RSS Feed for this Blog

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What Cancellation?

Nothing much changed at the Big A when racing was canceled after the third race (after a false alarm as the jockeys huddled and delayed that race) on Saturday. For one thing, half the people probably didn't even notice because you can't hear the PA system just about anywhere there. And besides, no one who did know seemed to care; they were too busy handicapping the third at Gulfstream. Not like in the past, when the announcement would be booming, dramatic, and life-altering, at least for that particular day, with thousands of bettors being abruptly driven out into the street with nothing else to do. A rush to the exits would ensue, lest one would have to stand on a lengthy line to obtain a pass for free admission and program on another day. Now there is no admission charge there anyway. I saw more people reaching for their coats after the 82-1 shot won that Florida race.

Can't say I blame the riders for the cancellation. It is bone-chilling here. I don't know what it is about this particular weather system, but, even acknowledging the winds, it just seems far colder than the 20 degrees it supposedly was today. In fact, I was surprised they raced on Friday, when it wasn't much, if any, warmer.

I didn't much mind; had my $7 Saturday simulcast Form in hand. And as long as people stick around and bet on the simulcast races, NYRA probably doesn't care either. They get the same cut of bets on out-of-town races, don't have to pay out the purses, and don't have to schedule a make-up day. They even got their stakes race in; the Correction was the third race, and congratulations to Richie Munk's Funky Munky Stable, as their Hold That Prospect ($3.80) won for fun. Quite a claim this was for 30K last March. The $39,000 earned in this race covered that; and the horse had won four times for the stable, and trainer Gary Gullo, prior.

When I go out to see live music, I'm often self-conscious about being the oldest person there. Last night at the Mission of Burma show, that wasn't as big of an issue as usual since they've been around for portions of 30 years now. Still, it was obviously still a big difference from the crowd at the Big A the next day. I was getting a bit depressed looking around; it's really not an exaggeration when people speak about how aged the crowds are there. I mean, if half the people there look older than me, you figure that many of them won't be there in 15-20 years....and who is going to replace them? We talk about the future of Aqueduct, and the possibility of it eventually closing in favor of year-round racing at the Shinnecock Casino and Gaming Center at Belmont Park. But it seems to me that winter racing may eventually become extinct as a live sport altogether as the hardcore fans fade away.

And that's something that I imagine will be a subject of the contract talks between the state and Aqueduct Entertainment Group. The latter is surely going to want some kind of assurance for its $300 million that there's not going to soon be a competing full-scale casino 11 miles away in Elmont. Or that they get a piece of the action if there is.


Anonymous said...

I think when racing started stretching their seasons to where they had to winterize tracks it started to lose it appeal. If you had taken a first timer to Aqueduct yesterday what would they have liked? Standing in the fresh air watching the saddling activity at the paddock? Maybe down to the rail for a closeup of the post parade and then the stretch run? Nothing that I think would appeal to a newcomer.
The rights of spring for my wife and I used to be the the last days of Keenland and then over to Churchill for opening weekend. Kentucky is beautiful then. Try and picture those tracks with enclosed grandstands racing in Feb or November.
Now that Aqueduct is getting slots they'll have purse money to run forever even without fans. The horsemen will be happy.


El Angelo said...

If you're at Aqueduct in the winter to play Aqueduct's races, it's because you like to gamble. And those gambling dollars are not coming from the younger generation (mine). You can convince a 20- or 30-something to drop a few hundred bucks in a nice day at a nice track, but not to get hooked in racing and trifectas at the Big A.

Steve Zorn said...

It actually wasn't the cold, but the tyrack condition that caused yesterday's cancellation. I was talking with Rosie Napravnik this morning, in the warmth of the Belmont training track clockers' stand, and she said that the track material was clumping up and making the surface hazardous. And here I thought we'd finally found track maintenance folks who had a handle on how to keep things going through the winter.

Yes, we'd all be better off with a two-month winter break, but so many trainers and owners now depend on the year-round schedule that it'll be a painful process to go back.