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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Catching Up

- Now that I'm done with the Keeneland gig, and I'll post more about that experience a bit later on, I'll be catching up in the next few days on some stuff that I've missed or would like to further blab on about. For starters, I was wondering what happened to NYRA's latest court date in regard to getting the Aqueduct racino approved, and see that the hearing was once again adjourned due to ongoing negotiations between NYRA and the state.

NYRA's chief executive, Charles Hayward, said on Monday that the negotiations have "several issues" outstanding, but that he was hopeful that an agreement could be reached within the next month. [DRF]
That seems like a more cautious appraisal of the situation from the NYRA chief than we've heard in the recent past. Gov Spitzer is known for his tough negotiating stands, and I would guess that the state is trying to get the association to drop their land claim and/or their lawsuit against the past administration for their blatant stalling on approval. But I don't see what NYRA has to lose by holding firm at this point; and I don't see why that would change whether or not it is awarded the franchise in the decision that is allegedly going to be announced by Memorial Day. Seems to me that the state is only hurting itself and the horsemen here.

Meanwhile, the governor is now focusing on campaign reform, and on clarifying and strengthening the state's laws protecting womens' reproductive rights. And while those are both worthy causes in my opinion, especially the latter in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that has emboldened abortion opponents, there's been no talk whatsoever - not one iota - of tackling the state's racing laws and OTB's. And that is leading me to increasingly believe that there will be a one-year extension of NYRA's franchise. Should the governor wish to award the franchise to one of the other entities, the changes in the law required for a for-profit to run the tracks will not be in place. Besides, passing a law hastily without taking this unique opportunity to do it correctly and correct years of inefficiencies would be a real tragedy.

Also dragging on interminably - especially for the riders involved - is the investigation believed to be tied to suspected race fixing at Great Lakes Downs that resulted in ten jockeys being banned from Tampa Bay Downs late last year. Terry Houghton was banned from Tampa, welcomed at Hawthorne, but now has been told to stay away from Arlington Park. However, Rene Douglas, the first jockey to be implicated and banned, will be allowed to ride at Arlington. But of course, nobody, even the riders involved, seems to know the reasoning behind any of these decisions.

- On the track, Nobiz Like Shobiz, who seems to me to be flying just a tad under the radar at this point, worked out on Monday, and will have one more drill at Belmont before Barclay Tagg ships him to Churchill next week. "The last plane out is Wednesday...That's about three days earlier than I'd like to go." [NYRA] I'd read a couple of people project him as the Derby favorite after the Wood, but that seems highly unlikely at this point. I think most would agree that Curlin and Street Sense will be the top two betting choices, and I wouldn't be shocked to see Scat Daddy as the third choice. And Circular Quay was actually lower odds than Nobiz in the last futures pool.

No one will be rooting for Nobiz Like Shobiz more than his sire, Albert the Great, who has been anything but thus far. Nobiz is his only U.S. stakes winner - he's had two in Puerto Rico - with his third crop hitting the track this year, so he's primed for a permanent vacation to someplace like Turkey if things don't pick for him soon.

Nice to see at least some common sense in the face of Derby fever: Slew's Tizzy's connections now say that they are leaning away from the race. However, with horses like Xchanger, Bwana Bull, and Teuflesberg still possibilities [Oh yeah, and Sedgefield too], Michael Matz faces the possibility of being shut out with his promising Chelokee.

- HRTV announced their pre-Derby coverage plans, and there's no separate show devoted to the workouts as on TVG. If there's anyone out there who gets this network, please let us know how it is.