From the NYTHA Newsletter
For What It’s Worth - Bob Fox
The ‘Fab Four’ of Saratoga
Independent clockers offer opinions that extend beyond workout times
Every day during the 2003 Saratoga
meeting four independent clockers were on hand early each morning to watch
the horses train. In the afternoon they were at the track making a few wise
bets, working hard to stay ahead of the game. I call them the “Fab Four”
because they are all intelligent horsemen who know what is happening on the
New York circuit as well as elsewhere in the racing world. They also have
strong opinions about important issues impacting racing.
Joe Petrucione is former trainer who was responsible for
the development of former Whitney winner Brunswick as well as many other
successful runners, including Crafty Prospector. He was also involved in
Crafty Prospector’s success at stud, utilizing the Hirsch Jacobs philosophy
on how to make a stallion.
Joe has had his ears open at all times during his more
than 40 years around the track. Joe P., as he is called, evaluates the
health and condition of horses and is also busy in the afternoon doing more
of the same. He is in contact with Bobby Frankel, Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito,
Randy Schulhofer and others regarding the horses they train.
Joe has strong opinions on the scale of weights and the
weight put on 2-year-olds. For example, he points out that on Aug. 2 and
Aug. 3 at Saratoga, there were 2-year-old maiden filly and colt races at 6
furlongs where each horse carried 119 pounds. On Aug. 2 in the Grade II
Amsterdam Stakes for 3-year-olds contested at 6 furlongs, multiple stakes
winner Zavata also carried 119 pounds in winning impressively by more than 5
lengths. He points out that 2-year-old racing sees horses competing in their
young, formative stage of development, and the difference between 119 pounds
for a 2-year-old and 119 pounds is nothing but a senseless compounding of
impact on young bones. This is just another ingredient that adds to the
price exacted on our young runners.
I will add my own comments here. Medaglia d’Oro carried
123 to victory in the Whitney. Volponi, the winner of last year’s Breeders’
Cup Classic, carried 120 pounds in that race. 2002 Kentucky Derby runner-up
Proud Citizen toted 114 pounds. Is there something wrong with this picture ?
There needs to be major revisions in American handicap racing. True handicap
racing with fairly assigned high-weighted horses provides a dimension of
excitment for racing fans. Once upon a time, more than 50,000 fans came out
to see Dr. Fager carry 139 pounds to victory in the Vosburgh Handicap. I
remember the excitement when the mighty Forego carrying 138 pounds ran down
Honest Pleasure in that remarkable Marlboro Cup. And how about Ta Wee
getting home under 142 pounds in the Interborough.
Marty Katz was a clocker for the Daily Racing Form for
nearly 30 years. Marty can clock the workouts of virtually any number of
horses simultaneously. He is intent on seeing the next horse who breaks his
stop watch. He wants to be there when the the next Seattle Slew debuts.
These days he uses his personal information to assist some trainers in their
After many decades of watching the morning and afternoon
activities of the racetrack, Marty feels we must do more for the fans. He is
not a big fan of expensive hot dogs, soft drinks, coffee and such. He feels
that with everything done by competitive gambling places such as casinos,
like bettor rebates and complimentary beverages and discounts, the racing
world needs to keep up with the times. He feels the bettors are the life
blood of our business, and the money wagered on horse races drives the
entire game. One can only agree.
Leon Blusiewicz, a/k/a “Blue,” is a former trainer and a
superb horsemen. He conditioned Eclipse Award champion Ambassador of Luck as
well as the wonderful runners Willa on the Move, Snow Plow and Skipat. Leon
has great skill at finding bargains at yearling sales in addition to his
excellent general horsemanship. His excellent work ethic over his more than
40 years at the track makes it easy for him to get up early each day and do
his clocking and observing as a senior member of the “Fab Four.”
He points out that there is a fund for disabled jockeys,
but nothing like that exists for the trainers. It would seem that many
trainers come on hard times late in life, and Leon hates to see his comrades
go out of this world broke. He wants something for these important members
of our community, and I am going to carry his message to the next NYTHA
board of directors meeting. I have been informed by Bob Flynn that this item
is already on the agenda.
Bob Williams is the newcomer to the group. He has a
college degree in architecture and has been around the track for only about
15 years. He has spent the last five years with the group, learning the
ropes as he calls it. Bob feels that on-site condition evaluation is the
most important aspect of handicapping and gives the bettor an edge.
Bob speaks highly of the current NYRA administration. He
likes that Terry Meyocks keeps an open-door policy. We all know Terry
believes fans are made one at a time, and NYRA’s policy of fighting for
takeout reduction and bigger purses is an excellent policy. He adds that the
concept of doing the right thing for the horsemen and fans will only benefit
racing in the short and long run.
The “Fab Four” have more than a century and a quarter of
practical knowledge combined. So let me invite you to one day come out early
and shake hands with this group. You might just learn something.