- As the news from New Orleans and Biloxi and the other effected areas become more and more gruesome, the fun and games of sports and horses seem increasingly irrelevant. I think about a city built on a gulf ten feet below sea level and wonder how this hasn’t happened before. And while such human disasters inevitably bring out the best in people who rush to the scene or empty their pockets to help, it also brings out the worst, as armed looters rampage through the city.
I just saw a satellite image on CNN which included the Fair Grounds, said to be completely underwater. Churchill Downs president Tom Meeker issued a statement about their need to “assess the status of our business operations and put in place a plan to move forward in Louisiana” but who really cares?
Trainer Wayne Catalano grew up in New Orleans's Ninth Ward, one of the areas hardest hit by Katrina's floodwaters.Evangeline Downs has announced that they will conduct a special evening of racing this Sunday evening, with 100% of all the revenues, including those from simulcast outlets, going to the Acadiana Chapter of the Red Cross Relief Fund. What more natural way for me and those who read this blog to contribute to the cause? Evangeline’s races are simulcast on TVG and HRTV.
"All my immediate family look like they lost everything," said Catalano, currently based at Arlington. "They left, they're gone - my brother, my mother, my sisters all went, but they lost everything."
Catalano said he returned home Tuesday night and sat down to watch scenes of the devastation on television.
"I just sat there and cried," he said. "To think about everything - it's real sad, it's real bad. You grow up there, you go back there, you love the food, the culture - everything's wiped out."
In Saratoga, several horsemen who spend the winter in New Orleans were glued to television sets, watching the destruction. Some lost homes, while one said he has not heard from family members since Tuesday.
Edward Moss, who works as a hotwalker for trainer Al Stall, said his mother, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews are based in New Orleans. He said he has not heard from any family member since the levees were breached.
"I talked to them the first day, they were all right; I don't know about now," Moss said. "It's been rough. I don't know what's going on." [Daily Racing Form]
- Life will go on as the Saratoga meeting wobbles to a conclusion this weekend. NYRA’s downward spiral continued on Wednesday as Katrina’s remnants dumped an inch and a half of rain on the area, causing two steeplechase races to be cancelled, making for a 7 race card starting at 2:10. Veteran steeplechase horsemen called the cancellations “unprecedented.” Trainer Jonathan Sheppard is the president of the National Steeplechase Association; he’ll meet with NYRA officials to discuss the future of his sport at Saratoga after a disastrous summer from both an aesthetic and PR standpoint, and he acknowledged that “We're not negotiating from a strong point.” [Daily Racing Form]
If I was as good at picking horses as I’ve been at predicting attendance figures I could retire tomorrow. The crowd of 7,734 was the lowest figure since Sept. 3, 1998, when the count was 9,011. [Newsday] Those who did attend were probably wondering why they bothered.
With two maiden claiming races, one NY-bred maiden special, one maiden special with six-horse field, and two sprints for bottom claimers, this was one of worst cards in history here. Inside speed dominated, producing runaways in each race. Average winning margin was seven lengths; smallest margin, two; largest, 14 1/2. [NY Post]