- The Aussies may not have saved the day in New York, but it appears that they might have done just that at Santa Anita. Track officials are now leaning towards keeping the Cushion Track after an Australian synthetic track manufacturer (and a competitor to the surfaces currently in use here) demonstrated that their polymers, which they use instead of wax, can solve the drainage problem that shut the track down. Ian Pearse, the president of Pro-ride, apparently wowed horsemen with a demonstration over the weekend. "The way he (Pearse) showed us, it's going to drain," [Bobby] Frankel said. "Hopefully, it works."
"The testing on improving the existing racetrack right now, let's just say I think it's fair to say it couldn't be any more encouraging," [Ron] Charles said. [Daily Bulletin.com]In addition, track workers are digging through the track in order to unearth some of the rocks that are contributing to the kickback problem. Veteran rider Alex Solis said the kickback is the worst he's ever experienced.
Also reported in the Daily Bulletin piece is the fact that Frankel's filly Turn Away, who was vanned off the track on Sunday, is OK. The trainer expressed reservations about running Country Star over the track until it's proven to be safe. But we saw a whole bunch of expensive horseflesh - Indian Blessing and Tiago to name a couple - race over the track over the weekend, so safety doesn't seem to be too much of a concern to many. And Tiago's trainer John Sherriffs is not a synthetic fan at all.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer followed up on yesterday's story regarding the big business going on at Pennsylvania's VLT parlors.
"Pennsylvania is still a very new market, so there's still a lot of interest by adults who want to try something new," said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group. "You've got some very sharp operators there. They know how to reach players and give them what they want." [Philly Inquirer]Operators in New York must either lack that expertise or the money with which to carry it out. There are over 12,500 machines currently in operation in Pennsylvania, with another 2,000 coming next month when Penn National opens its new facility. All four of the parlors mentioned yesterday are undergoing expansion. "When your numbers get over $300 a day per machine, that is a warning sign that you need more machines." Nice problem to have.
- Less than two years after he was arrested for possession of blood doping agents and accused of using them to fix races, harness driver Eric Ledford will resume driving at the Meadowlands on Thursday night. Ledford pleaded guilty to third degree possession, and the more serious charges were dropped.
"It was determined there was good cause to release him from the terms because he was a model participant," [Ledford's attorney Timothy] Donohue told the newspaper. "He paid all his fines and was fully compliant, and it was creating a financial hardship because he wasn't racing." [Associated Press]It was creating a financial hardship because he wasn't racing because he was caught cheating! Oh, poor thing! The Meadowlands is not quite as sympathetic to the "model participant," but they have no choice but to grant him access to the grounds.
"As a state-owned facility, the Meadowlands cannot simply ban Eric Ledford from driving if he is licensed by the New Jersey Racing Commission," said Senior Vice President of Racing Dennis Dowd. "However, we will be vigilant in monitoring Mr. Ledford's conduct. Currently, he is licensed by the commission only to drive and we have informed his attorney that if he intends to participate as a trainer or owner, our position will be reevaluated." [Standardbred Canada]