I, like many of you, watched most of the Saratoga meet this season. I figure I'd jot down a few thoughts.
- Handle was down only 9%. Considering the weather, the scratches and all the rest, this is a strong number. Many years ago I turned to a NYRA card, saw off the turf and a three horse scratched down turf to dirt field and it generated more than almost every other track I was watching. That brand is bonkers. But still, only 9% is surprising to me.
- The pick 5 debacle and the response to the breakdowns, to me, is a symptom of on the fly confusion in a sport such as ours. The left hand often doesn't know what the right hand is doing when things are happening fast. I'd hope, and expect, they work on a plan for upcoming meets and this gets better; including updated protocols on scratching, which even after the breakdowns seemed somewhat capricious.
- The stewarding is a sore spot, and it'd be foolish to say these are just whiny bettors whining. I'd love to see an overhaul to breed more consistency in the judges room. A good place to start - if a horse is getting herded or bumped near a wire and he or she loses by a nose or a head, it's by all logic and reason a toss. You can't let some go and some not go when the margin is so thin.
- NYRA's team and those who follow it continues to be pretty awesome, in my view, and Phil's. Aragona's lines were solid, his analysis strong. Say what you want about Serling, and most of us do, but he adds sizzle and sharpness and thoughts to his picks. The paddock crew is very good because they obviously do the work. We can tell when we're getting the right information and what's being mailed in and there's no mailing it in with Maggie and Acacia.
- I don't think Frank had a super strong meet, and I know some agree. But with race callers it's simply someone's opinion more often than not. Maybe I'm still smarting when he pretty much called my pick 5 key home when he was staggering and I got beat and it's jaded me.
- Short stakes fields can be the norm and I doubt we're doing anything about that. But one thing I'd like to see a powerful entity like NYRA spearhead, is building a system where the takeout is directly correlated to field size. Two four to fives, a six to one and two twelve to ones is silly. They're big enough to do this and set a new market for others in the sport to follow.
- I was not overly sold on the whole kicking CRW's out at two minutes to post thing, but after watching win prices and betting accordingly, I was pretty pleased with this change. It did affect the changing of prices near the bell and I was confident that when I bet I was going to get my number.
- I was down this meet, which started well with a nice pick 4. I handicapped well and was on a lot of the right horses, but I simply couldn't get rid of the seconditis, and failed to convert way too many last legs of the multis. The biggest kick in the ass - a $20k score on a skinny $10 pick 5 ticket with the chalk going, and a $10k score on the third choice in the same race with a $4 ticket. They ran third and fourth. Oh this game we play.