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.

TMaz More than 1 year ago
I totally agree that running 2 year-olds builds a foundation that can positively carry over into their later years. If you thumb through the book CHAMPIONS by the DRF Press you'll notice pre-1960 all the great champions had about 9 races as a 2 year old and almost none ran more than 6.5 furlongs. Also they normally came back in March which be perfect timing to begin a campaign for the Breeder's Cup. Post 1960 when looking at 2 year-olds you see far fewer starts, more starts at longer distances, the introduction of L or Lasix and obviously more human related vet tampering. Rid the L, nobody has proven lasix to be beneficial. Shorten 2 year old races, but race'em often and watch'em run as 3 and 4 year olds. How hard would it be to compile that data in Excel and prove it right? It would have to be cheaper than some of the vet bills and potential harm from anti-race goers. It worked then, it can work again.
bestrades More than 1 year ago
Been a while since I checked in and now I remember why I have loved your colums since I was 13 . Thank you for being a "righter" of all the injustices of our world and a hell of a capper. Burning the oil...but not too late as you say as Mother Nature will dictate much...I might take a HUGE runner-up flyer in Hardys horse..have a wonderful day...wish I were there....
bochalls More than 1 year ago
Hey Evan G--if I remember correctly (it's been some time) but last time I rode the trans Siberian express I seem to recall a small newsstand just outside the train depot in Irkutsk (got that name from playing 'RISK' as a kid)..believe they have the Form you're looking for. Call ahead and reserve though, as they sell quickly!... Steve, I also enjoyed the Belmont replays on TVG. Who was the NYRA caller before Durkin? He's great...its Easy Goer, EEEEASY Goer!...minor humble picks for today at Belmont: Smokin Sarah in R3-she's the fastest!...A Zero Trap in R6- good figs and back to NY breds...Sales Tax in R8-swangin for it here, but she'll get her pace and may be the one late...Elmfield Boy in R9-looks a lil overmatched but likes soft turf and I trust owner Earle Mack to put em where they belong...go for it.
John_L More than 1 year ago
Some thoughts on yesterday at Beautiful Belmont. I was forced to watch the races on TVG because I was too lazy to drive over to Elmont. If I had to watch that channel every day I would take up golf. The pick six was a $23k gift yesterday I still think Chavez is the best on a wet track. Channing Hills agent is the same guy that told Mclean Stevenson that he should leave M*A*S*H for a movie career.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
bochalis: Marshall Cassidy called the NYRA races before Tom Durkin. He was a meticulous announcer and rarely became overly excited. If you heard the call that includes "New York's Easy Goer" that was him. Most of the videos played have the Dave Johnson ABC network call on them. Mr. Cassidy is retired and lives in the Saratoga Springs area. NYRA has had him back for a guest call during the Spa meet for the last several years. I think his call of last years NYSB Loudenville Stake is on Youtube. Not knocking Tom Durkin, who's a treasure, but I miss Marshall a lot.
Larry Thiel More than 1 year ago
Great column from Andy Beyer on the speed figures. I wish that kind of explanation from him was a more regular feature. Especially when we know Beyers have been adjusted.
Burt More than 1 year ago
I think TVG gets a bad rap. Iff you ignore the comedy and focus on some pre-race paddock interview you can find some good plays. Steve Klesarais interview gave you the 1x horse today
Medi in NY More than 1 year ago
Mr. Crist... Steve, I have to agree with you on your comment about the "Breeders Cup" charity donations. I am in the battle of the beast -but donating to yet another organization when the horseracing industry is in desperate need for support doesn't make sense- For horseplayers who truly love the sport...we can fund equine research, injured jockeys, injured horses, track chaplains.... Most of the money donated to "cancer" research doesn't reach us suffering day to day.
Davey700 More than 1 year ago
Does anyone know where Benny the Bull is running tomorrow? I see him listed for the first race of the pic 6 at Belmont and a $70,000 stakes at Monmouth. Help!!!
The_Knight_Sky Racing blog More than 1 year ago
Steven Crist wrote "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." _____ Perhaps they can relocate their Albany offices into the cavernous grandstands downstate. They'd surely get a lot of work done amidst the tranquility in Elmont. ;-)