Tuesday morning quick picks

‘Tis the season of giving, and plenty was being given away on Saturday at Aqueduct. The Marines were at the Big A, collecting toys and cash donations; as I wrote last week, NYRA had pledged to match whatever money was collected; Gary Contessa was donating 10% of any earnings on December 5th, with a minimum donation of $1,500; and owner Harold Lerner pledged $5,000. During the races, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association announced that it would match NYRA’s donation. Though I haven’t seen any final figures, even my bad math says that that’s a minimum of $19,500 for the children. Congrats to everyone in New York racing who helped make this possible.

And if you’re interested in keeping up with NYRA’s involvement in the community, you can check out its recently-launched community relations blog, which details NYRA’s charitable and community work.

Dana Byerly of Green but Game writes on charitable giving in her latest post, featuring Facebook and Chase’s joint venture to raise money for charities this holiday season. It’s a super-easy way to try to get some pretty significant cash directed towards your favorite non-profits.

There’s no charity angle to it, but erstwhile and occasional turf writer Sherry Ross recently made some pretty big news when she became the first woman to call play-by-play of a hockey game in English. The New York Times reported on Sunday that Ross called the Devils/Ottawa game on November 25th. Before she went (back) to the Devils dark side, Ross worked at the Daily News, where she had my dream job, covering hockey and Thoroughbred racing. Her gig as color commentator for the Devils means that she only occasionally writes about racing these days, a loss for those who miss her piquant wit, and a gain for Devils’ radio listeners, who don’t deserve her.

Ernie Munick noted it first on Facebook, then David Grening wrote about it in the Form: the impressive début of the Jimmy Jerkens-trained son of Afleet Alex who overcame a terrible start and a green trip to win the second race on Saturday. Afleet Express looked like he didn’t have a chance…until he blew past everyone in the stretch, making it look easy, reminding this Afleet Alex fan of his Hopeful in 2004. You can watch Afleet Express here with free registration.

And finally, good luck to Backstretch favorite Saratoga Russell, who races in the Valley Forge Stakes at Philadelphia Park today. The speedball is likely to have some company up front—let’s just hope that he’s faster than they are.

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