- The Gulfstream clubhouse will become more accessible and move steadily towards completion, and any opening day kinks hampering fans today will be addressed as the meeting goes on. But some things will not change. For one thing, there won’t be many places from which to actually watch live horse racing. Most fans will be watching on TV. "It'll be the new way to view racing," Gulfstream President and General Manager Scott Savin said amid final preparations Tuesday morning.
Forget whatever visions you might have of a traditional grandstand with rows of fold-down seats filled with cigar-chomping bettors studying the Daily Racing Form. Picture instead omnipresent JumboTrons, widescreen plasma televisions and conventional TVs. The new Gulfstream has just 900 mezzanine seats overlooking the track, costing $10, but half are reserved for horsemen, luxury suite owners and media members. Other than a few scattered seating sections elsewhere, such as the uncompleted suites and restaurants, most areas won't offer even a glimpse of the track.Sorry, Scott, that’s a bit difficult for me to grasp. We're all used to watching simulcasts on TV, but I prefer my live racing to be live. But that's not as disconcerting as this statement by Savin:
"This is the new paradigm," Savin said. "I think everybody needs to grasp that." [Palm Beach Post]
"This is going to be a multifaceted entertainment center, and the feeling is that the time in between races may not be spent as it has been in the past, handicapping horse racing. It'll be spent shopping, dining, in a sports theater, doing a lot of other amenities that weren't available to the patrons before. And it's going to create a little bit different patron base."A patron base at a racetrack that’s not handicapping the races is not one of horseplayers, and it’s easy to see where this is headed. One dissatisfied patron told Bloodhorse "This place is structured for a casino, not a racetrack."
Whatsmore, it’ll cost you even to enter the simulcasting rooms where you can watch on TV, with prices ranging from five to 20 dollars. Savin’s response to that? "Magna Entertainment (Corp.) invested over $150 million in this place, so $10 is well worth it." Perhaps Scott needs to brush up on his public relations. Nobody asked Magna, a company already up to its neck in debt, to tear down what was a perfectly fine racetrack. And I don’t ever remember anyone complaining about the spacious yard and ample places to bet on and view the races. Not even about the concerts. (Except the day when I was almost forced to leave when Survivor played there.)
One of the great things about Gulfstream was the way that the live racing always, as it should, took center stage – the backyard area would almost completely empty out during the running of the races, unlike Belmont or Saratoga, where many people linger, seemingly oblivious to the goings on up front. Now the racing is becoming just a sidelight – something to watch on TV if, that is, you’re not feeding slot machines, shopping or dining. A different patron base? Indeed. One that will likely not include this horseplayer, at least until I retire and move there. They want us to watch on TV? That’s fine. I can do so at Aqueduct
- Those seating and simulcast theater prices I mentioned are for “regular” race days. Going on Sunshine Millions day? Seats will cost you $20. The Donn and Hutcheson? Expect to pony up $75-$150 for the restaurants expected to be open by then. The Fountain of Youth? 50 bucks for seats, $20-$40 for the simulcast rooms, $100-$200 for the restaurants. The Florida Derby? $75 for seats, $25-50 for simulcasting, $125-$250 for the eats. Imagine if they ever get the Breeders Cup; you’ll have to mortgage your house just to get in the door.
- Trainer Anthony Dutrow, who won three races when Aqueduct reopened last week, took the 2006 opener at the Gulf. Todd Pletcher won both turf races, defeating my selection Watershed Event in the 8th race; he finished a length and a half back in second at 5.70 to 1. And no Ruben, I did not have that exacta reversed. Pletcher took the sixth with first timer Mercurius (Lemon Drop Kid). I was looking at the tote before that race, and specifically noticed that this 6-1 shot in the morning line for the all-world trainer who had won with three out of his last five starters making their debut on the lawn was 14-1. One of the surest throwouts at the track, I thought. Wrong again.
Those odds were even more surprising given the fact that Mercurius’ half brother Danaslam (Grand Slam) won two recent races on the grass at Calder, the second one just last week! Both of those wins were also at overlaid odds, going off at 13-1 and 5-1. I guess their dam Danara doesn’t get much respect; and to make matters worse, her sire Danzig was euthanized the other day. If bettors were wary because Pletcher had Chris DeCarlo up to ride, keep in mind that DeCarlo rides regularly for Pletcher - he was his main man at Monmouth this past summer.
- Overshadowed by the tragic death of Bob Umphrey was the untimely injury to jockey Jorge Chavez during the final race of the Calder meeting. He was trying to tie Manoel Cruz for the riding title, and instead got dumped onto the track, suffering a broken collarbone.
- Bobby Frankel’s Badge of Silver may have mixed feelings about winning the San Gabriel Handicap in his first turf try. Instead of a sensual year at stud in Kentucky, he earned himself a trip to Dubai, where that kind of lifestyle is probably discouraged.