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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Mixed Feelings Towards a Crown (as of now)

Pretty busy at TimeformUS these days, happily.  And quite busy and distracted with the Rangers opening their Finals series in LA on Wednesday night.  Add in one of my favorite bands in town, and I don't know that I'll be able to post here again before Belmont day.  I will be at a TimeformUS "Pop-up" event at the track on Saturday.  It runs from 11:30 until 1, and we'll be there demo-ing the product on a big screen, and trying to pick some winners.  Would love to see you there; please stop by to say hi if you're around.  More details here.  It's on the second floor of the clubhouse.  And the bad news is that it's on the second floor of the clubhouse.  That's fine on any other day and we certainly hope to do this again. But it'll cost an extra 20 bucks to get into the clubhouse on Saturday, so I certainly understand if you can't make it.  I may have a couple of passes to give away though, so please check back here or on my Twitter feed.

I've been having fun here and over at the TimeformUS blog smugly predicting that California Chrome will lose.  Not that I'll necessarily be actively rooting for him to lose or anything, except that I will be betting against him.  So I guess I will be rooting for him to lose, to whoever I bet, anyway!  Betting aside, I dunno, don't have really passionate feelings either way at this time.  It's not like with Seattle Slew, who I'd followed from his very first race, before which I was one of probably thousands who had a tip on him. Nor like Affirmed, who raced as a two-year old seven times (out of nine juvenile starts, imagine that!) in New York.  Nor even like Real Quiet, who also had never raced in NY prior to the Belmont, but who was my top pick in the Derby (though I sadly didn't cash a ticket on the race).  Nor Big Brown, who I just liked, because he was really really good.  I have no emotional attachment to this horse at all.  A Triple Crown?  Yeah, that would be cool.  But if I have any real butterflies during the day, it'll be from thinking about trying to get home after the race in time for the hockey game.

On the negative side, I must say that the owners of California Chrome are slowly progressing from 'slightly annoying' towards being insufferable.  A couple of more articles about them like Drape's and I just might be shouting for him to lose come Saturday evening, to anyone! Getting kind of sick of their smug "we knew it all the time" spiel.  Now they're apparently booking a trip for next year's Oaks with the horse's full sister.  Yeah, we'll see about that.  But, as for now, I'm giving them a pass.  For now.  Probably a good thing that I won't be watching the telecast.

One thing for sure, I am definitely NOT attached to the idea that his winning would be "good for racing."  Sure, there might be a short-term boost for the possible remaining three or four starts in his career. But what will it mean when he's whisked off to stud after the season?  These owners care only about themselves as far as I can tell, and they're not going to miss out on another chance to cash out, I'm sure.  And I might actually argue that it would be better for the game if, come this time next year, we were still attached to a reality in which there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner in 36 37 years. Getting to this point is the most important thing - the excitement level is quite palpable.  Don't think the buzz would be nearly so loud if a Crown was won recently.

Of course, perhaps California Chrome will win in Secretariat-like fashion and become a legend of the game, thus shutting me up.  But I don't see that happening.  I think he's going to lose.  For one thing, aside from the fact that I just don't think he's that good, and as I explained in this post, I don't like the way that Victor Espinoza spoke about having to be so reactive in moving too soon in the Preakness.  Yes, the absence of Social Inclusion will help.  But there are still horses, like Samraat, Tonalist and General a Rod, who may be involved up front and who may very well be making premature moves on the turn, like Social Inclusion did at Pimlico.  Espinoza got away with moving when he didn't want to last time.  But this race is unforgiving.  He may very well be in front turning for home, and the crowd will be going nuts.  But I think Cali Chrome is gonna get caught.

Could be Wicked Strong.  I don't think it will be Ride on Curlin, who got his clear shot in the Preakness; though I wouldn't be shocked.  I wouldn't be completely shocked if it was Commanding Curve.  I would be if it's Medal Count.

Or maybe it will be Tonalist who will be in control turning for home.  I do like this horse, though I'd prefer to see him more like 12-1 than the 8-1 at which he is listed in the morning line, considering his lack of seasoning and just how much he needs to improve speed figure-wise.  Though at a mile and a half, never sure just how relevant those numbers are at this point.  I do know however that his figures are surely moving in the right direction.  And that I very much like his pedigree.  He’s a son of Tapit out of a mare by the Derby/Preakness winner Pleasant Colony (Derby/Preakness winner who was 3rd in the Belmont) who’s a half to the dam of Havre de Grace, and to the dam of the classy Riskaverse, who won turf stakes up to a mile and a quarter. This is also the distaff family of Christiecat, another graded winner on grass at ten furlongs; as well as Petroski, who won a Grade 1 jumping race at Saratoga at 2 3/8 miles.  So, there's some stamina for you!  And to top it off, it's also the female family of the classy Florida Derby/Wood/Jim Dandy winner Plugged Nickel, who didn’t win beyond a mile and an eighth, but who is one of my favorite horses of all time.  So he gets some extra credit for that.  So Tonalist is my pick, at least as of Wednesday afternoon.

If not he, than I think the winner will be someone else who's not named California Chrome.  And when the smoke clears and the fans slink away in disappointment, the fact is that the sport will be no worse off for it, at all.

 - The Los Angeles Kings are said by many to be as much as a sure thing as California Chrome.  I'm not going to be quite as bold in saying that they won't win either!  But I do think the Rangers have a solid shot at the Cup.  By all accounts, the Kings just survived a series that was historically grueling; their third seven game in as many encounters.  So I'm optimistic that New York can get the jump on them and gain at least a split in LA.  I believe that observers around the league that have not watched the Rangers play regularly don't realize just how impeccable the team's defensemen are; two shutdown-quality pairs, and a third pairing that is rock solid as well (especially once John Moore returns from his suspension in Game 2).  The scoring has been timely and well-balanced.  And the goalie needs no introduction.  Seems to me that the team in Blue has the edge in goal for sure.  Man, I sure saw a lot of pucks flying past the Kings' goalie in the last two games!  So, I'll say, the Blueshirts in.......well, I don't care how many games.  Let's Go Rangers!


El Angelo said...

While I agree that it's actually been good for racing that nobody has won a Triple Crown because it adds to the public fervor, at *some* point in the next decade or so, it needs to be won, or it'll look irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

I hate to agree with a post that could be called ridiculously pessimistic - but, man, I completely agree with just about every word.

ljk said...

Think only Wicked Strong has the upset chance. Hate Tonalist, so you can double down.

Was lucky enough to see Big Brown's first two races in person. Really haven't seen anything like it. Durkin in the Preakness - "nobody's ever been close to Big Brown".

ljk said...

Regarding next year's Oaks for CC's sibling. Mrs. Mays had several boys, but only one was Willie.

Anonymous said...

I was actually getting to like you in recent months. But you have proven in this week you have no vision, are not open minded, which is typical for libs like yourself despite how you advertise themselves, and a lousey handicapper, and losuey study of pedigree. You might be right, but it would be for the wrong reasons. So, guess I look again other places for insights. Take care, rock on, light up.

Mutaman said...

"Getting to this point is the most important thing - the excitement level is quite palpable. Don't think the buzz would be nearly so loud if a Crown was won recently."

Don't agree on this point. i was there for Affirmed, the year after the Slew had won, and the excitement level was pretty palpable.

Unknown said...


Fair enough. At least I can spell "lousy" correctly though. :-)


Affirmed was different because of the rivalry with Alydar. No Alydar in this field. But fair enough as well.

kyle said...

Alan, I read anon as expressing a perceived lack of hygiene on your part.

kjh said...

WS will wilt because of the crowd and leave his race on the track before the gates open. T lacks speed, numbers, what ever you want to call it. Cold exacta box CC/MC. Good luck.

Figless said...

I love CC in this race, Commanding Curve that is.

El Angelo said...

How the hell is the Charming Kitten-California Chrome double paying $38? That's 18-1 on a third choice and a horse going for the triple crown.

Anonymous said...

Toronto wins the Cup 4-14-48.
Citation wins the Belmont 6-12-48.

Montreal wins the Cup 5-25-78.
Affirmed wins the Belmont 6-10-78.

General a Rod wins the Belmont 6-7-2014.

Anonymous said...

Green Mtn Punter checking in, I posted on the Belmont earlier. As for Rangers vs Kings, I always root for an Original 6 team in the post season. So, Go Rangers!

Anonymous said...


My Twitter user name is farrightwing1. Just had to add this, I knew it would make your day. Regards, Green Mtn Punter a/k/a Farrightwing1

jk said...

The new "CXO" needs to work on the LIRR and parking lot fiascos post Belmont Stakes. Great NYT coverage on this. We hoofed it to Hemstead Turnpike and grabbed a bus to the F train. Others were stuck at the track until 9-10pm.

It was a great day of racing. I wonder if those who were stuck will ever come back?

Figless said...

Not much he can do about the LIRR fiasco, out of his hands. Similar issues after the Super Bowl, when you have only one line to a stadium there are only so many trains.

As I wrote last week, they need to use Citifield as a staging area and run shuttle buses, with dedicated lanes, as they do in Louisville and Baltimore. Need cooperation from the local authorities.

Emphasizing public transportation is fine, IF you have the capability, which they do not.

As usual I am told they managed to run out of beer and vodka and ice on a day they ban patrons from bringing their own. Unforgivable, both from a business and an entertainment perspective.

And the bathrooms need upgrading, but we know that.

Figless said...

My buddy left after the 12th and said traffic was nowhere near as bad as prior years, 20 minutes out of lot but moved thereafter.

jk said...

LIRR service is not out of NYRA's hands. NYRA is currently subsidizing the LIRR to provide service. NYRA needs to increase the subsidy on Belmont Stakes day.

If large crowds can not be accommodated, cut off ticket sales at 80,000.

Lots of accounts on twitter of customers stuck in the parking lots until 10pm.

Figless said...

jk by out of their hands I mean there is a maximum they can handle since its a spur, perhaps I am wrong as I received this note;

"The LIRR made arrangements to get 20,000 people to and from the track, but 36,000 came by train. They closed part of that walking bridge because chunks of concrete were falling off underneath because it was so packed with people."

As for the lots I guess it depends on which lot and when you departed, but traffic at a major event such as this should be expected. It has always been problematic and my buddy indicated it was less so this year than years past, but perhaps he just got lucky.

No picnic leaving Yankee Stadium, Citifield or Metlife Stadium either.

Figless said...

10pm is absurd I agree, just noticed that part of your note, find it hard to believe but they did have that band playing after the Belmont.

Figless said...

I just read Teresa's piece in Forbes, take back my defense of NYRA.

Actually the race day "experience" appears same as usual, which means it sucks after 3pm once the crowd overflows ,which is why a lot of my friends stopped going.

Disappointing with the new team was hoping they would be better prepared.

Guess the giveaway should have been when Kay indicated there were a lot of top in house people experienced on running Belmont Day. Same as it ever was.

The CXO needs to coordinate better with LIRR and local authorities regarding traffic patterns.

Dan said...

I think its an impossible job to accommodate 100K people when most of the staff that day are temporary help- tellers, food & parking attendants. Should they make it a "sellout" at 80,000 people? I think they need to rethink the amount of people they allow for the security & other issues we must deal with today.

Figless said...

Agree they need to consider capping attendance, but how does CD and Pimlico handle their events. I guess in part its easier because they coral half the people in the infield and those folks don't give a damn.

I confirmed that one NYRA employee I know got out of work there at 930 and didn't get home until midnight.

No excuse for this.

Dan said...

Figless, great article in Forbes that Teresa wrote. I can't believe the ushers would let people without tickets sit in seats without their ticket. Churchill & Pimlico get the same crowd every year. Belmont only gets 100K with a triple crown on the line. I would like to see what policies they change for next year. NYRA can't handle 100K anymore. I do believe NYRA will need to address these issues.

Figless said...

Dan, I have seats on the aisle and the same thing happens even in non-triple crown events, the aisle gets over run with backyarders at race time, and the ushers, who are there every year since the seats are sold every year, are ineffective and/or invisible.

Dan said...

Yes, I used to go to the Belmont with my dad from 1993 through 2011. He can't handle the long day anymore so I bet at his home.

I remember people sneaking in but the ushers would try to kick people out. I believe the same issues happened at Belmont in 2004 with such a large crowd. The difference then was food & beer was allowed to be brought in & less people used the LIRR back then.