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Nov 14, 2003

Racing Today

By: John Piesen


I hate to be negative. Well, maybe not. When it comes to horse racing, there’s always more negatives

than positives to write about, and that’s certainly the case during these blah post-Breeders’ Cup days.

Consider:

---Try as the suits and ties seek to put a spin on it, racetrack business is down across the board.

The latest clue: Notably, after years of slots-spurred prosperity, Delaware Park this week reported

major declines across the board for its 2003 season, which closed last weekend.

Years back, Delaware Park was one of the most exciting racing venues in the land, especially on

big-race days. Then everything went wrong, and the track was on the brink of extinction until the slots

came in. But even with slots, you’ll be hard-pressed to find 50 people in the Delaware stands on an

average weekday, and the average on-track race handle is about $5,000.
Meanwhile, it’s SRO down the carpeted hall at the slots.

Of course, years back, one of the great racing days consisted of spending an afternoon at Delaware

Park, followed by an evening at the nearby Brandywine harness track. That is until Brandywine went

belly-up in the ‘80s.

---The attendance for last Saturday’s California Cup at Santa Anita was 18,029. That sounds pretty good

in this day and age, but actually it’s an all-time low for Cup Day, and it prompted management to consider

moving the CC to October next year, two weeks before the Breeders’ Cup at Lone Star.

“The California Cup was a major disappointment,” said a Santa Anita official, “especially considering we

did more advertising than ever before.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe that California racing really misses the great jockey colony of

yesterday – the Shoemakers, the Pincays, the Delahoussayes and the McCarrons. Notwithstanding

Ms. Krone, the current California jockey colony lacks that buzz.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “…let’s get out to the track today. Fogelsonger’s on a hot one.”

---It was reported this week that Magna, which runs Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park, et al., lost $15.4

million in the third quarter, prompting the firing of three major officials. One of the three was vice president

of operations John Perotta, who, back in the salad days, ran Rapid Robert Brennan’s racing empire. And

Magna’s chief operating officer recently left the company six months after being hired.

This is not a good sign.

--- Last Saturday night at Charles Town, the sixth race,a $2,500 claimer at four and a half furlongs, was

won wire-to-wire by a 15-1 shot.

Nothing unusual there. But the winning horse was named Don’t Tell the Kids. If the name sounds

familiar, it should. This is the same Don’t Tell the Kids who, in 1999, won the $200,000 Sapling Stakes

at Monmouth Park, beating one of Team Lukas’ million-dollar babies.

Good to see that Don’t the Tell Kids, at age 6, can still motor. He shaded :54.

But it’s not a good thing to see that a wonderful racehorse like this has reached rock bottom. He deserves

better. Maybe his original owners can claim him back, and find him a good home to live out his days.

If you have any suggestions along this line, please E-mail me at JDPiesen@netscape.net.

---Last week’s issue of Sports Illustrated ran a piece about its covers, breaking the covers, 2.548 in

all, down by sport.

For 25 years after SI’s inception in 1954, there were dozens of racing covers, mostly Derby winners

such as Secretariat, Genuine Risk, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Spectacular Bid. There were even

several jockeys who graced its cover – Bill Hartack (twice), Bill Shoemaker, Johnny Longden and

Steve Cauthen.

This is no surprise since, in those days, racing was considered a major sport, ranked right up there

behind the “big three” of baseball, football and basketball.

But would you believe that the last racing cover in Sports Illustrated ran 14 years ago (Julie Krone)? Not

even the 2002 pick six scandal made it!

I guess this talks volumes about the fall of racing in the mainstream media. Maybe the NTRA should take note.


---Now it’s my bad.

Last Friday, I casually mentioned that a mare named Caught in the Rain, who was to run the next day in the

Athenia Handicap at Aqueduct, is owned by a Texan named Buddy New, who, years back, was Roger

Clemens’ teammate at the University of Texas. New was the all-conference first baseman.

One thing I forgot to mention was that Caught In the Rain had a decent chance to win the Athenia. Well, she

did, in a three-horse blanket finish, and paid $31.40!

My apologies.

P.S. Caught In the Rain got up thanks only to an excellent ride by Richard Migliore. As always, the Mig is

flying under the radar this year, but he is riding in the best form of his career, and, starting with

Caught in the Rain, won stakes on three straight racing days at the Big A. On Tuesday, he rode a fourbagger.

What’s more remarkable is that the Mig, who suffered near-fatal injuries in a spill at Belmont Park back in

1990, continues to perform daily on a world-class level while virtually all of his riding contemporaries from the

late ‘70s and early ‘80s are long gone.

And, to this date, the Mig, who was the regular rider for the legendary Fourstardave, remains one of only two

New York riders to make the successful transition from star apprentice to star journeyman.

The other was the late Mike Venezia.

Ironically, earlier this year, Migliore won the annual Mike Venezia Award for excellence on and off the track.



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