Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It’s Good To Be the Sheikh

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, August 10, 2011--The real gambling at any Saratoga meeting takes place off track, a couple of blocks from the course on Union Avenue at the Humphrey S. Finney sales pavilion.

At the bottom line, the two-day event conducted by the Fasig Tipton Company, which is owned by a group that has close ties with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, was a success.

When the receipts were tallied late Tuesday night, the average select yearling sold for $319.3 million, an increase of 15.9% over 2010, gross sales reaching $32.89 million, a gain of 1.2%, despite selling 15 fewer horses this year.

The two sales toppers--one by Medaglia D’oro and a half brother to Derby winning Super Saver, the other by Bernardini and a half brother to Harve De Grace--sold for $1.2 million each, both going to Sheikh Mohammed. Those two studs stand at Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stud. In all, 103 yearlings sold for an average of $319,000; yearlings by Darley stallions averaged $458,000.

The Sheikh’s purchases amounted to 25.9% of gross sales, having bought a little more than 12% of the stock sold.

NYRA's Roll Interrupted by Breeders' Cup

The announcement that everyone expected was made today. The 2012 Breeders’ Cup will be hosted by Santa Anita Park.

“Congratulations to Santa Anita but we are disappointed that Belmont Park was not selected to host the 2012 Breeders’ Cup World Championships,” said NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward.

“The event was most recently held at Belmont Park in 2005 and since then, two different tracks, Churchill Downs and now Santa Anita, have hosted the Breeders’ Cup three times.

“We remain hopeful that Belmont will remain a serious option for the 2013 Breeders’ Cup.”

This is all very odd, dating back to the reported handshake agreement between Hayward and Greg Aviola, then President of Breeders’ Cup. The handshake was an agreement that Belmont Park would host the 2010 event.

But Belmont Park and everyone else was surprised when it was announced that Churchill Downs would host the event in 2010 AND 2011. Rancor ensued.

Last summer, the rumors in Saratoga were strong that Belmont Park would host the Cup in 2012, the news coming from highly placed Breeders’ Cup sources. It seemed to have validity when NYRA officials would say only that they were “hopeful.”

Yesterday, NYRA learned it was not the kind of hope that you can believe in. And, so, the association remains “hopeful” they will have a chance to host the event two years from now.

Each of the big three have elements that make the Breeders’ Cup an attractive destination event.

No venue can handle a big crowd the way Churchill can, from the venue itself, to the transportation arrangement, to the way Louisville welcomes a big time racing event.

Southern California has the weather, of course. Fall is a great time of year when the San Gabriel Mountains are visible most days--providing the dry weather doesn’t wake Smokey the Bear from his slumber.

The Americans will welcome the opportunity to race on dirt at Santa Anita in 2012. The jury will remain out until Cup officials learn what kind of support it will get from foreign horsemen.

Since 1984, European participation has made the Breeders’ Cup the great spectacle it is. The Europeans had great success at Santa Anita was over a synthetic surface. Of course, they’ve always been formidable on turf.

With the possible except of the weather, Belmont Park has it all; two expansive turf courses and a mile and half main track that produces formful results--providing you keep enough water on it, which unfortunately is not always the case.

In addition, there’s the big city that can play host to the world’s horsemen and prominent owners, as well as Breeders’ Cup’s roster of business partners and advertisers.

Where's This Pick Six Money Coming From?

I have no idea whether this is a, pardon the expression, carryover from the boycott of California’s betting pools this winter and spring or some kind of super exotic grass roots phenomenon.

No area of the country has embraced the Pick Six the way Californians have right from the jump.

Pick Six syndicates and clubs sprang up on every street corner, hosted by a well known handicapper to help guide the way.

These groups and a handful of deep pocketed individuals jumped into the pool with both feet with money in both hands.

New York was slow to embrace the wager but eventually it did and when the carryover reached a sizable amount, usually six figures, bettors began coming out of the woodwork.

With the growth of simulating, the Pick Six became a national phenomenon, “free money” in the pool attracting bettors from all over the country.

Still, with all that, the rule of thumb was that carryovers pools in New York generally attracted three times the amount of the carryover. $100,000 would attract about $300,000, making the total pool $400,000, of which 25% is reserved for Pick Five Consolations.

Today, a two-day Pick Six carryover of $232,000 attracted $1.17 million in fresh money, about five times the carryover. At this meet, the rule of thumb has been around four times the amount, sometimes five, like on Wednesday. Wednesday!

The money wagered on the Pick Six was about 15% greater than what was spent chasing the double carryover into the Whitney Day program.

There can be only one answer: Given recent events on Wall Street, people are finding safe haven for their money in the Pick Six. What else could it be?

Written by John Pricci

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