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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday News and Notes

Yonkers is now available for wagering and watching on the NYRA Rewards site (also on Channel 71 for those of you with Time Warner Cable). (The Churchill Downs tracks have been added to the live streaming menu as well.) In addition, the Big A and the Belmont Cafe will remain open until 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

To accommodate customers at Aqueduct that stay for the evening simulcasts, the MTA’s Aqueduct subway stop will remain open until 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
That's a scary thought. Won't be once the racino is open, and I'd expect the service there could be around the clock at that point. But wouldn't want to be a part of the crowd waiting there for the A train at 11 PM these days!

On Saturday evening, I was awaiting the Head Chef's latest feast, had a little time, so I downloaded the Yonkers PP's from Brisnet, and made my very first harness wager through NYRA Rewards a winning one! Either a great omen, or I'm suckered in for life, and we all know which one it probably is....especially since the horse is named The Awful Truth ($9.20). This six-year old gelding, making his 102nd lifetime start (gotta love these harness horses), went first over against the favorite, and somehow prevailed after going nose to nose with that rival for the length of the stretched-out stretch. Thought I lost for sure, but the track announcer and camera guys know the angle better then me, and had it all the way.

Immediately apparent from looking at the past performances is that the purses at Yonkers were recently cut, no doubt due to the drop in handle after the closure of NYC OTB. The race that I bet, for non-winners of 12K in their last six starts, was for $19,500 a few weeks ago, but for just $16,000 now. A steep reduction, and now the horsemen are facing the possibility of Governor Cuomo's surcharge as well. Also looked like there was a pretty significant dip in VLT revenues around the Xmas holidays, wonder if that came into play as well. In any event, hopefully this new exposure on NYRA outlets will help boost handle to the point where the purses can recover.

- Nice trip down to Tampa for Ramon Dominguez, who swept the three stakes races there on Saturday's card, displaying different aspects of his mastery in each race. In the Florida Oaks, on the grass for three-year old fillies, Ramon kept cool on Dynamic Holiday ($8) in and amongst horses, and found an opening on the rail turning for home. It was such a sneaky move that the track announcer totally missed him (and then mis-called him as Dynamite Holiday when he finally picked him up). Second stakes win in a row for this Graham Motion-trained daughter of Harlan's Holiday, out of a Dynaformer mare.

In the G3 Sam F Davis, Brethren ($3.80) broke a bit awkwardly from the treacherous outside post, but Ramon had him in perfect stalking position on the rail, behind a 53-1 shot, by the time they came out of the first turn. Easy win from there, and Ramon had him shut down inside the 16th pole. It was the first stakes effort, first try around two turns, and first race since November for this three-year old Distorted Humor half-brother to Super Saver (though against a modest graded stakes field to be sure); he earned a Beyer of 83.

And in the G3 Endeavor Stakes, New York's top jockey grabbed the lead shortly after the break on Silver Reunion ($6), slowed the pace down from 24.08 to 24.56 to 25.26 before burying the field with final splits of 23.94 and 6.14 seconds. Another offspring of Harlan's Holiday from the Motion barn, this five-year old mare was making her first start since just failing to last in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga.

- I caught TVG's hilariously self-deprecating Gate Crashers coverage of the Santa Maria stakes from Santa Anita. Apparently they've been doing this for awhile, but I don't generally have much reason to be watching TVG at that time of the evening this time of the year, so I hadn't seen it before. It culminated a shot of Frank Mirahmadi calling the race while watching it on TV. Funny stuff. Whatsmore, while doing the call from a monitor, this guy is probably better than 95% of what's out there in what is a weak crop of track announcers, at least in my view. As someone who was lured into the game in part by listening to race calls from guys like Dave Johnson, Ray Haight, and Chic Anderson, I find it disappointing that there's a dearth of promising young voices out there that excite me these days. Would love to hear of some suggestions if you think I'm missing anyone.


Steven said...

Track announcers ? Durkin is so far ahead of every one else, its depressing. Yes, most are just plain awful. Larry Collmus is decent, but not great. The guy at Hawthorne sounds like the announcer from the Flintstone's when they went to the track. The guy from Tampa has energy, but I don't like his voice.
Luke Kruytbosch was excellent, but past away at 47.
I like Vic Stauffer at Hollywood Park, but Trevor repeats the same thing over and over.

Anonymous said...

Tampa Bay's announcer's name is Richard Grunder and is very near the worst I've ever heard.

Andy Beyer has an article, in the Washington Post on Feb 10, The Last Time I Checked, and takes Grunder to task. One of the comments for the article from Havjoy(?)is priceless. "The owners love the way he singles them out on occasions and it is the owners who put on the show."


steve in nc said...

Durkin and Denman are excellent and Colmus is improving. By far the worst is Battaglia.

Is Yonkers any more honest than back in the day? I was a big harness fan in the 70s until it became obvious that horses roaring with pace would pass up chances to get out and be kept bottled inside to guarantee a loss until a better price the following week. And then Filion & crew were indicted.

When purses get so low that drivers can make more betting than in their share of purses, there is a dangerous incentive.

Teresa said...

I may stay there this Saturday until the bitter end just to see what it's like...gotta be a good blog post, no?

Steven said...

Beyer on Grunder :
Watching races isn't helped by the cluster of trees that obscure the start of all 61/2- and 7-furlong sprints. (Sorry, tree huggers, but they need to go.) Nor is following the action helped by the race calls of Richard Grunder, the track's announcer. Grunder makes countless mistakes, but ever more maddening than his race-calling errors are his daily assaults on the English language.

In race after race he mispronounces words and proper names that ought to be in the vocabulary of the average 10th-grader. He has even managed to mispronounce the names of the horses Deny and Awe ("Denny" and "Ah-wee.") When a horse fell in the stretch run of a race a week ago, Grunder called, "Sunday Delight has went down!"

Anonymous said...

Grunder is unbelievably bad. I agree. Mostly it's his voice that's the problem. It would be more pleansant listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. Yes Battags is also horrible. And I agree that Miramadi guy on TVG does a nice job, though overall I prefer the format at HRTV mostly because I don't have to listen to Matt Carruthers, although Joanne Jones could use a hit of cocaine or something because that lady is awfully blase. It's too bad because she's kind of hot. -jp

SaratogaSpa said...

Durkin is still on top but I enjoy Collmus.

One guy from a minor league track who makes the call an exciting one with a sense of humor mixed in is Tony Calo at Finger Lakes

DiscreetPicks said...

A long time ago, pre-internet, i used to call DRF's toll number and listen to the stretch call of races that i had bet on. The only guy that gave me a problem was Battaglia. I'd be sitting there with the phone in my ear thinking, "WTF is going on?". It was practically indecipherable.

DiscreetPicks said...

Btw, someone on HRT mentioned this morning that Brethren had been given an 83 Beyer for his win in the Sam Davis on Saturday.

I just have one question. If Pletcher had chosen to run Uncle Mo instead of Brethren, and Uncle Mo had run an identical race to the one that Brethren ran, would Uncle Mo have been given an 83 Beyer?

DiscreetPicks said...

Speaking of Brethren, here's a post of mine that i'm pretty proud of:

steve in nc said...

DC, that WAS a nice pre-debut post. Is Beyer really that inconsistent & subjective? (This isn't a rhetorical question. I don't look at his #s so I don't know.)

Not that they never make a mistake, but I'll go by Sheets #s on this one. While they are projection based, their variants are less squishy (they don't change every race) than the 'Graphs.' Sometimes, "reputation horses" really get exposed.

By the way, Steven, I do agree that Denman needs to refresh his material, although he is good at conveying the flow of the race.

As for command of the language, if Jason Blewett (the "Jimmy Olsen" of NYRA's TV show) ever goes national, they might as well pile all the grammar and usage books in the country and light a match.

TVG's "Mr. B" cracked me up a few weeks ago by earnestly calling that horrid maiden claimer Persephone, "PURR-si-fone." If only he weren't on so much, he could be almost charming in his ignorance. Maybe they could put some fake sideburns on him, teach him a few cockney expressions, let him borrow one of Brent Sager's suits and have him stand in for Mutton Chops at the BC. Blimey, my persephone's ringing again!

Steven said...

Discreet. What do you think about Dialed In ?

DiscreetPicks said...

I've been extremely impressed with him, in fact i gave him out in the Holy Bull last month. The way he came rolling up late after blowing the start in his debut was really eye-catching, especially since the rider appeared more concerned with keeping him straight than he did with encouraging him to the lead. The colt did it completely on his own, and although it was just a 6 1/2-furlong sprint race, it certainly appeared from the looks of things (not to mention the breeding) that he would be able to stretch out no problem. I was surprised that he dropped so far off the pace in the Holy Bull (i thought he'd likely be closer this time with a clean break), but i was definitely not surprised that he showed the kind of late strength that he did. Impossible to say for sure because he hasn't done it yet, but i would expect he may even improve around two turns. Talent isn't even an issue. I can't rank him ahead of Uncle Mo right now, because that one's credentials are impeccable at this point, but i would definitely rank him second. Dialed In might have more upside, hard to say right now.

Anonymous said...

DP, the Sam Davis illustrates a general problem with speed figures. It was the only dirt race contested around two turns at Tampa that day. The raw time was slow at 145 flat. The one-turn races all came back fairly slow as well and it's safe to say there were no world-beaters on track that day. The prime competition to Bretheren, Washington's Rules, bounced to the moon. The second place horse looks like he has claimer talent. Overall, I also wonder if Uncle Mo had the race if the BSF would be higher. Either way, the horse totally outclassed the opposition and did so in hand. I think he's better than the 83 beyer, but only time will tell. In situations such as this, the figuremakers are mostly throwing darts, since they have such limited information to work with. -jp

Steven said...

Thanks Discreet. I am on Dialed In big in the futures book. I am afraid of Mo, but no one else scares me. Long way to go.

Anonymous said...

Hawthorne, Tampa Bay, Oaklawn, ... I wish those tracks had Trakus!

Also, I agree with jp that Brethern's Beyer is deceptively low. I hope to make money because of that down the road. Mike D.

The Messanger said...

People that think Brethren's Beyer Speed figure for the Sam Davis is low don't understand how to make Speed Figures of any kind. It's really as simple as that.

Newsflash - Beyer figs are not handed out like points in Olympic events where judges vote. They are mathematical calculations and, believe it or not, they aren't affected by any personal biases from those that make them.

Brethren is slow. Sorry if that bothers you. It's not Beyer's fault. Nor is it the fault of any intelligent speed figure maker. They all know he's slow.

Figless said...

TM - If they are pure genius why are they so often adjuested retroactively?

Is suspect this Beyer will be in the low 90's when you peruse the pp's on the first Saturday in May.

Anyone have his fig from any of the sheets?

Anonymous said...

You miss the point, Messenger. Do you think Beyer is in some lab doing calculus with a group of MIT interns when he was making these figures? There was one fucking two turn race at Tampa on Saturday and he is using a 3rd-grade level chart plus a variant (pure guess work, given woefully little data) to come up with a speed fig for Brethren.

Is Brethren slow, relative to the top three year olds in the country? Yes, even if you account for the significant margin of error in Beyer's flawed figs, he's slow. But it is fair to cast some doubt on the 83 fig. As it turns out, I don't think you'll be able to find a huge wagering opportunity with Brethren even if you think he's much faster than the numbers because the performance was visually impressive. Plus this horse has been pounded like a good thing at the window in each of his starts, which leads one to believe he won't be 40-1 in the Fountain of Youth or wherever he starts next. So it's a moot point, but don't act like people here are oblivious to the brilliant algorhythms behind Beyers figs. Like any speed fig, they are flawed. -jp

DiscreetPicks said...

Dialed In was given a 77 Beyer for winning that maiden race @ Churchill. I guess that made him too slow to win the Holy Bull, eh?

DiscreetPicks said...

Oh, my apologies. He got a 75.

The Messanger said...

I realize, DiscreetPicks, from your opinions that you don't know a lot about handicapping, or even horse racing, which is cool, so bear with me while I go slowly.

Dialed In was a first time starter

Horses frequently improve dramatically from one start to the next early in their careers ( especially from the period between 2 and 3 ).

Dialed In broke poorly in his debut and rallied from near last in the final quarter. This is not always easy to do.

Thus, his fig was earned under less than ideal circumstances, thus his improvement ( on a speed figure level ) was even less surprising.

Now, let's go to Brethren. He received the same, decent but not great, speed figure for his first two races. Thus showing no improvement from one start to the next as a 2YO. While this isn't out of the ordinary, it is not a great sign.

Then he came out for his first 3YO start, a little over two months since his last start, and ran an almost identical figure. The consistency is troubling, as he is not improving, and needs to in order to make himself competitive with his peers in tougher races. Surely you don't consider the Sam Davis runner-up a TC contender....or do you?

Now, perhaps Brethren will take a step forward, as he is still young, and lightly raced, but I find his plateauing at a mediocre level to be a cause for concern ( that is, if I wanted him to be successful ).

Before you go and make the bad analogy that Uncle Mo does not rate to improve his speed figure from his last at 2 when he debuts at 3, please take into account the different set of circumstances for each horse, the kind of races each last raced in, and what would be fair to expect in each's 3YO debuts, especially if you wanted one to move forward, while you wanted another to merely get things started.

Brethren is slow. If you like to bet slow horses, feel free to get on his bandwagon. It will be emptying out very soon. Hedge Fund deserved a better brother.

DiscreetPicks said...

Brethren ran significantly faster on the same day's card than did Tapizar, who came back to win the Grade 3 Sham by open lengths in his following start (with a 98 Beyer, i might add). Tapizar's effort came around two turns, while Brethren's came around one turn, so obviously that has to be factored into the splits. But Brethren still ran faster than Tapizar, bottom line. And in addition to being flattered by Tapizar, Brethren also beat Black N Beauty in his debut. That one came back to win two straight, including an impressive allowance win @ Gulfstream. Brethren then goes out and totally overwhelms the Sam Davis field despite breaking from the 10-hole in a two-turn race.

You're right, he's horrible.

Anonymous said...

There's a great small track announcer in Canada - Darren Dunn of Assiniboia Downs, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He manages to extract excitement, even when it's $3000n1y's at the end of a long season....