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Monday, July 21, 2008

All is Swell on Planet of Saratoga

- The economy, which I thought was bad, doesn't seem to be damping hotel business in Saratoga.

"We're still having a very solid track season," said Glynn Knight, the general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn on South Broadway. "We have most weekends sold out or very close to being sold out."
Hotels located on the city outskirts, such as the Residence Inn at Exit 15 also have record bookings.

"Our pace is up for last year," said Bob Herrold, the inn's general manager. [Saratogian]
No worries, apparently, about Fannie and Freddie up there; it's like a different universe. Business is booming for rentals of private homes too.
"I'm up 40 percent," said Lori Leman, owner of Saratoga Realty Associates. At her last count, Leman rented more than 150 homes for the Saratoga racing season.

Tom Federlin, owner of Racing City Realty, also says he is up from last year.

"Rentals have been going very strongly," Federlin said. [Saratogian]
The popularity of these rentals may be a double-edged sword, as more homeowners are making their houses available in order to compensate for difficult times. Still, Ms. Leman (who is very nice), reports: "Some of the new listings, I couldn't keep them on the Web site as available for more than a few days to a week."

Actually, we're now toying with the idea of a rental for the final week now that we've scrapped our plans to go to the Arc. The economy is bad and the dollar sucks, at least where I live. We've actually found a plentiful supply of available homes. Of course, that could be because of the normal drop off in business after the Travers (which doesn't figure to be much of an attraction itself this year, at least competition-wise). But I'm still sticking to at least some of my guns regarding a decline in business, and say 'wait and see,' especially with respect to betting handle.

Yonkers Raceway....or Empire City at Yonkers Raceway to be more accurate, is pushing the 'Staycation' theme hard in the recent radio and TV marketing push which has been aided by their increased revenue splits specifically for that purpose. Pay Off Your Mortgage and Fill Your Gas Tank are the latest promotional contests, with cash prizes of $350,000 and $100,000 respectively to lucky winners, playing upon the two greatest fears currently roiling much of the nation outside of New York's Capital District. Net income from the Yonk's machines were $21.5 million for the first two weeks of July, as opposed to $17.5 million last year, an astounding increase of 23%.

Of course, one of these days/months/years, Yonkers will have competition from the racino at Aqueduct. Tom Precious reports on that the three bidders have all passed a critical background check by the state. Capital Play was able to do so only because Karl O'Farrell stepped down as the company's president because documents needed to complete the background check were not immediately available. That's a weird story for a couple of reasons. For one, O'Farrell had presumably already endured a thorough (and expensive) background check as part of Capital Play's franchise bid, so you'd think that he had whatever documents he needed already in place. And secondly, he's remaining with the company, serving as its community and government relations executive. So are we to really believe that O'Farrell will not reap the benefits should Capital Play win, nor be involved in any decision making?

With the background checks done, Governor Paterson said: "We now started to discuss a process by which we pick a winner." They're just starting that now?

- A commenter writes: Alan, how dare you attack Evening Attire? Oh man. We all have our favorite horses, and not-so favorite horses. For whatever reason, Evening Attire doesn't grab me, never has, and I could care less about him (meaning, Mr. Avenging Copywriter, that I care a little, lol!) There are plenty of blogs and sites out there where you can read all the usual schmaltzy praise for him, which he no doubt deserves. So please lighten up, he's just a dumb old horse that I've probably lost a fair amount of money on over the years! (Written with a smile.)


Anonymous said...

I was nailed for $335/night at the Holiday Inn for Travers weekend. Now they are sold out. NYRA should do fine up there. There will be a few less investment bankers but so be it. I'll take a 3 hour ride in the car to Saratoga over a 3 hour delay on the runway anytime.

SaratogaSpa said...

Love your take on Evening Attire-I read something over the weekend where someone said (i can't remember who or I would properly attribute the quote-I think it was a newspaper guy)the only common bond among horse racing fans and horsplayers is that we can't agree on anything.

The planet of Saratoga is an Oasis-those with money come and spend it and those who don't have it but come anyway and spend what they have.

Anonymous said...

O'Farrell's original background check was performed under the auspices of Spitzer minion Kristine Hamann and was informational only, not requiring proofs, affidavits and extensive financials like the typical State Lottery Commission requests require. I don't understand why you would be so concerned about him and questioning his intentions (perhaps the NYRA should be), as he appears to be a fellow who has been nothing but forthright throughout the entire franchise process?

Alan Mann said...

>>I don't understand why you would be so concerned about him and questioning his intentions (perhaps the NYRA should be), as he appears to be a fellow who has been nothing but forthright throughout the entire franchise process?

I was questioning the process more than Mr. O'Farrell himself, and I appreciate your clearing part of that up. I'm surprised that the state would be so meticulous in their vetting process, but then let him completely off the hook just because he's changed his title. My questions with Mr. O'Farrell have always had more to do with his ideas (which I thought were unrealistic and at times fanciful) and strategies (as in this case, lowballing the state on the upfront payment) than his intentions.

Anonymous said...


O'Farrell is "not completely off the hook." If you'll recall, his application with the Lottery Commission continues on until completed. The ultimate results of the Lottery Commission screening, whatever they may be, can not hold up the gaming award process, so ,if O'Farrell doesn't pass, he is out and Capital Play/Mohegan are still in the running. If he does pass at a later date, then I suppose whatever deal was made for him to step aside now so the next phase as Paterson recently suggested can begin, and then return later will be implemented. Based on the NYRA's track record as racing operators, O'Farrell and the Victoria Racing Club ideas you call "unrealistic and fanciful" seem meaningful and exciting to me. I guarantee you the Victoria Racing Club, a classy orgaization, would not have blamed the jockeys for race day cancellation after the track's own transformer blew up. Yes, the upfront payment to NY was smaller, but over the course of the franchise, the benefit to the state was nearly double all the other proposals. Call it lowballing if you must, but most non-biased analysts of the bidders financial contributions consider Capital Play's financial contributions to the state, purses, breeders and to the decrepit racetrack's superior.

Anonymous said...

If I got my news from only the Left wing media I also would have thought we were In a Recession.

But then again thats what the media wants you to believe.

In case you didn't know It They are openly rooting for Obama.

Alan Mann said...

>>O'Farrell is "not completely off the hook."

Thanks for the informative comment, your points are well-taken. I have no position on the racino operator, and have no problem with CP in that regard. I'm sure that the three amigos will, of course, choose the option best for the state and the industry, without any undue influence. I found it surprising though that, after offering so much up front for the franchise, that CP would switch gears here. I really did appreciate their enthusiasm during the franchise process, as well as their genuine conviction that they could revive racing as a live sport. But I just don't think that what worked in Australia would work here. And they were proposing a big takeout increase as well.

Anonymous said...

Re: he's just a dumb old horse that I've probably lost a fair amount of money on over the years!

You know something Alan your horse Rap Tale " sweetie pie" is a dumb young horse who has burned up money on your dumbass talking and talking about the horse till the cows come home. You should be so lucky to have any horse run the years and bring back the checks such as Evening Attire. With your attitude I don't believe you will ever be that lucky.

Anonymous said...

Certainly would hope O'Farrell
stays in the picture, he's spent his own money, stirred NY racing up
with overdue ideas. We want racing leaders, who will stay around & fight, no matter what problems the industry & NYRA have/are going to bestow upon C'p, if they win.

Anonymous said...

Capital Play is the only bidder left, that will attempt to keep, NYRA on the straight & narrow.

Understand state committee's, monitoring them, but with a crowd like this, you require as much accountability, as possible.
O'Farrell would be absolutely perfect, if he is able to regain the reins.

Anonymous said...

It would be refreshing to see some of Capital Play's racing ideas be adopted and carried out by the NYRA. I guess the question remains, if Capital Play/Mohegan win the VLT portion, what influence, if any, will they have on the racing operator anyhow?Hopefully the state of NY would encourage, perhaps even mandate, the new NYRA to take a shot with some of the vibrant ideas these folks have presented. If the marketing concepts are funded from the VLT revenues, why would the NYRA object? Look, if they work, and the fan base is expanded and revenues associated with racing increase, then the NYRA wins and racing takes center stage. Trying them is the only way we'll truly know if these strategies work here in America or they don't. Anyone with a passion for the sport of horse racing should be onboard whatever is done to improve the racetracks and the way the race day is promoted.

Anonymous said...

That's what we all love about the Spa- total escape from the cares of the world for six glorious weeks amongst those whose only question seems to be "Whodoyalikeinthenextrace?" This is my 43rd season and it never gets old. "Aaaannnnn they're offf!" /S/Green Mtn Punter

Steve Zorn said...

Karl O'Farrell, and his colleagues at the Victorian Racing Club, have at least been successful in getting to some demographics that have completely eluded NYRA -- women and people under 50. It's hard to imagine any marketing program less effective than the one that NYRA has been running, so why not look at Capital play's ideas.

Besides, Karl had the good sense to buy a yearling out of our "foundation mare" Flippy Diane at the Saratoga sale last year, so he must be a smart guy, right?