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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thursday Morning Notes - Jan 17

- Oaklawn's purses will average $300,000 a day throughout the meet which opens on Friday. And guess why?

There are 480 electronic gaming terminals and 29 electronic table games on the first floor, and they are projected to contribute $74,000 to $92,000 a day to purses this meet, said Jackson. Of the machines, 350 are terminals for Instant Racing, a parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine. It was introduced in 2000.

"We expect Instant Racing and electronic games of skill in 2008 to generate between $4 and $5 million for purses," said Jackson. "We're awfully close to the point that the limited gaming that we have now is close to generating a third of our purse distribution." [Daily Racing Form]
And they're planning to double the number of machines for next year. Oaklawn is the only track I can think of that was actually really thriving before they added gaming. In the case of many, if not most (all?) other tracks with slots (or, ahem, electronic games of skill as required by law at Oaklawn), it was out of need, if not survival. The gaming at Oaklawn certainly seems to be a good fit; they're not mindless slot machines, and the benefits have been tangible and significant.

It makes me think about what it might be like if there were..........

slots at Saratoga!

Egads! Did I just write that? I, of course, would never suggest such a blasphemy. I'm just talkin'. I mean, one might as well propose to burn the American flag, or that I root for the Giants (because they're a New York team blah blah blah).

But I'm thinking about Oaklawn, an already vibrant racetrack before gaming was added to the mix, and what would happen if you put, not slots, but, say, some Instant Racing machines in a tent in the back of Saratoga. They'd probably do quite well, and maybe attract some of the thousands who sit in the back and don't pay attention to the races anyway! The money would help swell the already generous purses to astronomical levels which could attract even more stables and horses from around the country. Hell, since I'm talking (and I'm just talkin') about desecrating the place with gaming, I might as well propose to extend the meeting to two months to accommodate them all - no three, or how about until further notice?

But, y'know, I'm just talkin', that's all.

- Pletcher for seven for 14 at Gulfstream ths far. He has an entry of first-timers, both with a long series of steady works in the 7th, a race in which the horses who have raced look beatable; and they're both 6-1 in the morning line. Magnificent Melody (Unbridled's Song) may eventually be meant for the grass; she's a half sister to Navesink River and the European stakes winner Astronomer Royal. Her first dam, by Easy Goer, is a half sister to Vicar. With Eibar Coa aboard, she qualifies as the "other Pletcher" and thus may be worth a look off some solid A.M. drills. Johnny V will ride Back For More (More Than Ready); she's a half to no less than eight winners, including stakes winner and $300,000 earner Delray Dew.

Also keep an eye on the scratches, because lurking on the AE list is Seventh Street, a $1 million purchase for Darley last February. When one spends that much on a two-year old in training, it's obviously not for the purpose of waiting nearly a year to race, so we can assume all has not gone according to plan; and there's a workout gap as recently as Nov-Dec. Seventh Street is by Street Cry, out of a Meadowlake mare, and though she has some interesting inbreeding (4x4 to Raise A Native, and to Northern Dancer and his half-sister Raise the Standard), there ain't much on the catalog page. I'd wonder why someone would spend a fortune on a filly without much in the way of genealogy such as this one; but's it's Darley after all, and what's a million bucks to them?


Anonymous said...

Alan, wash your mouth out with soap for suggesting that we darken the Spa with such idiotic gimmick betting machines. I also need to remind you that the folks out back are very much into the races, the paddock, seeing the horses and jockeys, and generally revelling in the rich, historic ambience of America's most beautiful and historic racetrack. It is a rare opportunity to step back in time to a less hurried era, a more sociable time, when racegoers could engage in relaxed conversation with family and friends on the park-like grounds of a country fair racetrack. Those chiefly interested in listening to the bells, music, and being mesmerized by the flashing lights of VLT's and other such nonsense, left the Backyard and went down the street to the Raceway, which accounts in part for the smaller crowds on Whitney and Travers Days of recent years. Now, we need to attract more racing fans to the Spa on big race days, not fans of the one armed bandit.
And big race days are being harmed by the early and single minded emphasis on the Breeders Cup Series, and they've done it again this year by scheduling the Whitney on the last Saturday of July together with 3 other stakes. Many Spa vacation racegoers, including Queen Marylou, want to see the Whitney Handicap back in it's traditional place on the calendar, i.e., the first Saturday in August, and minus the BC Challenge multiple stakes billing. The BC Challenge actually succeeded in reducing attendance last year so why did NYRA repeat the same mistake? Is this the only way they can draw the big names to a Grade I open company stakes race? That means we are all held hostage by the bloody BC now, and must suffer reduced on track attendance because of it? C'mon NYRA, let's start proving that we are still # 1 and not dancing to the BC fiddler. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Along about Belmont Day the NYRA Racing Secretary's office, in coordination with the marketing dept., should send out the following letter to owners/trainers of the top 20 or so Grade I-II winners in open company, east and west, during the years 2007-2008 ytd:
"Are you planning to take the easy road to the Breeders Cup this year or would you like to sharpen your tiger's claws in one of America's most historic and prestigious stakes races?
The Whitney Handicap, 81st Running, Grade I, 3YO & Up, Purse $750,000. To be Run Saturday, July 26, Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs NY. Be There!"
It's again time for NYRA to draw on the history and prestige of NY racing to draw the big names to it's marquee stakes races, BC Challenge or not. Perhaps bump up the purses, too. They need to be marketing like this all year long, and when the big tigers show up for the big stakes races, the crowds will begin to follow. Overall last year, NYRA did pretty well, as most of the BC winners had also won NY stakes races. But we've got to do bette in '08! NYRA needs to "out-historic/prestige market" Churchill Downs, beginning with the Belmont Stakes. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Alan Mann said...

I was just talkin'....

If there's a serious point here, it's that tradition is a great thing which, in many cases, deserves to be preserved. Keeping gaming out of Saratoga is certainly a worthy cause. But, in other cases, times and priorities change, and it's necessary to move on. To bar slots from Belmont as some have suggested because of its rich history is as ridiculous as that FUCKING bell clanging through my brain 18 minutes before every single race at Saratoga!!

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with slots at the Spa but I love to hear Alan talk about it!!!!

Teresa said...

Actually, Alan, it's 17 minutes, says this denizen of the backyard, who, along with the rest of her crew back there, often pays more attention to the racing than do the muckety-mucks socializing in the clubhouse.

Keep talking this way and next summer I will not share with you the beer from my cooler.

Anonymous said...

Alan, no objection to slots at Belmont if that is what it takes to make this grand and venerable race track work in 2008. My point is that Saratoga works very well without slots so why screw up a good thing? Anotheer reason to visit the Spa in future: The only remaining racetrack in America without annoying slots. But this weird antipathy you have toward the saddling bell at Saratoga intrigues me, once I finish laughing about it- I mean, I am getting a little concerned for you, my friend! You are supposed to decompress at the Spa, remember?! Think of the bell as sacred ritual, of deep respect for history and tradition, and your wake-up call to place your bets for the next race ahead of the crush of paddock dilettantes! /S/Green Mtn Punter

Alan Mann said...

I guess I was just trying to say this: Oaklawn is another track steeped in tradition; it opened in 1905. Now there's gaming there, and I haven't heard of anything horrible happening; and purses are way up. I don't at all support gaming at Saratoga, let me be clear about that. But if it ever became necessary for whatever reason, I don't believe it would be the end of the world.

As far as the bell goes, I liked it back in the day when, in a far off part of the track, in a quieter moment 18 - or 17 - minutes before post, one could hear it toll from a distance. "Hark! Listen, the bell tolleth." It was quaint, and a fine reminder of the tradition of the place.

I started to hate it when NYRA decided to broadcast it over the PA system. Now, it's contrived and shrill....and very loud. Maybe if I could hear Durkin as easily, I wouldn't mind.

Anonymous said...

Alan, thanks for your reassuring further comments on VLT's and the bell at the Spa! Your point about it being too loud on the track PA is well taken. In the final analysis, LATG readers know that your heart is in the right place, including the Backyard, and that your "street cred" with Backyard Denizens has always been unquestioned. I think it's more that we like to tease you, and you always take it in the spirit of gracious good humor, a big reason why LATG has been so successful. /S/Green Mtn Punter