Here are the notes and thoughts that are pouring out of my head on this Tuesday morning:
- There is a $126,946 Pick Six carryover at Santa Anita on Wednesday. The fifth leg of the sequence is a five horse allowance event on the main track at 1 1/16 miles. That is sure to be a heavy single race given the small field. The Pick Six begins with a thirteen horse, six and a half furlong sprint on the downhill turf course, and concludes with the usual maiden claiming event.
- A big weekend of stakes action will take place this Saturday: three Grade 1 events, two Grade 2s, and Grade 3. All of these races will take place at either Gulfstream or Santa Anita. There is also an important ungraded event at Aqueduct, the Whirlaway Stakes for three year old colts.
- I've updated the North American Stakes Results spreadsheet with the winners and BSFs from last weekend.
- The Fair Grounds, in an effort to have somebody actually show up on Super Bowl Sunday, has moved their first post up to 11:30 CT (12:30 ET / 9:30 PT), which should ensure that their card is complete prior to kick-off. Probably a smart move not to run races during the Saints first ever Super Bowl appearance.
- The rail on the Gulfstream Park turf course will be at 60 feet for both races on Wednesday. The first race is a 5 1/2 furlong sprint event (Race 5), with the other a 1 7/16 mile Allowance/Optional Claimer (Race 8).
- The last thought really isn't a "Quick Hit" but I think it's appropriate considering the recent conclusion of the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Tournament: something that I've thought about for a while and also something that I've heard a lot of other players mention: why is the "National Handicapping Championship" held in the dead of winter? During this year's tournament there were cancellations at Oaklawn, Aqueduct, and Laurel, leaving players with a lot less tracks and even less options. Throw in the prospect of races coming off the turf or any other weather related problems, and I think the NHC loses a little bit of luster by holding the event during the slowest racing time of the year.
Let's face it, winter racing is hard to follow. I mean, you gotta really love to play the ponies if you're wagering on races in December and January. Personally, I take a good break following the Breeders' Cup and don't even think about picking up a form until Gulfstream and Santa Anita open up after Christmas. Volatile weather, sloppy tracks, minimal turf racing, and an abundance of scratches seem to dot the many of the races taking place during the winter. Why does the DRF and the NTRA choose this time of year to hold their marquee event?
The solution, I think, is simple: move the tournament to either the spring or fall and have it revolve around either the Kentucky Derby (how challenging would it be to have the Derby as one of the mandatory plays?) or the Breeders' Cup. Don't want to do it around the big days? There's still great meets like Keeneland, Saratoga, and Del Mar around which you could plan a phenomenal final tournament, along with a lot of other small tracks around the country that would provide more options for the players.
I'd also like to see the optional plays opened up to any thoroughbred track running on that day, instead of just a select amount of tracks. Why limit players options to a restricted set of tracks when on any given day a player can bet at any track he or she wants? Just wondering.