11/21/2009 7:30PM

Back to Aq


So, where were we? I'm fresh, fit and dangerous off a post-Breeders' Cup freshening and already am looking ahead to the 16 graded stakes (including five Grade 1's) next weekend at Aqueduct, Churchill Downs and Hollywood:



--In the meantime, there's a little $44,705 carryover at Aqueduct tomorrow, and no, that's not a two-day carryover, which you might think from some of the recent pools at the Big A meeting. There have been weekday carryovers as low as $14k, the lowest I remember in the 25-year history of the bet in New York. As Dave Litfin noted in today's DRF:

"Where did all the pick six money go? Since the switch from Belmont to Aqueduct, handle on non-carryover weekdays is down more than 40 percent. Handle on the six non-carryover weekdays at Belmont in October ranged from a low of $40,293 to a high of $56,975 and averaged $51,262. Handle on the seven non-carryover weekdays at Aqueduct through the first three weeks ranged from $22,929 to $36,398 and averaged $29,920.Doesn't anyone have $2 and a dream anymore?"

All the off-the-grass races sure haven't helped, and I think that after a while players just get exasperated with not knowing where races are going to be run until (if they're lucky) an hour or two before first post. Surface switches have become the rule rather than the exception, with three grass races a day routinely carded even when there's plenty of rain in the forecast. It's nice that NYRA tries to squeeze in some November grass racing at the stakes and allowance level, but carding grass races for $25k statebred maiden claimers, just to scrap them, seems excessive.

Incidents like Thursday's card, when the 6th and 9th races were taken off the grass in the middle of the day after the sequence was already in progress, lose even the loyalists. Confusion reigned among pick-4 and pick-6 players, and the ultimate disposition of the pick-6 was straight out of Alice in Wonderland. The two surface-switched races became "all" events, and there were plenty of 6-of-6 tickets, but because of conflicting state rules the winners were paid only $109.50 each out of a consolation pool and there was a $20k carryover into Friday's card.

Frustrated NYRA officials say they were obligated to pay off this way under existing statutes they have been trying without success to get changed by the State Racing and Wagering Board. It seems that when well-intentioned rules regarding surface switches and minimum numbers of races were instituted several years ago, there were language conflicts that were never reconciled.

This is beyond tiresome. There are several commonsense changes that the Board needs to put through, regarding not only pick-six situations like this one but also permitting superfectas in races with coupled entries and adopting a more consistent refund-vs.-favorite policy with multirace bets. Lawyers and tote experts from the Board and the tracks really need to be locked in a room one day and not fed or released until all this stuff is ironed out.