09/25/2009 7:45PM

Grade 1 Catchup


Just a few more days to goof off before the serious fall racing begins, and I'm planning to make the most of them. I'm headed to Las Vegas for the NTRA's Marketing Summit at the Red Rock Monday and Tuesday and, as long as I'm in the neighborhood, I suppose I'll play a few hands of poker.

There hasn't been a Grade 1 race since Sept. 12, but the famine tuns to feast starting Oct. 3, with 20 Grade 1 races in an eight-day span at Belmont, Oak Tree (which opens Wednesday) and Keeneland (which opens Oct. 9.) With 72 Grade 1 races in the book (and 42 left to go) for 2009, here's the scoreboard, which I finally got around to updating today:

While I'd stopped keeping score, Bob Baffert rocketed to the lead among trainers, winning seven Grade 1's since the 4th of July to take over the national lead with eight for the year, two more than Christophe Clement. Steve Asmussen is next with five, followed by Bobby Frankel (who hasn't won one since June) and Saeed bin Suroor (who didn't win his first until Aug. 2) with four each. Next come John Shirreffs and Jonathan Sheppard with three apiece.

Rachel Alexandra leads all horss with five Grade 1's, three of them -- the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward -- against males. Gio Ponti is next with four, followed by Zensational with three, and seven other horses have won two apiece: Einstein, Informed Decision, Magical Fantasy, Seventh Street, Stardom Bound, Summer Bird and Zenyatta.

Four jockeys have each won six Grade 1's, combining to win a third of the 72 run so far: Calvin Borel, Kent Desormeaux, Garrett Gomez and Mike Smith. Ramon Dominguez and Julien Leparoux are next with five each, one more than Victor Espinoza, Alan Garcia, Rajiv Maragh and John Velazquez. Those 10 riders have taken down 50 of the 72 Grade 1's.

--I'm usually all for anything that puts a few more dollars into horseplayers' pockets, but the state law that is forcing NYRA to pay off on both a correct and incorrect superfecta combination in Thursday's 9th race seems just plain silly and should be changed.


The placing judges, through human error, posted #13 rather than #10 as the fourth-place finisher and that was the "official" result for two minutes and 49 seconds before they caught and fixed the error. That should have been the end of it, with congratulations to anyone who cashed in a ticket on the wrong numbers during that tiny window. Instead, on Friday, due to a rule designed for disqualifications days or weeks after a race, NYRA found itself in the Alice-in-Wonderland situation of being legally bound to pay off on the initial "official" order of finish -- the wrong combo instead of the right one. At that point, it had no choice but to honor the law by resuming payoffs on the wrong combo, and to do the right thing by also paying off on the right one.

The pool was "only" $111,978, potentially putting NYRA on the hook for an additional post-takeout $82k in duplicate payouts. Once the error was caught, however, there is simply no defensible reason to require NYRA to pay off on a non-winning combination just because it was posted for less than three minutes. If it had been a $1 million pick-six where a wrong digit was posted for 2:49, would NYRA have had to pay out an additional $740,000? That $82k would be far better spent on a down payment for a Trakus system.