This has been a bizarre week in NYRAville, even for them. (And, if this morning's story in the NY Times proves to be an accurate portrayal of the task force report on the Big A breakdowns, it's about to end even worse.) Following the events earlier in the week (and detailed in the prior post), NYRA, during yesterday's card, quite suddenly announced the cancellation of Friday's.
Due to anticipated heavy rain, Friday’s live racing card at Belmont Park has been cancelled to ensure the track surfaces are in optimal condition for Saturday’s card, which features six graded stakes, all part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. The winners of those races qualify for an automatic starting position in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup Championship race with pre-entry and entry fees paid.Well, initially I though this was quite unusual until the Form's David Grening pointed out via Twitter that "wet weather prompted Belmont to cancel day before Jockey Club Gold Cup card in 2008 and 2010." So, there you go. This one still seems surprising though given that the chance of it even raining was only listed at 70%. (It rained heavily here in Queens overnight, but the forecast calls only for intermittent rain the rest of the day.) I'm not an expert on track maintenance by any means....so, you tell me....I'm assuming that, by keeping the track sealed all day, they have a better chance to dry it out?
It's a big handle day, if not a big attendance day, with a $500K guaranteed pick four, so of course they want to keep as many horses on the track as possible; and they figure to lose some of the grass horses if the course becomes a quagmire.
I can't imagine that would give two hoots about the Breeders' Cup Challenge given the way the Breeders' Cup has shunned NYRA. It's a big day there for TVG, the sponsor of the Jockey Club Gold Cup
Shortly after that news, I saw this article by James Odato in the Times Union.
Two years ago, the New York Racing Association's leaders commissioned a $250,000 mural that would immortalize them on the wall of the state's biggest thoroughbred track. It's ready to be unveiled — even though it includes the image of a top NYRA official fired for alleged mismanagement of the racing franchise.Oh boy. Well, it's true that here, Odato is doing what Odato does - trying to make NYRA look as bad as possible in the story lede. Makes a painting that includes Charlie Hayward sound like the moral equivalent of the Joe Paterno statue. When you read further though, we learn that, in fact, the mural includes 100 various racing figures including Hayward and Steven Duncker, who were included at the artist's behest.
Still, can't think of much to say in defense. As I've mentioned before, and if you're new to the site, I don't profess to be completely objective about NYRA, nor do I feel obligated to do so. I'm not a reporter, just a guy who has spent over 30 mostly happy years (no need to be more specific than that) going to their tracks on a regular basis. But man, you really gotta wonder what they were thinking here. I understand the context - if you've been to Belmont, you've probably seen the giant 100 foot mural representing the past century of New York thoroughbred racing. This was to be a companion piece, representing the first ten years of the century (which really should have made it 10 feet, not 30). Hayward and Duncker probably figured that NYRA was close to being awash in slot cash, so maybe nobody would notice and why not invest in an asset which figures to appreciate and therefore add to the value of the property.
However, under the intense scrutiny that NYRA has been under, cranked up to 11 since the current governor took office, you just gotta use your head and think things out! How would this appear if - as in, when - it becomes public? The commissioning of this mural was in direct violation to the Left at the Gate prime directive - Never do anything with the potential to end up being portrayed in a negative light by James Odato. And besides, that's a material amount of money that maybe could have made Aqueduct just a bit more bearable this past winter.
- In the 9th on Thursday, Shootdeworx ($14.20) got up in a four-horse blanket finish for trainer Ian Wilkes; his second winner in a row, and 4th from 9 starters for the meet. This is the second of those winners to have last raced at Ellis Park (one on dirt, this one on grass); and the third winner from that track that I recall, out of not that many at all I'd imagine. Gonna keep an eye out for that. Wilkes next starter here is scheduled to be Fort Larned, the 7-2 second morning line choice in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday. If Ron the Greek, who he beat by a length and a quarter in the Whitney, is ultimately favored, as indicated by his 5-2 morning line, because of the extra furlong, I think that would be a mistake.