09/19/2008 9:51PM

Saturday Spotlight


The three richest races in the nation Saturday are at three tracks that rarely command the sport's spotlight: the $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Philadelpia Park, the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs. Their approaches to their star turns could hardly be more different:

--At Philly Park, the outlandishly rich Cotillion is surrounded by....absolutely nothing. There are no other stakes races on the card. Three maiden races, three claiming or starter races, and three allowance races complete a 10-race card where the feature goes at 3:50 and the finale runs at 4:16 p.m. sharp so as not to inconvenience the slots players. The $750k Cotillion is an 8.5f G2 for 3-year-old fillies run one week after the 9f G1 $250k Gazelle, also restricted to 3-year-old fillies.

--At Suffolk, where there are still no slots, at least they tried -- bringing back the Mass 'Cap at all and putting three other stakes on the card. Getting Commentator, partly because of the track's admirable anti-slaughter efforts, was a neat accomplishment. But the field that's been rounded up to oppose him is wafer thin: 2-for-15 Dr. Pleasure is second choice on the ML, and the other five have all raced for tags. The only other stakes-winners in the field besides the favorite -- who has earned more than his six opponnets combined -- are winners in statebred and Claiming Crown company.

--At Harrah's Louisiana Downs Casino and Racetrack, the $500k Super Derby is only one of six six-digit stakes races on the cards offering a combined $1.25 million, including a $200k turf mile for older males and a pair of $150k grass routes for 2-year-olds. There's an all-stakes pick-six and a $100k guaranteed all-stakes pick-four, both ending with the Super Derby.

The Cotillion morning line has Proud Spell at 8-5 and By The Light at 2-1. Maybe I'm nuts but this seems totally out of whack. I would expect Proud Spell, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama and leader of the nation's 3-year-old filly division, to be a much heavier favorite than that against a filly who just won a statebred six-furlong race at Saratoga. I also would think that Macho Again is going to be shorter than 5-2 in the Super Derby.

The Mass Cap is ungraded while the Cotillion and Super Derby are G2's. The day's other graded stakes is the G2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont, where Indian Blessing is 3-5 against Sugar Swirl, Elope, Zada Belle and Port Bonheur. I think I'll be fooling around in the all-stakes pick-4's at Louisiana Downs and Suffolk, since the one involving the Gallant Bloom includes one turf sprint for conditioned claimers and another for statebred maidens.

Medi More than 1 year ago
Steve wrote:...At Harrah's Louisiana Downs Casino and Racetrack, the $500k Super Derby is only one of six six-digit stakes races on the cards offering a combined $1.25 million, including a $200k turf mile for older males and a pair of $150k grass routes for 2-year-olds. There's an all-stakes pick-six and a $100k guaranteed all-stakes pick-four, both ending with the Super Derby. ~And I was glad to get a slice of the THAT pie when my husband decided to create a pick 4 ticket on youbet that looked like this: LAD Race 9 $1 Pick 4...... ALL/1,2,5-8,10,12/2,10/1 -leaving out "Macho Again" because of a pronounced speed bias on the main track which resembles the old Keenland. And for this we were rewarded with an exciting finish and nice payout. If you watch the race in replays you will see why we where sweating it out....whew!.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Steve, I'm at a loss to understand the reasoning behind Churchill Downs granting a spot in the Derby to the winner of this English race. Agreeing with all your points, it also seems to me that with the domination of Euro racing by the large stables (Coolmore, Godolphin, and a few others) who don't need a treasure map to find Kentucky that the gesture is mostly symbolic. If the boys in blue want to enter the Derby they do not need to be at Kempton Park in March on synthetic. I'd also like to say that I really wish Churchill Downs would look into restricting the number of starters in the Derby. Twenty horses engaged in a cavalry charge, with at least half a dozen of them not belonging in the race for any reason is an accident waiting to happen. I am aware this accident has not occurred. I hope I never see it.
callmetony More than 1 year ago
what"s the thoughts on Commentator running in the classic ? Boy that sure would make it interesting . I just love to watch that horse run .
ml/nj More than 1 year ago
Very quite on Broadway in Saratoga Springs tonight! I drove through on my way up to a Monday meeting in Vermont. If the meeting ends early enough tomorrow I hope to stop and smoke a cigar at Yaddo on the drive home.
airforbes1 More than 1 year ago
In a moment of narcissism, I made the Bay Meadows videos. Thanks for watching. Jay Hovdey did a good job writing columns about the final days, but otherwise I found the racing media's coverage of the end of Bay Meadows to be wanting. I suppose most people only care about the bigger tracks, but every time we lose a track--whether it's Hialeah, Bay Meadows, or the Woodlands--we lose a bit of history and character. Even if she's not based in Nor Cal, I was happy to see Seattle Smooth, the last Bay Meadows Oaks winner, win the Cotillion.
Alex P More than 1 year ago
Steve, I was wondering if you knew anything about the condition of Go Smarty Go. He's a Frank Alexander trainee that won his debut today at Belmont in the 5th by 3 in 1:20.71 on the turf, but was vanned off the track.
buffalo joe More than 1 year ago
Picksburg- Very unlikley, already several, tracks including Gulfstream are doing very little to help purses, and It will only get worse. How long do you think it will take to break all those hard working retired social security collecting group of the American public that make up a great majority of patrons in these slot parlors. Some of the smaller track that also have slots are cutting purses and slashing racing days, while laying off workers. It has been a band aide and will wear thin.At least thats the way I see it.
SFDan More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve - I am a big Indian Blessing fan, but am not sure if the choice to run in the Gallant Bloom was a smart one - what did they really learn in defeating 3 other overmatched rivals? Why not run in a synth prep or against the boys? It would not tarnish her year if she was second against the boys - she'd probably even win if the fields were as short and as weak as they have been. Proud Spell was in a no-win situation yesterday (if she won, so what - she beat chumps; if she loses, her quality gets questioned). If I were a trainer, I do not have to win my prep before a big race, so why not race against good competition and see what my horse is made of? But Baffert's decision seems to be the convention with trainers now as they look for ultra-soft preps or a series of soft races all year to "pad the stats" until one big day of racing. It does not help the sport to watch short fields in most of the stakes races during the "shoulder seasons" of racing. As much as I like Indian Blessing, will not take a short price on her (or any other horse that has been mopping up on the softies) on BC day with a field that should be 2-3 times larger than what she has been defeating.
clown_show More than 1 year ago
Steve I wanted to raise a point about your article 'churchill tries to fix wrong problem'. On the one hand, you seem to think that a European horse who really wants to win the Derby ought to come over here and try to earn American Dollars in one of our preps. That's fair, i get that. But, you seem to contradict yourself by saying that tracks with slots money shouldn't count as much as the established grade 1 races and to that i'll say that trainers need to race in the slots enhanced races if they are serious about the Derby. Times have changed. If we are going to ask a European trainer to ship here to gain graded monies in order to ensure a berth in the KYD, we also have to say that anyone who is very serious about making it in the gate has to ship to slots tracks and run for the large purses. Money makes the world go round. If you want to ensure a berth, you need to run in Delta. If you skip delta and miss the earnings by a few horses, you only have yourself to blame.
Wayne C. More than 1 year ago
I hope Commentator goes to the Classic. He's a bet against. Beside the major questions about the surface, he still does his best running against weaker fields or when he gets away easy early. I think that even his "A" game will be compromised by the other Grade 1 speeds that are likely to show up for the Classic at 10F.