10/31/2008 6:41PM

Greyhound Time


I haven't stopped playing just because the Breeders' Cup is over. I had to jump into opening day at Aqueduct Wednesday because you always have to bet on your birthday, and after investing just 12 minutes and $192 in the early pick-four, I caught a buck of the $4629 payoff just for beating a bad 2-5 shot in the opening leg. I haven't cashed a ticket since, though not for lack of trying. Today and tomorrow, however, are more about greyhounds than horses.


Halloween is a greyhound-centric event around here but don't worry, I don't dress them up in tutus or anything vile like that. Instead, I delight in the scene that's been repeating itself every five minutes for the last couple of hours: A group of costumed kids rings the doorbell, and three seconds later they're shrieking at the sight of 180 pounds of black-and-white greyhound flying at them toward the glass front door. They scream and run back down the steps, then slowly come back up as they realize the worst thing that could happen would be getting licked to death. Popeye, the spotted one, gets the best comments. The alltime favorites are "Look, Mom, it's a Dalmanatian!" and "Is he a milkdog? Do he give milk?"

Tomorrow's greyhound festivities are more national in nature: The twice-a-year "Night of Stars," greyhound racing's version of a Breeders' Cup. (Here's a link to free past performances for the 17-race card.) Since there are no issues with jockeys being in more than one place at the same time (the main reason the Breeders' Cup can't be run at more than one site), the NOS consists of 17 races run at 17 different tracks, one every 18 to 22 minutes. Each track assembles a "hotbox" field of its best local runners, or schedules the final round of a stakes series to fall on NOS night.

The NOS, unlike the Breeders' Cup, also has an industrywide charitable purpose. Most of the proceeds from the evening go to fund adoption programs for greyhounds when they reach the end of their racing careers. Wouldn't it be nice if horse racing did the same even once a year?

--There's a little ($25,951) carryover into Saturday's Aqueduct card, which can hardly be scarier than Friday's, where the early pick-4 paid $76k and the late one came back $8k. The sequence starts with the 4th at 1:52 pm ET and includes three grass races, including the featured G3 Long Island Handicap at a mile and a half for fillies and mares. A German-owned, French-raced, Andre Fabre-trained entry of the field's only 3-year-olds, Astrologie and Shake the Moon, is listed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite but they don't look any better on paper than stateside favorites J'Ray and Hostess.

Churchill Downs is running an 11-race card with all 2-year-old races, including the G3 Pocahontas for fillies and the G3 Iroquois for colts, both at a flat mile. Those races lead to another all-juvenile card Nov. 29 featuring the G2, 8.5f version of those two races, the Golden Rod and the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Those races, and Aqueduct's Remsen and Demoiselle, are always key events looking ahead to the Triple Crown trail, and perhaps even more so this year: The BC Juvenile winners and likely divisional champions, Midshipman and Stardom Bound, have raced only on synthetic surfaces.

--Here's that column about the ban-greyhound-racing ballot proposition mentioned in a comment below:

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