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Monday, March 28, 2005

Monday Notes - March 28

- Tough break for the connections of Uncle Denny, who was so impressive winning the El Camino Real Derby a couple of weeks ago. He’s off the trail with a bone chip, and his trainer notes “In the long run it's probably [for] the best.” [Bloodhorse] The runner-up in that prep, Wannawinemall (Royal Anthem), is headed for the Santa Anita Derby, and his trainer Kristen Mulhall told the Thoroughbred Daily News that the colt bled “really bad” in that race.

- Sherry Ross of the Daily News has Ghostzapper’s tentative racing schedule for 2005, and it seems that we’ll have him mostly all to ourselves here in New York.

Frankel has tentatively mapped out a six-race campaign for returning Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, beginning with the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (Grade 2) on April 9 at Oaklawn Park. After that, Frankel said Ghostzapper, who has not raced since winning last year's Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park, will have an all-New York schedule: Met Mile, Suburban, Whitney Handicap and Woodward, leading up to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 29. [NY Daily News]
Makes perfect sense with the Breeders Cup being at Belmont, but it would be more sporting of them to give fans around the country a chance to see the reigning Horse of the Year, don’t you think? Of course it would be more sporting of owners to race their star colts beyond three….but that’s just not usually in the equation anymore.

- As Jessica notes on Railbird today, it looks like the Nick Zito Five is now the Nick Zito Four after Andromeda’s Hero’s disappointing effort in the Lane’s End. It also lends credibility to the low Beyer rating he earned at Tampa Bay, and makes me continue to wonder just how good Sun King’s last race there, in which he earned only a 91, really was. It will be interesting to see just how many of these end up in Louisville, and for the time being, I’m going to stay out on my limb with Noble Causeway as my top Zito horse.

- Handle and purses were up slightly at the concluded Fair Grounds meet, the first under Churchill Downs management, which took over just a few weeks before the meet started. Attendance was down slightly to only 2,104 a day – yuck! – but track president Randy Soth noted that "I made the decision not to charge children 12 and under." Can’t criticize him for that, in fact I can’t believe that they WERE charging admission to kids! Going forward, Churchill has political issues to work through in order to get a racino up and running there; for one thing, they’re trying to avoid having to go through a referendum, and they don’t expect to get the slots running until the second quarter of 2006…and that’s probably if everything goes well.

One person not happy with Churchill is the track’s leading trainer Steve Asmussen, who noted that track officials were nowhere to be found around the backstretch.
"Do they want to be Churchill Downs here, or do they want to be Delta Downs?" Asmussen said. "The only winter racetrack they had running, and this didn't seem to get much attention from them. How do you know (what's happening), unless you see for yourself?

"That's been horribly disappointing to me, horribly, the lack of contact with management here." [Times-Picayune]

- Even if Maryland legislators are able to come to an agreement that would allow slots there – which is looking increasingly unlikely – some counties that are designated to host the machines don’t even want them! Frederick County, chosen for 2500 machines in the House bill, is drawing up zoning laws that would make slots illegal there.
Should Frederick County succeed in keeping out gambling, other governments could follow suit, setting up a potential showdown with the General Assembly over who decides where slot machines go. Faced with new zoning regulations, the legislature could simply pass a law superceding local zoning to put slots wherever it wants - a power it already has used in situations such as the placement of utilities. [Newsday]

- Steve Crist, in his subscription-only column in the Form, points out that it would be New York's OTBs, not NYRA, that would reap most of the benefits from a proposed increase in the takeout since 85% of NYRA's handle are from OTB and out-of-state simlucast receivers.
One of the OTB presidents said privately that he has personally surveyed his customers and that he believes they don't care what the takeout rates are, not that he wants his name attached to such a statement. If he really believes that, how about an alternate proposal: Let OTB increase the takeout on bets made at its facilities and through its telephone-betting systems, and leave the rates alone for on-track and non-OTB telephone bettors and out-of-state customers. If the OTB's think that takeout increases are a good thing that customers won't mind, let them try it out on their own and see what happens to their business. [Daily Racing Form]