Although many believe otherwise, the National Best Seven is still around and apparently won't be going away anytime soon.
Never particularly high to begin with, the handle on the Best Seven, which was offered for the first time on May 31, has dropped substantially in recent months. Last Saturday, only $88,353.30 was bet nationally on a wager that requires a bettor to pick seven winners in various races at different tracks around the country.
This points out how interest has waned in the Best Seven, which was created in an attempt to increase interest in horse racing, expose more people to the sport and create badly needed new fans.
Instead, the bet is on life-support and if the plug were pulled, probably only a few die-hards would notice.
Among the problems for the Best Seven are a telecast that most of the time is painful to watch and a program of inferior races. For instance, the menu last Saturday included a $40,000 claiming race from the Fair Grounds in Louisiana, an allowance race for Illinois-breds from Hawthorne in Chicago and two California-bred allowance races from Santa Anita.
The Thoroughbred Racing Assns. is aware of some of the problems, so changes could be coming. An executive committee, chaired by Calder president Ken Dunn, was formed recently, and the Best Seven might be revamped.
There has been discussion about eliminating a race or two and making the bet a Best Six or Best Five and reducing the hour telecast to 30 minutes.
The committee will present its ideas at the TRA directors' meeting Jan. 25-27 in Washington.
Whatever happens, it is certain the Best Seven will be around in some form for at least another 12 months. There is still a year remaining on a contract with ESPN2.
"Everybody is pretty intent on keeping the TV commitment in place for another year," said Jeff Parrott, Best Seven national coordinator. "Everybody think it's valuable to maintain that national exposure.
"Right now, it's a struggle to put seven quality races together, and there has been discussion about eliminating a race or two and fitting the show in a half-hour period rather than an hour.
"Thirty minutes would be less of an impact on the tracks. Right now, there's a struggle reaching the TV audience and reaching the bettors at the track. It's hard to get bettors at the track to watch an hour program."
Especially when the telecast is so poorly done. The studio hosts have been less than insightful, although there was improvement last week when local sportscaster Bill Seward made his first appearance on the show.
There has also been questionable camera work, none more glaring than during the race from Louisiana Saturday. The stretch run of the Bourbon Street was interrupted for a few seconds by a shot of the sky.
There is also no excuse for bettors not being given the post-time odds instead of the morning line. The morning line means nothing at that point, particularly when there have been scratches.
Bertrando, who should have been retired months ago, might race one more time before he returns to stud duty at River Edge Farm in Solvang.
The NYRA Mile on Nov. 26 at Aqueduct was to have been his final start, but he was kept in training after finishing 10th. Most recently, he finished sixth and last in Monday's San Gabriel Handicap.
"There's a possibility he'll run in one more race, but there's nothing firm yet," co-owner and breeder Ed Nahem said. "The only thing for sure is that he has to be (at River Edge) by Feb. 1 for the start of breeding season."
Laffit Pincay won the first two races, then took off the remainder of the day at Santa Anita Wednesday after cutting his chin on the way to the gate for the first race.
Replacing Chris McCarron on Bycarby for trainer Roger Stein in the opener, Pincay was cut when the 3-year-old filly's head struck his chin. He won anyway, then rode heavily favored Erinova to victory in the second race before going to the first-aid station and receiving five stitches.
Still bothered by sore ribs from an opening-day spill, McCarron took off Wednesday and said he would not ride today or Friday. Besides Bycarby, he also lost a winner when Hornitos won the sixth race.
Horse Racing Notes
Apprentice jockey Obed Sanchez, 19, newly arrived from Puerto Rico, scored his first victory in the United States on 9-2 shot Nu Liz in the fifth race. . . . Sea Cadet, who finished last in the William P. Kyne Handicap Saturday at Bay Meadows, has been retired and will leave Friday for Payson Farm in Kentucky. . . . Bruho, a former stakes winner, finished sixth in a $2,500 claiming race Wednesday at Yakima. The 9-year-old is now trained by Dave Bennett. . . . A field of 10 is probable for Sunday's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap. Among those expected to run in the seven-furlong race are defending champion Cardmania, Diazo, Kingdom Found, D'hallevant, Powis Castle, Polar Route, Concept Win, Lit De Justice, Softshoe Sure Shot and Individual Style.