08/17/2008 2:50PM

Day 23: 8/17/08


2:15 pm: Not much to report from last night's very pleasant Jockey Club dinner where my tux-clad table of owners, breeders, track and industry officials discussed pretty much the same things a post-race PJ's picnic table of horseplayers would: (in alphabetical order) Big Brown and Curlin, cobra venom, Hialeah, Lasix, Magna, past-posting, steroids, stupid tax-withholding rules, stupid wagering rules, toegrabs, the usual. The after-dinner speaker was Rob Murphy, the former Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher who's a huge racing fan and enthusiastic owner/breeder. His nom de course is "M375," which is SLEW spelled upside-down. (Go ahead, rotate your computer monitor 180 degrees. See?) He's a part-owner of Golden Spikes, who's coming up for the King's Bishop Saturday. Murphy told some good stories like the one about running bets on the Arlington Million for manager Pete Rose during a game. His more serious message was that baseball was prospering despite its own labor/management and medication crises and that racing can do the same.

The centerpiece of this morning's Jockey Club Round Table was four new recommendations from the JC's Safety and Welfare Committee, but perhaps the most interesting portion was a presentation by Dr. Larry Bramlage addressing some of the "theories" about horses raised in the aftermath of the Eight Belles breakdown this spring. Bramlage cited large statistical studies performed since then which should put to rest irresponsible statements, often presented as fact, that the breed has been weakenened by the Native Dancer sire line; that horses (outside of a handful of prominent bluechip stallions) are being retired earlier than they used to be; or that 2-year-old racing harms them. The data contradict every one of these assertions.

As a crowd of over 200 exited the Round Table, they were greeted by a lone woman in a bloody butcher's apron screeching about the mistreatment of horses. It was a reminder of the level to which reasonable discourse about racing sank after the Derby earlier this year.

--Today's 2nd race began with the single strangest betting move of the meeting: Second-time starter Amanwella, no better than a tepid consensus choice of public handicappers and only a smidge high at 6-1 on the morning line, opened as the 3-5 favorite with half of the $40k win pool on her nose. No other pool reflected any such support, and it was an incomprehensible price for a 2-year-old filly who was switching to dirt after finishing 7th (albeit with some trouble) in a turf sprint at 4-1 in her debut. I started checking the program to see if there was a heavily-favored #9 somewhere else on the card -- maybe someone dumped $10k on this one by accident? -- but couldn't find one. It's not as if Amanwalla's connections, Hickory Tree Stable and Graham Motion, are renowned as big bettors, and the filly showed only a mild 3f breeze at Fair Hill since her July 28 debut. Who in the world was betting $10k to win on her?

Amanwella attracted only about a quarter of the remaining win betting on the race and went off as the 9-5 favorite. This was very good news for those of us who liked Persistently, the Phipps filly who, as noted on July 27th, made a spectacular run from another county to get third in the fast Miss Ocean County race. Things looked a little dicey early as Amanwalla got an easy lead and no one could stay with her as Persistently trailed, but then Persistently swung out and began gobbling up ground late again, nailing Amanwella in the final 50 yards for a clear victory at a fat $9.90 mutuel. Persistently could be a serious and interesting racehorse.

4:45 pm: Despite Persistently's probably being lower than $9.90 in the early pick-4, it paid $667, more than triple the $210 parlay. With the third and fourth legs being blind firster-fests, winners Troy G. ($4.80) and Anjorie ($5.00) were clearly much bigger prices in the multirace pool.

Got off to a decent start in the late pick-4 by using just two A's, off-the-board Mr. Wenzel and the victorious Ridge Royale ($13.40). That leaves me 3x2x7 with a 4,8,11/2,3/2,3,4,5,6,9,10 with a press on 4/2,3/3,4,10.

This is officially the start of Travers Week, which I'm guessing is going to feel less like a Travers Week than usual this year. It's probably going to be a better betting race than in most years, with a full field that's going to look about an inch and a half apart on paper, but without a Big Brown or a Big Anything Else, there's little sense of history in the making. The undercard stakes are eligible to come up strong, though, and if the weather keeps holding, there should be full fields on the turf every day from here to September given all the horses rained out of their first scheduled starts at the meeting.

--Before I forget: Huge congrats to "saratoga_mike" for hitting Saturday's $10k pick-6 using the ABC method, and to "AndyScoggin" for making it as far as he has in the ShowDown contest, where it looks like there were 37 people left going into today. So far, only the five people who used Prince of Peace in the 1st have been knocked out. Everyone else seems to have survived, not including the single votes for Just as Well and Summer Patriot in the upcoming John's Call.

Was all set to go to the Washington County Fair tonight until finding out it doesn't start till tomorrow night. But tonight's the last night of the Altamont County Fair, which looks like it's not too far away, somewhere southwest of beautiful downtown Schenectady. So good luck the rest of the way today. Now that I've seen 17-year-old John's Call leading the post parade for the John's Call Stakes, I'm cutting out early to go look at farm animals, eat fried food, and lose my money at rigged carney games.

Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
andyscoggin - what happens if you are the last player standing ? What is the prize ? Monday. The comment on Yelt for the July 27 race is interesting: "YELT was bumped at the start, moved up between horses while four wide along the backstretch, made a run to threaten in upper stretch and finished evenly." Did the protesting woman look like the Beatles in that rare album cover ? http://blog.wired.com/tableofmalcontents/2007/06/morning_thing_t_1.html
AndyScoggin More than 1 year ago
SHOWdown update-- Still alive and 31 left! I was on Persistenly and loved the horse! I did not bet the horse as I was driving north yesterday. Went to SAR for breakfast today. Thank you for all the support from fellow bloggers. I will be at the track on Thursday afternoon and at Steve's Siro seminar that morning.
Jen More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve Thanks for a great column Sunday on racing writers and what we are doing nowadays...I am lucky I still get lots of space in local paper and I have a little blog tooo
sero More than 1 year ago
andyscoggin, Stay sharp & focused. Scratches & weather are vital. The '04 Saratoga SHOWdown contest went the entire 36 days for me. On the final day I actually selected a scratch on purpose (which you can't do now) defaulting to the post time favorite which was now "both halves" of a Frankel 2/5 entry (Powerful Touch & Toccet) ....instead of just selecting one of them. Knowing I now had a strong insurance buffer, I trekked 50 minutes up to Saratoga to watch the race. My wife thought I was crazy when I told her I had the contest locked up and wanted to be there "live" to witness the experience ..rather than on my computer. The Frankel entry ended up running 1st and 2nd to clinch the contest. Being there and soaking it all in is something I will never forget. Congrats and hope you keep it going!
Ray Manley More than 1 year ago
Steve, Several months ago someone on Dan's blog mentioned that Churchill Downs would end up with this years Breeders Cup due to the never ending track problems at Santa Anita. Have you heard anything about this? This would certainly be one way of bringing Curlin and Big Brown together. And Proud Spell would probably show up in the Distaff. All 3 horses have won at Churchill. With the Breeders Cup just two months away if this is going to happen it needs to be announced soon.
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for Persistently to be 4-to-5 next time out!
dfwbuck More than 1 year ago
andyscoggin, congrats on your showdown streak.... i'm curious if you have kept a tally of the ROI of a 2$ show bet on your horse each day OR starting with 2$ bet and a parlay each day? good luck the rest of the way!
Repo Man More than 1 year ago
Sunday's R3; AlwN2l @ 9F drew a whopping 5 entries. Is this the death knell for NYRA's experiment to promote longer races? Watching this group stagger home suggests it's going to take more than good intentions to stage racing at the classic distances.
jhbvta24 More than 1 year ago
What do the Breeder's Cup, Pete Rose and Shaun Kemp have in common? Pete Rose loves to bet the Breeder's Cup.... Shaun Kemp won the Breeder's Cup!!
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Like plenty of us I liked the Shug 2nd timer in the second. Her debut was an eye catcher. Couldn't figure the Motion fav getting so much action either. Finally figured if your going to buy the Trainer Stats book and Spa Players Guide you might as well pay attention when they say, "Motion.... was blanked with seven dirt runners. This continued a well established pattern. For the last 3 years Motion is 1 for 25 on dirt." Pushed the Phipps horse on top and did ok. At $33+ the exacta seems plump to me.