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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Scary Tales and Free Slices

- I noted with some amusement and much sarcasm the other day the comment by Bernadette Castro when she said of herself and the other members of the Committee on the Future of Racing: "I think every member of the committee learned something they did not know before” at the two days of hearings conducted in New York last week. Reading Jeff Scott’s piece in today’s The Saratogian, the comment becomes more harrowing than funny.

There were a couple of scary moments at the recent public hearing held by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing. The first came when, following a brief history of New York racing by Bennett Liebman, committee members were asked if they had any questions.

As it turned out, they did. The first question was, 'What exactly is 'takeout'?' Another was, 'Could you define 'guest simulcasting'?'
Folks, these are the people deciding the future of racing in New York. And if you think that’s frightening, consider the sight of Frank Stronach touting these empty political appointee suits on his vision of Saratoga Race Course as a year-round entertainment destination. Especially since, as Scott notes, Stronach himself may be lacking somewhat in his understanding of the role of great racing, rather than great food and air conditioning, in the success of Saratoga.
Even Saratoga would not survive long as it is without a reputation for featuring the best the sport has to offer. It's not clear whether Frank Stronach understands this.

In fact, last week in Albany the Magna chairman appeared to question New York's pre-eminence when he said, 'I have great respect for (NYRA president) Charlie Hayward, but if New York racing is so great, how come there aren't more New York-breds running?'

Is Stronach, an Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder, confused about the relationship between the state's racing and breeding programs? Would he figure it out if he were awarded the next franchise? [Saratogian]
Catching up from the past weekend, Matt Hegarty in the Form had an excellent wrap-up of the hearings. He had this observation on Magna’s proposal to entertain separate bids for the racing and racino operations. The officials framed the request in language suggesting that the company is not that interested in slot machines.
That claim belies the reality. In fact, Magna likely cannot afford to bid on the slot-machine business. The company has lost $350 million over the past four years and is heavily indebted, making any effort to go up against casino heavyweights difficult at best. So instead, Magna is asking the state to strip away the most expensive assets in the RFP so that it would at least have a chance at the racetracks. Since tracks will still get their subsidies from the slots regardless of who operates the casino - at least, under current law - why buy the whole pizza shop when you can get free slices? [Daily Racing Form]


Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan, thanks for keeping the NY racing hearings high up on your radar screen. Is there anything more critical these days? Time is running out, my friends, as the franchise question needs to be settled before November. The reality is that we need our message being repeated in the NY media on a daily basis and I'm not seeing it based on what I see on the Racing and Gaming page of the Albany Law School website. Time is getting short- the NY racing industry needs to get behind one plan, and get behind it fast. Then start beating the drums for it every day with stakes caliber lobbyists playing the inside game by working the halls in Albany. I have written letters to The Saratogian suggesting the same- Times-Union is next. Who is the point man for all of this? Tim Smith and Friends of NY Racing? Richard Bomze and the NY Thoroughbred Breeders? Where is the "truth squad" which needs to be issuing rebuttals to everything MEC is putting out? We're in a hardball political battle down here in the trenches but I haven't seen the cavalry come up over the brow of the hill yet! Time to mount up, boys, and charge into battle!

Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan, further to my previous comments and yours concerning Frank Stronach's testimony before the Ad Hoc Committee last week, Andy Beyer wrote a column in the Daily Racing Form entitled "The $171 Million Question"- I think it is still on

The column describes Andy's reaction to the "new" Gulfstream Park and it is a blanket condemnation of whatever "vision" for the future of racing Frank Stronach claims to possess. Andy early on in the column calls it "bizarre and perverse".

He quotes Gulfstream Park President Scott Savin on Stronach's vision: "Frank wants to try to rebrand racing to appeal to a whole new audience." Then he describes a key element of Stronach's solution: Horse Wizards. Wow!

Speaking about the Horse Wizards, Beyer goes on to say, Magna executives acknowledged privately that no one can ever tell the chairman, "Frank, this is a bad idea." Great, a clueless megalomaniac ready to apply his "vision" to Belmont and Saratoga!

Beyer's conclusion about the "new" Gulfstream Park? "The new Gulfstream is a monument to misguided ideas about what a racetrack should be." Ouch! It's time to eliminate wannabes and annoying distractions in this serious business of the future of NY racing- Stronach, Magna, and their like, should be the first over the side.