This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jennie Rees of Courier-Journal…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Road to the Derby may have bumps under new setup
Unbeaten champion Shanghai Bobby — winner of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and two other prestigious 2-year-old stakes — makes his 2013 debut Saturday in a race designed to propel the colt toward the May 4 Kentucky Derby.
But unlike previous Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victors, Shanghai Bobby is not yet guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the 139th running of the Derby.
That’s because Churchill Downs has switched the formula for determining preference if more than the capacity 20 horses are entered, as has become the norm.
Churchill announced last June that it was ditching graded-stakes earnings and replacing it with a tiered points system heavily weighted toward the 11/8-mile prep races in late March and April.
So Shanghai Bobby doesn’t just have to stay healthy until the Derby, the champion also has to prove all over again that he belongs there.
That’s the No. 1 criticism of the new system, one of the most fundamental changes in Derby history. To many trainers and owners, that’s like making the Masters champion qualify the next year to play in the golf classic.
Last fall, Churchill senior management asked Louisville civic leader and horse owner Ed Glasscock what he thought. He is a partner in Shanghai Bobby.
“I said, ‘Do you want me to respond to that question when we have a horse who has won the Breeders’ Cup and every major 2-year-old race, has made $1.6 million and is not qualified for the Kentucky Derby?’ ” he recalled with a laugh.
Glasscock said he often tells the top players at Churchill that, “If Shanghai Bobby cannot live up to our expectations during the 3-year-old spring and season, then maybe he doesn’t deserve to be in the Derby.’
“I say that to be nice. But do I really feel that way? No. He deserves to be in the Derby … whether he wins another race or not.”
“The winner of the Breeders’ Cup should be an automatic,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, who will try to beat Shanghai Bobby with the colt Frac Daddy in today’s $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
Whoever wins the 11/16-mile, Grade III Holy Bull will earn 10 points toward the Derby. That’s the same as Shanghai Bobby earned for winning the Breeders’ Cup last November in California — and the same number available for the ungraded, $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes in Arkansas earlier this week.
Churchill officials expect the new structure will organize the prep races into the equivalent of a regular season and playoffs, making it easier for fans to relate and sparking more interest.
The track said studies showed the average person doesn’t know what graded stakes are — they’re the world’s most important races, as designated by a committee — while points are easier to follow.
For the series it’s calling the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Churchill pared about 185 races worldwide down to 36 — the vast majority being historically prominent Derby preps. Points are awarded to the top four finishers in each event, starting out with a 10-4-2-1 allocation and building to races with a 100-40-20-10 payout.
Churchill says the goal is to come up with the 20 horses in the best form and best equipped to handle the Derby’s 11/4-mile.
The biggest changes: No race less than a mile was included, the only turf race was one last fall in England, races restricted to fillies do not count toward the points, and only three foreign races count.
The $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile having the same points (10 to the winner) as other 2-year-old stakes and preps held early in the 3-year-old season is one criticism. Another is that Hawthorne’s Illinois Derby — which produced 2002 Derby winner War Emblem — was excluded.
Darren Rogers — Churchill’s senior director of publicity who did much of the modeling and numbers-crunching as track staff debated what system to install — estimates that 40 points should secure a Derby berth, and that horses probably are safe at 30.
D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner, contends the format will force trainers to do things they don’t want to so they can be sure they have enough points. “If you wait for one of those 100-point races, saying that will pretty much get you in, what if you stumble at the start or get wiped out? It forces us as trainers to run them more often. Every one of us has to look at another race that we probably wouldn’t have looked at before.”
Rogers says he appreciates trainers’ misgivings but believes they are largely unfounded, that the concerns with gaining enough points most often will be no different than seeking earnings.
Rogers said it doesn’t eliminate the benefits of winning races with big-money purses, because the tiebreaker — which figures to come into play with any points system — is the most earnings in non-restricted stakes.
“The Kentucky Derby is the Holy Grail for our sport,” he said. “It should not be easy to get into the race. We’ve eliminated some of the backdoor routes, quote, unquote. Sprint races. Turf races. Races where the competition was softer but the purses were lofty.
“Look, when you go from 185 races to 36, it becomes more challenging. They’re probably forced to make some tough decisions, especially those with large groups of contenders. There aren’t as many spots to choose from. We understand that. We hear them. We just believe we’re going in the right direction.”
Nick Zito, a two-time Derby winner, is fine with the system. He notes that his 2010 Derby runner-up Ice Box and 2011 beaten Derby favorite Dialed In might not have made the race had they not won the Florida Derby. Under the points system, a second or even third in such a 100-point race should be sufficient.
“My horses seem to come around later,” Zito said. “So this format is not too bad.”
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Gary West of ESPN.com…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
A racetrack president once explained that because he didn’t want to confuse the public he was opposed to including too much information, especially all that folderol about Lasix and blinkers and workouts, in the track program. And can’t you sleep more peacefully now knowing there’s a racetrack executive who wants to spare you confusion?
A racetrack general manager, after a long procession of winners from inside post positions, once said there could be no such thing as a track bias and the only bias, if there was one, existed in bettors’ minds. Doesn’t it warm your heart to contemplate such a place, one that’s completely free of bias? Then there’s the general manager who thought he had created the fourth jewel of the Triple Crown, or quadruple crown, which, absurd as that sounds, isn’t nearly as foolish as the racing commissioner who fell asleep during a meeting or the president who banned jockeys “now and forever” from his racetrack. Remember the incomparable Horse Wizard, and did you know that a racetrack once ran a stakes race twice during the same season, and it wasn’t even a good race? Another racetrack, believe it or not, refused to pay off on a winning bet, arguing that because the simulcast signal went down the bet was void. Then there are all those overlapping dates and high takeouts and virtually simultaneous post times. And did you hear the one about the dog that was licensed as an owner? Or was the dog a licensed groom?
Another general manager, a compassionate soul who probably dated the homeliest girl in his class just so she wouldn’t be lonely on weekends, once argued against lowering the cost of exotic wagers by explaining that he didn’t want to encourage oh-so-risky behavior. And don’t you think it’s admirably warmhearted of a racetrack executive to be so concerned about your risks? You think he might sell life insurance on the side?
Or, whenever you contemplate such things, whenever you consider, in other words, the obtuse management and harebrained ideas at many racetracks, do you wonder if perhaps the time has come for you to begin what George Saunders calls Hatred Abatement Breathing?
Well, if you’re like me, you’re working on that Hatred Abatement Breathing. And you needed it Saturday if you were at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where the program, from the first race to the 13th, lasted nearly 7 1/2 hours, or about the time you would have needed to watch Les Miserables, The Hobbit and Gangster Squad; or two extra-innings baseball games; or three basketball games. Post time was 7:10 p.m. for the 11th race, 8:15 for the 12th and 9:21 for the 13th. No, the 12th race wasn’t a half-time show for an LSU vs. Tulane volleyball game; barnyard animals and other creatures were racing, in addition to horses, of course. So if you played the late Pick Four you had to wait nearly three hours to find out if you won.
Horse racing has many problems, such as its inconsistent medication rules and its distorted perception in the culture, but one major problem that skips along largely unrecognized has really become a cluster of problems: Most racetrack executives and regulators these days don’t understand the game, don’t appreciate the sport, can’t identify their audience and know very little, if anything, about the product they’re selling.
This, as you probably know, has been a problem for a while. Years ago, I suggested to a Director of Mutuels that he introduce a new wager, a Pick Four. At the time, no racetrack in America offered a Pick Four. I explained the bet’s virtues and told him that if it was presented with an especially low takeout, say 14 percent, that within a month every horseplayer in the country would be looking at it.
Well, he didn’t think a Pick Four would ever catch on, but he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Something-or-other Committee and, by the way, he said, his favorite wager was the quinella. The quinella? That’s like a master distiller’s saying his favorite cocktail is the Shirley Temple.
But that’s the problem, and it’s getting worse. Racetrack executives often know little or nothing about betting on horses, and, even worse, they don’t care. You didn’t think all those vice presidents at CDI spend their lunch hour cobbling together a Pick Six ticket, did you? Some of them probably don’t even know how to figure up the cost of a ticket.
That’s why the morning line at most racetracks is worse than worthless and downright misleading, why accurate information can be hard to come by, why takeouts are high and why some programs seem indifferent to the interests of bettors. Such considerations are unimportant to people that don’t understand they’re selling gambling opportunities.
(Excuse me while I take a moment for my Hatred Abatement Breathing … OK.)
Tim Ritvo at Gulfstream Park and Scott Wells at Remington, both former trainers, have steered those racetracks in encouraging directions. But have other racetracks followed those examples by hiring executives that actually know something about racing? Of course not. The corporate maw usually spits out racing experience as indigestible. A person whose expertise is summarized by his ability to plug in a slots machine is much more likely to run a racetrack than somebody with knowledge of racing. As for people who actually understand betting and bettors, they’re virtually absent from the executive offices.
I’ve come to regard a racetrack’s simulcast signal as indicative, even defining. The simulcast signal can reveal a racetrack’s attitude towards its audience and the sport. In this regard, the NYRA signal, I believe, is by far the best. While celebrating the sport and its outstanding performers, it also focuses on the handicapping puzzle. In short, it can remind a viewer why this is a truly great sport and game.
Andy Serling always has an informed opinion that’s based on observation and research, not just a quick perusal of the past performances. It’s obvious he has done his homework. And from the paddock Maggie Wolfendale offers insightful observations. Most of all, the presentation is informative, which means this racetrack, whether it’s Saratoga or Belmont or Aqueduct, respects the sport, its fans and its serious horseplayers.
Many other simulcasts are worth watching, notably those from Woodbine, Del Mar, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Remington. But, frankly, you could watch and listen to some simulcasts for hours, days even, without coming across something you didn’t already know, which is why there’s a mute button. When a paddock host simply reads the conditions of the race — “The fourth race is a $25,000 maiden race for maidens” — and then goes on to summarize the recent running lines of the favorites, he’s basically saying he thinks the audience is incapable of reading. And that must be the racetrack’s attitude as well, that its customers don’t deserve anything better than a reiteration of what’s available and obvious. And when a host says, “My first pick is … and my second pick is … and my third pick is, … ” he’s saying, in effect, that the game is about him and his picks, not about the horses, the competition and the intellectual challenge, and that also seems to reflect the attitude of some racetracks, which seem determined to subordinate racing to other interests.
Yes, the simulcast signals reveal much about the racetracks that originate them. Some of them are capable of recalling all the best elements of the game. And others, because they recall all the worst elements, might leave you in need of Hatred Abatement Breathing.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jay Cronley of ESPN.com…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Horse Racing Story of the Year
What’s the story of the year in horse racing?
Slot machine profits rule the industry, there’s one possibility: we rely on gambling junkies thinking maybe next time will be their time and pushing the buttons and spinning the dials around the clock.
The failure of “Luck” is another important story.
“Luck” was the HBO series about horse race people possessed by the demon that suggests everybody is due tomorrow. This series was over-baked, freaks as art, that uppity Hollywood notion. But it starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, name another show that could do that.
Horses died in the filming of “Luck,” that was a wrap.
The demise of the series figures to expand a void in horse racing literature.
A lack of a unified regulatory and policing policy is a continuing horror story. Horse racing drug and cheating policy is reminiscent of a scene out of something like “Paper Moon,” a moonshine hustler speeding all-out for the rickety bridge that separates one state from another — hit the middle of the river and you’re in another jurisdiction and home free. What’s legal in one state isn’t in another. Kick a big-time trainer out of a track in the sticks? Maybe after the offense after the next one? Appeals can last so long, a trainer alleged to have drugged a horse can be racing that animal’s offspring before some hearing, which is apt to be postponed.
My top story for 2012 is the horse player.
He and she had to survive the following:
Late money aimed at pulling fast one.
Early money aimed at pulling a fast one.
Odds that change when the horses are halfway down the back side.
Horrifically incompetent rides.
Hurt horses that are permitted to race.
Pathetic steward decisions.
Tellers who can’t count.
Tellers who talk too much.
Out and out cheaters.
Hygiene — you think the floor at the dollar movie is bad, look down at the simulcast joint.
The honestly impossible horses winning races — the victor in Remington Park’s chief two-year old race this weekend paid $259.
The questionable impossible horses winning races — last, last, last, last, next to last, last, first.
Irate spouses and loved ones.
Broken glass in the parking lot.
A lack of free stuff.
Betting machines that don’t work.
Guards who shouldn’t have guns having guns.
Pitiful picks by so-called professional handicappers.
The deep fried Special.
And guess what, we’re still here.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Rex Jory of AdelaideNow…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
It’s time to phase out the barbaric use of whips in horse racing
THE use of whips should be quietly phased out of Australian horse racing.
Cracking a horse with a whip is, by definition, painful – although I don’t subscribe to the view of some extremists that it is barbaric or unnecessarily cruel.
Whipping gives thoroughbred racing a bad image.
I class myself as a casual race follower.
Like so many, my flower of interest blooms during the Victorian Spring carnival.
Slow motion cameras make it impossible to ignore the use of whips in racing.
The television images of winning Melbourne Cup jockey, Brett Prebble, urging his mount, Green Moon, to the finishing line last Tuesday were superb.
Prebble gave Green Moon a couple of hefty clouts to the rump with his whip in the last 200m.
Then we saw his dancing fingers cleverly change the grip on the whip as he crossed the line.
What concerned me was not the mere act of smacking a magnificent animal.
It was the perception the action had on the television audience.
Many people watching the Melbourne Cup on television are novices to racing.
They rarely, if ever, attend a race meeting and probably don’t have 10 bets a year. Some will be young. Children watch the Melbourne Cup.
A small number, at least, could be seduced by the excitement and romance of racing.
They are a potential audience, part of the future of racing.
But it’s worth pondering how many will be put off by the ugly images of horses being flogged by whips?
What was acceptable, even condoned, 20 or 30 years ago is not necessarily acceptable today.
If someone flogged a dog in the same way jockeys whip horses they would be prosecuted.
Presumably jockeys whip horses to make them go faster. Horses run faster because the whip stings.
If whipping horses doesn’t hurt, then why do it?
There are very few sports or entertainments other than horse racing and horse eventing where animals are any longer deliberately beaten for pleasure or benefit.
Dignified society no longer tolerates standing bears on hot metal plates to make them “dance”.
Nor does it allow bears to fight dogs in pits, dog or cock fighting, live-hare coursing or fox hunting, to name a few of the crueller pastimes.
Circuses are now under increasing pressure to dispense with live animals acts including lions and elephants and zoos have become the source of breeding programs to save endangered species rather than being just an opportunity to gawk at caged animals.
To be fair to the Australian Racing Board and the broader industry, strict controls on the use of whips were introduced in August, 2009.
Padded whips are now mandatory, the whipping arm cannot be raised above the shoulder, whips should not be used if there is no prospect of improving a horse’s placing, and a whip cannot be used more than five times before the 200m mark and after that point not in consecutive strides.
Announcing the restrictions, the then-chairman of the Australian Racing Board, Bob Bentley, said: “The best scientific advice available to us says that padded whips do not inflict pain or injury and that is the outcome we want.”
So why does the racing industry persist with the use of whips?
If whipping doesn’t hurt then presumably it does not affect the performance of a horse.
A survey by the RSPCA found that a whip caused a “visual indentation” on the horse in 83 per cent of impacts, the unpadded section of the whip made contact in 64 per cent of impacts, and more than 75 per cent of the time when used the whip struck the horse in the abdomen, not the rump.
Whipping horses may be part of the romance and tradition of horse racing. But it can no longer be justified in 2012.
Whips should be phased out of horse racing in Australia and the sooner the better.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from David Yates of The Mirror…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
The Frankel Factor: Why last weekend’s British Champions Day was one of the most satisfying of afternoons
First of all, let’s get one thing straight.
Last Saturday, along with 30-odd thousand others, I went to QIPCO British Champions Day and, in common with the vast majority of them, enjoyed one of the most satisfying afternoons of my racing life.
As you’d expect from a racecourse that handles five days of Royal Ascot every year, the event was put on with assurance and panache, with many of the teething problems from 12 months ago ironed out.
Everybody breathed a huge sigh of relief when Frankel – don’t those antics at the start prove now is the right time to retire? – did what he was supposed to do, and we all went home positively brimming with feelgood.
There is, inevitably, a ‘but’, and it’s this – don’t be fooled into thinking that BCD has arrived . In truth, it still has a long way to go.
And if you think I’m being a sourpuss who is happy only when he’s moaning about something, imagine that it had rained not only Friday afternoon, but during the evening and throughout Saturday morning as well.
Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to the great horse’s owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, walks the course and, against all his competitive instincts and a will for Frankel to go out in a blaze of glory, decides the best thing is for the colt not to run.
Where would that have left us?
Cirrus Des Aigles and Excelebration are both admirable thoroughbreds of the highest merit.
But victory for each in their chosen races, the Champion Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, doesn’t make for headline news, at least outside the racing pages.
And what of the undercard?
The best stayers, many regrettably out of form after a busy summer, turned up, and the sprint amounted to what any other European sprint amounts to when not dominated by horses from the southern hemisphere.
The fillies’ and mares’ race served up a below-par Great Heavens – she’d left her race in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 13 days earlier – but a progressive winner in Sapphire.
And, like many, I’m still baffled for the need to stage the apprentice handicap. Wouldn’t it be more fitting on Newmarket’s Future Champions card?
Taking BCD as a whole – but without Frankel – it wouldn’t get news crews jumping up and down with excitement, which is one of its stated aims.
In short, the day was dangerously close to being a one-horse show.
To balance matters, I know that when BCD was conceived its founders had in mind a five-year plan, and Saturday was just the second year of those five – so there is plenty of scope for further momentum.
But BCD top man Rod Street, whose cheery exterior shouldn’t mask the fact he’s sharp as razor wire, will know much more progress is needed for Ascot to match the status of international fixtures like the Arc and the Breeders’ Cup.
In 2012, it outshone an unusually below-par – even humdrum – Arc weekend.
But it caught Longchamp on a bad year – the French would have had more to shout about if, as intended, Danedream, Snow Fairy and Nathaniel had turned up.
It’s inconceivable Europe’s richest race will suffer similar ill fortune with its leading players in 2013, while BCD will not have Frankel as its poster boy next October.
Don’t get me wrong. With its backing – both in terms of money and personnel – BCD has every chance of getting where we all want it to be.
Just don’t let the heroics of one extraordinary racehorse fool you into thinking it’s already there.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Steven Crist of The Daily Racing Form…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
I’ll Have Another still out front in race for Horse of the Year
A week into October, the question of who will be America’s Horse of the Year remains exactly the same as it was four months ago: Can anyone unseat I’ll Have Another, who ran his last race in the middle of May?
Recent history suggests that someone will. Of the 11 previous 3-year-olds since 1978 who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, all 11 were voted an Eclipse Award as the champion 3-year-old colt or gelding, but only two were named Horse of the Year: Sunday Silence in 1989 and Charismatic in 1999. The other nine were overtaken by season’s end: Spectacular Bid by Affirmed in 1979, Pleasant Colony by John Henry in 1981, Alysheba by Ferdinand in 1987, Silver Charm by Favorite Trick in 1997, Real Quiet by Skip Away in 1998, War Emblem by Azeri in 2002, Funny Cide by Mineshaft in 2003, Smarty Jones by Ghostzapper in 2004, and Big Brown by Curlin in 2008.
If I’ll Have Another becomes just the third Derby-Preakness winner in this span to win the HOTY Eclipse, it will be in the mold of Charismatic rather than Sunday Silence, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic over champions Easy Goer and Blushing John to clinch the award. Charismatic, on the other hand, did not race after breaking down while finishing third in the Belmont and survived a confusing summer and fall where no one else stepped up. Faced with Victory Gallop and Daylami (with only one U.S. Grade 1 victory apiece) as the best alternatives, the voters went back to Charismatic, despite his 4-for-10 record. (I’ll Have Another was 4 for 4 this year.).
I’ll Have Another’s three Grade 1 victories in April and May (the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness) remained the most in U.S. racing this year until last weekend, when Point of Entry added the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic to his prior Grade 1 scores in the Man o’ War and Sword Dancer. That stamped him as one of three horses who have the best chance to overtake I’ll Have Another with a victory at the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 3: Triumphs by Point of Entry in the Turf, Game On Dude in the Classic, or Wise Dan in the Mile would give them legitimate claims to the title – but it’s not as if any of them is a cinch.
Game On Dude, the only one of three to win on dirt this year, would probably win the award if all three of them were to win on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. A victory would make him 5 for 7 this year (3 for 3 on dirt, 2 for 4 on synthetics), with Grade 1 victories in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Awesome Again (nee Goodwood), and Classic as well as impressive Grade 2 runaways in the Californian and San Antonio. He’s a legitimate Classic favorite, in career-best form, and racing on his home court, but always a shade questionable going more than nine furlongs, races in which he sports a career record of just 2 for 8. He has been caught in the 10th furlong two of the last three times he has tried the distance, falling to Dullahan in this year’s Pacific Classic and Drosselmeyer in last year’s BC Classic.
Wise Dan and Point of Entry are scheduled to run at what look like their best distances, but have a different challenge: They may face an entirely different level of competition in the form of European invaders, who often dominate the Mile and Turf. It’s going to be another week or two before it’s clear which Europeans are coming over for those races, but the average Grade 1-winning European at eight or 12 furlongs on the grass is usually a couple of lengths better than his American counterpart. There are of course exceptions, but while Point of Entry and Wise Dan are very nice horses, it’s unclear how truly exceptional they really are.
Finding out will be a big part of the appeal and intrigue at this year’s Cup, and more power to them and Game On Dude if they can finish their already strong seasons with victories at Santa Anita. If they all lose, however, it could be Charismatic in 1999 all over again, with the fleeting hero of spring still standing tallest months after his career was over.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Tom Noonan of TENoonan.com…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Latest ‘fix’ for New York racing
In today’s New York Post, Frederic U. Dicker describes the latest fix for New York racing according to his unnamed sources in the Cuomo Administration. Even though the legislation giving control of New York’s prestigious racetracks to state government has still not been signed by the Governor, he has apparently decided that the real solution is to privatize management of the tracks. Dicker reports that Cuomo “plans to seek public bids for a new operator to replace NYRA, a not-for-profit corporation, from for-profit companies with deep experience in the racing and/or entertainment industries.”
According to a “source with firsthand knowledge:”
Why not let Churchill Downs compete with Santa Anita, with Formula One, with Madison Square Garden for the best operation of the tracks?
Well, I can think of several reasons. First, and foremost, is that thoroughbred racing in New York has been among the best – I would argue the best – in this country for many years. It is an industry with thousands of jobs throughout the state, and one entire region that is heavily dependent on racing for its economic vitality. If there are going to be major changes in the running of that industry, there should at first be an open and full discussion, not changes announced by executive fiat through a trusted reporter. Let us not forget that the state government’s taking control of racing was accomplished by a heavy-handed campaign of threats and intimidation and rushed through the State Legislature in a matter of days. As best I can determine, there was but one dissenting vote in both the Assembly and Senate. And the state’s media, starting with The New York Times raised not a single questioning voice. Even though this was accomplished with a sense of urgency normally limited to coping with natural disasters, the law still sits, unsigned, on the Governor’s desk, more than three months after its enactment.
Second, there is not the insignificant matter that the state’s seizure was said to be a “temporary” measure, in effect for only three years until control would be returned to a presumably chastened NYRA. In fact, the law specifically sets forth that three-year limit. Now, however, Fred Dicker’s sources are eagerly contemplating the “huge fees” that will be paid by the for-profit entities interested in running the tracks. One would have to think that no sensible business is going to spend a large amount of money for a contract not likely to be awarded – again, according to unnamed sources – until the “middle of next year” that will then expire two years later.
Third, let’s take a look at some of those prospective bidders. My sports loyalties are for teams in Boston, so I only pay attention to news about New York’s teams when it is negative. For that reason, the idea that Madison Square Garden – or one James Dolan – could end up running racing sends a chill down my spine. Now, I may have missed the positive stories about Dolan, but I must say the negative ones are pretty negative. Then there is Santa Anita Park, or to personalize it once more, Frank Stronach. It may be all you need to know about the racing experts in the Cuomo Administration that they think Stronach will be a positive force should he come to New York. They may be unaware that one of the most reliable and regular news stories about Stronach is the frequent and constant changes among the top managers for his racing ventures. The view that he would be a stabilizing influence on New York is nothing short of laughable.
Then there is the matter of the Cuomo Super PAC, or as it is known officially, the Committee to Save New York. The New York Times reported in June that casino interests had contributed some $2.5 million to the group. The Governor has refused to divulge the sources of other contributions that were made before the effective date of a law mandating such disclosures. What we do know, however, is that the Governor has made changing the state constitution to allow casinos one of his priorities. We also know that his interest in horse racing does not extend to attending premier events such as the Belmont Stakes or the Travers, but that in the space of less than four months, he has gone from ramming through a state government takeover of racing to now contracting it out to the highest bidder.
The law permitting the state takeover is entitled the “New York state racing franchise accountability and transparency act of 2012.” If there is one thing that is transparent about the Governor’s behavior relative to horse racing, however, it is that he believes “accountability and transparency” only applies to others. Maybe this time, either major media outlets, or the State Legislature, will pay more attention to what is going on.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?