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Sunday, February 25, 2007


- The Associated Press has come up with a possible loophole by which Bud Selig can OK Steve Swindal's involvement with Excelsior and the Aqueduct racino.

Major League Baseball prohibits "any ownership interest" in gambling businesses, but also appears to allow interest in some "legalized gambling enterprise or permitted lottery," according to rules provided by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

That is where New York's highest court might help.

In a 2005 decision, the Court of Appeals overturned a lower court and said video slot machines technically called "video lottery terminals" are constitutional as lottery products. The state constitution bans traditional, mechanical slot machines. The high court ruled VLTs are legal because they send a portion of revenues to horse racing breeding funds and enhanced track purses. [Newsday]
While a spokesperson for Excelsior said that: "Our understanding moving forward was that it was a complete go," Selig insisted that he hasn't yet examined the details.

Since participating in Thursday night's presentation by Excelsior Racing to his fellow NY horsemen, Gary Contessa has gone 16-5-4-3 in the last three days. He was the only NY horseman to publicly break with Empire, who was officially endorsed by the NYTHA. We've really never gotten any idea though of how the rank and file actually feels.

Anyway, Contessa is hot, as usual when it's cold, and he had another winner on Sunday, with Forecourt, in the third. He claimed this horse for 20K in his last, and he was returning at the same level. While dropping precipitously in class, Forecourt had lost his last four races by a combined 54 lengths. Yet here he went to the front and stayed there, turning back the hot horse Run With The Lark. 12-1 morning line, this Richard Schosberg trainee was bet throughout, and got hammered from 4-1 to 5-2 in the last couple of minutes. It was six lengths back to the show horse, so it was a case of a well-intentioned betting move running into a hot barn. I was at the Big A on Sunday, and before the race, I was thinking, 'how can you bet this horse at 6-1,' and afterwards I was thinking 'how can you not bet this horse at 6-1.'

So in the next race, when I saw that Contessa's first-timer Too Much Zip was the same price, I figured what the hell? One can do far, far worse than getting 6-1 on a first-timer running in a crappy-looking state-bred race from the top trainer at the meet, and by an excellent first-time sire in City Zip (20%, according to the Form).

Unfortunately, the filly had trouble after the start. The chart notes that she was bumped and steadied; but a look at the head on at the Cal Racing site shows that she was knocked sideways pretty severely. She was almost 14 lengths back after a quarter, but moved up while saving some ground on the turn, and finished quite well for 4th, missing by just a half length, with the three in front of her separated by two noses. I had Too Much Zip on top of those first two noses in the exacta. I'll check her out at 6-5 the next time she starts.

Let's see, I lost in the 5th too. I thought Pletcher's filly Shea D'Lady had a chance to wire the field, but favored Baby Gray, who I left out entirely, is extremely sharp now having turned back to sprints three races ago now.

Then I also lost in the 6th. I fell for the first-timer Ghost Dancing, from the proficient debut trainer Anthony Dutrow. She's by a 14% first-time sire in Silver Ghost, has a couple of stakes-placed siblings, looked fabulous on the track before the race, and was bet down to 4-1 with some late action. However, like the Contessa first-timer, Ghost Dancing stumbled after a bump, and this one was only able to rally for 6th.

I was there for one more race after that, which I lost as well. I liked Pletcher again, this time with the 9-5 favorite, Doctor Freud. I didn't like the 5-2 second choice at all; Dr V.'s Magic was coming off a winning debut, but that race was in the slop, at 15-1. His 360 Tomlinson, and the fact that he's by the Cormorant sire Raffie's Majesty, were reason enough to theorize that he wouldn't necessarily reproduce his form on dirt. So I tried to crush the exacta, betting a cold number with Time Piece, from none other than our friend Gary Contessa. One can do far, far worse than to have Pletcher-Contessa for a $55 exacta, especially with the favorite on top of a horse that showed improving form and was making his third start for the barn.

And he ran the race I hoped he would, closing from far back. Unfortunately, third choice Vow to Greatness ran the race I hoped he wouldn't, and split me in the exacta. I didn't have the resulting $26 exacta, but I thought I had the correct value play, so I couldn't be too upset. In fact, it was one of those days that I could feel OK about my selections even if they didn't quite work out.