By Gene Kershner
Special to The News
When minor league baseball players are elevated to the big leagues, a common phrase uttered in locker rooms from veteran ballplayers to the up and coming rookie is “Welcome to the show, rook.”
I have that feeling as I enter into the Sports, Ink blog to start reporting on horse racing as a special correspondent for The News. I was a long-time reader and admirer of the late Happy Handicapper, Bob Summers, who set the bar very high for many years until his untimely death in September. No one can replace a legendary writer who was beloved not only in his hometown Buffalo but in racetrack press boxes across the country. I will try my best to keep the sport of horse racing, which affects so many in Western New York in one way or another, active and relevant on the pages of The News.
I will try and bring a fresh perspective and consistency to the assignment by featuring a weekly blog post every Friday here on topics including the race of the week, Derby watch lists during the prep season, local harness happenings, and mid-year and year-end report cards on the horse racing industry as a whole.
In a future post, I also have plans to introduce several elements of social media highlighting interesting handicapping tips or track information that are available to you as a horseplayer or fan. My Web site, EquiSpace, unveiled in April 2008, is 100 percent devoted to horse racing. It was a springboard to opportunities such as writing for the industry trade Web site Bloodhorse.com and covering the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
This is an exciting time to start this new endeavor with the 27th running of the Breeders’ Cup slated for Churchill Downs next week and I look forward to sharing my insights with you on the key races over the two-day championships. Here are some news and notes of current interest.
Breeders’ Cup notes
• 184 horses were pre-entered for the Breeders’ Cup on Monday and the past performances were released on Wednesday.
• The Breeders’ Cup wagering menu is full of options, including the introduction of 50-cent Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagering, as well as 10-cent superfectas. In addition, a special wager will be offered on the jockey who has the most wins in the 14 Breeders' Cup Championships races over the two-day event.
• First post on Friday for a Breeders’ Cup race is 4:10 p.m. EST and on Saturday at 1:50 p.m. The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is scheduled to go off at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday evening under the lights.
• Attendance figures during the last four Breeders’ Cups held during one day events in the past include: 2006 - 75,132; 2000 - 76,043; 1998 - 80,452 and 1994 - 62,597. Event organizers are hoping for attendance exceeding 150,000 for the two days.
• This year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, was retired Thursday to WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky. A stud fee has yet to be determined for the Classic winning colt who gave trainer Todd Pletcher his first ever Derby victory.
• Be sure to tune in to “60 Minutes” on CBS Sunday evening as the feature piece is on the undefeated mare Zenyatta who is seeking to duplicate the Breeders’ Cup Classic victory she earned last year at Santa Anita Park.