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Friday, September 15, 2006

Thinking of the Big A

- Home on a Friday evening with no near-term prospects of going to the track. It's not that I can't go tomorrow. But the rain that has had the Belmont track sloppy for the past two days has actually intensified, so you can bet that the slow-drying main track will be sloppy all day tomorrow, and the turf off. So I'll take a pass. And I'm going to the Jets game on Sunday. The Head Chef can attest that I sometime get cranky after a track-less weekend.

So the TV is tuned to TVG. What the hell is up with that mug shot of Iggy Puglisi? He looks like he's auditioning for a guest spot on the Sopranos. It's Fairplex, and what's up with this meeting anyway? There's this strange period in which none of the major track in California are open, and they race on that tiny fair track instead.

Racing has been going year-round here at the NYRA tracks for many years; I don't even want to venture a guess how long it's been now. It's only fairly recently that they've at least let up on the schedule around Christmas. They used to race on Christmas Eve with a 10:30 or 11:00 A.M. post time. This year they close on Dec. 18 at least through the 26th and then, who knows? Perhaps there's some significance to the fact that the rest of the calendar on the newly designed NYRA website is left blank. If NYRA doesn't get the remainder of their bailout loan, who knows when racing will resume?

Unfortunately, though I wasn't yet into racing then, I'm old enough to remember when Aqueduct would go dark at Xmas and not return until mid-March. Each day, the New York Post would print a little cartoon guy on the back page who would let us know "23 days until the Big A," and the excitement would build as the days counted down. The opening was a big deal, since back then in the pre-OTB era, only those with illegal bookies were able to wager on races out of town. It's like moving to some state where betting on horse races is against the law!

If not for the delays, which the state is largely responsible for at this point, there could have been some anticipation for the opening of the Big A this year. Even those of us who could care less about slots (if not being outwardly hostile towards them), would admit, I think, that they're excited about the place becoming a hot spot again. The crowds will be back, even if they're playing slots. We hope that they'll be some effort to promote the racing product on the other side. In time, there will certainly be major improvements to the racing portion of the plant, some of which hasn't seen a single renovation in 20 years. Someone who spilled coffee on the carpet in the Man O'War room in 1989 can still see their handiwork on display.

The place will be hopping at night, man, and surely, the state legislature will finally relax the arcane laws that prohibit simulcasting there past 7:30 P.M. Who knows, perhaps nighttime mile-track harness racing, an idea that I used to see floating around, will finally come to Queens. How cool would that be?

Instead, we're facing another bleak winter there, no matter what happens with the franchise between now and then. With most of the grandstand having been closed, the place looks abandoned even when it's open. It would be an eerie backdrop if NYRA is running out of cash and the resumption of racing is in question come December. And does anyone doubt it will play out exactly that way?


Anonymous said...

Alan, as one that watched the slots transition in Delaware, I can tell you, outside of the purses it did nothing for the trackside of things. Took away 3/4's of the grandstand. To watch a race now you are well past the finish line unless you want a trek back and forth from the finish line to the windows, as they have all been moved to the end of the grandstand closest the paddock.

Anonymous said...


What do you think of the 6th race at Belmont on the Saturday card? That's a tough one.

Alan Mann said...

Well, that certainly sounds like a drag at Delaware. The thing about Aqueduct though is that they've already taken away 3/4's of the grandstand; at least that much. (You can watch before the finish line if you pay an extra buck and go up to the third floor.) It almost has to get better there than it is now.

Anonymous said...

Huge class drop for Zito's horse, 10-1 on the line. 2nd off the layoff and stretching out a bit. Nice even effort after 4 month layoff. And Zito worked him back since then. 1:01 for 5, best of 13 that day. 1M is where he has done his best work. He has two trips in the slop, one at Belmont where he was 3rd in the Champagne to First Samurai and Henny Hughes. Zito threw him to the wolves that day. Meant to be better than he has shown. Jara doesnt ride for Nick very often but he is .20 with one win in five mounts. Tough race, I would have to go deep in here for any exotics. Nick

Anonymous said...

Well, Superfly pulled out one of his old tricks, swerving in the stretch, I was at Del Park the day he won the Whirling Ash and thought he would come down that day as he came out across the racetrack that day, today he bore down and in on the winner. May have cost him the race. In any event, I am not one to give out a horse and not bet it myself, I did have the tri and the exacta pretty good...Nick