JC / Railbird


Thursday Notes

The March 12 Timely Writer drew 36 nominations, including 13 from trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn. (Even if Pletcher has to saddle the entire field, he’ll ensure the race fills?) Early Derby fave Uncle Mo heads the list; maiden winner Cal Nation is an intriguing possible. Dialed In is also among the nominees. If the Nick Zito trainee does start, the match-up could make the ungraded one-mile Timely Writer the most significant Derby prep yet this season. [Never mind. The Tampa Bay Derby is looking more likely. Dialed In will start in a two-turn Gulfstream allowance on Sunday.]

Every year around this time, someone’s Derby fever turns to Derby delirium. Flashpoint’s trainer, unlike his owner, is just a little hot.

Undefeated top-rated Frankel has a big year ahead as a 3-year-old, rider Tom Queally told a UK radio show. “[H]e’s trained on nicely, we think. I’ve seen him and he seems to have done very well.” Support for the even-money 2000 Guineas favorite has been “relentless,” said a Ladbrokes spokesperson.

More recognition for Jaimy Gordon’s racetrack novel, “Lord of Misrule,” now a 2011 PEN/Faulkner award finalist. It goes up against “Nox” on March 14, in round one of the Morning News Tournament of Books.

This again? The constant strife in this game is a real downer. As is having to keep two ADW accounts. Magna, Churchill ADWs are at odds over signals.

Little Money

New York City OTB was big, but it paid peanuts for simulcasting rights, and not just to NYRA (which gets about 50% more from out-of-state ADWs than it did from NYC OTB). In the Courier-Journal, Gregory Hall reports:

The New York City system wagered $9.6 million on Turfway Park races in 2009, resulting in $169,000 in revenues that were split between Turfway and its horsemen through purses, said Bob Elliston, president of the Florence, Ky. track. This year, with fewer Turfway racing dates, the total so far is just over $5 million, resulting in $87,000 in revenue split between Turfway and horsemen, he said.

That’s about 1.75 cents per dollar wagered. Turf Paradise had a slightly better deal, but NYC OTB still wasn’t adding much to the pot, reports DRF:

Vince Francia, the general manager of Turf Paradise, said on Friday that New York City OTB bettors had wagered $3.7 million on Turf’s signal since the track opened on Oct. 1, or about $77,000 a day. Because of New York City OTB’s bargaining power, Turf Paradise only kept 2 percent of that money as the simulcast fee, Francia said, for total revenue of $1,540 a day, an amount that was split with horsemen.


12/21/10 Addendum: New York breeders aren’t missing NYC OTB much either after two years of not receiving payments. “If you’re not getting anything it’s hard to feel like you’re losing something.”

Weekend Notes

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.”

A Fresh Perspective

Betfair USA president Gerard Cunningham, in an interview with DRF reporter Matt Hegarty, responding to a question about shifting wagering dollars and what TVG can do to attract new revenue and new fans:

I do want to comment on this idea of cannibalization, that online wagering has damaged handle at the racetrack. I actually don’t accept that premise. If I go back 10 years ago, before there was online wagering, and I move forward through the period, imagining that there was no Internet wagering on horse racing, then horse racing would still be competing against all of these other sports that are bringing in many, many more interactive entertainment experiences, and it would be competing with the sports that have remade their venues into very pleasant facilities, and with a whole new set of Internet wagering competitors, like online poker, which is a much cheaper bet than online horse racing, and you would have had this major change in the economy, in which we are all working a lot harder than we were a decade ago, where none of us have jobs for life anymore, and we do not have time to go to the track during the week. So if we didn’t have Internet wagering, the industry would be in much worse shape today. Internet account wagering has helped keep the wealthier, white-collar professional who has a busy job engaged with the sport during the week, and allowed him to participate in the sport as a bettor.