04/02/2008 4:31PM

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Aqueduct
Commenter jim summed up my own feelings about the start of April when he concisely wrote, "Inner is over and Keeneland opens Friday...yippee!" I took-a-break/gave-up-on the Aqueduct inner-track meet about a month ago, other than double-carryovers, and have been waiting for the return of seven-furlong sprints and one-turn miles that started today. I needed a freshening, and the final month of the inner, with its new lows of quality this year, seemed like the time for a layoff.

It's not as if the racing suddenly got a whole lot better with the surface switch, and players who had been complaining about a recent speed bias on the inner were still complaining after a run of front-end winners on the main, but my fresh eyes found the card playable and there was one nice opportunity in the sixth race -- one that included two types of horses who are seem to be routinely overbet: slow horses from hot trainers, and grass horses returning from layoffs in dirt races.

Golden Wind was a legit favorite, stretching out from six furlongs to a mile as the lone speed with clearly superior figures. Such horses do not quicken my blood at 7-5. But the second and third choices in the race were those types mentioned above: Boxitup was the 2-1 second choice despite four horrendous dirt races to start his career. He followed those with four decent grass effort, and now was returning to the dirt. Study Abroad, the thiord choice at 4-1, had won her last start by 10 1/2 elngths but did it against statebred maiden claimers and earned a figure of 54 that was not going to be competitive here. Had she been trained by John Doe instead of Rick Dutrow, she would have been 8-1. So I tossed them both, punched Golden Wind over the only other two plausible contenders in the race, 8-1 Slipstone(last-out 60) and 12-1 Roll The Di (last-out 58) in exactas and tris, and it worked almost to perfection: Golden Wind jogged on the front, Roll the Di was a clear second and Slipstone was third with 20 yards to go....but got nailed on the wire by Study Abroad. Bad result since the tri, which paid $120, probably would have been closer to $200, but the $37.20 exacta wasn't terrible.

As for the second part of Jim's "yippee," Keeneland indeed opens Friday, where the feature will be the $150k Transylvania for 3-year-olds on the grass. Prussian, unraced since suffering his lone defeat as the 7-2 second choice in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, is 9-5 in a spotty field that includes Barrier Reef, who was transferred to the Godolphin string after winning the Whirlaway on dirt at Aqueduct Feb. 2.

Saturday's Keeneland feature is the G1 Ashland for 3-year-old fillies, an excellent Kentucky Oaks preview and a challenging spot for Country Star to make her season debut: She faces Proud Spell, who handed Indian Blessing her first loss in the Fair Ground Oaks, and Bsharpsonata, who has won four straight stakes at various distances and surfaces.

The Ashland is one of a mind-boggling fourteen graded stakes races around the country the first Saturday in April. The lineup includes four other G1's (the Wood Memorial and Carter at Aqueduct, the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn and the Santa Anita Derby), the G2 Illinis derby and the G2 Oaklawn Handicap.

Yippee indeed.

Tom More than 1 year ago
Steve, I agree with of your comments about fine tuning the Derby requirements and think the concept of a points system would be much more appropriate. I also think that the 3-year preps should carry more weight than the 2 year-old races. Is it possible that the due to the polytrack, the BlueGrass Stakes should be downgraded from a Grade 1? I believe that it is becoming increasingly irrelevant(on an admittedly small sample) in handicapping success in the Derby.
david More than 1 year ago
Spent three days in Lexington at Keeneland's Opening Weekend. 1) Polytrack - It saved the opening day. After driving through an early morning monsoon and seeing puddles of standing water everywhere, racing probably would have been decimated on Friday if the traditional dirt track had still been there. Very few scratches and a decent feature. 2) More poly - Relative to bias, it has basically reversed things out there. Friday brought eight closers and two wire jobs. The old Kee probably would have given us something like eight wire jobs and two closers - people just need to adjust their handicapping to account for the bias like they would on any other surface. 3) Crowd - Seeing young people enjoying their day at the races is great. Keeneland is a social hub for the community. Maybe Bearcat Bob should spend a day at Aqueduct in the dining room where I saw less than 10 tables occupied during a live racing day this winter. We need young people to get and stay interested in our sport. On Sunday when Sharp Susan beat Criminologist in a mid-day turf allowance race, the grandstand noise was deafening - we need more of this in racing -- not less. 4) Race scheduling - Looks like they are trying to fix this with the new 1:10 post. It was silly that the Wood and Ashland were off at exactly the same time. Keeneland had an automatic eight minute delay built into the card with a first race shoe repair but unfortunately got caught up quickly. If the Ashland had been carded as their 8th race, this would be a moot point.
RichP More than 1 year ago
It's also too easy to blame everything that's wrong with NY racing on NYRA. The politicians in Albany are owed much of the blame for NYRA's current money woes. They delibratyely held up slots in order to try and bankrupt NYRA so they could give the lucatrive slots franchise to their buddies. NYRA has to take the blame for poor customer service and an attitude that bettors are a necessary evil instead of one of their primary customers. I agree there's no excuse for that attitude. With all their shortcomings They're still a better alternative than Magna, Churchill Downs INC. Or Steve Wynn.
tony More than 1 year ago
Folks a few questions . in my eyes Col John looked the best this sat in SA derby fantastic late move . My question < not being able to race with BUTE how will this affect him ? And does G Gomez get back on him or does cory maintain the mount ? To me this year is going to be a closers race and right now it looks like Pyro and Col John . if I have a strong closer the jock I want more then any is Gomez . Any thoughts ?
Richiebee More than 1 year ago
This notion came to me while posting at another location but I would like to hear some feedback. In today's Wood, Texas Wildcatter is in desperate need of graded purse $ to be eligible to run in the Ky Derby. Not so desperate will be War Pass, Court Vision and Tale of Ekati, all of whom bankrolled major graded bucks as 2YOs. Would we make the Derby preps more compelling if we weighted graded earnings so 3YO earnings were more important than 2YO earnings?
mark c More than 1 year ago
It's easy to blame NYRA's woes on politicians.Politicians told nyra to have the WORST food at all the concession stands? Politicians told them not to fix the broken benches at belmont? Politicians told them to pay too much money for the web site( no bid contract) so they can't put televisions outside that are newer than 10 years old? Politicians told them to charge $6.50 for a beer? ( I don't drink) Politicians are the cause of non existant customer service? Politics may have a part in the problem.Gross mismanagement is the bigger problem
Unitas More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve, what is your opinion on Aqueduct cancelling Friday's (4/4) card? I live in Nassau county, and it has not been raining for hours(as of this posting, 10:50am). NYRA's press release stated it was cancelling today to ensure the best racing surface they can have for tomorrow's (Saturday) card, featuring the Wood Memorial. What an absolute travesty, in my opinion. Why doesn't NYRA build a roof an Aqueduct, remove the turf courses, install a synthetic surface to drive away any hardcore race fans it has left. I was taught that racing on all surfaces(natural, that is) and through all elements(non-dangerous, of course) was a large part of this game, one which made this game unique. Is this the reason why NYRA was given a 30 year extension as the governing body overseeing New York Thoroughbred racing? Over the last few years, there has been more and more cancellations at Aqueduct, and a good portion of those have been questionable at best to the racing fans in NY who have been around the game for a long time. I love the textbook response that is given to why the card was cancelled, usually "For the safety of the horses". The way in which most of these cheap horses( the overwhelming majority of the horseflesh stabled @ Aqueduct) are drugged up to not feel the pain in which they endure while racing to make a buck, or more hopefully, to be claimed, is a disgrace to begin with, so telling the public these cancellations are in best interests of the equine athletes is absurd. I guarantee that if it is raining the proverbial "Cats & Dogs" tomorrow, especially during racing hours, NYRA will not cancel, simply for the fact that there is too much money to be lost. Will it be any safer for these horses to run tomorrow on a potentially "dangerous" racing surface, or will the additional monies wagered make the racing surface "safer"? Hmmmmm....
Tony More than 1 year ago
NYRA at it again ... Its not even raining here(friday) and they cancel todays card ? What is going on out there ????? They have to preserve the track for tomorrows big card ? no wonder there going bankrupt !
mike More than 1 year ago
Tampa has always been second rate racing and will always be. The racing is garbage and the pools are small. No one bets serious money at TAMPA.
Unitas More than 1 year ago
Hey Jim, if you are smelling grass in NY, especially @ Aqueduct, I'm sure that it is coming from the grandstand area, and I am sure it is not legal. The REAL racing(Dirt & Grass)season starts in NY around the 1st of May, when Beautiful Belmont Park opens its gates...