Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Random Claiming Crown Thoughts

It was unquestionably an outstanding day of racing at Canterbury Park. The races were competitive, the crowd was large and enthusiastic and Minnesota hospitality was well showcased. Some of my own musings from the big day:

- First of all, a HUGE thank you to Jeff Maday, media relations chief at Canterbury Park who got me credentialed and allowed me a spot in the press box to blog live all day from the event. We had a great deli lunch, a super set up and were very well hosted by Jeff and his staff - Bonnie and Justin were both fabulous.

- The pre-racing banter in the press box from the likes of Steve Davidowitz, Marty McGee, Steve Fierro and others made my day. Listening to the angles and reasoning for picks as they floated selections on the upcoming card was worth the price of admission. Well, it WOULD have been worth the price of admission if there were an admission charge. Davidowitz's book, "Betting Thoroughbreds" was one of the first books I ever read on racing. Unfortunately I reverted back to my high school football mentality: being the new guy I was to be seen and not heard. Instead of 'acting like I'd been there', I should have embraced my newness and not been uncomfortable approaching the legends. I especially lamented not taking this course of action when my stable mate at the end of the row, Steve Fierro, ended up being a tremendously personable and approachable guy.

- While maybe not a Steve Davidowitz as far as fame goes, it was an absolute highlight to my day meeting the lovely and engaging Quinella Queen as well as her equally charming King, Kevin. A lot of great horse and life discussions prior to racing. I'm glad that they made the trip out to our little corner of heaven and I hope to reciprocate next time I'm through Iowa.

- The access to information in the press box is really invaluable. Handle stats, attendance numbers, how the day is moving along as it is viewed by track management was all great information to have. It's not that this information is proprietary, it's just getting it earlier than normal was great to relay to folks tuning in.

- The quality of the racing stock was stellar and this reflects directly on the trainers and their teams in the Crown races. Most of the men and women whose names appear on the training line of the program are not household names. They don't spend their days gearing up for yet another graded stakes race or dealing with the media. They train average racehorses and try and make a living in the toughest racing ranks out there: the every day claimers. And these horses looked fabulous! Many remarks were uttered throughout the racing plant on how good the horses looked and how well behaved they were in front of a large and loud crowd. Again this all speaks toward the high level of training prowess among the folks that work with these every day heroes and may never see the quality of racing stock of an Asmussen, Dutrow or Pletcher.

- Though our local jocks may not have won any of the Crown races, they did pretty well holding their own against the big boys. Within a few of the races there were moves from Derek Bell, Ry Eikelberry and others that had had a direct bearing on the outcome of the race and improved their own chances of finishing in the money. Still, watching Russell Baze, Julien Leparoux, Jamie Theriot and Robby Albarado was a privilege. Theriot's ride and his work down the stretch aboard Antrim County was a particular joy to behold and a racing highlight of the day.

- I was able to do far less color than I originally had hoped. While I was able to get some crowd reactions and a feel for the day early on, once the Crown races began it was tough to get downstairs and get some mingling done. I wish I could have done more of this with some photos as it was a great crowd and a little more color from them would have improved the look and feel of the notes on the day.

So was the day for yours truly a success? I guess there are a couple of ways I can measure what success is. I'll be tackling the picking winners part of success tomorrow when I review all the picks for the races I made, what bets I may have changed near post time and how that worked out.

I was a bit disappointed that Bernell Rhone couldn't get a winner with Couple Whiles, that Emerald Bay Stables (and friend Jack Holstrom) couldn't get a win with Pursue A Dream or Spider Power, that Ready's Rocket (and friend Gary Porter) couldn't cross the line first or that one of our local jockeys couldn't boot home a winner in the Crown. While these weren't necessarily unexpected events, I was still rooting for them.

As far as the live blogging went, my hope was that average traffic would increase by a multiple of four for the day. It ended up being six. Twenty five states were represented in the traffic numbers as well as literally a geographic spread sea to sea and border to border. Six countries were also represented. There were some nice e-mails from folks as well as some instant and continuous feedback via Twitter. Thanks goes out to fellow Internet denizens Green But Game, The Aspiring Horseplayer and Raceday360 for helping to get the word out. So while I consider the live blogging a success, I think I can do a bit better now that I have a feel for how to get around more and what I can add to jazz up the coverage.

Finally, my thanks to all of you that click in here from time to time and especially those of you that tried me out for the first time for the Claiming Crown. I hope you realized two things: this guy ain't half bad and; boy they really have a nice place there at Canterbury Park!

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