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Pitched Perfectly needs different trip
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Pitched Perfectly will have to be on top of his game in order to defeat Haynesfield in Saturday's $65,000 Count Fleet Stakes, but if his last race was any indication of his true ability, he'll stand more than a puncher's chance.
Pitched Perfectly drew the rail and will be coupled with stablemate Bad Action in a seven-horse field for the Count Fleet, the first 3-year-old stakes of the year to be run in New York. The Count Fleet is run at a mile and 70 yards.
On Dec. 13, Pitched Perfectly won a maiden race by 2 1/4 lengths in front-running fashion. Under Ramon Dominguez, Pitched Perfectly ran very fast early fractions, but still had something left when he was headed by another rival at the eighth pole. Despite jumping tire tracks from the gate, Pitched Perfectly won in hand.
"Last time out I sent him hard because I knew no horse in a maiden race was going to beat him," trainer Gary Contessa said. "He ran ridiculous fractions on a day when horses didn't run like that, and he re-broke at the eighth pole and stamped himself as to what I believed him to be to begin with. I believe he could be this kind of horse, but he's certainly not going to run that same kind of race."
Pitched Perfectly wore blinkers for the first time in that Dec. 13 race, but Contessa doesn't believe they were much of a factor that day.
"I think the way he was ridden made that much difference," Contessa said. "He was very green in behind horses without them, then I sent him to the lead - I might as well just left them off. I don't think it mattered last time, but I think it'll matter this time because I don't know if he'll be on the lead. If there's a smidgen of a chance that he could make the lead, I'm going."
Pitched Perfectly, who will be ridden by Pablo Morales, is not the only horse in the field with speed. Haynesfield won the Damon Runyon by 5 1/4 lengths in front-running fashion and earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. He will break from post 5 under Ramon Dominguez.
Aswaaq, who is drawn in post 2, won his maiden on the front end as well. Others entered include Jess No Jesse, Mike From Queens, and Smart Bid.
Kozak responds to horsemen's complaints
Glen Kozak, NYRA's director of racing surfaces, received an early-morning call from horsemen Wednesday, and it wasn't to wish him a happy New Year.
Horsemen intent to breeze horses Wednesday who arrived at Belmont Park expecting to find a fast, harrowed training track were shocked to see that the track had been sealed, with the exception of one path. Kozak said he sealed the surface in anticipation of forecast precipitation. But the wintry mix had not begun yet and horsemen wanted to get their workouts in, believing they would likely not be able to do so on Thursday because of the weather.
Shortly after 6 a.m., trainer Richard Schosberg called Kozak, who was on his way to Aqueduct. Kozak turned his car around and went to Belmont. Upon hearing the horsemen's concerns, Kozak closed the track, harrowed it, and horsemen were able to go on about their business. A total of 126 horses were credited with timed workouts on Wednesday, including 29 from trainer Bruce Levine.
"He did the right thing," Levine said of Kozak. "It saved everybody; it saved me."
Said Schosberg: "We all got done what we had to get done. The fact there is communication flowing in both directions, we should be better off for the future."
NYRA officials criticize new board rule
New York Racing Association officials were extremely critical of a new rule regarding the cashing of certain mutuel tickets that the New York State Racing and Wagering Board instituted beginning Jan. 1.
Under the rule, bettors who have mutuel tickets worth $300 or more that aren't cashed within 10 days of purchase may only cash them at a designated window ontrack or at an OTB facility, and must provide several pieces of information, including name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number.
NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward said no other state imposes such a rule, adding that "it is further inconveniencing the customer who is fortunate enough to have placed a winning wager."
Hal Handel, NYRA's executive vice president and chief operating officer, called it "the most bizarre regulation" he has seen in 30 years as a racetrack executive.
A board spokesman said the impetus for the rule was the ability of mutuel clerks to harvest or reproduce a counterfeit copy of an uncashed mutuel ticket. The spokesman noted that Chris Harn, one of the perpetrators of the infamous pick-six scandal from the 2002 Breeders' Cup, had previously harvested uncashed tickets.
"This rule is designed to protect the wagering public," said board spokesman Joe Mahoney. "We believe the vast majority of parimutuel workers are very trustworthy individuals. Having this rule will create a new barrier for unscrupulous activity, reduce the temptation for harvesting uncashed tickets, and keep honest workers honest."
Delosvientos cruises in Gallant Fox
A 101-day layoff, 124 pounds, and wind-blown snow were no obstacles for distance specialist Delosvientos, who made the lead soon after the start and cruised to a 11 1/4-length victory in Wednesday's $84,050 Gallant Fox Handicap. He returned $3.60.
Lord Kipling, who made a run at Delosvientos approaching the quarter pole, had to settle for second, 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Canela.
It was the fifth win from eight starts in 2008 for Delosvientos, who also won the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont and the Point Given Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Under Eddie Castro, Delosvientos opened up a two-length advantage after running a quarter in 24.49 seconds, then continued to lead uncontested through fractions of 49.33, 1:13.83, 1:40.26, and 2:07.59. He covered 1 5/8 miles in 2:49.33.
Delosvientos is owned and trained by Giuseppe Iadisernia, who said Delosvientos would get 60 days off before returning in a marathon race in early 2009.
Garcia, Contessa earn year-end honors
Despite going winless with his five mounts Wednesday, jockey Alan Garcia ended 2008 as the leading rider on this circuit with 220 victories from 1,219 mounts. He was also the leader in purse money won with $13,139,780. Garcia will ride this winter at Gulfstream Park beginning Saturday.
Rounding out the top five jockeys in wins were Rajiv Maragh (204), Eibar Coa (162), Ramon Dominguez (162), and Edgar Prado (140).
For the third year in a row, trainer Gary Contessa led all NYRA trainers in wins with 150. His 1,142 starters were 670 more than the next trainer, Bruce Levine. Contessa also was the leading trainer in purse money won with $6,634,025. Rounding out the top five in wins were Levine (105), Richard Dutrow Jr. (102), Kiaran McLaughlin (94), and Steve Asmussen (57).