Times for Cigar Mile H., Go For Wand Changed

the Big A race horseThe New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced today that following a review of the December 1 Cigar Mile card at Aqueduct Racetrack, in conjunction with Teletimer, the official timing system for NYRA racetracks, that the running times of three one-mile races on the main track, including the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap, have been adjusted.

The Teletimer system initiates timing of each race when the first runner crosses the timing beam, however, due to an auxiliary starting gate incorrectly parked on the outside fence of Aqueduct’s main track during the first half of the card, the beam was not engaged resulting in the first three one-mile races being timed directly from the gate, without the customary run-up which on December 1 was 54 feet from the starting gate to the first beam.

The issue was recognized and addressed prior to the final one-mile race of the day, the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap won by Patternrecognition.

Following the review, official times for the three one-mile races affected by timing issues have been corrected as follows:

Race 2, a maiden special weight for juveniles won by Kentucky Wildcat which was originally timed in splits of 25.85, 49.82, 1:15.30 and 1:41.41, is now corrected to 24.68, 49.14, 1:14.01 and 1:40.17.

Race 3, a $25,000 claiming event for older horses won by Stronger which was originally timed in splits of 26.08, 50.55, 1:16.62 and 1:42.92, is now corrected to 25.13, 49.78, 1:15.37 and 1:41.77.

In Race 6, the 79th running of the Go For Wand, Marley’s Freedom earned a neck score in a race originally timed in splits of 25.27, 48.56, 1:13.34 and 1:38.35, which is now corrected to 24.52, 48.14, 1:12.14 and 1:37.50.

NYRA has reviewed the circumstances of this incident with stewards and staff and instituted additional protocols to prevent a similar error from occurring in the future.

Source: Press Release

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Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in New York

Expansion of Saratoga Race Course

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) received approval from the New York State Franchise Oversight Board to proceed with construction of a permanent building at the site of the current At the Rail tent at Saratoga Race Course.

The project will replace the seasonal tent and trailers located immediately adjacent to the end of the Clubhouse with a 36,000-square foot, three-story, climate-controlled building featuring differentiated hospitality options and modern amenities. In addition to the three floors of usable space for guests, a basement level will provide space for a fully appointed kitchen to service the building.

Saratoga canopy walk throughNYRA currently plans to break ground on the project at the conclusion of the 2018 summer season and anticipates the new building will welcome guests on opening day of the 2019 meet.

“This project is another example of NYRA’s continuous efforts to provide the best possible experience for our guests. The new building will transform the parcel of land at the south end of the property with the type of differentiated seating, dining options and amenities synonymous with a world-class sporting venue,” said NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay. “Perhaps most importantly, the new building will address the modern-day needs of Saratoga Race Course while honoring its history. We have taken great care to ensure that the building is historically consistent with the fabled architecture of our grandstand and clubhouse. We look forward to beginning the next steps of this much-anticipated project.”

SOSH Architects will continue to oversee design, bid and construction administration services for the building. Matt Hurff, partner at Saratoga Springs-based Frost Hurff Architects, will continue to serve as project consultant to ensure all historic preservation standards are met.

The project has received the endorsement of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, which specifically noted the importance of the new building to the future of Saratoga Race Course.

“The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is pleased to offer its support for the New York Racing Association’s planned At the Rail building at Saratoga Race Course, which incorporates historically sensitive design details,” said Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation Executive Director Samantha Bosshart. “The Foundation looks forward to seeing the New York Racing Association’s significant investment in this building come to fruition.”

In recent years, NYRA has placed significant resources behind historic preservation efforts at Saratoga Race Course. In 2015, NYRA began to restore the copper roofing that historically bordered the slate-covered roof on buildings throughout the property. This is visible in a number of locations, including the archway over the Clubhouse escalator, which was installed in 2016; the paddock mutuel building roof, to which copper accents were added in 2017; and the Clubhouse from the Easy Goer to the Club Terrace, which will feature the addition of copper along the roofline for the 2018 season.

In 2017, NYRA unveiled several upgrades to the historic paddock mutuel building, including a new slate roof and rafters. The improvements are intended to ensure the continued preservation of the historically-significant building, which was constructed in 1902 and originally used as a saddling shed during inclement weather.

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The Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board also expressed support for the new building.

“The objective of this project is to maintain the historic character of Saratoga Race Course while responding to changes in the sports and entertainment landscape to ensure a sustainable, successful future for racing at Saratoga,” said Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board Chairman Joseph A. Torani. “The Saratoga Local Advisory Board strongly endorses the decision by the Franchise Oversight Board to approve construction of this new building which will accomplish these stated goals.”

The new building is the latest in a series of capital improvements at Saratoga Race Course. Since 2013, NYRA has invested more than $30 million at Saratoga in efforts to enhance the guest experience and provide amenities that are consistent with those available at first-class stadiums and arenas.

These efforts are most recently demonstrated through the creation of The Stretch, Saratoga’s newest hospitality area located in the grandstand at the Top of the Stretch, which will debut on opening day of the 2018 meet.

The Stretch will feature modern and upscale amenities in a casual environment with breathtaking views of thoroughbreds rounding the final turn as they enter the dramatic stretch drive. Highlights of the area include three types of boxes available in multiple configurations, a dining tier, reserved bar seats, and approximately 200 premium reserved seats.

Additionally, guests now enjoy more than 1,000 new high-definition televisions throughout Saratoga Race Course; 950 picnic tables available for free on a first-come, first-serve basis in the backyard; new high-definition video boards in the backyard and infield; enhanced Wi-Fi and sound systems; a renovated and redesigned Saratoga Family Zone; and new attractions and hospitality areas such as the Saratoga Walk of Fame, Fourstardave Sports Bar and Easy Goer.

The 2018 meet at Saratoga Race Course will be highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney and the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers, the centerpieces of two of the biggest days in North American racing.

The 40-day meet, which includes 69 stakes worth $18.8 million in purses, will run from Friday, July 20, through Labor Day, Monday, September 3. After opening weekend, racing will be conducted six days a week, Wednesdays through Mondays. For more information about Saratoga Race Course, visit www.NYRA.com/Saratoga.

Source: NYRA

Trainer Graham Motion Loaded for Belmont Stakes Week

Belmont Park horse racingTrainer Graham Motion is looking to field an eclectic assortment of horses during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, from the up-and-coming 3-year-old Rugbyman, who is entered in the $150,000 Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day, to the stalwart Augustin Stable homebred Spring Quality, who at age 6 will be making his first Grade 1 appearance in the $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan at 1 ¼ miles on the turf.

Motion also is pointing Lady Alexandra, who won the License Fee in her first start for him, to the Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental on opening day of the Festival, Thursday, June 7; European import Esquisse to the Grade 2, $600,000 New York presented by NYRA Bets on Friday and Serena’s Song winner Bernedto the Grade 1, $750,000 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day.

Rugbyman, a gray son of Tapit bred and owned by Wertheimer Et Frere, finished a closing third in his debut on April 13 and followed that with a rousing 14-length maiden victory over older horses at a mile at Belmont Park.

“He was impressive enough in his maiden victory to consider a stake for his next start,” said the trainer. “A lot will depend on how be breezes on Friday.”

Spring Quality, a son of Quality Road out of the Deputy Minister mare Spring Star, made a single appearance at age 2, winning a seven-furlong maiden at Keeneland, then reappeared in the spring as a 4-year-old to take an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. Given more time off, he finally began racing on a consistent basis in 2017, notching his first graded stakes win in November in his second start on turf in the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack.

In his first start this year, he was beaten less than a length by fellow Manhattan hopeful Robert Bruce in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy.

“He had little niggling issues that kept him away from the races, but knowing he had the ability, his owner [George Strawbridge] was very patient with him,” said Motion, noting Spring Quality has won five of 10 starts, with three seconds. “I always thought he could be a grass horse, but he was running so well on dirt I didn’t move him [until the second half of 2017].”

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Spring Quality was entered in the Robellino at Penn National in August, which wound up coming off the turf and which he won by a neck. He followed that by finishing second in the Roanoke at Parx, and an encouraging fourth in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker at 1 1/8 miles at Belmont.

“Looking back, maybe I should have moved him [onto turf] earlier,” said Motion. “That being said, I’ve always had this race in mind for him, and the timing of the Fort Marcy was perfect.”

Lady Alexandra, who was purchased last year for $375,000 by the Heider Family Stables at the Horses of Racing Age Sale at Keeneland following an optional claiming victory at Belmont in June, made one subsequent start at Saratoga for trainer Tom Proctor, finishing eighth in the Coronation Cup. Sent to Motion over the winter, she trained forwardly and made her 4-year-old debut a winning one with a 3 ½-length score in the License Free going six furlongs.

“I was extremely impressed with her performance in that race,” Motion said.

Esquisse, who arrived in Motion’s barn in late fall of 2017, finished third, beaten 1 ¼ lengths in a one-mile allowance in April at Keeneland and second, one length back, in an optional claimer on May 18 at Belmont.

“Her races here have been very good,” said Motion of the British-bred daughter of Dansili. “Perhaps she’s showing more in the morning than in the afternoons. Her mother [the Rahy mare Legerate] ran 1 ½ miles, so perhaps the difference might be the extra quarter-mile.”

Berned, owned by Robert Masiello and West Point Thoroughbreds, would be making her third Grade 1 appearance in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps, having finished fourth in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga last summer and seventh in the Starlet at Laurel Race Course as a 2-year-old while under the care of Tom Albertrani.

The Bernardini filly is 1-0-1 this year, with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Barbara Fricthie at Laurel and a sixth in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct.

“This would be a big step up for her,” said Motion. “A lot will depend on who is running.”

Source: NYRA

FOX Sports Horse Racing TV Coverage Expanded

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced this week a three-year extension of the groundbreaking television programming deal with FOX Sports to broadcast NYRA’s flagship TV program Saratoga Live on FS2. With this announcement, live daily coverage of racing from Saratoga Race Course will be available to a national television audience through 2020.

“There’s no place like Saratoga and FOX Sports is delighted to be headed back to the Spa for three more summers,” said Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports Executive Vice President, Research, League Operations and Strategy. “We are very excited to extend and expand our partnership with NYRA, which provides high-quality live programming for FS2, and gives our fans access to insightful and entertaining daily coverage of the best race meet in North America.”

Saratoga canopy walk through“Partnering with FOX Sports has enabled NYRA to present the best race meet to horse racing and sports fans on a live and consistent basis,” said Tony Allevato, NYRA Bets President and Executive Producer of NYRA TV. “This extension ensures that people across the country will continue to be able to watch world-class thoroughbred racing on FS2.”

NYRA launched the critically-acclaimed Saratoga Live during the 2016 summer meet at Saratoga, which included 80 hours of live coverage. This year, FOX Sports expanded the schedule to include Saturdays from Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack, bringing the total amount of live coverage on FS2 to more than 100 hours.

In 2017, NYRA added new markets in California and Ohio via agreements with several Regional Sports Networks including FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX Sports San Diego, and FOX Sports Ohio.

Including all regional networks, Saratoga Live presented by Claiborne Farm and stallion Runhappy, now reaches more than 75 million homes. Saratoga Live airs at 4 p.m. on most live racing days.

This Saturday, Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Live will air on FS2 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will include the 68thrunning of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, featuring champion filly Songbird who has amassed a stellar record of 13 wins and one second-place finish in 14 starts.

2017 Saratoga Horse Racing Tickets Go On Sale Tomorrow

copyright AGameofSkill.comThe New York Racing Association, Inc. will welcome the general public to purchase full-season ticket plans and season admission passes for the 2017 meet at historic Saratoga Race Course beginning Wednesday, March 15 at 10 a.m. EST.

Full-season plans, which include reserved seats for the full 40-day season, will be available for purchase online through NYRA AccountManager utilizing the Saratoga Virtual Venue seating map, enabling fans to digitally preview their seat location and sightlines before purchasing tickets.Full-season plans include 40 days of admission based on the cost of a season pass.

A season pass provides fans with admission to 40 days of world-class thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Race Course, including the Grade 1 Travers and Grade 1 Whitney.

The cost for a 2017 Grandstand season pass is $40; a Clubhouse season pass is $65. Season passes do not include reserved seating and are valid for one admission. Season passes may be purchased through NYRA AccountManager.

2016 season pass buyers will be able to conveniently renew their season passes by logging into NYRA AccountManager from Wednesday, March 8 through Tuesday, March 14. Those who do so during this period will save by not paying Ticketmaster service fees.

“A Saratoga season pass provides fans with the ability to witness the best thoroughbred racing at a world-class sporting and entertainment venue for the equivalent of a dollar a day,” said New York Racing Association Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer Lynn LaRocca. “A Saratoga season pass also comes with an exclusive, free perks program that offers discounts to local restaurants, retailers and Live Nation concerts at SPAC, plus local college basketball and other sporting events. One can easily argue that there is no better value in professional sports.”

The 2017 season will again feature the Saratoga Season Perks program, with exclusive offers for season pass and season ticket plan holders, including the guarantee of a Saratoga premium giveaway on the day of the giveaway. (Season pass or season ticket plan holders must be in attendance at Saratoga Race Course, enter through the designated season ticket and pass holder lines and redeem the giveaway by the designated time. Redemptions will begin when gates open to the general public.)

Saratoga Season Perks members are also entitled to special discounts at dozens of retail, restaurant and professional services locations which are members of the Saratoga Downtown Business Association; as well as various local entertainment venues. Saratoga season pass and season plan holders will receive a 10 percent savings with an activated season pass beginning June 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018. 2016 Saratoga Season Perks members will continue to benefit from last year’s edition of the program through the end of March 2017.

This year’s additions to the Season Perks program include the entire Live Nation summer concert series at Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, among others.

“Our Saratoga Season Perks program was very well received by our season ticket holders and season pass holders as well as by the many local businesses who partnered with us when we expanded the value-added program last year,” said LaRocca. “We are excited to continue our partnership for the upcoming season with the Saratoga Downtown Business Association, and our other preferred partners. We look forward to again adding value to a season pass as a way to reward our most loyal fans with year-round savings; while also celebrating the relationship between NYRA and the local community.”

“We are excited to be partnering with NYRA again this year for the Saratoga Season Perks program,” said Maddy Zanetti, vice-president of the Saratoga DBA. “Last year we had just over 40 businesses participate and we are expecting the number to grow this year. We are very lucky to have a community with so many organizations that work together to help promote our city and attract visitors. The Perks program is a great way to get racing fans downtown year-round.”

The list of incentives, deals and discounts is available at www.SaratogaSeasonPerks.com and will be continually updated with new participating organizations.

A season pass must be activated in order to receive Saratoga Season Perks discounts and incentives. Season pass holders are required to provide a photo in order to activate their season pass. Activation instructions, including information on how to upload a digital photo, are available at NYRA.com.

The summer racing season at Saratoga Race Course will begin on Friday, July 21 and continue through Labor Day, Monday, September 4.

For more information about Saratoga Race Course, visit NYRA.com.

New York and German Racetrack Join Partnership

Intercontinental stakes series created

The New York Racing Association has announced a three-year partnership with one of Germany’s premier racetracks, Hoppegarten Racecourse in Berlin, to host a unique, intercontinental stakes series beginning in 2017.

Through the agreement, NYRA will offer the winning 3-year-old filly of the 2017 Group 2 Diana-Trial, contested at 2,000 meters on the turf at historic Hoppegarten on June 4, an all-fees-paid invitation to the 1 ¼-mile, Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational, one of the preeminent turf stakes in North America, on Stars & Stripes Day, July 8, at Belmont Park. The Belmont Oaks Invitational are ideally timed 34 days after the Diana-Trial and 29 days before the Group 1 German Oaks allowing the Berlin winner to compete in both races.

Likewise, the winner of the Group 2 Comer Group International Oleander-Rennen for four-year-olds and upwards, held at 3,200 meters on May 14, will receive an all-fees-paid invitation to compete in the two-mile, Grade 3, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational, during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on June 9. The newly-upgraded Group 2 The Comer Group International Oleander-Rennen, Germany’s premier extended distance race, is upgraded to Group 2 for the first time in 2017 and will launch its winner onto a challenging international campaign.

Additionally, NYRA will offer a generous travel allowance for each qualifying horse and hospitality on the race day.

“The New York Racing Association is thrilled to enter into a relationship with Hoppegarten Race Course. As we look to elevate our international presence, this agreement connecting these races made a lot of sense in trying to further promote both of our racing programs,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s Senior Vice President of Racing Operations. “The timing is ideal and the race conditions match. The story behind Hoppegarten Race Course is most fascinating and we look forward to working together in our efforts to bring German-based horses to race in New York.”

“I am delighted with this exciting new partnership which offers owners excellent prize money and raises our international profile,” said Gerhard Schöningh, Owner and Chairman of Hoppegarten Racecourse. “In addition, winning connections can experience a unique race day at Belmont Park in iconic New York.”

Andrew Cuomo’s Top Aide & the NYRA Conflict

Andrew Cuomo pledged to “clean up Albany.” Running for governor of New York in 2010, the Democrat said that ending the state capital’s culture of insider deals and conflicted interests was his number one priority. Yet, in launching his second term, one of Gov. Cuomo’s first actions was to appoint as his top aide Bill Mulrow,… [Read more…]

Remembering Birmingham’s First Track Announcer

Larry Colmus fbBy Art Parker

It’s been so long few people in Birmingham, Alabama will remember. In 1987, the Birmingham Turf Club opened with promise of being the new “place” in thoroughbred racing. That promise quickly faded as the owners paid a price for trying to run before they could walk by overbuilding and opening doors without much operating cash. The season started with good horses and good purses. About a month after it opened the Birmingham Turf Club crowned an Alabama Derby winner named Lost Code that was thrust into racing’s spotlight and would eventually challenge Bet Twice and Alysheba at the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Before the end of the meet in October the track was running a card full of $3,500 claimers.

Even fewer people will remember the track announcer at Birmingham its first year. It was 20 year old Larry Collmus.  A native of Baltimore, Collmus had been an assistant announcer in his home state before landing the Birmingham job.

I remember Birmingham in 1987 and hearing Collmus call the races. There were few experienced race goers in Birmingham at the time. For much of the meet patrons were trying to figure out the difference between an exacta and a trifecta instead of paying attention to the race calls. I recall telling a friend that Collmus sounded young but appeared to be very talented. I knew then he would be around the game a long time.

Collmus (age 47) still sounds young and he still does a great job. Collmus has called races around the United States and last year he became the voice of the Kentucky Derby when he landed the job at Churchill Downs.

Now the talented Collmus is changing addresses again. Just this week he landed the track announcer job on America’s biggest racing stage, New York. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced that Collmus will be its voice beginning next April. The current voice of NYRA, Tom Durkin, is stepping down after the Saratoga meet, concluding many years of distinguished service.

NYRA made a good decision and I believe we will hear Collmus calling the Belmont Stakes and the Travers for a long time.

New York’s “Ezzy” named AGameofSkill.com Claimer of the Week

Claimer of the Week at AGameofSkill.comEzzy disposed of the goose eggs in his 2011 earnings box (5-0-0-0, $4,126) with an impressive performance in the sixth race at Aqueduct on Saturday, December 10th. Ezzy was ready to roll in his second race after a layoff, and the drop from $15,000 to a mixed condition race for $7,500 was just what the doctor ordered. Ezzy wasn’t the only class dropper in the field. His early speed proved an advantage over others as he captured the lead from the gate. Midway in the turn Ezzy disposed of a Monmouth shipper and opened up at the quarter pole when asked by apprentice Irad Ortiz, Jr. The 5 year old gelding dashed to the wire in a professional manner and was never threatened by the heavily backed favorite. Ezzy finished the six panels in 1:11 3/5.

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez sharpened Ezzy and prepared him to run on the Inner Dirt at Big A with a solid half-mile breeze on that surface ten days before race day.  The dark bay or brown gelding by Rizzi is owned by Linda S. Hayes. The winner paid $10.00 to win. A runner with a ton of back class, Ezzy’s career earnings now exceed $150,000 with five victories from 20 starts.

Ezzy is the first ever recipient of the AGameofSkill.com Claimer of the Week.

NYRA starts blog profiling New York Runners

Kudos to the New York Racing Association as they have recently started a blog devoted to racehorses that compete on the circuit there. Clearly, they are trying to put the spotlight on racehorses of note that compete during the year. It’s a great way to showcase an up-and-coming runner, a veteran horse, a fan favorite, etc.