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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.


Anonymous said...

off the red eye and straight out to the rock show. nice job. just curious, did shellac play any big black? i was a fan back in the day.

cheers, chris

alan said...

chris- No Big Black, but yeah, those were the days for sure. The Atomizer LP remains an all-time classic...try finding that one around nowadays. Still have my original vinyl copy.

Anonymous said...

went and looked at my surviving vinyl and sadly no big black LPs remain. i do have the il duce/big money 45 though!

Dirty said...

Alan, I heard a little rumor about Joe Carl getting a breathing problem fixed a few starts back. (And I also heard the rumor he couldn't lose last time for 12k , which was almost true but a loose horse fucked up the race). He's a great claim, and I suspect he'll head back up the claiming ladder. Also, "JOSE" Rosario is one of the top five jockeys in the country, and would like his name to be corrected.

Had Spaniard stayed up yesterday I would have had a nice meet. We'll call it a loss of about 2k for Del Mar for me.

Alan Mann said...

^^corrected, thanks, sorry. East Coast bias showing I guess.

John Manley said...

Alma North . . . I seem to remember that Frank Lovato, Senior was her regular rider. Any idea who her trainer was? Bowes Bond, maybe? I seem to recall her being a stalwart of the New Jersey - Liberty Bell circuit.

Yeah, Liberty Bell, as in pre-Keystone, pre-Philly Park, and now, HELLO? Parx Racing?

Say what you will about NYRA and all, but at least they don't rename their racetracks every 15 years or so.

Jim C. said...

This is the best blog ever: one devoted to horse racing AND with references to Steve Albini and Shellac.

I live in SoCal now. Huge horse racing fan. But I am a native of Chicago. During the 1990s, I was really into the Chicago underground scene: The Jesus Lizard, in particular, and anything involving Albini.

Big Black was awesome.