Monthly Archives: August 2009

Everyone Wants to be Appreciated

(Jason Moran)

NYRA announced a generous fan appreciation / boost attendance on a slow day giveaway called Thousand Dollar Thursday. On Thousand Dollar Thursdays there will be 15 $1,000 betting vouchers up for grabs to anyone who shows up to say “thank you” for making Saratoga such a smashing success.

“Thousand Dollar Thursday is our way of extending our appreciation to the finest horseracing fans in the world,” said NYRA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Hal Handel. “Saratoga’s fans have helped to make this year a phenomenal success, despite a challenging economy, and we would like to take this opportunity to reward them with $15,000 worth of wagering on us.”

Beginning at 11 a.m. on the final Thursday of the meet, tickets will be distributed at the admissions booths of Saratoga Race Course and will be available to the public; track admission is not required.

While this makes a great press release and is certainly is an excellent gesture, it just seems to miss the mark on appreciating the folks who actually made the meet a success.

Sure, NYRA is going to make 15% off live handle compared to only 5% (if that) on simulcast/ADW, but that backyard is full of picnickers who might not wager much & bring their own food, yet they can win a $1k voucher & those of us who play remotely can’t? One of the things that makes Saratoga great AND an attraction are the giant payouts and EVERYONE who wagers contributes to that not just anyone who shows up.

Midway through the meet on the on-track handle was up a whopping 12.3% compared to the all sources handle “only” up 4.8% (how many tracks would kill for a 4.8% increase?). As of last week the numbers were still up with on-track being up 3.2% to all sources up 1% but according to a press release sent out today but not yet posted at on their site, the numbers are finally down a little after a horribly rainy week.

Attendance and handle turned fractionally down for the first time during the 2009 Saratoga Race Course meet after two inches of rain Friday night and Saturday lowered attendance on Shadwell Travers Day and forced seven of the weekend’s 11 carded turf races off the turf. Attendance is down 1.6 percent, on-track handle down 1.6 percent, and all-sources handle down 2.8 percent from 2008 totals through Week Five.

While the on-track handle has contributed more to the success of the meet, it’s not like all sources wasn’t up too. Why not make a couple of vouchers available to folks who wager with NYRA Rewards remotely?

I would even argue that the way to make sure people who contributed to the success reap the benefit is to make it only available to NYRA Rewards wagerers regardless of where they’re wagering from. Sure this makes the whole thing more complicated but it keeps John & Jane Layabout who came out once for a hat (and left promptly) from turning up Thursday without even paying admission and getting a big fat voucher. I don’t have a NYRA Rewards account but I might be inclined to open one for a shot at winning a $1k voucher every now and again.

And now for the bigger question, how many of those vouchers are gonna be used on $1000 to win tickets on Rachel come Saturday?


Comebacks and Other Notables

Summer Bird enjoying a celebratory post Travers carrot from owner Dr. Jayaraman (Sarah K. Andrew)

In addition to the already mentioned inter-generational two-peat, Travers Day 2009 was also a day of come backs and other notables.

Wow. Vineyard Haven might come down but Godolphin is cashing all those supposed clunkers in today!

Indeed, Godolphin owned Sara Louise, Vineyard Haven and Music Note all had fabulous comebacks, but they weren’t alone. Bob Baffert finally got a win on the card with 2yo Bulldogger in the 8th.

It’s also notable that Ian Wilkes got his first Grade 1 win with Capt Candyman Can in the Kings Bishop and Javier Castellano took both turf races, both of which were first time rides for him. Castellano (19) and Johnny V (20) had 3 wins a piece while Prado (19) had 2.

For the most part the meet leaders didn’t fair so well. Dominguez (36), the current leader, only had one win and current #2 Garcia (30) didn’t have any wins, however they’re both still safely ahead of the rest of the gang with Leparoux being the next closest with 23 wins. Linda Rice (14) also didn’t have any wins on the day but Pletcher’s (14) 2 wins bring him neck and neck with the queen. They both have plenty of chances to over take the other today with her 7 entries to his 6, is any wonder they’re the meet leaders?

There’s a reason why I wait until the parade to make my final picks on the first race of a pick 4 or pick 6, and Salve Germania in the Ballston Spa is the perfect example of that reason. I put that crazy, only previously so-so German invader in all of my P4 tickets and she won at 24-1. She was my parade play of the year! Music Note was the only thing that kept me from cashing what would have been the biggest ticket I had ever cashed, and I only have myself to blame to cheaping out and not including her when I had a chance to make a score a like that. On the bright side I had a nice win bet on der crazy invader and the cold exacta as I put her over Rutherienne, My Princess Jess and Captain’s Lover, too bad I didn’t think to key her in a tri as well!

Looking forward for a moment:

another glimpse of what’s to come for #BC09 re: so-so euros wiping up the turf with our runners

And lastly, a big shout out to Andy Serling on this notable call:

Maybe I’m crazy but I will try to at least get Hold Me Back in the number. I feel like the race could collapse late.

As I Was Saying

(Bud Morton)


JJ is probably playing a little poker to see if he can get NYRA to sweeten the pot

The Internet:

And just for the occasion, Saratoga has increased the purse of the Woodward from $500,000 to $750,000

Mine That Bird had this to say:

Now that JJ has made up his mind the press can get back to focusing on me — Your 2009 KY Derby Winner

And if you’re looking for something else to read about, try Randy Moss’s new blog at DRF!

In Fact, He Raises a Good Point

One of the points used to prove that Jess Jackson is not a sportsman is that he stated that he wished the Woodward purse was a bit higher.

Is he being a persnickety rich guy or pointing out a genuine inequity in a purse structure that favors breeding your talented 3yos versus campaigning them at 4? He’s probably being a persnickety rich guy (not that I care, see points 1-3), but this also raises an interesting point.

Who among us has not bemoaned the retirement of a talented 3yo colt bound for the shed? Who among us doesn’t want to see our “stars” (because 3yo colts are the only ones marketed to a mainstream audience) race longer?

Let’s face it, there’s no financial incentive for owners to return their talented 3yo to the track and the purse difference between the $1M Travers or $1M Pennsylvania Derby vs the $500k Woodward couldn’t be a better example.

Our friend Frank at That’s Amore Stables elaborated brilliantly last year:

Consider this: on the same weekend that Big Brown contested the $2 million Kentucky Derby, the richest race at Churchill for four year-olds was the $500,000 Turf Classic.

At Pimlico, older males ran in the $250,000 Pimlico Special while Big Brown was cleaning up in the $1 million Preakness.

And in New York, while Big Brown tries to secure the Triple Crown in the $1 million Belmont, older males will tussle on the turf in the $400,000 Manhattan.

In other words, while Big Brown was running for $4 million in purses, your older horse — call him Old Grey — topped out at $1,150,000. Old Grey was running for less than 30 percent of the purses available to Big Brown.

While JJ is probably playing a little poker to see if he can get NYRA to sweeten the pot, he inadvertently highlights systemic measures in place to support the “bred to be a stallion” phenomena. Now there’s something to complain about!

Things To Remember

(Sarah K. Andrew)

When feeling the urge to whine about not knowing Rachel Alexandra’s next start:

  1. The campaign she might be having if still owned by Dolphus “Stallion Derby” Morrison
  2. She’s a 3yo filly who might run against older males
  3. If she remains sound she will most likely race again next year

So what if they’d like to work her one more time before deciding whether or not run against OLDER MALES? Seriously, so what?

If the bullet point format isn’t enough to convince, please check the comments at Railbird and Ed DeRosa’s blog for further thoughts on why this is a non-issue. And if all else fails I might suggest taking this approach, it’s working for me!

To Which We Say “Thank You!”

(Sarah K. Andrew)

Much to the delight of this horseplayer, the Breeders’ Cup announced today that it’s finally adopting the standard saddle cloths! Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time knows that this is an issue I’ve been whining about discussing for quite some time. So a hearty “Thank You” to Breeders’ Cup for listening to fan feedback and taking action!

The Breeders’ Cup made its decision to switch to the standard colored system following discussions with its Fan Advisory Council and with horseplayers across the U.S. and Canada and as part of the long-range planning being undertaken by the organization.

A big thanks also goes out to all who signed the Take Back the Race Petition last year. Because of the petition a few of us were lucky enough to be some of the horseplayers to meet with the Breeders’ Cup face to face to discuss many issues effecting fans.

Point 2 of the Take Back the Race Petition stated:

Create a fan committee representing the diversity of the racing audience to provide ideas and feedback on proposed changes and marketing plans to the Breeders’ Cup

The Fan Advisory Council, which they mention in the press release, is just that. I’m lucky enough to be a member along with Patrick of TBA/Handride, Ernie of TRNY, some HANA members and a wide cross section of fans and players. No doubt there are more changes that we’d all like to see, but the changes have started and there’s a mechanism for feedback and dialog.

It’s nice to have something to be cheerful about, especially in combination with some of the other recent unexpected good news. As Swifty is fond of saying, who deserves it more than us?

Green but Game Poster Child

Encore Saritta, my 2009 fantasy ownership pick (West Point Thoroughbreds)

Every year (ok, starting last year) I pick a couple of West Point Thoroughbred offerings sort of as a “fantasy ownership” situation. I can’t swing the kind of dough necessary to buy in to their partnerships (or any for that matter) so I live vicariously and “practice” the art of the biggest wager in horse racing, ownership.

Last year I did alright, I liked Macho Again (great pick!) and Erin’s Golden Star (who? she’s a solid allowance level horse based at Philly Park).

Since I have yet to learn anything about pedigrees I used a skill I’ve been honing all year to make my selection, looking at them. This year I have only one pick and it’s Encore Saritta. I wanted to get this post about before she debuted, but Swifty can attest that she was my pick prior to her debut and win.

I kept searching for her to add to my DRF horse watch but some how missed her. I was alerted to her debut after the fact by Blood Horse’s nifty race results twitter feed.

You can see her debut race here, courtesy of Blood Horse’s also nifty domestic race replay section.

According to West Point’s site:

Under Robby Albarado, the speedy chestnut filly broke alertly and dueled on the lead down the backstretch under quick fractions of 21.75 and 45.35. At the top of the stretch, she opened a four length lead. After a few green strides in the stretch and several heart-pounding moments for the West Point team, the black and gold crossed the wire first. Encore Saritta stopped the teletimer in a solid 58.17 seconds.

Game doesn’t even begin to describe it as she battled through those fractions and pulled away but the green part was pretty hilarious. Needless to say I was annoyed that she paid $22 and I missed it, but I’m totally looking forward to seeing how my fantasy ownership selection plays out. Go Encore Saritta!

Putting My Fingers in My Ears, La La La

(Sarah K. Andrew)

I’m officially over the Zenyatta vs. Rachel mess debate, specifically the ridiculous statements from the owners/connections. As Val points out in her devil’s advocate post, the craziest statement from either camp so far came from Moss after Zenyatta’s win in the Clement Hirsch:

I’ve always said it would be great to have them run (against each other), but so far Rachel Alexandra has only raced against 3-year-olds, and we can’t do that anymore.

Well no duh. Meanwhile, count me in the camp that thinks Zenyatta’s win yesterday was impressive, just as I thought Stardom Bound’s similarly run win in the Santa Anita Oaks was impressive. Jessica of Railbird emailed me the following info from Trakus about Zenyatta’s run:

Check out the Trakus info — at the half, in 7th, ran the quarter in :24.47 (37.3 mph). She then kicks in for the final quarter and sixteenth in :22.91 and :5.65 (40 mph). Wow.

Wow is right. I’m not ready to concede that Rachel is better than Zenyatta or vice-versa, just that Rachel’s camp has gone out of their way to challenge their most talented barn member while Zenyatta’s camp has done quite the opposite.

Like most, I hope to see them race (NOT in a stupid match race) and I hope it’s on dirt… but until then, la la la la la la la.