The Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008 and 2009. In those five years, 31 Breeders’ Cup races were decided on Santa Anita’s main track. Horses coming off a race in New York have won just one of those 31 races for a miniscule 3.2% strike rate. That one winner was Lady’s Secret, who captured the 1986 Distaff after having won the Beldame in her most recent start. Lady’s Secret was voted 1986 Horse of the Year and entered the Hall of Fame in 1992.
Yikes. I knew the record was poor, but that’s a stark stat.
New York prepped horses do a bit better finishing in the money in main track Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita, with 17 running either second or third in the five years the BC has been held at the SoCal track. The main track race in which New York prepped horses have done the best at Santa Anita is the Juvenile Fillies — five New York fillies have finished in the money. New Yorkers also did their best on the Santa Anita main track in 2008 and 2009 — the synthetic surface years — when five and four, respectively, finished in the money, particularly in the Filly and Mare Sprint (2nd and 3rd, 2008), Distaff (2nd and 3rd, 2008), and Dirt Mile (2nd and 3rd, 2009).
Gov. Cuomo, in a startling move, has decided to “privatize” the running of the famed Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga thoroughbred tracks with a new management company that will replace the scandal-scarred New York Racing Association, The Post has learned.
I have no idea how this will play out, can make no predictions on how New York racing will be changed in the coming years, but do wish I could shake the unease and cynicism that comes with everything I read of Cuomo’s plans.
9/25/12 Addendum: Tom Noonan gives three reasons why privatization isn’t such a hot idea. Cuomo walks back the report, according to the New York Times, saying privatization is just one option that might be considered.
9/27/12 All you need to read on the subject: “I don’t see this happening.”
Aqueduct numbers year-to-year, week-to-week, and day-to-day:
On the second day without NYC OTB, on-track attendance was still up, and on-track handle spiked by almost 11% over Wednesday, 12.8% over the previous Thursday. Interstate handle declined from the day before, but was up a tiny 1.3% over last Thursday. The ugly number is intrastate handle, which was down 4.6% over Wednesday, and almost 39.1% from last Thursday. How much of that was money moving? The difference in on-track handle from Wednesday to Thursday is plus $53,125; intrastate handle minus $40,000. If most of the upped on-track dollars were formerly intrastate wagers, then NYRA made gains, even if small. Over on LATG, Alan Mann estimates that NYRA needs to “capture one-third of the wagers placed on its races at NYC OTB in order to break even,”* and it does seem as though they’re doing all they can to grab those bettors, if the flurry of press releases sent out today is any indication, offering double points to customers signing up for NYRA Rewards before December 31, opening up Belmont for simulcasting beginning this Sunday, and looking for a way to get the races back on TV in the city.
In a comment yesterday, EJXD2 said, “I wish people would stop lamenting the death of NYC OTB and instead celebrate that a corrupt system is no more.” Fair enough. Huzzah! NYC OTB is dead! But there’s not much time for lamenting or celebrating. John Pricci called December 7, “the beginning of the end of the modern era of racing in New York,” and while we may not look back on that as such a bad thing, given how troubled the era passing became in its latter days, there’s pain ahead due to lost livelihoods and inevitable structural changes. The bright side (really) is now that closure has come to pass, and action is necessary before the whole industry goes broke, New York has an opportunity to blow up the dysfunctional OTB system and replace it with a streamlined operation** better suited to supporting racing in the contemporary market, which means efficient management and an approach to customers that’s less get-your-fix and more have-great-fun. It won’t be easy, but it must be done.
*8:15 PM Update: Talking to reporters in the Aqueduct press box this morning, NYRA CEO Charles Hayward confirmed that’s about right: “Hayward estimated that NYRA has to try and make up for 35 percent of what NYCOTB handled at its parlors because only 2.4 percent of each dollar wagered at an OTB parlor goes to NYRA, compared with 10 percent of each dollar wagered ontrack.”
**12/10/10 Update: Writes Jerry Bossert in the NY Daily News: “I’m all for it, but it will never happen as there would then be only one President, one vice-president, one director of marketing, etc. It will never fly as there are too many patronage jobs out there currently occupying all those seats in the other five regions.” I fear he’s right — political considerations have held up past attempts at reform — but maybe NYC OTB closing was just the shock needed to make this time different. (Via @BklynBckstretch.)
Because of this lucrative pipeline, Rudy has compiled one of the most phenomenal statistics I’ve ever seen. Horses making their first start for the Rodriguez barn after a straight trainer change have won 15 of 29 starts, a celestial 52 percent. In addition, Rudy has hit first-time out with 8 of 22 claimed horses. That is a 36 percent strike rate.
Rodriguez’s win rate is 30% for the year, 35.7% at Belmont since the start of the fall meet. He’s in the money 65% for the year, 69% at Belmont.
Uncle Mo might become a star. He might be a future footnote. Either way, handicappers should be aware that recent history suggests Uncle Mo is likely to regress Saturday in his second start. When a 2-year-old firster runs a triple-digit Beyer, it takes time to revitalize.
In the past 10 years, writes Free, 15 2YOs have run a triple-digit BSF in their debut. Only two improved on their figure in their next start.
Bob Ehalt’s Ragozin anaylsis runs to a similar conclusion: “Weighing all of those possibilities, Uncle Mo seems more likely to regress than advance …”
10/9/10 Update: Question answered. Uncle Mo dominated the G1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont today, winning the one-mile race by open lengths in 1:34.51 after being pressed through a half in :45.92 by I’m Steppin’ It up:
Said trainer Todd Pletcher after, “He’s obviously a very fast and talented horse and it looked as if he was doing it easily.” Uncle Mo will ship to Churchill Downs on October 26 for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Beyer speed figures, via @andyserling: 94 for Uncle Mo in the Champagne Stakes, 81 for AZ Warrior in the Frizette Stakes.
Please Henry Cecil, writes Steve Dennis, run Prix Vermeille winner Midday in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before the Breeders’ Cup: “She’s a virtual shoo-in at Churchill Downs, so why not give the Arc a crack on the way?
What makes a horse do this? As in the Yorkshire Oaks, Sariska refused to leave the starting gate in the Vermeille, compelling her connections to retire the 4-year-old filly immediately after the (non)race. “I’m proud of everything she has achieved but she does not want to play ball on the track,” said trainer Michael Bell, who reported on his website earlier in the week that Sariska had performed well in gate work at Lingfield. John Sparkman addressed the subject last month, noting that “when a horse reveals temperamental quirks, racing folk are always quick to look to the pedigree to find reasons for such behavior.” Sariska’s half-sister Gull Wing did pull the same stunt. An expression of the genes or equine will? Fascinating, either way.
At Belmont on Saturday, Heisman, a 2-year-old full-sibling to Any Given Saturday, won his first race running the final quarter in :28 seconds. That is not notable. It is though that Heisman was starting off a sixth-place finish in his debut, a six-furlong Saratoga maiden special won by Stay Thirsty, who finished second to Sovereign Default in his first start and second to Boys at Tosconova in the Hopeful Stakes. The hype was all about Boys after the Hopeful, but Stay Thirsty — a Bernardini baby, half-brother to Andromeda’s Hero and Superfly, with enough class to run well against his precocious peers — seems more likely to develop into an interesting 3-year-old.
The Keeneland September sale kicked off tonight and people in the blugrass must be relieved that big spenders are still around. The average price of the 69 yearlings sold was $347,319, up 49% over 2009, the median $250,000, up 25% (stats via Keeneland’s sortable auction results). And more good news: “The buy-back rate was 25.8%, down significantly from 41.2% in 2009.” Neither Sheikh Mohammed nor Coolmore was particularly active (the former purchased a Bernardini colt for $450,000, the latter an A.P. Indy for $600,000), but Shadwell bought six for a gross total of more than $2.8 million, including a striking Bernardini colt for $800,000. Of the young sires represented, the 2006 champion 3-year-old was the most successful both by number sold (three) and gross (almost $1.4 million).
First punch in another round of racetracks versus ADWs? TVG declined to show all but three races from opening day at Belmont Park, citing contractual obligations. “We have a plethora of tracks running today that are exclusive to TVG,” said TVG executive Tony Allevato. “NYRA is not an exclusive track.”
Foolish Pleasure covers the most promising first-time starters in the second, a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special for juvenile fillies. Ambitiously spotted is Suffolk Downs-based Jewel of Rockport, a Rockport Harbor baby out of Box of Jewels, who’s a half-sibling to Golden Ballet, dam of Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer. Precocious himself, Rockport Harbor’s offspring have been slow to find the winner’s circle: None of the freshman sire’s first 11 runners have done better than second in 15 starts. With her unexceptional recent works, Jewel of Rockport, 20-1 on the morning line, doesn’t figure to be the first winner for her sire, but, depending on how she does today, could be one to watch for in local juvenile races this summer.
Results: Sixth for Jewel of Rockport, “never a factor,” but surely Afaaf, a $300,000 Keeneland purchase and half-sibling to stakes winner Rule, was more disappointing to her connections after tiring and finishing fourth as the 2-1 second favorite. Stopspendingmaria, a Montbrook filly making her second career start for trainer Todd Pletcher, won by hustling early and drawing away in the stretch, finishing seven lengths ahead Networking, who was another nine lengths ahead of third place finisher Hey Valentina.
New York Daily News racing columnist Vic Ziegel takes a buyout. “I’m gone,” said Ziegel, who was with the paper for 24 years. “It’s cool.” (New York Post)
DRF columnist Jay Hovdey joins the racing blogosphere, while Ed DeRosa of Thoro Times settles in at Big Event Blog. (Thanks for the shout-out, EJXD2.)
“Rough weekend for stars.” Perhaps the most lacking in excuses for a flop was Music Note, who came off a seven-month layoff to finish a career-worst fifth going over her favorite surface in the Ogden Phipps. Will she improve next out? Or was the sub-par work of two weeks before, then her Saturday performance, indication that the filly isn’t the same as she was last year?
Commentator wins the Kashatreya Stakes, points to a third Whitney score. The most interesting thing about Friday’s race was that the 8-year-old ran a :23.48 final quarter (following a leisurely 1:12.17 three-quarters). The most disappointing was Naughty New Yorker, making his first start since the 2008 Suburban and obviously in need of a race, finishing a tired fourth.
Received Watch Mail yesterday that Music Note had worked four furlongs in :48.24 at Belmont, a move that seemed much improved from her lackluster six furlong breeze the week before. Reporting in DRF, David Grening confirms my impression and writes that the filly is once again likely for the June 13 Ogden Phipps Handicap, which will be her first start since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup. The Phipps may come up a short field, as only three other starters are confirmed: Apple Blossom winner Seventh Street, going for her second consecutive G1 win, Shuvee winner Seattle Smooth, and Color Me Up. [6/10/09 Update: Entries in, seven to start. Music Note highweight at 122, in post six. Seattle Smooth gets 121, post two.]
6:55 p.m. update: The finish …
Triple Crown season came to an end almost as surprising as its beginning, with 11-1 Summer Bird — the other ‘Bird — pulling away to a 2 3/4-length win in the Belmont. Dunkirk, the unexpected pacesetter, was game to the end, finishing second, a neck in front of Mine That Bird, who had taken the lead in the mid-stretch and seemed on his way to victory. “He run a great race, he just got beat,” said trainer Chip Woolley. “You have to accept that and go on.”
5:10 p.m. update: Love for Better Talk Now …
It has been two years since the 10-year-old Better Talk Now has won a race, but the gelding has his fans. As he circled the paddock, applause and cheers could be heard, as could one woman’s plea for a safe trip. “Take good care of the old gentleman, Jeremy.”
4:52 p.m. update: A logical play, in hindsight …
Gabby’s Golden Gal goes wire-to-wire in the Acorn, running fractions of :22.61, :45.39, 1:09.01, before finishing in 1:34.79. She pays $28.40, the highest price yet on the day. “Oh, jeez,” says an exasperated horseplayer after. “If only I’d noticed this — she won the Sunland Oaks!” Replies another, “It’s the Sunland angle!” Gabby’s Golden Gal is also by Medaglio d’Oro, who is proving a superb sire of stakes fillies; she is the second G1 winner for the stallion, the other being Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra.
3:58 p.m. update: In the paddock for the Woody Stephens …
Everyday Heroes is nervous, pulling at his groom, rolling his eyes at the crowd. Trainer Tim Ritchey has him taken behind the saddling stalls, where he rears and spins.
Comes the call for riders up and one is missing. Triumpant Flight is walking toward the paddock exit without a jockey, but here comes Kent Desormeaux, jogging and apologizing all at once to trainer Eric Kruljac. “Sorry, sorry,” he says, and Kruljac hoists him up almost at the last possible moment.
Trainer Rick Dutrow, being interviewed by Jeanine Edwards on ESPN:
3:23 p.m. update: Just a Game upset, early Belmont wagering …
In the biggest upset of the day yet, 3-5 favorite Forever Together finishes second to 9-1 Diamondrella after getting caught on the rail without room to room. [Said jockey Julien Leparoux afterwards: "I didn't think I had that tough a trip. The only thing I can say is the winner got the jump on us in the stretch." Diamondrella was in the clear, outside.]
Early wagering on the Belmont has Mine That Bird at even money, Charitable Man at 5-1. Dunkirk and Chocolate Candy come in at 6-1, and Mr. Hot Stuff, at 21-1, is the longshot of the field.
Pick Six pool total comes to more than $1.6 million.
2:50 p.m. update: Fast track …
The Belmont main track was upgraded to fast after the True North Handicap, which was won impressively by favored Fabulous Strike. Jockey Ramon Dominguez wasn’t the only one shaking his head in amazement when the 6-year-old gelding crossed the wire in 1:07.25 after running the first half mile in :43.62 while dueling with Sixthirteen. Benny the Bull, making his first start in nearly 11 months, finished a game second while attempting to close on the outside.
1:45 p.m. update: A few quick notes to get started …
The track is good, the turf soft, the weather ideal. “It looks like it’s going to be speed from the inside all day,” jockey Richard Migliore told John Pricci. It would seem so, after the first three dirt races.
Walked through the grandstand and the backyard and found a happy, growing crowd front and back. A track employee, looking out over the third floor, estimated the final attendance number would come in around 45,000.
Heading into the stakes portion of the card and only a few scratches to report: I Lost My Choo is out of the Just a Game, Regal Ransom out of the Woody Stephens, and Champs Elysees and Premium Gold out of the Manhattan. Not sure any of those scratches make any of those races easier to play.
All the Belmont Stakes starters made it into the detention barn without incident, and Mine That Bird appeared to settle into his stall comfortably. Sartorial note: Trainer Chip Woolley, who wore pressed jeans to the Kentucky Derby, is wearing a pair of tan slacks … and his cowboy hat, of course.
Calvin Borel, named to ride one horse on the turf today, has taken off his mount. The jockey won’t ride before the Belmont.