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Friday, January 31, 2014

Saratoga Mayor Faces Reality

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, delivering her State of the City address on Tuesday, asserted that local residents should get a say in the state's casino licensing process.  But not in the sense of if there should be a casino there; but rather to the point of what shape it will take.  Because the mayor seems to know full well that the decision is in the hands of those who have already decided.  She urged everyone, for and against, to "think about how we can maximize the precious little input that we do have."

Yepsen reaffirmed her stance against a Las Vegas-style casino, and said she seeks a solution that says “No” to an event space that could harm the City Center, to a ”colossal casino hotel” that could draw business from local hotels, or an “untold number” of restaurants and retail businesses that would harm downtown. She also said she supports a plan that benefits the city’s finances, supports jobs, and benefits harness racing. [WAMC]
That "precious little input" that the mayor referred to comes to, by law, a maximum of 20%.  That's the percentage that the legislation declares that "local impact" should be considered in the siting process (70% for economic development / 10% on labor matters).  But, as the Albany Times Union pointed out in an editorial a few days ago:
If the siting board decides that all the traffic worries and other logistical local concerns are addressed, how people feel about what a casino would do to the character of their community might well be deemed moot.
The editorial blasted Governor Cuomo's office for their dismissal of the Senate bill proposal to require local approval of casinos on the basis that it would "politicize the selection process."  It's the rare politician who is not being cynical when he/she accuses others of 'politicizing' something, and I don't believe any of them reside in the city of Albany.  I'm just so sure that politics will not be at play in the selection of the siting committee, which appears to be running behind schedule.  The governor has an ambitious schedule as we've said.  His budget proposal claims that "casinos are expected to be open to be open as early as January 2015."  As Michael Treanor, the man heading the bid by the old Nevele resort concedes, that clearly gives an edge to the existing racinos.
"So far everything the governor said he's going to do is happening......So I think that among (those awarded) the licenses will be a racino. If they're able to put table games in right away, they can operate a temporary facility...We don't have a temporary facility, so I don't see how I can open by January 2015." [Recordonline]
The possible temporary facility he is referring to is Monticello Raceway....the thinking being that its owner Empire/EPR (in which Genting has a majority stake through a subsidiary) could install table games at the harness track and then move to its proposed site at the Concord when it is ready.

 - Let's take a look at a Pick Three sequence at the Big A on Saturday.  In the 7th, the Busher Stakes for  3yo fillies, Ballylee (2-1) comes into the race off of just one career race, and that naturally against maidens.  But what a race it was.  He pressed a pace that we (at TimeformUS) have rated extremely fast, and went on to roll to victory over a hot 3-5 favorite in Fade to Black, earning a TFUS speed figure of 95 that lays over this field.  Darley homebred is a daughter of Street Cry out of stakes winner (in Dubai) Devotee (Elusive Quality).

The 8th, the Correction Stakes, is a wide open affair, so we'll spread the wealth in this spot. Expression (20-1) showed nice improvement in her four-year old season, capping it off with a win over this track in which she took advantage of a hot pace in just a four horse field.  Not a particularly fast speed figure on our scale; but her race three back, when she earned a big number despite a troubled start, a wide trip, and a late rally on an extremely speed favoring track, points her out.  Throw out the intervening race in the mud, and she can surely hit the board here at a price if she runs back to that effort.  Baby J (6-1) has been consistent at this distance, and has progressed nicely of late in the speed figure department; figures to be prominent from the get-go.  I'm Mom's Favorite (10-1) makes her first start, for new trainer Robert Reid, Jr, since running in the Test at Saratoga. This daughter of Indian Charlie ran a couple of big numbers last year, including one over this track and distance - a 106 TFUS speed figure which is the best of anyone in this field.  Merry Meadow (8-1) is projected by Pace Projector to have a nice stalking trip behind the leaders, and comes off the best two figures of her career, both at this distance, and both quite competitive in this field.  Morning line favorite Delightful Quality (3-1) was beaten by a couple of these in her last start with no real apparent excuse; but she has some big back figures, and trainer Tom Albertrani excels with horses going third time off a layoff. I'll use her defensively on a backup ticket.  But I'm leaving out Lion D N A (7-2), who just seems a bit slower than these.....that despite the fact that she beat Baby J in her last.  The latter earned a higher figure due to considerations of the pace of the race, which is factored in to the TimeformUS figures.

The 9th is the Withers, and oh man, what a weak version of the Withers this is.  Just six three-year olds, and the two morning line favorites come out of romps against state-breds of questionable quality; Uncle Sigh (9-5) won his race against state-bred maidens.  So let's go with Classic Giancroll (5-1).  This son of Giacomo was carried a good five wide going into the first turn of the Jerome, progressed nicely up the backstretch, was three wide under a drive turning for home, and actually looked like he might go by Noble Moon before settling for second best.  He earned a figure of 96 which surely puts him right there in this race for the under-the-radar Lisa Guerrero barn.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Player Seeks to Winn Casino in the Catskills

The Post reports that an "Alabama gambling operator," one Luther "Nat" Winn Jr., wants to be the operator of one of the two casinos that are slated for the Catskills region. Winn, not to be confused with Wynn, operates Greenetrack, a electronic bingo parlor and simulcast center located in Greene County, Alabama. Winn's website for the New York effort is  The Post reports almost gleefully that Winn has "ties to the Rev. Al Sharpton" as if he's another politician in a position to influence the outcome.  (Winn is on the board of directors of the Rev. Al's National Action Network.)  And the article reports that the Greenetrack group has hired at least one Albany lobbyist to assist with the effort.

Winn and Greenetrack have had a rather eventful history in Alabama, not one of the country's bastions of gambling to be sure.  Greene County overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to permit electronic bingo in 2003.  The state, however, decided around the turn of the decade that the bingo machines were really slots machines in disguise, raided the facility and seized 700 machines in June, 2011.  And that was actually the second time in a year that Greenetrack was raided by the state.

The bingo games resumed in August of that year after a judge ruled that the state must return the machines (a case which is still pending).  For his part, Winn turned the issue into a matter of the civil rights of the population of Greene County, more than 80% of which is African-American.

“This has gone beyond bingo for me. This is about our basic civil rights and voting rights. This is why I walked out of Carver High School in 1965 to protect our basic rights including the right to vote. The State of Alabama has engaged in judge shopping and cast a shadow over the fairness and effectiveness of the entire justice system in the state.....We intend to bring games back to Greenetrack and then we will ask the Sheriff to deputize all of our employees, so they can defend and protect the machines.” [Greene County Democrat]
However, as one might expect from a guy with a middle/nickname in quotation marks, Winn has been the subject of various allegations.  In the wake of the first Greenetrack raid in 2010, he was arrested twice in one day; once on charges of blocking government operations, and the other leading to charges of reckless endangerment for allegedly striking a police officer in the arm with the side view mirror of his truck; charges that were eventually dismissed.

Last year, Winn and four other directors were sued by a group of minority shareholders for "gross and/or willful mismanagement, gross negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, oppression and squeeze-out of the Plaintiff minority shareholders....In addition, the Defendants have engaged in a pattern of self-dealing, non-disclosure, and wrongful acts designed to benefit themselves to the detriment of GreeneTrack and its shareholders." [] Winn was accused of using company funds to pay for, amongst other things, cars, a Caribbean vacation, and a family trip to President Obama's inauguration.
Plaintiff Deborah Harris worked in the bookkeeping office and discovered that bookkeepers were concealing records and other financial transactions, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiffs observed the repeated issuance of checks to Greenetrack directors and upper management, including Winn, Pham, Byrd, Sugars, and Pasters, for expenses that were not related to their positions or Greenetrack's business,” the suit states. [Tuscaloosa News]
Winn and the others deny the charges.  I say, yeah baby, bring this guy on, we can use some fun around here!

Last week, two state senators proposed a 'home rule' requiring local voter approval for any casino sites.  This is no doubt inspired by the controversy in Saratoga; as well as the requirement for local referendums in neighboring Massachusetts which has become a rallying cry amongst casino opponents here.  Not surprisingly, Governor Cuomo threw cold water on the idea.  A spokesperson asserted:
"A process for selecting and siting casinos -- which already does include local community support as a required factor -- has been voted upon by the Legislature, subject to intense public debate and ultimately approved by a majority of New Yorkers. We will reject any attempts to politicize the selection process with unnecessary legislation."  [Democrat and Chronicle]
This coming from the governor's office that politicized the referendum with the ballot language that practically demanded that voters approve the casinos.  Cuomo's budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year envisions the possibility of casinos operating upstate by January 15, so the governor will surely fight anything that could cause a delay.

 - We had a winner at the Big A yesterday in NYRA's Grand Monday promotion, in which a lucky on-track patron wins a $1000 wager on the horse of his/her choice.  My first impression was to think the winner took the easy way out by selecting Abra, the 2-5 favorite (with the hot apprentice jockey) in the 8th race.  But I guess that's the way to go.  After all, you get back the betting stake in addition to the winnings, so it's an easy $1,000 plus whatever if you find a big favorite who's a lock.  Easy for me to say that I'd get all brave and fancy and look for some live longshot.  Knowing me, I probably would.  And I'd probably walk home empty-handed.

 - I wrote about the Holy Bull over at the TimeformUS blog....and took a look at some other results (including the Toddster's latest Gulfstream winners) here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Holy Bull / Holy Crap

This is the TimeformUS Pace Projector for the Holy Bull, at Gulfstream on Saturday.

By the way, this race is one of our free races of the day on Saturday, which you can see now (Friday) over here.  We just ask that you please register with an email address at which we won't bug you too much.

This race doesn't get the 'Fast Pace' designation that you'll see in the more extreme projected pace scenarios.  But it still suggests something contentious.  The #1 horse is Coup de Grace (4-1), two-for-two, for Chad Brown.  Thinking that he figures to face a tougher pace scenario in his first try around two turns than he has thus far.  He stalked and led in his debut through a slow pace, and his allowance win over this track came in a pace rated not much faster, and on a day that we show the main track as favoring speed.

He may have his hands full early with #4, Almost Famous (8-1), who set a hot early pace when adding blinkers going two turns in his last.  This is a son of Unbridled's Song out of the speedy multiple graded stakes sprinter Wild Gams.  Don't know about his ability to handle longer distances, but he figures to be prominent at least early on here.

Cairo Prince (#7, 3-1) comes out of two races at the opposite ends of the pace spectrum.  He middle-moved into a hot pace to win the Nashua; and then missed by a nose after tracking the aberrantly slow pace of the Remsen.  He has the highest TFUS speed figure in the field, the 100 earned in the Nashua.  That, as well as his ability to handle each of those two widely different race situations surely makes him a threat here.

Quite interested to see the dirt debut of Mr. Speaker (5-1) after four races on grass, including his win in the G3 Dania Beach last time out.  As I noted in this post, he really is bred for dirt (his second dam is Personal Ensign); but, at this point, he's an unknown quantity on the surface, so we'll demand some value in this deep field.

Should a tussle up front indeed develop, Wicked Strong (8-1) could be the ultimate beneficiary, for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.  Taking a look at his running lines...and I have the fractions line below the points of call set instead to pace figures for the race leader.  I've spent the last 30+ years staring at fractions in running lines, and it took me about two days to get used to using pace figures in their stead. (If you click on this image, you'll get a blown up version that you can actually read, and then X out at the top right hand corner to return to the blog.)

His debut came in a race that we have rated as being on a strongly biased speed track that day (in dark red).  Next out, he took over in a fast-paced race, and improved his speed figure by 11 points.  And his last was that quirky Remsen; and note just how slow those pace figures are.  Hard to judge his performance.  Think he could do some really good things in this spot if the pace is indeed contested....or at least fair!  This is a son of Hard Spun, out of a Charismatic mare to Gulch Approval, a graded stakes winner in turf routes.  This is also the distaff family of the two-time Grade 1 winner Student Council (two graded wins at a mile and a quarter); as well as Don't Get Mad.  Remember that dead closer?  (As in, he had no early speed, not that he's dead....which, unfortunately, he is.)  Think Wicked Strong would be excellent value at that morning line.

What would an early season three-year old stakes be without the Toddster? Unfortunately for he, Intense Holiday (6-1) is stuck in the 11 hole with the short run to the first turn.  Still, it's Pletcher, and this son of Harlan's Holiday, out of an Unbridled's Song mare, has shown some late foot in his last two (and he was also stuck behind the slow pace of the Remsen).  In fact he has the best late pace number in the field (the number to the right of the running style; see the red arrow in the example above.  Think one could regret not using him on the ticket somewhere.

 - In the 5th at Fair Grounds today, there's a really nice looking three-year old in Unknown Road (3-5).  This colt was a close second to the abovementioned Coup de Grace in his debut, and then graduated by nearly 12 lengths, with a TFUS figure of 98.  He's stretching out from six furlongs to a mile and 70 yards....but one would have to like the chances of a Bernardini half-brother to the spectacular champion filly Banshee Breeze to get a distance of ground.

 - As I read about and learn more about the casino situation in Massachusetts, the more fascinating it becomes.  I hadn't been following it too closely, and I'm kind of learning about it with any of you who are following along with me here.  It's a story with many layers; tales of bids gone by the wayside, a well-organized effort to repeal the law that authorizes the casinos, and at least one lawsuit regarding at least one absolutely stunning instance of conflict of interest.  The head of the gaming commission which will decide between the two competing bids for the greater Boston area (assuming that voters in Revere approve the project next month) is a former business partner of a co-owner of the land on which Wynn is proposing to build its Everett site; and who therefore stands to make a windfall on the sale should that project be approved.  In addition, the commissioner, Stephen Crosby, apparently contacted Wynn at one point to urge him to stay in the running when he threatened to drop out.  I'm pretty sure that, even here in New York, this would not be permitted!  I mean, holy crap! (Stuck that in just to make the title of the post relevant)

MGM presented to the commission yesterday; they are the sole bidder still standing for a casino in the western part of the state, to be built in Springfield.  Part of their pitch is that they'd be building a casino that's not just a casino, an approach we've seen floated here in New York as well - here's a page from the Nevele's website touting it as a potential "family destination" have to dig deep to even find a reference to gambling here.  Similarly, MGM is proposing to make the city a destination for international conventions, and to build 19 different entrances to its facility, so that "If you don't want to interact with the casino, you don't have to." All of which reeks of the usual hypocrisy to me.

More here on the competing presentations by Wynn and Mohegan Sun to the commission on Wednesday; and Mohegan Sun ended theirs with a musical flourish courtesy of a local outfit called the Dropkick Murphys.  I listened to a couple of their songs, and I might have to support the Wynn project just on the basis of bad musical taste.

 - We have indeed added some great features to the TimeformUS past performances - the track bias indicators, pace figures, running styles, early and late overall pace numbers for each horse, result charts, and more.  We do offer a trial plan of three days of unlimited access for $2.99 for those who have never tried them.  If you had checked them out at one time, but haven't for awhile and would like to try them again, drop me a line at, and I'll set you up with the same trial plan offer.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday News and Notes

Let's start with a correction from the last post.  (And if you muddle through all of this, I'll even kick in a bad horse pick at the end.)  I mentioned some aspects of the law that authorizes the casinos in New York that were actually part of an older draft.  This is what actually passed.  So, to be clear....should the Saratoga racino become a casino (or for any existing racino getting a license), VLT payments will be set at the level for 2013, not 2012, subject to annual adjustments based on a particular consumer price index.  As we've said, this does protect the horsemen against the threat of casinos replacing VLT's with table games from which there is no cut for purses.  But it also cuts them out any increases that could result from a racino turning into a "destination" casino.

Additionally, the vague clause about race dates being subject to the whims of the gaming commission was taken out.  And the law provides support for the "licensed racetrack in the region" even if the Capital District casino is awarded elsewhere.  That facility would have to make payments to purses to help maintain those 2013 levels (plus or minus CPI changes) should payments from the spurned racino fall short.  So, that horseman who spoke up at the City Council meeting doesn't have to worry about support for purses.

This situation in Massachusetts is really quite fascinating, and fluid.  Steve Wynn and Mohegan Sun presented their competing proposals for the Boston area license, and it sounds like it was a lively affair.

 Wynn called his proposal Mohegan Sun’s “worst nightmare,” mocked the company’s proposed Suffolk Downs casino for being backed by a hedge fund, and dismissively classed Mohegan’s proposed resort as “three stars.”

Mohegan Sun CEO Mitchell Etess highlighted the Wynn site’s contamination problems and claimed Suffolk Downs’ Revere property will be easier for customers to access. [Boston Herald]
The "contamination problems" stems from the fact that Wynn is proposing to build his casino on a former Monsanto chemical plant.  I know it's silly and undignified to write lol in a post on a sophisticated blog such as this one.  But: lol.

Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle gave an interview to the East Boston Times-Free Press to answer questions about the effect of a casino on East Boston, the neighboring town that thought they had voted the idea of a casino down.  It's a rather cold and totally unapologetic explanation, and amongst the things that are made perfectly clear is this:
"The racing operation is no longer sustainable as currently constituted. The track hasn’t been profitable since 2007 and without the benefit of expanded gaming on the Revere portion of the property, the revenue from leasing the property and the visitors to the area that the resort would bring; it is very unlikely we would be able to continue to race."
 Chip Tuttle is a racing guy and he's fighting on, doing what he has to do to keep the sport going at the storied track there.  I'm certainly not one to judge; I held my nose and advocated for slots here because I wanted racing to continue to thrive in New York.  Now I walk through Resorts World, see what we've done, and I want to piss on the damn things.  It's a rather ingenious scheme to save Suffolk Downs, however devious one may consider it, and it will be quite a feat of survival if they pull it off.  But for the people in East Boston that voted against the casino, they will still have to deal with their concerns over potential problems of traffic, crime and addiction.  In addition, if Boston is designated as a surrounding community rather than a host community (and Tuttle makes it quite clear that he opposes the latter), the payments to deal with any consequences of a casino will be far less.  And East Boston might get some horse stables within its boundaries as a little bonus too.  I think one can understand why some people there are not happy.

Governor Cuomo is in hot water these days over the remarks he made on public radio last week.  If you missed it, this is the contentious passage:
 "Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are "right to life," "pro assault weapon" "anti-gay"? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that's not who New Yorkers are."
 Well, Cuomo is getting it from near and far, from the state GOP to national-profile conservatives like Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, who "can't wait" to move out of New York (and we can't wait until he does).

Attempts by the governor's office to argue that the remarks were taken out of context have fallen flat, because that's what he said.  And it doesn't matter these days what you mean, it's what you say.  I have no doubt that what Cuomo's office says is true: that he was really referring to political candidates running for state-wide office - that those who are anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and against reasonable gun control cannot be elected in this state.  In a state in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, that is no doubt true.  Cuomo touts his ability to work with the "moderate Republicans" who control the Senate.....meaning the ones who kiss his ass just enough to stay in control (with the help of the IDC), and then turn against him when they're able to.

However, as we've seen in the past, the governor doesn't always express himself very well.  Here, he did so rather awfully.  Besides muddling the matter of exactly whom he was referring to, "right to life" is hardly an extreme position; "anti-gay" is (somewhat of) a mis-characterization of those opposed to gay marriage (which will be an extreme position by the end of the decade); "pro-assault weapon" should be considered an extreme position, but it's not here in the gun-loving home of the free and the brave. I think that Cuomo would serve himself well by clarifying his remarks, and, as hard as it may be, a-a-a-apologizing to those he may have offended by his misspeak.  While some will never be satisfied, the whole brouhaha would quickly pass, as the one in the neighboring state goes on.  At least Cuomo wasn't endangering peoples' safety and lives in the name of petty retribution.  (And even if Christie didn't know, which seems highly implausible, he obviously created and encouraged an atmosphere in which his closest aides had free reign to do what they did.)

And besides, the usual political hypocrisy is no doubt at work in the Republican attacks on the governor.  "Love it or leave it" does not have its roots in liberal philosophy as far as I recall.  And I don't remember any Republicans objecting when, at last year's high profile Conservative Political Action Conference, Iowa's firebrand Rep. Steve King declared that liberals should move to Detroit or Chicago....or self-deport.

 - In the 6th at Gulfstream today, the cleverly-named Life in Shambles (4-1), by Broken Vow, out of Life, makes his career debut, on grass, for trainer Christophe Clement.  You may recall the roll that this barn was on at Saratoga with this type; and he's 1-1-2 from six such starters at the GP meet.  Life in Shambles is a half-brother to two others who won their debut in turf routes.  Interestingly, one of them, Thunderous Lady (Thunder Gulch), made that successful debut in a 75K maiden claimer at Gulfstream, the same conditions as this race.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SAVE Sits This One Out

The Saratoga Springs City Council met on Tuesday night; but unlike the prior meeting - as described here by Thomas Dimopoulos on the Saratoga Wire site - the anti-casino expansion group SAVE did not attend. Destination Saratoga - the harness track-funded group in favor of a full casino at the harness track - bused in at least 100 supporters, and the group declined to engage.

“We do not want to contribute to the illusion the hired PR firm is trying to create that there’s some kind of division in our community on this issue,” said SAVE Saratoga founder Colin Klepetar, who attended the meeting but did not speak out. [Saratogian]
So, it was a one-sided argument, including a dire warning, as reported by Saratogian reporter Caitlin Morris on her Twitter feed, that the harness track in Saratoga will not survive.....if the casino goes to Albany or Renneslaer counties. Purse structures won't hold up.  Obviously, fear will be a major tool of the casino supporters as they tell us about all the awful things that will happen if the casino goes somewhere else.  The interesting thing about this particular speaker is that he's a member of the Saratoga Harness Horseman's Association.  Intuitively, to me, anyone associated with horse racing should be terrified by the coming casino age in the state. However, the harness horsemen - who are not rolling in purse dough like their thoroughbred counterparts to start with (you can see the purses for a typical weekday for yourself here) - would, I imagine, be particularly susceptible to the fear-mongering and it's understandable why they would be nervous.

Of course, is isn't clear either what the effects of a Saratoga casino being approved would be on the harness horsemen either.  Unlike the VLT's, a percentage of revenue from which for purses is mandated by law, it's unclear if any table game revenue would be earmarked for racing.  What's more, VLT payments would be frozen at 2012 levels, and track management's obligation to maintain current racing dates would be subject, according to the authorizing law, to the vague notion of what is deemed appropriate by the [Gaming] commission.  And that's not to mention any local gambling revenue that would be lost to increased gambling options. So I think that the gentleman from the Saratoga horsemen has things to fear about either outcome.

The New York Times came out with an editorial against a Saratoga casino, which probably has some supporters telling them to mind their own B-I business!  Citing the majority of Saratoga residents who voted against the referendum, the Times notes:
The problem is that Saratoga Springs residents can’t say no if the state decides to place a casino in their area. In Massachusetts, for instance, local residents can vote to reject a casino development in their community. New York State law offers no community veto. It will be up to a new gaming commission and its appointees to choose where and what the new casinos will be.
Well, and again, tell that to the Massachusetts voters in East Boston who voted against a casino at Suffolk Downs. In a piece on, Jim Aloisi, a former state secretary of transportation (and a self-described "unabashed George McGovern liberal"), explains why he thinks that the track's plan to instead build a casino on track property that's in the neighboring town of Revere insults East Boston.
What’s worse, when East Boston voters resoundingly voted against the casino, the immediate response (of doubtful legality) was to fashion an electoral bait-and-switch by offering a supposedly “Revere-only” casino site. The Revere-only proposal is an insult to East Boston’s intelligence, not simply because such an outcome is not practically feasible (unless the owners are prepared to accept a perpetual restriction on the use of their East Boston land for non-casino uses), but also because it proposes to relocate horse stables and highways on the East Boston side of the site. Imagine that you are the mayor of Boston, and you have a 100-acre, largely undeveloped site in your city that is two minutes away from an international airport and adjacent to two MBTA stations and an urban wetland. And the owner tells you he wants to use the land for horse stables and a roadway system to feed into another city. You might throw that person out of your office, or at least question his sanity. But that is exactly what Suffolk Downs is proposing to do on this site.
The two contenders for the Boston-area licenses - Mohegan Sun (Suffolk Downs/Revere) and Wynn Resorts (Everett) - will present to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Wednesday.

- At a hearing of the NY Gaming Commission on Tuesday, harness interests continued their efforts to stave off the imposition of uniform medication rules for clenbuterol and corticosteroids that they contend are inspired by problems in the thoroughbred industry and not appropriate for their breed.
Joe Faraldo, president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, made the case before the NYGC.

He suggested a rash of breakdowns among Thoroughbreds a few years ago at Aqueduct Racetrack was the impetus for the push for the new rules in New York. Meanwhile, the rate of deaths in Standardbreds in New York is a fraction of those in Thoroughbred racing, Faraldo said.  "(The RMTC) has drafted rules it sees best fitted for Thoroughbred racing," Faraldo said. [Bloodhorse]

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Having My Doubts

Here's a blog post, by Sara Foss, in the Daily Gazette (of Schenectady) regarding the fight over a casino....or rather, an expansion of the one already Saratoga.  And she says pretty much what I've been saying:

But given the powerful interests that want a casino in Saratoga Springs, I’d be surprised if the casino ended up anywhere else.  
The leader of SAVE (Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion) said that he's "optimistic," pointing to the "solid majority" of votes in Saratoga Springs that voted no to the referendum.  However, the grass route thing only goes so far when competing with money and power.  So, and as Ms. Foss agrees: "I have my doubts."

I know that Saratogians opposed to the casino expansion point to Massachusetts, where the vote was put to local communities to decide for themselves, and claim that their vote should count too.  But that concept hasn't exactly worked in Massachusetts.  When voters in East Boston rejected a plan for a casino built at Suffolk Downs by Caesars, the track came up with a plan for one by Mohegan Sun on the other side of the plant, and totally within the borders of Revere, which approved a casino at the polls. Now, we all sympathize with Suffolk Downs and don't want to see the industry die in the state.  But, hmmm, I just don't know what to say about that.  Voters in Revere have to vote again on the revised plan in February (59% of voters approved the plan in November); and then the track would compete with Steve Wynn, who hopes to build in Everett, for a single Boston-area license.  So, while, in theory, New York is no longer in danger of losing gambling dollars to Massachusetts, it has already lost a lot of laughs to the Bay State.

Ms. Foss also calls our attention to a purchase of an old packing plant on the border of Albany and Colonie by a Rochester-based entity called Capital Gaming LLC, which has obvious aspirations given its name.  But seem as if voters in Colonie don't want a casino there either.
Colonie voters opposed the casino amendment on last November's ballot, with 48.7 percent in favor and 51.3 percent opposed, according to [Albany Times Union]
 - I've been following the recent exploits of Pletcher at Gulfstream in my Today in Racing feature at the TimeformUS blog.  Depending on what one considers to be the beginning of the current Gulfstream meet, he's hitting somewhere between 30%-35%.  The track's website is now showing the stats for the current calendar year, for which he is 52-18-13-5, for 35%, and 69% in the money.  These are the kind of statistics that could earn him extra security scrutiny if he didn't have Eclipse Awards and a high class of clientele.  We hear people complain today that "super trainers" are ruining the sport (as if it is a new phenomenon), but I don't think they are referring to the Toddsters and Chad Browns of the world.  Maybe David Jacobson should find himself a personal attire and hairstyle consultant.

Pletcher's latest winner, Gala Award ($4), in the 8th on Monday, was a $1.6 million yearling purchase in 2012 for Coolmore.  He was 10-1 in his debut last month when he ran second.  He's by Bernardini out of a Carson City mare; and he's a half-brother to the G1 Hollywood Futurity winner Stormello, and to the multiple turf stakes winner My Best Brother.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cuomo Contributions Shocking, and Not

Governor Cuomo has amassed some $33 million for his re-election campaign against a yet-to-be determined Republican opponent who figures to be either an unknown, or a joke.  For entertainment purposes, please let it be the latter.

The list of the governor's larger donors was released this past week, and it's rather mind boggling, in scope, content, and context.  We talked a couple of posts ago about how it may not be "shocking" that Cuomo didn't mention horse racing or Saratoga when he discussed the upstate economy, but that it continues to be shocking to the senses.  Similarly, the money game in politics is old hat, and we hardly blink an eye when we read the details.  But still, upon further thought (and not too much required), it's still shocking to any common senses that individuals and entities with pending business before the state are able to pour cash so openly and brazenly into the coffers of the politicians who will decide their fate.

We'll hear the usual from the politicians about how they make their own decisions and are not influenced.  And, in this case, we hear the governor confirm that he is in fact in favor of campaign finance reform, and against the loopholes that allow entities to far exceed the supposed limits on contributions.  " At least 41 donors have exploited various loopholes to give Governor Cuomo more than the purported $60,800 contribution limit," noted the NY Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).  To which Cuomo's office cynically noted: "Gov. Cuomo abides by the same rules as everyone else while leading the charge to change them.”

I suppose that, maybe, real estate developers such as Leonard Litwin ($800,000) or The Richman Group ($264,000) can justify their contributions on the basis that the policies of the Cuomo administration have created a favorable environment for their business that they wish to continue for another four years.  But when it comes to lawyers and lobbyists, what other rationale could there be other than ensuring that they will have a willing and open ear in the governor's mansion?  Even if they have no specific issue in mind, I'd imagine they want to make sure they don't cross the governor and end up with a massive traffic jam in their town.

Then there are organizations such as Ultimate Fighting Productions ($115,000).  The matter of mixed martial arts in New York State is one which is very much in play in the capitol, and one which Cuomo has expressed guarded support for.  Just guarded enough to make sure that contributions from the group continue to flow.

And what exactly does Jeff Gural ($56,000) have in mind?  He's a Democrat who I saw a couple of years ago talking in favor of higher taxes on the rich on a show hosted by a certain conservative - I won't mention her name because I might then violate my resolution to be nice and not call people names - so I suppose he may just be interested in progressive issues that this governor may - or may not - support. However, as we know, Gural has direct business pending before the state, in the form of the casino that he wants for his Tioga Downs facility....the fate of which will be decided by the siting committee that will be appointed by the Gaming Commission made up entirely of Cuomo appointees.

We also see Saratoga Gaming Resources LLC ($40,000) on the list.  I imagine there are other casino entities there, either under a name that's not immediately recognizable, or under the $40,000 cutoff for this particular list, no doubt.

The Times reported last weekend on the "surprise" opposition to the casino in Saratoga.  Little surprise though that the racino employees came out in favor of the expansion.  Yeah, I'm sure they don't feel any pressure from their employer to do so, right?  I would think that the prospect of significant change and more hiring would actually make employees feel less secure in their jobs, not more.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gulfstream Sucks, But...

Still haven't quite gotten over my visit to Gulfstream in November, and how it sucked much more than I could even imagine. God damn it, Frank. What the hell were you thinking?  Fuck.

Somewhere, I must have some photos of the way it was.  Which was just about perfect.  I used to fly into Ft Lauderdale in the morning and head straight to the track, and man, what a feeling when walking in, through the clubhouse backyard entrance, for the first time each year.  I literally kissed the ground on more than one occasion.  (OK, more like I blew it a kiss, but still.)  The backyard was expansive and always lively; and one thing I particularly recall was the way it emptied out during a race, as people went up front or to a TV to watch.  Imagine the backyard at Saratoga, except that people actually go to watch the races.  What an odd scene that would be.

I was told after this recent depressing visit that I missed out on a Tiki Bar area at the eighth pole (which I'm not even sure was open when I was there before the "official" start of the meet) and it sounds pleasant enough, but I'll never be back there to see it for sure.  In fact, I was so disgusted that I entertained the idea of boycotting the track for the rest of my life, and not writing about it either.

Well, that didn't last too long.  It's the best winter racing, hands down in my opinion, as east-coast biased as it may be.  (Other than the fact that Frank screwed up the track itself as well, with the start for route races being far to close to the first turn.)

Two more winners for Pletcher on Wednesday, giving him 24 from 84 starters (29%).  Interestingly enough, both horses were making their first starts since running at Churchill in May, and their first for the Toddster, as both had previously been conditioned by Dale Romans, for breeder/owner Siena Farms.  In the 5th, Alaura Michele ($10.60) had lost her last seven races, for Romans and Bill Mott; and got her first win since taking an overnight stakes at Saratoga in 2012.  8th race winner Private Ensign ($5.20) was winning her third race over this track from four tries; and yes, the third dam of this four-year old daughter of AP Indy, out of a Horse Chestnut mare, is the inimitable Personal Ensign.

Another barn which is sharp at Gulfstream is that of Christophe Clement.  He was a close third to Pletcher's first winner with Long Face (which is what those who bet him have had after the race the last ten times he's run); and a second with first-timer Henry's Song in the 7th.  This barn is now 6-1-2 with its last 14 starters going back to New Year's Day.

Chad Brown has gotten off to a "slow" start, hitting "only" at 20% with six winners from 30 starts.  In the 9th, his Ack Rider ($4.80) won easily off a drop in class, and I wrote on Today in Racing before the race how the TimeformUS pace figures helped to point him out.

Pletcher had two debut winners over the weekend, and in the 5th on Thursday, he has a couple of high-priced three-year olds making their career debuts. Hartford (5-2), a 700K purchase as a yearling at Keeneland, is by Tapit out of an Editor's Note mare, and he's a full-brother to the Grade 1 winner Dance Card.  Againsome (5-1), a 400K yearling purchase at the same sale, is by Awesome Again out of an AP Indy mare who's a full sister to none other than Pulpit.  Looks like the two worked heads up at Palm Meadows on Sunday, with Againsome getting the nod by a tick.  That one has a long, long workout tab going back to May, though with a long hiccup from August to November.

Still, he certainly seems ready for the races, and if Hartford gets overbet with Castellano aboard, one could do far worse than have Againsome if he's around that morning line.

In the 10th, Win Exchange (5-1) returned in December from a layoff of 608 days, and has shown some high speed in his two return efforts, earning TimeformUS early pace figures that compare quite favorably to the others in here.  He lasted for second at this mile distance in his last, beaten out by a Chad Brown 9-5 favorite.  Hails from a low percentage barn, but figures to be tough to run down if he gets his way up front.  To Dare is to Do (6-1) missed the place spot that day by a nose to Win Exchange, and trainer Scott Volk has a TFUS trainer rating of 90 (out of 100) for maiden claiming races that exceeds his general performance.  This horse's best efforts have generally been preceded by a workout a week before the race though, and the lack of one here is of some concern.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Hello, hope everyone had a great holiday, healthy and safe, and greetings for a happy new year.  Was planning to get back to this sooner, but, for one thing and in addition to all of the holiday obligations and festivities, was "stranded" at my mom's house in Florida for five extra days on what was intended as a short New Year's jaunt.  With just one laptop between the Head Chef and I, computer time was at a premium, and tensions were high at times.

Also, I have been blogging over at the TimeformUS blog.  My latest Today in Racing entries mostly concerned the racing at Gulfstream this past weekend.  As for this blog, have to say that I've been working on this particular post for several days now, which is honestly not a good sign for its short-term future.  With a busy week ahead, I'm gonna throw up what I got now, as rambling as it may be, and we'll hope for better results next time.

Got a call for a survey the other night and agreed to participate.  It was already ten minutes in when the guy said there was only around 15 minutes to go! Would have canned it at that point, except that it was about online poker in New York State, so I was curious to see where it was going to go. He kept referring to "the proposal" for online poker in NY, and I felt compelled at one point to point out that there actually is no formal proposal in the least that I know of.

I was told that the survey company did not actually know who was paying for and conducting the survey.  It did not seem like a push-poll at all; questions were not leading and covered both sides of the argument.  One hint though is that the only person other than Andrew Cuomo on whom my opinion was requested, was Sheldon Adelson.  That seemed kind of random, and he seems like the kind of guy who would be interested to know what random people might think of him!

As opposed to the notion of online casino games like what is now offered in New Jersey, I really don't have strong feelings about online poker one way or another.  Still, I found myself replying "strongly opposed" to anything having to do with it, and "strongly agree" to all of the arguments against it that were offered for my comment (those arguments actually being quite well-articulated, covering addiction and inequality and all the other bases).  Just the association with online casino gaming - especially since they did mention the New Jersey situation - was enough to stir the emotions.

The concept of casino games being made available 24/7 on the internet had always seemed so radical to me, that I naively never believed that state governments would really stoop to this.  I often wonder if I'm being hypocritical here, being that I take full advantage of the ease of betting on horse racing online.  But the idea of this particular kind of gaming being made so readily available is just revolting to me.  To take the most mindlessly addictive games and make them so readily portable and available to the most mindlessly addictive amongst us is just wrong to me on any and every moral and ethical level.  And, while it's bad enough as a revenue-raiser for state governments with all the attendant justifications - they'll find a way to gamble it anyway - the corporations involved, exploiting vulnerable gamblers in this crass way for nothing but their greedy pursuit of profits as they are, are shameful.

Governor Cuomo delivered his State of the State address last week, and David Grening noted on Twitter that:

 Gov. Cuomo, talking tourism in upstate NY, shockingly fails to mention Saratoga or horse racing

I must presume that the esteemed New York correspondent for the Form was being sarcastic regarding the use of the word shockingly, as it would have been a surprise if Cuomo did mention racing in his State of the State, or at any other time other than being critical.  However, it does remain shocking to the senses, in any event.

If you missed it, the governor finally named a chairman for the New York Gaming Commission (subject to Senate approval), and he's a fellow with an interesting - if not always successful - background.
 Gearan, 57, has deep Democratic roots as a former top staffer for the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association from 1989 to 1992, and a deputy director of the 1992 Clinton-Gore transition team. He served President Bill Clinton's administration as deputy chief of staff and assistant; Clinton named him director of the Peace Corps.
 It is this commission - currently consisting entirely of Cuomo appointees - which will, in turn, appoint the members of the Gaming Facility Location Board, which will do what its name quite explicitly says it will.  And that, of course, will be a lot of fun.  Those appointments are supposed to come this month, with casino proposals due in June, and licenses issued in the fall.  Sounds like a whirlwind schedule.

 - For 2014, Tweet Less, Read More was the title and topic of a New Year's Eve column by the Times' Frank Bruni.  And man, there's some solid advice for the new year!  I've already taken it to heart, and with some intriguing results thus far.  But I found the most interesting point of Bruni's piece to be this:
 Lately there’s been a bit of academic attention to our etiquette online, which is where so many of us spend more and more of our time. It rightly notes how much rudeness makes its way onto message boards and into Facebook threads, how quickly the back-and-forth on websites turns nasty.

That happens in part because the exchanges are disembodied: We don’t have to face whomever we’re lashing out at. But it’s also because they’re impulsive. Their timbre conforms to their tempo. Both are coarse.
On social media, on many blogs and along other byways of the Internet, the person you disagree with isn’t just misinformed but moronic, corrupt, evil. Complaints become rants. Rants become diatribes. And this tendency travels to cable news shows, Congress and statehouses, where combatants shout first and ask questions later.
 No sooner had I read this when I wrote a Today in Racing post, and noted at the end how little I care about the Kentucky Derby points system (especially in early January), when some guy with a dumb handle on Twitter responded:
 Enjoyed the blog not sure why the author had to lob in a puerile rant at a pretty simple points system last paragraph mind.   
Suppose I should throw a [sic] in there somewhere for the fractured English.  In any event, I guess you can add puerile to moronic, corrupt, evil.  This served as further incentive to limit my time on Twitter - which does have an addictive quality I must say, as well as providing fodder for blog material.  It's also a reminder that I myself have surely been guilty of the same kind of incivilities over the years.  So I will resolve to be better in that regard and, amongst other things, not write that people with dumb handles on Twitter have dumb handles on Twitter.

One more Twitter note:  Joe Drape chimed in at one point with an excerpt from a (not-so-) recent post.  Instead of addressing any of the legitimate points contained therein, he wrote:

Well, I dunno, horseplayers incorporating an angle of suspected underhandedness into their wagering and thereby embracing the scoundrelly side of the game?  Sounds to me like they're having fun.  I thought that fun was actually what's right about the game. I get the feeling that less people are having any with the game these days. And I think that amongst the things that's wrong with horseracing is that the lead racing writer for the New York Times hates it, and regularly uses his platform to demean it with half-truths, innuendo, and distortion.  (Oh, am I being uncivil again?)