Summer of Racing Rewind by Nick D’Agostino

September 5, 2018

By: Nick D’Agostino

The summer of racing started off with a ton of enthusiasm by horse racing fans, and those in the business because after all, the summer months are supposed to be the premier meets featuring Saratoga and Del Mar. This is where trainers and owners try out their unraced juveniles and everyone brings their best horses to compete for the multitude of stakes races on hand. For both Saratoga, NY and Del Mar, CA these meets aren’t just an event it’s way of life. The money generated from both meets is vital to the surrounding communities as it brings in big money players that like to spend it at local businesses.

“Both meets this year had their share of up’s and downs; crazy inquiries by stewards, controversial rulings, smashing two-year olds, running a race at the wrong distance, jockey’s with questionable rides, gate incidents, record breaking handles, a random shooting at the track and last but not least Mother Nature!”

The Ups

Gary Stevens   one of the iron-men of racing who’s still laying it down against his younger peers, continues to look ageless and rides with the same swagger he’s always been known to have. Gary capped off his Del Mar meet in 11th place in the standings with 44% ITM finishes. Gary notched his 100th Stakes win at the Del Mar meet this past Labor Day weekend when he piloted ” King of Speed” with a patient Hall of Fame ride up the rail to take the Del Mar Juvenile Turf. Congratulations Gary! Keep on doing what you do!

Drayden Van Dyke- Where can I start with this young phenom? Winning the Del Mar meet with a 26% win pct and 50% ITM finishes along with $2.7 million in earnings! This 2014 Eclipse Award winning apprentice has certainly turned into one fine rider. DVD as many of his fans like to call him turned the Del Mar meet on it’s head, running rough shot on his competition and snatching the meet title out of Flavian Prat’s hands as he bobbed and weaved his way up the leader board day after day. Flavian a fine rider in his own right, couldn’t stop DVD’s rush of victories from piling up. This kid is just getting warmed up and that’s the scary part! Congratulations Drayden!

Peter Miller- Winning the training title at Del Mar with a 27% win PCT and 53% ITM finishes besting Doug O’Neill by 10 victories is no easy task. Miller is no stranger to winning these meets. My only question is, where does he put all the trophies? Inquiring minds wanna know Pete! Way to go on a very good meet!

Irad Ortiz- One half of the Dynamic duo of the Ortiz brothers threw it down this Saratoga meet and pulled away from Javier Castellano to win the meet with 7 more wins. Irad came away with 4.3 million in earnings during this moist Saratoga meet. Congratulations to Irad for splish splashing his way to the top of the leaderboard. Irad was solid ride after solid ride all meet long. 

Klaravich Stables- Totally dominating the Saratoga meet with a 37% win PCT and an eye popping 81% ITM finishes. Klaravich clearly came to Saratoga with their “A” game doubling their nearest rival in win’s. Truly amazing and what a super job!

Chad Brown- It’s Chad’s world and everyone else is just visiting. Chad, a local homebred of the Saratoga area put the boots to Todd Pletcher by over doubling his win PCT with a 37% figure to take the training title. Not only that, he went to Arlington Park on Million day and continued the carnage. The protégé of the late Bobby Frankel is surely making him proud. Whatever Chad is doing he certainly seems to have the” Midas Touch!”

“Brill, Mother Mother, Roadster, Complexity, Feedback, Mucho, Mind Control, Rowayton, Game Winner, Bellafina, and Graceful Princess are all horses who showed their stuff at the Spa and where the Turf meets the Surf and bear watching for big things going forward. Yoshida said look out dirt horses, my grandpa was Sunday Silence!”

The Downs!

Mother Nature– You basically killed Saratoga’s racing product for owners, trainers and bettors. If battling “the three blind mice” in the racing office wasn’t enough we had to have a slop fest of track conditions and several races being called off the turf ruining multi race wagers all over the place. Saratoga you have now been deemed the Seattle of the East Coast!

The Three Blind Mice- The Saratoga stewards get second in this category and that’s just because it rained so much I couldn’t put them above the weather or else they would be #1. I think I need to get in touch with Anthony Trezza, a well known tournament handicapper and also EYE DR. I’m sure he has room to schedule you all for some much needed eye exams and probably a heavy prescription lens. Multiple thumbs down for horrific call’s/ DQ’s and non DQ’s alike. One thing is you were equally consistent or should I say inconsistent on both sides of the coin, so in the name of consistency, Congratulations!  Confused, so are we! Like the slogan of Pearle Vision says….”Your Vision is very important to us.” What happened?

The Gate- The gate crew is one of the hardest jobs in racing. The NYRA crew consisted of less people for many years and seemed to do a better job. They have added S.W.A.T. gear, Pom Pom’s, and a slew of more people and they appear to be doing a worse job. It appears the starter who is responsible for springing the horses once set is a bit gun-shy and waits too long especially with babies. They get fractious when you leave them standing in the gate too long, and this can and does cause them to act up. This results in unfair starts and gate scratches. One of the worst “victims” of the meet was Collegeville Girl who was looking to parlay a maiden win over the track into some black-type. The horses were seemingly set, and the gate didn’t spring. It almost seemed like they waited for one of the babies to get restless and two did. Both were scratched. Collegeville Girl was the clear cut speed on a track that was carrying speed that day. A very likely winner. Instead she was injured, albeit slightly, and the pick 5 bettors who used or singled her and did not want the unclear favorite rammed down their throat had to scramble to the windows to cancel their tickets. Now if you read and follow Past the Wire, and you are this deep into this then you probably know this is not simply our opinion alone. We have spoken to riders, trainers, former NYRA gate workers, and this was a common feeling. It is bad enough stewards have adopted a what happens out of the gate does not affect the race mindset, we don’t need starters who don’t know when and when not to spring the gate. Not to pile on, but the whole wrong distance fiasco race, well that technically falls back on the starter as well.

NYRA- Need’s to figure out a way to keep trainers from ruining the betting product by allowing said “cough cough” super trainers to fill a race with multiple entries uncoupled. Not to mention this type of mentality just ruins racing for the smaller outfits to be able to compete or survive. Last I checked monopolies were against the law! What’s your excuse?

NYRA-Part Deux–  You get a double mention. Poor timing in terms of taking races off the turf far enough in advance. You made a bad situation even worse. Get it together! The “all” rule in races taken off the turf kills multi-race players. You killed them more than necessary in a game where they will kill themselves enough without any help. Take the races off BEFORE the multi-race wagers begin whenever even remotely possible. 

HIGH FIVE: Twitter account @ShamIAmNot for consistently bringing humor to the racing community even in awkward situations. If you follow the account, or check it out you are sure for a good laugh or a dozen. The Brooklyn Cowboy tweet is 4-5 for a Beemie Award in Vegas right now.

LOW FIVE: We are not going to call out anyone by name here, but you all know who you are. If you are a front person for a major racing organization and your social media account is linked to that position, chill with the blocking of fans who just ask a question or have a different point of view. Lighten up it is social media. You are kinda sorta expected to interact with fans and attract them to the game if you are out there. Of course I am not talking about someone who gets sideways with anyone, but some are way too fast and sensitive with the block. That said, those blocked do not appear to be losing sleep but we are all on the

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