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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Talkin' Toga

With a lull in the racing schedule until Lava Man's comeback race next weekend, I thought I'd talk a little Toga....

One up, one down. Basically, that's the effect that the AGSC had on the graded status of stakes races for the Saratoga 2010 meet. It looks as though the Alfred G. Vanderbilt handicap has been upgraded to Grade I status. The six furlong sprint for 3yos and up, has been run since 1985, and lists the following notable champions: Fabulous Strike (2009), Diabolical (2007), Pomeroy (2005), Speightstown (2004 - race record time of 1:08.04), and Orientate (2002) to name a few. This seems to be a good decision on behalf of the committee and will add to the prestige of the race.

On the other hand, surprisingly (in this corner anyways) the Go For Wand Handicap was downgraded from Grade I status to Grade II by the Committee. Won by former Horse of The Year Azeri (owned by Bills owner Ralph Wilson) in 2004 and Ginger Punch in 2007 & 2008, this race was renamed for Go For Wand in 1992 (formerly known as the Maskette Stakes). Since 1994, the race for fillies & mares 3yos and up has been run at a distance of 9 furlongs. The list of race victors (going back to 1954) is a who's who of the ladies handicap division: Lady's Secret (twice), Go For Wand (1990), Tempted, Ballerina and Personal Ensign. It hasn't been the best of year's for Lady's Secret, I presume. So I'm a bit dumbfounded at the Committee's decision to downgrade this one. I'm curious to the reasoning behind this, so if anyone has any information or can point me to it, I'd be grateful.

I've been silent to the decision made a few months ago to expand the Toga meet to 40 days and I've had a few inquiries as to my thoughts. Selfishly, I'm not thrilled with it, because it moves opening day from a Wednesday to a Friday and will probably cause me to miss my first opener in five years. From the sport's perspective, more Saratoga is probably not a bad thing. I know a lot of you think it dilutes the racing product, but it may also give turf horses more opportunities to run in between thunderstorms in 2010 (even though only 28 of the 164 scheduled turf races were washed off the grass). So I'm 50/50 on the move to 40 days, but what's four days in the grand scheme of things?


The Turk said...

I just realized for the first time that opening day isn't a Wednesday. I'm offically bummed. I love opening Wednesday, it works very well for me and it just feels right. I was indifferent to the increase in days until now. Oh well, no one asks fans what they think anymore, and maybe they never ever did. Good stuff Geno.

Anonymous said...

Aqueduct North - sorry, "Saratoga" - has been so watered down, you could make the meet from June 1st to Sept. 30th, & not be able to evoke (or justify) a meaningful protest.

It's just Monmouth Park, with better restaurants & without the neighboring industrial & strip mall blight (for that, you have to venture north, to Glen Falls and Lake George).


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