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Jun 27, 2014

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               With just three weeks away to the greatest place on earth, Saratoga, we will take a look at some changes for that upcoming meeting as well as some other news along the way.

               Martin Panza, the senior vice-president of racing operations for the New York Racing Association, said he plans to run fewer flat races at the upcoming Saratoga meet compared to last year. I think that this is actually a good thing. NYRA will look to emphasize quality over quantity. The program will call for nine flat races on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as 10 races on most Sundays. The overall races run last year including the Steeplechase races set a record for the amount of races run at Saratoga. When putting the emphasis on the quality of the races not only will it allow for more betting opportunities but it will also make show that NYRA is taking consideration of the publics views.

               When speaking of Steeplechase races there will be 12 races total, three more than last year and then will be run one each on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The post time for the Steeplechase races will be at 12:25 p.m. and this will mean that most flat races will start at 1 p.m. each day. There will be wagering on the Steeplechase races but they will not be part of the pick 5, which will be making its debut at Saratoga for the first time. New York introduced the pick 5 last September at Belmont and this will be the first time it will be offered at Saratoga. I expect to see some large pools for this wager and the higher quality races will make for some very juicy betting situations.

               Saratoga has also done away with Twilight racing. The twilight racing cards would start at 2:30 but there was some concern from local restaurants about losing business during those Friday twilight days. I like twilight cards when Belmont does it but Saratoga is so popular it almost works in reverse. The crowds will be there no matter what time they start but when you are cutting into businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, etc the change was warranted and it should work out fine.

               Saratoga’s opening day is July 18th and the meeting will run through Labor Day, September 1st. If you get the chance to get to the track in person you will never forget it.

               Moving along to some other news, on Monday June 23rd at Delaware Park there was an altercation between trainer Juan Vasquez and jockey Trevor McCarthy. From reports, Vazquez was upset about an incident in the first race that day when a horse McCarthy was on came over on a Vasquez horse that was tiring in the lane. He confronted McCarthy when he was weighing out after the fourth race that day and an altercation ensued with Vasquez assaulting McCarthy. After a meeting with the stewards this past Wednesday a ruling was issued on Thursday and Vasquez was suspended 90 days and fined $2,500. Vasquez will also have to attend and complete and anger management course approved by the stewards before his license is restored. This isn’t the first time Vasquez has been involved in a physical altercation. He has been suspended before for similar incidents and other infractions. The fact that he can attack a jockey in full view of the crowd and many witnesses and only receive 90 days and a small fine after he has shown a propensity to do this in the past is disturbing. Delaware could have taken a hard stand here and suspended him from the grounds for six months to send a message but they chose not too. Let’s hope this type of behavior doesn’t happen again. Everyone emotions run high sometimes especially in this game but to take it into your own hands and actually put your hands on someone else should never be tolerated no less on multiple occasions.

               A final topic to take a look at is how a horseplayer is at a disadvantage before they even place a bet. I was speaking to an old time player at the track the other day and he was talking about a triple he had hit over 40 years ago. He collected over $45,000 on the bet, I believe he said he had a $6 triple that paid $15,000. He collected the full $45,000, there was no takeout by the federal government or the state. The horseplayer kept the full amount and then was able to bet that money back into the pools generating millions upon millions of dollars, which helps the horseplayer, the racetrack and the state which the wager was bet. The horseplayer has been treated horribly for many years, just over the last few years with rewards programs, rebates and the like there has been some movement towards helping the horseplayer. There was an article on DRF.com last week about signing a petition for horseplayers to help with tax reform to benefit the horseplayer. It’s a start and hopefully things will change in the future that benefit the horseplayer. The racetracks should be pushing for it as well as the states, they all would benefit from more handle.



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