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Day 17: 8/11/10
Saratoga is the last major six-day-a-week meeting in American racing. Del Mar has dropped back from 6 to 5, Churchill Downs and Hollywood were down to 4 the last two summers, Monmouth is experimenting this year with just 3. Should Saratoga, now up to 40 days of racing, perhaps go to eight 5-day racing weeks instead of 6 2/3 6-day weeks?
I've had more than a dozen people make that suggestion, and there's some appeal to it, especially for horsemen, track employees, and hardcore fans who want to get involved with every card and find the current schedule wearying. But it's not a slamdunk. There are housing and rental issues in stretching the meet out over eight weeks, negative financial implications for a currently cash-strapped NYRA, and the question of whether fans who plan vacations around Saratoga visits really want two days a week with no racing. Some horsemen's officials also think it would leave too much money on the table, effectively eliminating six full days of race purses.
Anyone feel strongly about it one way or the other?
If there were a shift to a five-day week, the second dark day would probably be Wednesday rather than the downstate choice of Monday, so that visitors could get an extra day out of a three- or four-day weekend. A card like today's -- with only one open-company non-claiming race, and where 1-for-31 Flying Sappho just romped in the opener as a 7-5 favorite -- would be the casualty.
In any case, it's 88 and sultry here back on Long Island today, six degrees and 200 miles of separation from Saratoga, where it's reportedly fast, fim, clear and 82. Made it downstate in four hours flat from grandstand (Saratoga) to grandstand (Belmont) yesterday, including one coffee stop and a 20-minute backup at the dreaded Whitestone Bridge. It's clearly been hot and dry downstate, judging from the scorched lawns and dead flowers.
1:48 pm: Is this 1990 or 2010? Strategic Move just paid $15.80 winning the second race despite having a last-out speed figure that was seven points faster than anyone's last race and six points better than anyone's career top. Obviously there's a lot more to handicapping than top figs, but you just don't see a payoff like that on a runaway top fig too often since the days when you had to make your own figures.
3:30 pm: Lubash (by Freud) held off 3-2 favorite Seattle Mission (by Strategic Mission) to win the $100,000 Cab Calloway for the offspring of stallions standing in New York.
According to the Jockey Club, there were 81 stallions in New York in 2009, which put it in a tie for 11th with West Virginia nationally, behind Kentucky (329), Louisiana (270), Texas (241), California (237), Florida (173), Oklahoma (169), New Mexico (160), Pennsylvania (123), Indiana (101) and Illinois (84).
Last year New York ranked 7th in number of mares bred with 1,599, behind Kentucky (18,920), Florida (4,136), Louisiana (3,457), California (3,122), Texas (1,746) and Pennsylvania (1,737).
5:05 pm: Carryover! No live tickets into the finale after Tranquil Manner ($12.00) rallied from last n down even-money Birdrun and 2-1 Atomic Rain to win the 8th, a five-horse N3x 9f allowance race. So tomorrow's $100k guaranteed pick-6 pool will probably be twice that.
The carryover ($41,246) may seem unlikely if you're just looking at win prices so far, but a couple of them were a lot tougher than the odds might suggest: College Grad ($11.80), while well bet in his debut, was beaten 31 lengths in his only start. Tranquil Manner (A. P. Indy-Composure) was a distant third choice in the betting and could have easily been 10-1 in the pick-6.
6:00 pm: EZ Passer, hammered from 6-1 ML to 2-1, cleared from the outside under Dominquez, set slow fractions, and scampered home an easy winner to complete a $2,531 pick-4. Tomorrow's pick-6 sequence begins at 3:15 ET with the 5th of Thursday's 10 races and consists of three dirt sprints, two turf routes and a turf-sprint finale. Five of the races have fields of 10 or more and ML favorites no lower than 3-1. GEt to work.
My non-racing fans went to Saratoga last year on a Tuesday and complained to me afterwards that there was no racing on that day! The perception to the general public is that it is open everyday. The same way that people think the best horses in the world run in the Kentucky Derby. Little do people know that it is restricted to 3 year-olds whose careers usually hit a brick wall on that day, but racing traditionalists would disagree - Of course the non-fan knows it is restricted! ha
Everyone is entitled to their opinon on the length of the Spa meet. What I don't undertand is why some posters are concerned about how we spend our money. It is no secret that hotels and restaurants dramatically increase their prices during the meet. I expect to pay at leat three times the average rate to stay at a reputable Saratoga hotel in August then in Decemeber. But frankly I have no reason to go there in December. I never had more fun then being price gouged for a whole weekend in the greatest racing town in the world!
George, Keeneland is NOT an aberation. It's the real deal. Its Racing in the Spring and Fall gives Owners and Trainers an excellent opportunity to have their Horses ready for the Spring Classics (Ky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont.) Their up-coming Fall meet is ideally positioned to have Horses prep for the Breeders Cup Races at CD, 60 miles away. Why knock the Lexington Room? It's opulent, provides a great view of the Races, is open to the Public and their Luncheon Menu is a bargin at a reasonable cost... Most importantly, it's all about the racing! Every Race, except their Maiden Races, provides an excellent opportunity to make a decent score...
I think the racing schedule must be centric around the trainers and their employees. These folks keep horses running (regardless of the schedule) and need a break in the summer that is amenable to THEIR NEEDS.
I think 8 weeks of racing Weds through Sunday would be great. I try to get up to the Spa for two long weekends each meet, but unfortunately this year due to work and other commintments it can't be done. The Travers weekend and Labor Day weekend are never really options for me. That limits the number of weekends to choose from. Two added weekends would create a better oppurtunity to get up there at least twice. I also feel no racing on Tues & Weds would benefit the tourist spots in the area, restaurants and shopping on Broadway. Those seeking action can go to the Racino. This makes so much sense. I hope it is taken into consideration for next years meet immeadiately.
I'm all for a reduced schedule if it elevates the quality of races at the Spa. Don't dilute the currency of the Saratoga brand!
Bill: I assume based on the rest of your post you meant Thursday-Monday and NOT Wednesday-Sunday. Monday I suspect would have a higher live handle than Wednesday, more than offsetting any loss of simulcast handle you'd get on Wednesday. The key to my format, however, is while there would be racing on Thursdays, Fridays and Mondays, half of the races each week (excluding the jumpers) would be contested on Saturdays and Sundays, when handle is biggest (hence the varied post times in my version as for example Saturdays would be 13 races and Sundays would be 12, requiring a 12:30 PM first post on those days while with shorter cards, Thursday (eight races) would be at 3:00 and Fridays (nine races) would be at 2:00 (Monday, while also nine races, including any jump races would be at 1:00 in this format because that for some is a "getaway day" following a long weekend), with the later post times on Thursdays and Fridays making Saratoga more attractive to west coast horseplayers on those days as well as allow people more time to get to Saratoga. I also think having as suggested there being a week and a half off between the end of the Belmont spring meet and start of Saratoga would help with trainers being ready to go when the meet starts, and another week and a half off after Saratoga would give trainers incentive to make three starts during the meet if they race opening week.
A five day racing week would give me one day to update my stats and do some study and another day to be with family and get a few chores done.
It really turns me off when I hear people talking about the Saratoga meet helping out the businesses in the area. When the race meet is about to open, these motel and restaurant owners are licking their chops waiting to gouge the gullible fans. I have never seen so many Maiden races at a summer meet as I have this year at both Saratoga and also at Arlington.
First, I was glad that you commented on the failed attempt at 7 days a week many years ago Steve. Thought we were going to lose Harvey Pack that year! That is a non-flyer. "A card like today's -- with only one open company non-claiming race, and where 1-for-31 Flying Sappho just romped in the opener as a 7-5 favorite --- would be the casualty." That of course if the $64,000 question. I wouldn't be so sure of that eventuality. Since NYRA has struck it's Faustian bargain with the NYSB horse industry restricted races are carded preferentially, and no one I know can answer the question as to whether the open stock left town on it's own and NYSB horses magically materialized, was run out be decreased racing opportunities, or vaporized due to declining foal production. My strong suspicion is the political alliances that created this heavily subsidized industry will be loath to see it threatened, and without change on that front card quality improvement is doomed. I can recall my first trip to Saratoga in 1975, a split running of the Test Stakes on a weekday and two jump races featured on a 9 race card. Those who have been going since then can recall a different Saratoga. The beautifully restored houses on Union Avenue were mostly in disrepair, downtown wasn't dotted with high end motels/hotels, and the whole "August Place To Be" idea was still in the future. A lot of people at NYRA and in the Saratoga community have worked awfully hard to make what we have there now a reality. They deserve congratulations and our support. Still, everyone should realize that continued success is not automatic. I suspect that Saratoga could support an 8 week meet, five race days or six. I'm not so sure that it should though. Belmont, to me the most majestic race track in the US, has had it's spring/summer meet marginalized to a triviality except for a few big days. That would only be exacerbated by shaving two more weeks off of it, and might raise the question of it's sustainability. So for me I'd say lets sit pat for a few years, see how the 40 day extra weekend meet idea pans out up north, and do some serious work on increasing overnight race quality at the Spa. When progress is made in that direction then maybe look at moving to the longer 5 or 6 day a week meet.