12/16/2014 11:37AM

Jerardi: Sinatra gets well-deserved reward

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Barbara D. Livingston
Bayern (right), winning the Breeders' Cup Classic over Toast of New York and California Chrome, would be tough to catch if he goes in the Charles Town Classic next year.

The 2014 Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion Stakes at Parx featured the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. As soon as they were run and the day’s $10 million handle became public, the phone of the Parx director of racing began to “ring off the hook” with job offers.

Sal Sinatra would know that because it was his phone. He was the man responsible for deciding to move the Pennsylvania Derby back from Labor Day to later in September as a final straight 3-year-old prep for the Breeders’ Cup, combine the track’s two $1 million races on one day, and institute a bonus system with the potential to attract some of America’s best 3-year-olds to the Pennsylvania Derby.

Sinatra listened politely to different offers from tracks around the country. He liked the one from the Stronach Group to become the vice president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. Now, he won’t have to worry about a bonus system to attract the Kentucky Derby winner. One of his two tracks, Pimlico, is always the first to get the Derby winner. He won’t have to worry about getting a big crowd or a huge handle for the Preakness, either.

Nor will he have to worry about how often races can be run on the grass at Laurel Park, which has a great course. Laurel also has established events like the Maryland Million and De Francis Memorial Dash.

Parx’s loss is Maryland’s gain.

Sinatra has a lot of great qualities. Listening is at the very top of the list. If someone comes to him with a good idea, he always listens. If he is told about a better way to do things, he researches that way and finds out if the different way is, indeed, the better way. Most importantly, people like him.

If you ask Sinatra a question, you get an answer. If you wanted to know which horses were running in which races, he always had the names instantly. If you left a message, you got a call back, usually within minutes.

It is one thing to run the racing department, quite another to run the track, or in Maryland’s case, two tracks. Sal Sinatra has paid his dues. Now, he gets his chance to run the show.

Charles Town makes a move

I think it was a good move by Charles Town management to move the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic from night to the afternoon for 2015. The track’s signature race was attracting strong fields but was probably getting a little bit lost with bettors and the general public when run late on a Saturday night two weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

Now, with a late-afternoon Saturday post time, the Charles Town Classic will be the most important race of that day at a time when more bettors around the country are paying attention.

The Classic, with the top purse for older horses outside of the Breeders’ Cup, is perfectly positioned on the racing calendar to get a serious field. And you just know management is going to try to attract California Chrome. Everybody saw those handle numbers at Parx on Pennsylvania Derby Day, when California Chrome made his first start since the Belmont Stakes. Big names sell with regular fans and lure bettors, including those who might be lining up to bet against the big favorite.

If Bayern, Shared Belief, and California Chrome all really do come back and run in 2015, the racing year has the potential to be unlike any in recent memory, with quality older horses whom people inside and outside racing already know.

Bob Baffert has obviously shown no reluctance to send horses to Charles Town, as Game On Dude became a Classic regular before his retirement. Could you imagine Bayern loose on the lead in the Charles Town Classic around those turns? Now, that would be fun.

So should the daylight 2015 Charles Town Classic, regardless of which horses appear. But it would really be nice if one or more of the Big Three makes the race.