This is a cool slide show from the NY Times with some amazing old photos commemorating the 100th anniversary of Belmont Park, which is tomorrow, opening day. I’m happy to say that I don’t appear in any of these. It’s a bit of an early opening, and means that the Kentucky Derby simulcast, usually at Aqueduct, will be at Belmont instead. That’s fine with me, as my last two Derby experiences at the Big A have not been good.
I was there in 1999, and looking at the chart, I have absolutely no recollection of who I bet. Vicar maybe? Excellent Meeting? I haven’t a clue. Nor do I remember watching the stretch run of Charismatic’s victory with other screaming New Yorkers....because I didn’t. As they rounded the turn, with the winner, as well as Cat Thief and a host of others making their moves, the TV screens went blank! I started to race out to another set of monitors, but the groans and profanity were coming from all over. The entire first floor of Aqueduct – at least that floor; I never found out if the entire track was affected - lost the TV picture just as they headed in to the stretch, and I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. The next day, I was there, and asked some track official what had happened, and he was like “Oh yeah, I heard about that,” like it was some minor glitch. It was the Kentucky Derby, and all the weeks and months of anticipation came down to a blank TV screen in Ozone Park, NY.
I didn’t bring myself to go back there for the Derby until 2003. I’m ashamed to admit that I totally fell for Frankel’s Empire Maker hype that year, and as he pulled alongside Funny Cide in the lane, I committed the cardinal sin for horseplayers. I laughed at how easy it was going to be. Need I say more?
- Speaking of laughter, Frank Stronach apparently elicited some as he spoke to shareholders yesterday, after the company announced a $4.1 million loss in the first quarter, which it attributed in part to the bad weather in California, and the renovations at Gulfstream (sounds like excuses we could hear after the Derby).
"We have the potential to be the largest company in the world," Stronach said as some shareholders smiled, a few appeared awestruck and other investors at the meeting appeared not to know what to think. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the world's biggest firm in revenue with sales of $256.3 billion (U.S.) in 2004.A shareholders' group criticized Stronach's pay package: Stronach collected $52.5 million in total pay last year and has been a Canadian leader in executive compensation for several years,
Stronach, MEC's chairman, said horse racing 50 years ago accounted for 80 per cent of the legal gaming dollars in the United States, but that has dwindled to 2 per cent or $15 billion of a $900 billion annual business. [Toronto Star]
- Florida legislators moved toward an agreement on slots, as the Senate leans toward the higher tax rate the House wants, and the parties agree on 16 hours of daily operations. But they still remain deadlocked on the question of what kind of slots will be permitted, the ones voters voted for, or the ones Governor Bush wants (have I mentioned that before?).
- Great news for NY racing, at least for the short term, as the state’s highest court upheld the constitutionality of VLT’s at racetracks.
..The high court, in the highly anticipated ruling, said VLTs are not slot machines, and that they meet the mandatory test of being a lottery game. The VLTs are run by the state lottery division and are hooked up to a central computer from which winning numbers are determined.I can hear the sweet sounds of construction at Aqueduct and Yonkers now.
The court, in a majority decision written by Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, said "if the video lottery is a lottery, the statute providing for it is constitutional regardless of whether the terminals used to play the lottery also look like, or even meet the penal law definition, of slot machines."[Bloodhorse]
Meanwhile, at little Monticello harness upstate, which already has slots….er, I mean, VLT’s, the purses continue to rise.
- Trainer John Tammaro III, who trained Concerto for George Steinbrenner before he was fired ("We won five stakes prior to the Derby, but when he got to the Derby he wasn't good enough. After the Derby, we changed jocks. After the Preakness, we changed trainers.”), offers this to explain why the Boss may feel comfortable with Nick Zito.
“..One thing Nick Zito has going for him with George Steinbrenner is he knows more Yankee trivia than anybody. That's a pretty strong hand with George." [Washington Post]