WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?

VIRGINIA DERBY: By all accounts the Virginia Derby was a success. I’m relying on those accounts because I wasn’t there. Like a lot of things in life, it wasn’t supposed to turn out that way.

My original plan – which seemed valid at the time – was to take my entire family. My kids, 7 and 10, have been to the races, but not to Colonial Downs. Just writing that is a little embarrassing. So the plan was to take them on Saturday. We figured the normal two hour trip from Warrenton would take three hours, and we planned to time it so we would be there for about three and one-half hours before we traipsed back up the various interstates home.

A variety of delays ensued with each member of family contributing. As VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo likes to call it – the circular firing squad. When everybody finally got organized, we were looking at a 2pm departure. Now on a normal day, that’s OK. Two hours down to New Kent and we get there in plenty of time to see the Kitten’s Joy, the Virginia Oaks and the Derby – no problem.

But this was no normal day, it’s a Saturday in July on two of the absolute worse weekend traffic corridors in the state – I95 and I64. A few calls were made, a few horror stories about 45 minute trips from Richmond taking 2.25 hours and we decided to embrace the concept of TVG. Apparently even the alternate routes like US60 were backed up…When it gets to the point that you might actually miss the 6pm feature while you’re sitting in your car on the interstate some 95 miles from home, it’s time to bail out.

It looked like a beautiful day at the track and we were surprised to hear that turf course was soft from rain on Friday night. TVG did an OK job of covering the race, but the nature of their product always leads to a herky-jeryky production as they constantly jump from track to track. Considering my alternative, I can’t really complain.

THE EXACTA: The only upside of not being at Colonial Downs Saturday, is today I’m not kicking myself for not hitting the easiest $51 exacta in the history of horse racing. The first two finishers in the $500,000 “prep” race return to the same track to race again and the wagering public makes a horse who has never raced on the turf the 6/5 favorite. Go figure.

If Rachel Alexandra skips the race and Mine That Bird and Pioneerof The Nile run back one-two in the Preakness, the exacta pays $15.

Mind you the favorite was a graded stakes winner on the dirt and is trained by a Hall of Famer with three Virginia Derbies to his credit, and, yes, the Derby is a bit longer than the Turf Cup, but $51? Really?

Then there’s the Superfecta…the same four horses that ran one-two-three-four in the Turf Cup ran one-two-four-three in the Derby paying $838 for a one dollar wager. That makes the very popular ten cent version of that wager worth $83…

Maybe we should have toughed out that traffic after all…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Do you know what Churchill Downs does the day after the Kentucky Derby? Nothing. There closed.

The day after a big event at a racetrack is always a drag…everybody’s tired, the crowd is small, it’s the worst case of “daily grind” in a business already impacted by the daily grind.

Why not take the day off on the Sunday after the Virginia Derby? On Sunday, 1,100 folks showed up and wagered a whopping $75,000 on a very mundane race card. That’s not that far off for a Sunday — the one previous drew 1,300 and about the same amount of handle. But to make the point, the 4th of July this year was on a Saturday and the day after only 646 people showed up.

Sunday: day of rest – take it literally one time during the meet.

SIMPLY DEPRESSING: OK, we understand that newspapers are having a tough time with the economy and the 24 hour news cycle fueled by the Internet…So we understand when papers cut staff and that means less coverage for horse racing.

But, Sunday’s Washington Post was a little hard to swallow. The Virginia Derby was covered in the News & Notes section – at the end under MISC. Above it were stories of incredible importance, and yes, I’m being sarcastic. How about three-meter synchronized diving (hey, it was the world championships), Marquis Daniels agreed to be traded from the Pacers to the Celtics and the United States beat Canada 15-0 in the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City.

No, I’m not kidding. As they used to say back in the days when everything was in the newspaper – “you could look it up…”