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The 40 Percent Club
Heading into June's third week, the only members of this elite group among the meet's top dozen trainers were Rudy Rodriguez and Steve Asmussen, with identical 10-for-25 records (40 percent); and Alan Goldberg, who was 7 for 17 (41 percent).
The cat's long since out of the bag, so you don't get much value with R-Rod's horses - only former employer Rick Dutrow has a lower average mutuel, $5.30 vs. $5.40. But there's some truth to the old racetrack saying, "A short price beats a long face," particularly in the age of multi-race exotic wagers. Honorable Mention ($4), idle since last September, and Hot and Bothered ($4.30), away for two months, both won their first starts for Rodriguez, who improved to 12 for 19 (a return on investment of $6.64) with new stock since he hung up his shingle earlier this year.
You don't generally get much of a price with Asmussen's runners, either, but even after Haynesfield ($3.10) and Bearursa ($5.40) won off layoffs last weekend, his average price was still a respectable $9.20.
Goldberg has been relatively quiet lately, with his only starter for the week, Pin Turn, in front at the stretch call before winding up third at 6-1.
Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens was just short of the 40 percent club at 7 for 18 (38.8 percent) after just five starters last week produced wins by Mad for Smarty ($14.20) and Targhee Pass ($9.60), along with a runner-up finish by Brampton at 7-1.
True to his reputation as a "giant killer," only one of his winners has been favored, and his average mutuel of $16.60 is tops on the leader board.
"That's how it works out," said Jerkens, who saddled his first winner back on July 4, 1950. "Sometimes you have 50 horses and you can't win two races."
The Four-Win Club
Victor Santiago ($2.50 ROI) and Javier Castellano ($2.25 ROI) are each in positive territory for the meet, after respectively posting four-win days last Saturday and Sunday.
Santiago's average mutuel of $20 is tops among riders with at least 10 wins, including Saturday's $2,544 late pick three of Raffie's Rose ($28.80), Midnight Billy ($13.80), and Lion Under Oath ($23.40).
Castellano's 4-for-6 afternoon moved him to within one winner of Ramon Dominguez, who clung to a 33-32 lead while in search of his ninth consecutive title at a New York Racing Association meet.
Meanwhile, Cornelio Velasquez, who posted recent upsets in the Manhattan on Winchester ($44.80) and the Brooklyn aboard Alcomo ($21.40), was right in the mix with 31 wins.
The best day to be a closer last week was Wednesday, June 9, much to the befuddlement of pick-six bettors who overlooked Landlash ($44). She was the longest shot on the tote board in the second leg of a sequence with a three-day carryover of $930,495 and rallied from dead last to get up in the final strides.
Later on, Starforaday ($10.80) and Law Enforcement closed from next to last and last for a one-two finish in the day's featured optional claiming sprint.
How do you completely reverse a track bias? Just add water. Post times were sped up Wednesday because of an impending rainstorm, which came through the night and rendered the track muddy on Thursday, June 10. The sealed surface was transformed into a haven for early speed: Five of six winners had the lead at the pace call. The lone exception was Seniors Pride ($13.20), who was never more than two lengths from the lead.
The rain and sealing served to pack down the track, such that it closely resembled the Bonneville Salt Flats on Friday, June 11: the low-level claimer Khan of Khans ($7.10) rocketed six furlongs in 1:09.49; Wake Maker ($8.80) and Eire's Run ($9) wired one-mile races after cutting out respective six-furlong splits of 1:09.37 and 1:09.41.
The track continued to play several ticks faster than par through the weekend as Life At Ten wired Unrivaled Belle in the Ogden Phipps after setting a 1:08.40 pace and clocking a final time of 1:40.72 for 1 1/16 miles.
Before and after the rain, winners came from anywhere and everywhere on the turf courses, largely dependent on the pace.
Six of 13 winners on the Widener course led at the pace call, while four winners were able to rally from the rear-half of the field.
Three of 10 races on the inner turf were won wire to wire, along with two stalkers and five deep-closing winners.
Not including Icon Project, who ran away by 13 lengths in last year's off-the-turf renewal, the winning Beyer Speed Figures for Saturday's New York Breeders' Cup have fallen into a fairly narrow range (98-105) since they became available in 1990, which exemplifies the less-volatile nature of turf figures vs. dirt figures.
Sunday's twin-bill is the Mike Lee and Bouwerie, a pair of $100,000 stakes at seven furlongs for 3-year-old New York-breds.
In yet another discouraging bow to modern-day reality, next Saturday's Grade 1 Mother Goose, run at 1 1/8 miles for more than a half-century, has been shortened to 1 1/16 miles for the first time since its first two runnings in 1957-58.
Todd Pletcher, who has won the Mother Goose with Jersey Girl (1998) and Octave (2007), has four nominees, headed by Devil May Care, who has been freshened since a middle move behind stablemate Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby.
LIFE-CHANGING SCORE OF THE WEEK
After Drosselmeyer's upset of the Belmont Stakes produced a three-day carryover of $930,495 in the pick six, an additional $3,301,873 was bet into it when racing resumed four days later.
Bill Mott, who had helped create the mammoth carryover with Drosselmeyer, kept most small-scale tickets alive when second choice Macho Joe ($5.20) won Wednesday's first leg. But things were whittled down considerably by the aforementioned Landlash in the next race.
Hooligan's Delight ($9.10), John Wyatt ($10), Starforaday ($10.80), and Night Spirit ($15.80) wrapped up a $552,535 windfall for five winning tickets, all purchased offtrack.
I was not among the Fab Five, which goes without saying given the prompt filing of this update.
HORSES TO WATCH
Bail Out The Cat
Trainer: Rick Violette Jr.
Last race: June 10, 2nd
Finish: 1st by 2 1/4
Purchased for $150,000 out of the OBS February sale, this 2-year-old colt by Tale of the Cat was pounded to odds-on in the closing minutes. He dueled inside a rival and drew off to record a Beyer Speed Figure of 89. It was better than 10 lengths back to the third horse.
Trainer: Bill Mott
Last race: June 12, 7th
Finish: 1st by 3 1/4
This 3-year-old colt by Unbridled's Song steadied early and trailed a fast early pace, circled wide off the turn, and blew by the leaders to win his six-furlong turf debut going away in 1:08. Horses usually improve off their debuts for this barn.
Mad For Smarty
Trainer: Allen Jerkens
Last race: June 10, 3rd
Finish: 1st by a neck
Finished eighth when unveiled at Gulfstream Park in February, but he ran to a bullet half-mile gate workout to take a maiden special weight sprint in his second try. By Smarty Jones, he is a half-brother to graded stakes winners Medallist and Air Commander, as well as $200,000 earner Formidable.
Trainer: Jimmy Toner
Last race: June 12, 2nd
Finish: 1st by 4 1/4
After surrendering pace-call leads in four starts as a 2-year-old, she returned from a layoff to set a scorching pace and remained well clear while in hand through the late stages of her seasonal bow.