March 1 is the day nominations are due for the George Morton Levy Memorial Series ($1.5 million estimated total) and the Blue Chip Matchmaker.Pacing Series (estimated $1 million total) at Yonkers Raceway. What is so special about these races? They happen to be ideal the model for the late closing series. At one time, late closing events used to last longer but then have gotten shorter with only two weeks of preliminaries and then the final. It is just a question of who is hot at the moment.
Now these two series at Yonkers are not today's late closing events; they are a throw back to the old late closing series. For five weeks, there are preliminaries and instead of dollars earned, it is the number of points which determines the horses who get into the race final. Since the series is five weeks long, the chance of the hot horse winning is reduced; it becomes a case of the best overall performers making the final. Of course entering the series (we will talk about the Levy), is not an inexpensive process as there is a $5,000 entry fee which gets added to the final. $5,000 is no small entry fee for a late closer.
The beauty of this series is for each of the five weeks, each preliminary in the series goes for $50,000; not divided. That means is if there are forty horses in the entry box, there will be five races worth $50,000 each weekly. For horsemen, if their horses are up to it have five weeks to earn a significant amount of money and if you make it to the final, you can really cash in.
What makes this event even more unique is how they decide who gets to race in the final. They use points, not money earned. Not just points earned for the top five positions (50, 25, 12, 8, and 5 points), but also 25 points for just starting in the race. You can't just win a race and take it easy or ship to another track; unless you win three or four legs of the series, you need to race each week because horses earn points just for racing. Hence the first place horse in their preliminary earns 75 points, but a horse that finishes at least sixth through eighth still get 25 points so one bad week of racing or drawing a bad post doesn't eliminate you from the series. As long as you race you have a chance. The other thing is the Levy does not have any large number of entries in the final. Since the conditions allows no more than one two horse entry in the race per trainer or owner, so you will not find any owner or trainer with a three or four horse entry in the race.
One day it would be nice if this series could be raced alternately between Yonkers and the Meadowlands each week even if Yonkers gets the final every year but if the Meadowlands is looking to ensure a good horse supply when the Pennsylvania tracks open, having some longer series similar to the Levy would be a good way to ensure horses stick around for at leat six weeks at the track as well as make for a better final.
In the meanwhile, speculation will soon start to build as to which horses enter the series. Since the series starts on March 24, the top horses are typically missing from action still, however for the horses that thrive at this type of year, it is a good chance to make some serious money.
Last Word on the Prix d' Amerique: I found out that program pages created for PMU (the French tote company) were created for North American interests, similar to Prix d' Amerique pages provided by Haness Racing Update. The program pages were offered to the few ADWs carrying the race. I don't know if the NJSEA didn't want to purchase the programs for their ADW customers, or no one could figure out how to get the program pages to the ADW customer. All I can say is I hope a deal with Monmouth goes through soon so the NJSEA is out of the picture when it comes to NJAW. No wonder Monmouth and the Meadowlands lost money; towards the end NJSEA ran the business the same way as NYC OTB was run. How much could it have cost them to purchase the PMU North American program pages and put it on their website? Did they even think of it?