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Spa Day 24: 8/18/11
3:15 pm: Spent the first half of Day 24 -- this would be Closing Day in the days of four-week meets -- driving back up from Long Island. Pretty smooth trip, though there's a construction project starting up just south of the Saugerties Exit that has one of teh two Northbound lanes shut down and might cost you 10 or 15 minutes minutes.
Catching up on the early races on a 10-race card that began with two 2 3/8-mile steeplechases:
1st: The Invincible Jonathan Sheppard ran 1-2 with the uncoupled entry of Parker's Project ($30.40) and 2-1 fave Port Morsbey, beaten 5 1/4 lengths while finishing 11 lengths clear of the others. it was 49 lengths from 1st to 6th, and only 4 of the 9 non-Sheppard trainees even completed the race. Baltic Shore fell, Brave Prospect lost his rider, and Jimtown, Dr. Wheat and Cuse all left the course. Steeplechasing at its best is entertaining and a great second career for flat runners, but a race like this paints an unappealing picture of it and makes it seem less than ready for prime-time exposure at Saratoga.
2nd: Sheppard again in the 2nd as Italian Wedding ($6.30) won the Mickey Walsh Novice Stakes, where the 4-2-1 finishers in the July 28 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes returned to run 1-2-3. Only 29 lengths from 1st to 6th this time, and 6 of the 8 finished the race without leaving the course. The Sheppard-Sheppard double paid $81.50.
3rd: Back on dirt and with no hurdles, Cooks Forest ($29.80), longest shot in a field of eight $25k N2L claimers, rallied from 7th to run down 9-5 fave Launch N Relaunch.
Time to unpack the rest of the car and see if the late pick-4 is playable. Race 7 is the only one of today's six scheduled grass races to be taken off the turf.
4:05 pm: My Man Marty ($8.10) completed a robust early pick-4 (on races 3-6 today due to the two steeplechases) that paid $13,506 for $2 if you hooked him up with Coooks Forest ($29.80), J L Bernstein ($8.50) and Loyal Shadow ($31.80).
Don't think any of these combos can approach that, but here's my quickie late pick-4 action:
5:05 pm: Just got taken down when Retire to What was dq'd from 1st to 2nd in the 8th, and thoroughly deserved it. Retire to What bore out badly through the stretch, clearly interfering with the oncoming Chernobyl's Hero, and to my eye it absolutely affected the outcome of the race. Can't blame Cornelio Velasquez for the first-place finisher's misbehavior -- he was trying his best to keep him from drifting, using the whip right-handed, but RTW wouldn't cooperate.
I guess you could have used Chernobyl's Hero on the class drop but a few seasons of watching him compile a 4-for-61 record, including just one win in his last 25 starts, have kind of soured me on him. But congrats to the 7-year-old Cryptoclearance gelding, now 5 for 62.
5:25 pm: If they're really going to let Lubash go off at 15-1 here in the West Point, I'm going to have to bet him a little. I have no confidence in him going a step over a mile, and favorites Icabad Crane and Pocket Cowboys are better than him, but he's not that far behind them and he's twice the price he should be.
5:55 pm: There was a flickering moment when Lubash, who made the lead to the top of the stretch, looked like he might pull away at 16-1 after cutting the corner while his pursuers went wide....but the flicker went out quickly and he just held 4th behind Compliance Officer ,Karakorum Legend and Pocket Cowboys.
I'd have taken 1-to-5 no one would be alive into the finale and it would have been yet another bad opinion: The 3,5 and 6 are covered for one-winner $69k payoffs. Strangely, favored Singmeasong and second choice Simsational are uncovered and would produce a $69k carry into Friday.
6:15 pm: Simsational won the finale so there's a $69k carry into Day 25. I'd love to know the thinking of that person with the three live tickets in the finale who didn't use either of the two obvious favorites. Was it brilliant handicapping that used $31.80 and $15.20 winners and deliberately omitted the 5-2 and 3-1 ML favorites in the last or just a license-plate/phone-number lark that got the ticket that far?
I've been a fan since Saratoga 25 years ago, and I get sick of the whining myself. "Racing isn't what it used to be", "The quality is down", "Why can't they run better horses/more quality races/zeppelins?", etc. An off day at Saratoga is still going to be a better day at 95% of the days anywhere else. Get over it, or at least get used to it, and be glad Saratoga isn't either closing or being privatized into what passes for California racing (and the considerably smaller fields all day, every day, out there---Fairplex racing is liable to look better than a Stronach Santa Anita summer once Hollywood closes). More on point here: to be fair, Steve, the only fall/lost rider incident in the opener did happen in the stretch after 2.25 miles of a 2.375 mile race; most of the race was otherwise incident-free. I can see what you're getting at in the critique of the opener, but mostly these are novice horses over the jumps in the weeks where we're not gearing up for the Smithwick or Turf Writer's (which is a Grade I, actually, coming shortly). The best field? Perhaps not, but still fascinating to watch on a circuit that used to have so much more jump racing back in the glory days, when Aqueduct had 2 turf courses and could draw 5-figures in attendance when they opted to go over the hurdles on the inner. I'll take it (and fortunately, no injuries, either horse or rider). As a post-script, it was interesting to hear Mr. Durkin lose his composure, with the "train leaving the station", as he put it, 3 minutes early. That, uh, doesn't usually happen, and he was noticeably off his game because of it.
I suspect it happens all the time Steve. Folks that look to beat the obvious, catch a few bombers, but fail to return to Earth when more obvious form reasserts. So they rip up tickets that you'd think they would have easily cashed. This tendency shows often in the exacta pool where two impossible horses together frequently offer to pay very 'little' compared to their odds. Of course, like this P-6 today, they rarely win.
That horse that King Leatherbury ran twice in one day was named Steelwood. He started out on the Southern California circuit. It didn't seem to do him any lasting harm--two years later, he won TEN races on the New York circuit, racing mostly in high-priced claimers at 1 mile, 1 1/16 miles, or 1 1/8 miles. If I remember correctly, he usually was a front-runner. It is not uncommon for horses to race twice at the Royal Ascot meeting, which lasts from Tuesday through Saturday. A couple of years ago, the same horse won both the Ascot Handicap on Tuesday at 2 1/2 miles and the Queen Alexandra Stakes on Saturday at 2 3/4 miles! (These are not major graded races, though.)
Steve, After looking over Fridays card, something tells me you will not be participating in that carryover. Most of the races look impossible. Here's hoping for a double carryover into Saturday.
@Wayne80 - as a hometowner lucky enough to be able to go when I want, if I want, with no planning involved, I almost feel guilty reading of your plight. Pattern here the last few years has been good cards the first couple of weekends, some passable weekday cards the first couple of weeks, good Travers Day card, good final weekend cards, and utter dreck-fests (sometimes my friends and I refer to it as "Aqueduct at Saratoga"; other times we joke that "every day is NY Showcase day") the rest of the meet. Come early or come late would be my advice to travelers. Don't think the situation will change any time soon, regardless of the racino money (whether depending upon racino money for survival is a good long-term strategy is debatable in my view, but that's another subject). It's a chicken-egg thing in my mind: do the cards generally stink because there are mostly bad horses on the grounds, or are there mostly bad horses on the grounds because the condition book is filled with low-quality races? Without being an expert on the ins-and-outs of the industry I'd offer the qualified opinion that the welfare program for NY breeders has badly hurt the quality of the racing product in this state. Throwing money at a program that produces a few good runners mixed in with hordes whose resumes feature career Beyer tops of about 52 seems like a bad idea to me, but what do I know. The last race on Saturday was a new low in my eyes; I've been spending my Saturdays in August either attending or watching from home since the mid 1980's; Saturdays at Saratoga are something akin to a religious event in my household. Off the top of my head that had to be the worst race I've ever seen run here, truly an embarrassment. NY bred maiden claiming 20's staggering home their final 3 furlongs in :41 and change in the Saturday finale, well, let's just say this is not what our dads or Red Smith told us Saratoga was all about, is it? Yes, they ran lousy races back in the day, but no, they didn't run this many of them, or many this bad. It's still Saratoga; heck, if they starting imitating Delaware and throwing some Arabian races in, I'd still come and I'd still be smiling like a schoolboy who just got kissed by his seventh-grade crush as I rode the escalator up to the clubhouse on a warm, sunny August day with my Form under one arm and my other around my son. Like most things, it ain't what it used to be, though I think that my grandfather, my mother's dad, who died when she was three in 1946 and loved this place (it's truly in my bloodlines) would still recognize, unlike almost anything else in these parts. Bottom line, they're gonna ride this thing 'til the wheels come off, quality be damned. They just can't run a full-time, quality meet running six days a week, nine, ten, eleven races a day, with the stock on the grounds, but they can't resist the temptation to run this many races and people bet on them, so they see no reason to change. Six five-day weeks would help, or six-day weeks with eight-race cards on the weekdays would probably help, but can't see them doing that, so it is what it is. I guess the best we can hope for now is that things don't get even worse in the years to come; improvement seems highly unlikely from where this arm-chair QB sits.
Micclay is right: Short of a return to the day when the racing secretary can "strongly suggest" horses run in higher class races to make them go in a way similar to how that was done years ago (with horses coming back far more frequently than they do now) and/or a cap placed on claiming purses (to where the winner's share can't be higher than the claiming price) with the money currently going to claiming races instead being shifted to higher-level allowance events, this is going to continue to be the case. The economics of the sport now, coupled with the fact many tracks pay high purses for low claimers (most notably Parx, which pays $25,000 purses for open $5,000 claimers and $23,000 for N2L $7,500 claimers) forces NYRA and other tracks to focus on claimers. It needs to be remembered, back when more Allowance races went, claiming races didn't go for nearly the purses they do now. In 1983 for instance as I recall, a $50,000 open claimer at Belmont carried an $18,500 purse going short and a $20,500 purse going long. Today, we see those purses for $7,500 claimers! Just one example of how this sport has changed.
Hi Steve, I agree about DQ today in the 8th, also agree jock did his all to keep straight course. I did have the 3 as an A, and saved a small piece of late pick 4 with the duece as one of my C's ( the three was my single A). It would have been a fairly large score for me if they kept the 3 up, but the 2 was flying when impeded. Still feel that stewards are not consistent and will continue to hope that this can be rectified, at all tracks, not just @ NYRA's. For all the folks who still are having questions about the ABC system, in the long run it is more cost effective as well as rewards the bettor when the stong opinions come in. I hammer the A's and bet my B's and C;s accordingly. Everyone needs to remember that multi's are not cashed on daily basis, but when you do cash you are rewarded. I find this type of wagering a challenge and for me, the only way to make a profit in the long run. So keep trying and don't get discouraged, perhaps a single in a pick 3 or pick 4 is an avenue to pursue for those who find a race in sequence to be impossible to predict. This way you can cover the impossible race spreading as much as needed. Lastly, does any one remember that Saratoga was a 4 week meet? By extending meet, perhaps with the horse shortage this is why we are seeing so many unattractive races. For all who still go to the track, try staying in Albany, you can get a place to stay at a reasonable cost and the drive is fairly easy. On dark days, try driving a bit north to Lake George, this area is a must see. Good Luck to All!
Regarding racing a horse twice in one day, I recall an instance-and readers with better memories might need to fine-tune this anecdote- where a horse raced at, I think, Thistledown during the day. He had been also entered at Waterford Park (now Mountaineer), and those stewards refused to let him be scratched. So the horse shipped over to West Virginia and raced that night.
Steve - any word on today's 2nd race, the steeplechase, which according to Durkin, my ADW and the MTP on the in house feed went off FOUR minutes early? Post time in the form was 1:35 but listed everywhere else including in house feed at 1:40. Durkin announces '4 minutes till post' and "they're off" within 10 seconds of each other. What happened?
Was playing the 2nd race today(The 2nd Steeplechase event on the day) when through my Nassau OTB on-line account I was informed the race had closed, while the track feed that I was also watching read "3 minutes to post". At about that same time I heard a very surprised Tom Durkin stating over the air that they had started the 2nd race 3 minutes early. How does this happen? Did the race actually go off on time, yet the tracks MTP calculator was incorrect. Who is responsible for this fiasco? I understand that a starting gate is not used for the jumpers, and maybe some confusion began with this, however, who(the Starter?) has the job of starting the field on it's way at the correct time? I'm sure a lot of people did get shut out, but, it being the jumpers, I'm sure a lot of people either wagered lightly or sat out this race altogether. Just when you thought you have seen everything at the track, leave it to NYRA to leave you scratching your head once again...