The proprietors of Saratoga Race Course in its earliest years wanted to honor William Cottrell of Mobile, Alabama by naming a race for 3-year-old fillies after him. The English-born Cottrell was a prominent owner and breeder of his day, and his Buchanan won the 1884 Kentucky Derby. The self-effacing Cottrell requested the race be named after his adopted home state of Alabama instead of him. In 1872, the inaugural Alabama was won by August Belmont’s Woodbine. Today, the Grade 1 Alabama is the third leg of the New York Triple Tiara, the first two legs being the Acorn Stakes and the Coaching Club American Oaks.

Saturday, August 17, 2019, is the 139th edition, as the race was not run on nine occasions in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The prestigious race is contested at a distance of 1 ¼ miles on dirt. The undercard includes the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Lake Placid on turf for 3-year-old fillies and the Smart N Fancy, a 5 ½ furlong turf race for fillies and mares 3 years old and up. A TVG Promo Code offers incentives to wager.

The leading contenders for the $600,000 Alabama are: Dunbar Road, winner of the Mother Goose Stakes on June 29th; Lady Apple, third in the Kentucky Oaks and first in the Iowa Oaks; and Point of Honor, second in the Coaching Club American Oaks and first in the Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico.

Dunbar Road, the lightly raced daughter of Quality Road, has a career record of three wins in fours starts and was impressive in the Mother Goose by closing to win by 2 ½ lengths.

Point of Honor is well suited for the 10 furlongs, being by Curlin out of a Bernardini mare. Her second-place finish in the Coaching Club American Oaks was to her stablemate Guarana, who will likely start next in the Grade 1 Cotillion at PARX on September 21st.

Once the Alabama is in the books, fans can quickly turn their attention Saturday to Del Mar in southern California, where the TVG Pacific Classic will be contested on dirt at 1 ¼ miles. Del Mar’s preeminent race is for 3 year olds and up.

In addition to the Pacific Classic, Del Mar has carded four graded stakes, making Saturday’s program worth over $2 million: the $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks; the $250,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap; the $100,000 Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes; and the $100,000 Grade III Green Flash Handicap.

Barring a scratch, ten horses will contest the $1 million Pacific Classic. The favorites are likely to be California-based Pavel and Kentucky-shippers Seeking the Soul and Quip.

Pavel has raced against some of the best racehorses in the world and in some of the world’s richest races, though he did not finish in the top three spots in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Champions Cup in Japan, or the Dubai World Cup. Seeking the Soul and Quip finished first and second in the closely contested June 15th Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. Seeking the Soul’s achievements include second-place finishes in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs and in the Pegasus World Cup in January 2019 at Gulfstream Park. The horse that beat him in both races, City of Light, is now retired.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


While on a recent leisure trip to Ocean City, Maryland, I visited nearby Ocean Downs harness track in Berlin, a city that was once home to the renowned Thoroughbred breeding farm Glen Riddle, owned by industrialist Samuel D. Riddle (1861-1951). Today, the farm is the site of a housing development and Glen Riddle Golf Course, which consists of two 18-hole courses, a public course named for Man O’ War and a private course named for War Admiral, Samuel Riddle’s famous racehorses.

The past performances in a pacing race at Ocean Downs were eye-catching. The number of lifetime starts for the eight fillies and mares were as follows: 73, 18, 105, 294, 200, 135, 99, and 157. These numbers demonstrate durability and longevity on the racetrack and, additionally, every one of the eight entries are still turning in times below two-minute miles on a half-mile racetrack.

The average number of starts per year for a North American Standardbred is about 17 times, or every 21.5 days, compared to 6.2 starts and 58.9 days for Thoroughbreds. Approximately three weeks vs. two months between races.

In the 2019 Kentucky Derby the average number of starts for the twenty 3-year-olds was 5 with a range of 4 to 8. By contrast, in last Saturday’s Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters, the average number of starts for the sixteen entries in the two elimination heats was 13.4 with a range of 8 to 21. Since the Kentucky Derby was run three months earlier than the Hambletonian, a slight adjustment would have to be made for the time disparity, but even so the trotters still had well over twice the number of starts as the Thoroughbreds.

Significantly, unlike the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, the Hambletonian prohibited Lasix.

Due to the spate of horse fatalities at Santa Anita in late 2018 and into 2019, horse racing has come under intense public scrutiny and withering criticism. Unfortunately for harness racing, it is included under the generic label “horse racing” even though it does not have the same fragility issues as flat racing.

Because the average number of fatalities per 1,000 starts are recorded and made public for flat racing in North America but not for harness racing, it is not possible to directly demonstrate that the average number of fatalities per 1,000 starts for harness racing is a small fraction of the average number of fatalities per 1,000 starts for flat racing. However, the number of starts per year for Standardbreds vs. Thoroughbreds–and the average age of trotters and pacers in races vs. Thoroughbreds in races–suggest that the Standardbred fatality rate is much lower.

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Ancient Romans referred to the sultry days of summer as dog days; they associated hot and humid with the “Dog Star” Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation. While July and August in the United States can be sweltering, ardent fans of horse racing see the two months as a time to delight in the best array of races of the entire year.

The main attractions are east and west, at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York and Del Mar near San Diego, California. Daily cards at these venerable tracks offer bettors (as well as people who just want to watch) one competitive race after another to wager on. To illustrate, The Whitney last Saturday at Saratoga set a record for the amount of money wagered and the winner of the race, 4-year-old McKinsey, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, became the early favorite in the Breeders’ Cup entries for the Classic at Santa Anita on November 1st and 2nd.

The winner of the Travers, the “Mid-Summer” Derby, at Saratoga on August 24, 2019, will also be likely to be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Omaha Beach, the 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched after suffering an entrapped epiglottis, is reportedly training sensationally for the August 25th Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar. If the colt stays healthy, he will join the cast of serious contenders in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Saratoga and Del Mar get most of the attention, but other racetracks have some premier events–notably, the Haskell at Monmouth Park and the Arlington Million at Arlington Park in Chicago. The Grade 3 “summer” derbies in Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and West Virginia make for some interesting match-ups. Mr. Money easily won the West Virginia Derby Saturday for his fourth-straight Grade 3 win, and appears capable of moving up to Grade 1 company.

Monmouth Park on the New Jersey shore in Oceanport has been around almost as long as Saratoga Race Course and offers racing fans a welcoming summer ambiance and competitive races to watch and bet on. Monmouth Park’s long and storied history dates back to July 30, 1870, when the track opened. In its early days, Monmouth had such high-quality racing that it was known informally as the “Newmarket of America,” which was a reference to the renowned original home of horse racing in England, Newmarket Race Course. Over the years, Monmouth Park experienced financial ups and downs and today is operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which purchased the track in 1986.

In addition to Del Mar and Saratoga, far less publicized racetracks in cities throughout the USA are places for fans to spend a relaxing hot and humid day or night while non-racing fans are left to complain about the Dog Days of Summer.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business