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Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After

Hope everyone had a great holiday. Not so great of a day-after at the Big A; a gloomy grey and wet day with a lot of rain already having fallen last night. Sloppy and sealed seems a certainty.

So let's take a peek, and a shot, out west. In the Malibu at Santa Anita, Coronet of a Baron (20-1) looks like a live longshot to me in a wide-open race filled with horses with ample reason to stand against. This son of Pure Prize started his career with great promise in 2008. Plucked out of last year's Ocala sale for a healthy $550,000 (this for a horse by a $12,500 stallion), he won his debut handily before plunging directly into stakes competition. A second (by DQ) in the Best Pal was followed by his nose loss to the highly regarded Midshipman in the G1 Del Mar Futurity; and a third in the BC Juvenile Turf. Coronet of a Baron got off to a slow start in 2009 with two disappointing allowance efforts at Del Mar.

But trainer Eoin Harty took the blinkers off at that point, and improvement has ensued. Cutting back to a sprint and making his Pro-Ride debut at Santa Anita, he won an allowance, and then ran 4th in the 7 furlong Damascus stakes after a sluggish start from the rail post. Despite taking the long way around the field turning for home, he finished just 1 1/4 lengths behind the rail-skimming Smart Bid, who will go off at far shorter odds than he today. He's been off since that Nov 7 effort, but has not been idle, with six recorded workouts since that time as Harty points his colt towards this race. Further improvement will be needed, and this barn has hit a cold patch, not only 0 for its last 16, but no in-the-money finishes in that time. But the odds make him worth a wager in this spot.

13 horses but not a ton of obvious early speed; so the speedy M One Rifle (5-1) figures to have an uneventful trip to the top from the outside post. The aforementioned Smart Bid (6-1) won that race fresh off a seven month layoff for trainer Graham Motion, and also hasn't started since. Figures to need to cover more ground today from the 11 post. Misremembered (4-1) seems the class here for Baffert with two G2 wins and his narrow loss in the Clark last month. But it's his first-ever try at a one-turn sprint, and that makes him an automatic throwout as the favorite in my view. Similarly, the trainer's Mythical View (8-1) was a dominant winner of the Lone Star Derby in his last start, in May; but has never won around one turn. Ditto for the overrated Papa Clem (6-1). Supreme Summit (8-1) is an in-and-outer; he was "in" in his second in the Damascus, close today on his best try. Hunch (10-1) is unbeaten in two starts, the latest over a four-horse field of decidedly non-stakes quality; a lot to prove here. Square Eddie's (15-1) better days are behind him, or so it seems. I'm really not enthralled by any of the horses considered to be the top contenders in this race; will stick to a simple win-place wager on my top choice. Best of luck and have a great day.


Discreet Picks said...

Santa Anita - Race 9

#12 Hunch (10/1 ml)

Big, talented Lion Heart colt gets the acid test here for Sadler, but note that Bejarano is getting off both Supreme Summit and New Bay in order to stay with this guy. Just a 4-horse field last time out, but that actually may have worked against him as he was forced to reel in the loose frontrunner Conclave, who in fact had gone postward as the 4/5 favorite. Note also that Conclave had things pretty damn easy up front while setting splits of 23 and 46, but this guy rolled up alongside him anyway and them engaged in some light bumping before turning loose an eye-catching late stride to going away while geared down at the wire (with a final furlong in 11.4). Based on that powerful finish, it doesn't appear the additional furlong will be a problem for him, in fact quite the opposite, especially if he gets a contested pace to run at. And he figures to be sitting in the clear again, with the far-outside draw and the long run into the turn. Definitely a big step up for this guy, but i think he has the talent to do it, and i think conditions will flatter his running style. Honorable mention to #11 Smart Bid (6/1 ml), whom i was looking at pretty closely as well.

DirtyShirt said...

DC... Merry Christmas. I'm glad you're still doing good. I was about to leave a comment telling Alan not to leave out Hunch... You beat me to it. Good luck today.

DiscreetPicks said...

Hey Dirty, long time no see. Hope you had a great Christmas! Good luck today...

DiscreetPicks said...

Hunch went off @ 9/1 and ran pretty well, but he couldn't catch up to the loose frontrunner M One Rifle. Thought around midstretch that he might take second, but he flattened out a bit late.

Anonymous said...

M1 Rifle shot to the lead (sorry, couldnt resist) and never looked back.

While there was a decided lack of pace on paper, especially so for a Grade 1 sprint with a large field (is this what AWT will do to American racing long term?), there did appear to be a few that could give him a tussle early. That, combined with this surface allegedly favoring closing types, and Evita Argentina flying home from way back to take the immediately preceding filly version of the race, influenced me to toss M1 from my ticket.

But alas, guess they all decided to run for second money instead of sacrificing on behalf of the greater good, selfish bastards.

Anonymous said...

PS - Reviewing the charts the fractions were almost identical in the colt and filly races, so perhaps I am just not giving M1 Rifle enough credit.

He just finished better than everyone else, running the last three eighths in 35.4 after a half mile in 45.1 for a final time of 121 flat.

Evita Argentina rallied from last after a similar 45.1 half mile, final time 121.4.

Anonymous said...

Watched TVG yesterday for the first time in a long time, how embarrassing for the industry.

No Calder, no FG, and when they finally got to the SA stakes they were shown on tape delay (but not the final leg of the touted P4, a nice 2yo MSW, for which we sat around waiting).

Snowy Hawthorne, Delta Downs, Turf Paradise, Turfway Park (jeesh, could they change one of these tracks names? confusing, to say the least, especially since Turfway Park doesnt even have a turf course!), the very sloppy Big A was the top track.

Worse, the on air "talent" was forced to keep pushing Big A's Alex Robb as Sunday's big feature race, along with Nokayama Race Tracks Grade One scheduled for 2 in the morning. Egads.

Anonymous said...

Comptroller subpoenas NYRA
December 28, 2009 at 10:59 am by Casey Seiler

As reported this morning, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has subpoenaed records from the New York Racing Authority after it initially denied the Comptroller’s Office access to its financial records.

“Less than six months ago, NYRA said it was financially stable,” DiNapoli said. “Now NYRA says without VLT money it may not be able to stay in operation until the Belmont Stakes. In the meantime, it’s been trying to hide its books from my auditors. It’s the same old NYRA in new sheep’s clothing, trying to shortchange taxpayers again.

“NYRA operates for the benefit of New York. Taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on, and we’re going to audit NYRA and find out.”

In accordance with state legislation enacted in 2008, NYRA reconstituted itself as a not-for-profit corporation in order to gain a new 25-year franchise to operate the state’s thoroughbred racetracks. Under the franchise agreement between NYRA and the state, state statutes governing NYRA as well language in the State Constitution, DiNapoli has the authority to examine the books and accounts of NYRA relating to its financial operations as well as the annual financial statements and yearly audits of its outside auditors.

More from the release after the jump.

DiNapoli’s audit will examine the millions of dollars in state payments made to NYRA over the past couple years and monies owed the state by NYRA.

To enable NYRA’s emergence from bankruptcy in 2008, the state made a direct payment to NYRA of at least $105 million. Further, pursuant to the 2008 legislation, the state has directed 14 percent to 16 percent of revenues from Aqueduct video lottery terminals, once they are operational, to help NYRA fund its operations.

Prior Comptroller audits have found that NYRA failed to pay the state nearly $54 million in franchise fees from 2000 to 2005

Anonymous said...

NYRA has clearly 'pissed off' someone important. Maybe Charlie's comments last week about the Governor has unleashed this attack. This news is all over the internet, Business Week, Craine's, everywhere. This is a well coordinated attack on NYRA. Will Charlie's head now roll?

State: Horse Racing Group Must Open Its Books

The horse racing organization that threatened to cancel the Belmont Stakes due to monetary woes will be subpoenaed for refusing to open its books. The state is skeptical of the New York Racing Association's claims that it doesn't have enough money to hold the final leg of the Triple Crown, because the organization was awarded $105 million in taxpayer money and had its $200 million debt erased last year, according to the Daily News.

"NYRA operates for the benefit of New York," said State Controller Thomas DiNapoli, who is expected today to demand records from the group, which runs the tracks at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. "Taxpayers have a right to know what's going on, and we're going to audit NYRA and find out." Six months ago, the racing organization said it was "financially stable" after giving the state the ownership of $1 billion in land rights and granting authorities greater financial oversight in exchange for the cash and debt assistance. But now the New York Racing Association claims it is a private nonprofit group, so it shouldn't have to turn over its books to auditors.

The tabloid notes that the New York Racing Association has a long history of corruption. In 2003, the organization was indicted on federal conspiracy and fraud charges over allegations that managers allowed tellers to launder money and run loansharking operations from their cash drawers. Between 2000 and 2005, the organization allegedly skimped on $54 million in franchise fees that should have been paid to the state by improperly filling out federal tax forms. The New York Racing Association has fallen into financial trouble while it waits for the state to finalize a plan to install video slot machines at Aqueduct in Queens that would net an estimated $1 million per day in revenue that would help the organization's tracks stay open, and $200 million in licensing fees needed to close this year's budget in Albany.

Anonymous said...

Yes the Controller/NYRA incident is everywhere on the web. Lots of comments too, for example:

Albany Watcher in WSJ:

New NYRA - Old NYRA. Same difference.

The taxpayers of New York gave $305 million in debt relief and new funding to NYRA a year ago in exchange for land the State already owned.

On top of this Hayward and NYRA have been scheming to have Governor Paterson pick its choice for the VLT Franchise at Aqueduct.

Low level people at NYRA went to jail for fraud. It is time for the senior management and the Board of NYRA to be made accountable. Surely at the very least heads should roll at NYRA. Start with Chairman Steve Dunker and CEO Charlie Hayward.

Anonymous said...

NYRA responds to DiNapoli
December 28, 2009 at 3:17 pm by Casey Seiler

The New York Racing Authority just released its statement in response to today’s subpoenas from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, suggesting that NYRA is unlikely to accede to his office’s demands and responding with equally strong language:

NYRA operates without a single penny of taxpayer subsidy. The revenue NYRA received as a result of the franchise renewal in 2008 was consideration paid to NYRA by the State in exchange for over one billion dollars worth of real estate. The franchise renewal was not a “bailout” of NYRA. Moreover, the State agreed in the Franchise Agreement that NYRA would need additional revenue if VLTs failed to be operational by April of 2009. NYRA’s current financial situation is not a surprise to anyone in state government who is familiar with the NYRA franchise agreements.

As the holder of the State thoroughbred racing franchise, NYRA is one of the most pervasively regulated private companies operating in New York State. As a not-for-profit, NYRA is overseen by the State Attorney General. As a racing association, NYRA is overseen by the State Racing and Wagering Board. As a State franchisee, NYRA is overseen by the State Franchise Oversight Board. As a generator of tens of millions of dollars in pari-mutuel taxes for the State, NYRA is overseen by the State Department of Taxation and Finance. Both the Racing and Wagering Board and the Department of Taxation and Finance maintain fully staffed offices at each NYRA racetrack. NYRA cooperates fully with those State agencies that have actual legal authority to regulate and audit its operations. The State appoints 11 of NYRA’s 25 directors, who oversee and approve NYRA’s annual budgets. Any suggestion that the taxpayers are placed at risk by the constitutional prohibition on comptroller audits of NYRA is misleading.

NYRA informed the State legislature at the time the NYRA franchise law was drafted that the State Constitution prohibits the Comptroller from auditing not-for-profit associations, as the State’s highest court has clearly ruled. The law is clear. If NYRA and the Comptroller cannot agree amicably on the clear meaning of the Court of Appeals decision, we should agree to immediately seek a declaratory judgment from the judiciary to quickly resolve this matter.

Anonymous said...

From Reuters:

While the NYRA claimed in September it was financially stable, it "now says without (video lottery terminal) money it may not be able to stay in operation until the Belmont Stakes," DiNapoli said. "In the meantime, it has been trying to hide its books from my auditors."

Why would NYRA not want to cooperate with The Controller? It raises the legitimate question:

"what is NYRA hiding?"

Anonymous said...

This is clearly a coordinated political hit piece lauched by someone NYRA has pissed off, that is the reason NYRA will not "cooperate" with an audit which it believes is unconstitutional.

Di Napoli's statement made sense prior to the restructuring, NYRA no longer operates for the benefit of the state so his comments make no sense.

Anonymous said...

Albany rumors starting to come out, are that NYRA's spokesman, Charlie Hayward has been asked to step down, although NYRA's chairman Steve Dunker, seemingly would have authorized all of Hayward's decisions & recent media quotes, threatening the state.

There are apparently, other subjects embroiled, including NYRA negotiating a potential Belmont deal with an Indian tribe.

Almost as though NYRA think they still own the tracks, to barter with.

Anonymous said...

NYRA's past activities would suggest that it has something to prove about their honesty and integrity. It is behaving like the wronged party here when it should actually be on parole. Lets face it, does one allow a (former) crook access to the cash without verification?

NYRA signed a new 25 year franchise, got hundreds of dollars of taxpayers money and will get billions of VLT money over the 25 year term. If the current Board and management of NYRA refuses to open its books to an independent audit, then in most people's minds the NYRA has something to hide.

President Regan's motto should apply "Trust but Verify?

NYRA is losing this PR war with DiNapoli. It might have won battles with State officials in the past but I have a feeling that the political environment for NYRA has forever changed because it many peoples minds it is a discredited organization that somehow managed to secure a new 25 year franchise by using the threat of the land ownership with a discredited former Governor.

El Angelo said...

The public may dislike Albany but will have even less tolerance for NYRA, which everyone will just see as a gambling institution and past crooks. They will not win a PR war.