10/07/2009 1:01PM

The Road to Pro-Ride


Forty --Forty Days of Saratoga next year? Just saw the NYRA announcement that Saratoga will add four days of racing to the meet starting next year, with an additional Friday-through-Monday -- a seventh weekend -- tacked on to the beginning of the schedule and the Coaching Club American Oaks moved from closing weekend at Belmont to the new opening weekend at Saratoga.

What do you think (asked a man looking for weekend-column fodder) ? More of a good thing or are we in danger of further diluting what was once a 24-day meeting that now expands from 36 to 40 days of racing?

--We're all going to spend much of the next month debating which horses will or won't thrive over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita Nov. 6 and 7, so I thought it might be useful to look at where last year's starters made their final starts before Cup Day and how they fared. It's a pretty small sample -- one year, eight races, 86 starters -- but here's a little map of where the starters in last year's main-track Breeders' Cup races made their previous start before racing on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita:

Here's another iteration of the same chart, this time combining OSA with the other synthetic tracks to give a broader synth vs. dirt vs. turf picture:

Either way, it's pretty clear that synth and grass preps proved most successful, accounting for all eight winners and six of the eight exactas, while horses coming off dirt races were 0 for 22. On the other hand, a prep over Pro-Ride itself (4 for 24) was a stronger angle than a prep over other synth surfaces (2 for 26), and there was not really that much difference between a prep on Keeneland Polytrack (8: 0-2-0) vs. one on Belmont dirt (14: 0-2-3).

And if you take the goofy Marathon out of the equation, horses coming straight from a race over Del Mar's Polytrack were only 8: 1-0-0, with that one winner being Midnight Lute -- who ran the worst race of his life on Del Mar poly in his lone prep last year.

race More than 1 year ago
Steven--Great post on the DRF Home Page with regard to "Sea the Stars", being Crowned the "Best Ever" from our comrades across the Pond. Especially as you noted that we Americans alway's try to use Statistics---really--Hilarious!!!--race
Deadrockstar More than 1 year ago
I grew up near Albany and cut my teeth at Saratoga in the late 1970s. I wholeheartedly disapprove of the extension to 40 day. And let's be honest, it WILL go to 42. So that means that if Labor Day falls on the 1st, opening day would be Friday the 18th or Wednesday the 16th. That's simply wrong. The only redeeming part is that Whitney Day or some of the early August weekends might be less crowded.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
As for the dillution of higher class races at Saratoga: As noted before, a lot of that has to do with the slots-fueled purses elsewhere, especially at Philadelphia Park. Currently, a NW1x Allowance goes for $45,000, the same purse as Belmont going short, while a NW2x carries a $46,000 purse at Philly and so forth. In addition, a NW1x Allowance at Penn National for instance now carries a $36,000 purse. Another problem well noted is that top horses simply don't race nearly as often as they once did. Until we start getting trainers to have the guts to race their top charages more often, that probably is going to continue.
mike More than 1 year ago
Cheaper races will increase for sure. The dilution of the greatest race meet is sure to be noticed.Fooling with the goose that laid the golden egg. Brilliant NYRA!!another bobble head give away day to add.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
Just like Michelle Pfeiffer said in 'Scarface' while consuming copious amounts of drugs, "Nothing exceeds like excess...". The mantra of everything popular and profitable in America, even the Saratoga meet. My vote is to keep it at 6weeks or even shorten it (that woulda saved me money this year!).
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
As for the Sword Dancer: I would look at moving that race to early May at Belmont, shorten it to 1 1/4 Miles and position it four weeks before The Belmont Stakes when The Manhattan Handicap is also run. In this format the Sword Dancer can be the middle leg of a new, three-race spring turf series that would start at Aqueduct the week after the Wood Memorial with the Bowling Green Handicap (Grade 2), increased to $300,000 and run at 1 3/8 Miles on turf at Aqueduct. The Sword Dancer would then follow as a $500,000 at Belmont at 1 1/4 Miles on turf (in 2010 that would be May 8), and the Manhattan would be the final leg on Belmont Stakes Day (June 5), lengethed from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 Miles on turf.
HorseRun More than 1 year ago
as with taxes and product prices, there is a point of diminishing returns and SARATOGA hit that point a LONG time ago...NYRA being excited that the Saratoga meet was down, but "just not as down as expected" is the mentality that has taken over this entire country....lower expectations to such a low level, that when you beat them, you can call it a success...too many liars in charge in this country in the 21st century
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
SC: Concerning The Man o'War, I would return that race to opening weekend of the fall meet at Belmont Park, where it had been through 2006 OR have it headine the final day of the Saratoga meet in 2010, where it would be 3-4 weeks AFTER the Arlington Million. There really is no major race on turf for older horses at that point since the Man o'War was moved to July, so moving it back makes more sense, and especially since Monmouth has the UN Handicap the week before the Man o'War anyway. There is no need for NYRA to have the Man o'War in mid-July when it has to compete for horses with the UN 'Cap at Monmouth (Grade 1, $750,000 at the same 1 3/8 Mile distance on turf as The Man o'War). As for the Triple Tiara, a better idea in that regard would be to convince Philadelphia Park to move The Cotillion (currently Grade 2 but could be upgraded to Grade 1 for 2010) to Memorial Day, positining it in 2010 four and a half weeks after the Kentucky Oaks and in most other years three and a half weeks after the Oaks, lengthening that race from its normal 1 1/16 Mile distance to 1 1/4 Miles. NYRA could 26 days after the Cotillion run the Coaching Club American Oaks at its former 1 1/2 Mile distance at Belmont as a $1 Million race (with the Mother Goose moved to April at Aqueduct to become a primary prep for the Kentucky Oaks, the Acorn remaining where it is on Belmont Day and the Comely, currently run in April at Aqueduct run at the end of the Belmont Summer meet OR in a beefed up version at 1 1/8 Miles on opening weekend at Saratoga instead). The KY Oaks, Cotillion and CCA Oaks could then make up a new Triple Tiara for Fillies with a $2 million bonus to a horse who sweeps the three races. As for a turf race for opening weekend at Saratoga, I would in this format look at moving The Bernard Baruch (Grade 2) up to the opening Saturday, making that race a $300,000 event at 1 3/16 Miles as the primary NYRA prep for the Arlington Million.
SherpaGuide More than 1 year ago
I actually have to work for a living (by the sounds of it, many people posting here don't, spending the whole Saratoga meet up north) and I am very busy in the summer time. I like the additional weekend, it gives me an additional opportunity to get there.
woodridgephil More than 1 year ago
steve, Just read your sunday column couldn't agree more. This horse shouldn't be mention in the same breath as big red.. One more point all you new yorkers should calm down you have the best racing in america. You should relax bet and enjoy. Eitherbet the turf sprints or come to Illinois and bet some 4000 cl nw of 2.