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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Celebrating Opening Day

- Ashado tuned up at Saratoga with a 5 furlong work in 1:00.84, preparing for a start Saturday in the Grade 1 Go For Wand. Pletcher said "She is training really well."

She figures to meet Bending Strings, Daydreaming, Society Selection, and Stellar Jayne in the Go for Wand, with Andujar and Capeside Lady listed as possible starters. [Thoroughbred Times]
- Wembley executive Nigel Potter took the stand in his own defense in the Lincoln Park bribery retrial, and testified that he didn’t understand what the track’s former GM Daniel Bucci meant when he repeatedly marked faxes concerning the proposed payment allegedly intended to be a bribe with the phrase “A wink is as good as a nod to a blind man.”
``I think my understanding then is pretty much my understanding now,'' Potter replied in his British accent. ``That is, I don't have an understanding of what that means.'' [Providence Journal]
Potter is contending that it was Bucci who proposed the payment in a memorandum that expressed concern that Wembley was "acquiring a reputation for being ungrateful."
Potter said he was puzzled by the implication that Wembley was seen as ungrateful or the company failed to do something it was expected to do.

"It just struck me as a strange thing to do, to make such a payment," Potter testified.

Potter, who is British, described himself as unfamiliar with Harwood's position or the authority associated with his title.

"I had no particular knowledge at the time of what the role of Speaker of the House was," Potter said. [Turnto]
- I can honestly say that I don't ever remember reading about a racing card cancelled due to extreme heat, but the jockeys at Colonial Downs refused to ride after the third race. The heat index was 112, and the death of jockey Emanuel Jose Sanchez, apparently related to dehydration, was no doubt on their minds.

John Pricci at waxes somewhat poetically on the long-awaited opening of Saratoga:
The vibe is different this time. Not for the obvious what’s-going-to-happen-to-NYRA reasons but for the sport; trouble, trouble, everywhere. Only here you get a sense that love of the game might conquer all. It’s only when racing returns downstate in fall does the reality set in. Racetrackers, all alone together, again.

Maybe camaraderie and love of horses will save the game after all. Maybe not. But before anything can happen racing needs take pride in itself starting opening day. It’s neither NASCAR, nor baseball, nor Texas Hold’em. For the gentle pace of an Oklahoma morning or the half-hour between races any afternoon, it may seem anachronistic to most. But as racetrackers and fans know: Lifetimes can be celebrated in these tiny parcels of time.

All this is horse racing. Betting is how it survives. Time for marketers to stop apologizing. Time to cater to the people who get this. Occasion to service the customer in 21st Century time. Time to teach people with the temperament, soul, and appetite for excitement about the game’s history. And that handicapping a race is no different than analyzing any market scenario.
On that note, undaunted by the probability of rain, I’m off to opening day. It’s a bit more than three hours to a virtual fantasy world for those of us who love the game, plenty of time for celebrating lifetimes and anticipating the grand pari-mutuel adventure to come.