AGOS Horses to Watch – June 30, 2017

Belmont Park

6/23/17

Race #8 – Runaway Posse – Alw $77,000 – 6f turf

This was his second start off a three month layoff shipping in from Fair Grounds. He was 6/10 ITM (in the money/top 3) over the Belmont  Park oval. Dylan Davis was cut off sharply at the 1/16th pole by #9 /Lord of Love. He tried to get back in action but lost all momentum in the traffic, costing him all chance.

Belterra Park

6/25/17

Race #1 – Golden Justice – Allowance – 6f dirt

Cheyanna Patrick in the saddle for Gary Patrick. She is 5/6 ITM at Belterra and the odds-on favorite this race. She was off slow and made a steady advance. Once clear she tipped off and made a strong late rally to be third this day. A little better start has her heading to the winner’s circle.

Race  #3 – Pray for Kitten – Mdn Claiming – 1 mile on the turf

Katie Clawson in the saddle for Wesley Ward. Ward had great success at Royal Ascot during the week, and now he brought a first time starter to a maiden claiming race at Belterra. He came onto the track as the odds-on choice and was green at every turn. He almost unseated the rider coming onto the track, took off from the pony, and was overall anxious.  During the race he was darting in and out and finally grabbed the lead. Down the lane he started drifting and weaving and faded a bit in the stretch. I think they’ll have the bugs worked out for next race and this colt will make a good showing.

Indiana Grand

6/21/17

Race #6 -Midnight Blvd – Hoosier Breeder Sophmores – 1 1/16 dirt

This daughter of Bellamy Road was making her second start of the year. She was 4/4 ITM and all of her races came at Indiana Grand. She had a perfect stalking trip and was forced to check off heels at the top of the lane. This was just enough to take away her momentum and she still managed to mount a strong bid for 2nd money.

The Racetrack You Need to Visit

There are marquee tracks everyone wants to visit and then there’s the others.  I understand why fans make a trek to the big tracks, they showcase the best the game has to offer.  But you may be surprised what the small tracks have to showcase. Just like the rental car commercial 50 years ago. The small ovals are Avis, and the marquee venues are Hertz. Both have cars to rent, and both serve your needs. But just like the tagline in the commercial; “Avis, we try harder.”

River Downs had events like wiener dog summer nationals, boxing matches, pig races, local music festivals and baby pageants.

I’ve ventured to both in my travels. The big tracks have never failed to amaze and delight. The smaller tracks have a down-to-earth feel that wraps around you as you walk through the doors. If you’re a race track kid who tagged along with Dad or Gramps to the races. You remember the sights, the sounds, and the smells. Hoards of gamblers hunkered over racing programs as loud speakers announced minutes-to-post. Patrons would stand in lines making  wagers with the unforgettable scent of cheap cigars wafting through the air.   There was only one place in the world you could experience this melting pot of humanity.

River Downs was a little oval outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. The meet would begin in late April and end with the running of the Cradle Stakes on Labor Day.  Long ago it went by the name Coney Island Race Track; the same as the amusement park next store  The famous Seabiscuit made two appearances in 1936, and the flood of 1937 finally washed away the Coney Island oval.  The track returned under the new banner of River Downs, and the rest is a rich storied history.

Tampa Paddock

Up close and personal at the Tampa Bay Downs paddock

Larger tracks have box seating areas where you had to purchase seats in advance. River Downs had an open air grandstand where you could grab a seat where you liked.  The larger tracks had marquee riders on the way up the ladder, riding the best of the day. Smaller tracks have a colony of rough and ready riders trying to break into the game, and, sometimes, big name jockeys on their way back down.  The horses at marquee ovals are some of the best in the land where the small ovals have cheap claimers.  Both are exciting, and each has their own special charm.

River Downs had events like wiener dog summer nationals, boxing matches, pig races, local music festivals and baby pageants.   There were track logo t-shirts on Mother’s Day, and cap giveaways on Father’s Day. As I reach in my pocket there is a money clip with a race horse and rider.   It’s at least 30-years-old and was a giveaway item from the little track.

The big tracks have handicapping shows where the talent is decked out in shirt and tie and discuss the races.   River Downs had an outside set located behind a bar, and “The Regular Guy” handicapping show talked about racing from the little Ohio track.  It was for the regular folks in the grandstand who enjoyed some good handicapping info with a great deal of fun. Sometimes the best fan education involves having a good laugh to start the day.

I had the opportunity to work for River Downs. I started in the parking lot many moons ago, and 15 years later I would return as director of marketing. The smaller track was a springboard for many, and if you look back at the history of River Downs. You’ll find out the great Seabiscuit ran there twice; Steve Cauthen rode his first winner aboard Red Pipe in 1976, and in 1984 Spend A Buck won the Cradle Stakes and went on to win the Kentucky Derby.   It’s fair to say that many horseplayers and fan have good reasons to love the little track.

I’ve visited big tracks and watched marquee events captivate the world.  They will always be on my list to see and experience as they have raised the bar for others to aspire.  Small tracks have a special charm and rich history that is passed down from generation to generation.

I have a bevy of small tracks that hold a special place in my heart. Places named Beulah, Lebanon, and Louisville Downs. They have all played a part in my love affair with horse racing, and as long as they open the doors I’ll make the drive.  The days of “build it and they will come” are long gone. Racing was the stand alone heavy weight champ of betting, and there wasn’t as much competition for gambling dollar.  It seems as though we are losing these little gems in the passing years. Places like Bowie, Calder, Great Lakes Downs, and Rockingham Park just to name a few.

Do yourself a favor if you’re a racing fan. Make your next trip to a small oval, county fair, or boutique meet. I think you’ll fall in love all over again, and, before you know it, you’ll be making plans for your next trip.

 

— Ed Meyer is track announcer at Belterra Park.   He worked long stints at both River Downs and Turfway Park.

AGOS Horses to Watch – June 7, 2016

“Off the Charts” Trip Notes

As we close in on the final leg of the Triple Crown, there seems to be more focus on finding value than the usual talk of making history. Triple Crown winners don’t grow on trees, and this year has the interest of players with a chock-full card sure to offer up value.  The best part of Thoroughbred racing is the hope that awaits. The promise of things to come, and the beauty of majestic runners taking our breath away. Best of luck this Saturday with the Belmont card, and in the meantime. Here are some runners who deserve a good piece of your wagering bankroll.

Belmont

Mascarello (BEL 6/4/16 – Race #5 – #7 – 1 1/16 turf) –  Aaron Gryder in the saddle for H.J. Bond, and his runner saw every inch of the course this day. He was forced wide into the first turn and then even wider as the race progressed. If the field covered 1 1/16, he may have covered 1 1/8.   His mount lost by 3/4 of a length on this day and that is saying a great deal for his extended trip around New York.

Inca Saint (BEL 6/5/16 – Race #2 – #4 – 1 1/16 dirt) – jockey Javier Castellano in the irons on this day, and was checked immediately after the gate break almost coming to a full stop. Once he got his runner back on stride, he was forced out wide during other points of the race.   Give this race a pass and you’ll find a better trip next out.

Belterra Park

Too Cool (BTP 6/4/16 – Race #4 – #11 – One mile turf) –  Geovany Garcia in the saddle, and his mount relished the grass course. The rains were starting and the weeds had a little glimmer of water. Breaking from the outside post is no bonus, but when you find impressive turn of foot down the lane to win in a hurry. Sometimes you keep a gal like this on your list for a return play at the windows.

Altissimo (BTP 6/4/16 – Race #5 – #10 – 6f dirt) – rider Antioco “Coco” Murgia in the irons and his runner is a perfect 2/2 over the course. The interesting part is he came closing strongly over a course that has been favoring speed. He is slated to return on Friday 6/10, and he is a part of an entry that may have short odds. If you’re looking for value you’re going to have to work on multi-race wagers.

Churchill Downs

Casses Story (CD 6/4/16 – Race #1 – #1 – 5f dirt) – Miguel Mena in the saddle and his mount was soundly bumped after the gate break, and was put in tight quarters at the 5/16th pole. Troubled trips often give us a great wagering opportunity next out, and this guy fits the bill.

Kylers Song (CD 6/4/16 – Race #4 – #1 – one mile dirt) –  Jack Gilligan at the controls, and his mount broke tardy from the gate and to rush into contention.   Once settled, his charge caught my eye as a runner making up good ground very easily.