For close finishes, track keeps its end up

HORSE RACING

September 29, 1991|By MARTY MCGEE

Racing through a crowded field:

* If you stayed up to watch the finish of that crazy Jets-Bears game on Monday night, you were probably marveling at the finish. And you also may have heard an astonished Dan Dierdorf say: "No wonder the NFL has so many fans." If drama and bizarre endings are what it takes, it's a wonder racing doesn't have more.

* The best story of the racing year was M.C. Hammer -- until Lite Light was drubbed in two straight races. Nobody likes a loser.

* Florida has the next "renaissance" racing circuit. A dates compromise has been reached, allowing Hialeah to make its comeback, and the state's intertrack network is a gold mine in waiting.

* Why people in the East love to knock Pat Day has totally escaped me.

* Recently released figures that show a steady decline in thoroughbred production mean the squeezing out of racing's little guy is well under way. (The 1992 registered foal crop in North America is expected to be less than 40,000, the first time since 1981 it was so low.) As many people already have TC predicted, there will be fewer racetracks and more simulcasting.

* Anybody who says New York racing is on a par with California just hasn't been paying attention.

* This summer, someone lost a $10,000 show bet (to net $500) on Salt Lake in the Hopeful Stakes simulcast to Laurel. Several weeks later, someone lost a $10,000 show bet on Salt Lake in the Futurity Stakes simulcast to Philadelphia Park. Please tell me it wasn't the same person. Please.

* When D. Wayne Lukas wraps up his ninth straight training title at the end of this year, it will not qualify as news. The man literally has too many horses.

* Quote frequently heard from Maryland horsemen: "Bowie's track is better to train over than Pimlico or Laurel."

* The definitive distance for speed and stamina in a top horse might be as short as a mile.

* King Leatherbury's eye-opening statistics at the current Pimlico meet, through Friday: 54 starts, three winners, 13 in the money. "My operation has changed a lot from claiming to breeding," said Leatherbury, whose 15-year reign as Maryland's winningest trainer likely will be ended this year by Dale Capuano. "I've made some bad claims in the meantime, and my owners and I bred some bad horses. It had me pretty down there for a while, but hopefully I'll be bouncing back real soon."

* Look for a record Breeders' Cup crowd at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. McGee's over-under line: 84,772.

* The idea of a racing "czar," or a figurehead who could act in a cohesive manner to solve racing's ills, is a noble one, but probably impractical. There are simply too many egos to please and too many sovereignties to meld.

* Calumet Farm's going bankrupt was the lowest of the lows for the breeding industry. Nowhere to go now but up. Hopefully.

* For many Maryland horseplayers, the Double Triple carry-over can not grow big enough for them to bet serious money into it. To them, the Pick Six -- or virtually any other new exotic wager -- would be infinitely more attractive.

* Prediction: Ron McAnally gets voted the 1991 Eclipse Award for top trainer, beating Lukas.

* The most critical issue for Maryland racing in 1992 is one that will be dealt with early in the year. That's when an off-track-betting bill will come before the General Assembly.

* Five years from now, when Laffit Pincay, Angel Cordero, Craig Perret, Chris McCarron and Eddie Delahoussaye are that much older, Kent Desormeaux will be that much more of a standout.

* Pity us poor Eclipse voters if In Excess and Tight Spot lose on Breeders' Cup day. Who then for Horse of the Year? Farma Way? Hansel? Housebuster? Free Spirit's Joy?

* Egalitar, a $2,500 claimer, was beaten by a half-length for the win in the eighth race at Penn National last Sunday. He finished seventh.

* Tom Durkin, voice of the New York Racing Association and the Breeders' Cup, will be known as the greatest race-caller ever by the time his career is over.

* If the Laurel Futurity and/or Selima Stakes come up weak races this year, they could be in danger of losing their graded status. The races went from Grade I to Grade III several years ago, and their purses were dropped from $300,000 to $200,000 this year. Is a pattern developing?

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