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Wednesday, September 19, 2007


All four bidders - NYRA, Capital Play, Empire Racing and Excelsior, will be invited to present their proposals (AGAIN). [NY Daily News]
Scheduled for the second week in October, this latest circus will be the third of a series of announced hearings to be conducted by the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee, chaired by Republican Senator Bill Larkin. Its purpose is to "explore the selection of the most optimum business model for the state racing franchise." But if the Senator really wanted to achieve that objective, instead of wasting time with yet another round of presentations, he would be conducting a hearing to explore the folding of OTB into the track operation. Without that particular optimum business model, Bill Gates couldn't run the franchise successfully here.

I love this reporting in Newsday today: Another company manages the Kentucky Derby, America's premier horse race. The clueless reporter is referring to, of course, Empire Racing, of which Churchill Downs is a 6% partner. Well then, why doesn't he write, of Empire, that 'Another company is losing millions of dollars and is presently seeking to sell off several racetracks?' I think it was the inclusion of Magna that first turned me against Empire. It showed arrogance - NOT having Magna involved was the one thing that everyone connected to the game here, except for maybe Joe Bruno, seemed to agree upon when the process was in its formative stages - and stupidity, for not taking into account the bad PR that it inevitably caused, especially when it issued statements taking NYRA into account for its poor financial performance. Arrogance and stupidity are not qualities we want to see in the franchise operator....and, by the way, are traits that NYRA has not been totally void of either.

Friends of New York, Tim Smith, Jared Abbruzzese, its proposed greedy takeout increases, and the Thacher report (which, for any of its faults, has still not had a single substantive claim disputed) aside, the presence of Magna alone is a good enough reason to hope that Empire goes away empty handed. And while they may only have a 6% stake, they and Churchill stand to control the simulcast signal via TrackNet Media and eventually reap 50% of the revenue from it. Is that something that anyone would really like to see?

Meanwhile, Newsday also reports that: A spokeswoman for the other company bidding, Excelsior Racing Associates, said it had no comment. And when is the last time we've heard from them? Excelsior seemed to have lost all their drive after the Steinbrenners split, didn't they? Their website hasn't been updated since April, and their public statements have been sparse. When's the last time we heard from Jerry Bailey on their behalf? Perhaps Richard Fields is keeping a low profile with respect to his connections to Spitzer. But for whatever reason, I don't get any sense of enthusiasm from them, and get the feeling that somebody there is going "Oh shit, we have to do this crap again?"

- The story on about the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission conducting a study of whether synthetic-surface racing has an impact on horses’ bronchial systems is the first one I've heard of, and something that is long overdue. But how about one for the jockeys too? Michael Dickinson, the inventor of the Tapeta surface in use at Presque Isle Downs, produced a report on exposure of horses and riders to “respirable” fibers, which found no “potentially harmful exposures.” However, it's impossible to determine any possible long-term damage at this time.

Super Frolic suffered a fatal injury while running in the Presque Isle Mile Stakes over the weekend, and I believe that's the second such incident during the meeting thus far. The Bloodhorse article presents an interesting theory that some breakdowns on synthetic surfaces could be a result of trainers racing sore horses on them in the hope that they will be magically cured. Dickinson said:
“We’ve seen that. Horses have arrived sore, and trainers have remarked that after two weeks, the horses are moving much better. However, certain injuries can only be cured by surgery or rest.”


Anonymous said...

Alan said: "and the Thacher report (which, for any of its faults, has still not had a single substantive claim disputed)"

I got this link from your site and think it disputes the whole empire report.

I agree about working out the OTB issue now btw. I also don't know the answer but I think NYRA still has a long way to go on integrity.

The MOU needs a lot of work too.

Anonymous said...

What?! Another chance to grab the brass ring?! This is ridiculous, as Alan has pointed out. And, yes, it was Empire's inclusion of Magna and Churchill Downs that immediately turned me off to their proposal. NY racing must be run by the NY racing industry for the NY racing industry. I always had the feeling that those competitors jumped on board with Empire as a means to compete with NY racing from the inside, and not to re-build it into the Colossus it was BBC, i.e. "Before Breeders Cup".And, yes, let's get the OTB's into the racing fold where they belong and let the hacks scream bloody murder: "Hey, bro, don't Tase me!" /S/Green Mtn Punter

alan said...

I've read that report, and, though it makes fair points, including the fact that Empire was singled out for special scrutiny as compared to the others, I don't agree that it effectively disputes the report.

Its main point is that the business with Empire morphing from Friends isn't relevant, especially if, say, NYRA's past isn't considered so. But I think that the Friends/Empire link undermines the reasoning for their very formation! They portrayed themselves as having integrity, yet their existence was based on a lie. So I think that the matter is perfectly relevant, and more so than past indictments at NYRA.

Another point in that report which I would criticize is that since there were investors in Friends who did not go on to Empire, that shows that Friends did not necessarily have ulterior motives. To me, it just shows that they used those other investors, accepting their investment under the false pretense of being a non-partisan group.

Anonymous said...

New Yorkers are far too corrupt to run racing on their own. NYRA's "private club" atmosphere has never worked in the past and it won't work in the future. If it weren't for NY State bred races to fill out cards, even Saratoga would be a "bomb." 4 and 5 horse Graded races are NYRA's legacy. What makes that the "best racing" in all the land? Alan has a hatred for Empire, not based on what they actually stand for, and Green Mountain seems to be his "boy." Too many personal vendetas in the mix on this site, along with misinformed opinions to even consider it to be relevant.

Anonymous said...

"Too many personal vendetas in the mix on this site, along with misinformed opinions to even consider it to be relevant."

I disagree. I'm going to keep visiting this site.

alan said...

Of course, it's up to you to decide whether or not this site is 'relevant' or not. But I think it would be more relevant if those who have been leaving comments to the effect that I don't understand Empire's vision, or that I'm criticizing them for matters other than "what they stand for" (makes me wonder if there's a single Empire troll lurking about) would instead let us know exactly what that vision is. I'm always open to criticism and disagreement, but I at least try to explain myself, even if I might sometimes admittedly get carried away. You Empire apologist(s) have written nothing to back up or explain your assertions. Please feel free to do so and thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Keep on publishing the truth and in a forum where the truth can come out. I do believe that there is an Empire "troll" lurking about. After all, what else do they really have to do these days? Most of their investors (SciGames, Delaware North, MEC, CDI) have stopped funding them, NYTHA has pulled their support, and they have lost not once, but twice!

The Thacher report may have been a bit over the top, but it is by and large accurate about Empire.

I know a lot about the franchise process and how FONYR morphed into Empire under false pretenses. Your comments are, and have been, spot on. PS, I do not have a dog in this fight, just want to see the record set straight.

Gordon said...

When Tom Meeker was running Churchill, I was happy to see them get in the race to take over New York racing. However, the new chairman is doing some odd things (i.e. selling off profitable tracks, investing in a Silicon Valley software company, igniting a war with TVG)and I am not too thrilled with him. Magna is a mess. Someone needs to buy them out.