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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thursday Night Notes - Feb 16

- Trainer Steven Krebs did a fine job filling in for the suspended Scott Lake, winning two races yesterday at Aqueduct. [NY Daily News] Lake, the current national leader in wins with 56, was suspended for 15 days for a drug positive for a bronchial dialator and is banned from the grounds. However, life goes on as his horses race on under the nominal care of his assistant. Amazing. Lake’s winning percentage had dropped off sharply around midway through last year, and some felt that it coincided with the institution of NYRA’s detention barns. This year he has 16 wins in 88 starts at the Big A.

Almost equally amazing is the news that business is up at Aqueduct over last year. Last year must have been pretty damn bad. On-track handle is up a whopping 22%; total handle was up 5% over last January, but that was despite the cutoff of rebate shops since then. Field size is up only a little bit, but perhaps the quality and competition is better this year.

Nine races today at Aqueduct offer purses totaling $330,000. Ten races at Gulfstream total $211,000. For many owners and trainers, the stark economics of racing have caught and overtaken the luxury of sunshine. [Newsday]
- The long and costly war between horsemen and management over VLT revenues at Monticello harness is over, but only because both sides agreed to binding arbitration. So the purses, which were cut in half, will be restored, and in return the horsemen will once again allow out-of-state simulcasting; that ban had cost the track well over half their handle. There was concern that some outlets wouldn’t pick up the track once the signal resumed, but a spokesman for the US Trotting Association dismissed those fears, especially in February, when few tracks are racing. "Quite frankly, if it was an attractive product before the strike, it will be an attractive product after." [Record]