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Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Last Try to Cushion the Blow

- In a last ditch effort to save its Cushion Track, Santa Anita is bringing in a synthetic-track expert from overseas to propose a "quick fix solution." Otherwise, a meeting of the CHRB is scheduled for Jan 17 to consider a waiver of the state's synthetic track mandate, and a return to dirt, at least for the balance of this meeting.

The waiver has the support of [CHRB chairman Richard] Shapiro, who said, "We're dealing with a crisis on our hands."
Trainer Bruce Headley, a strong opponent of artificial surfaces, would like to see Santa Anita put in sandy loam and leave it there.

"It worked for 30 years until the '70s, and then they put wood products in it," Headley said.

"We didn't have the injuries, we didn't haul 'em off like we are now. I'm the only guy that saw how great the sandy loam tracks were." [Whittier Daily News]
Handicapper Bob Ike, on his Notes on a Program blog, reports:
I have been told that Santa Anita will begin removing Cushion Track on Monday or Tuesday, skip regularly scheduled cards on Thursday and Friday (Jan. 17-18), then run two or three days of “turf only” cards. All this while feverishly installing a conventional dirt order to get back on a normal racing schedule, presumably by Thursday, Jan. 24.
Ike is a supporter of the artificial stuff, and, though he agrees that the statewide mandate was probably too much too soon and concedes that the surfaces are not perfect, nonetheless argues for patience, referring to the rash of breakdowns at Del Mar that prompted the action:
I do know that it was getting to be a sickening experience watching horses snapping their legs and riders going down in gruesome spills. Something had to be done, so I’m not going to flip-flop my opinion of synthetic surfaces because of this recent snafu, caused by human error/incompetence on the part of those who put down Cushion Track in Arcadia.
And hear hear to that.

- Governor Spitzer may have been reaching out during his State of the State Address, but by all accounts, state legislators are taking a wait-and-see approach; both to his claims of wanting to be more accommodative, and to the details of his proposals. James Odato, reports for the Times Union that his ideas were "courteously received," but that he seemed to search the audience for more positive feedback.
Even his promise of "no tax increase, more property tax relief, mandate relief and a smart, fair property tax cap" received spotty applause.
That may be because they're wondering exactly how the Governor is proposing to pay for ambitious proposals that include health care for children and a $4 billion endowment for state universities, while also capping property taxes. His idea to partially privatize the state lottery has been coolly received. No doubt that Republicans feel that he's shucking and jiving them.

Of course, one potential revenue source that will not be operational in 2008 is the racino at Aqueduct. Spitzer included such revenues in his 2007 budget, the lack of which no doubt contributed to the expected $4.3 billion deficit the state is facing. It was on September 4 that the Governor issued his Memo Of Understanding to grant NYRA a 30-year extension of its franchise; and at the time, he stated that an operator for the racino would be selected within 60 days. We haven't heard a discussion of that in months, and it's probably safe to say that Spitzer won't turn any attention to it until the franchise matter is settled. And who knows when that will be?

As reader Glimmerglass pointed out recently, the Interior Department rejected the construction of two casinos in Sullivan County on the grounds that the tribes that proposed them are based too far away, thus causing potential displacement of tribe members.
"The potential departure of a significant number of reservation residents and their families could have serious and far-reaching implications for the remaining tribal community and its continuity as a community." [AP]
It's always nice to know that the Feds are concerned about all of our well-being, isn't it? With all due respect to those who feel that the casinos are crucial to job creation and revitalization of the depressed Sullivan County area, this would seem to be good news for all of the state's racing interests, who don't need any further competition, especially in a centralized location like the Catskills. However, some casino experts feel that there's still plenty of gambling dollars to go around.
“The market’s just too big — even with what’s been built, there’s plenty of room for more in the Catskills,” said Eugene Christiansen, a respected analyst of the casino industry. “The demand for gambling seems to be insatiable. Nothing in any work we do indicates that people are getting tired of it. Don’t ask me why. I don’t gamble.” [NY Times]


Anonymous said...

Dirt at Santa Anita...just in time for the start of the Horseplayer World Series at the Orleans Casino? If I have a good showing there, it will in no doubt be due to that move!

Anonymous said...

The racinos can not compete with Mohegan Sun. Yonkers and Monti are dumps. I would rather day trip to Mohegan (2 hours each way) than take a short trip to Yonkers. Mohegan is a superior facility and the bus trip is free. The racinos are an inferior product and will continue to be underutilized.

Anonymous said...

Why cant Santa Anita put in a dirt track like Churchill.

Anonymous said...

After hearing about the 'overseas expert' i checked out the Pro Ride web site
They say their composition is different because it's non wax based and binds differently. I'm in a wait and see mode but hope and think this might be an answer that works for all.

Anonymous said...

When discussing this issue the base always seems to be the key. If the base was done properly and the drainage problem is arrising from the cushion composition, seems like it is worth a try with plain old dirt.

If improvement is noted, leave the dirt.

They can use this track as a laboratory to study weather the decrease in breakowns occurs because of the new base or the composition of the cushion.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused about how the banking fits into all of this. My understanding is that the straightaways are currently unbanked. How will the water run off if they lay down a dirt cushion without regrading the base?


Anonymous said...

Horseplayers used to be called "improvers of the breed". Well, that's out the window. Everyone can see, and have been able to see for a long time, that horses are more brittle. But no one has been able to come up with a definitive reason why.

Assuming that dirt track surfaces were the cause and rushing headlong into artifical surfaces was an asinine decision. It's what frequently happens when bureaucrats are given free rein and allowed to enforce decisions that spend large amounts of other people's money.

Two outcomes I'd like to see here:

1. No other track go down this road for quite a while.

2. The entire CHRB should be forced to resign.