- On Preakness day, West Point Thoroughbreds will spare us from seeing Flashy Bull run up the track again as he did in the Derby. West Point founder Terry Finley wrote on his website:
What a great experience for the partners and West Point. It's what we all dream about and our dreams came true on Saturday.Really? We all dream to run a hopelessly outclassed animal in the Derby just so we can say we were there? Now the stable’s High Finance is being considered for the second leg of the Triple Crown. He won at Belmont on Thursday in an entry-level allowance in his 5th career start, less than three weeks after graduating in a romp at Keeneland on Blue Grass day. He would be asked to stretch out and face Barbaro just a little over two weeks later if they decide to run at Pimlico. I dunno, I suppose you’re all sick of reading me complain about this kind of stuff. West Point is entitled to do what they want. Perhaps they didn’t get enough mileage sales-wise out of the Derby. I just know I wouldn’t handle my horses like this.
Lawyer Ron is apparently out, and Bob Holthus was honest when he told the Courier-Journal: “He got bounced around pretty good, but the reason he did was because he was in the way.” Looks like those Beyers may have been right about this horse. He looked fantastic on the track during the week, but looked just not fast enough on Saturday.
- The Jockeys' Guild seems to have won over at least two members of Congress in its bid to have workers’ compensation insurance covered by the industry. And perhaps, in some perverse way, they have Wayne Gertmenian to thank. His conduct in allowing the Guild’s policy to expire while apparently fleecing the Guild’s finances for his own personal gain inspired such righteous anger at last year’s hearings that the momentum for government intervention seems to be continuing strongly into 2006, at least on the federal level. (The Kentucky state legislature recently beat back an effort to pay for insurance from a small increase in takeout.) Representatives Ed Whitfield and Bart Stupak told a hearing on Tuesday that included injured rider John Velasquez and Guild head Darrel Haire that they are considering legislation that would amend the Interstate Horseracing Act, the federal legislation that governs all simulcasting.
"The idea to amend the Interstate Horseracing Act to include jockeys and exercise riders in the revenue sharing from simulcasting may be the quickest solution to solving the health and insurance crisis," [Stupak] said. "By including jockeys in the revenue sharing, adequate finances will finally be made available for adequate on-track and off-track health insurance, as well as a moderate retirement fund for the human athletes that are the lynchpins of this $26-billion industry." [Bloodhorse]The dramatic appearance of Gary Birzer at last year's hearings was not forgotten either, as a representative from Mountaineer was grilled after telling Whitfield that she lacked accident statistics for the track. Haire told the committee many jockeys have said they felt pressured to ride at Mountaineer under bad weather and poor track conditions. Mountaineer increased its coverage to $I million in December, too late for the fallen rider.
- Meanwhile, Mountaineer’s parent company, MTR Gaming, has more important things to worry about now, such as maximizing their potential profit in Ohio. MTR, which owns Scioto Downs, has thrown its support behind the new proposal by a Cincinnati group that would allow a standalone casino in that city. But it’s not because it cares about Cincy. Rather it’s because the proposal would allow table games in tracks such as Scioto which are in locations other than Cleveland. The proposal was rushed into existence to counter the Penn National-backed Learn and Earn plan which would limit casino expansion to Cleveland, and shut out Cincy altogether in order to protect Penn National’s nearby Argosy casino from competition.
Any of the plans will need 322,899 signatures by August in order to make it to the ballot in November. Charles Ruma, the owner of the privately-owned Beulah Park, feels that the threat of widespread casinos will hurt the chances of any slots in Ohio. "If you’re looking at fullblown casinos, it’s highly unlikely that will get passed in Ohio….The best hope is to have slot machines at racetracks." [Columbus Dispatch]
- Penn National is also facing a new bid by the relentless slots opposition in Maine to outlaw the slots that it already has in a temporary facility, and for which it is currently building a new $75 million facility in Bangor. These guys at No Slots for ME just don’t give up – their bid to place a referendum to repeal slots failed for this year, but now they’re shooting for November 2007, at which time the new facility will presumably be well under way, if not complete. The group is counting on their ability to collect signatures outside the polling places at a June primary and at this November’s election.
To qualify for the November 2007 ballot, as the group intends, it must submit its signatures by Jan. 25, according to the Maine Secretary of State's Office. The group must gather a number of signatures equal to or exceeding 10 percent of the votes cast in the 2006 gubernatorial election. Based on past elections, that translates into about 50,000 signatures.The repeal effort has the backing of noted religious conservative and homophobe Michael Heath, who failed in his attempt to repeal Maine’s anti-gay discrimination laws last year. Heath is on a new kick now – he is urging his followers to boycott movie theaters over the release of The DaVinci Code. And not just the theaters that are actually showing the film.
If the group is successful in gathering those signatures, voters next year will consider the question, "Do you want to ban all public use of slot machines in Maine?" [Bangor Daily News]
"Adding to the need for a boycott is the current trend in movies to exalt and extol every form of immorality and vice, while relegating all that is noble in man to insignificance. Among the virtues and human emotions which find no admittance to the movie theaters of Maine are honor, love, duty and patriotism.” [Portsmouth Herald Maine News]Oh. I guess they’re not showing United 93 in Maine.