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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Plenty of Rain, But No Relief in Sight

Got an email from Chris Wittstruck to say that he was misquoted in an article this past week in Long Island Business News (entitled Lack of lottery terminals has horse breeders running for the hills)

He said it should take about 14 months for a new terminal operator to be identified at Aqueduct, but by that time, NYRA could be out of money.

“The concept of identification of a VLT operator in the foreseeable future is slim and none and slim is out to lunch,” Wittstruck said.
What he really said was that it would take 14 months to construct a racino once that operator is identified. Though at this point, with the State Senate deadlock set to enter its third week, six (or seven) bids, and the accompanying integrity checks, to be reviewed (and how much, if any, work do you think has been done on that to this point), and with the mere identity of one of the three men charged with making the decision in dispute, the statement as written may not be so absurd.

In March, NYRA was reported to be "calm" about the latest delay, that of the collapse of the Delaware North deal approved by the governor last fall, and that it won't affect its ability to conduct live racing for at least the next 18 months.
"I think we'll be fine through the third quarter of next year," Charles Hayward, NYRA's president and chief executive officer, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. [DRF]
But if you do the math of 14 months, the construction process would need to begin next month in order for the facility to be complete by the end of September, 2010. So, even in the seemingly remote chance of immediate action, it would seem that NYRA could at some point once again find itself on the verge.

The current Belmont meeting can't possibly be a good one for NYRA. No Triple Crown possibility for Belmont day cost it probably around 30,000 fans at a minimum $10 a pop plus parking, concessions, and lost on-track handle. And the incessant rain has caused, according to Cristblog, more than 60 grass races [to be] washed onto the main track in just over eight weeks....and that before four more on Saturday and, surely based on the steady rainfall today, whatever is scheduled for Sunday too. I wonder how long it would take for a synthetic track to pay for itself through the bigger fields it would create on rainy days? Probably not long this spring!

Look over to the NYRA ad to the right, and yes, there's Rachel Alexandra. No, I'm not a fan, but yes, I'll accept money to help promote her appearance. But if the results of NYRA's efforts to generate crowds for Curlin last year are any indication, it might be wise to save its money and put it to better use. Maybe a filly who held off the Derby winner to win the Preakness will be a slightly better draw than a defending Horse of the Year. But I still think it's a tough sell; as with Curlin, something's missing. As in, meaningful competition.

With no resolution in sight, and the sides headed back to court, an exasperated, and mostly impotent, Governor Paterson is reported to be planning a special session on Wednesday to tackle a lengthy list of essential matters. No, that does not include slots at Aqueduct. Though if it's up to one Senator, the issue of gay marriage will be added.

Of course, given Paterson's pathetic standing in the polls, how he's going to get the Democrats (or, the Republicans should the court ruling go against them) into the chamber (short of summoning the State Police) remains to be seen.

Nearly two weeks after it happened, the so-called coup pulled off by the GOP continues to seem surreal to me. I read a diarist at Daily Kos complain about the use of the word to describe what happened, contending that it should be reserved for more violent and profound occurrences. But to me, the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box was unexpectedly and summarily overturned. So I think that 'coup' is perfectly applicable here. But as time goes on and the implications become clear, the notion that the Senate could flip due to what was nothing more than a parliamentary 'gotcha' becomes increasingly infuriating. In a way, I think it would seem more legitimate if Senator Pedro Espada had come in with guns a-blazing, there to kick some ass.

The Daily News has an exclusive tour of Espada's co-op in the Bronx today, as he tries to demonstrate that he actually lives in the district he represents, as required by law, and not in toney Mamaroneck, where he's been caught red-handed. Apparently, some of his supposed neighbors in the borough are not convinced.
"I've never seen him in the building before....To my knowledge, this could be the first time he slept in the building." [NYDN]
The matter of his residency is just one of the investigations into his affairs currently underway. And each day, as he proclaims himself to be the president of the Senate, he continues to brazenly flout the laws requiring disclosure of his campaign contributions. Unbelievable. Can you imagine what Senator Skelos would have said if the Democrats had placed him in the position of power that the Republicans have??

This guy is a piece of work, man. I love the way he refers to himself in the third person; always suspicious of those guys. Given his claims that he has two votes in the Senate - one as a Senator, and the other as the President Pro-Tem (assuming the role of the non-existent Lieutenant Governor), one extremely witty commenter on the Capitol Confidential wondered if Espada could kick his own ass? Somebody should!


Sunny Jim said...

Hi Alan -

Churchill Downs had its first ever night racing last night and 28,000 showed up for an otherwise routine Friday card. Don't know if they were using an admission gimmick or not (Calvin Borel bobblehead??)

Great to see management there doing a little thinking outside the box and trying something drastically different during hard times. Something you rarely see in this sport.


The_Knight_Sky said...

I wonder how long it would take for a synthetic track to pay for itself through the bigger fields it would create on rainy days?

Probably not long this spring!


You mean you're in favor of denying grass horses to run on their preferred surface?

And furthermore you want to open up a can of worms that has exacerbated the problems out on the west coast.

Not wise my friend. Not wise.

alan said...

>>And furthermore you want to open up a can of worms that has exacerbated the problems out on the west coast.

Not necessarily, just making a point that I have for some time - that my aversion to sloppy tracks is such that I've always said that, all other factors being equal, the elimination of such would make synthetic tracks worthwhile, in my opinion.

Not sure what you mean by the turf comment, but it just seems that many trainers will run their horses in off-the-turfers when the main track is synthetic. Thanks for stopping by!

>>Churchill Downs had its first ever night racing last night and 28,000 showed up for an otherwise routine Friday card.

Hi Sunny -

Wow!! Haven't seen anything about a promotion, just a novelty I guess. You'd think that night racing during the week is a no-brainer, but it doesn't seem to help the Meadowlands. I'm sure you've been to some of those weeknight cards, they're downright depressing. They rush those cards like they can't wait to get outta there.

Anonymous said...

I've read the Post & Precious articles on the Aqueduct situation. Perhaps all naysayers should wait and see what the current round of refined bids look like that are due to the Governor this coming Wednesday, June 24th. There may even be a clue or two to run with after the NY Gaming Summit conference on Tuesday the 23rd. Pretlow's remarks on the NYRA building a VLT parlor and hiring an operator has and always will be a non-starter. There are a host of qualified VLT vendors and real estate development partners involved in this process, so let's see what happens next week.

Sunny Jim said...

People forget that the Meadowlands, before the current hard times and in its first 20 years, paid for the debt service on Giants Stadium and the Brendan Byrne/Continental Arena with its racing revenue. The Giants, Jets, Nets, Devils, soccer, music concerts and Ringling Brothers Circus had their rent paid by horse racing.

Seems like a new round of innovations is needed now in New Jersey. I'm not seeing any, though.

And in New York, when was the last time 28,000 showed up for a Friday card at Aqueduct or Belmont?