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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Notes - Jan 23

- Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs breeding juggernaut took home the Eclipse for top breeder for the third time in five years, but Stronach wasn’t on hand. As called to my attention by blogger Jonathan on his Thoroughbred Blog site, Stronach instead appeared on an Ontario stage with his daughter, Belinda, who was celebrating her re-election to the Canadian parliament.

My first reaction was along the lines of ‘here’s a man who has his priorities straight,’ putting family ahead of business. And while I’m sure that was exactly the case, I later noticed that Stronach was scheduled to speak this morning at the hearing being conducted in Albany, NY by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing. It’s surely an easier trip to Albany from Ontario than from California. The purpose of the hearing (another is scheduled for Manhattan on Wednesday) is to help determine the exact process by which the state will go about the bidding process on the NYRA franchise, so you can bet Stronach wouldn’t miss this for the world.

And in fact, Stronach reportedly livened up the proceedings, described by the’s Tom Precious as an otherwise predictable set of testimony, presenting color slides showing Magna’s successes as North America's largest racing company. He also proposed partnering with Magna's new buddies Churchill Downs (not at the hearing), and lashed out at NYRA as being "clubish'' and says he has no interest in partnering "with a club…..I want to be in partnership with business people...I don't want to be in partnership with club members."

The Albany Times-Union reports that the “club members” are once again squabbling with the state over the bailout package that was supposedly sealed weeks ago. The original reports on the deal did tie the proposed 1% increase in takeout on win-place-show bets to the institution of a rebate program, but now it seems that the state contends there is no link between the two. "We will not recommend or increase takeout without approval of the rewards program," [NYRA CEO Charles] Hayward said.

- A proposed wagering system discussed on yesterday could conceivably provide a huge boost to NYRA and other track operators. “Virtual Tote” would convert off-track internet wagering into on-track handle, thus guaranteeing the house the full pari-mutuel takeout instead of the few percentage points they currently get from such handle. Developer Todd Stinson explained:

"Our industry is the only industry I know of that voluntary gave away its content. It's a flawed system. Even advance deposit wagering companies are working on small margins. Tracks are selling their signals at ridiculously low prices."
"This is a conduit to start a paradigm shift that would let the tracks and horsemen control their own destiny. In theory, the product you just saw could eliminate rebate shops." [Bloodhorse]
There would certainly be legal and regulatory issues to be addressed, but a system of this type seems like a no-brainer for the tracks.

- First Samurai’s trainer Frank Brothers said that "He'll have one more work next weekend, perhaps out of the gate” [DRF] in preparation for the 7 1/2 furlong Hutcheson a week from Saturday at Gulfstream. Fabled is also pointing to that race, as is Todd Pletcher’s Keyed Entry, a colt that I’m keeping a particular eye on.

Pletcher seems to have another nice one (what else is new?) in the late developing four-year old filly Pool Land, who ran her record to three-for-three with a seven length win in her stakes debut, the Summer Colony at Aqueduct on Sunday. She’s by Silver Deputy out of a Slew City Slew mare who is a half sister to Very Subtle, a multiple Grade 1 winner who beat the boys, including Groovy, in the 1987 BC Sprint. She’s Silver Deputy’s second stakes winner of the year; he’s also the sire of Badge of Silver, the San Gabriel winner in his turf debut on New Year's Day.


Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan: Do I detect your support of Magna for the NY racing franchise? Magna is not the answer for NY racing! Can anyone demonstrate to me any evidence of Magna's ability to manage the tracks it already owns? Magna is losing hundreds of millions on it's racing operations! Look what Magna has done to Gulfstream! Absolutely ruined the place- beginning to feel like Las Vegas- according to Andy Beyer! Is that what we have to look forward to at Saratoga under Magna! And Stronach's BS blaming the NYRA "club" for NY racing problems!
That's just another red herring cooked up by the pols in Albany! NYRA has done a commendable job with the positively absurd hand it was dealt- and NYRA will be the best once again when NY racing and gaming laws are sensibly reformed, including OTB coming into the racing franchise, per Friends of NY Racing recommendations.

Alan Mann said...

Calm down my friend...any sense that I would support Magna's bid was completely unintended. In fact, I was referring to "Magna’s successes as North America's largest racing company" with sarcasm, though it seems I didn't really make that clear. I'm totally in agreement with you. And I'm miserable over what has happened to Gulfstream, and fear that Stronach would attempt to do the same here.

Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan- That's a relief- I was really beginning to wonder! I sense that most owners running at NYRA tracks are in favor of some kind of a re-worked NYRA public/private organization. I can't imagine that NY breeders would want to see an outside group such as Magna or Churchill, can you?