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Tampa Bay Downs has been one of the bright spots in American racing over the last few years, notching business gains and improving the quality of its product. It's also offering some commendable takeout reductions as it open its season today: The bite has been lowered from 25 % to 20 % on the pick four, from 21 % to 20 % on the pick three, and from 18 % to 17 % on straight WPS bets. The track has also scrapped its Twin Tri in favor of a pick six on the last six races each day, which will probably grow slowly but could get interesting whenever multiday carryovers reach critical (bettable) mass.
The opening-day feature is the $65k Lightning City Stakes at 5f on the grass, where Bucky's Prayer is the 5-2 favorite. If you're feeling a deja vu tingle, it's because Bucky's Prayer already won the 2007 Lightning City Stakes when it was run May 5 before being moved from the end to the beginning of the season's stakes schedule. If she wins the same stakes race twice in a year, good for her: The tough 5-year-old Michigan-bred mare ran a sensational race shipping from Great Lakes Downs to Saratoga last summer, contesting a blazing pace under an injudicious ride before settling for second in an overnight stakes race.
--The weekend's only graded stakes are today's trio at Aqueduct and Hollywood:
3:44 pm EST, Aqueduct race 8, G3 $100k Queens County H., 3+, 1 3/16 miles
Hunting, the longest shot in the field when he won his stakes debut in the G3 Stuyvesant three weeks ago, is the 9-5 ML favorite in a field reduced to five by the early scratch of Barracuda Boy. Hunting, a 4-year-old Coronado's Quest gelding, looks like he'll thrive at the unusual 9 1/2-furlong distance of the QC, and should get a strong pace to run at. Barcola, who stopped despite being loose on the lead in the Stuyvesant, may do a bit better over the inner track but faces early pressure from Marital Asset and Nkosi Reigns. Marital Asset has turned into a new horse since being turned over to the streaking Tony Dutrow for his last two starts, but those were 7f sprints at the Pha and he's no bargain stretching out with Barcola to tangle with early. Nkosi Reigns is the outsider I'll use along with Hunting, given some decent form last year and the possibility of sitting a garden trip behind the other two speeds. Evening Attire, three weeks from turning 10, still seems to be enjoying himself as a racehorse and has already banked $145k this year.
5:34 pm EST, Hollywood race 5, G1 $250k Hollywood Turf Cup, 3+, 1 1/2m-T
The latest forecast has the rain holding off until after the year's final G1 grass race, where all eight entrants will be seeking their first American G1 victory. Heroi do Bafra won two Group 1's in Brazil last year but is winless in four American starts against lesser. The other Group 1 winner, Sudan, is more intriguing: If you can overlook this globetrotter's dismal last-out effort in Sweden's Stockholm Cup, he has races last year in France against Rail Link and Red Rocks that would make him a standout in here. His G1 victory in Italy's Gran Premio di Milano this summer earned a higher Racing Post Rating than any of the efforts by Juddmonte/Frankel import Champs Elysees, who will be a much shorter price. There's nothing wrong with ML favorite Sunriver, who has been facing much better fields than the locals, but he may need a slow pace and a comfortble lead to handle the 12th furlong.
7:35 pm EST, Hollywood race 9, G3 $100k Native Diver H., 3+, 1 1/8m
Ravel is the deserving favorite and center of attention in a field of 10, and is supposed to win if he lives up to the high promise he's shown in just four career starts. On the other hand, he's probably going to off a lot shorter than his 5-2 ML odds, and the value play might be Arson Squad, fourth choice on the line at 6-1. He's taking a sharp class drop, can be forgiven his dull efforts over Del Mar's goofy Polytrack, and can win this if he runs back to his efforts in the San Fernando and Strub earlier this year.
Tampa Bay Downs - Steve we enjoyed your visit to Tampa Bay Downs last year. TBD has become a Poker Facility that runs horse races part of the year. Management has, in spite of the steady increases in horse business, turned the entire betting concourse for the grandstand into a poker room. Punters are left to run downstairs or crowd into an inadequate closet where the card room used to be to place a wager. Punters have been thrown into backseat. Poker players have been moved up to the front.
Hard to beleive but NJ Bets went from bad to worse. I am only getting videos from three or four tracks. What happened to Roberts Communications that were supplying replays. Typical Jersey handling of horseplayers!
DISASTER! Some of us had complaints about NJ's Internet Wagering System's ability to cope with the BC Day volume, but really it HAD been a reasonably well designed and operating system. Unlike many readers of this blog, horse racing mostly ends for me with the Breeders' Cup, so it wasn't until last night that I came back to the NJ system for a little Saratoga Harness action. (Okay. Okay. But I did go to RPI!) The NJ folks have effectively destroyed the NJ Internet Wagering System. Odds are no longer updated on the page where bets are placed. If one wants to look at the pools, he has to find an otherwise useless page. I limited myself to to win bets. I was afraid to look at the multiples bet interfaces. Getting to the Saratoga Harness video was a bad joke requiring more than a dozen mouse clicks. And maybe they have results someplace but it was easier to find them at the track's website. Please make them stop Steve. I know you're not an NJer, but those of us who are, are forced by law to use this system if we want to bet from home. You guys who buy ink by the barrel have some power that the rest of us lack. Please use it.
nj bet is worse. i like everything fitting on one page but leave it up to the powers to be to make this thing more challenging making a bet. at least put the race card in one window instead of having to scroll down.
Steve--That mi/nj was right on the money about 4njbets web site-trying to get video just doesn,t happen.--if anybody knows how to do it Please print it for us NJ horseplayers who love horseracing & your column. I can place my bets but can't watch results. HELP--who loves ya baby--southbound in January--the PONYMAN
How refreshing was it to see the 9yo Evening Attire win at the Big A on Saturday? Mind you him winning meant another losing bet for me but as a fan of the game, I was pleased to see the young man wear down his rivals in time to win. I won't go into a long winded monlogue about running horses longer yada,yada, yada because it won't change the how things are done in the game today but horses such as Evening Attire and Lava Man are great reminders of how the game used to be and what it still could be.
hooray for evening attire, and his capable if underated trainer pat kelly. Nice to see a 9 year old, untaited by drugs, win a tough stake. Sometimes the good guys, both equine and human, get their due.
Steve--Tampa Bay is great for a Horseplayer--Out of the way-nightlife-sun & fun & warm-On my way for whole month between Tam & GP--January 4--hope to see you around for a cubre libre. Enjoy--ponyman
Steve, I'm very disappointed that Tampa Bay scrapped their Twin Tri in favor of a P6. The Twin Tri was a unique bet that allowed a smart bettor to take advantage of the 'box-happy' racing public. Now, Tampa Bay will have to compete with NY and SoCal's P6 just like everybody else (CD, GP, etc). Those other tracks can't compete in the P6 world, so why should Tampa Bay? By the way, if you think picking 6 winners is tough at Churchill, try doing it at Tampa Bay... let me know how that works out for you. I always hoped the opposite would occur-- other tracks would adopt the Twin Tri. This is a step backwards, in my opinion.
I too have enjoyed playing cards at Tampa but have to admit to being a bit puzzled over the continuing ban of Terry Houghton and Derek Bell at that track. I just visited the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau website (having never heard of this group until this investigation), the organization investigating their alleged wrongdoing at Great Lakes Downs last year, and it appears that they are a private trade group operating at the behest of member tracks. Yet, such is their power that they can influence Tampa and Arlington to prohibit these riders from plying their trade based on an ongoing private investigation. This is a bit distrubing to me, since it seems to leave these riders without any recourse other than lawsuits to counter the allegations. Wouldn't these jocks be able to argue that since they are (presumably) licensed to ride in states wherein they are banned and, in the absence of a revocation of those licenses, they should either be allowed to ride or have the evidence presented against them brought to light?