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At the Races - Kravets' year not eclipsed by award snub

January 22, 2000|By LARRY YANOS

Apprentice jockey Justin Kravets enjoyed an outstanding 1999 campaign, yet was denied an Eclipse Award.

The 17-year-old Kravets, who rode mostly in 1999 at Charles Town Races and Penn National in Grantville, Pa., won more races (132) than any other apprentice in the country.

However, when the Eclipse Award was announced last Monday at the Beverly Hills (Calif.) Hilton, Kravets wasn't the winner.

"I was disappointed, yet I still had a good year," Kravets said.

New York-based jockey Ariel E. Smith was named the apprentice jockey of the year in the voting tabulated jointly by the Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and the National Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Other contenders included: Charles Town-based jockey Kristy Petty and (in alphabetical order) Jeremy Beasley, Cory Clark, Daniel Coa, Inosencio Diego, Luis D. Morales, Ben Russell and Rolanda Simpson.

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The 132 wins in 1999 was an incredible figure when you consider Kravets didn't start race-riding until May 17.

Kravets' father, Bruce, has been one of the leading trainers at Penn National for a number of years and was conditioning horses at Charles Town last May as well.

"I had been galloping horses for my dad for two years and I was eager to get started racing. I thought Charles Town was a good place to start," Kravets said. "When dad returned to Penn National, I came back and won most of my races at Penn National. I think I won 20 at Charles Town and I also won some in Maryland."

While Kravets hopes for another productive year in 2000, he also wants to complete his high school education.

"I have one year left at Lower Dauphin High School (in Hummellstown, Pa.,) and I definitely want to complete my education," Kravets said.

The teenager says there were few surprises in 1999.

"It went about like I expected," Kravets said. "After you do it awhile, it becomes pretty much a regular routine. I ride at Penn National for the most part, but I do ride some at Maryland the same day. A tough day would be working horses in the morning at Penn National or Maryland and riding at both racetracks."

Kravets says he also made the commute between Delaware Park and Penn National in 1999, but didn't ride in New Jersey or New York.

Kravets says his work is easy "when the horses are winning."

The jockey's favorite horse in 1999 was Anacapa, winner of four straight races. His best payday: riding Laura's Lucky Leaf to the winner's circle in Maryland. The race carried a $34,000 purse.

How about adjustments from one track to another?

"At Charles Town, you have to be more aggressive and can't wait as long for things to develop," Kravets saiud. "In Penn National, you still have to be quick, too. In Maryland, you can be more patient."

Third time the charm

After finishing in second place for two consecutive years, the Penn National Race Course was named the winner of the third annual Scientific-Atlanta Cup for outstanding achievement in simulcast production in 1999.

The announcement was made at the International Simulcast Conference in Las Vegas, Nev.

"It's quite an an honor, we were in there against some lofty company," Penn National publicity director Fred Lipkin said.

In 1997, Penn National finished second to Churchill Downs. In 1998, they trailed Turfway Park (Florence, Ky.).

A panel of six judges chose Penn National's nightly production of "Racing Alive" over 15 other racetrack entries.

Calder Race Course, Delaware Park, Emerald Downs, River Downs and Santa Anita Park were among this year's finalists, according to Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

"Racing Alive is the longest running racetrack simulcast production in the country," Lipkin said. "The program made its debut Aug. 13, 1983."

The four-hour daily live show, hosted by Lipkin and track announcer John Bogar, provides complete coverage of all races at Penn National. There is a constant updating of wagering odds and information for fans, along with prerace anaylsis and post-race comments.

"The program is viewed by fans here at the track, at hundreds of simulcast outlets around the nation, and by horseplayers in the Carribean and Mexico," Lipkin said.

A telling sign

Thanks to a new ruling which went into effect Jan. 1, patrons at the Cracked Claw Betting Parlor in Urbana and other Maryland OTB locations can now wager through a teller on evening thoroughbred racing.

Since opening, Cracked Claw patrons have been forced to use a "voucher" to wager on evening thoroughbred races and didn't particularly care for the concept.

Tellers were available for harness racing but could not accept thoroughbred wagers.

"The patrons didn't like the idea of getting a voucher to bet on thoroughbreds and we heard a lot of complaints," Cracked Claw proprietor John Poole said. "The harness people kept voicing opposition but the Maryland Jockey Club and representatives from the thoroughbred and harness groups finally signed an agreement for the new format. It should really help our business."

Cracked Claw offers both thoroughbred and harness simulcasting throughout the day.

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