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Jul 31, 2009

American turf club lead

By: Joe Girardi


            Saratoga and Del Mar are both off and running. Del Mar’s meeting however, got off to a rough start when in the 3rd race of the meeting we had a horse breakdown, throw his rider to the track and jockey Rafael Bejarano suffered injuries that will keep him out until at least the middle of the meet. MI REY, an eight year old gelding was moving into contention in the lane but unfortunately broke down which threw his rider to the track. Bejarano was hit in the face by a trailing horse’s hoof which caused him to sustain a broken left cheek and jaw. He underwent surgery on July 23rd to repair these injuries and everything went well which could lead to a return in about four weeks. He was the leading rider at last year’s Del Mar meeting.

            The first big race of the Del Mar meet was the Grade I Eddie Read Handicap, run at 1 and 1/8th miles over the turf course and it attracted a field of eight. The favorite in the race was MONTEREY JAZZ, who was coming off a big win but he would have to deal with the other speedster in the race, THORN SONG. When THORN SONG committed to the lead at the start, MONTEREY JAZZ took back but on the first turn, THORN SONG bolted and crossed in front of MONTEREY JAZZ who then ran off on a big lead, eventually stopped with GLOBAL HUNTER becoming the beneficiary of that incident and went on for a length victory over AWESOME GEM at 14-1. MONTEREY JAZZ faded in the lane to finish fifth and second choice, WHATSTHESCRIPT could only manage third, give those horses another shot off this oddly run race.

            Saratoga opened its doors for the 141st meeting on July 29th but just like last year the rain came after a few races. A crowd of 25,444 came through the gates for the opening day festivities, more than 7,000 more than last year when the rain had started earlier than it did in 2009. There were 96 betting interests on this year’s card compared to only 60 last year so the handle was also way up. The on-track handle was up 30% from last year and the all sources handle was up over 24% compared to last year.

            The rain started midway through the card but only one race was taken off the turf, the last race on the card, race #10. This however did cause the pick 4 and pick 6 to have the last leg declared an all race because it was taken off the turf after those wagers started. That rule that was put in place a few years back really protects the bettors and makes it easier for NYRA to take a race off the turf if they deem it may become unsafe without worrying about hurting the bettor. The opening day stakes race, the Schuylerville, went to the connections of trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Robby Albarado as two year old filly HOT DIXIE CHICK scored a 6 ¼ length victory in the Grade III race. Last year the same connections won the race with JARDIN who also won through the rainfall. As of this writing only one race was taken off for day two and it has cleared up hopefully the weather will cooperate because in terms of betting opportunities this looks like it should be a great meet.

            More good news also came on opening day of the Saratoga meeting. NYRA, who had withheld its signal to Nassau County residents in the home because of a dispute with Nassau OTB restored the signal yesterday. However, apparently because of technical difficulties with Cablevision, the provider for the channel they did not get the races up and running on opening day. As I am writing this the channel has just come on and we will get the races back in the house. The other alternative was to watch the races on TVG. However, with all the tracks they cover, you were not able to get the races live a good portion of the time, if there were inquiries, change in weather, or something in the paddock again you would not be able to see it. The dispute between Nassau OTB and NYRA went on for almost two months and impacted the racing fan in Nassau County tremendously. I know for myself, if I am not at the track, watching the races on TVG and trying to bet became difficult, also you didn’t get the replays after the race, probables before the race and the results took a while before they were official. I’m glad the races are back on and hope that there will not be any changes in the future as only the racing fan really suffers.



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