Paul Moran

For 30 years, more than 22 at Newsday, in New York, Paul Moran has covered thoroughbred racing on its highest level. During that time, he has covered 30 Triple Crown series, every running of the Breeders' Cup Championships, 23 race meetings at Saratoga, won two Eclipse Awards, a Red Smith Award for coverage of the Kentucky Derby and other writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Editors, Long Island Press Club, Society of Silurians (the oldest press club in New York), Long Island Veterinary Medical Association, Florida Magazine Publishers Association.

In 2002, he was named New York's best thoroughbred handicapper by the New York Press in its annual "Best of Manhattan" edition. His work has appeared in virtually every racing publication published in the United States and most major American newspapers. He is a licensed owner of thoroughbreds in New York Contact:

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A wealth of opportunity? Maybe

The first setback of Breeders Cup week came early, when several horses that would have been the keys to pick-four and pick-six plays.

Excellent Art, who is the favorite in the Mile and legitimate from any view, drew the 13 post, which in a field of 14. The value horse in the Mile, Remarkable News, 12-1 on the morning line and loose on the lead, drew outside Excellent Art. Outside speed may have an advantage in a sprint, but not on a seven-furlong turf course. So, with Excellent Art faced with overcoming an awful draw and jockey Ramon Dominguez forced to use Remarkable News far too early, the logical alternative would be After Market, who will be scratched if the ground is anything but firm on Saturday. It rained here on Wednesday. There is rain in the forecast of Saturday. It is fall and despite the unseasonable warmth, turf courses dry slowly at this time of year. The Mile is off the table as a betting proposition unless Nobiz Like Shobiz, who worked strongly over a soft course at Belmont on Tuesday, offers odds sufficiently generous to fit his wide draw, post nine, into an acceptable risk-reward equation. Unlikely.

The Distaff was already the most inscrutable race of the day before three leading contenders Indian Vale, Unbridled Belle and Hysterical Lady drew the three outside posts in a field of 12. Under the circumstances, Ginger Punch merits close consideration, but she is unlikely to offer value anywhere near the 7-2 opening odds.

Opportunity will knock on both Friday and Saturday, however.

Prussian will be overbet in the Juvenile Turf and may win. But Achill Islands effort in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot was sufficient to earn a position on Aidan OBriens team Ballydoyle, and earned a strong Racing Post rating for a two-year-old. The Leopard, a $2.5 million purchase early this year, also showed enough in the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont last month to put himself in the frame and stamped himself as a stakes-class animal on turf. He will open at 8-1.

If the real Discreet Cat shows up in the Dirt Mile he will be a formidable favorite, but the last time this horse showed up was last November, when he won the Cigar Mile and was still undefeated. He put up a very fast work at Belmont early in the week, but betting on Discreet Cat at the certain short price requires a leap of faith. Gottcha Gold is more than fast enough to make the pace and is a proven Monmouth horse-for-the-course always at a juicy price. He will open at 8-1, close somewhere in excess of that price and is an extremely attractive longshot.

Gotcha Gold may be the first beneficiary of the deeply engrained Monmouth speed bias, which was firmly in place on Wednesday, sparsely attended opening day of the Breeders Cup meeting.

Anything is possible on Breeders Cup day and it is the Monmouth linemaker, who has attached some very strange opening odds to several horses, is right about 3-1, Indian Blessing is huge value in the Juvenile Fillies and at 5-2 War Pass is an overlay in the Juvenile. Both dictate the pace and neither is likely to be caught.

Nashobas Key is the bet-against favorite of the day. She may be undefeated going into the Filly & Mare Turf but makes her first start outside California, where she has raced only on synthetic surfaces and hard and will be ridden by 17-year-old Joe Talamo. Neither horse nor rider has ever faced a test this difficult and there is value in opposing a vulnerable favorite. In this order, Wait a While (4-1), Precious Kitten, Honey Rider (9-2) and Lahudood (10-1) are capable of the upset.

Dylan Thomas, who was offered at less than even money in England on Wednesday, is also a bet-against favorite in the Turf. This is no knock on his ability but he will face a stronger pace than those to which he is accustomed in Europe, a course unlike any over which he has raced and appeared to be a tired horse at the end of the Prix de lArc de Triomphe three weeks ago. He may be past his best form. English Channel, meanwhile, is in raging form coming out of an authoritative Turf Classic win at Belmont last month, handles any sort of ground and has two Grade I wins on this course. Better Talk Now, who won the Turf in 2004 in Texas, and had an established affinity for Monmouth, is not a stretch, either.

Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

What’s underfoot at Monmouth Park?

The ground at Monmouth Park, whether it is covered with grass or manicured dirt, has been the subject of many conversations and much speculation in recent weeks.

Unlike most racetracks in temperate climates which have hosted the Breeders Cup World Championships, there has never before been a meeting held in the autumn at Monmouth Park, which in its natural state is notoriously speed favoring regardless of surface.

But Monmouth is in its natural state during the summer and like any racetrack will quite likely play differently during less balmy weather, though the current unseasonably warm weather in the East may result in conditions only slightly less sultry than the seaside track with which ever horseplayer in the mid-Atlantic region is intimately familiar.

There are a fallacious if widely shared assumption about the track that once promoted itself with the phrase, Fast times at the Jersey Shore. The turns are not more severe than the typical one-mile racetrack.

Other widely shared assumptions are true during a typical Monmouth meeting, which this is not.

During the meeting last summer Monmouth lived up to its reputation in style. Horses with frontrunning and stalking running styles were dominant and while only about 16 percent of seldom run 10-furlong main-track races were won by the pacemakers, 42 percent of 9-furlong races, 34 percent of races run at a mile and 70 yards, the Dirt Mile route, and 38 percent of 6-furlong races were won by horses leading from gate to wire. The turf course reflects a less pronounced bias toward frontrunning speed, which is probably more reflective of the dynamic of grass racing, but tactical speed is nevertheless an advantage.

A starting position outside post 8 is a virtual death sentence in two-turn races at the main track and it is reasonable to assume that bias will remain in place. But the nature of a newly resurfaced course in unfamiliar weather will not manifest itself until racing begins next week.

Weather, humidity and wind affect change in a racing surface and there is no measure of Monmouth on the last weekend of October.

The historic average high temperature for next weekend in Oceanport is 59 and there is a 55 percent chance that the high will surpass 60 degrees. The range of high temperatures goes from 48 to 68. The average low is 45 with the range beginning at 30 and going to 57. There is a five percent chance of a low below 32, which would be disastrous.

Even at the average high or more, the weather in which the Breeders Cup will unfold will be about 20 degrees cooler than that during which any germane data has been collected. The humidity, also a factor in determining the nature of the ground, is lower in autumn than in summer.

The turf course will also play differently. The grass, kept low during the summer, was allowed to grow to the point at which is became seasonally dormant in deference to European sensibilities. The cooler weather and any rain during the week will assure that there is some give to the ground, which is usually firm during the summer and not used in wet weather. Breeders Cup races are not run off-the-turf.

We know much about Monmouth Park, little of it pertinent to the events that will unfold there next weekend. What we know about Monmouth in late October amounts essentially to nothing that will be useful in attempting to arrive at betting decisions at least until we have seen races run over the surface.

Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is a joke, right?

If the Republicans in the New York State Senate think that anyone will take seriously their proposal issued yesterday for awarding the soon-to-expire racing franchise held for a half century by the New York Racing Association, they are blithely unaware of the buffoonery this suggestion represents.

At what most hoped was a point near the end of the agonizingly long game, the Republican senate majority, led by Joe Bruno who is obviously bent on obstruction in this matter and probably any in which the Democratic governor had taken a position, proposes creation of yet another state agency The Racing, Gaming and Equine Sports Development Corporation which would be dominated by members of the NYRA Oversight Board, a panel appointed by ex-Republican Gov. George Pataki, whose administration was at best benignly negligent and at worst openly obstructionist in its position on racing issues. Whats more, this new bureaucracy would have authority over virtually everything pertaining to the racing industry. Essentially, it would become the franchise operator.

Notice how often the word obstruction appears here in various forms. First, Pataki, who delayed approval of the Aqueduct video lottery casino beyond the end of his administration, now Bruno. Accomplishment and enlightened government on behalf of the constituency, it appears, is beyond either political party in this state.

The Republican proposal would return what has been a ridiculous process to square one and complicate matters beyond the wildest imaginings of the most cynical observers to this process. It is a proposal without merit and had no more chance of legislative approval than the governors proposal to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, the governors proposal, which unlike the cynical joke proffered by the Republicans on Tuesday, disposes of the land-ownership issue not addressed by the Bruno proposal and returns the industry to a point from which it is possible to advance, will eventually be put before the legislature for a vote. It will likely meet approval in the assembly. Exactly the extent to which the Republicans, whose control of the senate in tenuous at best, are prepared to support what amounts to nonsense in a fight that is entirely political is anyones guess. Who would have imagined that they would have conceived something as outlandish as the plan they have suggested and now stand behind.

On another front, it is not exactly shocking that the Shinnecock Nations proposal for a full-blown casino at Aqueduct, complete with every conceivable bell and whistle, has received an icy reception in political circles. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was dismissive. So was Sheldon Silver, the Democratic assembly speaker, who supports the governors proposal to award the racing franchise to NYRA... This leaves five players in the race to operate the long-awaited video lottery facility, none of them named Empire Racing or Excelsior.

Another Native American group, the Seneca Nation, which operates casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and other western New York locales, probably has no chance since there is little possibility that the necessary declaration of Aqueduct as a reservation will be embraced in Albany. Greenwood Racing of Pennsylvania brings controversial foreign ownership to the mix and is unlikely to be considered seriously. Delaware North, once a partner in Empire and operator of casinos at Finger Lakes and Saratoga Raceway, has baggage of its own. Foxwoods Developments, which operates the sprawling casino in Connecticut, is yet another Native American-controlled entity and Mohegan Sun, a partner of Capital Play, the Australian firm still on the fringes.

This is not an impressive roster of candidates what happened to the high-powered Nevada and Atlantic City players? One, however, will ultimately be

Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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