Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Big Time Is As Big Time Does

Arcadia, Ca., October 21, 2008--I don’t mean to complain. Not really. After all, it was 28 degrees in Saratoga Springs this morning and the weather handicappers were talking about a dusting of snow in the north country tonight. Brrrr.

But you know, it gets down to a bracing low 60s here in the mornings where the palm trees grow and that’s pretty bracing, too. Tomorrow I must remember to don a light windbreaker over my favorite Stone Pony Tee. So off-putting, really.

The rest of the morning--I’ve been up since 3 AM and have had a full day--was spent immersed in Friday’s five races for Breeders’ Cup horses of the female persuasion.

At this point I’m thoroughly familiar with the group and can state, unequivocally and with confidence, I’m probably in big trouble. Everywhere I look, there’s another Euro laying in the weeds whose mission it is to separate me from the dinero.

The shower was refreshing but did little to shake the cobwebs from the cerebral attic where I store the junk that comes in so handy on occasions like these. If I had one really good betting idea for Friday I still wouldn’t know how to play it, exotic or straight. Not yet, anyway, because I’m still gathering information.

It warmed up considerably as I jumped into the limo that would take me eight miles East on the 210 to the Baldwin Ave. exit. And I should have told the limo driver--actually he wasn’t a limo driver but the wheel-man of the shuttle bus that Breeders’ Cup provides visiting media.

Since I was the lone passenger, I told James to take me to Santa Anita. And make it pronto. The post-position draw was starting in 25 minutes and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

For all I learned at the draw, I should have had James drop me off at the Arboretum instead. And there was no rush, as it turned out. The draw began about a quarter-hour late in a room where about 400 people gathered in a space meant for half that number.

It was so crowded and warm up inside that room I wished I were back at the hotel four hours earlier smoking Shermans in my favorite Stone Pony Tee. Couldn’t these wacky Angelinos start going green next week, when all the old handicappers leave town?

But that wasn’t it. Not really. It’s just that no one seemed prepared to service that many horsemen and media in a room ill equipped to handle it. And it’s not like they hadn’t done this 24 times before.

I overheard an official saying the idea was to draw 10 races for horsemen in the first room and have the media gather in Location Two, the clubhouse’s Frontrunner Room, on the opposite end of the track.

The four remaining Bigger-Than-Big Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championship races: the Ladies Classic and the Men’s Classic, the Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf, were drawn in the clubhouse, to be followed by interview opportunities and lunch.

Given the amount of time it took, what with walking to two locations, the introductions, thank yous, the waiting in between, who had time for lunch? They could have thrown us some copacola sandwiches football style and saved a lot of time and a few bucks, too.

As it turns out, there was a dearth of horsemen available. I did see Steve Klesaris, who’s shipping in a pair of fillies, a longshot named Miraculous Miss for Filly & Mare Sprint, and Sky Diva, who might special, for the Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies.

Bill Mott was there, I heard, and I did see Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert. John Shirreffs was holding forth for a lengthy time although I never could find him. But that probably was my bad. I was so disoriented from rushing through the draw, scribbling furiously the positions and jockeys onto the page. Actually, there was no time for anyone to write down the riding assignments.

Had the event started promptly there might have been time to prep the entry clerks on the proper pronunciation of the world’s most famous horsemen. Admittedly, one was tricky. It’s spelled Peslier but pronounced Pell-e-a. Those French, and their freedom fries! And Pyro’s jockey is named Bridgmohan, as in Bridge-Mo-Han. If stars can’t get recognition, then who?

It’s not very Christian to poke fun of the ill prepared. But we think it permissible to tweak the rude. What was the hurry? Would an extra five or 10 minutes have mattered all that much? Especially since the media needed to dally about 30 minutes to finish the task; providing readers and viewers with information, promoting the event in the process.

For years I’ve requested that equipment and medication changes be included at the draw in addition to jockey assignments and early line odds. Reporters serve the wagering public, who require as much time as possible to thoroughly handicap 14 extremely difficult races, twice as many as the founders envisioned.

Equipment and medication information must be supplied to the racing office at time of entry. And I read this week that Bobby Frankel would run Champs Elysees in blinkers, and that Bob Baffert might remove the protective bar shoe worn by defending sprint champion Midnight Lute, etc., etc. Will they? I don’t know… Third base.

I’ll let you know after I acquire a second, up-to-date set of past performances. This is a wagering game based on data. But too often those whose livelihoods depend on betting handle act as if they’re doing you a favor by providing you with that information. What’s left to do but complain?

Addenda: Please don't think this is inside baseball stuff, and that it doesn't trickle down to the fans. It's about the thought given to servicing their needs. Hope it begins to get better, in earnest, and real soon. The game's beginning to run out of racetrack.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (6)


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