11/25/2007 1:18PM

Squandering Our Lives


The worst part of the disgraceful editorial in Saturday's New York Times about New York City OTB wasn't its gullibility in believing (and endorsing) Mayor Bloomberg's false claims of unprofitability and his empty threat to shutter the company. The lowest of many low points came in these two sentences:

"Shutting down the city's more than 60 OTB offices appeals to Mr. Bloomberg on both financial and moral grounds. Put simply, he believes that the city should not be asked to sustain a system that encourages people to squander the rent money or, worse, their lives."

It's no surprise that the priggish Times turns up its nose at gambling, but it is still astounding to see the so-called national newspaper of record dismiss hundreds of thousands of racing fans and OTB customers as deadbeats and judge their lives as worthless. Someday someone will explain to me why playing the horses is any different from speculating in financial and real-estate markets, pursuits that the Times routinely encourages its readers to sustain.

--Saturday's three consecutive nine-furlong stakes races at Aqueduct provided a study in pace contrasts and their effect on final time. Here were the fractional and final times:

25.08 49.11 1:12.88 1:37.21 1:50.15

23.35 47.81 1:13.23 1:38.85 1:51.61

24.33 49.15 1:14.49 1:39.85 1:52.48

The Discovery earned a Beyer of 96, in line with Now a Victor's previous efforts, and the slow opening half-mile certainly aided the early leaders. The Demoiselle got an 84, consistent with Mushka's two previous 82's on different surfaces, and the quick early fractions set the stage for her looping victory from far back.

The roughly-run Remsen gets only a 76, which might at first seem highly counterintuitive, given that the 1-2 finishers, Court Vision and Atoned, ran Beyers of 90 and 82 in their previous starts. Both, however, had rough trips in the slow-paced, bunched-up race, with Atoned stumbling on the backstretch and Court Vision having to bull his way through traffic.

Despite the glacial figure, I thought Court Vision was impressive in victory. He had absolutely no running room when he needed it and seemed to have an impossible task to run down Atoned in the final furlong. He not only got up but also did it with the fastest final furlong of any of the three winners. All three of these lightly-raced winners appear to have very bright futures.

So, obviously, does Daaher, who earned a stellar 114 for his 2 1/2-length victory over Midnight Lute in the Cigar Mile. As David Grening pointed out, Daaher concluded his campaign with the identical three-race pattern that Discreet Cat did last year -- a Saratoga allowance victory, the Jerome and the Cigar Mile. Here's hoping Daaher fares better than Discreet Cat did from here on in. He's being pointed for the Donn Handicap Feb. 2 and then either the Godolphin Mile or Dubai World Cup March 29.

As for Midnight Lute, there's no disgrace in running second to Daaher but the performance cast some doubt on his stretching out in top-level company next year. He has now failed in all three of his starts beyond seven furlongs, and he looked to me like he was slightly rank and fighting Garrett Gomez most of the way yesterday. That left him without his locomotive late punch, though it would have been tough for anyone to catch Daaher after a moderate opening half in 46.32 en route to a spakling final time of 1:33.79 for the mile.

--Today's only graded stakes races are the two Grade 1's concluding Hollywood's holiday-weekend Turf Festival:

5:38 pm EST: Hollywood race 5, G1 $500k Matriarch S., 3+F, 1m-T
This small but accomplished field of six might be a little trickier than its billing as a showdown between 8-5 Wait a While and 9-5 Precious Kitten. Wait a While's best race would drown them, and two of her best races have come in claifornia, where she was smashing winning the american Oaks and Yellow Ribbon last year. This year, though, you can't ever be sure which Wait a While is going to show up. She's been erratic. At least she'll get some pace today and maybe it's coincidence, but in her last 10 starts, she's 0-for-4 when the opening half in 49 or slower, 6-for-6 when it's faster. Precious Kitten always fires, and you can draw a line through her BC F&M Turf fiasco, but she really had no escuse getting run down late by Vacare in the First Lady the time before that. At 7-2, Lady of Venice might be the play. She wqas hampered by the slow pace as the favorite in the First Lady, but her other one-mile races have been her best efforts.

7:08 pm EST: Hollywood race 8, G1 Hollywood Derby, 3yo, 1 1/4m-T
Nobiz Like Shobiz couldn't handle 10 furlongs in that other Derby earlier this year, but gets a second chance at the distance now that he's found a new home on the grass. He's clearly the fastest horse in the race up to a mile and an eighth, and the question is whether he can now handle a 10th furlong or if a confirmed stayer such as Bold Hawk can close the gap. The only other plausible win candidates are Daytona(Ire), also questionable at the distance but coming off a huge 9f win in the Oak Tree Derby, and Twilight Meteor, who lost photos to both Nobiz and Bold Hawk earlier this year.

--Wave a fond farewell until March or April to seven-furlong and one-turn mile races in New York after today: The Aqueduct main track closes for the season and racing moves to the inner track starting Wednesday.