RSS Feed for this Blog

Friday, October 30, 2009

Breeders' Cup Time(s)

How badly does the Breeders' Cup want to move past this year's disaster of tired synthetic track controversy, major defections, and too many races? Yesterday, they unveiled their logo for next year's event, on good old dirt, at Churchill.

(Of course, the last time they ran it on dirt didn't turn out so hot either with the track turned to slop by four days of relentless rain. And you know, if it's not synth or slop, it could be factors such as track configuration (say, the one turn at Belmont), or an unfortunate post position draw, or the use of a rabbit, or any number of things that can cast doubt on a single race as a true championship event. The fact is that horse racing is a tough sport to boil down to one day; and, on the other hand, horses no longer race enough times or against each other frequently enough to always draw any conclusions from an entire season either. Maybe they should just bag the whole Eclipse concept and instead devote all the energy involved to properly marketing the game as the gambling endeavor that it is.)

I hope and plan to get to some handicapping of next Saturday's races only here - I'll be at work for the ridiculous Filly Friday and I'm boycotting those races here and as far as my wallet goes. In any event, I obviously have not been devoting the same time and attention to the event as I have in past years; so I'd like to instead direct you to the best resource online. There are several of them; but I've found that they are of varying quality, at best.

The Breeders' Cup itself has this year offloaded most of its content to the Breeders' Cup 360 site, which, unfortunately, is dominated by Jeremy Plonk. Here we are, one week before the event, and the feature story concerns in part an account of who he bet in the 1997 Sprint. I mean, really. Below that are video analyses from Oct 11, and a contest in which readers submit their best Breeders Cup score.

What I want to see most in a Breeders' Cup site are sections for each of the 14 races which feature, with one click, relevant information neatly organized and, especially, handicapping tools. But when you click on Divisions on this site, all you get is a mish-mosh list of stories and posts, none of them more recent than October 17 as of this writing (on Oct 30). There's a dropdown list at the top to specify divisions, but still no content other than links to stories in a format unfriendly to the eye. This is all pretty weak I'm afraid, especially for a site which billed itself as a comprehensive handicapping tool. (Full disclosure: I wrote for the Breeders' Cup site two years ago and was not invited back. And I'm not ashamed to shake off my usual modesty here and tell you that I think that the stuff that both I and Paul Moran wrote that year as a whole blows this stuff away. Just my highly biased opinion of course.)

The Daily Racing Form has its usual excellent Breeders Cup Advance available for a price. But the free stuff seems lacking as well. I like Watchmaker's rankings (pdf), but otherwise it's basically just a depository of links to DRF stories, with no other tools readily available even if you click on the links for each division. The sidebar contains links to features such as DRF Plus (paid), Ticketmaster, and the Inside Track blog that are available throughout the year. The BC Challenge link is more helpful, featuring video replays of many (though not all) of those races which, as we know, hardly included all of the relevant preps this year. And they're not sorted by division. The Statistics link actually leads one to the BC site.'s Breeders' Cup Section does have divisional links on its front page, and there's a bit more info here than the two sites mentioned above with links to profiles of the contenders. But otherwise, just another list of links to stories.

To me, by far and away the most useful site I've seen is that of the Thoroughbred Times, and its 2009 Road to the Breeders' Cup section. Click on a divisional link, and you get the whole package in one easy on the eyes shot: besides the relevant stories, a list of pre-entries with sire and trainer (is that so hard?), and, best of all, a complete list of relevant preps for that particular division, Challenge races or not, with high quality pop-up videos of every single one run in North America. There's also a Statistics link which leads one to a page (its own) containing some interesting stats on past races, including past winners (sortable by owner/breeder/trainer/jockey) post positions, and winning margins. (Would love to see a list of the past winners' previous prep race or two as well.)

So a great job by TT here, congratulations to all involved, and I'll be listing their links to each division over on the right sidebar as soon as I have a moment.

Eight Is Enough

Governor Paterson and legislative leaders met behind closed doors in Manhattan on Thursday in an attempt to resolve the selection of an operator for the long-stalled Aqueduct casino project; this according to Tom Precious, reporting for (Not surprisingly, the topic did not come up during a public session earlier in the day.

No announcement came immediately after the session broke up. The evening of Oct. 29 source said no final deals were made in the meeting. [Bloodhorse]
Prior to the meeting, I was told by someone with knowledge of the situation of an impasse between Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, who is "insisting" on Aqueduct Entertainment Group, and the governor along with the Assembly, who are wary of the group. AEG is said to have failed to satisfy the Budget Division and Lottery due to questions about its financing and equity partners without licenses. Precious reports that the Assembly wanted far more details....about individuals who may be connected in some financial ways to some of the bidders.

It seems almost beyond comprehension, even (perhaps) in Albany, that the Senate Majority Leader would be holding out for a company with any kind of doubt about its financing (no less one deemed to be "not competitive" as I was told) given the attention supposedly being paid to that aspect of the bids after the collapse of the Delaware North deal. (Remember when integrity was the buzz word?) But if this is indeed the case, one might very well recall the ties between AEG and the former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, as well as the recent report that Smith has his eye on a cushy casino job with the group. And it would certainly be fair to speculate (and this is strictly that) about a possible arrangement between the two men, perhaps as part of the change in leadership after the coup.

This information contradicts the report by Fred Dicker a couple of weeks ago in which he cited sources that claimed that it was Paterson who was insisting that AEG should remain in contention despite the Lottery's concerns. Frankly, the idea that it is Sampson makes more sense.

Precious also notes that this is the 8th anniversary of Governor Pataki signing into the legislation which legalized video lottery terminals at racetracks. On November 1, 2001, the New York Times reported:
Since taking office in 1995, Mr. Pataki has repeatedly promoted legalized gambling but has usually been thwarted by the Legislature. Since the spring, when waning state revenue persuaded many lawmakers to take a second look at gambling and the governor announced the outlines of a deal with the Senecas, it seemed that this year the dam would break. The destruction of the World Trade Center helped the package sail through, 52 to 8 in the Senate, and 92 to 41 in the Assembly.

The stunning breadth of the bill would make New York the Eastern state with the most legal gambling if it all survives the expected legal challenges. The law allows for three Seneca casinos, three more Indian-run casinos in the Catskills, video lottery terminals at racetracks, and New York's enlistment in the Powerball multistate lottery.
I'd say that Pennsylvania is the Eastern state with the most legal gambling; and if it isn't yet, it certainly will be. The Catskills casinos have not materialized, and no one could have imagined at the time that, eight years later, Aqueduct would not be among the racetracks with slots. Sounds like we're still a ways off.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Familiar Refrain

The Times reported on Tuesday:

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said the decision “could come at any moment” but then added that it could still be weeks away.
Sounds familiar, don't it? “There is no timetable or deadline for the decision, but as the governor indicated last week, he expects a final decision soon," has been a familiar refrain from the Paterson administration regarding the Big A racino. Gibbs of course was talking about the timetable for President Obama making a determination on Afghanistan.

I wonder which decision will come first. And what kind of odds I could get on the proposition over in the UK. And what's the before/after date now? There was a time when before Labor Day seemed a sure thing, imagine that. I reported last week that this could be the week, and perhaps it still will be. But I also reported that new information from the bidders was due last week; and who knows what kind of new potential issues could have surfaced?

A couple of other propositions worth considering: Who will break the news of the winner first? I make Tom Precious the favorite at 3-4, Odato at 7-5, Danny Hakim 5-1, Elizabeth Benjamin 10-1, Hegarty 10-1, Paul Post 15-1, Left at the Gate 99-1. And I put the over/under on how many more articles that Post can cook up before something actually happens at five.

A reader sent along the text of a couple of letters to the editor in response to an Oct 11 editorial in Crain's that endorsed the SL Green group (subscription only). One is written by Wynn Resorts' Senior VP and General Counsel Kim Sinatra, in response to the column's contention that Wynn, though he brings "glitz," "faltered with a similar project in Mississippi." She claims that the Beau Rivage is "the highest-grossing casino in its market, and "currently outpaces the
brand-new Hard Rock Casino, built less than a mile away."
Wynn Resorts' 40-year track record of success in the gaming industry is not based upon “glitz.” Our success is based on attention to detail, keen financial analysis and a deep understanding of local regions. In every market where Wynn Resorts is in competition with the Hard Rock brand, we have outperformed them, producing approximately 10 times more in gaming revenue.

Moreover, Wynn Resorts recently completed an initial public offering of a portion of our Macau operations, generating proceeds of approximately $1.9 billion, giving us free cash for more commitment to New York. Bottom line: We don't have to shop for credit.
That last line sure sounds like something Wynn would say. I must say, as a blogger wondering what he's going to blog about once this thing is finally over, that Wynn has the most potential to provide future fodder for fun. I find that he's just a bit off kilter....and his grandiose plan for Aqueduct is more than just a bit off; it's just a plain pisser. I noticed that Ms. Sinatra had no response to Crain's contention that "his plans overshoot the market." (Anyone have any insight on the veracity of her claim that they out-produce Hard Rock 'approximately 10 times?')

A couple of notes on SL Green's two main partners: I wonder what the presence of Jeff Gural does for their chances. Gural has been a pain in the neck as far as at least some legislators are concerned; he was one of the driving forces in the racinos getting a bigger share of revenues last year. (And who could argue that the increase in marketing allowances isn't at least partly responsible for the New York racinos' resiliency in the face of the poor economy over the last year?)

And of course, the Hard Rock comes with the Seminoles, and this reader, referencing the ongoing situation in Florida, offers that they are "not exactly a desirable partner to government officials.....Do we really want these guys operating in New York State?" I've periodically followed the situation there where the tribe has been operating its blackjack games in violation of state law, and in the strange netherland of Federal Indian regulations. With talks over Governor Crist's latest compact proposal stalled, the Florida House of Representatives last week formally asked the federal government to shut the games down. I wouldn't hold my breath considering that the state Attorney General Bill McCollum unsuccessfully went down that route just about a year ago. McCollum wrote to the same National Indian Gaming Commission that House Speaker Larry Cretul did. Different chairman now, but my guess is that the result will be the same. Maybe they should try the wildcat formation.

- For those of you who are interested....and apparently, there are some....only 338 days until the 2010 Ryder Cup on Oct 1, 2010 in Wales!

- Marian Gaborik Completes a Marian Gaborik Hat Trick reads the headline on New York Magazine's Sports Section blog. "Two goals, an assist, and an injury." Very funny.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Showing Spirit

Zenyatta's connections are still uncertain about the Classic, and as far as I'm concerned, she's therefore no longer eligible for Horse of the Year consideration even if she runs in the Classic and wins. This waiting is just weak, and not very champion-like. I still believe however, that Summer Bird should deserve a long look for the award should he prevail.

But as one filly dithers, another is definitely being pointed to face the boys; Fleeting Spirit, a four-year old Irish-bred daughter of Invincible Spirit (Green Desert/Danzig), will be entered in the Sprint. She has already enjoyed success against colts, having won the six furlong Group 1 Darley July Cup (Eng-I) at Newmarket in July; and she was a tough luck second in the five furlong Abbaye at Longchamps on Arc day. 4th as the lukewarm favorite in the Turf Sprint last year, owner Andy Stewart explains: "She's never run on an artificial surface, but she trains on it at home, and we're going where the money is." [Racing Post]

Fleeting Spirit will have a new rider in Frankie Dettori, replacing Tom Queally, who was in the saddle when the filly was left at the gate at Longchamps.

"And if you give away six lengths in a five-furlong race, you're not going to win," Stewart said. "Tom will go right to the top. In a few years' time I think he'll be the next Kieren Fallon or Lester Piggott. But we have spoken to Simon Crisford [the Godolphin manager], who said that Frankie will be available, and he will ride Fleeting Spirit in the Breeders' Cup Sprint." [The Independent]
Fleeting Spirit is out of a mare by the late Irish champion Distant Relative; her fifth dam is Be Cautious, who won The Test at Saratoga in 1960.

The Independent piece also contains some quotes from Breeders Cup president Greg Avioli, who I imagine must feel liberated speaking to British reporters who believe that synthetic tracks represent the salvation of American racing, as opposed to the stodgy, close-minded American racing press (all five of them) which actively campaigns for its demise. Carrying out an agenda in the guise of journalism as they do, perhaps they can work at FOX once the idea of racing writers in the daily press becomes extinct.

Speaking of the Europeans' success at Santa Anita last year, Avioli said:
"But that in turn is developing a wonderful theme....That Ryder Cup-type rivalry didn't previously exist to quite the same extent. Remember, it was only when the Europeans started winning, in the 1980s, that the Americans really became fired up about the Ryder Cup."
Here, Avioli takes further advantage of the Brits, who probably have no idea that nobody in this country gives a shit about the Ryder Cup.

I also noticed that Avioli, who may soon be looking for a new job himself, was up in Canada a couple of weekends ago, and, speaking of the prospects of Woodbine hosting another Breeders Cup, he said: "The biggest concern you have at Woodbine is going to be the temperature." [Toronto Star] Actually, I know a fair amount of racing fans who would rather see the event staged on the inner dirt track at Aqueduct in early February than on the Poly at Woodbine even if the weather up there was Del Mar-like. He's not really that clueless, right?

Another major synthetic defector as Indian Blessing will not be pre-entered in the Filly and Mare Sprint. "She just doesn't like the track," Baffert said. So there.

- The Jets' win in Oakland came at a steep price with the season-ending injury to their All-Pro, all-purpose running back/kick returner Leon Washington. So it might be best to focus on the short-term, which features an opportunity to take revenge against the Dolphins and their bush-league playground offense at home on Sunday. A win would put them at 5-3 going into the bye week; a chance to bask in that success for two whole weeks (and who knows, perhaps the Giants, faltering now in the face of some real competition, will have the same record). Us Jets fans have learned to appreciate the small things in life. Like a hot dog on the sidelines.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Notes - Oct 23

Two more winners for Levine on Thursday, he's 11 for 39 at the meeting. He won the 4th with bombshell The Mailet ($88), and it occurred to me that you don't often see this barn win at prices like that. So, since I have nothing better to do, I checked out Formulator, and check this out (if you care, of course). Levine has won 465 races in the last three years, and this was by far the longest odds (23-1 was the previous high). Only 11 of those 465 winners went off at double digit odds, while 143, or 31%, were even money or less. Another 127 were less than 2-1. With a median payout of $5.55, not a barn one can make much money on.

Unless you had The Mailet. This two-year old filly was making her first grass start after two dismal dirt tries; she's by Rock Hard Ten, out of a Smarten mare who is a half-sister to the G1 winners Stellar Jayne and Starrer. The sire is struggling in his first year, with his fee down to $30,000 from 50K. The Mailet was just his 4th North American winner; he has a stakes winner in the UK.

Kitten's Joy has been far more successful in his rookie year at around half the price; 15 winners, 4th on the first-year sire list. Gary West writes of two of his progeny, trained by Michael Maker, who are competing at Retama this weekend with an eye on the Breeders Cup juvenile turf races. Kera's Kitten is a colt out of a Dixieland Band mare, and a half-brother to Talent Search, third in the Sprint in 2007. Lisas Kitten is a filly out of a Woodman mare with some interesting inbreeding for grass - 5x4 to Buckpasser, 5x5 to Tom Fool.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Off the Record

Got an email from NYRA about the two track records that were tied or broken on Wednesday, and I don't know if that's something they really want to publicize considering the ordinary animals who are now written into the record books. Seems a little silly, really, and nothing more than evidence of a superfast track. Super Shape ($16.40), who tied the record for 6 1/2 furlongs of 1:14.46 set by Bear Fan in 2004, is a 35K claimer who was winning his second race, sandwiched around two awful efforts, since being claimed for owner Mike Repole for the same price in May. This was his first race for trainer Bruce Levine, who has bounced back strongly from a poor Saratoga meet with nine winners from 34 starters (26%). Super Shape earned a Beyer of 97.

In the 4th, Birdrun ($6.20) ran a mile and a sixteenth in a record 1:39.38. This horse graduated in a romp for a 35K tag for Mott in the spring, and maybe it gave the son of Birdstone some confidence, if you believe in that sort of thing. He since ran two good seconds in allowance and starters allowance company before this effort, in which he earned a career best Beyer of 99. (There were only two other dirt races on the card, both cheap state-bred maiden claiming sprints.)

Tom Bush won the 5th with Boxitup ($13.20), and this barn is just blazing hot right now....eight winners from his last 12 starters! (Burnished Copper was 3rd at 12-1 in the 7th.) And that includes Get Stormy, who won the G3 Bryan Station at Keeneland on Sunday, the barn's first graded winner since Rahy's Appeal in 2006.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Odds and Ends

- Clicked on to the Daily Politics blog today, and whaddya know, two banner ads from the SL Green/Hard Rock group. Here's their website. Seriously, would they really build that giant guitar? Could run afoul of FAA regulations, someone might bring a small plane down on the main track out for Ussery's Alley. I love the artist's conception of the crowd. Well-dressed, young, racially diverse; a couple of them appear to be ghosts. Oh yeah, just your typical slots parlor crowd.

- Beethoven is coming to the Breeders Cup. No, not the Oxley-Ward three-year old who won the G2 Ky Jockey Club, and then disappeared after a couple of disappointing, though not disastrous, stakes efforts this spring.

Trainer John Ward said Wednesday, March 25, that Beethoven had sustained a slight injury to his left front leg and will “be on sidelines for short period.” []
Haven't seen nor heard of him since. I checked Stallion Register, and he's not listed there. Yet.

This Beethoven is a two-year old, from the first crop of the two-time Group 1 winner Oratorio, who upset the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes for Aidan O'Brien last weekend. He will switch to the Pro-Ride and run in the Juvenile. Beethoven is out of a Sadlers Wells mare, and this is the distaff family of last year's Classic runner-up Henrythenavigator (they have the same third dam, and Henrythenavigator is also out of a Sadlers Wells mare.)

- Kentucky's Wagering Integrity Committee will recommend that pools close when the clock strikes zero, as in 0 MTP. The tracks are opposed, and who can blame them given the wagering declines they are already dealing with. And besides, as Chris Scherf of the TRA pointed out, the odds are going to change after betting is closed in any event. "You may get the bad news before the race starts, but you're still going to get bad news." [DRF] So people are still going to grumble; that's the nature of gamblers, whether it's a late move on the tote board or on an NFL game.

If the Wagering Integrity Committee wants to improve wagering integrity, how about worrying about important things, like the integrity of the races themselves? To me, this is yet another case of the industry worrying too much about perception. I mean, c'mon, this is gambling, and it's just a game, for me anyway. A horse gets punched late and wins by five. In my mind, if you can't just smile knowingly and move on to the next race, perhaps you should find some other way to spend your time and money.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fresh Face

I'm told by a person with knowledge of the Aqueduct deliberations that the process is now being handled by Tim Gilchrist, described as an experienced, well-regarded, and "apolitical" (if there's such a thing in Albany) program and policy guy. Previously, the matter was being dealt with by Budget Director Robert Megna, Lottery Director Robert J. McLaughlin Gordon Medenica, and the Governor's legal counsel Peter J. Kiernan. I'm informed that Gilchrist is supposed to make a final recommendation to Paterson later this week with an announcement coming next week. I know we've heard that many times before....but I'm thinking that this process is truly about to reach a conclusion.

However, even at this time, aspects of the process remain in flux. I was also told that additional information on equity partners and affiliates in each bid are due at the governor's mansion today. And the local Queens Courier reports that Steve Wynn recently completed a bond issuance some 43% higher than originally planned as a “show of strength [with] cash [and] the ability to raise cash” to sway Paterson, Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in his direction.

- In some other Albany news, in an obvious blow-off to Governor Paterson, his "popularity" still at a nadir in polls, Senate Democrats scheduled hearings out of town on the day that the governor called for a special session to consider his proposals to close the $3-$4 billion deficit being projected for the current fiscal year. (Paterson has now pushed the session back by one day.)

And you gotta love this....Paterson has delivered a dis of his own, this one to President Obama, in town today for to raise money for the DNC - a $30,400-per-couple dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle. [Gothamist] The governor will not attend due to his being "unilaterally focused on this budget issue." Unlike, apparently, the Senate Democrats.

More calls for the resignation of Senator Hiram Monserrate, including, significantly perhaps, from two Latina members of the NY City Council. Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson is expected to announce today a nine-member committee (five Democrats and four Republicans) to consider disciplinary action and possible expulsion.

And finally, last and certainly not least, the repugnant former mayor of New York City was at it again over the weekend, warning voters that their personal safety was at risk should Democratic candidate William Thompson defeat Mayor Bloomberg in November. “You know exactly what I’m talking about,” Giuliani said; and, with the remarks coming as it did in an Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood, it obviously recalled the racial tensions of the early 90's, which were followed by his own divisive administration. With the Democratic candidate happening to be black, the race-baiting element of his remarks are quite addition to the fear-mongering that has become his M.O. The latest Siena poll shows him closing the gap in a race for governor against Andrew Cuomo, and that's something about which to be very, very afraid.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Morning Notes

I don't know if the weather was quite the deluge that NYRA was anticipating when it postponed two grass stakes until later this week; but there was more than enough precipitation to justify its move, with all of the grass races taken off on both days. NYRA might have felt a bit silly despite their worthy intentions had it not rained, and they might have been getting a little nervous on Friday, which was mostly dry. Charlie Hayward and NYRA officials spend a lot of time I'm sure praying that the precipitation stays far away, but this time, given their apparent affinity for the SL Green bid, they may have had some Seminoles over to do a rain dance. Only 5,746 at Belmont for the two cards combined, just 2,064 on Sunday, and I can't imagine how freezing and depressing it must have been there. [UPDATE: As a reader mentioned, this is coming from someone who sat and suffered through (most of) the Jets game yesterday. I'm actually proud to report that I left before the overtime.]

Bobby Frankel took the 7th when his first-time starter Comic Marvel ($43.40) rallied through the slop. I looked back over Frankel's debut runners over the last five yeards in Formulator, and found that he had a record of 20 for 197 (10%). I would have guessed that he had more than just 20 over that many years. But more interesting, and amusing, is that the highest payoff on those 20 winners prior to #21 was 7.90-to-1; 12 of them were under 2-1. So I'd surmise that Comic Marvel was just as big a surprise to his connections as he was to the bettors. She's a two-year old daughter of Distorted Humor, out of a Lyceus mare who has produced four European stakes winners, including the Group 1 winner Nebraska Tornado. So I'd expect to see her on grass before too long.

Another 20-1 shot in the 8th with McVictory ($43.80) winning for Bobby Barbara, having a fine Belmont fall meeting with five winners now from 20 starters, including of course the bombshell Interpatation in the boggy Turf Classic. He also missed narrowly last weekend with 28-1 Pleasant Sister.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Of Budgets, Circumstances, and Trash

After unsuccessfully trying to prod legislators into making the first move, Governor Paterson proposed spending cuts aimed at closing the latest deficit being projected for this year, estimates of which range from around $3 billion to $4.1 billion.

The plan also includes some one-time revenue shots, including a raid of the state's environmental fund, as well as $200 million - this year - for the Aqueduct racino. And where have we heard that before? Hard to say if that figure reveals anything about who the choice will be, given that the figures we've read about are only what have been reported in the press.....and given the fact that the proposals seem to remain in flux. Perhaps however we can surmise that Delaware North, last reported to be offering just $100 million up front with additional cash to follow, is not amongst the finalists....perhaps.

The cuts would effect schools, healthcare, and local governments. They drew the usual condemnation from effected groups, which, as always, comes without the offer of alternative solutions. And they were met by a lack of urgency by the state Senate (the Democratic leaders of which are still in China), which indicated it will hold hearings late in the month. Senator and Gang of Four member Carl Kruger actually accused the governor of exaggerating the crisis, suggesting that he was doing it for his own political gain. "So if he wants to up his poll numbers and run for re-election, he won't be running against the Legislature." [Daily Politics] As if spending cuts such as those being proposed are going to help his poll numbers. What a jerk, and this guy is the head of the Senate Finance Committee. Scary.

The governor, flashing his political chops as we've seen quite a bit of lately, went on the offensive with a PR assault of his own.

"I gave the legislators about six weeks to give me suggestions as to how they would cut it, and now they're all screaming," Paterson said on WOR radio.

"I mean, I think they're embarrassing themselves, frankly. [NY Post]
- The calls for the resignation of State Senator Hiram Monserrate have begun, even though he was acquitted of the most serious assault charges, convicted only of a misdemeanor for dragging his girlfriend through the halls of their apartment building after he slashed her face with a, accidentally....of course. Though he could theoretically be sentenced to a year in jail, the consensus seems to be that that is unlikely given that he is a first-time women slasher dragger-through-apartment-halls.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said Monserrate should resign "for the sake of his constituents, the institution of the Senate and the Democratic Party."

"Domestic violence is a scourge on our society," she added.

"We're held to a high standard in the Senate, and I would expect he would understand that and resign immediately," said Sen. Neil D. Breslin, D-Albany.

Other Democrats joined in those calls, with some saying they will push for expulsion proceedings if Monserrate, another member of the vaunted Gang of Four, does not resign. [Buffalo News]
It's certainly fair to be outraged about the verdict; but don't blame the judge, who I believe did his job and delivered a proper verdict under the circumstances of the highly circumstantial evidence. It's a strange justice system in which a trial of this nature can be conducted and concluded without the two principals actually having to take the stand to testify about what happened, and then defend that testimony under withering cross-examination. No opportunities here for any Perry Mason moments resulting from expert testimony disputing any physical possibility of the incident taking place as detailed by the attacker under oath.

Defense attorney Joseph Tacopina, a $750-an-hour lawyer who Monserrate was suddenly able to afford right around the time of the Senate coup in June, slyly called just two witnesses, thus allowing the prosecution, and the interest of justice for all, to twist in the wind. We can only hope that the Senate will do the right thing and throw the thug out. (And while they're at it, they can throw Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. out with the trash.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sea the Back of Racing

DiscreetPicks sent along an excerpt from a story about some proposition bets being offered in the UK.

Paddy Power, who are refunding all losing ante-post bets placed on Sea The Stars for the Classic, offer an interesting market.

The Irish layers are also offering odds of 25/1 that Sea The Stars produces a Derby winner from his first crop of foals.

Paddy Power said, "It's sad to see the back of him but he has nothing more to prove. Let's just hope he's more Sadlers Wells than Cigar or Gorgeous George (Washington)!"

William Hill take a slightly different line and offer 12/1 that any of his first crop wins any of the British classics.

They are also betting on what the initial stud fee will be for Sea The Stars.

Between 90,000 and 110,000 euros is the 6/4 favourite, over 110,000 is on offer at 7/4, while less than 90,000 is available at 2/1. [bettingzone]
First of all, maybe that's a custom in the UK, but seems quite nice of them to refund all that money. Did Steve Wynn do that? Secondly: "It's sad to see the back of him." lol, I love the way they put things over there.

But thirdly and most of all....25-1 on Sea the Stars siring the winner of the 2014 Epsom Derby? Do you think that would perhaps be fair odds for one of his progeny to start in the race? Of course, he does have every right to be a prodigious stallion, given his freakish talent and his blue blood - a son of Cape Cross, a sire of 57 stakes winners in his seven crops, including Ouija Board, out of Urban Sea, the dam of seven stakes winners, including champion (racehorse and sire) Galileo and local star My Typhoon. And he'll surely have a healthy size crop, even if the over 110,000 on his stud fee pays off at 7-4. Still, doesn't seem like fair odds to me.

DiscreetPicks adds:
I can't tell you how cool it is that the Europeans are taking bets on Sea The Stars' breeding exploits. Those people love to gamble, and they give horseracing the respect it deserves. The chances of anything like that being offered in Vegas is 0%.
If it's 0% in Vegas, you can imagine what it would be in the rest of the country. Given the stubborn resistance that has met the expansion of gambling every step of the way even to the still relatively small (at least compared to the UK) amount of legal gambling we have nationally, it's hard to imagine any bookie joints opening up in Manhattan (or anywhere else) anytime soon. Too bad; not only could we really bet on who gets the Aqueduct racino (or on the Monserrate verdict), we could get down on whether Paterson scratches his crotch during the press conference (or whether Monserrate gets kicked out of the Senate should he be convicted of a lesser charge).

And it's true, it's a different culture when it comes to gambling over there; and it almost makes comparisons of the (lack of) popularity of the sport here to what it is over there meaningless. Surely, things would be drastically different for the sport if gambling was part of the popular culture here. I've always maintained in this space that it's the gambling angle which is the sport's only hope of regaining popularity, and I think we'd see that borne out if attitudes about gambling were different, and if creative propositions were well-marketed and readily available. I also believe that the attempts these last two years to market the sport by promoting Curlin and Rachel Alexandra prove what a total waste of time and effort that approach is. Horses in the 21st century simply don't race nearly enough; and we see the back of them far too soon to make anyone care. The sad truth is that nobody does. And it certainly doesn't help when you have egotistical owners more interested in making a buck or proving a point than being a sportsman; or a network partner which quite obviously considers its contractual obligations to be more of a nuisance than an endeavor it takes pride in.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Still Dickering

There hasn't been any real news about Aqueduct since the news a week ago about Steve Wynn making peace with the hotel union; and the last we heard, Governor Paterson was still undecided. I guess an extra week hasn't helped him make up his mind. Not that it matters anyway, with the Senate Democratic leadership in China until next week.

Don't know if this qualifies as news, but, as reader jk pointed out, Fred Dicker wrote in the Post on Monday that Paterson has reversed himself on an earlier assertion that an unnamed partner in Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which has now widely been dismissed from serious contention, had issues which would make them ineligible for licensing by the all-powerful Lottery Division.

"AEG has ties to [Rev. Floyd] Flake, to Malcolm [Smith], to [Congressman] Gregory Meeks, to the governor, so what other reason would there be for Lottery to say they're not qualified and then to say that they are?"

Another source said, "It appears that the governor made promises to Flake's group that he's trying to deliver on now." [NY Post]
Strong words there, but consider the source. Dicker has his agenda, and though he's certainly broken his share of stories, we're still waiting to find out how Spitzer was blackmailed into selecting NYRA. So I'll wait and see about this. AEG were my morning line favorite though, and this would certainly be a case of coming back from the presumed dead.

- Justice William Erlbaum heard closing arguments on Tuesday, and will issue his verdict on Thursday in the assault trail of State Senator Hiram Monserrate. Defense attorney Joseph Tacopino hammered away at what even the judge acknowledged was “the linchpin” of the case - the statements by medical personnel that Karla Giraldo originally told them that she was attacked.
One witness, Dr. Dawne Kort, testified that Ms. Giraldo re-enacted the attack for her with an imaginary glass, quoting Mr. Monserrate saying angrily: “You want the water? You want the water? Here’s your water!”

Mr. Tacopina questioned why the doctors and nurse did not immediately write down some statements they said Ms. Giraldo made, taking up to three weeks to record them in notes. “That alone is reasonable doubt,” he said. [NY Times]
Tacopino also suggested that Ms. Giraldo was pressured by the medical personnel to say it was domestic violence. Monserrate could get seven years and lose his seat if convicted of one of the two felony charges...or be convicted of a misdemeanor and conceivably avoid jail time altogether. Elizabeth Benjamin lays out the political consequences of a conviction, an acquittal and everything in between, as power in the State Senate hangs in the balance. But I'm telling you, as ridiculous as his story is, I'll be shocked if this guy doesn't walk out of the courtroom scot-free on Thursday. Without the cooperation from the victim, I don't see where the prosecution has proven anything beyond a reasonable doubt. (This, of course, from someone observing only through the press.)

- For those of you so inclined, Irene Jay Liu of the Times Union's Capitol Confidential blog breaks down the various factions dividing the NY Senate Democrats, as opposed to the big happy, homogeneous family of obstructionist Republicans. Her explanation in this video starts at 14:30. Certainly not the only legislative body that is currently aligned in similar fashion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tough Call

With the retirement of Sea the Stars, I'd imagine that Jerry Moss' decision as to whether to run Zenyatta in the Classic or the Ladies Classic just got a bit easier. I do agree with the commenters who criticized him for waffling on the decision, which we're told won't be for a few weeks (a timeframe which could have him deciding between the Clark and the Cigar Mile given that the Breeders' Cup is only 3 1/2 weeks away). "It will depend on who's coming, the size of the field," said John Sherriffs wife. [DRF] (Jay Privman couldn't do any better than a quote from the trainer's wife??) I think that's kinda weak. I mean, c'mon, if you're going to run in the Classic with the notion of claiming the rights to Horse of the Year if she wins (as she rightfully could in my own opinion, as we've been debating in this long comment thread), then just do it. To wait and size up the competition diminishes her rightful claim to a title in my view.

But personally, I wouldn't blame Moss if he opts for the Ladies Classic instead. It's quite possible that retiring her a perfect 14-for-14 with a Breeders Cup win, thus topping the immortal Personal Ensign's streak by one (the legitimate questions of synthetic surfaces and the nature of their respective campaigns aside), means more to her connections than even a Horse of the Year title that likely won't be forthcoming even if she were to win the Classic.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Zenyatta run against the boys, and it may very well be the last remaining hook that the BC publicity department could hang their hats and hopes on. (Not to mention creating, for the viewing pleasure of the arrogant Breeders Cup officials who pressed on with the format this year despite the overwhelmingly widespread dissatisfaction from its fan base, the spectacle of the idiotic Filly Friday program being run without the only two publicly recognizable female stars in the sport.) But I think it's a tough call, one that I wouldn't want to have to make. Gut feeling here is that they go for the easier shot at undefeated glory.

El Angelo, in trying to rebut my argument that Zenyatta should be considered for the title should she win the Classic, brought up the prospect of Summer Bird winning the Classic and thus being named HOTY. But the more I think about it, I believe that Summer Bird may have an even better case than Zenyatta should he do so. That would make four Grade 1 wins, all at a mile and a quarter or more, twice against older, one of those against ostensibly the best horses in the world.

Mine That Bird is in the Classic, and he really did not run badly at all in the Goodwood. Doomed by a slow pace (in particular, a glacial second quarter of 25 flat) , the Derby winner ran well in the stretch, achieving field best final splits of 35 flat for the last 3/8ths, and 11.15 for the last furlong. I think he'd be good value at double digit odds (which I think he certainly would be was he not the Derby winner), and with a fast pace, longer distance, and Calvin aboard for the ride, who knows?

While Jess Jackson gives Rachel Alexandra her precious rest (which, despite her hard work, I imagine she really needs about as much as does Tera Patrick), Barry Abrams is talking about running Lethal Heat on both Breeders Cup days! “I’m going to run Lethal Heat in the Ladies’ Classic on Friday and down the hill on Saturday." [TT] Yeah, right on!!

And finally, yes, I completely blame freaking Hank Goldberg for the Jets surrendering 413 total yards and 21 4th quarter points in their loss to the Dolphins last night. Take a hike, Hank, get lost!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Morning Notes

Hank Goldberg touted the Jets on ESPN....make that on ESPN Classic (where they may want to consider consigning him permanently)....while picking Justenuffhumor in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Oh man. If he's equally accurate about the game as he was about the horse, the Dolphins will return the opening kickoff for a score, recover a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and the Jets will never be in the game! Thanks a lot, Hank.

Court Vision ($11.60) seemed too easy given the pre-race reporting of his switch to Dutrow and his "equipment change" to alleviate the discomfort caused by the testicle that had moved into his abdomen. I hate when that happens. Just as Iavarone said before the race, the cutback to a mile suited him did, I imagine, the slow early pace which allowed him to stay much closer than usual. He closed in 23.35, with each quarter quicker than the preceding one. Not much chance for Justenufhomor to close from the back of the pack in this one, and Alan Garcia said that he hated the soft track. Excuses, excuses; hope we're not hearing Rex Ryan complain about the footing at Land Shark Stadium late on Monday night.

When I criticized the Champagne field and the state of two-year old racing, I hadn't yet looked at the Breeders Futurity - now that was a worthy two-year old stakes; 14 horses of varying backgrounds from racetracks east and west. As this reader pointed out, a two-turn race on a synthetic surface is surely a more appropriate prep for this year's Juvenile than a one-turn race on dirt at Belmont. However, the Champagne seemed a more logically incremental step for many of the horses who raced at Keeneland, given that just four of the 14 had two-turn experience coming in. Noble's Promise ($27.80) was not one of those, though he was coming off a stakes win over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle. As a son of Cuvee out of a Clever Trick mare, one might deem him more suitable for the shorter distances; but if you look deeper into his distaff family, you'll find distance horses such as Parade Ground, Plenty of Grace, Military, and Soaring Softly. Those are grass horses too, and the fact that he liked the Keeneland Poly bodes well for his future on that surface.

Noble's Promise is the first graded stakes winner for his second year sire, standing for just $6500 at Gainesway in Kentucky.

I also mentioned yesterday that the handicap division lies in ruin, and I suppose it does even more so now after Gitano Hernando ($38), a previously nondescript three-year old shipper from the UK, upset the Goodwood, beating some of the west's top contenders - plus Derby winner Mine That Bird. "He's lightly raced, and it's amazing going from a condition race to a Grade 1," said trainer Marco Botti. [Racing Post] Not so amazing though when it comes to Euro shippers on American synthetics. As Jerry Bailey noted on ESPN, this could open the floodgates from overseas as far as potential Breeders Cup starters go.

The Team Valor-owned winner is by Hernando (Ninisky/Nijinsky) out of Ginos Spirits, a US stakes winner (G3 Nobel Damsel).

Zenyatta was the star of the day, and I'll get back to her since I gotta go and don't want to demean her brilliance by giving her short shrift due to my own time constraints here. But, before I go, I'll just pose the hypothetical question of whether, on some mythical racing surface on which all things are equal, do you think that Rachel Alexandra could really hold off her powerful close?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seeing Stars

The inimitable Chris McGrath, writing in the UK's Guardian, provides an excellent summary of the debate overseas about the Breeders Cup status of the sensational Arc winner Sea the Stars; especially handy for those of us, including admittedly myself, who haven't been paying proper attention to the runup to the event for whatever reason, be it what one sees as the lack of depth and quality in most of the (too many) divisions this year, or if one is perhaps instead paying attention to the high drama of America's pastime.

Americans and Europeans often don't see eye to eye, and those differences in opinions and perspectives regarding horse racing are especially stark. In McGrath's article, we once again see the wide gulf in opinion about synthetic tracks. I've often mentioned how I'm taken aback by the furious invective we hear against the surfaces here; as if its proponents, in striving to make the sport safer, were doing something unimaginably awful and horrific. Y'know, like trying to make health care fairer and more accessible to those who presently can't afford to have it. Or, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for the mere suggestion that his country is willing to seek consensus and compromise rather than unilaterally and forcefully imposing its own solutions....thus reforming and reshaping its image throughout the world almost overnight. Oh, the horrors!

If you instead prefer to exhume the carcass of poor George Washington, moreover, you actually turn the moral imperatives in favour of running Sea The Stars.

For the loss of George Washington, in a vile slop at Monmouth Park, was one of several grotesque accidents that shocked American conservatives into acknowledging the need for the sort of synthetic surface introduced at Santa Anita. It is only the coincidence that the Breeders' Cup comes to the same venue, for the second year in a row, that makes it a remotely palatable project for Sea The Stars. In 2010 it is back on dirt, in Louisville, where it would never have been remotely entertained.

This process of integration was first embraced, against colossal vested interests, by American visionaries; and then by the trainers who favoured the Classic, for Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator, over the Mile on turf. Back in fourth last year, however, was Curlin, whose connections are so disgusted that the Classic will again be run on "plastic" that they have vowed to keep away their outstanding filly, Rachel Alexandra.

In that context, Oxx might sense a responsibility to the future of the sport. The Breeders' Cup already lacks one marquee name; to miss this one, too, would be poor reward for its wholesome renewal. [Guardian UK]
Imagine, using the word "visionaries" to describe those responsible for the "plastic" over which the Breeders' Cup horses (which of course won't include America's most renowned star) will compete! It's a sure bet you'll never hear that here. That's a word usually reserved for Nobel Peace Prize winners.

- We've spoken quite a bit over the last few years about the demise of the handicap division for older horses; and it lays in virtual ruin this year. But the other end of the age spectrum is suffering as well in my opinion, and that's illustrated quite well by today's Champagne. Just six horses, two of them coming straight out of maiden wins, all but Dublin eligible for entry-level allowance races. "Grade 1" doesn't mean much when it comes to juvenile stakes this time of year. For all we know about these horses, the next Derby winner could be just as likely to come out of the maiden race in the second. The list of Champagne winners includes Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Easy Goer, Forty Niner, Riva Ridge, Stop the Music, and Alydar. Hard to imagine that any of today's entrants will accomplish as much as any of those. Possible of course, but no way to tell now.

But when Alydar defeated Affirmed in the 1977 edition, we already had a good idea that they both would be special. They had already won eight stakes between them (five by Affirmed), and were meeting for the fifth time. It's highly questionable if Dublin and Aspire will even meet five times in their careers! And whether either of them turns out to be of any consequence next spring simply remains to be seen.

Remaining to be seen in this post is the 1977 Champagne, well before the bubbly became stale...and with the late, great Chic Anderson in the announcer's booth.

Friday, October 09, 2009

More For Some, Less For Others

I was really surprised at the announcement that the Saratoga meet will be extended by four days to an even 40. I hadn't heard any clamoring for expansion, and besides, the meet already seemed a week too long to me for sure. NYRA President/CEO Charlie Hayward said:

"Going into this year’s Saratoga meet, we predicted that wagering would decline approximately 5 percent from last year. We greatly exceeded those expectations.....The expansion to four racing days was a measured decision that reflects the overwhelming demand for racing that we have from horsemen in Saratoga. At a time when many tracks in the country had to cut back on racing days [blah blah blah...] [The Saratogian]
Look, Charlie can go on all day about how great Saratoga is, but we all know exactly why NYRA has extended the neet. I truly wonder, and rather doubt, that this move would have been made had slots been up and running at the Big A. I do believe that most interested parties (other than local restaurant owners and Tom Federlin), including NYRA officials, would have agreed that the meet had already reached its limit, and possibly beyond it in terms of the quality of the races. However, with the timeline for slots already extended beyond NYRA's initial estimates of how long its cash would hold out, every little bit helps. And four days upstate instead of three and a dark day downstate will account for far more than just a little bit.

Of course, more racing at Saratoga means less down here, and what of those amongst us who don't have the time or the money to spend a lot of time upstate? You know, the degenerates who support the racing during its most moribund days in the dead of winter? That makes seven summer weekends with no live thoroughbred racing in the metropolitan area....and one less of the Friday sunset racing, which may very well qualify as the most festive downstate racing dates of the year other than the Belmont Stakes. That's a long gap...and it kind of sucks. It smacks of elitism, you know, the northeast liberal kind!

A longtime reader and fellow hopeful Jets fan writes:
I have always wondered if, during Saratoga, they could run on Tuesday at Big A or even Belmont just to give downstaters like us a chance at live racing.

In the past I imagined running an almost all turf card filled with races they would not card upstate, 2yo turf races, Md Clm and MdNY on the turf, turf sprints, and a couple of cheap claimers on the dirt, but now they run them all up there.

They could also card the cheaper jumper races that have been eliminated, make it a fair atmosphere....10 races on a Tuesday beginning at noon, I will be there.
I know, there are a hundred practical and logistical reasons why that will never happen, but it's an interesting thought....and I'd take a staycation day or two to check that out too.

The good news is that I do believe that this is it for least assuming that one day, maybe even before Halloween Thanksgiving Christmas the Kentucky Derby, an operator will be named to run the racino. Once the money starts flowing, NYRA will take another look at its prized jewel, and I predict the next change in the number of dates will be less, not more.

- With the Senate Democratic leadership off to China for nine days, it looks like it will be at least another couple of weeks before we have that decision. The trip was criticized by Rick Lazio, the nondescript only yet-to-be-declared Republican candidate for governor, who said: “If I were going to send an economic ambassador to another country, the last person I’d send is an Albany politician." Hey, that's actually funny!

For the record, the trip is not being paid for by taxpayer money as I speculated the other day. In fact, many of the lawmakers are paying for it themselves. Not so, however, Senators Sampson and Smith are using campaign funds, which I'm sure delights their contributors.

- The defense rested in the trial of State Senator Hiram Monserrate without calling him to the stand. "We don't need to do anyone's work for them," said his slick lawyer Joseph Tacopino. With his girlfriend not having testified directly about the incident, neither of the two principals were able to tell their story of just what transpired. Justice William M. Erlbaum will have to make his decision (in the non-jury trial), following next week's closing arguments, based on what I found to be undefinitive visual evidence of the aftermath of the incident, and the she-said/she-said accounts of what the victim did or did not say at the hospital. “I don’t know how this thing is going to turn out as we sit here today,” the judge said. But I'd be pretty shocked if Monserrate is not acquitted of the most serious charges against him.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Paterson Still Undecided

I'm told by a person who is familiar with the deliberations that, despite the urging of his senior staff members to come to a decision this week, Governor Paterson has not yet decided amongst the Big A bidders...and that the governor "intensely dislikes" being pressured on the matter.

Hmmm, that sounds rather familiar, doesn't it?

I'm also told that it is Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, and not Senator Malcolm Smith, who has taken the lead role on the Senate side. It had been my understanding that it was the latter, as Senate president pro-tem, who had the final say on behalf of his chamber. But in any event, both men are headed to China on Friday as mentioned in the previous post....and, according to this column, they will be gone for nine days on a legislative “trade mission." That being the case, it could already be too late for Paterson to conclude any agreement before they depart. And the beat goes on.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Not So Fast (没有这么快)

We've all been on pins and needles awaiting what we've been told is an imminent announcement on the Big A. But State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who represents the district, told the Times Union's Jim Odato that he was he was unsure if a deal will be announced any time soon because some key Senate leaders are traveling to China on Friday. An important trip I'm sure using taxpayer dollars.

Odato also reports that Steve Wynn has reached an accord with a key hotel union, thus providing a big boost for his chances. SL Green/Hard Rock, Aqueduct Entertainment, and Delaware North also have such agreements. It's also clear that the situation remains fluid even as a decision nears.

The senator noted that Wynn still lacks a minority enterprise component of his bid team, and can't erect a racino as swiftly as the other five bidders.

"They were trying to rectify both things as we speak," said Addabbo.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Belmont Bog

Man, what a rotten day on Saturday, another tough weather break for NYRA. Despite the fact that the heaviest rain didn't start until midway through the card, it was a crummy day to start with. Though they would have done well to crack five figures on a sunny day in my view, there certainly would have been more than the announced crowd of 7,000 even. The visibility was so bad that the guy who sits on the roof and counts the crowd gave up and just gave it his best guess.

The two prestigious Grade 1 grass stakes, smack dab in the middle of the Pick Four and Pick Six sequences, stayed on the turf, and damaged the courses enough to cause Sunday's three graded grass stakes races to be moved to the dirt.

"Worst-case scenario is run to turf races in the rain, it just rips up the course," Campo said. "There was nothing we could do."

Campo said canceling the turf races once they are carded and running them another day was not considered.

"We've never done that before," he said. [Daily Racing Form]
Canceling the races altogether would likely have necessitated refunding all the monies bet into the Pick Six and the $500K guaranteed Pick Four, so that was a non-starter for that and other reasons I'm sure. They could have taken them off the grass though. That would have made them "all" races for the Pick Six, and a fairer deal for the bettors considering how drastically the conditions changed from the time the bets were placed earlier in the day. I read that there were 2 1/2 inches of rain, certainly enough to cancel grass racing under any other circumstance.

I didn't read any complaints about the course not being safe, but the bizarrely slow times showed how much of a bog the courses were. When they went 26 4/5 in the first quartr of the Flower Bowl, a guy behind Handride and I remarked that it was a fast harness quarter. But in the Joe Hirsch, Interpatation ran his second quarter in 28 1/5, which is an average if not slow split at the trotters these days. It shows you just how tiring that course must have been that, even after running so slowly early, these Grade 1 animals (a category which I hesitatingly put the winner) slowed down considerably in the final quarter relative to the one before. If anything, I'd think that these horses got some good conditioning for their next race which, for runner-up Gio Ponti, will be the Classic.
"Because of what he's done so far on turf -- winning four Grade 1 races in a row -- we don't think he's got much more to prove on the grass in America," Clement said. "I believe that the mile and a quarter of the Classic is the perfect distance for him and I'm very excited about the prospect of running him there because I think the artificial surface is very fair for both turf and dirt horses. [Brisnet]
I certainly can't criticize Summer Bird for another Grade 1 win just because it again came in the slop. But it's just my nature to be skeptical until proven otherwise; and the fact is that he hasn't won a stakes on a dry track other than at the freaky mile and a half distance of the Belmont.

However, having said that, depending on who shows up for the Classic, you could be looking at 6-1 or 8-1 or more. Somewhere in there is a price that could make taking a shot on a Belmont/Travers/JCGC winner worthwhile. Quality Road could be an interesting contender too, but Pletcher seems hesitant about the synthetic track.

Three winners for the Toddster on Sunday. Ailalea ($14) stretched out successfully to graduate in the 4th; she's a Pulpit half-sister, out of a Woodman mare, to the stakes winning Spritely, and this is the distaff family of Stevie Wonderboy (standing at Airdrie for $15,000). Dad's Crazy ($10.20) (Langfuhr) was the longest shot in the three-horse Pilgrim having lost all three of his career starts, all on the grass. And Eskendereya ($7.20) took the Miss Grillo; she's by Giant's Causeway out of a Seattle Slew mare, and she's a half-sister to Balmont, a two-time G1 sprint winner in the UK.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Exclusively Unpaid

I wrote a post on the Vosburgh for the NTRA site as part of the TBA's Breeders' Cup blog section, and I intended to post it here too. But then I was informed that the posts are "exclusive" to NTRA, and I'm like, huh?? Say what?? I mean, it's not like I'm actually getting paid or anything, just stupidly, once again, donating my services for no compensation whatsoever. So, what the hell are they going to do, sue me? Kick me off (like I would care)? I fully intend to find out the answer to that question at some point.

"You'll get great exposure," I've always been told when pitched by websites that don't want to pay. And there was a time when that was an inducement for me. But at this point, as I've pretty drastically cut back on the frequency and scope of my posts and settled comfortably and happily into a niche audience that I figure isn't going to grow, I really don't care. And besides, the truth is that I've never seen any perceptible or lasting increase in readership from any of the sites for which I've written for free, such as The Rail, or Bloodhorse, or Horseraceinsider.

It's our own fault, us racing bloggers including myself, that we've devalued ourselves in the marketplace to the point where it's just taken for granted that we'll do stuff for no pay. My most recent such "offer," prior to this NTRA thing (which I did largely as a favor for a friend), was from TVG, for some "community" site they were planning. I politely explained that I was not willing to contribute without compensation, and, not surprisingly, never heard from them again. Big surprise there.

But at least TVG, as well as all of the other sites mentioned above, had no objection to me using the posts on LATG. Frankly, I was just incredulous when I was told about that, and I think NTRA has a lot of damn gall as Arlo Guthrie once said. Whatsmore, we've been directed to keep our posts "positive," devoid of any meaningful criticism of the Breeders Cup. I feel as if what they really want is an obedient mercenary of shills, and unpaid ones for that matter. I was told that, after the first batch of posts, some folks over there wondered if some of us even like the Breeders Cup.

But I think that anyone who devotes a portion of his or her precious time to writing for free on the subject of horse racing truly does "like" the Breeders Cup, me included. But not of all of us like the way the event has been staged over the last couple of years. And, if the Breeders Cup and NTRA is truly interested in feedback from racing fans as they claim, meaningful discussions initiated by devoted yet skeptical bloggers and writers is a great way to start. But apparently, the NTRA site during Breeders Cup time is not the proper place for that debate, and that's a missed opportunity for everyone involved....and, frankly, a waste of time for me.

- If anyone cares or is reading at this late stage of Saturday, I picked the Fabulous Strike - Go Go Shoot exacta in that post, taking stands against Munnings and Kodiak Kowboy. I also love Macho Again in the JCGC. It's not a race I've spent much time analyzing. Sometimes it gets to a point when one becomes so familiar with the contestants that one can easily come to a conclusion without poring over the Form. Basically, I remain skeptical of the two three-year olds Summer Bird and Quality Road, and have been won over by the dogged consistency and improvement shown by Dallas Stewart's four-year old son of Macho Uno. Now, I need to get down and figure out the other two races in the late Pick Four sequence.

- Off topic, some music notes. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, in their final club appearance this time around, rocked the Music Hall of Williamsburg in an ebullient performance in their hometown. Karen O's dad was there, and I hope that Mr. O had as good a time as I. And last week I got to see Polve at the Bell House; another influential 90's twisted guitar combo back together and better than ever. Their excellent comeback album In Prism, is available on Merge. The track Beggars Bowl is an instant classic; I figure that anyone who can't dig it (like the Head Chef) just doesn't see eye to eye with me as to what constitutes meaningful, original, passionate, kickass rock and roll. (Not that there's anything wrong with that; not being judgmental at all. To each his own, after all.)

Reminder for those of you up in the Capital District that the mighty Dinosaur Jr plays at Northern Lights in Clifton Park on Sunday night; wish I could be there. Their album Farm, available on Jagjaguwar Records, just keeps getting better and better, and I can't wait to see them play with Sonic Youth here on November 21. Dino Jr's genius bassist Lou Barlow opens that show with his own band, playing songs I'm sure from his forthcoming album Goodnight Unknown, also on Merge; and I'll be seeing him at the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday in his only headlining gig of the tour.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Double Your Fun

Trainer Pat Kelly hadn't won a race since May 23, when he won twice; that was some 70 races ago. So, when he finally broke through with first-timer Shrewd One ($50.50) in the 4th on Thursday, one might (or might not) have deduced that he would do it again, with Pynaformer ($10.80) in the 7th. Funny how you sometimes see things work out that way. Shrewd One is a two-year old son of Smarty Jones out of an End Sweep mare, and this is the direct distaff family of the BC Sprint winner Precisionist.

Two winners for Mott, for the second day in a row.

And, also for the second day in a row, trainer David Donk scored a longshot winner, this time with Paraiba ($28.80) in the finale. On Wednesday, he took the 4th with He Ain't Easy ($33.80).

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Penn National: Don't Count Us Out

Tom Precious is reporting on that Penn National feels that it is still in the running at the Big A by virtue of its offer of $250 million in a non-contingency, upfront payment.

“There are no strings attached to the $250 million," said Christopher McErlean, vice president of racing for PNGI, which operates six tracks, four of which have gaming with 25,000 total slot machines or VLTs.

Unless any of the other bidders’ offers have changed the past couple weeks, the upfront offer by PNGI is at least $100 million more than several of its competitors. The company is also offering to open a temporary casino within eight months of signing any deal with the state. It would feature up to the 2,000 of the 4,500 VLTs the track has been approved to operate. [Bloodhorse]
The company says they have money, and then some. “We now have $600 million cash in the bank....We have no financing issues in making this project happen." Penn National, my longshot pick for the racino, has no partners for this project, local or otherwise, and maybe, at this point, their lack of any local entanglements is a good thing.

Their offer however is of the 'slots in a box' variety that Delaware North had been criticized for in the past. No fancy hotel here, at least to start. But, if the governor is looking down the road to a possible Shinnecock casino at Belmont, then maybe the idea of a simple operation, run by a solid, experienced operator promising a quick start-up, that wouldn't compete, at least with respect to it being a 'destination,' with a more ambitious Belmont casino, could be appealing. And that's not to mention, of course, the quick cash infusion.