Images of thoroughbreds emerging from the morning mist, or standing boldly on the racetrack before an idyllic multi-hued Saratoga sunrise, permeate social media, where very little happens without public critique.

Posts and tweets from the Spa started long before the current meet began and are so voluminous now it is hard to keep pace. One important thread I do follow concerns Saratoga’s main track, as reported for HRI on July 11.


Clocking horses and tracking racetracks, veteran clocker Bruno De Julio (Racingwithbruno‏ @Racingwithbruno) tweeted: “Saratoga Main Track - added materials - clay added to main. Turf course - new sod and new irrigation system - turf looks grand.”

We thanked De Julio for the good information, noting that additional clay in the track cushion will allow it to hold more water and that the main track could play differently when wet and as it dries out. The refurbished turf course is less like to play any differently.

As it turns out, the new composition of the racing surface needs a new and a different maintenance methodology to keep it in optimal shape for racing and training.

Glen Kozak, Vice President of racing surfaces for the New York Racing Association, believes otherwise. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re doing our normal maintenance and standard procedures for what the cushion is,” Kozak told Daily Racing Form. “I’m comfortable with that.”

It is inconceivable for us to understand how Kozak, or anyone, could be “comfortable” when six horses were injured--four that required euthanasia--due to injuries suffered while racing or training on Saratoga’s main track since July 22.

Four injuries, three resulting in horses being put down, came within three days after the track had taken on a lot of water due to overnight rains on July 26 into the morning of July 27.

The chronology on the main track is as follows:

July 22: Evacuation suffered a racing injury at the mile pole.
July 22: Wanztbwicked was euthanized following a training accident that morning, the injury sustained at the mile pole.
July 28: Angels Seven was euthanized after suffering a racing injury at the eighth pole.
July 29: Positive Waves was euthanized following a training accident at the eighth pole.
July 29: Howard Beach was euthanized following a training injury sustained at the three-sixteenths pole.
July 30: Tu Exageres suffered a racing injury at the quarter pole.

Kozak said he and his staff do routine daily maintenance of the surface which includes soil analysis and measuring the moisture content, according to the DRF report. Kozak said he has not found any issues with the main track.

When four horses break down on three consecutive days within one-eighth of a mile--from the quarter pole to the eighth pole--it is easy to give Kozak a starting point as to where to look for issues.

These are not just accidents. They are accidents waiting to happen.

In recent days, De Julio’s tweets have called for a second renovation of the main track during training hours, which is a very good idea.

It appears that the main track can no longer go for an hour without watering in the morning. It even plays a bit differently in the afternoons following a couple of consecutive turf races.

On Thursday, July 27, the day following the overnight rains but before last week’s rash of breakdowns began, NYRA labeled the main track “good,” though the sealed track clearly had standing water on the surface; the standard definition of a sloppy track.

The reason for this kind of deception is greed as bettors tend to tread lightly on wet racetracks. Sadly, NYRA is not the only track guilty of misleading the betting public in this manner. But this tack is penny-wise.

Of course, handle figures are higher on tracks labeled fast or good than on tracks rated muddy or sloppy. NYRA offers a quality product that commands 20% of all US wagering. Mislabeling racetracks will only result in eroding consumer confidence.

Further, beware of speed figures earned that day as they were difficult to construct. A tweet from Craig Milkowski, chief of speed figures for TimeForm US confirmed that “the Thursday card at Saratoga was a nightmare for making speed figures.”

Another interesting tweet from Milkowski appeared July 25: “I build in an alert when I process races that are much faster than projected--at Monmouth this year 100% of the time it is a Navarro horse.”

That tweet contained an important piece of information valuable to have on Saturday July 29, when the Jorge Navarro-trained El Deal wired the field in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Vanderbilt to the tune of $7.10.

A tweet worth noting going forward is one from De Julio: “Late opening of main [track] has given top barns here during spring and summer a challenge to get young horses fit over a deeper sandier surface [Oklahoma].”

BITS AND BYTES: There has been much banter about the New York Islanders since HRI broke the news on February 7 that the Isles would leave Brooklyn to play hockey at a new Arena constructed at Belmont Park.

Empire State Development of New York yesterday issued a Request for Proposals on that project. The details were made public last Friday when the Franchise Oversight Board gave permission to proceed at its meeting.

The request asked for proposals to develop up to 43 acres at Belmont Park with retail, entertainment, sports and hospitality options on 28 acres of land south of Hempstead Turnpike, and eight-to-15 acres on the north side, adjacent to Belmont’s grandstand.

The Islanders consortium is expected to make a significant bid.

This group consists of Islanders’ majority owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, Sterling Project Development controlled by New York Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon, and Oak View Group representing James Dolan, Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden and owner of the New York Rangers and Knicks.

Architectural plans for the new arena exist but have not yet been made public. Bids on the RFP are due by 2pm, September 28.

NYRA plans to begin a two-year renovation of Belmont following the 2018 spring meeting and all developers would be expected to coordinate construction activities with NYRA, according to the RFP.

Legislators of both Nassau and Suffolk counties presented a great deal of political theater in a feigned attempt to get the Islanders to return to its former home, the Nassau Coliseum.

The National Hockey league stated long ago that the refurbished Coliseum was not suitable for major league hockey. However, legislators never seem to run out of dogs and ponies.

The legislators offered no plan, no incentives, and no financing, just a hollow commitment from Nassau Events Center to re-renovate the Coliseum to meet NHL standards.

Bruce Ratner, whose Forest City Enterprises built Barclays and refurbished the Coliseum, admitted before the renovation that the Coliseum would need to be demolished and totally rebuilt in order to be eligible to host NHL games.

Mikhail Prokhorov owns NEC, the operating company at the Coliseum, and he recently received permission from the National Basketball Association to uncouple the New York Nets from Barclays Center, the arena he owns in Brooklyn where the Nets and Isles now play.

Prokhorov is finally showing a profit with the Nets, but not Barclays. He is now looking to find a partner for the Nets and unload Barclays and NEC. Barclays is currently losing more than six million dollars per year, mostly due to poorly attended Islanders games.

Prokhorov’s current position is most certainly not one that would allow NEC to shut down the Coliseum and finance another refurbishment: He wasn’t buying any of the absurd theater produced by Long Island politicians.