As I wrote about in more detail at The Blood-Horse yesterday, tomorrow is New York Showcase Day at Belmont. With seven stakes races and more than a million dollars in purses available, it’s the premier day of state-bred racing in New York.
For the kids, Belmont is offering hay rides, face painting, and pumpkin carving, all for free; for the bigger (and male) kids, you get warm shaves, hand rolled cigars, whiskey and wine tasting, and of course, models and massages.
I guess if you’re a big girl, you’re out of luck. Think they’d shave my legs if I asked?
As part of the Blood-Horse piece, I spoke with Jeffrey Cannizzo of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, who told me, “New York’s breeding program sets a bar for all states. It’s the most lucrative environment in which to breed, foal and race a Thoroughbred. Up to 20% of purse structures are awarded back to breeders, stallion owners, and open company winners for placing in an event. If you attach that to NYRA having the highest purse structures in the country along with running 600+ state-bred races a year, it’s quite a program to be involved with.”
Cannizzo also noted that NYRA has put together two great Showcase Day incentives for horseplayers. NYRA Reward holders will receive double reward points on all races bet on Saturday at Belmont, and the day offers a $400,000 all-stakes guaranteed Pick 4. Oh, yeah, and there’s a Pick 6 carryover.
Of particular interest to me are the $250,000 Empire Classic and the $125,000 Hudson. Trainer Dominic Galluscio has won the Empire Classic the last two years, with full brothers Dr. V’s Magic in 2007 and Organizer in 2006. This year he takes a shot with their full sister, Raffie’s Treasure. She won impressively in the slop in August in a New York Stallion Series race at Saratoga, and came back two races later to take an optional claimer at Belmont on October 1st. This is her first shot at the colts, but if pedigree means anything, you’ve got to give her a chance.
The Hudson features the return of Irish Blast; he won three of his first five starts by a combined fifteen lengths, and was second in two others. His only finish off the board came in his last start, after which he came up lame and was sent home for a summer on the farm. This talented colt comes back on Saturday for the first time, ambitiously placed by trainer Allen Jerkens.
Also returning is jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr., last seen lying on the track on Monday after the field had seemingly run over him when he fell from his mount in the stretch after having lost both of his irons. Arroyo was seriously injured in the accident that paralyzed Andrew Lakeman in the spring of 2007, and at various times has missed time for suspensions; an uneventful career is not his. It seemed impossible that he was not seriously injured on Monday, but he somehow escaped unscathed. Good luck on Friday, Norberto.
Finally, my stop at Charles Town last week resulted in some fortuitous meetings that revealed great stories about horses in action there this weekend. Tie Break, a horse that I started following in January of 2005, is entered tonight in a stakes race. Tie Break was injured in 2005 and subsequently retired, but I never took him out of my watch list, and he returned, much to my surprise, last spring, racing at Calder. He raced a few times without hitting the winner’s circle, but in September he ran at Charles Town and won; a trainer close to Tie Break indicates that the horse is doing “extremely well,” and that his trainer, Renee Schlesinger, is “hopeful and encouraged” about his chances tonight.
George Yetsook has entered the ten-year-old West Virginia stalwart Confucius Say in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic Stakes, a race he’s won twice before. This old guy’s got quite a story, and it’ll be here on Saturday morning.