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Friday, October 09, 2009

More For Some, Less For Others

I was really surprised at the announcement that the Saratoga meet will be extended by four days to an even 40. I hadn't heard any clamoring for expansion, and besides, the meet already seemed a week too long to me for sure. NYRA President/CEO Charlie Hayward said:

"Going into this year’s Saratoga meet, we predicted that wagering would decline approximately 5 percent from last year. We greatly exceeded those expectations.....The expansion to four racing days was a measured decision that reflects the overwhelming demand for racing that we have from horsemen in Saratoga. At a time when many tracks in the country had to cut back on racing days [blah blah blah...] [The Saratogian]
Look, Charlie can go on all day about how great Saratoga is, but we all know exactly why NYRA has extended the neet. I truly wonder, and rather doubt, that this move would have been made had slots been up and running at the Big A. I do believe that most interested parties (other than local restaurant owners and Tom Federlin), including NYRA officials, would have agreed that the meet had already reached its limit, and possibly beyond it in terms of the quality of the races. However, with the timeline for slots already extended beyond NYRA's initial estimates of how long its cash would hold out, every little bit helps. And four days upstate instead of three and a dark day downstate will account for far more than just a little bit.

Of course, more racing at Saratoga means less down here, and what of those amongst us who don't have the time or the money to spend a lot of time upstate? You know, the degenerates who support the racing during its most moribund days in the dead of winter? That makes seven summer weekends with no live thoroughbred racing in the metropolitan area....and one less of the Friday sunset racing, which may very well qualify as the most festive downstate racing dates of the year other than the Belmont Stakes. That's a long gap...and it kind of sucks. It smacks of elitism, you know, the northeast liberal kind!

A longtime reader and fellow hopeful Jets fan writes:
I have always wondered if, during Saratoga, they could run on Tuesday at Big A or even Belmont just to give downstaters like us a chance at live racing.

In the past I imagined running an almost all turf card filled with races they would not card upstate, 2yo turf races, Md Clm and MdNY on the turf, turf sprints, and a couple of cheap claimers on the dirt, but now they run them all up there.

They could also card the cheaper jumper races that have been eliminated, make it a fair atmosphere....10 races on a Tuesday beginning at noon, I will be there.
I know, there are a hundred practical and logistical reasons why that will never happen, but it's an interesting thought....and I'd take a staycation day or two to check that out too.

The good news is that I do believe that this is it for least assuming that one day, maybe even before Halloween Thanksgiving Christmas the Kentucky Derby, an operator will be named to run the racino. Once the money starts flowing, NYRA will take another look at its prized jewel, and I predict the next change in the number of dates will be less, not more.

- With the Senate Democratic leadership off to China for nine days, it looks like it will be at least another couple of weeks before we have that decision. The trip was criticized by Rick Lazio, the nondescript only yet-to-be-declared Republican candidate for governor, who said: “If I were going to send an economic ambassador to another country, the last person I’d send is an Albany politician." Hey, that's actually funny!

For the record, the trip is not being paid for by taxpayer money as I speculated the other day. In fact, many of the lawmakers are paying for it themselves. Not so, however, Senators Sampson and Smith are using campaign funds, which I'm sure delights their contributors.

- The defense rested in the trial of State Senator Hiram Monserrate without calling him to the stand. "We don't need to do anyone's work for them," said his slick lawyer Joseph Tacopino. With his girlfriend not having testified directly about the incident, neither of the two principals were able to tell their story of just what transpired. Justice William M. Erlbaum will have to make his decision (in the non-jury trial), following next week's closing arguments, based on what I found to be undefinitive visual evidence of the aftermath of the incident, and the she-said/she-said accounts of what the victim did or did not say at the hospital. “I don’t know how this thing is going to turn out as we sit here today,” the judge said. But I'd be pretty shocked if Monserrate is not acquitted of the most serious charges against him.


Anonymous said...

Now that any determination at Aqueduct seems like just an illusion, what about the New York City Off Track Betting deal? When is the state approved bankruptcy supposed to be filed?

alan said...

OTB is reported to be currently working on a reorganization plan. Latest story I've seen on the matter is here.

Anonymous said...

Alan- Au contraire, mon ami, I've heard July 4- Labor Day could be next at the Spa. Why do they need to run races downstate if the slots are churning out cash at the Big A? That largesse just adds to the increased take at Saratoga, and they don't need on site racing to generate it. I don't see why NYRA would cut dates at the Spa at this point, or am I missing something? The talk around Saratoga seems to indicate that it will be 48 days in the not-too-distant future. /S/greenmtnpunter

alan said...

>>I don't see why NYRA would cut dates at the Spa at this point, or am I missing something?

The desire to preserve the Saratoga meet as a boutique meeting with its special atmosphere as opposed to just another meat grinder (bad phrase in this context, I know) of increasingly cheap and ordinary racing. That's my take my friend, though I could of course be totally wrong.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the link.

Sounds like NYCOTB is working on a "pre-packaged" reorganization plan that will be submitted to the bankruptcy court the day of the Chapter 9 filing. Although unstated in the article, it seems the NYRA is the logical candidate to come in and takeover the betting and customers, but where will the NYRA get the capital required to do this as that organization is already on shaky ground?

Perhaps one of the Aqueduct VLT bidder/developers has offered to assit the NYRA in this regard in exchange for thier support at Aqueduct.

Anonymous said...

Extending Saratoga has some serious opposition in the year round NY horsemen, most of whom must participate to appease their owners but many of whom lose money in the process.

They also face opposition from their downstate employees, many of whom take vacation during that period rather than make the trip north.

It is VERY expensive to move your racing operation north. IF they do expand, NYRA needs to find a cost effective way to house the thousands of employees inconvenienced by the move.

In addition they would need to replace both turf courses with brand new sod and a modern drainage system.

It can be done, but not without major capital improvements.

Anonymous said...

IF they went to Independence Day - Labor Day meet, it would of course make sense to expand Belmont's spring meet say from Tax Day - Independence Day, eliminating the spring meet at the Big A. The Wood Memorial would be the closing day feature.

The Big A outer dirt course could then be replaced with all weather track, and the Turf course would become mostly obsolete, except of course for the short Fall meet and the Big A Summer Fair Meet proposed above.

I see no reason they could not run two days per week downstate during the extended Spa meet, the dark Tuesday and Saturday too.

You would not compete with the Spa for horses, you run those races that are percieved as too cheap for the spa, mostly cheap claimers on the turf a la Atlantic City's mini meet.

Nicholas said...

Really, us "upstaters" get 6 (now 7) weekends a year of live racing. Are you really complaining about not getting enough live races? That makes zero sense.