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Nov 24, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            As the year winds down there is still some top racing to look forward too, the final Grade I’s in New York, the Cigar Mile as well as the Gazelle will be run on Saturday November 27th. Some of the top milers and top three year old fillies will be taking their shot before getting some time until next year.

            This past weekend, on November 20th, at Delta Downs they ran their Delta Downs Jackpot, a race that saw the purse go back to $1 million dollars this year. However, the difference this year was that the race was Graded, a Grade III, this was a big factor in horses going there this year. The graded earnings from a win in this race would guarantee you a spot in the Derby and then you could plot out your races next year without worrying about earnings. Ten horses went postward in this race with New York bred BUG JUICE going off as the 2-1 favorite on the strength of two big wins in sprint races at Finger Lakes against statebreds. SWEET DUCKY and RUSH NOW were the second and third choice respectively but neither one of them did much running along with BUG JUICE as none of them hit the board. The winner of race was a 6-1 morning line runner who had 3 wins and a second from 4 prior starts. GOURMET DINNER, made all his starts before this one at Calder and his most recent race was a good second as the 3-5 favorite when trying two turns for the first time. Sent off at 20-1 some how in this race, made a wide move to take over the lead and score by more than two lengths in his first start with blinkers. The second place finisher in the race was 48-1 DECISIVE MOMENT who finished just a length behind GOURMET DINNER last out and ironically was taking the blinkers off. Another longshot CLUBHOUSE RIDE finished third at 13-1.

            This race was marred by an incident which saw jockey Calvin Borel fall off a horse at the back of the pack and then was kicked in the face by a trailing horse which broke his jaw. He is expected to be out about 5 to 6 weeks and should be ready for the start of the Oaklawn meeting which starts in the middle of January. This incident on top of his fight with Javier Castellano on national television during the Breeders’ Cup has wrapped up a bad month for Borel. Hopefully he bounces back well from this injury because he is one of the good guys.

            One of the more exciting horses we saw this year was three year old LOOKIN AT LUCKY who looked like a winner in midstretch of the Breeders’ Cup Classic but tired a bit late to finish fourth. However, he was retired a few days ago and will stand at Ashford Stud and will have a starting fee of $35,000. It is hard to cultivate fans of Horse Racing when its’ stars retire at such a young age. I understand this is a business and the owners have to make the choice that is best for them but as a three year old to retire without really meeting his potential is unfortunate. Jess Jackson, the owner of CURLIN and RACHEL ALEXANDRA has to be given even more credit now because of how he runs his horses for the good of the game. CURLIN could have been retired but he brought him back as well as RACHEL ALEXANDRA. We all saw what ZENYATTA did for the game public relations wise and when these top stars retire before they even get to their four year old year it makes it very difficult to build the fan base.

            Another way that hurts the fan base is the fact that ESPN has the rights to the Breeders’ Cup. Forgetting about their broadcast which shows the races from so many different angles you don’t even know what is going on, the way they handled the build up to the race and on race day itself was terrible. A week before the races they started promoting. If you go to their website you need a tour guide to find the horse racing section, it’s a joke. Finally on raceday the Michigan-Illinois game went into overtime and ran into the time when the Breeders’ Cup was supposed to come on. I understand you don’t want to take that off because there are people watching the game and it might be difficult to just switch shows. However, with all the channels ESPN has they could have easily taken care of this. They did, they put the Michigan-Illinois game on another ESPN channel, so two channels with the game and none with the races, good thing they didn’t tie the game again on the last play or we would have had to watch the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on tape delay. Not a great promotion of the game, something the powers that be in racing should think about.

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