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Monday, May 18, 2009

Tough Times

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith told the Saratogian:

“Senator Smith has been completely divested of any relationship to the Dorman Group for nearly a decade and as leader of the state Senate will continue to be fair and impartial throughout the bidding process."
Here, I must report that the company is actually called the Darman Group, a partner in the bid by Aqueduct Entertainment Group as you may know; the article uses the wrong name on several occasions. Seriously man, do I have to do these papers' editing for them? I'm certainly not one to talk when it comes to clean copy myself...but don't they have an editor on staff? Well, maybe not, the way things are going in the newspaper industry these days.

The spokesperson also said that the Senate Majority Leader's longtime friendship with the Rev Floyd Flake, also connected to the group, has never and will never influence any governmental decisions the senator makes. It wasn't reported as to whether this was said with a straight face.

Harbinger Capital Partners, the hedge fund which is a partner, along with MGM Mirage, in R. Donohue Peebles' bid, owns a 19% stake in the New York Times, making it the struggling paper's largest public shareholder. The fund started acquiring stock in late 2007 when the shares traded in a range between $15-20. The stock closed today at $6.63. A $500 million investment is now worth around $200 million. There were reports last week that David Geffen offered to buy the shares....or maybe it was the other way around. Like MGM, Harbinger Capital Partners does not seem to coming to the Big A table from a position of strength. The Seeking Alpha website ranks them at the top of their list of hedge fund losers, with a 60.8% depreciation of their assets over the last year.

- Finally made it to Belmont on Saturday, though I didn't stick around for the Preakness. The only big addition I saw (though I didn't case out the whole joint) was a big increase in the number of new wide screen TV monitors in the backyard, so that's a good thing.

One major change was that the music stage was moved from way in the backyard to the "Paddock Tent," right behind the grandstand. And that's a major change. The large grassy area there is prime space - sun and shade, close to the paddock and a short walk through the grandstand to the track. Whatsmore, it had always been a safe haven for those who prefer to handicap without music of greatly varying quality blaring in their ears. I would guess that not everyone is happy about this (including the Rasta guys who used the space as Spleef Central).

Personally, I don't mind having the further reaches of the backyard as a quiet space. But on Saturday, the band wasn't bad at all as far as those things go, so I was hanging out there for awhile. I sensed big trouble on the way though. Since the band included a keyboard player, I knew to expect the worst. And indeed, it came at around 3 PM, in the form of You May Be Right. In retrospect, instead of quickly seeking shelter. I should have jumped on stage, grabbed the mic, and sang that song to everyone who thought I was crazy regarding Rachel Alexandra. (Neither the band nor Billy Joel appeared that night at the No Fun Fest.)


Anonymous said...

I never understood why they need the live music at Belmont anyway. It's intrusive and no one seems to be listening. One welcome change on the clubhouse side of the paddock is that the big structure that housed the set and cameras for the in-house show is completely gone, replaced by new sod and more tree-shaded space to view the horses close-up.

jk said...

I swollowed my pride and took the LIRR to Belmont on Saturday. My schedule did not match the shuttle bus schedule so I walked from the Queens Village station to the track. It is a 1 mile walk, took me 15 minutes. I do have some thoughts about the new (lack of) train service.

The good news is, it is cheaper, $3.25 each way, using the weekend City Fare.

The bad news is the shuttle service is very limited. There is only one shuttle bus on the way out which meets the 11:40 from Penn Station, arriving Queens Village at 12:14.

Since it was Preakness Day, I wanted to get there early so I took the 10:40 arriving at 11:14. When I arrived at Queens Village, the shuttle buses were there. The driver said they were only scheduled to pick up the later train and they were going to sit there for an hour until it arrived. So I hoofed it to the track, as originally planned.

For the return trip, there was a shuttle leaving at 6:15 SHARP. This also was post time for the Preakness. I could have watched the race and had enough time to walk to the train and make the 6:42but I decided to leave early and watch the race at home. There are no early shuttles so it was another walk back to the train.

There is an opportunity here for NYRA to turn a negative into a positive. Provide hourly shuttle service to/from the train station. It is not rocket science, just do it.

One final though. There will be direct LIRR service to the track on May 30th and June 6th, Belmont Stakes Day.

May 30th is Sands Point Stakes Day. How does this day rate direct LIRR train service? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

I see today that the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement is recommending to the NJ Casino Commission that they require MGM to divest itself from any association with the alleged organized crime figure Pansy Ho. Ho is a partner in the Macau casino, and somehow has an interest in the Borgata in NJ. It makes you wonder if MGM would take a shot with a known problem like Ho, what they might be willing to do, or have already done, in NY?

Anonymous said...

jk - You will be happy to hear, as I was, that LIRR service to Belmont will be restored as of May 28. Details on the NYRA web site.

jk said...

Thanks anon.

I would like to think my little sob story was the turning point in getting this resolved once and for all!

Anonymous said...

Grateful the service is back, but really makes you wonder if anyone is paying attention at NYRA, at all.

That bus could have taken you to Belmont, after all it was being paid by NYRA to sit there idling anyway, and had time to spare.

How long before the loud music causes a casualty in the paddock now that they have moved it even closer to the horses? Absurd.

I heard trainers complaining about it last year, worse now.