- Thanks to the reader who sent in this Green Monkey photo. And how appropriate given the recent news that everybody's favorite $16 million equine is soon to resume training.
“He is at Ashford Stud (Coolmore’s Kentucky division) recovering from a muscle injury; we’re hoping he’ll go back in training with Todd Pletcher in a few weeks,” said a Coolmore spokesman. [Bloodhorse]Too late for the Classics of course, but I'm sure we could get, what, around 20-1 in Vegas for the Classic?
- Here in New York, Excelsior Racing has lost a key player in Howard Wolfson, their sharp-tongued spokesperson who has taken a leave of absence from the PR firm Glover Park to form a new agency. Called Gotham Acme, it will be 100% devoted to furthering the presidential ambitions of Hilary Clinton, which will be a full-time endeavor to be sure. As we've noted before, Wolfson has been one of her most senior advisors. With the calculated mechanism of the RFP process and its precise points system having given way to what promises to be a political and public relations free-for-all, Wolfson's ample talents will certainly be missed.
And rumor has it that NYRA's VP Bill Nader may be leaving the embattled association to go work for the Hong Kong Racing Association! If that's true, is his decision to leave at a time when things seem to be looking up for NYRA something we should consider in trying to handicap the franchise race?
Tom Precious reports in Bloodhorse that the six current bidders have been notified that they have until March 31 to submit their proposals. NYRA, Empire, and Excelsior are not required to submit anything in writing, unless they wish to amend their bids, which you can be 100% sure they will indeed be doing. The letter to the groups, signed by Richard Rifkin, special counsel to Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said the governor expects to make a decision on his choice for the franchise on or about May 25.
- Here's another indication of the potential problems looming for the industry as slots and casinos proliferate, especially in the Northeast. Empire Resorts, owner of Monticello Raceway, is still losing money despite its racino. In the fourth quarter, revenue from the video gaming machines fell by $400,000, or 2 percent, because of competition from Yonkers and Pennsylvania casinos. Empire is counting on a full-fledged Indian casino to bail it out.
On the flip side, consider the Fair Grounds, where purses have been boosted by a whopping 25% for non-stakes over the last two weeks of the meeting. And this is all from increased business on the racing side, as the racino has not yet been built.
The Fair Grounds, owned by Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc., said the latest increase is because of better-than-expected business at the track and its eight off-track betting facilities in southeastern Louisiana, along with record handles for the Louisiana Derby card last Saturday. [AP]