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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Notes - July 11

- Reader Steve D pointed out that the 10% stakes-winners-from foals standard that has been used for years to determine the ‘elite’ sires is out-of-date, due to the large foal crops that stallions can sire these days. I kinda knew that, but I’ve never read an official announcement that the standard has been lowered to 8.5% or anything, so I just went with the party line.

However, there’s no doubt that Smart Strike is indeed amongst the very most elite with his 9%, and these highlights from the Thoroughbred Times Stallion Directory show how effective he’s been:

• Sire of 14% stakes winners/starters
• Sire of 25% stakes horses from starters
• Ranked in top 1% of all sires by SWs/starters, GSWs/starters, stakes horses/starters, avg. earnings/starter, and avg. earnings/start.
• North America's #1 sire by 2005 stakes wins by progeny (22).
• Sire of 22 stakes horses in 2005, including SHADOW CAST (Personal Ensign S.-G1), $2.1-million-earner SOARING FREE, and graded turf millionaire ENGLISH CHANNEL.
[Ugh, Shadow Cast. I blew it with her in the Personal Ensign last summer; she was 17-1, and I had her keyed on top in exactas, triples, and the late double that day at Saratoga, and only a small saver to win....] Anyway, if you have a Smart Strike who makes it to the starting gate, statistically, for whatever that’s worth, you have a 25% chance of finishing in the money in a stakes race; that’s not bad.

He’s off to a good start in July. Besides English Channel, he has Fabulous Strike, who graced the pages of this blog with his picture the other day before winning a stakes at Belmont. And a three-year old filly, Strike Softly, won a $150,000 sprint stakes on the grass at Woodbine on Sunday – she’s from the female family of the Canadian champ Wilderness Song.

And Smart Strike has an undefeated two-year old filly in England who won a stakes on the first day of this month. Hope’n’Charity, out of an unraced mare by Sky Classic, is entered back in another stakes on Wednesday, a Group 2, and that’s two races in 11 days.

- Barbaro doing well, reads the headline in today’s Form, and that’s the first positive thing we’ve read in a few days.

- I’m on the Empire Racing Associates email list, so I got the press release about their alliance with Delaware North, and the full scoop on the company. Besides having the three racinos in New York, they own “racing operations” in Arizona, Florida, West Virginia (Wheeling) and Arkansas (Southland Greyhound).

But racing is hardly the company’s only business. In fact, go to their home page, and tell me where the information on racetracks are. I’ll wait for a minute while you look.............[Commentator is 3-5 against five NY-breds at Belmont in the third tomorrow.]............OK, so you see that you can quickly link to information on their hotels, the Premium Club in Boston, their open-air marketplaces, the Boston Bruins (owned by CEO Jeremy Jacobs, not popular with all Bruins fans), their stadium and airport concessions operations, and their hospitality services – they manage guest services for locales like Yosemite Park and the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and Denver. But where's the racing? I couldn't even find the names of the tracks that they operate in Florida or Arizona anywhere on their site. [A free Left at the Gate T-shirt, when I make them some day, to anyone who can find them.]

If you go to the top left corner and click on ‘About Delaware North Companies,’ you’ll find another page, and there you’ll see a selection called Gaming and Entertainment. I guess that includes racing, right? Here’s what it says:
Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment is a leader in its industry. The company has become known as one of the most innovative gaming and racing operators in the county, specializing in racing venues with added amenities, including video gaming machines. Widely known in the industry as racinos, they combine the best in racing with the added dimension of casino-style gaming.

While focusing our efforts on creating regional entertainment destinations, we have wide experience in the development and promotion of gaming operations, and have developed excellent relationships with the states and the lottery commissions and staff in those states. We have very experienced gaming management personnel making up the core of the company's gaming expertise.
Not all that much about horse racing there. Now, I’m not trying to suggest any ulterior motives on their part nor question their intentions, just making the point that they’re far, far bigger than they look from the perspective of New York, where they own three small racetracks. And despite all the spin we’ve heard from them so far – "Empire Racing is the best choice to revive racing in the state" - in a few years, the New York racing portion of the New York franchise will be just another item making up the bottom line, and not a very big one compared with the racinos at Aqueduct and Belmont, not to mention any or all of their other ventures. Once the racing in this state goes corporate, it'll be a whole new ballgame.

Having said that, Delaware North has experience running tracks and casinos, and in hospitality, and we all like it when it’s hospitable at our racetracks. Of course, it’s a big jump from Saratoga Harness to Saratoga Race Course, but that’s where the experience of the horsemen of Empire Racing should come in. It seems like a good combination – or a least worst one, at least – as long as the horsemen can hold their ground against the Delaware North accountants if things start getting rough.

- This is the first time I’ve seen the pp lines of Commentator since the fiasco in the Woodward, and the comment line for that race says, appropriately, under attack. No rabbits in sight this time, and it should be a public workout and an easy $39,000 for Zito’s Whitney winner. "He's doing fabulous," said Zito. "The owner is getting excited, the help is getting excited, and the trainer is getting excited.” [Daily Racing Form]

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Finger Lakes purse structure and disgusting stable conditions make this a big red flag. They increased purses only marginally in the beginning and not a penny since and have not put a dime into the back side. The Racino is very nice, and concessions superior to NYRA, but when you arrive you are forced to walk through the casino to get to the track, ughhh!

The principles at Empire are all veteran horsemen with the best interests of racing at heart, but they they need to be 100% protected legally and Delaware should have NOTHING to do with racing. They need air tight agreements on purses and breeder awards.

That being said, I still believe Empire is the best option, certainly superior to Magna or some sort of goverment takeover by the merged OTB operations (proposal 3), which absolutely would kill NY racing. Never underestimate the greed of Albany politicians, the "OTB's running the tracks" scenario is by no means impossible.

Watch out for Gold n Roses vs. Commentator, sharp and going to love the turn back.