- Christening is entered at Delaware on Saturday, and it's a turf race for $40K maiden claimers. It's a surprise to see her on the grass, though given the lack of information we've been getting on her, for all I know they could be prepping her for a conditioned trot at Harrington. I don't recall offhand seeing any offspring of Vicar even run on the grass, no less win. R Lady Joy, who is his top money-earner, was entered in a turf stakes at Calder in May, but it was washed onto the main track.
It's been a quiet year for Vicar, now represented by his third crop; his only stakes winner thus far is Wild L, who won a six furlong stakes at Prairie Meadows in May, joining Vicarage and R Lady Joy as his only stakes winners overall. That's not going to get the job done and allow him to maintain his digs in Kentucky.
Christening is out of a mare by Belong To Me who is a half-sister to Fit for a Queen, who did win in England at two, but made her name here on the dirt. I don't see anything that screams 'turf' here, and I hope this is more than just an early act of desperation after her one disappointing, but not terrible effort on the dirt.
Meanwhile, Highland Cat is scheduled to run on the same day, in a mile race for $40k maiden claimers on the grass at Belmont; if, that is, the rainy weather ever goes away here (it's supposed to clear out on Friday). Good job by Bill Turner anticipating the rain that washed last Saturday's race off the turf and thus not entering him, but this one is only a mile, and the thinking was that he'd enjoy some extra distance, as in the mile and a quarter race that he passed on. Highland Cat breezed a half in 50.49 seconds (48/89) on Tuesday.
- A tad over four weeks to go, and NYRA had their annual pre-Saratoga press conference the other day, and while I’m sure that Charlie Hayward and Bill Nader had their it’s-almost-time-for-paradise happy faces on, one imagines that, for them, the upcoming meeting is in the backdrop; almost a distraction from the drama leading up to the August 15 deadline for their bid to retain the franchise. And that will be followed by the irrationally mad dash to the September 15 deadline for the committee to select the next operator of the state’s tracks (and personally, I don’t think it’s really going to play out in that manner).
After September 15, NYRA could enter what would be a long lame duck period, though not quite as long as that facing the President of the United States, who should hopefully start quacking soon after the November elections. (By the time NYRA's franchise expires in Dec 2007, the only words out of the president's mouth could be 'AFLAC!') However, at the same time, NYRA would no doubt be in court claiming that they own the land that the tracks sit on, and man, who knows how that will play out. The state seems positive that they will prevail on the issue, but they seemed to back down when they had a chance to have it decided by a bankruptcy court last winter, and they ultimately blinked and bailed NYRA out.
But the show will go on, and the biggest change, besides the Woodward being moved there to salvage the usually moribund final weekend, is that you’ll be able to go across the street and watch the races at the harness track, where the parking is free and close to the entrance. Plus, the joint is air conditioned, so you’ll probably find Frank Stronach there if he’s up there this year. NYRA gets the use of 47 stalls in return, and they have the right to pull the plug after this season if they lose too many customers. I can't imagine that more than a handful would go to sit inside there; but on the other hand, on a horrible rainy day, there are worse options, and it would likely be good material for a blog post anyway.
Hayward also spoke about the Aqueduct casino, and, of course, the construction is STILL not underway! Asked what the latest holdup is, Hayward said, 'It's not clear to me.'
'We have done everything we can to get this going,' Hayward said. 'Our hope is that we can begin construction shortly.'
Every month VLTs don't operate results in $40 million worth of lost revenues, he said.
NYRA counsel Patrick Kehoe said he expects groundbreaking to occur this summer, and NYRA Senior Vice President Bill Nader has said construction could take at least 12 months. [Saratogian]