The Big A Ain't What It Used to Be
Thursday, February 24, 2022

    Growing up on Long Island, with Belmont Park 15 minutes to the north and Aqueduct 20 to the west, I always spent December, January and February in a constant state of dismay, along with my Hofstra friends and track buddies, waiting for the Big A to re-open in March.

    We were living in the era of Bold Ruler, Bald Eagle, Northern Dancer, Bally Ache, Dr. Fager, Damascus, Buckpasser, Kelso and so many more of the great equines of the sport. Equines who were saddled by Allen Jerkens, John Nerud, Hirsch Jacobs, Woody Stephens, Sunny Jim, Johnny Campo, Lucien Laurin, Frankie Merrill, Eddie Neloy and so many more of the great trainers of the sport. 

    New York racing was the king - and we were fortunate to be able to be involved - as spectators and small-time bettors.

    I wonder now how many of us would still be feeling the winter pangs considering the current snowy state of New York racing. Looking at the Equibase charts these days without knowing what track was in operation, and blacking out the purses, might make one wonder if they were perusing Fairmount Park or Delta Downs.

    Take last Saturday as an example. Here's a breakdown of the nine-race card at Aqueduct:

1 - 8 entered, 6 ran.

2 - 7 entered, all ran.

3 - 5 entered, all ran.

4 - 8 entered, 7 ran.

5 - 8 entered, all ran.

6 - 7 entered, 6 ran.

7 - 8 entered, 6 ran.

8 - Hollie Hughes Stakes ($100,000) - 6 entered, 5 ran.

9 - 9 entered, including an entry, all ran.

Total: 66 entered, 59 ran. Average per race: 6.5. Purses - $469,000.

    Compare that to Gulfstream the same day: 104 entered for 11 races, 96 ran. Average per race: 8.0. Purses - $530,000.

    Gulfstream's jockeys included New Yorkers Irad Ortiz Jr, brother Jose, Paco Lopez, Javier Castellano, Tyler Gaffalione.

    Aqueduct's roster included Erick Fuentes, Andy Fernandez, Oscar Gomez, Steven Fret and Gary Richards. I'm not knocking any

of them, but it's not exactly like Angel Cordero, Jorge Velasquez, Jacinto Vasquez, Ted Atkinson, Bobby Ussery and Bill Hartack.

    Looking at the empty grandstand is understandable - there's snow all over the place. But you have to wonder how many bodies are inside keeping warm, waiting for March.

   Of course, the owners and trainers who have defied the elements and are winning $80,000 allowance races can't be among those complaining. 




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