12/03/2007 2:55PM

Surreal Sunday


I've made the roundtrip drive from my Hempstead homestead to Aqueduct a few thousand times but it never seemed more surreal than on Sunday: The trees are still turning red and gold in New York, but there were two inches of snow on the ground by 10 a.m. and a cancellation seemed odds-on.

I soldiered on through the weird combination of fall foliage and first snowfall, not because the final card of opening week on the inner track was so compelling but to attend a brunch hosted by the worthy Backstretch Employees Service Team. They screened a new 30-minute documentary on women in racing, and are selling a DVD of it that's a much better stocking-stuffer than a lump of coal, with a portion of the proceeds going to the B.E.S.T.

It was a hurry-up card at Aqueduct, with the 1st going off at 12:30 and the 9th at 3:42 and a lot of chalk in between. In the late pick-four, I thought there were cinches in races 7 and 8, the two stakes on the card, while the first and last legs seemed inscrutable maiden races with weak favorites and all sorts of possibilities for bombers. I made two tickets, a 10x1x1x12 and a 5x1x1x5 for a total of 145 (120+25) unit bets.

The good news was that my two cinches in the middle came through, with Light Tactic ($5.40) winning the Personal Bid and Sherine ($3.60) taking the East View. Sadly, they were bookended by a 6-5 winner in the 10-horse field and a 7-2 in the finale, so even with having it on both tickets I got a whopping return of $150.50 for each $145 invested, which works out to odds of 1-to-29. A parlay of Light Tactic and Sherine would have produced a $9.72 for $2 return which I cleverly reduced to $2.07 for $2 through the miracle of multirace wagering.

After dashing home through the snow, Hollywood's late pick four looked more promising, and began gloriously with $51.40 and $16 winners that left me alive to favorites In Summation and Greg's Gold in the featured Vernon O. Underwood Handicap, where I got bushwhacked by Bushwhacker ($14.00). I was of course rooting for him to come down during a long inquiry, but if I'd been working the stewards' stand, I too would have voted to leave him up. A logical type won the finale in a three-way photo over two I didn't use to complete an $11,682 payoff that you'd think would still have paid at least $3k had even-money In Summation been elevated above Bushwhacker. Oh well.

I've been dabbling in the Hollywood races because I'm thinking of getting involved in the California pick-six carryovers this winter for the first time. The pools are just too good to resist. So bear with me as I chronicle that maiden voyage as I will undoubtedly be saying some amateurish and naive things about California racing in the weeks ahead.

I'll start with a whopper: I keep hearing TV commentators talking about how this horse or that horse is either undefeated or unproven over synthetic surfaces. I've read early Derby Trail commentaries about how we won't know if west coast 3-year-olds are legit until they head east and run over real dirt. But my personal impression is that it may be a huge mistake to lump all synthetic surfaces together. The Polytrack used at Del Mar and Keeneland has produced running times and race shapes that bear little resemblance to conventional dirt racing, but the Cushion Track being used at Hollywood and Santa Anita seems to play much more like old-school dirt than Polytrack.

Agree or disagree?

St Pete Ron More than 1 year ago
There appears to be many services that offer to take you horse racing wagers and broadcast the races. Which service do you recommend and why do you choose them? Thanks you in advance for your response.
Paul R. More than 1 year ago
All the betting services are offering wagering on all the California tracks. Any chance there will be a similar agrement on all the tracks? So I don't have to have three betting accounts.
Larry More than 1 year ago
As a long time horseplayer,I only played turf races at Del Mar and Keeneland this year because of the Polytrack. I'm sure many others did the same thing,which is why the handle was down at both tracks. Don't be surprised if Del Mar and Keeneland take out the Polytrack,and install the Cushion track. Larry
PP More than 1 year ago
Duggan has a 2 yr old filly named Porte Bonheur who looks like the real deal in Big A's feature on Thursday. Figure this daughter of Hennessy can get quick break and blitz it from the start with the Luzz. Anyone else in this race who could beat her to the front?
Kevroc More than 1 year ago
QUOTE But... What's with keying two chalks in a P4? From the author of a book on multi-race wagering yet? /QUOTE I too used Summation and Greg's Gold only in the P4. They were my "A" selections and really thought I had the race bagged. I had the first two legs in my wide fishing net as did Steve. Although, I would not of had the final leg winner.. I would have only been alive to my "A" OH I TRIPPED in the finale. For me, so far I've found that a decent race (even mild interest) over the synth is more valueable than current form. Long priced horses have scored when their current form may look shoddy but, they posted a decent outing over the oval. Having past synth meetings definitely helps, whereas when it was unveiled we were in the dark.
Jim in Texas More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve, Whats your take on the Delta Jackpot races this friday.?? I think it does nothing but promote racing at Delta Downs, and also helps some owners that have 2yr olds that are ready now, to earn some decent cash.. Not a bad thing.... are you betting the race?.
rsdcpa More than 1 year ago
Steve, this Santa Anita renovation sounds like major surgery. What do you think? I completed my OSA pace analysis and it is useless, at least for routes and probably for all. Over 26 sample 1 1/16 mile races, the quarter mile call equation is negative by a slight amount, meaning as final times slow, 1st qtr. times are faster. I have never seen that. Now that makes alot of sense. The half-mile splits are barely positive, by .000451. Insights?
Clinton More than 1 year ago
There is a wonderful post on youtube.com abou the Big A. An absolutely besutiful piece with memories and thoughts of us few die hard patrons. As one who goes to the Big A in the winter, it hits home. http://youtube.com/watch?v=I9speAlKAY4
kelso13 More than 1 year ago
Teresa, I agree that all Albany politicians are at fault.My point about Bruno is that the enmity between him and Spitzer is a direct result of the Governor (or his staff)trying to sully Brunos reputation.Bruno is reacting to a personal attack and is using his leverage to punish Spitzer, and in effect horseracing in N.Y.The last thing we need is the State taking over racing.That would be a disaster.I believe that Spitzers' plan makes the most sense, which probably means it has no chance of being implemented.In the meantime with less than a month to go why have we not heard any news regarding negotiations?Are the NY pols determined to let this thing go right down to the wire?
Ray Manley More than 1 year ago
Alan, I agree with you regarding announcers. I think Vic Stauffer is great. Perhaps Jeff should hit the mute button.