Saratoga Notebook: Rain, Competition Costly; Funny Cide Day; Pick Six Winners

By Mike Kane and Phil Janack
Attendance is even and handle is down at the midpoint of the soggy 135th Saratoga racing season. On-track handle is off 6.9 percent and total handle has declined $23.5 million, or 8.4 percent.

Rain, rain and more rain has fallen on the Saratoga Race Course during the 18 racing days since the meet began on July 23. All that moisture has decimated turf racing, which usually feature large fields and are popular with bettors.

Through Monday's program, the end of the third week of the season, NYRA officials had moved 21 of the 44 scheduled grass races to the main track because the turf courses were too wet to be safe. There have been measureable amounts of rain on seven of the 11 days this month. The worst day was Sunday when two storms dumped a total of 1.95 inches on the track and led to the cancellation of the second race.„

"Overall, I think we've got to be happy with where we're at, given the situation," NYRA senior vice-president Bill Nader said Monday. "We had 54 turf races in the first half last year and 23 this year. That's almost two fewer turf races a day.

"The problem is turf races that were never carded because of weather, and races that have come off the turf have become less attractive wagering opportunities. It's really had an impact on our business."

NYRA is also seeing a loss in handle that is result of a change in racing law approved by the state Legislature allowing unlimited simulcasting from tracks outside the state. Previously, there were strict limits in New York on how many competing simulcast signals could be shown on NYRA race days.

"We're really getting crushed on one category, intrastate, the handle in New York state, at OTBs, in particular," Nader said. "We're down about 13 percent."

The drop in intrastate handle is $9.1 million. Nader said that the OTBs are showing increases in their handle.

"But the problem is the money is being transferred from being bet on New York races to out-of-state races," he said. "At New York City OTB, for example, it's over 100 additional races a day more than it was last year. That's a lot of races. Them being down 13 percent really has been a cannibalization of our business, from that legislation."

In addition, late scratches, the cancellation of the third race on Sunday and two horses being declared non-starters has resulted in approximately $4 million being refunded to bettors, which is lost handle for NYRA.

997 Winning Pick Six Tickets
Nearly 1,000 bettors hit the Pick 6 Monday, which featured a two-day carryover of $435,385. With five of six favorites winning the races, there were 997 winning tickets worth $1,247.

At the mid-point of the six-week meeting, favorites are winning at 44 percent rate. There were six winning favorites on the nine-race program Monday.

The first dead heat of the meet came Monday when Paugus Bay and Hawley Lake hit the wire together for second in the second race.

Jockey Edgar Prado won three races Monday to give him 19 for the meeting. John Velazquez is the leading jockey with 33 winners, four more than Jerry Bailey.

Funny Cide Day
The Kentucky Derby (gr.I) and Preakness (gr.I) winner is scheduled to be schooled in the paddock at 11:30 a.m. Other than the time he spends on the track each day at 5:30 a.m., it will be the only time he can be seen by the public prior to the Travers (gr.I) on Aug. 23.

A free Funny Cide poster will be available with each paid admission, a race will be named in Funny Cide's honor and members of the Sackatoga Stable partnership will sign posters for a fee that will be donated to Anna House, the backstretch childcare facility at Belmont Park.

Trainer Barclay Tagg said Funny Cide galloped four times around the Clare Court training track Monday morning. Tagg said he would breeze the horse this week when the main track dries out.

Nacheezmo Undergoes Surgery
Nacheezmo, who ran fifth of six in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) on Aug. 3 had successful surgery to remove a chip from his left front knee, trainer Jim Bond said Monday.

Dr. Alan Nixon, on sabbatical as chief of surgery for Cornell University, performed the operation in Fairfield, Conn. late last week. The 3-year-old Carson City colt is likely done for the year.

"Knock on wood, he'll be back in four to six months," Bond said. "They say he's got a good prognosis. I always keep things guarded. He's a very, very gutsy horse. The good ones, they come back. They've got something about them. They've got that strength. Hopefully, he comes back."

Owned by Ted and Kim Johnson, Nacheezmo was vanned off the track following the Jim Dandy, where he pressed the pace under jockey Jorge Chavez in humid conditions. It wasn't until a few days after race that the injury was discovered.

"When he came back, I thought he was favoring ever so slightly his left front," Bond said. "Jorge got off not knowing what it was. He was very smart to jump off the colt. We quickly put some water on him just to make sure it wasn't anything else.

"He probably could have walked back to the barn pretty sound. We X-rayed him that night and really couldn't find a good reason. A lot of these types of injuries, when there is any kind of trauma the blood kind of rushes to that area and blocks it on video X-ray. Then after 24, 48 hours you get to see a little more than you want to see sometimes."

Nacheezmo is 3-2-1 in 10 career starts, with earnings of $128,360. He ran second by a neck to Jim Dandy winner Strong Hope in the Dwyer (gr. II) on July 6.