08/15/2007 3:29AM

Optional Reading


I get the feeling sometimes that so-called "optional claiming races," at least as they exist at NYRA tracks, are a widely misunderstood race condition -- starting with the fact that we even call them optional claiming races, and the way that DRF itself lists them in the past performances.

Take Wednesday's opener at Saratoga. It appears in the race header as "OC 50k/N2x" and it will be described by seminar and simulcast hosts as an optional claimer. But it really is just a plain old N2x allowance race ("Alw69000N2x"), with one little twist: If a horse has already run himself out of this condition -- already won two races other than maiden, claiming, starter, or restricted -- he can still run in this race if his owner's willing to risk losing him for $50k.

In tomorrow's 1st, however, all nine fillies qualify under the allowance condition and none is for sale. Yet everyone will call the race an optional claimer when it is identical to an N2x allowance. It's sort of as if the Kentucky Derby were open to zebras as well as thoroughbreds, and no zebras were entered, but everyone called it a zebra race and we listed the condition as "3Z&C"

It's a little different in the 3rd race, an "OC 100k/C" where just one horse (8-1 outsider City Weekend) is in for a $100k tag. Same deal in the 6th race, an "OC75k/N3x" where only one of the nine entrants (likely favorite Electric Light) is in for a $75k tag. So it's only the fact that Electric Light has 4 career wins where his eight opponents have 3 each that makes this any different from an "Alw75000N3x".

Yet I constantly hear horseplayers talk about horses "dropping" into an optional-claimer from straight allowance company, when in fact they're running in a slightly tougher race, one open to horses that have already won at this level.

--I've made a first pass at the pick-six portion of the Wednesday program (races 4-9), and it looks like the two bookend races might be the biggest stumbling blocks. The opening leg is an eight-horse baby race with seven firsters from tough customers including Asmussen, Mott, Pletcher and Zito. The finale is a full field of $40k older grass fillies. Maybe there will be some scratches to help.

joe del More than 1 year ago
How do you know who is in for a tag and who is not?
hugh d. More than 1 year ago
Steve, I agree with a comment posted a few days ago. I would love to see it listed in the Form if a horse was recently gelded.
Joe M More than 1 year ago
This may be a bit late on the chairs, but it was clear since the giveaways were announced that Sunday would be bedlam. Some time ago you vented in your column against spinners at the Spa and it stuck with me. Amongst the sights on Sunday, when I walked in for the 4th race I saw a guy loading about 30 chairs into his van, with the motor running, with his wife as the "getaway driver" - what a sorry sight - and when I went through the Clubhouse turnstile I saw that no coupons were left for the chairs - a simple solution that will never be implemented: on giveaway days require every adult to buy a very modest $10 irredeemable voucher (only used for betting)with EACH admission...
Mitch Steinberg More than 1 year ago
Thank you for clarifying the optinal claiming condition. I have been confused by it for a long time. Today's entire card should be listed as "O Pk6p/MW2x/P4s" ( optional pick 6 players, for Monday winners of 2 pick 4's) Go get em!
Dave More than 1 year ago
Steve-as you pointed out in an earlier missive, Cornelio Velasquez is having an outstanding meet-2 more wins today. I always felt that this hard working jockey flew under the radar. Has he ever won a Kentucky Derby, Preakness and/or Belmont? Thanks Dave PS Hope your greyhounds are getting more shut-eye than you. Maybe cut back on the coffee after midnight. Good luck.
hhw More than 1 year ago
Did Steve really say he wanted some scratches? Not the Steve I've read about-go for the big score, big guy!