Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Ladies Cup

There was never any question that last years expansion of The Breeders Cup to Friday was a prelude to an expanded two day format. Every race fan looks forward to another great day of racing. How could it miss? -By not going far enough!

The two biggest changes will be to run the Distaff division races on the first day of festivities, dubbed 'Filly Friday,' and the renaming of The Distaff to the Ladies Classic. I don't like either change. I feel that all the most important races should be run on the same day. Determining the top eight races by purse "B.C." day should be: The Classic; Turf; Mile(T); Sprint; Distaff (I can't say Ladies Classic); Juvenile (both divisions boys and girls!) and F&M Turf. While I don't agree with these so be it but that should be the sports "showcase."

I would choose the Dirt Mile over the Turf Mile. After all in the U.S. we run predominately on dirt so this preference seems obvious. I think of races like The Cigar and Met Mile when I think of races that produce great sires. When I worked in the business I always heard that the best miler's make the best sires. Truly a breeder's choice! It is generally acknowledged that the mile is the most difficult distance to run. It's that netherworld between sprint and route where both speed and stamina has to be pushed to it's very limits. That's exactly the reason why they make such good sires, a mare can add either stamina or speed to create the horse of your choice.

I would also argue that if you want to equalize the importance of the two days the two juvenile divisions should be run on a separate day from The Classic and Distaff. Further, I would also drop the F&M Turf from the 'showcase' day. In it's place I would like to see the Marathon. After all this is the Breeders' Cup. Aren't we trying to highlight the best of the breed? Isn't the ideal to produce a horse that can carry weight with speed over a distance of ground? Would Secretariat still be Secretariat if we didn't have that image of him winning the Belmont by 31 lengths? There's a good reason they call it the Test of Champions. And as Rags to Riches demonstrated this year it is a wide open race. It should showcase the best of the best. But unless that purse goes up and more graded races are written for the distance I hold little hope for this to become the premier event it should be.

Change is hard in the industry, but they could at least try a little harder. Creating a "Filly Friday" and changing the name of the Distaff isn't what I would call going out on a limb. Why not change some habits that don't help further promote the sport. There surely are enough race fans to make both days work, however, I hearken back the issue of my first two entries: we have to create NEW Fans! How is this going to help? If you want to buck convention run them on Saturday and Sunday. I would be tremendously surprised if anyone other than race fans are going to watch the Friday card. What a damn shame! And then to put the Distaff as the feature for that 'lost' day is a crime. I suppose we will be treated to a replay of the stretch run on Saturday! What are they thinking?

For my money the best way to promote the sport on its' biggest day is to speed things up. I think they should start at noon and run the races every 20 minutes (or the quickest possible turn around time) and run them all on the same day. I know there would be a lot of resistance to this idea; concern about getting every betting dollar etc. I think that is misplaced concern. Better and more customer service can handle this problem. Not to mention that electronic wagering has already changed this landscape dramatically. Most handicappers have their budget and will find a way to get their bets in. The industry needs to adjust to a competitive sports world where everything is built around speed and short attention spans. We need to get people interested and keep their attention. That can't be done by running a race every 40-45 minutes with a lot of talk in between. Keep the action rolling! Those are my thoughts on the B.C. changes.

As long as I'm on wish lists I would like to see one other big change in racing. I know it's not going to happen but here it is. Like many I don't particularly like the thought of 2 year-old racing. I like watching them I just cringe sometimes when I think what may be happening. I know the Classics will always be the classics but how about this: Starting in January, create a new condition of races for horses that have not raced at 2 culminating in 'The Three Year Old Cup' to be run the first Saturday of the Saratoga meet. This condition would level the playing field for the late starters. Give it a nice purse say 250K, and maybe, just maybe, it would slowly encourage owners/trainers to back off a little. It could be an option for those classic hopefuls that started late and were not quite good enough, as well as the late bloomers. While it could affect the Travers field I doubt it would have much of an impact. If you have a good horse and can run in the Travers for prestige and a million that is where you'd point your colt. While a late start may not be the ideal road to the classics it can be done as Curlin has recently demonstrated. With the suddenly fashionable light race schedule for hopefuls it hardly seems that patience would be problematic. The 'Cup' would come up a little soon for the colts who need a reprieve from their classics run but would work well into a schedule if one had B.C. hopes. All right, save the Bronx cheers!

Today on Power Cap, Greg was commenting on TVG's dissing of NYRA tracks. I must admit I was miffed yesterday myself. Upon getting home I turned on TVG hoping to catch the last two races I figured that they were in another argument with NYRA like several months ago when they just stopped showing the NYRA races. I didn't even see the PT alert that let's you know what races are coming up. I just got frustrated and turned it off. What a crime! Again this goes back to what I see as the biggest problem with racing (see earlier posts.) I would urge all N.Y. wagerers that use TVG to cancel their accounts with TVG. Like most of the industry they will probably only respond when hit in the wallet!

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