NICK’S PICKS, THURSDAY, JUNE 9TH AT COLONIAL DOWNS

LARGE FIELDS IN THE WOODED ARENA
I have a feeling that my top win percentage is about to drop off, but that’s fine.  My payouts on winners are about to improve.  Colonial’s full fields are back loaded with 14 horses fields.  Eleven of Colonial’s first 16 races on the turf are scheduled with 14-horse fields.  Only one  turf race has less than ten.

“The more full your barn area is, the better your shot of full fields,” Tyler Picklesimer, Colonial’s Racing Secretary said about maintaining full fields over the duration of the meet. (See the Backstretch for more on Picklesimer.)   As of Tuesday morning, Picklesimer said that the number of thoroughbreds on the backstretch numbered 600 or so.  On Saturday he expects the stalls to be completely full.  The pentup layoff between Pimlico’s closing day and opening day here also helps with the field size.

Earlier this year, the Virginia Racing Commission wrestled with maintaining a 40 day schedule with a reduction of overnight purses adjusted for whatever purse money that was available.  Instead, the commission approved a joint request by the horsemen and Colonial for 33 days with an increase of average daily purses by around 7%.  If the rest of the meet is similar to the first two racing days, the decision could not be more satisfying despite the eventual run on aspirin out in my medicine cabinet-a result caused by attempts to separate these fields.  As for the payouts, well…”No pain, no gain.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.” – Mark Twain

MAKING RACING HAPPEN….
…is Tyler Picklesimer, the racing secretary at Colonial Downs.  In his 4th season, the northern Kentucky native is charged with “anything racing” at Colonial.   Upon arriving each summer at his Diascund Reservior rental, he fishes in his landlord’s john boat and walks nearby Civil War battlefields to utilize his minor in history.  (He got lost at Seven Pines.)  He got his first racing job at Turfway Park filling in when a worker went on maternity leave.

RACING OF YORE VIRGINIA
Located in Upperville, Virginia is Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stables, one of Virginia’s most successful breeding farms.   Rokeby’s 4,000 or so acres was established in the 1940s by Mellon who purchased his first racehorse in 1933.  The stone fences that are lined and topped with timbers are a signature of Rokeby.  The estate even had its own private airstrip.  Mellon passed away in 1999.  Mellon is believed to be the only owner to capture the Kentucky Derby (Sea Hero ’93), Epsom Derby (Mill Reef ’71) and Prix de l’Arch de Triomphe (also Mill Reef ’71).  A statue of Mill Reef stands in the center of the courtyard of the broodmare barns.  Rokeby bred Key to the Mint, Quadrangle, Arts and Letters and Fort Marcy, who became back to back Horse of the Year winners in ’69 and ’70.  Over a thousand stakes winners came out of Rokeby to earn in excess of $30 million in yesterday’s dollars. 
KNICKERING NICK’S
EXOTIC PLAY OF THE DAY
RACE 6
$1 PIC3
6,9,14 w/5,8,12 w/1,5,11
Cost $27