery players). Instead, the rationale is thus:

"While some of these initiatives are targeted at the overseas market, we believe that building our global Championships and strengthening the Breeders' Cup's international brand will directly support a stronger U.S. commercial Thoroughbred breeding and racing market," Breeders' Cup chairman Bill Farish said in a news release.
And I suppose that one can argue that supporting the high end of the breeding market could have a trickle-down effect on the health of the industry just as you might argue, as Farish no doubt would, that reducing taxes for the richest 2% of the population will boost the general economy (though past experience suggests otherwise). But we've recently seen boom times for the top Kentucky breeders, and look where we are now.

Anyway, Pathfork is a Kentucky-bred by Distorted Humor out of an Irish-bred Sadlers Wells mare who's a 3/4 sister to the BC Mile winner Spinning World; and this is also the distaff family of Grade and Group 1 turf winners Chimes of Freedom, Good Journey, Denon, and Saddex. And also the classy dirt miler Aldebaran.

- The race for Governor of New York is on and.... oh man. This ain't gonna be pretty, though it might be fun. Maybe. Andrew Cuomo is definitely off balance at this point, unsure how to respond to the GOP candidate Carl Paladino. “He didn't expect a real contender," Paladino said. Actually, he didn't expect a crude name-calling boor (as opposed to bore, which Rick Lazio is, and Paladino is decidedly not).
"If a guy says you have no cojones, how do you punch him back, call him an a--hole?" the Democratic gubernatorial candidate fumed in a secret talk to his team, one insider said.

"We have all this stuff [on Paladino] and we're on the defensive," Cuomo groused, the insider added. [Daily News]
"This stuff" of course are, mostly, the infamous racist and pornographic emails that Paladino enthusiastically forwarded to friends and associates, and if you think they're not that big of a deal, then you probably haven't seen them. [WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC MATERIAL] Paladino trotted out the former Buffalo Bills star Thurman Thomas (an ardent Republican [who] is highly critical of the policies and political stance of current United States President Barack Obama) to say that he's not a racist. Guys like Paladino always seem to be able to find some stooge from the offended ethnicity to vouch for them.

But whether or not he is racist isn't the main point here in my view; rather, it's a matter of judgment, sensitivity, wisdom, and class, qualities which Paladino is apparently quite lacking. (Though admittedly, when it comes to New York politicians of any stripes, he's certainly not alone in that regard.)

- The Jets won, and hmmmm.....funny, not many commenters out there this week. Oh, OK, here's this guy again chiming in about Braylon Edward's DWI arrest. I don't at all mind you coming around to give me the business when Gang Green falls flat, and I'm a good sport when they lose, always showing up and posting the appropriate photos that tell the sad story. So don't come trolling around here only when they lose or get arrested or injured. Otherwise I'll send your comments packing just as the Jets did to Tom Brady and company. And speaking of fair weather fans, the 2-0 Fins are up next.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cleaning Up

It was the Tornado - Macroburst exacta, though the latter was apparently the main culprit here in the Forest Hills area of Queens. The cleanup continues around the clock....literally. It was around 2:30 AM this morning when we were awoken by the sound of chain saws, and since I haven't heard of any overnight mass murders, I'm assuming that a crew was working on some fallen telephone poles or trees. I called Verizon yesterday to try and get an idea of when our phone service might be restored, and the automated message assured me that they are committed to resolving the problem by ""

Cable service in the area is out too, so the satellite dish is coming in handy. However, that means no internet service, so thanks to the person with wireless network 05B408567068, which provides me with on-and-off halting service when I sit in the very back portion of our backyard. Not sure what kind of connection they might have that's still working, perhaps courier pigeon. In any event, posting will continue to be limited until further notice. This connection is too weak for me to utilize Formulator, and barely strong enough to download the results charts; so I have no brilliant insights on this weekend's races at Belmont.

Walking and driving around the neighborhood, we come across blocks with incredible devastation to trees, sidewalks, and cars; and then adjoining ones which look completely untouched and normal. Without at all minimizing the tragedy of the one reported fatality, it's absolutely mind-boggling that there was not more serious injuries nor damage to homes.

Home with a cold on Saturday night and with no surfing or blogging to distract me, I actually watched a college football game in its entirety. Wow, what a revelation! Great game too; I'll have to try that more often. And three cheers to the NCAA's overtime system. They can't implement that in the pros soon enough as far as I'm concerned. All football fans, and even those of you who just appreciate good writing with clever snark, might want to check out Mike Tanier's weekly NFL previews in the New York Times; great read. Anyone who can work early Clash B-sides into a football column is OK with me. And with that, I'm off to the Jets game, good luck in all of your wagering endeavors, and have a great day.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The National Weather Service is supposed to inspect the damage to determine whether it was indeed a tornado which roared right down the cross street adjacent to our house in Queens. What do you think?

We have no phone nor internet at home....don't know when it will be back, so this could be the last post of the weekend. I dunno, maybe I'll update to an iPhone or something one of these days. In any event, hope everyone is safe and speak to you soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Belmont Notes

Pletcher picks up where he left off at Belmont - as simple as 1-2-3. Three winners from his first three starters at the meet; two of those on Wednesday. In the second, Flying Train ($5) graduated for a 25K tag, and was taken by David Jacobsen. Mike Repole paid $100,000 for this two-year old daughter of Empire Maker, but it seems he had no more use for her than Delaware Republicans do for electable candidates, debuting her at 50K, and then losing her for 25K (plus the $12.6K winners share) here, as she romped by 11.

In the 3rd, Bonavento, 3-1 on the morning line, paid $16.20 to win for the Toddster. Winning Touch was 4th at 7-10; he was one of Chad Brown's six first-out winners at Saratoga.

In the 4th, Alpha Centauri was a hot number on the board at 9-5 in her debut, for trainer Christophe Clement, also off to a good start with two winners on opening day. A debut late in her three-year old season was probably not what the owners had in mind when they paid $600,000 for this daughter of Dynaformer as a weanling in 2007. She's out of a Distant View half-sister to Etoile Montante, a Group 1 winner in France; and descends from the distaff family of graded stakes winners Sightseek, Pollard's Vision, Tates Creek, and Bowman's Band. At the back of the pack early on, Alpha Centauri was gaining in the stretch, but, according to the chart, apparently ran out of real estate. The winner, Lady Whimsical, was making her first start on the grass, for trainer Bruce Brown. She's by Cactus Ridge (Hennessy) out of a Mr. Greeley half-sister to the NY-bred multiple grass stakes winner Latitude Forty. She apparently paid $16.20 to win.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I mentioned the small crowd at Belmont on Sunday only in passing, even though I was rather taken aback by how deserted the track was. I mean, we all know that not that many people come to the downstate tracks anymore, and how many ways are there to say that? Plus, I don't want to always be negative (and I guess I was kinda crabby about Saratoga this summer).

But I saw that Jerry Bossert also noticed that it seemed particularly empty on that day.

Sunday, on a cool, showery day, Belmont Park was empty, with an announced crowd of just 3,615.

The giant grandstand held approximately 30 people, and about another 50 were on the apron when longshot Gentle Ride lit up the board at 57-1 to take the eighth, returning $116. [NY Daily News]
I was gone by then myself, but I'd guess that Bossert is not exaggerating. In fact, at one point I felt the urge to count the number of people in the backyard. And though I got interrupted when I felt a bigger urge to bet the 3rd at Arlington, there couldn't have been more than 50 people back there. That's 130 total counted between Bossert and I; not sure where the other 3,485 were hanging out. But it's sure easy to get lost there.

It's not really negativity, just that I can't help but to be preoccupied with the emptiness there. I find it as oppressive, though in a different way, as when it used to be packed. The Foolish Pleasure - Ruffian match race was the most crowded day I've ever spent there, the fact that there have been more highly attended Belmont Stakes in recent years notwithstanding. They know how to handle crowds now; that day, me and my buddies ended up leaving and watching the match race on TV. I guess it's totally taboo to talk about this....but I had Foolish Pleasure. I booked any of my friends who liked the filly, thus getting a premium price too (hello, exchange wagering!).

I don't make it for a full day when it's like this either. The place is just too big for the sport in this era; and as excited as we all might be for slots the long overdue physical improvements and the higher quality racing which will presumably result from bigger purses, we know that it won't translate to bigger racing crowds. You can stuff everyone in a corner of the plant like they do at Aqueduct, and create some buzz, even in the dead of winter. Not so at Belmont, and if they're not gonna put a racino there, they could build an IKEA, and still have plenty of room.

It's been widely reported that Genting is going to spend some $1.3 billion on the racino, including I guess the $380 million upfront fee which is now officially due. Genting says it will deliver the check this month. I wonder if they'll have a ceremony with a beaming Governor Paterson being presented with one of those giant checks. (God, I'm gonna miss that guy, aren't you?) I'm guessing that the $1.3 billion is in addition to the $250 million to be raised by the state via a bond issue. If that's right, then this place will cost nearly as much as the $1.6 billion new Meadowlands football stadium.

El Angelo asked if I was at Monday night's Spoon show in Brooklyn, but I was instead making my first appearance at the new stadium for the Jets-Ravens game. (Guess the music would have been a better choice.) Man, I can't believe that Genting is going to spend as much as was spent on a massively big football stadium on a little bitty slots parlor in Ozone Park. Makes you wonder just what they have in mind....and just how appropriate it is going to be for that locale.

Whatever it's going to be, there will surely be more bells and whistles than at the Meadowlands. This stadium is little more than a big drab gray ring (next to a racetrack which could very well become additional parking spaces before too long). It doesn't even look like it was finished. Were they really going for the industrial motif?

Of course, I'm relegated to the atmospheric non-PSL sections; all the fancy stuff is reserved for those who shelled out the big bucks. Besides being unbelievably high up...I mean, really high up.....a swarm of aggressive moths settled in for the second half. I was eating a sandwich, looked down and saw one in my bag. Still, as a place to watch a football game, it's fine, despite the height. But I was expecting more.....more what, I can't exactly say. But just more.

Mario Batali was there. Or....maybe not really.

Green Day played at halftime, but not for very long at all.

OK, it was longer than that. But not much; just one song before all hell broke loose.

Yeah, I know, no fireworks from the Jets offense. jp is having some fun at my expense, and that's fine, and surely fair following all the yappin' we've all heard from the Jets. I will however point out that you didn't hear any of that bravado coming from this corner. I've been horrified at all the hype, both self-proclaimed and otherwise. I love the Jets as you know, but let's face it; this was a 7-7 team until the seas parted and the Colts laid down their arms. Sure, they played well in the playoffs, but that's where anything can happen and where Nate Kaeding can't kick field goals. And all the expectations presume a lot regarding the development of the second year quarterback (of whom, based on the game plan, the coaching staff remains wary and cautious). So I never bought into the Super Bowl talk, and wasn't very surprised at the result.

Having said that, the Jets committed 14 penalties and made six first downs. That's freaking pathetic, not worthy of a team calling itself professional. And still, they lost by a point to a very good team. The defense will keep them in a lot of games, even with the injuries. Don't know if they'll handle the Pats on Sunday, but I'll be looking - from far, far above - for a much smarter and more spirited performance.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Belmont Notes

Made it to Belmont on Sunday rather than Saturday; the crummy, cloudy, wet day rather than the really nice one. Just 3,615 on hand on the first Sunday of the football season; and only a handful of those in the grandstand backyard. Opening day drew 7,554. A reader emailed with an interesting thought about the fall meeting next year. With Comptroller Tom DiNapoli apparently ready to finally sign off on the Big A racino, will that facility, located not quite ten miles away, prove to be a further drain on the live Belmont crowd? After all, assuming that there will be year-round simulcasting at Aqueduct (won't there?), some patrons may opt for the fancier digs and the slots themselves. Especially on a gray day during the football season like Sunday.

I know I'm not supposed to complain when I win, but I really would have done much better had Time for Tutt held on for the win in the 5th. Had the exacta with Albany Road ($7) on top, but it would have come back much richer the other way; plus I would have had the race 4-6 Pick Three. But I didn't. Albany Road is trained by Linda Rice, who's off and running at Belmont with two winners from four starters on opening weekend.

Eden Is Burning was 2-5 in the 7th - 2-5! Man, that's a tough price to take in a baby turf race. With so many horses either debuting or trying grass for the first time, you just don't know for sure that they suck, as you might in a race for more experienced runners. Part of taking a horse at that price has to be that you have substantial evidence that it lays over the field. You just don't know that in a race with so many question marks. As it turned out, Lady Activator showed good speed in her debut and got the jump on Tom Bush's speedster, and Upper East Sider ($26.60) proved much the best in her first grass race, for trainer Pat Kelly. A little (red-boarding) look at her pedigree might have provided a clue: she's by Forest Wildcat, out of a graded turf stakes winner in Upper Noosh, a half-sister to a G1 winner steeplechase winner, Anofferucantrefuse.

I was gone before the 8th was won by Gentle Ride, and when a 57-1 shot like that wins, I like to look at the past performances afterwards to see if it made any sense at all. This one though didn't require that much imagination! She's always shown good speed, enough so that she'd never been more than 10-1, and only got beat by four lengths, in the same class, in her last. Sure, there figured to be other speed; but once she got a jump on Flying Sappho and Rosie's Promises encountered trouble at the start, this daughter of Mutakddim was never even challenged. The fact that five players still hit the once-carryovered Pick Six may serve as evidence that she didn't look as bad as her odds indicated.

- On Saturday, we visited the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve, another one of those nearby natural wonders that these New Yorkers had never before seen....and right here in Queens! DOH!

This view below, however, surely gave us pause, coming on Saturday as it did. The view of Lower Manhattan from Jamaica Bay on a similarly spectacular late summer day nine years earlier must have looked terrifyingly different.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Getting Out And Other Crap

Monday, our final day in Solana Beach, was even perfect-er than Saturday. Not only was the weather glorious, though more like an early fall day in New York, and the Head Chef on hand (just in case she's reading), but I got out for the trip. The race 6-8 Pick Three at Del Mar paid $54.90, and I had it enough times, and with a minimum enough investment (two singles x 3), to get even and a bit more. I singled Joe Carl ($7.60) in the 6th; any suspicions of the hot Doug O'Neill's intentions in dropping him to 8K after claiming him for 12.5 were dispelled by the fact that Jose Joel Rosario was back after riding for different connections in his last. I loved him once I saw that. This horse was dead last behind a pace which was slow early, fast around the second turn as Joe Carl circled wide, and in reasonably race horse time in the stretch as he edged past favored Skellytown by a nose in a thrilling (for me, anyway) driving finish.

A couple of things in this race that we did not see much at Saratoga, particularly in the latter part of the meeting. For one thing, they don't have many races for claimers around two turns on the dirt at all, and none for bottom level winners like Joe Carl. In fact, there's not that many of any two-turn dirt races; just 27 by my unofficial count in the 36 days (not counting those taken off the grass). (11 of them were stakes.) Of those, only four during the entire meet were for claimers; three for winners ranging from 20K to 35K, and one maiden claimer for 20k. Obviously, there must not be much demand for them. What's the problem here? Is a mile and an eighth, the minimum and most frequent distance of the races, just too much for cheaper horses to handle on the main track surface there?

For another thing, we didn't see much in the way of comparable flying finishes in two-turn dirt races during the last two weeks or so of the meeting. The route races slowed down dramatically at that time. And that applies to horses of all levels, as we saw on Travers/Personal Ensign weekend, when each race concluded in an embarrassingly slow final quarter of 26.44 . A reader wrote that I was being stupid when I posted about those races, and though the rambling note seemed largely incoherent at the time, I think it made a very fair point that the main track changed drastically for route races during the meet. He put the turning point after the Jim Dandy, I'd put it after Blind Luck ran down the field in the Alabama with a solid final furlong of 24.16. Before that, we saw Giant Moon close in 12.11 to win the Evan Shipman; Blame in 12.17 to take the Whitney; Tranquil Manner from last to take an allowance in 11.66; Stargleam, a 20K claimer, in 12.63.

We saw nine two-turn dirt races on fast tracks after Aug 21, and they weren't particularly pretty. Seven of them, at nine furlongs, were won either on the front end or a close stalking second; none of them could be caught despite the fact than none broke 13.12 seconds coming home. And the other two were the two abovementioned stakes in which the front-runners quit so badly that the closers couldn't help but win at a mile and a quarter. Quality Road, still considered by some to be the best horse in the country, couldn't even break the 1:50 mark for nine furlongs, came home in 13.34 - 38.48 for the last 3/8ths - while being vigorously hand-ridden home. And the speed figure guys deemed that to pretty good (106)!

Y'know, i get all these comments about "polycrap" and "plastic," and how the racing isn't legitimate. But personally, I'd much rather see an 8k claimer like Joe Carl fly home from last on whatever the fuck you wanna call it than what we saw at Saratoga over those last 2+ weeks. That was crap as far as I'm concerned.

I still don't really get the visceral hatred towards synthetic surfaces, which I think have proven to be a totally viable surface, which never turns sloppy, at certain tracks, even if it's not the panacea to severe injury that they were once billed to be. (Don't know what the breakdown stats were for the Del Mar meet; but since I haven't read anything in the rabidly anti-synthetic racing press, I'll guess that they weren't too bad.) It's a reflexive hostility at this point, like the way Republicans react to anything the president might propose to try and spur the economy, even if it includes ideas that they have long supported. If Obama came out and said that synthetic racetracks suck, I imagine that around 56% of y'all would suddenly be calling for the Derby to be run on Tapeta Footing.

Back to Del Mar, Real Cool Dude ($16.40) was one of three I had for the 7th. So I was left with a single to the heavy favorite in the 8th. Bench Points was 7-10 after winning his first two career races, the second in a similar juvenile state-bred stakes. I had already lost the races 5-7 Pick 3 due to 2-5 Lea the Publisher getting nosed in the 5th; I figured that even an easy fade like myself could get at least one out of two odds-on favorites home! So, I did when this son of the regional sire Benchmark once again came off the pace to rally home for trainer Tim Yakteen. Man, I love closers like this guy - final furlong in 11.99, yeah, now that's what I'm talking about!! Bench Points is out of a mare by Free House; so a real Left Coast-bred here. His 4th dam is Alma North, a durable multi-stakes winning campaigner from the early 70's, the kind we don't see anymore. On any surface.

- Got a few more things to say about our trip and California, mostly non-racing related, and perhaps some restaurant reviews by the Head Chef. But I'll have to try and get to it after I finally get some sleep. Got in at 4:30 AM Tuesday morning, got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep between the plane and a stop home before work....and then still went out afterwards to see Shellac at the Bell House. Got tickets before we planned the trip, and the show was long sold out and highly anticipated given their increasingly rare tours. Chicago's Shellac features the producer extraordinaire Steve Albini, who has probably worked on something that many of you have listened to. Their live shows, complete with Q&A sessions, are legendary, and this was no exception. Opening was Helen Money, an intriguing project featuring Alison Chesley and her cello.

Monday, September 06, 2010

No Winners, Perfect Day

The high-speed internet at the Holiday Inn Express in Solana Beach that we're staying at went on the fritz on Saturday, so, as stoked as I was about a great day at Del Mar, I was unable to post until this time. No, I did not hit the Pick Six; and, in fact, I didn't cash a ticket. Nonetheless, it was a glorious afternoon, the kind I need from time to time to reaffirm my love for the game. Too many days at Aqueduct and in the cavernous emptiness of Belmont can get a guy down after a while, especially given the bleak backdrop of off-track events which has dominated in New York for most of the year. Even the two days spent earlier at Saratoga didn't really help. Perhaps I just needed the change of scenery. Or the Pacific Ocean air. Or maybe a little Polytrack.

For whatever reason, everything seemed perfect. Well, except the results of course. But that's OK.

There's always a special buzz at Del Mar which radiates from the paddock area which serves as the center of all the attention. On this day, the buzz had a particular edge with the huge Pick Six pool up for grabs (though it turned out to be around $5 million, not the $6.5 million that Trevor Denman was raving about at the track i stand corrected). Del Mar is one of those tracks, like Keeneland and the old Gulfstream, where it seems like everyone is totally into the races, unlike at certain other tracks. It makes for a great atmosphere, and lends each and every race, whether a stakes or maiden claimer, an air of anticipation and importance.

It also didn't hurt that the sun, having hidden behind a particularly stubborn marine layer since we got here on Friday morning, emerged triumphantly for the last few races, bathing the place in golden rays of sunshine and hope.

The Head Chef dropped me off there on this day and went shopping; talk about each of us left to our own devices! She implored me to bet the Pick Six, and I had to explain to her that it's too rich of a bet for my budget; at least if I play it seriously enough to justify the expenditure in my mind. The funny thing is that, even with a minimal investment using a maximum of two horses in each race, there's no doubt I would have still been in it after four races....maybe even five, since Details R Sketchy was one of several I used in the late Pick Three. Wouldn't have had the 10th race winner in my top two choices; but she was certainly logical off her last race. I had written "may be overbet" during my pre-card handicapping, and that certainly wasn't the case.

However, just because I would/could have been alive through four races of the Pick Six doesn't mean I had any luck betting the races individually. In the 6th race for example, for Pick Six-on-a-budget purposes, Baffert's May Day Rose would surely have served as a single...probably without too much thought. But approaching the race on its own (and having probably spent too much time looking at it), I saw a two-year old filly who blew a three-length lead in the stretch at even money against four others. So I tried unsuccessfully to beat her instead. Being the second leg of the Pick Six, with the strong second choice having won the first, it was certainly a popular - and loud - result.

I did have Tell a Kelly ($11.20) as a single in the G1 Debutante in the aforementioned late Pick Threes which died in the 10th. This juvenile daughter of Tapit, a stallion name we're sure hearing a lot these days, absolutely exploded in the stretch and won going away in her third career race, and first against winners, for trainer John Sadler. Her solid final furlong of 12.36 seconds was a full 4/5ths of a second faster than anyone else's, so no wonder it looked like she was the only one running! She's headed for the Breeders Cup, where she'll have to answer all the surface questions.

Saturday was my big track day on this rather abbreviated and impromptu trip. We spent Sunday at the Torrey Pines State Reserve, hiking up and down the mountain, and settling in at the beach. Oh man, I have tons of photos like this...wanna see them all? No?

Well, OK, but maybe another time. I will have a chance to get even on Labor Day before we hop the redeye back to town.

On Sunday night, we went to Belly Up, "voted San Diego's best live music venue" and right here in Solana Beach, to see Titus Andronicus, here on tour from their home in New Jersey, and opening on this night for Free Energy, a wimpy pop band from Minneapolis. Titus Andronicus headlined this bill recently at Maxwell's in Hoboken, and will do so again at Webster Hall in Manhattan later this month; but here on the left coast they played second fiddle. We didn't stay for Free Energy, but I can't imagine they were equal to the intensity, emotion, and raw power of Titus Andronicus, whose album The Monitor is out to much well-deserved critical acclaim on XL Recordings. They just rocked the was an awesome show.

And they played this song, which seemed to be directed quite mockingly at me.... appropriately so I imagine given my recent woes at racetracks. On both coasts.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Out West...

....where the surf....

.....meets the turf....

....meets the (English) Beat!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Rice Time

Todd Pletcher is a lock to win his 7th training title; the Toddster racked up his 31st winner of the meet on Thursday. Linda Rice is far behind in second with 19; but she's still having quite a meeting. It's an impressive follow up to last year when she won the training title, and with just one more winner, she'll match her 2009 winning total of 20.

If Thursday is any indication, Ms. Rice is poised to close out the meeting in high style. She started five horses, and they all ran in the money; two close seconds and thirds, and then finally a dominant winner in the finale with Theresmyeverything ($6.60), graduating in a route on the turf. We always hear how she thrives with those turf sprinters, but she actually has a better record at Saratoga over the last two years with grass routers (15 for 47, 32%) than with the sprinters (18 for 61, 30%). One of those winning distance horses from this meeting, City Sneakers, runs back in the 4th today.

A crowd of 18,800 at Saratoga....for Wednesday and Thursday combined. Gonna be some tough comparisons to last year for this weekend to be sure. Quality Road is 1-4 in the morning line for the Woodward; he faces six seemingly hapless foes, including Mine That Bird, whose past performance line look just awful nowadays. But should be a nice weekend to be up there. Have a safe and great holiday weekend, whatever you're doing. We're headed out west, speak to you from there.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

That Bad?

Perhaps you saw this piece in the Times on Tuesday; a background piece for the Big A racino and the general ills of an industry currently depending on slots for its survival. It's the bleak scenario that we're all familiar with, but it's always sobering to see it in print.

Despite the introduction of slots, the revival of horse racing as a spectator sport has not come. The purses are bigger and the horses are considered better, but the cars in the parking lots at most tracks belong to patrons of the slot parlors. Gamblers wagered $2.2 billion on New York horse races last year, 30 percent less than in 2003, when inflation is taken into account, Mr. Liebman said. The slot machines took in $12 billion.

“You’re propping up a dying industry,” said Richard McGowan, a Jesuit priest and an economics professor at Boston College who specializes in gambling. “The only thing that will revive horse racing is if you banned all other forms of gambling, and that’s not going to happen.” [NYT]
My first reaction to that last quote was: "Bite me, Dick." But then I was you think he's right about that? That racing could revive only in the absence of all other gambling; it's that bad? Jeez, you look at those numbers - $2.2 billion vs $12 billion for slots - and consider that slots itself is at the low end of the totem pole as far as casino games go. Vibrant tracks which still draw crowds, like Saratoga, Del Mar, Oaklawn, and Keeneland, always provide hope, but not for the grind of day-to-day racing which the industry as currently structured needs to survive.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is still reviewing Genting's bid to build and operate the Aqueduct racino; both he and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli need to give their final approval. I have it on good authority that Cuomo, the presumptive governor of New York come January, wants absolutely nothing to do with this once he assumes office; so I assume his approval is forthcoming. With the desperate GOP candidate Rick Lazio doing one of the things that Republican politicians do best - fanning the flames of fear and hatred; in this case over the proposed Muslim community center a couple of developed city blocks north of Ground Zero - Cuomo might be taking time to make sure that Genting has no ties to any terror-sympathizing imans (y'know, the kind employed by the State Department) or shareholders of FOX.

Paul Post reported in the Saratogian that DiNapoli's office, which will look into the bidding process and the contract itself, has already "reached out to Lottery with some preliminary concerns." The Comptroller is up for re-election himself, so he'll surely provide at least the appearance of a thorough probe. But surely, the time has finally come. Right?

- As you may know, Governor Paterson is in serious legal jeopardy over his testimony regarding the World Series tickets he obtained last October. I read the report by former Chief Judge Judith Kaye which recommends that Albany DA David Soares consider criminal charges of perjury. Ms. Kaye uses testimony from various parties to make a clear case that the Governor initially had no intention of paying for the two tickets for his son and his son's friend, and then, once he decided to do so, had the check backdated in a clumsy attempt to make it appear that he made out the check hiself and brought it to the game with him.

Problem is that the investigators brought in a handwriting expert who testified that the check was written out by Paterson's aide David Johnson (who brilliantly made it out to his contact at the Yankees rather than to the team.....not very bright lights shining up in the Executive Mansion). Indeed, some people are surprised that Ms. Kaye referred the matter rather than recommending prosecution herself.

I've always defended Paterson and his performance as governor, and pointed out when he was not getting a fair shake, like during the Senate appointment circus, or with the vicious skits on SNL. And I've snickered more than snapped at his occasional misstatements. Even here, c'mon, you'd think that the governor of New York could score a few free tickets for the Yankees in the World Series; I mean, shouldn't that be a fringe benefit of the job? In fact, if the Post's Fred Dicker hadn't deemed it newsworthy, then it quite possibly would have passed without notice. The report states that, at the beginning of last season, Paterson and his party attended the first games at Citifield and the new Stadium, and didn't pay. How come nobody said anything about that?

But the (alleged) lying here is just ridiculous...and so unnecessary. Paterson stepped into this situation just as surely as Roger Clemens did into his. He could have simply said yes, I was wrong, and indeed I've now paid for the tickets, and I think that would have been that, especially given his lame duck status. It's not like he's trying to protect a great legacy and go to Cooperstown or anything.