- Governor Spitzer's budget proposal includes $23 million for NYRA to continue their operations through the end of the year; this according to Buffalo News reporter Tom Precious, who does an excellent job reporting on the franchise situation for Bloodhorse.com. If approved, that would lift at least one of the clouds hanging over New York racing these days. However, the last I read was that NYRA had enough cash to get through mid-February or so, and the budget process will not nearly be over by that time.
The budget also assumes that money from an Aqueduct casino will start flowing by April 1, 2008; and the first deputy budget director is quoted as saying that the state is "working" on finalizing an agreement with NYRA. Of course, NYRA's franchise expires at the end of this year, and it may or may not be around to finally benefit from the slots when they do come on line. With NYRA's court cases on the land issue and the state's stalling on the racino's approval pending, I imagine the negotiations must be rather awkward.
However, the governor is proposing a 6.3% increase in total spending, along with property tax reductions, as well as health care cuts that Governor Pataki has failed to get approval for in the past. So any new revenue stream would be crucial, and you can always depend on those gamblers to help foot the bill. I'm guessing that with little to lose at this point, NYRA is in a position to stand firm against any requests in the negotiations for them to modify or drop their suits.
The budget also refers to a "VLT expansion program." Spitzer budget aides said there is some discussion of expanding VLT offerings downstate--which could include Belmont or somewhere else.
- Trainer Richard Dutrow, who served a 60 day suspension in 2005, the year his Saint Liam won the Eclipse for Horse of the Year, has been banned again. This time it's for an excessive amount of bute in one of his starters last fall. The idea of harsher penalties for repeat offenders doesn't seem to apply in racing. Perhaps a "three strikes and you're out" rule would magically reduce the number of positive drug tests.
- Another workout for Street Sense; this time a half mile in 50.80. No word on whether he blew. Nobiz Like Shobiz breezed a half in 48 seconds in preparation for Saturday's Holy Bull, in which he will be the first major Derby contender to appear in a race in 2007. You don't often hear trainers publicly question a work time in these cases, but Tagg told the Form: "I wouldn't have minded it a little bit faster.....He does things so easy. I've just got to make sure he's done enough."
However, in the same article, trainer Dave Vivian, in explaining why he wasn't anxious to test his Tropical Park Derby winner Soldier's Dancer against Tagg's colt, said:
Cornelio [Velasquez] also rides my horse, and he told me he's been breezing Nobiz Like Shobiz and that he's really special, that every time he works him he always seems to have something left."