06/07/2012 8:50AM

Some Pre-Belmont Stakes Thoughts

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Handicappers who have an appreciation for good work by trainers have to love the way Doug O'Neill has handled I'll Have Another. I’ll Have Another didn’t lose a thing when he took a planned, but very unconventional two-month break smack in the middle of the Triple Crown prep season. And when he returned with what could have been viewed as a draining victory in the Santa Anita Derby, I’ll Have Another didn’t regress in his next start. Instead, he moved forward in the Kentucky Derby, and moved forward form-wise yet again in the Preakness.

But even acknowledging that O’Neill really knows his horse and has, to this point, pushed all the right buttons, it is understandable if some are slightly disconcerted that I’ll Have Another has not had an actual published workout in the three weeks between the Preakness and Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. It made sense that I’ll Have Another didn’t have one in the short two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness. But no works since the Preakness? One could see how some might wonder about that.

The approach O’Neill has taken instead is allowing I’ll Have Another open up a bit at the end of his regular gallops. It would seem this is meant to build up I’ll Have Another’s stamina. It also looks like an attempt to combat a form regression from the Preakness, which had to be a demanding effort for I’ll Have Another considering he had to overcome an unfavorable pace scenario, by not pushing him over the top with a workout.

From a pure handicapping standpoint, this approach also seems very much in keeping with what O’Neill has done with I’ll Have Another most of this year. In the nine weeks between his wins in the Robert Lewis and Santa Anita Derby, I’ll Have Another had five published workouts. The last three of those were one slow-timed mile work, and two slow-timed seven furlong moves. And in the four weeks between the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another had two published workouts, both easy six furlong breezes.

In other words, working long and working slow (at least in terms of conventional workout times) is what I’ll Have Another does. So the lack of a conventional workout between the Preakness and the Belmont by I’ll Have Another is, for me, a non-issue. If he gets beat Saturday, it won’t be because of this.

I’m glad we have a good weather forecast for Saturday in New York. With all that’s on the line, it would stink if the conditions for the Belmont Stakes were like they were last year.

It goes without saying that if I’ll Have Another makes history and completes a Triple Crown sweep, it won’t do much to alleviate our sport’s real ills. But we all do hope that maybe such an accomplishment would create some new fans.

However, one thing that no one talks about is, all potential new fans are not created equal. Which new fan do you think would be better for racing: A young professional who might come to the races two or three times a year and put about $40 through the window? Or, an older person who has more disposable time and income, and likely a greater appreciation for the intellectual aspects of handicapping, who might come to the track two or three times a month and bet $100 each time? It’s a no-brainer, yet everyone always seems to target the first group.

For what it’s worth, three Belmont Stakes jockeys – Ramon Dominguez, Kent Desormeaux, and Rosie Napravnik – are named on mounts in Saturday’s 12th race, the race after the Belmont. I would imagine that if any of them were to win the Belmont, they would have an easier time than usual taking off their mounts in the 12th. Of course, if Desormeaux (Guyana Star Dweej) or Napravnik (Five Sixteen) were to win the Belmont, I would imagine a lot of people would be taking off the 12th, and maybe more than a few races after that.

There are three New York bred races on Saturday’s Belmont card. I guess it wouldn’t be a day of New York racing without them … or a conditioned claimer … or a turf sprint.

There is also a special double wager linking Friday’s featured Brooklyn Handicap with the Belmont Stakes, a la the very popular Kentucky Oaks/Derby double. I’m not saying that every wager I personally don’t care for should be outlawed, but I just don’t see why anyone would want to play this unless they were independently wealthy and didn’t have to care about their dollars. I don’t see the appeal of tying up your betting capital overnight.

Belmont Park will be dark Sunday, the day after the Belmont Stakes. I kind of miss the not-so-old days when Belmont was the only Triple Crown track man enough to race the day after its Triple Crown race. Anyway, after the Belmont, there will be only 24 New York racing days until opening day at Saratoga.

Benjamin Ricciardi More than 1 year ago
mike, Young doesn't equal small money. I go to the meadowlands and there's quite a few more young professionals like myself pushing a few hundred a few times a month through the windows then old guys new to the sport. There's also quite a few more old guys pushing through their last $20 then young guys doing the same. Young guys with small amounts of disposable income play poker.
Benjamin Ricciardi More than 1 year ago
Do you think the back to back early retirements of the Ky Derby winners might push some to consider changing the timing of the triple crown series? Despite the purist arguments, the races have not always been spaced out the way they are now. In the best interest of the horses, there should be at least an extra week between races. Might get more of the players to dance all the dances that way. None winners repeatedly skip the preakness for the belmont and that's purely because it makes logical sense to keep a horse on his normal schedule then run him back in 14 days
Emily Garriott More than 1 year ago
I don't understand why so many turf writers write about what kind of fan they favor. We can't complain about the lack of interest in racing and then talk about which fans are useful and which ones are useless. Do we want more fans or not? Those young professionals will eventually grow into the older crowd with more time and income. That is, unless they visit articles such as this one and see they're considered second rate. We isolate the casual fan at our own risk. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure a young professional who drops $40 a few times a year is better than a young professional who has written off horse racing.
Yuwipi More than 1 year ago
First Mike, nice write up. To each their own, but I'm with you on the overnight DD's. Not my cup of tea unless circumstances are unusual. The game certainly could use many more followers but without shedding that blacksmith's anvil albatross of government control I fear it's destined to flounder along on the current path.
Rick Brunk More than 1 year ago
I am an avid horserace fan. I live in Kansas City. I have to drive 3 HOURS just to watch and bet on simulcasting. Horse racing will never grow in this country until the government loosenes its noose on horseracing. We'll never have good racing in this part of the country until slots can be added at live tracks. That's a no brainer! There's a racetrack 5 miles from my house (The Woodlands) that is sitting empty because of the inept legislature we currently have. You can't have race fans if you don't have a place for them to play! Government controlled gaming needs to be more uniform accross this country
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
In attracting new fans, racing is marketed totally wrong. They should be trying to bring in more families as new fans. I was first exposed to racing a kid because my family made going to the races a special family day, a fun, family outing to enjoy together. I already loved horses when they started family racing days, and I was thrilled to see horses up close and personal. I thought they were stunningly majestic and beautiful (I still do). I was taught early how to read a Racing Form and I started winning at a prett good clip. You gain their loyalty after they have made a few good, profitable wins. Therefore, the racing venues should make sure there is complementary instruciton on how to read a program/racing form. That way, everyone feels they are making an informed decision. Also, when you get families to come as a unit to the track, families always dispose of a fair amount of cash in the form of food and wagers, which translates into across the board profits. Raising the take for the consumer when they win races would be a major help as well. If you feel you have a pretty good chance to win a decent amount of money without wagering a huge amount in order to do so will help enormously. To bring in the younger 20+ demographic, it would help to promote the sport as cool, exciting and glamorous. Racing should also promote their superstars much better than they do. Everybody loves a celebrity - celebrity is what sells today. Start selling your superstar, celebrity horses. Make them household names. And try to make the customer to feel welcome when they come to the track. That simply is not done at most racing venues.
Deborah Bauder More than 1 year ago
Don't underestimate the value of attracting families. Emerald Downs goes out of their way to be family friendly and I have been taking my kids there since they were very young. Now that they're teens they are learning to handicap and also bringing their friends. I'm now the getting older with more time demographic and I have more resources to devote to handicapping, but if I hadn't been at the track all along my attention would likely be elsewhere. I grew up going to Longacres, got away from it, then came back to horse racing once I had a family and we were looking for somewhere safe to take the kids. Perhaps the focus shouldn't be so much on the betting, but as stated below, a great place to spend the day.
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
What is really hilarious is reading the letters to the editor of the Bloodhorse (I don't pay for my subscription, I bet enough to get one sent free) over the past 6 years on how to grow the sport of horseracing. There must be a ton of little old ladies out there thinking up weird ideas. There's only one way to increase/grow the sport. DECREASE the TAKEOUT enough for us poor slubs to make a profit.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
a bad day at the races beats a day anywere else,instead of focusing on people who show up once a year know nothing about the sport and then get disapointed that when theydid not win by betting the 4/5 or 100/1 shot,racing should play to its strenght the magnificent animal the fact that at the track you are outdoors nothing beats a sunny mild afternoon of racing period,that its much much better than being stuck indoors at home or at a casino,racing should make the facilities more friendly with more betting machines,custommer service people walking around giving out and explaining the programme others teaching people about the race horses and how to bet,there should be good affordable food available not gourmet but just good solid food,racing past performance programmes should be cheap and made available free on some days instead of the ridiculous promotions of free humbrellas and othe nonsense,who needs an humbrella when its 75 degrees and gorgeous hand them out when its raining.
Jay Friedman More than 1 year ago
i agree with you sir
ALEJANDRO ANZA More than 1 year ago
brillant!!!!!!!!!!
Nicholas Briglia More than 1 year ago
But horse racing has to do a better job of differentiating itself from casinos as well. You have a much better chance of making money playing horses than you do playing fixed odds casino games. Horse racing has more in common with wall street investing than any casino gaming. I think one poing MW is making is that the industry is targeting the wrong crowd. They are targeting people that aren't interested in getting pp's the night before and enjoying the challenge of picking winners. The slot maching crowd will never come over to the horses. They just want to hit a button and get a quick fix.