RSS Feed for this Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Breeders' Cup Friday

Forget about the Marathon, hopefully that race will go the way of the Juvenile Sprint (though my buddy Bob probably disagrees).  Though, that would bring the number of races down to an unlucky 13, so they'd have to get rid of the Turf Sprint to make it an even dozen.  (Though the Turf Sprint does provide a nice break to run out to the store or something.)

After the Marathon, we get two impossible head scratchers and, in my judgment, one, or two, potential singles.  So I'll try to build a ticket for the Pick Three or Four.

The two inscrutable races are the two-year old turf races.  I've always thought those to be impossible, but must say they make a bit more sense this year.  I disclosed my involvement in TimeformUS here, so I'm obviously biased.  But the speed figures on the same scale for foreign and US races, along with the detailed race comments, are shedding new light on the Euro shippers that help make these races so difficult.  I'll preview some of that info here, but I'll get yelled at if I give away the store; and besides, it's still just $1.50 per card.  And if you haven't tried it yet, send me an email and I can set you up with a cheap one-time trial plan that will get you both BC cards and unlimited access to all the other tracks on Friday and Saturday.

OK, sorry about the shameless plugging.  So let's start with the 7th, the Juvenile Turf.  The interesting thing about the horses coming over from Great Britain and Ireland is that they have raced strictly over straightaways.  They haven't gone around one turn, not to mention the two they'll go around here for the mile race.  However, such invaders have won this race all three times it's been run at Santa Anita.  Giovanni Boldini (7-2) is the leading contender of the four who have never raced here.  He earned a field high TimeformUS speed figure of 97 winning his last; but that was on Poly.  Son of War Front has won twice in two tries on that surface, and ran third in his one try on turf, with a TFUS of 89, and has a moderate TFUS pedigree rating for turf routes.  Can't find any of his races on You Tube to evaluate him.  However, he's very highly regarded by the Timeform guys in the UK, so I'm gonna use him.  Outstrip (4-1) won a Group 2 two races back, but ran third in his last.  The race commentary opines that he "might well have peaked already" and that he "lacks size and scope," so I'm going to stand against.  Wilshire Boulevard (8-1) has already raced seven times, which could be a blessing or a curse.  He's only made moderate progress of late, but seems dangerous enough to consider.  Shamshon (12-1) looks to be slower than these.

Morning line favorite Bobby's Kitten (5-2) comes off his easy, though perfect trip-aided, Pilgrim win at Saratoga, earning a fig of 95.  What can you say; trainer Chad Brown scores 100 in most of the relevant TFUS trainer ratings, as does the trainer/jockey combo of he and Castellano.  He's projected to be on the early lead by the Pace Projector, and surely goes on the ticket.  I prefer Bashart (6-1) though from a value standpoint.  Yes, he has a bad post, and the Toddster is not always a great asset come Breeders' Cup time.  However, he figures to get a nice stalking trip according to Pace Projector (which doesn't include the foreign horses (since they have no pace data), none of whom are frontrunners by trade, though you never know for sure), perhaps like the one he got when he graduated against a strong maiden field at Saratoga in August.  He also showed some moxie in his last, which was on the Poly at Keeneland.  Pinched back early down the backstretch, he was a full four wide around the turn, battled on to get the lead late before getting run down by the ground-saving Poker Player (12-1).  Think he'll run very well here if Johnny V can indeed get decent position early from the 13 post.

Longshot I keep coming back to is Ontology (30-1).  Maybe he's listed that high because he's still a maiden.  But in his only turf try, this son of Tapit, out of a minor turf stakes winning daughter King of Kings (Sadlers Wells), ran very well in an overnight stakes at Del Mar; after some early traffic trouble, he closed well to be clearly second best, with a competitive figure of 87, to Diamond Bachelor, who would be a contender here if he wasn't, for some reason, running in the Juvenile instead.  Forget the last on dirt for Ontology; series of sharp workouts replicates the pattern leading up that grass effort.  Think he'll outrun his odds, and worth a couple of bucks win and place.

Aotearoa (12-1) actually beat Diamond Bachelor in their last efforts, but the latter earned a better TFUS fig in defeat due to the pace scenario (these speed figures take pace into account), as the winner benefited from a fast pace and a nice trip.  Still, it was his first grass effort, and worth including on a B ticket.

So, for this I'll use (in order of preference)  Bashart / Giovanni Boldini / Ontology / Bobby's Kitten.    Wilshire Boulevard and Aotearoa for the B tickets.

The Dirt Mile, always one of my favorite races, looks to have a lot of speed this year.  Now, I'm thinking back to last year when there was a ridiculous speed bias, and getting a little queasy.  But I'm told by a reliable Santa Anita observer who I trust implicitly that these one mile races have produced winners of all styles this year.  (Though, as we know, that doesn't guarantee that the track won't be souped up for speed for these big race days.)  With a short run to the turn, the distance can beget a mad dash there, I am told.  In this race, you have a whole bunch of horses with early zip - Taptowne breaking from the inside, Fed Biz, Broadway Empire and the blinkered Alpha from the middle, along with Verrazano, the hilarious 3-1 morning line favorite, and Goldencents from the outside.  Fed Biz and Goldencents come off sprints in which they closed, but they are both reliably close to the pace when it comes to two turn routes.  I think most, if not of all these horses, have good incentive to be in a forward position and not too wide into the first turn, and the others figure to benefit.

So, with that in mind, I like Brujo de Ollares (8-1).  This Uruguayan sensation (though actually a Brazilian bred) was a big disappointment when first brought here by Team Valor in 2012.  But this year has been a different story.  He came off a 287-day layoff to run a tough second at seven furlongs at Parx, a neck off one tough horse in Traffic Light, and ahead of the persistent Hello Lover.  Then came a facile two-turn mile win against moderate competition at Delaware.  In his last effort, the Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont, he was part of a merry chase of Graydar, who had everything his own way on the front end, riding the gold rail, and setting pedestrian fractions - a half of 47 seconds which is very moderate for a high-class one turn mile race.  Brujo de Ollares also found himself three wide for most of the sweeping Belmont turn.  That's bad enough even if the rail wasn't the only place to be that day; and he still closed grimly and distinctly against the pace grain to make it a close race.  I thought it was an exceptional effort from a horse who seems to be on the upgrade, earning a 113 TFUS fig, the best of his career.

Couple of concerns - one that he could regress off that effort.  But he's working great for this race....notice how the regimen is exactly the same as that leading up to the Kelso, three works a week apart with the last one exactly a week before the race.  You know I like stuff like that.

Also, he'll be stretching back out to two turns.  He did win that race at Delaware two back.  It was visually impressive, though it wasn't that fast.  His prior winning efforts have all been around one.  Still, I think he'll be great value here, surely wouldn't be surprised if he's double digit odds, and that seems worthwhile for a horse coming off an effort I found so impressive.

Hymn Book (15-1) closed to finish only a neck behind the top pick in the Kelso.  I had him, and he never looked like a winner.  I thought he was spinning his wheels approaching the stretch at a point at which he should have been progressing, and then he made up ground late.  Think the race looks better on paper than it did visually.  Also, Hymn Book has never won, in ten tries, on a fast dirt track (he's finished second five times).  So, I think he'll be a bit short again, but he's surely worth using underneath.  Pants on Fire (6-1)  has come on in his last two races, beating Hymn Book soundly at Monmouth before tracking a fast pace and sticking around to win the Ack Ack around one turn at Churchill...earning career high TFUS figs of 112 and 113 in the process.  He should also benefit from a fast pace and I expect him to run well.  Goldencents (4-1) won the Santa Anita Derby over this track with a 118 fig, and he's run very fast in his last two races, albeit in sprints (and one on Poly).  He's certainly talented enough to win if he can deal tactically; perhaps the experience coming off the pace in sprints will help.

If Verrazano wins, I'm done for the rest of the weekend.  I'm serious.  He will be galloping straight to stud at Coolmore Ashford in Kentucky after the race, and the Toddster assures us he can stay the 1,867 mile distance.

I'm singling Brujo de Ollares here.

In the Juvenile Fillies Turf.......oh man.  Have to make some tough decisions here in an impossibly wide open 14 horse field.  I'm against My Conquestadory (9-2), at least from a win bet perspective from the treacherous 14 post.  She's good, no doubt.  But I don't think she's quite as good as track announcer Kurt Becker made it seem during the stretch run of the Alcibiades.  She did beat males in a Grade 2 at Woodbine in her career debut, on the turf.  But the race came up kinda slow - a 75 fig and the TFUS class rating was a tepid 67.  (Though third place finisher Matador did come back to win a restricted stakes on a yielding course.)  In the Alcibiades....yes she looked hopelessly blocked along the rail heading around the turn.  But, after Becker pointed out that situation, she extracted herself in the two path rather easily, and actually had a relatively smooth journey from there.  So, was she good?  You bet.  "INCREDIBLE," as Becker exclaimed?  Don't know about that.  But she'll surely get bet if people have listened to that call!  (And the race was on Poly too.)  I dunno, thinking out loud here, I'm tempted to leave her off the Pick Three or Four ticket too.  Just for fun.  Gotta make some tough decisions as I said.

For one thing, all three Euro invaders look tough and I'm gonna use all of them, even though the Timeform chaps express some doubts about the ability of Vorda (4-1) to stretch out from six furlongs to this mile route.  I wrote about her in more detail (verbal and visual) in this post on the TFUS blog.  Still, she's a granddaughter of the great miler Lure, an all-time favorite of mine who was infertile at stud and doesn't have many stallion sons around.  She has the top figure in the race (95), and I'm going to include her.  Al Thakhira (6-1) and Chriselliam (6-1) both come in off sharp efforts and are highly regarded by those in the know; the latter seems prone to throw in bad ones, but is proven at the one mile distance (though, again, down a straightaway).

Kitten Kaboodle (12-1) had an almost perfect rail trip when she destroyed the field in the Jessamine.  She was in a bit of a tight spot rounding the turn, but Alan Garcia backed off very confidently before rolling up the inside to win by six against a field of uncertain quality.  Got an OK figure of 82, and obviously is eligible to improve for trainer Chad Brown.  Johnny V hops aboard, and that combo as a trainer/jockey rating of 100 too.  I'm not getting beat by a Ramsey horse here, using her.  (But not Granny Mc's Kitten, who seems too slow.)

Street Sailing (15-1) looks a little scary coming off a win at this distance in her turf debut, at Keeneland,  and for the same connections as Brujo de Ollares.  At this point, I hope those connections are celebrating.  She earned a competitive TFUS figure of 86.  But she did have a perfect trip in an allowance race that came up with a tepid class rating, so I'm going to hold my breath and not use her.

Clenor (8-1) is surely moving in the right direction with three straight wins since shipping from Ireland over the summer, improving her TFUS figs each time.  She still has some improving to do from the 81 she got in her last though, an overnight stakes over the course at Santa Anita.  She unleashed an explosive move four wide around the turn and held off a game Nasso (20-1), who has the rail, and is forecast by Pace Projector to be on the lead.  Ready to Act (8-1) is another Chad Brown horse; she dumped her rider as the 8-5 favorite while leading in the stretch of a stakes at Woodbine after winning her debut.  Help!

I'm at least set on not using Testa Rossi (8-1); her win in the Miss Grillo came up slower, and there doesn't seem to be much speed to set up the kind of deep close she executed in that race.  But she wouldn't be a shock; nor would Sky Painter (15-1), who she beat by a nose.

Well, I don't think I can go ALL in a 14 horse race, so I'm gonna go with this, in alphabetical order, as I don't really have an opinion on a winner:

Al Thakhira / Clenor / Chriselliam / Kitten Kaboodle /  Ready to Act / Vorda   As for My Conquestadory?  Hmmm, only reluctantly and defensively, if at all.

So, there's a potential Pick Three ticket there.  Of course, through the magic of mathematics, I could add on a single from the six-horse Distaff and bet the Pick Four for the same price.  I'd have to really like her though, because if this Pick Three came through with that horse in the middle, I'd think I'd be pretty happy.  And pretty unhappy to see it go down the drain, and for what kind of extra return if I went with Royal Delta (8-5), who I expect to be the post-time favorite?

I do like her to avenge her defeat to Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame.  Just don't think it was her day. She hit the starting gate on the way out, and yielded the live inside path, while Princess of Sylmar glided over to that spot for her run down the backstretch.  Surely, it was a disappointment for her to succumb to the winner as easily as she did; but Mike Smith did not really pursue the issue once the outcome was clear.  Had been thinking that she wasn't really totally wound up for that race, and read something very interesting in the recent HANA newsletter.  Seth Morrow of Equidaily, in response to the question of whether he thinks Royal Delta will rebound, says that he read where trainer Bill Mott said, prior to the Beldame:   "We gave her a couple of pretty easy weeks up there [Saratoga] after she ran - hope we weren’t too easy on her."

You never know where you can find information....or too much information, depending on how it turns out.  But taking a look at the workouts prior to each race:

Difference is quite apparent.  Mott surely has not taken it too easy on her this time.  Now she returns to the track where she won this race last year, and earned a TFUS figure of 123, second best of her career.  If she does repeat however, I don't think it will be in the same wire to wire fashion.  Here's what the Pace Projector looks like.

It shows the West Coast speedball Beholder (#5, 5-2) in the lead with Royal Delta (#4) tracking.  The Pace Projector is based on the adjusted fractions that the horses have run in the past, and obviously doesn't anticipate any changes in strategy that one might expect to see.  I think though that Mike Smith has no choice but to yield to Beholder.  Richard Mandella's three-year old daughter of Henny Hughes is five-for-six, with a second, on the Santa Anita main track, and comes off a solid prep win in the Zenyatta, with a TFUS fig of 114, galloping around the track at a steady clip.  She's gonna be out there setting her own pace again I believe, and will surely take some beating.  I'm figuring that we'll see the champion in Royal Delta shine through this time; she'll get first jump on the leader and I think she'll prevail over her younger rival, who was beaten late by Princess of Sylmar in her own prior try as long as this mile and an eighth distance.

Then there's the matter of Princess of Sylmar (9-5).  What can we say; she's been spectacular, still working well, and surely wouldn't be a surprise.  Just betting that this is a lot to ask for a filly who had been geared up for one final race before the change of heart, and that Royal Delta will have enough to hold her off this time.  It will take quite an effort and the heart of a champion to run down the speedy Beholder and prevail against a late run by Princess of Sylmar.  I think she'll get it done.  Whether I'll want to risk a possible wagering score on her doing so, I'm not sure.  I'm thinking about it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

End Game

Well, only a week left until Election Day, and despite the raft of negative publicity and editorials, the outcome of the casino referendum seems clear. At least, according to the state-wide polls.....and at least when presented with the advocacy language that will appear on the ballot.  Which is what they're gonna see.  Now a NY Times - Siena College poll of NYC voters - home to about 40 percent of the state’s registered voters - paints a similar story.  

The poll quoted the Nov. 5 ballot language, which lists only positive arguments for allowing casinos, such as promoting job growth and increasing education funding. After hearing that language, six in 10 likely voters said they would vote yes.

“That is a strong margin of victory for the gambling amendment,” said Steven A. Greenberg, a Siena College pollster. “If support is 60 percent in New York City, I am hard pressed to see how it could fail statewide.” [NY Times]
That's actually more support than the rest of the state - the last state-wide Siena poll had 55 percent in favor and 42 percent against.  Of course, the same city voters polled against casinos located in the city.  But they don't have to be concerned with that for the foreseeable future; seven years, or so we are told.  So, they don't really have to think about any actual casinos in town, so, hey, sure, job growth, education, why the hell not?  It's just another insidious aspect to this whole sordid process that a population that is detached from the debate, and from the possible negative consequences (which are not mentioned on the ballot) of local casinos, would have such an outsized effect on the fate of the measure.

Well, this sucks.  I imagine we'll see more in the way of newspaper editorials against the measure as the vote approaches.  But the main wave of negative news over the language and the lawsuit seems to have passed. In truth, this matter was over (if it indeed is) as soon as Eric Snyder's suit was thrown out.  And considering the statute of limitations which ultimately made the suit moot, the jig really was up when the language was altered behind closed doors, no doubt at behest of the governor's mansion. This race was fixed.  No doubt about that.  I'll review the whole miserable tale at some point, but we really need to get to some Breeders' Cup races. So, I'm gonna work on that.

Just a couple more points first.  About Cuomo.  For one thing, we still haven't heard a peep out of him in support of the casinos.  So I'm pretty sure I was correct in my original suspicion that he planted that story with Dicker, about some "secret" poll showing the measure in trouble, in order to get pro-gambling groups to spend money on advertising.  The latest is a mailer from NY Jobs Now (which drew criticism for not disclosing the money behind it)  If this thing was really in trouble, you can bet he'd be out there.

One thing he did talk about recently was Aqueduct.  When prompted on the topic by the NY Daily News (long an ignorant editorial voice to shutter the racetrack), Cuomo said:  “It’s been a waste.”  So says the man who took control of the tracks, recited lofty words about how concerned he is about the animals and about the importance of the industry to the state.  As we well know, he has never once deigned to set foot inside any of the tracks.  And now, he tells all the hard-working horsemen and track employees that their efforts, their literal blood, sweat, and tears providing livelihoods and generating ample revenue for the state was "a waste."  I'm sure that's not (exactly) what he meant.  But one might expect that he would at least put a few seconds of thought into what he says.  It's enough to make me want to sign off with just two short words directed towards His Highness.  The same two he tells this industry on a regular basis.
 “You could do anything at Aqueduct. I mean, you’re right at the airport. It’s a great piece of property.  It’s one of the largest pieces of property, probably, in the city of New York."
I'm sure our governor knows exactly what is right for this great, large piece of property, which opens for racing, to continue what is no doubt the countdown to its demise, on Friday.  Without the long-promised new simulcast bar, now, I'm told, put off to an indefinite date in 2014.  Thanks for your help with that, Mr. Cuomo.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cuomo Allies $pring Into Action

Just three days after Fred Dicker wrote of concern amongst Cuomo aides over a "secret poll" showing flagging support for the casino amendment, NY Jobs Now has introduced pro-casino ads downstate, at a reported cost of $1 million.  (Joseph Spector reports that a quarter of that came from Yonkers Raceway.)  How convenient for the governor.  He's denied the notion that he's keeping his distance to avoid being tainted should the amendment fail.  However, despite Dicker's report that he'd be going "all-out in the coming days," we still haven't heard from him in a substantive way.  What a surprise if we don't at all, as long as his minions are doing the dirty work for him.

Reporting in the Buffalo News, Tom Precious offers another possible reason why the governor has been mum on the topic.
One theory is that the less the supporters talk, the less the media will cover the issue – including casinos’ potential warts.
I hope you won't mind if I point out that that's my theory - I've been writing that here for weeks!

There are two different versions of the pro-casino ad.
One ad targeting New York City resident begins by noting both candidates for New York City mayor – Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota – support the bill. The second ad targets Long Island voters and makes the same pro-casino claim on behalf of Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Ed Mangano, who are running against each otJher in the Nassau County executive’s race. [Buffalo News]
 Here's the NYC ad.

made the case in this post that supporting this amendment doesn't suit a progressive like de Blasio, who has made his "tale of two cities" mantra of economic inequality the centerpiece of his campaign.  However, de Blasio is counting on, unrealistically in the view of many, the State Legislature to approve a tax increase on earners of more than $500,000 in order to pay for educational programs, including pre-kindergarden.  Cuomo's support is obviously required (though it certainly wouldn't guarantee passage through the Senate); and he's been vocal about his misgivings about tax increases at this time.  So I would imagine that it would surely behoove de Blasio to not come out against what is a major initiative for the Governor.  (de Blasio has lately been "adjusting" his positions as his coronation draws closer, as reported the other day in two separate articles in the NY Times.) And indeed, Cuomo seemed a bit more receptive to the idea when the two met on Thursday.  (For those of you interested in such matters, there's this report by Azi Paybarah of the two discussing support for primary opponents to Jeff Klein and members of his Independent Democratic Conference that has helped to stymie progressive initiatives in the Senate despite a numerical advantage for Democrats.)

Meanwhile, we continue to see opposition to the referendum in newspapers on both sides of the political spectrum.  The NY Times is out with a new editorial today; while there was a particularly interesting opinion piece in the NY Post by John Sullivan.  The headline concerns Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, wondering why we haven't heard from the man who submitted the original neutral ballot wording before it was turned into the advocacy language.  But Sullivan also points this out about State Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin, the judge who unceremoniously tossed Eric Snyder's lawsuit against the language on technicalities:
The judge who ruled against [Snyder], an acting Supreme Court justice in Albany, will lose his job next year unless he’s re-appointed by Gov. Cuomo — who many suspect is behind the ballot shenanigans.
Now, since we're talking about the NY Post, I did a little fact checking. And indeed, a check of, shows that his term expires next year.  

Man, this thing just continues to stink to high hell!

And here's one more article, this one in the Buffalo News.  It presents both sides of the argument, but I think it presents the opposing view more prominently and convincingly.  Then again, I'm a little biased. But point is that it is showing the opposing view at all, and for free, becuase it's the only kind of media "campaign" that the opposition is able to afford.

 - [UPDATE: Scratched.] In the 9th at Belmont today, Westside Corral (5-1), makes his third start since being claimed by trainer Dominic Galluscio, who has been spotting this six-year old gelded son of Bernstein more realistically than before. He'd been consistently facing horses a cut or two above these, and has back TimeformUS speed figures that would dominate this field.....and as recently as two races back, a win against a competitive beaten claimers field at Saratoga.  In his last, he was shuffled to the rear after breaking from the two post, stayed there until tipping out five wide around the turn, and finished well for 4th.  When the last horse crossed the finish line and the camera view switches to the gallop-out, Westside Corral was well in front of the rest. And that may be the first....and last....time you ever see me write about a gallop-out here.  This race figures to have an honest pace; though the recently faint-hearted Mia Poppy (10-1) is forecast by Pace Projector to once again lead as he did in that last race, I think there's enough other speed, from Iron Power and Breathaway, to ensure that he has to run faster than a 25.48 first quarter to get there.  Make a Decision (6-1) and Powerful Instinct (5-2) are both improving animals from live barns.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cuomo Concerned About Casino Vote (So We're Told)

I'm hanging out at the TimeformUS blog these days, writing a regular feature called Today in Racing.  There, I'm discussing and explaining our features, and also going off on some topics of interest, so I hope you'll check it out please.  Also have our Breeders' Cup Package with advance PPs is available here.

Catching up on the upcoming vote, Fred Dicker reported in the Post on Monday that aides to Governor Cuomo are worried about the fate of the casino amendment after secret polling data showed an "ongoing loss of support" for the measure.  The governor intends to go "all out" in an effort to shore up support.
A key reason that support for casinos is slipping is the recent disturbing revelation that Cuomo aides were involved in altering the language used on the ballot to make it more attractive to voters, a second source close to pro-amendment forces said.
“Cuomo’s attempt to wire up the vote appears to have backfired, with so many negative stories and editorials,’’ the source said. [NY Post]
Ha, well, you gotta love that...if that's really the case.  Regardless, no doubt that Eric Snyder's efforts in his lawsuit is paying dividends despite its quick dismissal by the courts.  Many of the editorials and negative coverage referred to came in the wake of the discovery of the Advocacy Language, and then again when the suit was filed.

If the Governor is going to go on the campaign trail with this, then I say 'bring it on.'  His popularity has waned on both sides of the political spectrum; and recent publicity has all been bad between Snyder's suit and the reports of his attempts to interfere with his own anti-corruption panel when its inquiries threatened to hit too close to home.

The thought has also crossed my mind that Cuomo is full of it here....wouldn't be the first time....and is just trying to make sure that supporters with access to cash don't get complacent.  Dicker reports:
 “NY Jobs Now,’’ a coalition of union, business and gambling interests, including the state’s existing racetrack “racinos,’’ is scrambling to raise funds for a costly last-minute media blitz to encourage a pro-amendment vote, it was learned.  
Indeed, the latest Siena poll actually shows slight improvement in the numbers for support.  And, it again confirms the effect that the Advocacy Language has in swaying voters.  
"It's clear the wording of the casino amendment that voters will see on their ballots is influential in moving voters to support the amendment, particularly Democrats and New York City voters," Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said. [] 
Yeah, leave it to those liberals, all concerned about stuff like education and jobs.  One thing to keep in mind though - and that a helpful reader pointed out -  is that with De Blasio so far ahead of Joe Lhota in the polls, the turnout in NYC could be suppressed.

Well, I say bring on the ads too.  I mean, what the hell at this point.  Don't really think defeating the referendum stands a chance given the ballot language if people walk in without an opinion (or without even knowledge that it exists).  So might as well have it brought to people's attention.   Perhaps that will spark another round of newspaper editorials calling out the deceptive or unfounded claims, and presenting the downsides to expanded gambling; as well as any modest media coverage of opponents' reactions that they can garner with their limited resources.

Such as this article, entitled: It's all nonsense: Forum on casino expansion gets emotional.  ("It's all nonsense" is actually a quote from a casino supporter, though it doesn't come off that way to me.)  With the lede:
 Anti-casino activist David Blankenhorn thinks the gambling industry is engaged in "a sterile predatory activity that only takes money from people without giving them ... anything of value in return."
 Blankenhorn was out-numbered, not only 3-to-1 on the panel, but also by Jeff Gural asking questions from the audience!
 “Why shouldn’t someone in Binghamton, a retired person who wants to spend $30 at a slot machine be able to go to spend $30 in a slot machine?.....Why should you dictate what someone should do with their money?" [Capitol New York]
 Seriously, Jeff?  That's the best you can do....the big soda argument?  Why shouldn't he then be able to go hire a prostitute or score some weed?

 - One thing from last week that you may have already seen.  Teresa Genaro wrote on about Cuomo dissing the tracks that he was so eager to take over by refusing to set foot in any of them; even in Saratoga a half hour drive from the governor's mansion.  Well, Howard Glaser, the governor's senior policy advisor, had the nerve!!!!! - I mean, the unmitigated gall!!! - to leave a comment, saying: "NYRA will receive over $100 million in subsidy from the lottery of the State of New York. Before Governor Cuomo took office the amount of state support: zero."

Teresa was a bit polite in dismissing the comment as being "a bit disingenuous."  It's actually a bit absolutely outrageous that Glaser would think that we're stupid enough not to know that the "subsidy" that NYRA receives was a product of past administrations and has absolutely nothing to do with Cuomo, who would take it all away if it was up to him.  Jeez!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Belmont Friday

In the 7th at Belmont, Hyman Roth (8-1) is a three-year old son of Street Boss who has surely found a home on grass after floundering on dirt early this year, with three wins from five attempts.   And he's shown versatility in doing so, winning on the lead and from a couple lengths off the pace.  Though his TimeformUS speed figures are surely a cut below those of top contenders such as Karakorum Legend (2-1 poe), Sandy'z Slew (7-2) and Ziptronic (5-1), he is going in the right direction, with improved numbers in each of his grass starts.

Might have made even more progress in that last race at Saratoga too with a better trip.  Breaking from the rail, Hyman Roth quickly found himself pinned inside towards the back of the pack.  Seemingly eager to make some progress from there, he was stymied when forced to steady around the first turn.  He remained towards the rear before mounting a mild late rally into a quick closing quarter, coming home himself in a snappy 23.03, best in the field, to be 4th.  Further compromising his chances to improve on that finish was the fact that the turf courses seemed to be firmly favoring speed at that point in the Saratoga meeting.  Cuts back to seven furlongs today; a distance at which he is one-for-one on grass, and that win came from off the pace.  He'll have to utilize that strategy today with speedier types such as the abovementioned Ziptronic and Sandy'z Slew, as well as Thunder Harbor (6-1) in the mix.  If Jose Ortiz can indeed harness his speed, can be close should he continue his progression of improvement.

In the 8th, Chasing Moonlight (6-1) goes first time off the claim for an obscure, and winless in 2013, trainer in Juan Ortiz.  Gelded son of Grand Slam was a fruitful 14K claim for Dominic Galluscio, with a win and a second in three starts.  Furthermore, he improved speed-wise, earning a career high TFUS figure of 101, which is the best in 2013 of any horse in the field.  Obvious questions are whether he can run back to that effort just seven days later, and whether he can be successful beyond six furlongs at today's distance of seven.  A winning effort off of eight days rest in March would seem to answer affirmatively to the first question; the latter remains to be seen.  But would be worth his morning line price to find out, and we like that jockey Luis Saez sticks around for the new connections.  Best of luck and have a great day.

 - We have a TimeformUS Breeders' Cup Package which will be available with the release of the advanced past performances on October 23.  Besides our usual great features with foreign runners - highly detailed race commentary for most entrants and speed figures for which a great deal of work has been done on both sides of the Atlantic in order to bring into a harmonized scale for easy comparison - it includes expert European commentary on the foreign runners (as well as the usual stellar domestic work) delivered to your inbox, and unlimited past performance access to all tracks on Breeders' Cup Friday and Saturday.  Details on the package can be found here.

[UPDATE: And I'll be doing a new feature on the TimeformUS blog called Today in Racing; first post up here.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Statue of Limitations Rules the Day in Ballot Language Decision [UPDATED]

Undaunted, Eric Snyder plans to forge on, and seek emergency relief from the appellate courts after State Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin tossed his challenge to the advocacy language on the casino referendum ballot.  [Update: He changed his mind.]

He has a little problem though, the way I see it.  The suit was simply filed too late.  Even as Judge Platkin conceded in his decision that the Board of Elections snuck it onto their website [well, that's my characterization] four days after the deadline to sue, he noted:

 But even if the law permitted the statute of limitations to be tolled during this period of delay and the 14-day period in which to bring suit began to run on August 23, 2013, the petition/complaint would still be untimely.  
 Uh oh.  Seems to me that's game/set/match.  The state gets away with their deception on this technicality, in part because the language wasn't reported in the press until mid-September.  However, to be honest, even if the law permitted the statute of limitations to be toiled until that time, Snyder still didn't file within 14 days.

So, quite unfortunately, the Court did not even consider the question of whether the language constitutes improper use of funds to advance government advocacy.  That's the main substantive issue, and it's one which neither the Board nor the government officials involved have ever even attempted to dispute.  The one substantive issue that Judge Platkin did rule on was the one involving Snyder's contention that the Board violated the Open Meetings law, and that's what he will base his appeal on.
 “I was shocked that the judge dismissed the claim that the (Board of Elections) meeting was in secret when that claim wasn’t even in front of him....The board didn’t move to even dismiss that claim. So I’m going to seek an immediate appeal on that issue alone.” [Pressconnects]
With all due respect to His Honor, I vehemently disagree with his decision that the "documentary evidence" of the July 29 public meeting of the Board of Elections shows that the language was discussed.  As I feared in this post, he asserted that when it was discussed at that public meeting that there would be words added "to review the legislative purposes in the underlying statute," it was clear that that "clearly represented a description of the Purposes Language."  (Except that I feared that the state would argue that.  One of Snyder's points is that the judge dismissed his claim on those grounds even though the Board didn't move that he should.)  I find Judge Platkin's assertion here to be especially specious (if I may use a judicial term myself) considering that this so-called "legislative purpose" (to promote job growth, increase aid to schools, and lower property taxes) is not even included in the actual legislation.

However, no matter how solid the legal arguments and the common sense behind Snyder's arguments may be (and we are a nation of laws and principles, not a nation of common sense, otherwise military-style assault weapons would not be permitted in the streets, the Ku Klux Klan would not be allowed to march down Main Street, and Governor Cuomo would not be allowed to advocate for his favored amendments inside the polling place), it is hard to see how any appeal is going to get past the fact that the suit was filed too late.

Having said that and as futile as it may be, the longer Snyder carries on, the longer the question is before the public and - hopefully - in the press. Because, if this audience in Syracuse last night is any indication, a fair and two-sided debate on the topic is good for the casino opponents. Unfortunately, once we get to November 5, the language that voters will see is anything but fair and is decidedly one-sided.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Keeneland Wednesday

I was actually around for most of the holiday - to some of us - weekend, and was ready and willing to post some picks for Belmont.  And I tried, I really did.  But I honestly couldn't come up with anything I liked enough amongst the 29 races offered.  Didn't look in depth at all of them....didn't consider 2YO maiden races, fun to bet off the tote and paddock at the track but not as much trying to figure out beforehand, nor others that I just didn't care for upon first glance.  Not that the races were bad; some of them, including the two stakes on Saturday, were too hard, others uninspiring, and just couldn't find any particular horse to get me excited.

Of course, it was probably mostly just me.  Seems just a very short time ago that I had an opinion on nearly every race.  That was Saratoga though, and everything seems a lot clearer there.  For me, there's a natural ebb and flow when it comes to horseplaying and the patience and concentration it requires.  Peaks in July and August and come the last couple of weeks of Belmont, when it's often cold and empty there, I'm often burned out.  Don't always get it back together for Breeders' Cup. Let's see (as Trevor Denman might say), there have been 29 Breeders' Cups....and though I've watched at least significants portion of them all, whether live or on tape, probably have had minimal or no wagering on half.  Helps this year that there's no presidential election; and though there are no Caleb Posse's over whom I'm drooling over 2+ weeks out, still plenty of time to fall in love with someone.

So, having my said that you can take the following handicapping selections for Keeneland on Wednesday for what they are worth!

In the 8th - and assuming it goes on the grass - Special Guest (10-1) is a lightly-raced four-year old filly who has shown nice progression since returning from a 371 day layoff, and switching to the barn of trainer Neil Howard.  After a third in the slop, she graduated, on dirt, at Ellis Park before switching to turf and winning in her first try against winners.  That was a professional performance; a nice ground-saving trip behind the leaders to be sure, but I liked the way she surged through an opening in the stretch, and gamely held off a nice-looking filly in Bremusa (who she apparently bumped late, at least according to the chart comment).  Then, in her last, and with a new rider, she found herself on the lead in a very slow-paced race.  Don't think that's her game.  Faded to 5th - less than three lengths behind repeat winner Poetic Kid - but still earned a career-best TimeformUS speed figure of 89 that puts Special Guest (#9) in the mix here in a race that Pace Projector indicates will have a lively pace to potentially set up her closing kick.

Victor Lebron, on board for each of her two career wins, returns to the saddle, and stretching out to nine furlongs should only be helpful for this daughter of Smart Strike out of a half-sister to BC Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine.  Plenty of room for improvement in only her 8th career start, and looks attractive at her morning line.  Tabreed (3-1) cuts back to nine furlongs; effort two back at Saratoga makes her tough here; one to beat.

In the 9th, Golden Galaxy (7-5) has ten wins in 16 career starts, but makes her debut on a synthetic track of any variety.  Well, I don't have to explain to you guys why this horse is a must bet-against; the kind that can beat me if she can.  I like three horses starting on the inside who all have good records on synth, and which I'll use for the second half of the double.  Neverrguwithritchie (12-1) makes her first synth start of the year after winning two of her four 2013 starts, one each on dirt and turf.  She's six for 12 lifetime on the artificial surfaces.  With wins, earning competitive TFUS figures, from six furlongs to one turn miles to two turn routes, she should handle this seven furlong test.   One negative is a poor try in her only start at Keeneland (three years ago), but willing to overlook for that morning line price.  Point to the Wild (7-2) also returns to synth, on which she's won three of her four sprint starts.  She also has a disappointing effort in her only try over this track, but that came against better in a race in which she earned a figure that puts her right there against these.  Pace Projector puts her sitting second behind the favorite in a race projected to favor early speed.  All four lifetime wins by Devout Diva (9-2) have come on the Arlington Poly; I do fear that seven furlongs may be a bit beyond her best abilities, though she did graduate at that distance.  And for those looking to spread for a Pick Whatever wager, Emmy Who (10-1) is a little scary based on good figs earned in three career synth tries at Turfway Park.  Best of luck and have a great day.

 - Casino opponents may not have money to mount an ad campaign.  But they threw together some dough to get a slot machine to smash to smithereens up in Albany.  Might have made for more effective visuals though if they used some lighter fluid and a match.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cuomo Two-Step Falls Flat

Governor Cuomo was asked about the Advocacy Language:

Interesting.....because Cuomo used rather similar language when he was asked about reports, originally by the New York Daily News' Ken Lovett, that he, or the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, quashed subpoenas that the Moreland Commission, the anti-corruption panel that he himself established, was about to issue to real estate developers who benefited from tax breaks AND generously donated to his campaign, and to the state Democratic party entity that helped to fund ads promoting his agenda.
"No. Mr. [Ken] Lovett asked that question to the commission itself and they said that they do the subpoenas, the co-chairs make the decisions." [Capitol Confidential]
However, when pressed further and questioned as to whether he or his staff played any role or supplied any guidance to the committee, the governor broke into a clumsy two-step around the question while his press secretary desperately tried to break up the dance before he could trip and tumble to the floor:
Blain: So did your staff have any role in guiding them in what subpoenas to issue?

Cuomo: Well, you know that the staff — the Moreland Commission is staffed by people from the governor’s office and the AG’s office. We staff the commission. The co-chairs vote on what subpoenas to do and it requires a unanimous vote of the co-chairs.

Matt Wing, Cuomo press secretary: Thank you, guys!

Blain: And did you or any of your staff play any role in helping them determine where to go with subpoenas or not?

Cuomo: The governor’s staff staffs the commission. It’s staffed by people from the Attorney General’s office. So they staff the commission.

Blain: No, I understand that, but in terms of who gets a subpoena — did you play any role in that?

Cuomo: The co-chairs make that determination.

Wing: Thank you, guys! Glenn, we’ve gotta go.

Cuomo: The co-chairs make that determination. And Lovett told, Lovett had that conversation with the co-chairs.

For one thing, the veneer of being above the swirl of corruption in Albany continues to fade from this arrogant man.  And furthermore, I strongly suspect that, had the governor been similarly grilled as to whether he or any of his staff played any role or provided any guidance to the Board of Elections as to what language it should use for the casino amendment, he'd attempt similar slick footwork.  And be similarly unsuccessful.  That's just me speculating.  But the governor is free to let us know if I'm wrong.

Here's the motion by the Board of Elections to throw out Eric Snyder's suit, to be heard at 9:30 Friday morning, against the wording of the amendment.

Indeed, it contends that the suit was filed too late, of course without acknowledging that the language was not released publicly until after the deadline to file.  And it cites some other technical stuff too, like who was or was not named in the suit.  What it doesn't do is defend the fairness of the language.  Some woman named Heather Briccetti did though...she's the president of the Business Council, a group which plans to wait until just before the election before spending "a couple million dollars" to promote passage.  She's the first person I've seen anywhere who actually tries to defend the language.  
 “If you look at the Transportation Bond Act [that has been considered in the past], it says building new transportation infrastructure.....They say what the purpose is. The reason why we're authorizing a casino gambling amendment is to provide a revenue source for education, to provide a revenue source for local governments, and for job creation. I don't think it's a rosy picture.” [Capitol Tonight]
 Well, actually, Ms. Whoever You Are, I think you actually do an excellent job proving the opposite point.  As you point out, the Transportation Bond Act question simply stated its purpose; it did not say that the purpose was to build new transportation infrastructure to promote job growth, repair bridges, and promote public safety by improving roads.  The reason why the state is trying to authorize a casino gambling amendment is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos in New York State.  Which is the exact wording submitted by the Attorney General before it was altered.  That is the purpose, period.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

State Defense is Technically Outrageous

The judge who will rule on the lawsuit challenging the ballot language of the casino referendum is an appointee of former Governor George Pataki; a bit ironic in that it was under his leadership that racinos were first legalized in New York, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Paul M. Collins, the Board of Election's in-house council who will defend the state rather than the Attorney General, will ask Justice Richard Platkin to throw the suit out.  Not on substantive grounds, not at all surprisingly; but rather on a technicality.

Collins said the board had to certify and transmit to the county boards the abstract and form of ballot “at least three months prior to the general election at which such amendment, proposition or question is to be submitted… It is for that reason that it required that a proceeding to challenge such language be instituted within fourteen days of such certification. Here with the November elections scheduled for November 5th, the certification was due on August 5th and any proceeding to challenge same must have instituted by August 19th. [Capitol Confidential]
Well, there's just one little problem with that, dickbrain.  As Michael Gormley reported for the AP:
The state put the controversial referendum on its web site Aug. 23, well after the deadline to sue.
Now, the meeting at which the notion of altering the neutral language that was recommended by the Attorney General's office was discussed was at a public meeting held on July 29 and streamed on the Board's website.  However, an amendment to Eric Snyder's original complaint [revised complaint is posted in its entirety below] points out that the actual text of the "Advocacy Language," as it so beautifully and aptly denotes the ballot wording, was not explicitly discussed; only a reference to words "to review the legislative purposes in the underlying statute."  So, the complaint contends that the actual text was, in fact, not discussed nor approved at the public hearing, but rather behind closed doors afterwards; and thus constitutes a violation of the Open Meetings Law.
 The Board of Elections did not approve the wording of the Gambling Amendment at a meeting open to the general public in violation of 103(a) of the Open Meetings Law.
That could perhaps be considered a technicality as well; the Board will surely argue that the meaning of "legislative purposes" was clear. However, it may very well take on extra resonance in light of the state's defense that the suit was filed too late.  The Advocacy Language (you're gonna be seeing a lot of that around here - I love it!) was never discussed in public, and not posted on the website until after the deadline.  (It wasn't reported in the papers until mid-September.)

I mean, is anybody really paying attention to what's going on here? Politicians receiving ample money from individuals and corporations with an interest in expanded gaming in NY twist the language squarely to their side, slip it into the language away from public view, sneak it onto their website more than three weeks later and well after the deadline to challenge it, and then have the unmitigated nerve to say that it's too late to recall the ballots??  If there was a well-funded opposition, I could just see the ads with the grainy slow motion black and white shots of Cuomo and Silver and Skelos with the amounts of the campaign contributions superimposed, and the ominous voiceover describing the entire tale of deception.

Alas.  Money buys elections, especially with the Supreme Court rooting it on.  And, in this case, all the money is on the same side.  Seems to me that this thing is gonna pass, no matter what happens in the court room on Friday and, perhaps, beyond.  If the language remains as is however, and if the polls are any indication (as they generally are), this vote will be like the Broncos against the Titans Jaguars.  (Sorry, Titans.  For some reason, I always mix those teams up.  Nothing to do with the butt-kickings you've administered to the Jets.)

Snyder Amended

 - Pretty brutal card to handicap at Belmont today with five consecutive maiden races in the middle of the card - three of them of the claiming variety.  Last two races of the day look fairly interesting, but with the likelihood of rain, who knows what the track condition will be by then. Only race I'm a bit interested in - should it remain on the grass - is the 5th. I picked Fiddlers Chico (7-2) in his last race; and he missed, at 7-1, by a nose and a neck, the latter being the margin behind Plausibly (3-1). Thought Fiddlers Chico was the better horse considering his wide trip. Race figures to set up the same way today, with Plausibly tracking Cielo Soleggiato, and can't really come up with a solid reason to think that Fiddlers Chico won't again be trying to rally wide.  But I do think he's the better animal, and still trying to catch trainer Jena Antonucci, who got nailed on the head bob with 8-1 Currency Union in the 6th yesterday.  So, I'll check out the tote and the track conditions come post time and see if there are any opportunities, as I do prefer these two over the rest.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Casino Interests Getting Their Money's Worth

The initial hearing for attorney Eric Snyder's lawsuit challenging the wording of the casino amendment will take place in State Supreme Court on Friday.  The Board of Elections will be represented by in-house council; and not by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.  According to a post on the Politics by the Hudson blog:

Under normal circumstances, the Board of Elections would be represented by the state attorney general’s office, which acts as the lawyer for the executive branch.
However, Schneiderman reportedly recommended that the Board of Elections utilize the neutral language before that language was changed by the Board in consultation with the legislature and Governor Cuomo the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.  Snyder’s lawsuit makes mention of the office’s advice.  So, maybe the Board has not consulted with the AG because it seemed like a poor fit.

Or, maybe somebody, somewhere, decided that it would be unseemly, if not an outright conflict, for Schneiderman to defend the language considering that gambling interests have contributed $129,500 to his campaign fund?

Nah.  I'm sure that had absolutely nothing to do with it.  

If it did, then the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo similarly would not have been the least bit involved in writing language so obviously biased towards interests that have contributed $361,500 to his campaign.  Neither would the majority Democrats in the Assembly ($414,750); nor the Senate Republicans ($403,750) nor the IDC ($51,800 to leader Sen. Jeff Klein).....nor the two chairmen of the Assembly and Senate gaming committees ($110,000).

And you wonder why there's such broad support for this amendment in Albany?  Do you think the politicians are more interested in funding for schools, or for themselves?  Maybe something for the Moreland Commission to look into.


 - The  Laborers International Union of North America has started a campaign effort in support of the amendment.  It represents some 35,000 construction workers in the state, so I guess it qualifies as a special interest group in the matter.  Billboards are already up in the Catskills and bus ads are coming to the Capitol Region.  The group has made "massive" radio buys there, and in other regions, including NYC.

 - In the 9th at Belmont today, Princess Mara (12-1) looks like lone speed for trainer Gary Contessa.  Gets the one hole too.  Last time on grass, this five-year old daughter of Leroidesanimaux, in her first start for the barn after being claimed from David Jacobson, ran into the speedster Roses For Romney, and chased that one through quick opening fractions.  After being wide on the turn, she still finished with interest for fifth, and earned a 90 TimeformUS figure which is tops amongst recent efforts of any horse in this field.  Her prior grass effort was a front-running win at this distance at the Big A.  Could take some running down here. Pure Amour (5-2) would seem to be the top candidate to do so.  Tactical speed should keep her within striking distance.  Daughter of Pure Prize has shown good improvement off a long layoff for new trainer George Weaver, with two wins at Belmont during the spring, and then a third at Saratoga in which she may have been victimized by a turf course which was favoring speed at that time.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Cherry on Top

Eric Snyder, the Brooklyn-based bankruptcy lawyer suing the Cuomo administration over the casino amendment ballot language, is also challenging its placement at the top of the six referendums up for vote.

Normally, the questions to voters are placed in the same order that the Legislature approves the measure for the ballot. In this case, the casino referendum was adopted last, but given the prime top spot, Snyder argues. [Associated Press]
It's not just the fact that it's first; it stands out like a cherry on top.  As persuasive in favor of a yes vote as the authors obviously attempted to make it be, at least it's succinct.  At a mere 51 words, it's easily the shortest of the amendments; and the only one with only one paragraph.  The second shortest clocks in at over twice as many - 128.  And besides, who's going to even get past its subject matter:  Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities.  Proposal One is entitled simply: Authorizing Casino Gambling.  If Proposal Two (248 words) reads: Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Post-Appointment, then why wouldn't Proposal One read something like:  Authorizing Casino Gambling in Certain Locations Outside New York City to be Determined Post-Approval?

As opposed to the question of the wording, which Snyder is arguing violates the constitution, the placement seems more a matter of tradition. So it may not be challengeable in court; but it certainly may be useful to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the whole exercise.  This gambit is just so blatant and shameless, it boggles the mind that they would think they'd get away with it without anybody speaking up to question.

 - Given the lack of rain around here, one might think that the grass courses at Belmont would be rock hard and speed favoring....the way they seemed to be at Saratoga for awhile late in the meet.  But that doesn't seem to be the case.  There was a front-running winner in the 1st on Wednesday, but none since then. And a couple that came out of the clouds on Thursday, one on each course; including Bluegrass Springs ($12), who bested stablemate Abra to give us, as per the last post, the winner and a $73 exacta with two 5-1 shots for Linda Rice.

In the 9th, Christophe Clement continued his uncanny success in two-year old grass races; Scoria ($11.80) was his 7th such winner since Saratoga started (from 16 starters).  Maybe the most amazing thing is that none of them have paid less than 4-1!

The 7th on Friday is a high-priced maiden claimer for two-year old fillies. As I believe I've mentioned recently, trainer Gary Contessa, who isn't particularly known for either two-year olds or turf, has had some success in this category of late, most recently with Carolinian a couple of weeks ago. Also had a debut winner in Fancy Boss on whom I cashed during the last week of Saratoga.  Great Cross (12-1) is a first-time starter by Kitten's Joy out of an Indian Charlie mare who comes into her debut off a steady series of works.  She has a three-year old full sister, Sassy Kitten, who won her debut at Kentucky Downs last month.  Her second dam, Bemissed, won three graded turf stakes at two in 1982 for her trainer Woody Stephens (and jockey Frank Lovato Jr!).  Figures to be overlooked with first-timers from Chad Brown and Pletcher scheduled to go; and Contessa himself has one of the morning line favorites in Camden Jane, another of his first-timers who ran well in her debut, finishing a close third at 16-1 at Saratoga.  So may be worth checking the tote and listening to hear if Maggie has any comment in the paddock (unless you're proficient enough to evaluate them visually yourself, which I surely am not).

In the 9th, Lisvernane (6-1) comes back nine days after being eased when her saddle slipped. Lightly raced five-year old daughter of Arch returned to the races in March off a layoff of 845 days. Give her a pass for her return, throw out a race on a yielding track as well as the last, and you see her progressing quite well.  Two races back, she mounted a nice wide rally into quick closing fractions to finish third behind a couple of nice three-year olds in Concise (next times out finished a close 4th and 3rd against her own kind in the Lake Placid and Garden City) and White Rose (a respectable 5th against older in the G1 Flower Bowl), earning a career high TimeformUS figure of 85.  Shortens up and will need some pace, but looks as if she fits here with continued improvement for trainer Jimmy Toner, who's been sneaky sharp of late with some double-digit odds runners. Morning line favorite Sally's Dream (5-2) seems the one to beat on the TFUS figs, but always hard to get too enthused about Randi Persaud horses making their 6th start in 58 days.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Brooklyn Lawyer Lends Hand to Faltering Casino Opposition

This guy is my new hero.

Eric Snyder is a Brooklyn-based lawyer "who provides bankruptcy advice to corporations, landlords, creditors’ committees, and bankruptcy trustees, as well as to museums seeking advice on matters related to the lending of artwork to commercial galleries."

He's also the guy many of us have been waiting for - the one who has stepped forward to call bullshit on Governor Cuomo and the outrageous ballot language that reads like an advocacy ad for the casino referendum.  

The language, which the State Board of Elections approved in July, mentions a series of positive “legislative purposes” of the casino proposal, including “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.” That language was approved by the board after consultation with the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, which has backed the measure.

But the suit filed in State Supreme Court says the rosy terminology violates the State Constitution’s provision against use of public money in the aid of a “private undertaking.”

“The Constitution is pretty clear that you can’t use public money to sway or influence a vote,” the lawyer, Eric J. Snyder, said. [NY Times]
I love how we always read that the language was approved by "the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo."  The governor himself recently said that he hadn't "studied" the wording, which I would surmise makes him a liar in addition to a bully and a guy who took over the NYRA tracks but refuses to set foot inside of one.  (I will refuse to consider stepping into a polling place to vote for him unless he does.)
Snyder said the elections board did not have the authority to adopt the language and that expending resources to craft what he called the pro-casino ballot wording goes against constitutional prohibitions of state money being used to promote a ballot issue. His legal papers cited several precedents, including a 1975 case brought against a state agency that was using state resources to promote adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.
At a minimum, the lawsuit seeks to change the ballot question to a simple question: does a voter support or oppose a plan to add up to seven casinos in the state? If the language doesn’t change, Snyder is asking the courts in his Article 78 proceeding to strip the casino question from the ballot. [Buffalo News]
A state court will hear arguments next week.

As if there was any doubt, a Siena poll released earlier this week confirmed that the language is indeed persuasive.
When the Siena College poll asked voters without the political spin if they favored authorizing several casinos, New York voters were split at 46 percent.

But when shown the glowing wording of the referendum, 55 percent approved it.

"Clearly the wording on the ballot for the casino amendment matters," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena poll. [Associated Press]
Another poll, conducted by a coalition of business and labor groups known as New York Jobs, which will lend support to passage of the referendum, also showed support for the measure throughout the state; including - and especially - in New York City, which will likely supply most of the voters but which will not be immediately affected, by a whopping 52-31%. Again, this is when presented with the rosy language on the ballot. This survey did not poll on the neutral language which was changed by the legislature and Governor Cuomo.....oops, that is, by the administration of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Interestingly, the poll showed upstate voters split nearly even.  That's all very odd considering that aiding upstate communities in need of jobs and an economic boost was the whole point of Cuomo's decision to limit the facilities to upstate.  On the other hand, some upstate areas are precluded from getting casinos due to the governor's giveaways to Indian tribes that could have thrown their financial muscle into opposing the measure.  (And at least two affected towns are suing the administration over it, accusing Cuomo of vote-buying.)

This poll was conducted by The Parkside Group, which issued an accompanying memo asserting that a well-funded, well-executed campaign should prevail and propel the referendum to passage on November 5th.
The survey shows room for growth in the five boroughs, where support from a very popular Governor and Democratic nominee for Mayor, along with the active participation of labor unions, can transform remaining undecided voters into supporters of the referendum.
When I read this, I was like 'What?  Since when did the Democratic nominee for NYC mayor, Bill de    Blasio, say he supported the referendum?'  Surely, that can't be the case, right?

Well, wrong.  On September 27, de Blasio released this statement via the Public Advocate website:
“The casino referendum is a win-win for New York. Our neighbors upstate will benefit from the jobs created, and New York City will receive new revenue to support education. It’s good for the city and the state, and I join with labor and business in supporting this measure.”
Hmmm.....Seriously, Mr. Mayor-to-be?  What happened to the thing about "two New Yorks?"  You know, the stuff about inequality and the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots; about Bloomberg favoring the rich at the expense of the disappearing middle class and those who struggle to make ends meet?  Maybe de Blasio has been too busy to drop by Resorts World and take a look at the working class types sitting in a trance while the slots drain the money from their player cards fed intravenously into the machines.

Or to have read about the recently issued study by the "non-partisan" Institute for American Values (large pdf file here).  The report affirms reports I've read lately that conclude that 35-50% of casino revenues derive from problem gamblers.   And that casinos actually serve to lower property values in the areas where they are located.  And it concludes:
"[S]tate-sponsored casino gambling ... parallels the separate and unequal life patterns in education, marriage, work, and play that increasingly divide America into haves and have-nots. Those in the upper ranks of the income distribution rarely, if ever, make it a weekly habit to gamble at the local casino. Those in the lower ranks of the income distribution often do. Those in the upper ranks rarely, if ever, contribute a large share of their income to the state's take of casino revenues. Those in the lower ranks do." [Via CNN]
Seems to me that this is language that could be taken out of de Blasio's playbook....that it refers to exactly the kind of inequality that he's based his campaign on, and which he has used to portray himself as the progressive alternative to the last twelve years.  I would think he'd surely have second thoughts if he thought about the use of casinos to balance budgets as a form of regressive taxation.  Of course, the casinos won't actually be in New York City at first.  But does that mean that he thinks that "two cities" is OK elsewhere in the state as long as it benefits us here?

 - I'll sneak in a horse pick here figuring that most people who read this strictly for the racing stuff are long gone and won't see a potential losing selection.   The 8th at Belmont today is an extremely tough six furlong turf sprint, deep in contenders who would hardly surprise me should they win. But let's take a flyer with Bluegrass Springs (12-1).  Three-year old son of Bluegrass Cat was claimed by current trainer Linda Rice off of a win under similar conditions at Belmont in June.  She promptly stretched him out at Saratoga, and he showed good speed in a similar class level to today, got bumped around a bit in the stretch and held on for an OK third.  Then, a funny thing happened in his next two efforts in that the horse does not show a listed workout prior to either, both also routes.  Typically, Bluegrass Springs works a half-mile a week or so before his races; he did so prior to each of the abovementioned solid efforts, as well as before others in the past in which he's shown good speed from the start.   Maybe it's just coincidence that he uncharacteristically lagged behind early in each of these last two races before mounting just a mild late response.  I mean, I wouldn't want to suggest that Ms. Rice is cheating playing games, or anything.  Maybe she just forgot.

Anyway, here, not only does he get his half mile work, but he cuts back from a mile after 19 days - his six furlong turf win came 20 days after a mile effort.  So I'm looking for him to be closer early. Will need to improve on his speed figures, but seems intriguing on price.  Abra (7-2), also trained by Ms. Rice, seems strictly the one to beat, also cutting back to the six furlong distance at which ran a close second and earned a big TimeformUS figure two back before - for some reason following such a stellar effort - stretching out for the first time, hmm.  So a Rice exacta box could be in order here. Slamarama (5-1) and Bernie the Jet (3-1) also seem well fast enough to at least get a piece; tough heat, as I said.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A Late Super Saturday Wrap

I wanted to write about Super Saturday while the subject was still fresh. But Sunday wasn't so super after a mishap at the gym left me with a gash on my head ("a full 3 centimeters," said the nurse), a visit to the emergency room, an application of glue to patch the wound, and a tetanus shot.

Now, it's already Tuesday night Wednesday morning, and my arm where I got the injection is killing me!

OK, well, still want to write a bit about the day and besides, I have to get in an I-told-ya-so or two on Orb.  I'll try to include some stuff you may not have read elsewhere, if that's possible these days.

I think there was kind of a tale of two cities thing going on at Belmont that day - those who knew about the gold rail/speed bias thing that had been, we're told, pervasive at the track just about since it opened for the fall meeting.  It was clear from following the experts and insiders on Twitter, especially from NYRA's analyst Andy Serling, who regularly excoriated jockeys, both via tweet and during his pre-race prattle, for not getting on board with what he saw as a rail bias of historical proportions for the Big Sandy oval.

And then there were those who were blissfully ignorant, and just carried on like it was a normal day.

Despite what may appear to be a somewhat dubious tone above, I'm not here to argue the existence of the bias.  Yes, I'm generally bias-skeptical, think that people often jump to conclusions based on scanty evidence. That's especially the case with speed biases on dirt tracks since our game here on those surfaces in North America generally lean in that direction.  I myself have not followed the Belmont races closely enough on a daily basis to dispute what was a rather overwhelming consensus of people whose opinion I respect.  Having said that, I'd certainly contend that there were cards on which there simply weren't enough dirt races to conclude that the track was biased on that particular day, and some days on which the track seemed to be playing fairer than on others.  (One example of the latter was two Sundays ago, a day on which, perhaps not coincidentally, all ten races were contested on the main track.)

Well, I'm not really sure if the know-it-alls had much of an advantage over the know-nothings on this day.  Personally, I don't find speed and/or rail biases to be all that helpful.  If it's obvious who's gonna be in front, the horse is overbet; and, if it's not, it's not necessarily much easier to identify who is going to lead at the beginning as it is to identify who is going to lead at the end.  On the other hand, I love closing biases.  Partially because I love betting closers.  Just find it easier to throw all the speed horses out than to figure out which one is fastest; and simpler (and more fun) to pinpoint the horses with the best closing kick.  That's why I used to love the synthetic tracks; but now, they seem to have started to favor speed too.

I was glad to see I'm not the only one who has his doubts about these things; most of the horseplayers I spoke to before the card wanted to see for themselves before making any conclusions.  And what did they conclude?  Well, there were six dirt races, two didn't tell us much - a maiden race won by a big Pletcher favorite, and Princess of Sylmar's conquest of Royal Delta in the Beldame.  In the remaining four, the rail was surely not a bad place to be; that's for sure.  And it seems almost inevitable these days that the track would be fast and speed-friendly on a big race day.  Probably the best evidence of a bias was in the 4th, when Cay to Pomeroy, a gelding who had shown little interest in competing of late, broke alertly, darted to the rail, and dominated thereafter.

The Kelso was a strange one.  It seemed like everybody and their brother, and first cousins too, hated Graydar as the favorite coming off ankle surgery, a 182-day layoff, and featuring a lackluster running line from his only try over the track, over a similar amount of time away.  Don't know anyone who liked him, and thought the betting would reflect that.  Yet, somebody obviously did and he drifted down in the wagering instead and went off 4-5.  It was a "gotta bet against him" moment, and seemed too obvious to be true.  I bet Hymn Book at  6-1, who ran to be third; but Graydar rode the rail to the win.

The Vosburgh was probably the most exciting finish of the day, when Private Zone - yes, the speed horse on the rail - fought back to beat Justin Phillip after that one put a head in front and seemed to be on his way to his second straight Grade 1 win.  May have been the rail that made the difference.  Or it could have been the bumping incidents, the first one mutual, the second one clearly delivered by the winner.  Even the chart caller editorialized on the matter, asserting that Private Zone bore more responsibility; but the result stood.  Which I presume means the stewards thought the bump came too late to change the outcome.  Because it was a pretty solid bump.

And then there was the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the highlight of my wagering day - I decided to pass the race since all of horses I considered contenders were underlays in my view.  And yeah I know, Ron the Greek came right up that rail, but who would have thought that would be a factor beforehand, even though he did draw the one hole?  And besides, according to Trakus, he covered 67 less feet than did runner-up Palace Malice which, we're told, translates into around seven lengths, plenty enough to account for his margin of victory.  He was perfectly competitive on the least on our TimeformUS numbers, but hadn't won on a fast track since the Foster in 2012 and hadn't really threatened to do so recently.  Bill Mott said that he runs when he feels like running; classic in-and-outer I guess.  Who's to say that he won't feel like running in the Classic either?

As for last place Orb....well, surely not a surprise in this corner as you know if you've been following here.  From the way he flattened out late in both the Belmont and Travers, two races in which he seemed in perfect position mid-stretch, I conjectured that he seemed to have no interest in fighting to win and may have lost his competitive edge.  Got flamed here by a couple of people for writing that, and I wonder if they'd reconsider that after this fiasco.  The skeptics amongst us are surely waiting for the imminent announcement of an operable bone chip and a permanent vacation to stud.

Couple of other notes:

 - If the bias was indeed a factor on the day, you probably didn't read about it in the press stories the next day (or any day for that matter).  As is the case with most matters of wagering, there's a huge divide between the insider's game at the races, and the way it's reported in the media.

 - NYRA devotes a healthy portion of its infield tote board to advertising, which is perfectly understandable.  But it would be nice if, during the relatively fleeting time during which the races are actually being run, they would utilize Trakus to its fullest and display the animated version of the race instead.  Especially since you can't hear the race call in many places throughout the grandstand, nor get a good view of the smallish video screens on the board.