- Another racing tragedy last night as Josh Radosevich, a 16 year old apprentice jockey, was killed Wednesday night in a spill at Beulah Park. It’s the second jockey fatality in a month; Mike Lapanese died after an October 24 accident at Suffolk Downs.
- Hold your horses, the NY State and Wagering Board has said to NYRA regarding its scheduled sale of artwork. NYRA has been given a deadline of end-of-the-day Thursday to confirm that has withdrawn its 19 paintings from the Dec 2 auction at Sotheby’s, under the threat of legal action by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. As of this writing,
the paintings are still listed on the Sotheby’s website [the catalog has now been pulled from the site]. As you know, NYRA needs the cash desparately, but not just to cover its day-to-day expenses, as reported in the Albany Times-Union.
NYRA, which is considering bankruptcy court, will be in trouble with U.S. District Court if it doesn't come up with a $1 million payment Dec. 1, 2006. It is the last installment in a $3 million fine it agreed to as part of a settlement of a criminal indictment for its role in a three-decades tax fraud conspiracy. Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney, would not discuss the ramifications if NYRA misses the payment.NYRA has shown much resilience of late in avoiding the threatened federal prosecution, but with the state fighting them on every single front, including something as relatively innocuous as selling off some paintings, it’s hard to see how the association will extricate themselves from this one.
In addition to the remaining fine, NYRA has a host of other bills. It racked up millions of dollars in legal and consulting bills trying to fend off prosecution and trial. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has filed liens on Saratoga Race Course due to NYRA's failure to pay about $7 million into an employee pension fund. It has incurred expenses to enhance security at races and cut links with rebate companies, losing tens of millions in revenues. And, [NYRA VP Bill] Nader said, NYRA….owes millions more in property taxes to three counties and state parimutuel taxes.
- The parties emerging from Albany Law School’s think tank on new racing legislation lived to talk another day. "The meeting went better than a lot of participants expected. No food was thrown,'' said Raymond Casey, president of the New York City Off Track Betting Corp. [Bloodhorse] That’s an accomplishment considering the fact that the meeting brought together rivals from NYRA, OTB, harness tracks, and horsemen of both breeds that haven’t agreed on much in the past. The group agreed on the need for legalizing computer wagering in the state, as well as on the general concept of rebating.
Regarding the all-important question of merging NYRA and OTB into a single operation, Friends of NY Racing head Tim Smith said that an "alliance'' between racetracks and OTBs could be possible in a year. Without specifically discussing a merger, Smith was vague when he told Bloodhorse.com that he envisioned some sort of financial "joint ventures'' that the sides would launch.
Of some issues, Smith said, "Politically we might not be able to tackle or the Legislature might not want us to tackle.'' He cited a FONYR plan to permit VLTs at Belmont as one example the group didn't discuss.That idea was one of the centerpieces of a FONYR report issued recently. Smith didn’t elaborate, but in a speech at the Jockey Club Annual Round Table Conference, the text of which is posted on their website, Smith said
.. have you ever wondered why state law provides for VLTs at almost every state racetrack, but expressly prohibits them from Belmont Park? Answer: the past opposition of the Nassau County OTB, along, perhaps, with some mixed signals from the NYRA side.And that is the heart of the problem in the state, separate entities looking out for their own interests without regard for the big picture. Until that changes, it’s hard to see how things will improve no matter who gets the franchise.
- A couple of moves by the Daily Racing Form: they’ve purchased the assets of Sports Eye, which publishes Harness Eye, the standardbred equivalent of DRF, with comprehensive past performance lines that go far beyond what’s available in the standard track programs. They also publish sports handicapping products, and some abridged thoroughbred stuff as well. At one time all published under the name Sports Eye, it was a real rag at one time as I recall, but developed throughout the years. I always enjoyed the late columnist Clyde Hirt’s Impertinent Questions column; he now has a race series at the Meadowlands named in his honor. Sports Eye once actually competed directly with the Form, publishing thoroughbred past performances that weren’t bad at all; in fact, there was a period during which I tried it in lieu of the Form. If I recall correctly, the Form ended up paying them to stop publishing those pp's, and they became known exclusively as a harness publication.
In addition, Steve Crist announced in today’s edition the beginning of a column devoted to poker, calling it a “game right up horseplayers’ alleys.” He says to readers that are just not interested: feel free to turn the page. There's probably a race going off somewhere - and there's always the prizefights and "Fiddler on the Roof." Personally, I’ll read Harness Eye long before I waste my time with that crap.