- NYRA had their pre-Saratoga press conference yesterday, which I’m sure couldn’t possibly come soon enough. Amidst all their problems, the Saratoga meet remains if not the top, certainly close to it in terms of the quality of racing, and definitely number one in daily average on-track handle ($3.2 million last year), and attendance (27,000). The attendance figure is roughly equivalent to a typical week’s attendance downstate. The most publicized news was the increase in the admission prices for Travers Day to $5/$10 grandstand/clubhouse from $3/$5. But there are some other notable changes as well.
The six-hour prerace detention policy established at Belmont will continue at Saratoga. Some have attributed the short fields downstate to the reluctance of barns to ship in and have their charges endure detention, but it’s hoped and assumed that the allure of Saratoga will make that just a little nuisance to be dealt with. Racing Secretary Mike Lakow is looking for a fully competitive meeting.
Lakow’s enthusiasm is fueled by the addition of 23 trainers who were not stabled at Saratoga last year, including Wally Dollase, a two-time winner of the Travers, and Tim Ritchey, who will most likely saddle the favorite for this year’s Travers in Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Afleet Alex, who won the Sanford (G2) and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last year. [Thoroughbred Times]Lakow is also anticipating a lot of 2 year olds: "At Belmont, the 2-year-old program has been a little light….From what the trainers tell me, it’s because they’re getting ready for Saratoga.” There will be two new grass stakes for 2 year olds: the P.G. Johnson for 2-year-old fillies on the turf (Sept. 2) and the With Anticipation for 2-year-olds on the turf (Sept. 3). [Saratogian]
The Jim Dandy will be run a week earlier this year, making it 4 weeks before the Travers and following the trend of spacing preps earlier than ever before the target race. The 2 yo Hopeful and Spinaway (fillies) have been moved up a week; the Hopeful on Travers Day and the Spinaway on the Friday before.
In addition, betting from certain off-shore rebate shops has been discontinued, and that will effect the total handle as compared to years past.
[NYRA] expects a 5 percent to 10 percent decline in handle, NYRA Vice President Bill Nader said:- Jeff Scott of the Saratogian points out that NYRA does deserve credit for the continuing success of the Saratoga meeting.
Such accounts represented about $50 million of the $550 million bet on Saratoga races last year.
NYRA said it pulled the plug on the off-shore betting because of complaints by patrons that the foreign bettors were, in effect, manipulating the odds. Races where the favorite was listed as 5-2 on the tote boards at Saratoga would sometimes suddenly drop to 2-1 after races started when the effect on the pari-mutuel pools of late off-shore betting activity was factored in. [Business Review, via Albany Law School]
It should be remembered that on NYRA's watch, Saratoga became (and has remained) arguably the best race meet in the world. The Belmont spring and fall meets, while not what they were once, still feature the same core of prestigious races in which the best horses continue to make their names.- Bill Callahan performs and records under the name Smog, and his latest collection, A River Ain’t Too Much to Love, is out on Drag City. Smog features solemn, acoustic guitar-drenched songs delivered in a somber baritone voice sometimes compared to Leonard Cohen, spinning tales that at times are as grim as the music suggests, but which are always articulate and thought-provoking, often celebrating the natural beauty of our nation. The new CD ends with the gorgeous Let Me See the Colts. In deference to my respect for creative copyrights and the Supreme Court’s decision on file-sharing yesterday, I will not post an MP3, but I hopefully will be forgiven for reproducing the copyrighted lyrics.
This doesn't mean that another organization might not have done just as good a job. But the role NYRA has played in maintaining New York racing's preeminent position - as well as the chances that it would continue to do so in the future - ought at least to be part of the current discussion.
Knocked on your door at dawn- In two other decisions yesterday, the Court said that religious displays on government property are sometimes OK, and sometimes not OK, depending on their context and history, thus insuring lucrative employment for hundreds of attorneys for many years to come. Ten Commandments in a classroom? – no. In a courtyard? – maybe. At a private-public track? I dunno. Is there a commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Piss Away Money Gambling? In his dissenting opinion on the decision prohibiting the display in a courthouse, Justice Antonio Scalia wrote the following:
With a spark in my heart
Dragged you from your bed
And said ‘Let me see the colts’
Let me see the colts
That will run next year
Show them to a gambling man
Thinking of the future
Have you been drinking…no
The all-seeing all-knowing eye is dog tired
And just wants to see the colts
We walked out through
The dew dappled branches
And sat upon the fence
Is there anything as still as sleeping horses
Is there anything as still as sleeping horses
"Nothing stands behind the court's assertion that governmental affirmation of the society's belief in God is unconstitutional except the court's own say-so." [NY Times]I find his words to be quite haunting. Indeed, given the Republican’s control of the White House and Congress, there’s currently nothing standing behind women’s reproductive freedom nor our freedom from having religion shoved down our throats other than the court’s say-so, and that say-so is now extremely tenuous on this Court, as demonstrated by the 5-4 decisions in both Commandments cases, and especially with at least one retirement widely expected soon. If it’s up to the president and the religious extremists that wield so much influence in his party, there would be 9 Antonio Scalias on the court, and women, gays, and those of us who prefer our country secular won’t have a prayer. That is why the recent fight in the Senate over judicial filibusters was, and continues to be so crucial. It’s the only check and balance we have left, for now, anyway. With the president's poll numbers on Iraq continuing to plummet, could the 2006 Congressional elections come soon enough?