- After the drama of the first day of the New York franchise presentations, it sounds as if there was some comic relief during day two, during which Capital Play and Excelsior made their cases. A reader admonished me for relying too much on third party accounts of the hearings, which is a fair point. But I must say that it's unfortunate that us fans downstate have to rely on just that. With all due respect to our friends up in Saratoga, two-thirds of the affected tracks are in the New York City area, and it seems to me that the Committee With No Name could have conducted one of the sessions down here.
However, Equidaily was there, and posted some audio clips from Wednesday's session, so you can hear for yourself that the quotes that follow are accurate. (I suppose these are Equidaily exclusives, so I won't link to them directly from here).
Capital Play touted their plan, which includes a handout of $50 million to the city of Saratoga to do what they want with it. President Karl O'Farrell said he would love to install "a beautiful fence" around the oldest track in the country [Glens Falls Post Star]. HUH? What's that for, to keep out illegal immigrants? The company also mocked the recent crowd at the Wood, and O'Farrell showed images of how to market the tracks heavily in New York City with giant banners on buildings and posters on construction fencing and in subway cars similar to those used by the fashion industry. [Albany Times Union] If only it was as simple as that; while NYRA hasn't hung any banners from the Empire State Building, they've advertised on billboards and in the trains for years.
But the highlight of the hearing was the appearance of Steve Wynn. I'm wondering if maybe Richard Fields isn't wishing he instead went into the Yankees organization and picked the red-hot Alex Rodriguez instead. When asked for specifics of Excelsior's plans, Wynn supplied responses such as "How we do all that is a heckuva trick, but if we get picked we'll figure it out." and "You either trust us to do this, or you don't....Either we're the right guys to fix it, or we're not. If we are the right guys to fix this, you will get the most money from us"...and "We're here to offer our services....And we expect to make a buck or two." [Daily Racing Form] That's for sure.
He offered one idea after [Jerry] Bailey said he once wore a helmet camera for ESPN-TV during a race. Wynn suggested jockeys could regularly wear cameras and the signals would be beamed on 15-foot television screens in sports bars for bettors.And perhaps the most embarrassing quote that I've seen is this, from the aforementioned Equidaily clips:
"You think they'll look? Sure! That's the tomorrow of this," Wynn said. "You do that kind of thing before big crowds and they will catch on." [AP]
When asked about the problem racing faces with horse doping, Wynn felt it could be solved at the "snap of a finger":Oh man. Maybe he wants to fit the horses with helmet cameras to tape any suspicious activities.
"Pretty easy to deal with, OK?... These are not the kinds of things that rise to the level of real problems compared to the other ones that you're dealing with here today."
In a more poignant moment, Jerry Bailey, who is not an equity partner that we know of, but whose presence at least gives the organization some street cred, told the panel about how the deterioration of backstretch conditions over the years.
So where we are now, it's hard to say. We're supposed to believe that Gov. Spitzer is going to make a decision, presumably based on the advice of his panel, by Memorial Day. Whether the Ad Hoc Committee's recommendation of Excelsior carries any weight at all remains to be seen. The departure of the Steinbrenner clan can't help, and there's still that nagging question as to whether Governor Squeaky Clean would award the franchise to his friend and contributor Richard Fields, as well as to his buddy William Mulrow. (And of course, as in the case of Empire, there were no questions that I heard about the possible conflict of interest there.) And there's that tiny matter of the legislature tackling serious reform in the racing laws, which they haven't been willing or able to deal with in 25 years. They have to change the law should the franchise be awarded to a for-profit group. But any talk of further reform to finally solve the OTB mess has clearly faded away. There's been speculation that NYRA will get a one year extension while everything is worked out, and I wouldn't be shocked if that turns out to be the case. This thing has been dragging out longer than last night's Canucks-Stars match, and who would be surprised if there was more overtime on the way.
- Good job by the Saratogian, which filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain a list of the items that were requested from the bidders as part of the integrity reviews. They published them in an editorial the other day
- All foreign and domestic bank accounts (checking, savings, time deposits, certificates of deposit, money market funds) by you, your spouse and dependent children.
- Loans against pension plans, life insurance policies, 401(k) plans.
- Have you, your spouse or dependent children made or received a loan in excess of $10,000?
- Have you filed an insurance claim in excess of $100,000?
- Have you received a referral or finder's fee in excess of $10,000?
- Do you have safety deposit boxes? Names and address of bank and name of person the box is in must be supplied.
- List all real estate interests.
- List other assets such as art collections, the date they were purchased and current value.
- Provide federal and state tax returns for the past three years.
Candidates for public office wouldn't submit to these kinds of invasions. No wonder Marylou Whitney reduced her stake in Empire Racing Associates rather than put together this kind of information. [The Saratogian]