JC / Railbird


Odds and Ends

Blind Luck is raring to go for the El Encino Stakes next Sunday. She worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita on Friday in 1:25.20 and then galloped out another seven furlongs. “For a slightly built filly, she has loads of energy,” observed Jay Privman. On Sunday, it was The Factor flying over the Santa Anita dirt, going five furlongs in :58 flat. “He went a little too fast — he got away from the rider,” said trainer Bob Baffert of the 3-year-old colt.

Culture clash at the Big A? “I feel like I’m in an OTB! I feel like I’m in an OTB!,” LATG overhears an Aqueduct patron telling a security guard. Friday was the one month anniversary of NYC OTB’s closure. Funny, but the parlors already seem like something out of the far past, which I suppose says something about how removed from the mainstream life of the city they had become. (If you’d like to remember days at the OTB, here’s an unexpectedly poignant little video that captures the operation’s waning hours.) While there are some pains as the new element is absorbed into the track scene, NYRA’s efforts to attract displaced OTB bettors are paying off with higher ontrack handle and 2,434 new NYRA Rewards customers since December 8. On Saturday, the new Belmont Café took in a high point $137,889 in wagers from 325 players. “It just goes to show you that simple accommodations — a clean bathroom and a decent place to eat — can go a long way,” writes Jerry Bossert. There’s a still a significant shortfall in NYRA’s total handle, but the trend is positive.

So, the investigation into the l’affaire Life at Ten is ongoing, with the Office of the Inspector General in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet being brought in “to have some independent review for certain aspects of it.” That’s KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood talking to Jennie Rees, who also reports that the KHRC has conducted 90 interviews regarding the Breeders’ Cup Distaff Ladies’ Classic fiasco. Ninety? Once this investigation concludes, how about another into what’s been a frustratingly opaque and slow process.

A New Year’s resolution particularly relevant to the above: “Protect the punter.”

Final handle numbers for 2010 were down 7.3% from 2009, to $11.4 billion from $12.3 billion. That’s the lowest annual total since 1995. “Obviously, we are losing bettors to other forms of gambling,” TRA executive vice president Chris Scherf tells Janet Patton. “We are in the midst of an unmanaged, market-driven contraction touching most aspects of the racing business.” Unmanaged is the key word, and nowhere is that more apparent right now that in the date dispute shaping up in southern Florida between Calder and Gulfstream. As for losing out to other games, sports bettors and poker players are pretty upfront about why they’re not paying much attention to racing.

Rachel Alexandra Works with New Rider

Rachel Alexandra works at Churchill Downs, May 10, 2010

Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra breezed four furlongs at Churchill Downs this morning, her first work since finishing second to Unrivaled Belle in the LaTroienne Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Daily Racing Form gives the filly a flat time of :52 for the move, while Churchill (which sent out the Reed Palmer photo above) reports she went in :50, with splits of :13, :25.60 and :38.60, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:05.60. The time discrepancy isn’t all that’s interesting about Rachel Alexandra’s workout — there was also a notable change of rider, with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan up today in place of Dominic Terry, the filly’s regular exercise rider since she moved into Steve Asmussen’s barn following the 2009 Kentucky Oaks. “It was an easy first work back,” said the trainer, saying nothing, as is his way. “It’s nice cool morning and everything is ideal today. It’s another step in the process.” Re: Terry, via the Rachel Alexandra group on Facebook, comes this unfortunate notice:

Terry no longer riding Rachel

5/18/10 Update: Rachel Alexandra worked five furlongs in 1:04.20 over the sloppy Churchill surface on Monday, May 17, again with Bridgmohan up. Reports the Daily Racing Form, regarding the rider change, “Terry recently went to work for Dallas Stewart.”

9/13/10 Update: Dominic Terry was back aboard Rachel Alexandra for a workout over the Oklahoma training track this morning. The filly, in her first work since finishing second to Persistently in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on August 29, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.65, the fastest of six at the distance, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.80.

Eskendereya Skips Work Out of Derby

Trainer Todd Pletcher9:25 AM Update: Eskendereya is out of the Kentucky Derby. “He’s got some filling. We’re not sure of the extent of what we’re dealing with. But he’s not going to run,” trainer Todd Pletcher said, describing the colt as “slightly off.” (Right: Pletcher, speaking to the media this morning at Churchill Downs. Photo credit: Reed Palmer Photography.)

What changes with this news? The filly Devil May Care seems more likely to enter, Jackson Bend has a real shot of making the field, and Lookin at Lucky takes over as expected post-time favorite.

10:00 AM: Bettors are already adjusting to Esky’s withdrawal: Eskendereya’s odds are drifting, Lookin at Lucky’s shortening (And at 11:00 AM, with Eskendereya out, Lookin at Lucky is 7-2, Sidney’s Candy 5-1.)

3:55 PM: Jennie Rees has reactions from Derby trainers: “My stomach right now hurts for them. I know what they’re going through. I know what Todd [Pletcher] is going through. You’re not safe until you put the saddle on and hear My Old Kentucky Home. ”

– – – – – 

No workout for Eskendereya this morning, and now the status of the likely Kentucky Derby favorite is uncertain.

On Saturday, Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form reported there was evidence of “some issues” plaguing the colt:

Eskendereya had a workout planned for Saturday postponed because of wet weather, and while Eskendereya did have a routine gallop, there is at least circumstantial evidence that Pletcher is trying to nurse Eskendereya through some issues. After training hours on Saturday, every horse at Pletcher’s barn who was walking the shed row had their training bandages removed except for Eskendereya. This follows a postponed final prep, from the Florida Derby to the Wood Memorial two weeks later, and the addition of front bandages for the Wood Memorial.

Earlier this morning, there was some doubt about whether he would work today. From Ron Mitchell of the Blood-Horse:

Meanwhile, shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday, trainer Todd Pletcher said he was undecided about whether Derby favorite Eskendereya and Derby possible starter Interactif would breeze following the maintenance break.

“I am going to watch a couple of sets and see,” Pletcher said. “It’s pretty hard right now.”

Minutes ago, Ed DeRosa of Thoroughbred Times, at Churchill Downs, tweeted:

Eskendereya did not go to track. #KYDerby participation in serious doubt.

Developing …


Rachel Alexandra winning the Haskell
Rachel Alexandra and Calvin Borel win the Haskell. (Uploaded by Rock and Racehorses to Flickr.)

She’s beaten the winners of the Illinois Derby, Arkansas Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Tom Fool Handicap. She’s won eight consecutive races, four of those Grade 1s, one a Classic, at six different tracks, and she’s done so by a combined 69 3/4 lengths. Her winning time of 1:47.21 for nine furlongs in the Haskell Invitational came within one-fifth of a second of the Monmouth stakes record; her preliminary Beyer speed figure for the race is 116, which is the highest yet given this year to any horse of any age at any distance over any surface in North America. The leading contender for Horse of the Year, she’s the best of her generation, male or female, and quite possibly, the best American thoroughbred in training.

She’s Rachel Alexandra, and she’s great.

Superlatively speaking: Her Haskell win was preternaturalawesomesurrealeasily the most scintillating seen this yearspine-tingling. (For more, including photos and the race replay, visit R360.)

Meanwhile: Earlier in the day and across the ocean, Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldikova turned in a flawless front-running performance to win the Fr-1 Prix de Rothschild. Writes Sue Montgomery in the Independent,

Unlike those commercially driven, demeaning occasions now prevalent at feature race meetings, yesterday was a ladies’ day with a degree of dignity attached. At Deauville, the four-year-old filly Goldikova won the European weekend’s most valuable prize because of her deeds, not her looks. Her class as an athlete was being judged, not the style of her plaits or the colour of her saddlecloth.

Sing it, sister.

The brilliant Goldikova is expected to return to Santa Anita this fall to defend her title. “We’ll follow the same plan as last year,” said trainer Freddie Head.

And at Del Mar: Perfect Zenyatta breezed five furlongs in 1:00 in prep for the Clement Hirsch (video). Could the champion beat Rachel Alexandra, if the two meet? That’ll be the question for the rest of the racing year.

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