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17 February 2009

PJ Campo Gives Us Real Change

This years Aqueduct condition book is an ever changing beast. Back in the reign of former racing secretary Mike Lakow days you had your stakes, open allowance, claimers, NY breds, Maiden Specials and maiden claimer. While these race conditions were traditional they did not reflect the horse population and the needs to fill racecards. At the very end of Lakow's tenure there were so many short fields of open allowance races with a 1-2 favorite or New York bred allowances filled to the gills. If an owners horse did not fit these conditions that horse was shipping to Philly park for class relief or spending the year with one up the track finish after another.

The current racing secretary PJ Campo has been creative and resourceful. Campo has been given a bushel of lemons and has crafted lemonade. Not only did he stop writing races that did not fill but he has introduced many new conditions; non winners of a race in six months or non winners of 4 life time or non winners of three life time or four year old. While there may not be the same amount of classy short field races, the field size and the competitive nature of the racing has improved.

Campo's primary tool to fill races for winners is a non-winner of three lifetime or 4 year old beaten claimer race. Another popular condition is the non-winner of a race in the last six months condition. It seems like these new conditions are have been very popular at the draw and are carded as full fields. Campo writes them for tag from $7.5K all the way up to $35K. For the horseplayer they are very interesting puzzles, with so many class droppers, multiple winners in for the four year old condition or class risers. A horseplayer with a little bit of knowledge can get an edge and stay ahead of the masses as these new conditions are introduced. These new conditions are for the benefit of the whole racing community. These new conditions have increased the value of the young horses on the grounds. This helps out everyone for the owners all the way down to the grooms. If an owners takes on a two year old he can be confident that there will be many places to run for at least the first two years in New York. I see the claiming box has been lively with many active barns claiming horses. There are many places to run and this creates excitement and competition. Horses have been shipping in and trainers like Scott Lake have returned with a barn full of claimers.

Another positive trend is that races have not been written as much for the strait New York bred allowances. This is a good thing. Variety has been introduced into the New York bred program. Comparatively the purses for the New York bred allowance were a gross overpayment for the quality of the horses running in the races. Many horses ran in these races because there wasn't anywhere else to run. Campo's fix for inequity and lack of conditions is the strait New York bred claimer. First Campo introduced the New York bred maiden claimer and now he has added a strait claimer for New York Breds. Why should horses run up the track for a $44K purse when their skill set is more reflective of a $20K purse? Campo is providing the conditions that reflect the horse population.

Not only were horsemen limited in there options but horseplayers were bored. These New York bred allowances were mundane non-competitive races. When the greatest profits lie in having your horse to run second and third time after time so the horse could keep the New York bred condition it makes for a poor product. If your New York bred was non-competitive in the New York bred allowances there was no where to drop in class. Once your horse graduated from the New york bred N2X allowance the step up to open allowance or open claimers was too much. s. Now NYRA has those conditions so horse owners can pay the bills and the horseplayers have intricate puzzles to pick apart. With so many new conditions the racing's competitive nature has improved.

With all of these changes, the Aqueduct Inner program has become one of the best winter meets in the country. Combine the varied racing conditions, full fields and the new wagering menu and this is a potentially profitable meet to follow. Surely quality on the top end is not up to par with the sunbelt meets but what it lacks in quality it makes up for in depth. Surely the choice of NYRA has the New York racing operator has been validated as the right choice. Aqueduct Inner along with Tampa may be the most improved winter racing products of this decade.


Steve Zorn said...

I generally agree that PJ has crafted a much better range of races, but, as an owner, I have two major criticisms:

First, he's writing way too many extras on the overnight -- usually 10-12 a day. That means that only a minority of the races in the condition book actually get used. That makes it pretty hard to plan the training for a horse in your barn, since you don't know when that horse will be able to race.

Second, by effectively eliminating the straight NY-bred N2X allowance and replacing it with an optional claimer, he's made it almost impossible for a NY-bred to break through that condition. For example, I have a decent N-bred, Bagavond, who runs Beyers in the mid 80s. Normally he would go through the N2X condition, but he was repeatedly beaten last season by horses who were running for claiming tags and who'd already won that race half a dozen times. In the end, we settled for an N3L claiming win, but with a lot lower purse.

Anonymous said...

The variety is great, but as an owner I agree wholeheartedly about the extras. The other day he had 15 EXTRA races and used seven.

The book has to mean something, it is tough enough to train in the winter but not being able to plan a race makes it impossible.

It is driving the trainers crazy but they are afraid to complain because they need PJ to give them stall comes spring.

As for the nx2x NYB condition, it would seem that writing the occasional straight condition without the optional claimer would be appropriate, especially now that they are writing straight restricted claimers.

In fact, I would give preference in all optional claimers to horses that actually fit the condition, those buying in with the tag should get in only if the race does not fill without them.

Just a few suggestions from an owners point of view, I agree the new conditions have made wagering more interesting, and that is truly the racing secretaries job.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree more. His condition book is worthless. It essentially has ruined claiming races by having too many spots, and running purses that are too high for the claiming price. The optional claimers are stupid, and they have ruined the 2x state bred races, like others have mentioned. He has 100 extras a day so it's impossible to point for a race. Here's hoping that he fixes this mess before the slot money comes, if it ever does.