11/03/2007 3:06AM

Night of Stars


Imagine a Breeders' Cup with 17 races in under six hours, run at 17 different tracks in four different time zones.

Preposterous? Perhaps, but it starts at 7:10 EST tonight: It's greyhound racing's Night of Stars. If you think I'm making it up, go here for free program pages.

Even aside from the 17 venues and the change of species, it's a lot different from a Breeders' Cup. The hounds aren't shipping around, but racing at their home tracks, each of which puts together a race for the top eight dogs on the grounds. The races are contested only at dogdom's two primary distances: five-sixteenths of a mile (550 yards), a two-turn sprint, and three-eighths of a mile (660 yards). The sport also offers the occasional marathon (770 yards) or super-marathon (990 yards), but not on the Night of Stars.

Nor are they competing for divisional championships. In greyhound racing, males face females and 2-year-olds face 4-year-olds without restriction. Instead of honoring the leaders in various age or gender groups, the sport names the eight best racers in the country at year's end to an All-American Team, while honoring the best sprinter and best router with the Rural Rube and Flashy Sir Awards.

Another huge difference is that these runners are likelier to be making their 60th than their 6th start of the year. Kay V Tatoo Tony, a 2006 All-American running in the 11th NOS race tonight, is already 36-for-63 this year at Orange Park near Jacksonville, Fla. Win It For Me in the eighth will be making his 90th start of the year, all of them at Mardi Gras, which is what they've been calling the old Hollywood Dog Track down the road from Gulfstream since the slots came to town last year.

Handicapping a dog race (go ahead, download a program, give it a try) is a lot like decoding the past performances for a horse race, with an additional premium on early speed and post position. The most successful dogplayers I've met are obsessive note-takers who can predict how a race will unfold into the first turn. Dogs have stronger preferences for running on the inside or outside, and the combination of that preference and post position often determines who will emerge with the early lead.

The nicest thing about the Night of Stars is that a portion of the proceeds goes to greyhound-adoption efforts, and adoption programs are promoted throughout the event. Thoroughbred racing could take a cue from all this. There are two NOS programs each year, yet horse racing does not devote a single day to a national, coordinated effort to raise money and visibility for equine welfare, retirement and placement efforts.

--Okay, back to the ponies. Saturday's stakes fare includes the Cal Cup program at Oak Tree, with Lava Man trying to get back on track in the Cal Cup Classic. The nation's only graded stakes are a trio of races at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs for horses one notch below those who ran in the BC F&M Turf, Dirt Mile and Distaff:

3:52 p.m. EST, Aqueduct race 7: G3 $150k Long Island H., 3+F 1 1/2m-T
Royal Highness is the even-money ML choice and may well go off even shorter in a ragtag field of seven. Winner of the Beverly D. this summer before a dull sixth in Lahudood's Flower Bowl, Royal Highness is one of only two graded stakes-winners in the field. It's such a weak bunch that Miracle Moment, who has never tried a graded race and has failed in four restricted stakes, is 6-1 on the ML. A better choice for second might be one of the British fillies, Dalvina or Rising Cross.

4:34 p.m. EST, Churchill race 9: G3 $200k Ack Ack H., 3+ 1m
Sun King has been running against a different universe of horses from those his seven opponents today have been facing, having run into Curlin, Lawyer Ron and Corinthian in his last four starts. He can win this even if he has lost a step since his '06 campaign, where he ran Invasor to a nose in the Whitney and Silver Train to a head in the Met Mile. His 9-5 ML odds look generous from here. Istan is a perfectly logical ML second choice at 9-5 returning to dirt from a failed grass try, but ML 9-2 Off Duty is very shaky at the distance.

5:02 p.m. EST, Churchill race 10: G2 $150k Chilukki S., 3+F 1m
This might be a more promising spot to shop for a price than the Long Island or Ack Ack. Six of these nine fillies regularly run in the 95-to-101 Beyer range, and there are reasons to doubt the three ML favorites: Rolling Sea (3-1) drew the tricky rail spot and may face early pressure from the outside; Windy (7-2) and Trendy Lady (9-2) are a combined 0-7 in stakes company and face five graded-stakes winners here in their toughest assignment to date. Change Up (6-1), who showed high promise last year and now stretches out in her third start of 2007, is worth a long look, and High Heels (6-1) may be perfectly suited to a one-turn mile.

There are one-day pick-six carryovers of $34,759 at Aqueduct and $16,104 at Churchill, neither of which will attract the $1 million pool Oak Tree is guaranteeing on the Cal Cup card. Oh, and there's a $75,000 pick-six guarantee (only for 6-of-6) on races 8-13 of the Night of Stars.

Arazi More than 1 year ago
Victsu - Nice post. Interesting thread about the fascinating athletes. One thing I liked most about greyhound racing is there is almost always no scratches although payoffs are not enticing because of the high percentage of favorite either winning or landing in exactas or trifectas. For a brief period of time when I played greyhounds, it was a tremendous handicapping experience because I had to concentrate solely on runners and not the human factor i.e. Jockey's, Trainers etc. as is the case in horse racing. They shot out like a bullet and kept giving their best -- Pure and Simple! Steve, How did you fare in Aquaduck Pick 6 carry over on November 1st? Live: 1247/3458/23568/1/3/3 ($160) 1247/3458/236/2479/3/3 ($384) 1247/3458/236/1/3/10,13 ($288) Dead: 12/3458/58/2479/3/3 ($128) 12/3458/58/1/3/10,13 ($64) 12/3458/236/1/2467/3 ($192)
vicstu More than 1 year ago
Nice post about the Night of Stars, Steve. I was a patrol judge and later a finish line judge at Derby Lane in St. Pete, Florida... Moved to Jacksonville to attend law school as a mid life career change...and I have seen Kay V Tatoo Tony race several times, the dog probably has as much box-speed, early speed as I have ever seen at a dog or horse track...There usually is no rugby scrum (as Steve B referred to it)with Tony. He is always in front of any trouble, which is why the dog has close to a 100 percent in the money rating and has won 60 plus races in his career. But he is short when running against good closers. I recall the NOS very well, an extra race that they would squeeze between two late races on the evening card, and its live and on cue. I always liked how the proceeds went to greyhound adoption agencies. Handicapping a greyhound race is an excellant lesson in identifying speed, possible trouble between speed and post positions going into the turn, and if so, keying in on one or two strong closers to key or partial wheel with an early speed dog. The dogs usually run true to form, and no one is rating them (although many closers have learbed how to run from off the pace by a technique called "hand slipping" them into a group of runners during informal schooling). Horse racing involves many variables that may or may not be present with the hounds...but both have world class animal atheletes. The most prolific runner I have ever seen (horse or greyhound) was a brindle greyhound named Cayman Went, who was named to the All American team two consecutive years and in 2004 won both the Rural Rube and Flashy Sir Awards and was greyhound of the year. He broke the all time stakes win record that was set by Great Huntsman way back in the 1950s. The dog loved to run, was unbelievably fast, and had the unworldly combination of lightning fast box speed and a devastating late kick. This greyhound won 11 major stake races within a 14 month period. He beat the track record holder for Wheeling Downs and Hoolywood twice, another All American named WW Apple Jax...and I also remember another Rural Rube and Flashy Sir winner (different years) named Talentedmrripley. Another great runner. His average margin of victory in grade A races was over 10 lengths! In fact, Cayman Went broke the track record the Ripley set (and Apple Jax tied) 2 years after Ripley broke the 20 year old track record at Derby Lane and Tampa tracks. Believe it or not, both Cayman Went and Talentedmrripley ran for the same trainer for the same kennel (Bahama Mama Greyhounds). Lightening did strike twice, and the dogs were so popular that the St Pete Times did several feature stories on each champion runner. While I don't know if something like the NOS would ever be logistically feasable in this industry, a high profile series of races to benefit retired race horses and to stop the wholesale slaughter of horses deemed to have lost their usefulness would be highly beneficial. And, of course, the next time they accuse a greyhound of throwing a race or stiffing a ride will be the first...
Steve Breen More than 1 year ago
My dad is from Boston and was a longtime dog track guy. No doubt the key is figuring out which dog will "benefit" from tthe rugby scrum into the first turn. For those who haven't tried it, the dogs are kind of a cross between the ponies and a casino-- The mental exercise of studying the PP's at the breakneck pace of casino action. Me, I'll stick with the ponies. Speaking of the ponies Hawthorne has the Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing on tap today. Six 100K stakes for statebreds with nice field sizes (including 41 in the late P4), not to mention 25 cent hot dogs and a view of the Stickney skyline...
dale tillotson More than 1 year ago
With the winds at the big A, itmight be a good day for your 2 greyhound children to contribute to the blog.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Another Reason Why Fire Water Is Bad For You Has anyone commented on the bizarre double-vision of the BC being run under water at the same time that California, next years BC host, was on fire? And you'd think that, considering that The Simpsons has provided the only nationwide TV publicity for the dog tracks, there'd be at least one race on the above card with the following entries: Santa's Little Canine; Chief Waggum; Barky Van Houten; Terwilliger's Terrier; Rollover Von Waylon; and Snowball IV (a dog named after a cat).