Three of the eight nationally televised programs from Saratoga will actually be on NBC, with the other five on Versus. The series will kick off on the big network on Saturday, with coverage of the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks, as well as the prior race.
Storylines will include a feature on John Velazquez who won the Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom, and last year, won the Coaching Club American Oaks aboard Devil May Care, the only filly to enter last year’s Kentucky Derby. There will also be a feature on the long, storied history of horse racing at Saratoga. [NYRA Press Release]NBC will have its A team of Tom Hammond, Gary Stevens, Mike Battaglia, and Kenny Rice on hand.
This is so cool that it's almost surreal - a regular weekly television series! Just an incredible coup, like a national TV version of the old local coverage; I almost expect to see Frank Wright and Charlsie Canty on hand. NYRA deserves all the credit in the world for scoring the deal.
Of course, you won't hear any praise for NYRA in Albany, where the latest Senate hearing scheduled by Senate Racing, Wagering, and Gaming Committee chairman Sen. John Bonacic is to include the topic of whether the three-track franchise can be legally taken away from the New York Racing Association. [Bloodhorse]
I mean, seriously. In a more objective setting, these hearing could pertain to, in addition to the television coup, NYRA's aggressive, and apparently successful, efforts to attract on-track and online business in the wake of NYC OTB's demise; its excellent full service ADW platform including live streaming of a multitude of tracks; its cross-breed deal to include Yonkers on that platform; and its creative marketing and sponsorship deals for the Saratoga meeting...and hold them up as models for other tracks in the state! Instead, the Senator wants to discuss how to make NYRA go away. And, as Matt Hegarty reports, there could be other motives than the usual convenient political bashing:
The state is currently restricted from developing all but small parcels of the Belmont property. If NYRA’s lease were revoked, that would free the state to seek private casino operators at the property. [DRF]Bonacic issued a release detailing the points on his agenda.
“Whether we agree with every action taken or not, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority Leader Skelos, New York has changed for the better. I want to build on that energy during the off-session to develop proposals which are capable of passing both the Assembly and Senate relating to both private casino gaming development and improvements to New York’s horse racing industry,” Senator Bonacic said.There are some worthy topics here, particularly the ones pertaining to OTB. But besides NYRA, I would think that the Indian tribes aspiring to build casinos also can't be too happy about this, with the emphasis clearly and squarely on the notion of private sector casino gaming (which also fits in with Hegarty's observation about Belmont).
Among the dozen issues Bonacic indicated he was initially contemplating include:
1. Where is casino gaming desired across New York State?
2. Who has an interest in developing private sector casino gaming in New York?
3. Should we end efforts to attract Native American casinos and focus instead on private sector casino development?
4. What would be the impact of private sector casino development in Western New York with respect to State’s existing agreement with the Seneca Nation?
5. Where should an expansion of casino gaming be permitted?
6. What requirements, if any, should there be to benefit the horse racing industry?
7. Can the racing franchise at State owned tracks be legally taken from NYRA?
8. Should New York State require out of State Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) systems to pay the same statutory Commissions as in-state ADWs?
9. Should OTBs be able to accumulate millions in cash on hand without returning it to their regions?
10. Which OTBs are innovating?
11. Why should all OTBs not be forced into a statutory merger?
12. How can New York help the agricultural aspects of horse breeding and training in New York State?
And that "if any" in #6 should give pause to all of the racetracks in the state...and around the country for that matter. I've always feared that it's just a matter of time before politicians take a look at casino revenues and start to question why portions of it are being used to prop up racetracks instead of closing deficits or funding their pet projects.
Also feel compelled to comment on that introductory statement about the "leadership of Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority Leader Skelos." The only thing that Senator Skelos is able to lead is his chin into Andrew Cuomo's butt. Don't want to get too much into this here, but suffice to say that it was the governor who, in these difficult times, took the lead on GOP-friendly issues regarding budget cuts, pension reform, preserving tax cuts for the wealthy, and property tax caps. And Skelos knows very well that this extraordinarily popular governor can easily turn the tables on the GOP in 2012 and re-relegate them to minority status should he get involved in the campaign. So no surprise that he fell into line on permitting a vote on gay marriage (an issue on which he could not even keep his own conference in line), came off the Senate's position on no changes in the rent control laws, and will have to eventually give way on redistricting as well given Cuomo's promise to veto anything that smacks of partisanship. Still, I imagine he'll probably manage, at some point, to get his smug smiley face on NBC or Versus at some point during the summer if he's hanging around the area. (I wonder what ever happened to Joe Bruno's box?)