NY Breeding Program Still Produces
NY BREEDING PROGRAM STILL PRODUCING TOP RUNNERS
Aside from the much maligned class of three-year-olds, perhaps no other racing group or organization has taken more hits locally this year than the New York-bred breeding program.
And not all the criticism has been deserved. Admittedly, many slow New York-bred Thoroughbreds, many of which cannot outrun me, are still the focal point of people's perceptions.
So for every Haynesfield or Friend Or Foe, there are hundreds of Empire State Thoroughbreds that couldn't be either of those two if you spotted them a quarter mile head start. But they have their place, and it‘s not the program's fault that the worst of them have been overexposed.
In their zeal to card as many high-volume betting races as possible, the New York Racing Association has taken advantage of the worst of the breed to help fill their programs. Yes, there's a horse shortage; the problem is too much racing.
This overuse of bottom level state-breds has been especially true the last few years when the racing office began writing restricted conditions in greater numbers. It's been great for competitive balance, not so much for “New York racing.”
Non-winners of 2 lifers for older claimers are cut from the same cloth racetracks never seem to run out of. These state-bred races can be attractive from a betting perspective but increasingly, unfortunately, they've have become the face of the New York-bred program.
Again, from a gambling perspective the races are welcome. But when they proliferate at the Saratoga race meet, too, along with state-bred maiden claimers, it's no wonder why many believe the Saratoga bar has been lowered significantly.
Unfortunately, this tack has done the New York-bred breeding program an injustice. Bad state-breds are no better or worse than lower class animals bred anywhere.
Luckily, the good ones are more than capable of competing on both a national and international stage. On balance, the local breeding industry has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Consider:
Carson Hollow, Commentator, Fleet Indien, Fourstardave, Fourstars Allstar, Franny Freud, Funny Cide, Perfect Arc, Saratoga Dew, Thunder Rumble, and the redoubtable Win, are among the major open class stakes winners of the last two decades.
And the two listed earlier: Haynesfield, among the Breeders' Cup Classic pre-entrants announced today; Friend Or Foe, being pointed to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Thanksgiving weekend.
Also not to exclude Grade 1 winning Rightly So, pre-entered Monday in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and the multiple stakes winning Silver Timber, pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
Even without these division-leading New York-bred horses, Saturday's Showcase Day program, which featured seven stakes, along with special-weight maiden and allowance races, is always a great racing attraction--between the rails and at the wickets.
Indeed, Belmont Stakes day notwithstanding, Showcase Day is usually the second or third highest handle day every year at the Elmont, Long Island track. Saturday's gate was over 5,400, a sad reality of racetrack life in 2010.
But the on-track handle was much stronger, at nearly $1.3 million, almost $238 per customer, very good even given New York's typical per capita of $200-plus.
Off track, Showcase Day proved a popular product as well, with all-sources topping out at $12,338,516, up 14 percent from 2009.
In all probability, not many people came out specifically to watch the featured Empire Classic. But it's now likely that some fans might come to see the Cigar Mile in late November when Friend Or Foe takes on faster and tougher rivals.
It's never easy turning back from route to route, especially when one race demands stamina and the other demands stamina and high speed, as any one-turn mile does, especially New York Grade 1s.
If you missed the Classic, go to an online replay site and check out his powerhouse performance. Making the break look bad, Friend Or Foe jumped out immediately to a loose lead uncontested, but in realistic fractions throughout.
After an opening gambit of 23.15, the rest of his splits were :23.64, :23.60 and :24.77, a good clip by any standard as he reached the mile marker in 1:34.66, while saving his near best move for last.
With Alex Solis finally asking him in earnest, which came soon after straightening away in the lane, Friend Or Foe popped a final furlong of :12.28, stopping the timer at 1:46.94 for nine furlongs. Anytime you break 1:48 for this distance, you're rolling.
And so, while the competition for Haynesfield, Rightly So and Silver Timber will be known by midday Wednesday, it could have been a quartet had Friend Or Foe not run in such hard luck in the Jim Dandy and Travers.
All this doesn't sound like a program that needs to apologize to anyone.
by John Pricci
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