It’s still too early to start a Derby list and the trail hasn’t started to heat up just yet, so we’ll share some random thoughts as we head into a relatively quiet weekend on the racing calendar.
-- The newly named NBC Sports Network (the network formerly known as Versus) seems to be taking the lead as the hockey and horse racing channel. After televising the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan last year, the network will pick up two Derby prep races in March. The Vinery Spiral Stakes (Mar. 24) and the Florida Derby (Mar. 31) will be televised on consecutive weekends. Sister station CNBC will televise the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby on April 14.
-- If you are a newbie to racing and are intimidated by the vast amounts of information and are unsure what to do once you arrive at the window, the Hello Race Fans site is for you. Devoted to educate the new fan and take the intimidation out of the picture, this website guides the newcomer to racing and teaches him/her how to wager, handicap and get the most out of a day at the races.
--A new group of racing bloggers, including yours truly, has formed and launched just before the Breeders Cup called Turf. It is made up of approximately 20 horse racing blogs that have joined together to promote racing. The group is made up blogs that specialize in a number of different categories including international racing (bloggers from Canada, France, Japan and Hong Kong are included), pedigree specialists, historians and handicappers. One Turf member is one of the best handicappers in the blogosphere, The Turk, who hails from right here in Western New York.
--Good luck to Clarence resident Kurt S. Preisigke, who has his ticket stamped for the $2 million National Handicapping Contest (NHC) to be held at Treasure Island in Las Vegas on Jan. 27 and 28. He is one of nearly 500 handicappers that qualified during the past year for a shot at the $1M first prize.
--ESPN reporter Jeannine Edwards was named the host of Monday evening’s Eclipse Awards at the Beverly Hills Wilshire. She is one of the bright spots on the screen and has covered racing since 1995. I’m looking forward to seeing how she does as the emcee of the annual thoroughbred awards show.
--The Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday in May, is only 112 days away. You can find the Wynn Las Vegas Future Book odds here.
--There’s a strong possibility that all three 2011 Triple Crown race winners could end up running at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 11. Derby winner Animal Kingdom is possible to make his turf debut in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. Both Preakness winner Shackleford and Ruler On Ice are slated to run in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, long the first big handicap dirt race on the calendar year in and year out.
--Buffalo Raceway opened its 70th racing season on Wednesday and will be running at the Hamburg oval Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through the length of the meet with weekday post time of 5 p.m. and 6:40 on Fridays and Saturdays. There will be Thursday night racing in April and May (5 p.m. post).