So for a moment let’s forget Churchill Downs Inc.’s effects on racing in South Florida where Calder Race Course is no more, where second rate jai alai has replaced a solid summer and early fall meet of juvenile racing, their inexpensive way of maintaining a gaming license.
And forget the racing dates themselves which, of course, were leased to The Stronach Group that now conducts the ‘Gulfstream Park West’ summer meet while its racing surfaces in Hallandale Beach get a needed respite.
Note, too, CDI’s failure to back a casino legislation for struggling Arlington Park, one of racing’s top venues, because if doesn’t want to compete with its own casino 20 minutes down the road that earns revenue it need not share with Illinois horsemen in the form of purse contributions.
But they do pay attention to the Kentucky Derby, “America’s Race,” an event any corporation would be proud to call the face of its brand and franchise. Yes, their obligation is to their shareholders and this world class event is a huge money maker that richly enhances shareholder value.
But it was good news delivered on Monday that CDI will invest money in racing by ordering the construction of a 20-horse starting gate, thus making the start of the Kentucky Derby fair for all, right from the moment the latches are sprung.
Without the wide gap between stalls 14 and 15, the gate can be placed a tad closer to the outside so that slip #1 doesn’t line up directly with the end of the fence on the far turn, making the start for all not only fair but safer.
The 20-horse gate also will help reduce some of the crush caused by horses that cross over from their wide draws before reaching the all important first turn, where many Derbies are lost even before the serious running begins.
Churchill Downs has entered an agreement with Australian-based Steriline Racing to design and construct a 20-stall gate that will be ready in time for Derby 146, May 2. Delivery of the gate is scheduled for early April.
The new gate will be used exclusively for the Derby and will replace Churchill Downs’ standard starting gate, which will continue to be used for all other races. This begs the question can a 20-filly Kentucky Oaks be far behind?
Steriline Racing’s equipment is used by many major racing organizations, including Happy Valley and Sha Tin in Hong Kong, Flemington and Royal Randwick in Australia, Dubai’s Meydan Race Course and at every race course in the U.K., including Royal Ascot and a 22-stall gate at York.
While the move is in its own best interests, the sport benefits when an unneeded element of danger is removed at a widely disseminated racing event. Now all that’s needed is a tighter rein on overly aggressive race riding.
… Or at least they’re not saying why the abrupt announcement that John Imbriale has replaced Larry Collmus as New York Racing Association race caller. Several insiders knew it was coming but none of them blew the whistle. And after the fact there are still no clear answers.
The speculation that it was a cost-cutting measure is plausible and may or may not be true considering how the announcement was handled.
There has been a movement to reduce the payscale of announcers, e.g. Frank Mirahmadi’s replacing Michael Wrona at Santa Anita. And a trusted HRI source told us that CDI asked Arlington’s John Dooley to accept a pay cut, a story we have been unable to confirm.
Those close to the NYRA situation hint there had to be more to the Collmus dismissal since the announcement stated that the change would be effective immediately. Imbriale has been calling Aqueduct’s winter meet for years, going back to Durkin era, including the 2019-20 season.
Collmus was a Gulfstream Park visitor several weeks ago but has spent time vacation time in South Florida every winter since he exited the Gulfstream booth to go to work at NYRA.
Many feel that Imbriale finally got the recognition he deserved. Imbriale’s style is probably closer to the legendary Fred Capossela in that it’s a straight forward race description free of editorial, popular with today’s older racing fans and bettors.
It was Durkin who changed the style of race-calling forever and his descriptive phrases are heard virtually everywhere today. Collmus came closest in terms of phrasing, tone and delivery. It’s never easy following a legend.
Catching Up with Harvey’s Lil Goil
Finally got to see Sunday’s Busanda in replay and while clearly a budding star she will need to run a tad faster, ever over Aqueduct’s slower interized surface Other than that, wow!
A scopey filly, this gray daughter of American Pharoah from a Tapit mare that has produced three other siblings, all winners; she was tons the best in the Busanda, racing virtually four wide every step of the way going two turns, drawing off under intermittent pressure, but geared down at the end.
Ironically, her breeder, Harvey A. Clarke of I’ll Have Another fame, died suddenly last month and failed to see the fourth offspring of Gloria S, finally become a stakes winner.
On Sunday, ‘Harvey’s’ won at the Oaks distance and Bill Mott, who prepared the filly at Payson Park, sent her back to a track she’s knows to like. Undefeated in two dirt starts at 8 and 9 furlongs, she’s certainly a filly to follow going forward.