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Monday, February 22, 2010

No Saving This Ship

I have this fantasy that one day, I'll pick up the Form on the morning of the first Saturday in May, turn to the 11th at Churchill Downs, and handicap the Kentucky Derby virtually from scratch, with horses mostly unfamiliar mixed in with some I may have run into in the past. Blissfully unaware of the hype, the whispers, the wise guys, not already having had a dozen different opinions, the past performance lines would all be fresh, a wondrous canvas of information real and deduced, open to interpretation...and then to a process of re-evaluation based on the changing prices offered on the tote as post time approaches.

In other words, just like any other race, be it a graded stakes, or a 15K claimer for non-winners of three lifetime. That's the miracle of the game for me; the fact that on virtually any day, you can open up the paper (or the website) and have a hundred different puzzles to play. Don't get me wrong; I certainly enjoy following the top stakes horses and races, and joining in the perpetual hunt for the superstar who will prove to be the sport's salvation. But it's standing in front of the TV's at the track, turning to some race at some track with 9 MTP, and striding confidently to the windows with an opinion by the time they've turned towards the starting gate which provides the biggest high for me.

As I see it, the Derby is heading in the direction of the Trail which precedes it not really meaning all that much. The horses run so infrequently, and on so many different surfaces that it seems useless venturing a guess without first seeing the tote.

However, this will not be the year that I handicap the Derby from scratch on race day. I guess that time won't come until I stop writing this blog, which staggered past the five year mark last month. It's not the same, I know, from the early days when I had the time and energy to post several times a day and cover a much wider range of topics. If you're still hanging around, I guess you must be interested in the NYRA mess (and the occasional bad horse picks).

I find it to be a paradox - I love the handicapping and horseplaying as much as ever, especially with the ample simulcasting and handicapping tools such as, and especially, Formulator. But I find the state of, and outlook for the horse racing industry to be grim and depressing; indeed, it's hard for this lifetime New Yorker to see beyond the turmoil and misery of the local industry these days. And, at this stage of the game, I guess I just want to write about what I want to. The national racing industry is a rudderless ship with too many competing interests to save itself, and I just don't enjoy discussing it anymore. The issues itself hardly change and are not that complex nor interesting; the problem lies in the dynamics and the lack of a single voice of leadership.

And all you have to know to realize the futility of it all is this: Since it is indeed time for this blogger to get with it and hop aboard the Derby trail, I went to the NTRA video page to watch the replay of the Florida Derby Fountain of Youth. Except for one problem. The race is not available there. That's right. I don't know (nor care) what the issue is, no doubt some corporate and/or court-related issue involving Magna (no races from Santa Anita either). But the fact is, even if the race was there on the NTRA site, I'd rather watch it in full screen mode on Cal Racing or You Tube instead of on the itsy-bitsy screen that one is limited to on the website of the organization we look to for leadership and inspiration. This is not complicated stuff. I mean, if they can't handle something as simple as providing state-of-the-art graphics on its website, then what are the chances of them taking the reins and saving the sport?


Anonymous said...

well the Florida Derby hasn't been run yet.

Anonymous said...

I presume you mean the Fountain of Youth.

Anonymous said...

I visited the NTRA site and indeed they have all the races from last weekend EXCEPT the FOY, the race with the best performance, and yes, the replays are limited to tiny screens.

Point well taken, even if the specifics were a tad askew :=).

Also, excellent point about the issues never changing.

When reading the Thoroughbred Times' (print edition)excellent "Hoofprints Through the Century" articles inside the back cover, it often amazes me that they were debating many of the same issues 50 and sometimes 75 years ago.

steve in nc said...

February is a depressing time, and the racing industry does seem to be stuck in a long-term February. This is when the old and sick tend to die.

But most of us will make it into spring, and I suspect that since letting NY racing die will piss off more people than it will cheer, the pols will find a last-minute way to keep the game going, even if they are too divided and self-interested to fashion workable longer term solutions.

As for reforming the game nationally, I'm convinced it will take some even worse outrage or tragedy producing a Congressional inquiry and forcing the industry to coalesce behind and cede power to a leader or group that can impose new rules and structures. (My right-wing friends, insert skeptical remarks about Congress here, and I'm right with ya.)

For now, the game continues to tire and bear out in midstretch. Its joints have been tapped in most markets with slots, but that is a dangerous short-term remedy. We can hope for the care of a patient competent trainer with a hilly farm pasture and healthy oats spiced only by the occasional pint of Guiness, but it is February, and it is easier to imagine the sport breaking down in the stretch at Penn National.

alan said...

>.Point well taken, even if the specifics were a tad askew :=).

Yeah, oops, sorry about a bit ahead of myself there. Correction made, thanks.

Anonymous said...

How about approaching horse racing industry reform from the standpoint of deregulation, especially in NY? Over the years, NY racing has been laced tighter and tighter in a straitjacket called NY racing law and pari-mutuel regulation.

It's well nigh time to examine the whole structure from top to bottom, and from bottom to top. What we have has been failing for many years. The response always seems to be more regulation, not less. Is it any wonder we have arrived at this sorry state of affairs?

I have heard many definitions of stupidity but one stands out above the others: Stupidity is when you keep doing the same non-productive, oftentimes counter-productive thing over and over yet somehow expecting a different outcome. And we continue to put up with this condition like hapless sheep being led to slaughter.

We need massive deregulation at all levels, federal, state and local. Over regulation is killing the NY racing industry just as surely as it is killing the economy of this country. We have ceded our liberties, property rights, and economic future to a cadre of central planners and regulators. /S/greenmtnpunter