So, lemme ask you....if word does finally come down from up high to depose Ellen McClain, these are the guys who will inform a black woman that she's fired? That would make for a pretty picture....and some nice fodder for a Hillary or Al Sharpton ad for the primaries.
The Governor Cuomo-controlled Board had their first meeting last week, and if you didn't read any news about it, it's because there wasn't really any. Sure, there was symbolic stuff demonstrating new transparency, like the meeting being open to the public (via a faulty streaming feed), and financial statements now being posted quarterly instead of annually. (And to those who declared that the latter helped to usher in some kind of new openness, maybe they were unaware that a link to NYRA's annual financial statements has been on the homepage of their website for several years now, and does anyone really care if they're updated quarterly?) Also, approval of a new mission statement: “Meeting the highest standards in thoroughbred racing and equine safety.” Yippee.
Then there was symbolic stuff that is just idiotic....most prominently, the banning of political donations by NYRA and NYRA officials. I mean, NYRA has always been overwhelmed in terms of donations by those who oppose and compete, and by those who sought to win its franchise, so I hardly think that any donations have ever been very persuasive. Besides, I don't ever recall seeing names of NYRA officials - aside perhaps from modest donations from board members - as contributors to politicians. And it seems blatantly unfair to me that NYRA would be prohibited from such donations while those with conflicting interests such as NYGA and companies seeking casinos lavish money upon politicians who will help determine the future of the sport in the state. (Note however that the ban does not apply to party organizations or PACs.)
Additionally, NYRA corporate officials are now prohibited from betting. Ha, are you kidding me? Wagering is the business of horse racing; isn't that like banning the CEO of General Motors from driving? That sure would have been a good way to get Hayward out if he was still hanging around.
Having said that however, there were some positive signs, specifically the talk about updating technology and, most urgently to this one-time winter railbird, the decrepit condition of Aqueduct.
Len Riggio, a horse owner and holdover from the previous board, said succinctly, "I won't go to Aqueduct" because it's so dirty and unkempt.
Added trainer Rick Violette, a non-voting member of the board, representing the horsemen: "Aqueduct has never been in worse condition at the beginning of a meet." [Daily Racing Form]
Ms. McClain informed the board that Genting has failed to live up to promises to keep the racing side clean, and has delayed groundbreaking for the promised sports/simulcast facility on the 2nd floor. None of which should be a surprise despite Genting's lofty promises to be a good partner. Remember this?
“Moving forward, Genting is eager to work closely with NYRA to transform the current facility into a casino and racetrack that will be the envy of the country.” [the late, not-so-lamented Thoroughbred Times, Oct, 2010]By meeting more frequently and out in the open, and presumably having the governor's ear (if he's still listening....how about 'Dear Genting, Live up to your commitments at Aqueduct or no casinos for you, Love, Governor Cuomo'), perhaps the Board can spur some meaningful physical and spiritual changes around here. That would be good. However, the profound issues affecting the industry will instead be determined at the ballot box next fall when voters will presumably decide about full-blown casinos, and in the legislature, where any measures affecting racetracks' shares of VLT revenue would be decided. On those matters, the Board can merely wait and watch just like the rest of us.
- Obviously haven't posted here lately....taking an end-of-year break to refresh and to deal with all the busy matters of life that pop up around this time. And, taking a pause from the game as well. I've always written here that racing is not a 12 month sport for me....I mean, you gotta take some breaks to clear your head, don't you? Still don't know how the professionals in the industry can keep it up year round. It's "relentless," as Ellen McClain described the task of running the tracks virtually without interruption other than the current week break for the holiday. So, I'm freshening up, hope to get back to it and turn my attention to racing in warmer climes after the New Year. Hope everyone is having a good run-up to the holidays, and I'll speak to you soon.