Saturday, February 21, 2009
The numbing chill of winter in New York
The Hollie Hughes, a sprint for New York-breds worth $65,000, was the feature on Thursday’s Aqueduct racing program. Originally, this race was to be run on Monday but drew only three entries. A second attempt attracted a half-dozen, the others probably hustled by the racing office.
This is a sad if unintended commentary of the state of winter racing in New York but I was stricken yesterday while in search of a Thursday afternoon opportunity that I have not seen a live horserace since the Cigar Mile on Thanksgiving weekend, almost three months ago, which is the longest absence from live racing of my adult life after about three decades of daily attendance. Part of the reason is Aqueduct itself, which has the atmosphere of a third-world bus terminal. Part is a personal distaste for winter and part – not the smallest part – is the lack of a racing product that amounts to more than fodder for the simulcast and OTB gristmill.
I find very little at Aqueduct that prompts speculation in the pari-mutuel pools and expect nothing to change after post-scratch re-evaluation of this position. While admittedly more conservative than most horseplayers, a typical week of racing this winter has failed to yield more than a handful of plays and it is not unusual for a card, like today’s – which does not include a single open allowance race but two for maiden claimers and a special weight for state-breds -- to be completely empty.
So, like many others, winter racing is observed from a couch in the living room and wagering, what little there is, is carried out on the Internet. This eliminates exposure to both the first-level clubhouse at Aqueduct and the Belt Parkway. But living with the Long Island cable system that carries the NYRA feed is not the ideal alternative to Aqueduct or an OTB-affiliated simulcast venue if the focal point is a race run out of town. On Monday, with the field for the Southwest Stakes in the paddock at Oaklawn Park, the screen went black and after 30 seconds or so, returned with no horses and people speaking in Italian.
A TVG subscription would have been handy and would have eliminated the need to rush to a nearby restaurant in order to see an out-of-town race run after 6 p.m.—in this case the Southwest and the San Vicente at Santa Anita -- in deference to the local OTB’s arrogant disregard for its customers. That, however, would not solve the problem when Gulfstream or Santa Anita was the scene of a race of importance and HRTV, which carries those tracks, is not available on cable here.
The convenience of account wagering is among the better developments resulting from the off-track migration of players but there are obvious flaws born in the competition among various betting platforms, none of which operate with the best interest of the patron as a priority. Convenience is not always convenient. --PM
Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races