- A couple of brief notes on today's races: In the Woody Stephens, Deadly Dealer cuts back to a sprint after getting thrashed by Curlin in the Arkansas Derby. He wants the lead and the other maid speed threats, Stormello and Teuflesberg, have been running in routes lately, and may not be sprint-sharp enough to keep up with Deadly Dealer. I think Street Magician is the main threat if the speed falters. A switch to rating tactics suited him quite well in the Jacobs at Pimlico, and would do the same here at a distance at which he's won.
Hesanoldsalt (Broad Brush) looks solid to me in the Birdstone, except for one thing; he's been racing strictly around two turns, so the nine furlong "sprint" at Belmont is a change-up. He's raced only once here; that a 4th in the Peter Pan last year, before he got good. And he's pretty good right now. He comes off three second place finishes, but that was behind Invasor, Corinthian, and, er....Flashy Bull...who I guess is quite good right now too. Hesanoldsalt edged AP Arrow in two of those races; but since the latter too makes the switch to the one turn race, this race becomes a bit of a question mark. Still, I lean towards Zito's colt, in large part because I'm not thrilled with the other three. Yes, Papi Chullo got a big fig over this track in his last, but beat just three others with a clear rail trip.
- I'll obviously have more on the franchise developments once the dust from the Belmont settles, but today is a good day for NYRA in more ways than it being a sunny Belmont day. The reports that Governor Spitzer favors a reconstituted NYRA to receive a 20 year extension to run racing in the state obviously bodes well for its future. And we can certainly speculate that it's the ultimate payoff to the crafty manner in which they've played their claim to the land. Given all their problems and the scandals which, fairly or not, its opponents continued to tie to a new management team, one has to think that the state is seeking to avoid a long and potentially damaging court battle; methinks that the behind-the-scenes developments were developing in NYRA's favor. It probably also didn't help that the other three bidders all carried significant flaws, whether political, ethical, geographical, or experience-related.
Of course, the exact details are still in flux. "There has not been a final determination," said Spitzer spokesperson Paul Larrabee. When a deal will be finalized is unclear; Larrabee was quoted in the Times Union yesterday that the Governor's comment that 'we'll see after the Travers' was "tongue-in-cheek." (I was thinking that Spitzer thought that the Travers was being run today.) I've recently read conflicting reports as to how serious the idea of closing Aqueduct really is. And what exactly are the reactions of the other bidders remains to be seen. But as Steve Crist wrote in the Form today:
If nothing else, proposing to separate the racing and slots operations is one way of forcing the answer to a central question: Are the bidders seeking to unseat NYRA genuinely dedicated to improving New York racing for the sake of the sport and its customers, or merely interested in the lucrative possibility of a slot-machine monopoly in New York City?I would think that Excelsior would be the front-runner to run the gaming, given their experience in that area. Empire was constituted mostly with racing people, and I imagine that the developments come as a grave disappointment; in fact, I expect so given their lofty rhetoric about reviving the sport, and their emphasis on Saratoga. In fact, I'd think the same would apply to Capital Play and their stated goal to attract new fans to the track; but Karl O'Farrell was quoted as saying: "In the end, we're happy to work with them any way they want to work." So I guess they're interested in that lucrative possibility that Crist mentions too.
The New York Post reports:
..The move was being described by racing insiders as an effort to help Excelsior - one of whose principals, the casino entrepreneur Richard Fields, was a major supporter of the governor's election campaign.Indeed, if Excelsior does get the nod, we'll certainly be hearing the above repeated as an accusation rather than an assertion.
And of course, given the many twists and turns the story has taken, it would certainly be premature to draw any definitive conclusions. Instead, it's Belmont Day, the sun is prevailing after a brief morning shower, and some 70,000 people will soon be gathering to celebrate the greatest game in the world. So enough of politics - let's gamble! Have a fantastic day.