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Monday, June 09, 2008

Notes - June 9

= So much for Indian Blessing relaxing early with blinkers off. She blazed the first quarter in 22.85 in the Acorn, the second in 22.49; and that, according to the chart, under a firm hold! She didn't have much left to resist Zaftig (Gone West), a pure Beyer play as the 5-2 second choice; her 102 fig in the Nassau County is faster than anything Indian Blessing has ever run. Now, Baffert's champ will be running shorter. “This is too far for her,” Baffert said. F&M Sprint perhaps?

The Beyers also gave you J Be K, the winner of the G2 Woody Stephens; sometimes it's just as simple as that. I didn't like Ready's Image after his unimpressive return to the races; but I got all creative and esoteric and went for some value with Groomedforvictory and the awfully-named Fatal Bullet; serves me right for that and for drinking too much too. Sometimes the fastest horse is just the fastest horse. Asmussen's colt, a son of Silver Deputy, was an easy winner at 5-2. Majestic Warrior was a somewhat inexplicable 5-1 and continued his run of mediocrity.

Ventura is now three-for=four for Frankel since coming over from the UK, after taking the G1 Just A Game. This Juddmonte homebred is by the late Chester House, out of a Be My Guest mare.

- We've seen a number of distorted anti-NYRA editorials in New York newspapers over the past few years, none of which I ever recall delved beyond the bullet points in Empire and Capital Play's press releases and ads to examine the core issues affecting the industry in the state. Now, the New York Sun makes the case that the bathroom and water pressure problems at Belmont demonstrated what a shameful job NYRA has been doing.

It brought a vast crowd out to the track to see Big Brown, sold them huge quantities of beer (the vendor of lemonade ran out just when it started to get hot), and then locked all the bathrooms — for men and women — and hung up out-of-order signs on them. This, it says, was a drop in pressure.
We don't suggest the bathroom failure is anything more than symptomatic of the unpreparedness of NYRA's board of directors. But no wonder thoroughbred racing has been in decline in New York State.
I think it's fair to say that the first paragraph is a gross exaggeration. Now it's not my intent to minimize what really did happen with the bathrooms on Saturday. It was really bad. The lines, particular on the first floor grandstand (I never made it to the clubhouse), were untenable; and the resulting public urination was disgusting. I wouldn't want to be a squirrel scavenging around the park for food right now; and that's just what was going on outside. It was a public health hazard.

However, it seems to me that a drop in water pressure is something probably beyond NYRA's control. Matt Hegarty reports in the Form that NYRA will meet with the local water utility on Tuesday. A commenter wrote in that someone at NYRA made a wrong call to shut the water. Since he/she chose to remain anonymous, that doesn't mean much.

However, it's certainly within the realm of possibility that human error was involved, and that someone, trying to help, mistakenly made things worse. Even so, it's a tough situation for NYRA. As a couple of un-anonymous commenters noted, NYRA is not in the position to build bathrooms that would be used once a year - at most! I could only imagine what the editorials would have said about that. Yes, running the facilities is a crucial part of the job, and, as I've said, NYRA could have done a better job directing people to less crowded locations (I used bathrooms all day, and, to be honest, I had no idea of the severity of the situation until I read the papers the next day); and they certainly could have had more portables tbere.

But NYRA's main job is to present racing, and the day otherwise proceeded seamlessly. Some of you wrote beforehand that it wouldn't be a day for serious betting because of long betting lines, but I didn't see a single one all day. And that with a crowd of 95,000 which is still historically huge even if well short of the record. The tote system handled $99.3 million worth of wagers without a hitch. The backyard was crowded but more than manageable, and there surely was no problems getting beer! NYRA did a lot of things very well, and most everyone I saw seemed happy.

The Sun editorial goes on to liken NYRA's non-profit status to "socialist racing."
New York turf lovers deserve better....and horseplayers get better in other states. Churchill Downs is a for-profit company, whose Nasdaq symbol is CHDN; Pimlico is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., whose Nasdaq symbol is MECA. Why do New York race goers have to go be subjected to a non-profit, socialistic company?
Yes, better they should be subjected to Frank Stronach's near-bankrupt capitalist company instead. This editorialist obviously didn't make much of an effort to research what he/she wrote.


Anonymous said...

NYRA needs to come clean with an explanation and an apology. The weather forecast was known ahead of time and NYRA was not ready.

The "sanctity" of Belmont was given as the reason for no slots and you wind up with people peeing all over the place.

If it takes slots to make the bathrooms work, I say go for it.

G. C. said...

Maybe I am a little more streetwise than your average bloke but I had nil bathroom issues all day. I instinctively found the soft spot in urinal demand and gravitated towards the top of the stretch bathroom with the line built up outside the bathroom on the second floor near my seat. Why people wait on lines when there are other facilities available I do not know. The third floor bathrooms nearest to the top of the stretch were not crowded. I did not know there was a water pressure issue until I washed my hands and there was only hot water.

This was more of a town of Elmont issue. There must have been dozens of fire hydrants open near Belmont and combined with 95,000 guests in town the utility could not keep up with demand. Once again the government is screwing NYRA!

I was not aware of all of these bathroom issues until Sunday when I looked online. Thank the lord for the y chromosome, gravity took care of all my offerings. I was spared any unsightly glimpses of a big brown.

Anonymous said...

The key to enjoying Belmont day is stay on the third floor. (Except for trips down to the big truck selling Guinness. Was that there this year?) The higher up you go in the grandstand the fewer people there are who don't have seats. Thus easier betting and bathrooming.
I remember the Smarty Jones Belmont and all the talk of drunken fights in the backyard and bathroom issues as well. I didn't know anything about it till Monday.
Sorry for not posting this advice before the big day.

cheers, Chris

Brooklyn Backstretch said...

The third floor bathrooms were a disaster. Lines were long, toilets were clogged, and the men's room was closed for a time. Didn't, unfortunately, matter where you were.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Kent Desormeaux is taking the 'bathroom defense' as well for an excuse with Big Brown!

Newsday June 10 'Blame game continues for Big Brown's connections'

excerpt - 'But by yesterday afternoon, I had heard it all when jockey Kent Desormeaux, a dead-honest jock on the track and a straight shooter off it, tried to blame Big Brown's big bust on the loss of water pressure at steamy Belmont Park.'

Amazing! What happened to just taking your lumps, call it a bounce, and move on?

Anonymous said...

Bob From NJ said...... In my opinion racetracks like Belmont are not geared to handle large crowds. It requires the use of temporary employees who aren't familiar with Belmont. Throw in a loss of water pressure and something like this happens. One could only imagine what would happen if there was a power failure.

I live approximately 40 mile from the Big M and Monmouth. It saves me ablut $25 to stay home and bet via the internet. I watched the races on my high def TV in air conditioning.

Alan Mann said...

>>The third floor bathrooms were a disaster. Lines were long, toilets were clogged, and the men's room was closed for a time. Didn't, unfortunately, matter where you were.

I know John had some video of horrible lines on the third floor too. Not sure exactly where you and he were, and when, but my experience was similar to that of Power Cap, and I didn't wait on any lines longer than those I regularly contend with at the Garden; guess I was lucky. I know there was little relief for the women least those without the stomach for the men's room. :-( We're still a long ways from potty equality.

Anonymous said...

The problem with NYRA is that on big days, it's always something: water pressure, didn't expect the big crowd, etc. The Smarty Jones Belmont was the worst-run sporting event -- by far -- I've ever attended. Some folks said, "Well, NYRA will learn its lesson." But folks I've talked to recently have said, in essence, that NYRA's inability to deal with big crowds at Belmont (for the Belmont and for BC days) is a problem of at least 30 years duration. For all that people complain about Churchill and (especially) Pimlico, both handle larger crowds much more comfortably and cleanly than does NYRA -- and there's really no reason for that to be so.

Michael said...

I agree with Frank that Churchill and Pimlico handle a large Derby (and Oaks) and Preakness crowd, but that's only because there are large groups of non-bettors in the infield.

Look back to a Breeders' Cup Day at Churchill when the infield isn't open, and Churchill ran out of food, shut betting windows in the grandstand and had bathroom line issues too.

The bottom line is that if there hadn't been record heat, there would be little-to-no complaints, right? As much as I love to bash them, the water pressure issue was out of Nyra's hands.

El Angelo said...

Has NYRA ever considered using its spacious infield on big days? I'm actually thinking less about Belmont Park than Saratoga here; the backyards, which were once enjoyable to be in, have gotten so overcrowded by people with coolers and lawn chairs it's awful.

Brooklyn Backstretch said...

The infield at Saratoga was open in the late seventies, and early eighties, too; my first memory of being at the Spa was in the infield during General Assembly's Travers.

Don't know why they don't do it anywhere--probably because there's no way to get across the track except by walking across it.

Anonymous said...

I think you cut NYRA too much slack. They consistently fail to take responsibility for any shortcoming. While they may or may not have had control of the water situation, it is the depressingly recurring explanations that are the red flag of their mismanagement.

Despite an upswing in purses, the quality of racing in New York has fallen off precipitously in the past decade. Look at Wednesday's card 2 Starter Allowance Races, a 25,000NW2L, a 35,000NW2L and a state bred allowance as the feature. This is not Philly PArk, its Belmont in the June.

Belmont and Aqueduct are barely maintained, and have customer service that make the airlines look like a Four Seasons.

Yet NYRA, the operator, is never held accountable for any of these problems. Capitol Play and Empire may not have been the way to go, but its truly a shame that New York had a chance to make significant upgrades to our racing environment and we chose to stand pat.

Disappointedly yours,

Joe Appelbaum

Anonymous said...

Alan -

You took a well-deserved shot at Magna, but Churchill Downs has its own issues. They seem to be in the process of shutting down Calder. And how long is that banner on your site going to mislead: "Bet on Churchill Downs."?


Anonymous said...

You think it was bad for the public on Saturday ? -
If you had been on the back-stretch ,up-until late Friday afternoon, you good have keeled over from the smell of un-emptied manure pits.
This NYRA operation is pathetic.
BB was probably drowsy from the odor - there was a pit right next to the grat Frankel's Barn.
Nice choice Dutow - stable with your mentor. Why not ask him what happened.T he way Dutow publicly kissed his behind prior to the race, you would have thought Frankel was Ben Jones.
In a word, everything about this Belmont SMELLED.

SaratogaSpa said...

The bathroom situation was bad, but I was able to use the 3rd floor mens room late in the day (before Race # 10) with little wait. The betting lines were short all day. Peoples predictions of very long lines did not come true and I found the clerks generally helpful all day. I think NYRA is far from perfect but I think alot has to do with the fire hydrants being opened outside the park thus straining an older facility. I also think Churchill and Pimlico have had there issues with crowds. Churchill has it easy as they can shuttle the drunken non betting fan through their tunnels into the infield. With infield use, NYRA does not have that luxury.