JC / Railbird


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.