The Spa Spot: Day 24 in the books
A few days into the second half of the 2012 season and the situation is changing. Favorites are winning. Consistently. Since the middle of Monday's card, favorites have won 16 of 27 races, a 59 percent clip. Counting all of the races for the three days, bettors settled on the winner 55 percent of the time.
Perhaps bettors are getting tuned in as horses run a second or a third time. The sample is big now. The first race on Friday will be the 250th of the meet.
During The Jockey Club Round Table on Sunday, a consultant from McKinsey & Company reminded attendees that his firm recommended a year ago that racing ought to reduce the number of races it stages. NYRA is going in the opposite direction this summer.
- Saratoga business was strong. On-track attendance was down one percent from last year to 18,258. The on-track handle of $2,916,699 was up eight percent and the total handle of $11,875,540 was ahead an impressive 18 percent.
- Some bettors complain about having steeplechase racing at Saratoga, but the races, which are only staged on Thursdays, often add some pizzazz to the program. In the first Thursday, Enchanted Circle fell on the ninth hurdle, but he and rider Neil Morris popped right up. The horse was vanned off and and was diagnosed with a nicked tendon in his right hind leg. Primero Peru was pulled up and vanned off in the second and found to be lame in his right front. In the second, steeplechase rider Kieran Norris turned in an amazing performance, one worthy of ESPN's Top 10, when he managed to stay aboard Cornhusker when the horse stumbled after clearing the final hurdle. Cornhusker was skidding along on his knees with Norris leaning forward and hugging the horse's neck. Somehow the horse managed to regain his footing and finished fourth.
- Trainer Jonathan Sheppard extended his personal winning streak at Saratoga to 46 years with a victory in the second race Thursday. That's remarkable. Lyndon Johnson was the president when Jean Cruguet rode Sheppard's first Spa winner, Brandon Hill, to a victory in a flat race on August 7, 1967.