06/04/2009 11:51AM

Offtheturf Thursday


11:00 am: There's a $169k double-carryover at Belmont today, and the four scheduled turf races in the sequence have been moved to the main track after overnight rain. Scratches aren't up yet, which makes it impossible to handicap the card yet, but I would have been getting a late start even if they'd been up sooner: I turned on TVG a little after 10 a.m. and saw Summing getting that dream trip on the rail in 1981.

The network was showing memorable Belmonts from the last 30 years back to back: Conquistador Cielo running away from the field....Caveat bounding off the rail...Swale galloping them into submission...Risen Star blowing past Winning Colors...New York's Easy Goer... How did Real Quiet get caught?...Birdstone nailing Smarty Jones...Rags to Riches and Curlin down the stretch. I am now officially in the mood for the 141st Belmont.

Broken-television I wasn't in the mood for yesterday's one-day carryover after the NYRA signal was pulled from the Nassau OTB channel due to an ongoing dispute between the track and its local OTB corporation. Since the OTB's can't televise out-of-state races while NYRA is running, there was a black screen up all day long, and this was a bit of a flashback too, to the bad old days in the 1990's when NYRA was pulling the plug on New York City OTB over some other dispute.

I understand everyone's frustration at the adversarial relationship between NYRA and the OTB's, but the problem with plug-pulling is that it really punishes only the customers who can't see the races. And perhaps someone could explain why we even have a state Racing and Wagering Board if it can't adjudicate these matters and protect the public.

Here come the scratches: 21 of them in the four off-the-grass races. And here's that black screen again on the Nassau OTB channel. Instead of yesterday's replays, just the message "Channel 25 'BELMONT' needs authorization key."

Oh wait, the screen just turned blue and there's a new message going up. A peace treaty? Nah:

"Due to a dispute between OTB and NYRA the video from Belmont race track is not currently available. We hope that the matter is resolved quickly and the video is restored."

Back later after digesting those scratches. What started as a 10x9x11x11x8x15 sequence is down to a 6x8x7x6x7x7.

2:00 pm: It's worth playing. There are a few races where one or two horses appear to tower over the field, and the potential's there for a skimpy payoff, but maybe a multi-ticket approach with lots of wacky backups can yield a five-logicals/one-goofy result that makes it worthwhile.

A couple of press releases showed up in the inbox while I was handicapping:

--Equibase announced the following national wagering totals for May:

Half-empty: Business continues to decline, and further cutbacks in racing dates at Churchill, Hollywood and Del Mar won't make June and July look very pretty.

Half-full: The casino industry would give its eyeteeth to be down roughly 10 percent year over year. Racing is outperforming other forms of gambling.

--Also, the Breeders' Cup announced reduced ticket prices for this year's encore at Oak Tree. General admission will be $10, down from $20 last year, and the cheapest seats are $55 instead of $200.

The BC release also said that ticketbuyers will have the "option" of making a donation to The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which it describes as "the Breeders' Cup primary non-profit beneficiary for the 2009 World Championships." It's a worthy enough cause, but a disappointing choice: Shouldn't racing be soliciting donations for cash-strapped racing-related causes such as animal-welfare or disabled-jockeys groups instead of putting a few more drops in the well-financed bucket of a nationally-prominent research foundation?

Okay, time to make the tickets.

3:15 pm: Two and done. Didn't like Jaystone at 5-2 in the second leg, where I virtually singled Captain Sword. I thought there was a ton of one-way speed that would set things up for the Cap'n, but Jaystone shook off a lone early challenger, opened up, and easily lasted over the late-running 2-1 favorite.

Reminder: NYRA will offer dime supers on Belmont Day but not with live tellers. Supers are available on all "qualifying" races (fields of seven in stakes, eight in other races) at self-service terminals and via phone and Internet.

7:00 pm: Congrats to those who hooked things up correctly for a $23k payoff that was nearly triple the $8,324 parlay. No tough beats in the finale, as Have You Ever ($16.40) scored by 16 1/2 lengths. Even though the winner was the fifth choice in a field of seven, he didn't really blow up the payoff, which would have been $9k or $11k with the two favorites.

Four stakes including the G2 Brooklyn on tomorrow's Belmont Eve card, but you might want to wait until morning before putting much time into the five grass races on the card: More rain is forecast for overnight and for Friday afternoon, but at least Belmont Day is still looking good -- the forecast is for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's.

Joe Hirsch, the Daily Racing Form columnist who died Jan. 9 after more than 50 years in which he was considered the dean of American turf writers, will be remembered by friends, fans and horsemen Friday morning at Belmont Park. The memorial service, open to the public, will begin at 10:30 a.m. on the fourth floor of the track clubhouse.