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Back From Christmas Vacation

I hope everyone had (or is still having) a good holiday season. I finally got home late last night after a week of Christmas travel to Eastern Washington and Western Montana. All told, we put about 1,300 miles on the car while driving through three states and two time zones. Just a typical Christmas for our family.

I didn't have the chance to do much handicapping or wagering over the past few weeks, but I did get to catch a few races from Santa Anita and Gulfstream a little bit last weekend. One great thing about our relatives that we stay with is that they both have Dish Network which carries both HRTV and TVG. That's a good thing since I can't go too long without sitting down to watch a race.

Below is a rundown on some thoughts I had as I was catching up:

  • While I got to see a few races from Santa Anita on opening day, I missed The Factor's smoking performance in the Grade 1 Malibu. The spits weren't quite as insane as we've seen at Santa Anita over the past year, at least for the first half-mile (22.61, 44.61), but the move The Factor made from the half-mile to three-quarter mile mark was simply blistering. After clicking off a quick 44.61 over the first four furlongs, The Factor threw down a 23.37 split in the 3rd quarter and still had enough left in the tank for clock the final 1/8th of a mile in 11.91.

    In terms of speed figures, The Factor got a 106 from the Beyer boys.
  • Saturday's seven furlong La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita is the last Grade 1 race of 2011. Turbulent Descent will try to cap off a pretty good year with a win on the last day of the calendar.

    The first Grade 1 race of 2012 is the Santa Monica on Jan. 28th.
  • One final Santa Anita notes that you probably read about, attendance for opening day was 44,579, the largest first day figures since 1994 and 30% higher than in 2010. I didn't read about any kind of special promotion or giveaway that might have impacted the turnout. Perhaps people just wanted to spend a nice day at the track.
  • The finalists for the 2011 Eclipse Awards will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 5th, 2012 awards ceremony taking place on Monday, Jan. 16th in Beverly Hills.
  • Emerald Downs has released a new, re-vamped website for 2012, which you can find at www.emeralddowns.com. Among improvements to the site are a new look that works better with mobile devices, an increased presence and integration of social media, stewards rulings and photo finish gallery for the upcoming 2012 racing season, and a blog featuring from Emerald Downs handicappers and staff.

    Additionally, the layout and user interface has received a big upgrade. Kudos to all the people at EMD for the new site.
  • We haven't even moved into 2012 and already one of the top juveniles of 2011 is out with an injury. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, My Miss Aurelia, an impressive winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last month, sustained a minor shin injury that will force her to miss some training days. The injury is not expected to derail the connections plans to prepare her for the 2012 Kentucky Oaks.
  • For all those that like lower takeout (and what player doesn't?), NYRA cut the takeout rate 2% on exotic wagers. Of course, the main reason the cut was put into place was the revelation that NYRA had charged 1% higher on those same bets for over a year. Oops. Still, a 2% cut is a 2% cut, even if it is the result of an "invisible" hike from the past.
  • It seems as if the new "Instant Racing" machines are a pretty big hit at Kentucky Downs. According to a report at BloodHorse.com, the machines have taken in $19.52 million over the first three months.

I'm working on a Year in Review post that I'll have up later in the day tomorrow, as well as a look at the contenders for all of the 2011 Eclipse Awards. Until then, happy wagering.