May 20 2010

Post-Preakness wrap

A few years ago, the Pimlico spring meet would gradually wind down after the Preakness.  These days it skids to a halt like a cartoon character trying not to go over a cliff.  Three more racing days — today, Friday, and Saturday — and Old Hilltop is gone for another year…

Where is the chorus of mea culpas from the schoolmarms-at-heart who screeched that the MJC’s “Get Your Preak On” ad campaign was the downfall of civilization and would lead to all sorts of debauchery on Preakness day?  How does attendance up by 20,000 and not a single arrest sound?

In fact, attendance for the two days was up over 20 percent, with Black-Eyed Susan day drawing more than 27,000…

Good to see That’s Amore pal Geno from Equispace on Preakness day, even if he does need a little bit of racetrack geography help.  But, hey, anyone who calls me dapper (in addition to needing glasses) is OK with me….

Few things are more satisfying than picking a winner and hearing the guys behind you declaiming that it simply could not have been picked based on the past performances.  Uh, fellas… actually, yup, it was picked on that…

Every year at this time, D. Wayne Lukas leads the chorus of people calling for changes to the Triple Crown: too hard, too far, too close together, they say.  Not sure I’m buying it; just this decade, in addition to the four well-publicized Derby-Preakness winners who failed in the Belmont, we’ve also had two horses lose the Derby and then sweep the Preakness and Belmont (Afleet Alex, Point Given).  Sure, it’s hard — it’s supposed to be hard.  All it requires is a great horse and great good fortune, and certainly the last couple of years have been light on great horses…

The other issue that you’d face in changing the Triple is that if you stretch out the time between races, someone will inevitably schedule a race in the middle and blow the series up completely.  If, say, Monmouth — with its gigantic purse structure this year — scheduled a two-million dollar race at nine furlongs for three year-olds sometime between now and Belmont day, the Belmont Stakes starting gate would be the loneliest place in the sport.  Think it can’t happen?  Look up the story of Spend A Buck and the Jersey Derby…

Speaking of Monmouth, opening day for the experimental meet is Saturday, with a grueling 13-race card featuring two stakes.  Lots of big fields, drawn by the spectacular purse structure, but oddly enough, both stakes are going with modest seven-horse fields…

The Alibi Breakfast, on the Thursday before the Preakness, is one of the great traditions in our sport, though very little alibiing actually goes on anymore.  D. Wayne Lukas turns out to be a somewhat salty but hilarious character, while Todd Pletcher appears to be, well, Todd Pletcher.  Listening to him is eerily reminiscent of the scene in Bull Durham where Kevin Costner — the not-quite grizzled veteran — teaches hot-prospect Tim Robbins the cliches he’ll need to know in the major leagues.  Pletcher’s got ‘em all…

You’ll look a long time before you find someone in the industry to say something good about Churchill Downs…

Racing is now on to Belmont.  But in New York, what happens after the Belmont is anybody’s guess, which I guess isn’t too different from where the sport as a whole is…

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  1. malcer

    Had precisely the same thought about a new race stealing the horses from the Preakness and Belmont in case of a 3-3 or 3-4 gap. And where is the proof that such a change would do anything besides tarnishing the feat of every future TC winner? Which of today’s trainers would be much more likely to go 3-3, instead of just taking the six week layoff to the Belmont, or 5 weeks to any other 9 furlong race. The Lone Star Consolation seems out for now, but there are more than a few racinos who could pounce on the opening.

    I’m really getting tired of D. Wayne Lukas’ annual lobbying. Considering his 0.03 strike rate in graded stakes (falling steadily for half a decade), aren’t there other problems that he should be concerned about?

  2. Glenn Craven

    Wow, so much to comment about.

    I love you how liken Pletcher to Costner’s Crash Davis, the guy with all the cliches ready to pull out for every interview. I’ve actually had exactly the same thought before when watching Pletcher on camera.

    “We gotta play it one day at a time,” etc.

    Also, fine point about the potential for Monmouth stealing likely Preakness and particularly Belmont entries with a lucrative race carded between them. That would be a disaster.

    And Malcer, thanks for joining me in noticing that D. Wayne Lukas hasn’t exactly done much lately. I might get around to blogging that one, and how if Mine That Bird were going to be shifted out of Chip Woolley’s barn, picking Lukas circa 2010 wasn’t exactly an upgrade.

  3. admin

    Thanks for checking in, gents.

    Glad to find someone else agrees with me, Malcer! Also, good point re: Lukas, though the guy is still funny as hell.

    Thanks, Glenn — but, you know, I just want to help the ballclub and take it one day at a time.

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