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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

News and Notes - July 16

- The races are expected to be faster this year at Del Mar, as the track will be watered in the afternoon. That should make a lot of horsemen happy - the way the track dried out and got slow in the afternoon was the main complaint about the Polytrack last year. My personal opinion remains one of who cares about a couple of seconds either way time-wise if the track proving to be safer. Here's one horseman at least who agrees:

Trainer Barry Abrams just doesn't understand why everyone complained last summer, when race times were slower but there were only six fatalities on the surface ---- and none in the first 39 race cards of the meet ---- compared with 14 the year before on the more conventional dirt surface.

"It looks good (this year), but it looked great last year, too," Abrams said this week. "It was different in the mornings and afternoons. That's why everyone had complaints, but I didn't. I just thought it was a safe track.

"It was slower, but if you look at the numbers, Del Mar had one of the highest win percentage of favorites in the country, so as far as the bettors saying it was slower, they were really just running to form. I didn't see the problems everyone else had." [North County Times]
Track president Joe Harper is counting on the 'staycation' theory while hoping that the economy does not hurt business. "I figure we'll lose a few (fans) from L.A. and pick up a few from San Diego..."

Apparently, not all gambling concerns are immune from the economic bad times.

Both sides in the Maryland slots referendum are citing the economy for their cause. Supporters are warning of higher taxes that people will be less able to afford should slots be rejected. Opponents are highlighting gambling declines like the one in Las Vegas mentioned in the first article linked to above.

A recent poll however showed the slots supporters with a big lead, 63% to 34%. We know from experience that little things like a 30 point gap and a huge financial disadvantage will hardly discourage the opponents. However, they announced that, contrary to some prior indications, they will not accept badly needed donations from gambling interests, those in surrounding states who might be inclined to help quash the competition.

- Andrew Cohen of the First Over blog on is an owner of Share the Delight, who won his Meadowlands Pace heat to give John Campbell his 10,000th career win. Cohen knows that he's screwed come this Saturday, when his horse will have to face 2-5 morning line favorite Somebeachsomewhere. Nonetheless, he's prodding readers to encourage the local media to cover the race, providing links to lists of local TV, radio, and newspapers.

That's something that us thoroughbred fans shouldn't really feel above. For sure, coverage of harness racing is virtually non-existent here, but that's the direction local thoroughbred coverage has been heading towards for years. Even around Belmont time, most of the stories seemed to be about steroids, cheaters, and bathrooms. I found it revealing last week that Joe Drape's (non)story in the Times about the perfectly legal drugs that Curlin was no longer using was front page of the sports section material. His story on the actual race was buried on the last page of Sunday's sports section.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

File this under news? And I thought that $15,000. for a 36 day pass for the Saratoga season was expensive....

Boxes a premium at the Spa
By MICHAEL VEITCH, On horse racing07/16/2008

Box seats at Saratoga Race Course are getting more expensive, harder to get, and increasingly difficult to retain.

There has been high demand for boxes at the Spa for as long as I can remember.

Saratoga is essentially a country track compared to those in urban centers like Woodbine, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Aqueduct and Belmont.

Our summer racing season, though, is marked by more demand on a daily basis than at tracks located in major metropolitan areas.

The New York Racing Association has revised its box seat policy this year, with an emphasis on people directly involved in racing.

"There is something wrong when people who spend millions of dollars on horses can't have a box seat, or in some cases no seat at all when their horses race," said Gavin Landry, vice-president of Marketing and Sales for NYRA.

As the owner of Saratoga Race Course, NYRA awards box licenses at the track on an annual basis.

It is a difficult balance to strike, and one which has resulted in fewer Saratogians keeping their boxes over the last several years.

"It's something like an annual hunting license," said Landry. "But there are no squatters' rights. Those people who do not receive a renewal have an appeals process to explain why they should keep the box."

He said the new policy was carefully and critically reviewed before it was implemented.

Those who kept their boxes received no fee increase this year.

However, if a box changes hands, the new licensee will pay a substantial increase over 2007.

According to Landry, a typical increase could be around $3,000, meaning a box that cost $7,000 last year will now be $10,000.

Another hefty increase this year will be for boxes available on a daily basis.

Such boxes are those reserved by NYRA, or surrendered by licensees for days they will not be in attendance.

In previous years, NYRA charged $25-$45 per seat, depending upon location.

Thus, a five-seat box was available for $125-$225 for the day.

This year, the charge per seat ranges from $75-$100, or $375-$500 for the entire box on the day.

And speaking of market demand, NYRA this year will have a Saratoga VIP Hospitality Area that goes for $15,000 per member.

The NYRA position is understandable; I have seen first-hand the problem of owners and trainers not being able to get seats when their horses run at the Spa.

Their horses contribute to the betting handle, and major stakes winners contribute in a major way.

However, there is another side to this issue, one in the larger context of how Saratogians feel about their city and its famous racetrack.

They wonder if this is yet another example of not being able to afford the community they have called home for generations.

Many older Saratogians who are not horse owners have supported NYRA and Saratoga racing for decades by paying for their boxes and bringing people to the track as guests.

Some of those guests spend a lot of money in Saratoga Springs, and some become horse owners themselves.

The situation brings to mind a bold assertion by a former senior NYRA executive in the 1990's.

He told me that NYRA could sell every box in the house for $50,000.

He was probably right, but that is not the point of the Saratoga experience.

Saratoga Race Course is not Madison Square Garden or the Los Angeles Lakers basketball arena.

You might remember the issue of extending the Spa meet beyond 24 days when it was under discussion in the late 1980's.

"Be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg," warned those who opposed the increase in racing dates.

The goose is still laying golden eggs, and now it's for 36 days.

But I wonder how long it can last, and what it says about the future of Saratoga Springs.