I wanted to write exclusively about racing this month - they'll be plenty of off-track and political action in the fall months that are imminent now. Lots of drama to come once Governor Cuomo and the legislative leaders start to shape the new NYRA board. And, of course, the little election coming up with the president facing off against Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. That all promises to be ugly to be sure, so no need to ruin what's left of the summer racing season.
But here I'll briefly refer you to Matt Hegarty's piece in the Form on a conference yesterday in Saratoga, where there seems to be no shortage of such discussions of various issues concerning the industry. At this particular one, conducted by the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law, industry types defended the tracks' share of racino revenue against the drumbeat of criticism from the Cuomo administration that has been starting to build; most recently a report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (which I have not seen) which states that the money has not resulted in increases in attendance or handle.
Richard Violette, the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, starkly disputed figures in the DiNapoli report, contending that handle and attendance at tracks operated by the New York Racing Association have increased significantly since a casino opened at Aqueduct in October 2011. “How someone who lives and dies by the numbers could interpret them so poorly is pretty frightening,” Violette said during a late-afternoon panel. [DRF]I think really the only numbers that DiNapoli lives and dies by are his poll ratings and the amount of money in his campaign coffers.
There was discussion as well about the possibility of full-blown casinos, and the possible catastrophic consequences should the existing racetrack racinos gain casino licenses. In that case, the state could re-set the revenue splits which are currently set by law. Of course, presently, we don't know who would be granted the facilities. And New York Gaming Association president James Featherstonhaugh contended that voters would not approve the expected 2013 referendum unless they have that information. “The public wants to know, if there are going to be casinos, where they are, how they are going to be run, what the tax rates are."
However, like most everything we hear from NYGA, his statement is disingenuous. Because it's the NYGA who really wants to know where the casinos will be, so they can decide where they stand on them, for or against. And if it turns out that it's established before the vote that Genting is to be the only member of the group (which represents all of the current racetrack racinos) to be getting a casino, then I imagine the members will go their separate ways.
Racing industry people however don't have to have that information to decide where they will stand on the referendum. There will be nothing in the proposed casino law and/or the prospect of full-blown casinos throughout the state that will be beneficial to racing, only detrimental; I think you can take that to the bank. We talk about how the industry is splintered, with different groups having different interests. But in this case, I think it's quite clear that everybody - every entity and every soul - who cares one whit about this sport needs to band together, organize and do whatever they can to help defeat the casino referendum next year. It's going to be a wild ride. We could potentially see a lot of odd bedfellows - racetracks and racino owners, Joe Faraldo and Jeff Gural, me and religious conservatives - depending on what we know, who's going to be in and who's going to be out. And surely we'll see a fair amount of corporate and other money flowing from out of state - I'm sure that Sheldon Adelson will have some cash left over from the $100 million he plans on spending to defeat the president should he have some kind of shot at a property here. But I don't think it's a lock to pass. And the industry has to do their best to help see that it doesn't.
- Two more winners for Contessa at Saratoga on Wednesday; that gives him four from his last six starters, and 7 for 42 on the meet (though an ROI of just $1.11). He took the 7th with Eden is Burning ($7.60), and this has been quite a claim thus far. Contessa took the 4yo daughter of Hook and Ladder for 20K from Tom Bush at Belmont, and moved him back to state-bred optional claimers. Two close seconds and yesterday's win adds up to $62,000 in purse earnings.
Eddie Kenneally is another guy who's picked up the pace of late. Wild Target ($5.80) was his 3rd winner in his last five starters, to go along with Knight of Thunder, second at 12-1 on Sunday. Two of those winners were first time starters, and he has one in today's third. Gombey Dancer (Dixie Union) is out of a Carson City mare, and descends from the direct female family of Hard Spun (the 2nd dam of the latter is the 3rd dam of Gombey Dancer).
George Weaver continues to win at the meet; he now has eight with 32 starters, for an even 25% and an ROI of $3.00. He dropped Boots Ahead in for 35K off some thoroughly respectable form in graded stakes. The Saratoga crowd seemed rather skeptical, making him a mild favorite at 2.45-to-1. David Jacobson was not however, and claimed the gelded 6yo son of Storm Boot. And who knows with this barn; we could next see this guy dropped for an even cheaper tag, or in the Bernard Baruch.
And another winner for Pletcher, but that's not news.