Made a quick trip out to Belmont this morning, to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and say good-bye to some of the folks who will be shortly heading south. My Saturday morning at Belmont generally come to an end when Aqueduct opens; the opportunity to take the A train to the races, after two months of battling BQE and LIE traffic to get to Belmont, generally overcomes any desire to tramp around a cold Belmont backstretch.
But this morning was positively balmy – hot in the sun, really – and as a nephew’s basketball game will prevent my making fall 2010 maiden voyage to Ozone Park, I went out to check on a few favorites.
First stop: Crazy Catlady. She ran yesterday, finishing fourth; in five starts this year, she’s now got two fourths, two thirds, and a ninth. Throw out that poor showing in the Ticonderoga, and she’s been beaten by five lengths altogether. She runs well every time, but never gets there. She was a little quiet in her stall this morning but perked up at the prospect of a carrot, and she worked patiently at the way-too-thick carrots the guy at the bodega gave me this morning. No word yet on what happens next, whether she’ll head to Florida or stay here.
Next stop: Winter Memories, doing well after her second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf. Trainer Jimmy Toner, too, was in good spirits, philosophical about the loss and worried that the filly had let her fans down. Winter Memories was beaten by two lengths by Bobby Flay’s More Than Real. “If it couldn’t be us, I’m glad it was him,” said Toner this morning. Toner trains some of Flay’s horses, and says that there’s no one better for the game than the celebrity chef and restaurant-owner. “I’m glad for him,” he said. No decisions yet on where Winter Memories will spend the winter.
Third stop: Allen Jerkens. He’s heading to Florida this week, the horses soon to follow. Expansive on a lovely morning, he weighed in unequivocally on his choice for Horse of the Year: Zenyatta. But as he got in his car to go pick some weeds for his horses, he paused. “Did you see Goldikova? And they’re bringing her back!”
Zenyatta is still the subject of many backstretch conversations. Said another trainer with no shortage of New York-breds in his barn, “Of course Zenyatta is Horse of the Year! How could they give it to Blame? He got beat by a New York-bred!”
Admiration swelled whenever her name came up, along with some second guessing: “Why didn’t they bring her a little earlier and let her get a little dirt in her face? Then she’d have handled it better and she would have won.” “Think they’ll bring her back? Why not? After that race, she’ll come East and beat everybody!” “We still don’t know how good she is.”
Fifty years ago this week, horsemen at Belmont would have been preparing for the end of racing in our state; state law mandated that the last day of racing was November 30. Now, they’re getting ready to ship to Florida, or steeling themselves for the Aqueduct winter. And after last weekend, everything in racing does feel a little anti-climactic; though I resent the importance of the Breeders’ Cup, the Classic is the race for which we undeniably waited all year, waiting to see if she could do it again. Now it’s over. Now what?
Browsing through New York racing history over the last few days, looking for a little inspiration (and not, frankly, finding a lot), I did come across this little tidbit, from October 5, 1960: “’Nuisance’ Is Cited In $600 Pay-Offs.”
John W. Hanes, the board chairman, said yesterday the New York Racing Association was seriously disposed toward moving for an end to daily double wagering at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga next year.
His statement was made a day after new Internal Revenue Service tax collection procedures became applicable to collectors of $600 or more on $2 daily double tickets and $3,000 or more on $10 tickets.
That week a daily double had paid $693.70 for $2; 206 tickets fell under the new IRS regulations. A few choice quotations from the New York Times article:
…Hanes described the bookkeeping situation connected with the Internal Revenue ruling as “too much of a nuisance.” He said that such an occurrence on a Saturday “would stagnate the whole works” and the double was “not worth it.”
Winners were obliged to provide positive identification in order to cash their tickets; that information was collected by pari-mutuel clerks, “handled…through special windows, where this information was jotted on note paper.”
“We are making a careful survey,” Hanes said, “to see if the daily double is worth keeping. I never thought the daily double had any value.”
According to the article, the double was introduced at New York tracks in 1941, discontinued from 1946-1948, and reinstituted in 1949. In 1959, it accounted for 8% of total wagering, and it was not, apparently, held in terribly high esteem:
“The State Racing Commission several times has opposed the double as being based on chance rather than thoroughbred form.”
So forget handicapping, bet a bunch of birthdays in today’s doubles, and a happy racing Saturday to all…