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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Tiny Bits of Situations

- With only six expected entrants to start with, the Florida Derby picture became a bit muddier when High Fly and Closing Argument ran into some problems. High Fly had a bit of a fever the other day, and he and Zito’s Noble Causeway, also expected for the race, face training restrictions at Gulfstream since both were at Palm Meadows, where the strangles outbreak is centered. Zito is still expecting both to make the race, but of High Fly he said that if he’s forced to miss the race, “then we'll go to plan B - although I don't quite know what plan B is at the moment.” Closing Argument, who is not a serious Derby contender in my opinion, has “a tiny bit of a situation and I'm trying to get through it,” according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; neither he nor the horse would be more specific.

If all goes well for everyone, the three mentioned above will face Bandini, B.B. Best, and the maiden Papa Chiullo. And with five weeks to go after this race, they’ll all have time on their hands. With Zito’s five apparently down to four after the Lane’s End, one can see how you can never have too many. High Fly’s status is now just a slight bit shaky. Noble Causeway will be facing stakes horses for the first time, and then be asked to wait the five weeks, bucking historical trends, and go straight to the Derby; that's a big leap in a short time under any circumstances. Bellamy Road is unproven against stakes horses of this caliber, and Sun King created some doubts, to some, anyway, with his effort at Tampa Bay. In this game, five can become none in an instant.

- Possibly headed for a rematch off their exciting duel at Laurel, Offlee Wild and Coast Line are preparing for the G3 Excelsior at the Big A on Saturday.

- Governor Ehrlich of Maryland went to Laurel yesterday to play with Magna’s Horse Wizard machines and pressure the legislature, especially House Speaker Michael Busch, to compromise on slots. The Horse Wizards are not slot machines, but really just a 21st century self wagering machine, designed to appeal to those who are comfortable with ATMs and computers but might be intimidated by betting on horses. As far as the continuing deadlock on real slots goes

Ehrlich said yesterday that the House slots plan would be "better than nothing," but he said it wouldn't do as much for the horse racing industry or the state's coffers. The Senate version would give the state an estimated $915 million in revenue annually; the House version would offer the state about $330 million each year. [Newsday]

- Long article in the LA Times today that is definitely worth a read. It focuses on the problems of the country’s three biggest players in the industry, Magna, Churchill, and NYRA. One interesting quote by NYRA head Charles Hayward, on the off-shore rebate shops involved in the CAMS affair that they’ve shut off:
“..they accounted for 12% of our total business. Ten off-shores were doing $50 million worth of business at Saratoga alone last year. That's a lot of handle, but they took back $51 million. Their customers were using data ports and computers to plug into the system. They were betting with an unfair advantage." [LA Times]

- Via Albany Law School Racing and Wagering Page, comes this article by Dave Joseph of the Sun-Sentinal, which discusses child abuse in Dubai – specifically charges that thousands of children from south Asia -- some as young as 3 -- are being trafficked into the UAE and enslaved to ride in camel races. One activist claims that some children report being physically and sexually abused, electrically shocked and not allowed food, water and clothing. Accordingly, some are calling for a boycott of the rich sporting events there, which include tennis and golf in addition to last weekend's racing card.
The PGA Tour said it had no knowledge of the situation in Dubai. A request to speak to David Higdon, senior vice president of American Tennis Professionals, was not answered. D.G. Van Clief Jr., commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and president of Breeders' Cup Ltd. -- Sheikh Mohammed is a board member -- said he had concerns. But in a prepared statement, Van Clief added, "The Maktoum family continues to be one of the most significant participants and contributors in the thoroughbred racing industry globally." [Sun-Sentinal]
So, that would make this kind of mistreatment OK?