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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AEG Out of the Money In Lottery Report

The New York Times has obtained, via a FOIL request, a copy of the Lottery's confidential assessment of the Aqueduct bidders which was prepared in August. The Senate Democrats who held out stubbornly for Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which ranked only 4th amongst the six candidates, have a lot of 'splaining to do. And as much as Senators Sampson, Smith, and Espada would like to resist the subpoenas of the Inspector General looking into the matter - and quite brazenly and outrageously I'd say - the IG filed a strongly-worded response to their objections insisting that they do.

In papers filed last night in state Supreme Court in New York County, Inspector General Joseph Fisch's office argued that Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and President Malcolm Smith are under the "misapprehension" that their status as state lawmakers means they don't have to hand over the information he's seeking.
The IG's memorandum makes for interesting reading.

At once point, he notes the "disjointed, fractured state of the Senate leadership," which caused him to subpoena all three Democrats with leadership titles, even though Smith is the only person who, under the Tax Law, is authorized to enter into an MOU.

The IG has also found evidence of "extensive contact" with Senate and Assembly staffers by racino bidders.

"The Senate and individual senators have woefully failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that the Inspector General's subpoenas seek information that is 'utterly irrelevant' to this investigation and that inquiry would be 'futile'" the IG wrote.

"...In fact, such a claim would strain credulity as the Senate and its staff were undeniably involved in the process, actually interacted with executive officials, lobbyists and bidders, and obviously could shed light upon the actions that preceded the contingent selection of AEG."
[Daily Politics]
These three clowns should be ashamed and embarrassed, but I don't think those words are in the Albany vocabulary. I imagine that in the end, it will be clear that the conflicts of interest which led to AEG's selection was theirs and theirs alone, and that the governor was merely worn down to the point where he went along. If Paterson wasn't stupid enough to meet with Floyd Flake the next business morning after the selection, the heat on this matter would be firmly where it belongs.

Meanwhile, with no resolution to the budget talks in sight, the State Senate passed budget extender bills which will keep the government functioning....or should I say, "functioning," past the April 1 deadline during which the legislators will be out of town for the holidays. And, as was reported late last week, a temporary lifeline of $1.4 million to keep NYCOTB functioning at least through Derby Day was scuttled.

And that's where the drama lies now; forget about the racino, that ain't happening anytime in the near future with the governor determined to start the bidding anew rather than simply pick from one of the four passed over for AEG. You'll recall Charlie Hayward's assertion that "all bets are off" should OTB cease operations and the payments it makes to the association. (Though they owe NYRA back payments, they've kept current since filing for bankruptcy.) Albany Law School's Bennett Liebman told Paul Post last week: “If they stop paying NYRA, that’s it....Really, that’s more important than VLTs at the current time.” [Thoroughbred Times]`

- Monmouth Park has released its first condition book for its condensed racing season, and you can view it here. Charlie Hayward and PJ Campo don't want to look.
Included in the condition book are maiden special weight purses set at $75,000 and entry level allowance events for $80,000. By comparison, those races were run for $38,000 and $41,000, respectively, in 2009. In addition, all runners in all races are guaranteed $1,500 to start. [Monmouth Park Press Release]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Back From Paradise

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Outta Here

Time for our annual trip to tropical paradise, so the gate is closed until March 27. At least. Can't believe I'm going to miss the health care vote Florida Derby. Good luck at the tote and have a great week.

Friday, March 19, 2010

No Quick Fix

Community leaders are calling for a quick pick from the losing Aqueduct bidders.

“Given that no new bidders have entered into the Aqueduct selection process for over a year and that the state has all the financial and background information on the remaining bidders, it is conceivable that a quick, efficient and valid selection of an Aqueduct operator can be made,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). [Queens Chronicle]
The Senate Democratic leader Senator John Sampson is also reportedly in favor of a quick resolution, ostensibly because, he says, the state needs the money, but probably mostly to get it all over with before the Inspector General's report comes out and exposes the fact that it was he and his cronies who stubbornly held out for AEG, wearing down the governor until he went along.

But Paterson, whose statements and explanations are becoming increasingly bizarre and of questionable veracity, said the other day that he is hopeful that they'll come up with a procedure in a month!! And Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver apparently will not press the issue as long as the investigation is going on.

So this thing is obviously going to go on for awhile. Longer. At some point, NYRA will run out of money, and the state will, despite an unimaginable budget deficit that's almost five times the one that Albany couldn't quite deal with late last year, will figure out a way to step in and keep racing going. I suspect that I'm in the stark minority of those who still believe the latter. We'll see.

Interesting to note that the governor wants to scrap Sheldon Silver's condition that every single investor, down to the last speck and drop, be eligible for licensing by the state.
"We're going to have to have something in there that goes to the spirit of what the speaker wants, but it's got to be one that's actually practical and feasible," the aides said. [Daily News]
Of course it was exactly that which ultimately led to the DQ of AEG. You can bet that they're just going to love that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saratoga - Life Goes On

Governor - yes, still! - Paterson said on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the Saratoga racing meet is threatened.

“There are financial encumbrances that the racing authority is going through, but I wouldn’t project that the Saratoga racing season is in jeopardy at this point."
Feel better yet?
"That may have, in itself, been a bit brash. But the basic notion that the racing association is suffering – the racing association was suffering prior to this recession.” [Capitol Confidential]o
Here, the governor descends into incoherence. Consider too that he made this statement while signing a bill regarding end-of-life health decision making.

That's the kind of decision making that Assemblyman Gary Pretlow was hinting at on Monday. He too dismissed the chances of a shutdown upstate; but still, I found it rather jarring to hear him discuss quite seriously the "worst-case scenario" of Aqueduct or Belmont closing "for a week or two" instead. Pretlow is doing his part to prevent a closure, rejecting NYC OTB's crazy harebrained scheme to cut statutory payments and borrow money; and instead calling for a drastic reduction in executive salaries and the purchase of a single tote operator to serve all of the state's racetracks and regional OTB's. Seems like a reasonable start.

In any event, the way I see it, no way is there any chance of an interruption of racing at Saratoga. That is not happening, I don't care about the doomsday scenario presented in the Times Union's Saratoga Seen blog the other day. Everyone makes money there....well, not everyone. But, you know, the state gets its fair share of the big handle there, and it doesn't have to worry about NYRA for six plus weeks. Maybe they'll even select an operator for Aqueduct by the time it's over.

Monday, March 15, 2010

No Dignity In Ducking Zenyatta

I can't really blame Jess Jackson for being scared of seeing Rachel Alexandra get her little butt kicked by Zenyatta. But even he says that "she is healthy"; though "she is not in top form."

Well, a hard race and 26 days with a future Hall of Fame trainer should take care of that. Shouldn't it? I mean, as several commenters noted, had Zardana not been in the race, and she won by 11 with a 100 Beyer, we'd be looking forward to Oaklawn, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. "We now regret we tried to accelerate her training in order to meet the Apple Blossom schedule." Here's Jackson implying that he was somehow coerced into pointing to the race, like when he blamed people for "forcing" him to run Curlin on the awful plastic in the Breeders Cup.

If Rachel was 80-85% on Saturday, as Jackson says, shouldn't she be at least 90-95% in four weeks after a productive effort? Unless there's something about her condition that we're not being told? And, given the tactical advantage that her speed gives her over Zenyatta....not to mention the highly significant fact that Zenyatta will be running on dirt, a surface over which she's only raced on once, meaning there's no guarantee she could replicate her recent raging form....wouldn't that give her a decent shot? And besides, as long as she is indeed healthy, what's the worst that would happen? She might - gasp - lose to Zenyatta? Would that really sully her reputation, or drive Jackson into disgrace? Do we all think of Alydar as a hopeless loser? Is all this really that important? Jess Jackson has no respect for this sport or its fans.

And here we have Joe Drape, whose relentlessly negative articles around big race days has probably done as much to sully the reputation of this sport as anything, supporting these guys: They have made a wise decision.

Because of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, for the first time in decades the sport has been made accessible and relevant to folks who thought horse racing was a time-capsule relic, and a cruel one at that.
Yeah, those are probably the people who have been reading your articles!
It is far more important to preserve that sentiment, as well as Rachel Alexandra’s dignity, than it is to force some sort of showdown that has often ended in calamity. Remember Ruffian against Foolish Pleasure? [NY Times]
Oh please, spare us...I can't believe he played the Ruffian card, how lame! You wanna also tell me that health care reform will end in the government running our lives and deciding who lives and dies? Did Drape complain when Jackson ran this filly back in the Preakness off two weeks rest? (I'm asking.) Now that was something to worry about! And what's this about Rachel Alexandra's dignity?? SHE'S A FUCKING HORSE! She has no dignity! She's paraded around a racetrack naked, relieves herself in the full view of the public, and gets beaten with a whip if she's not running fast enough! How about the dignity of this sport, which could sure use a showcase moment, even if it was only for the deserving hardcore fans on a Friday afternoon?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rachel's Loss No Excuse

Joe Drape's lede in his story for the Times on Rachel Alexandra's defeat reads:

This was supposed to be an exhibition for Rachel Alexandra, an opportunity for the reigning Horse of the Year to take a lap before an adoring public. [NY Times]
Oh, I thought it was her first race in six months, intended primarily to help her get some conditioning, and to get ready for a more important race in four weeks. And if her connections do "reassess her schedule," as Steve Asmussen indicated (according to Drape) and decide to pass a meeting with the mighty Zenyatta on April 9, it will be simply because they want to, and nothing to do with the result of the New Orleans Ladies Stake. This filly needed a race, period.

Ridden in accordance with his instructions, Calvin Borel sat off a fairly quick pace, and Rachel continued under restraint as she took the lead turning for home at a time when, under other circumstances, she might have opened up lengths and discouraged the competition.
"I wanted to let her run her race early but they wanted me to wait. I wanted to go on past the speed horse early (Fighter Wing). I’d have got by her anytime and my filly could have gone on but they wanted me to wait and not get into her until the sixteenth pole. [Bloodhorse]
If you instruct your rider to take a horse out of its game, and ride a race as if it's just a prep, don't then come crying to me about the horse not being dead-solid perfect if she happens to get beat. There was nothing wrong with Rachel Alexandra's race; she showed her class by fighting to the end, and still earned a Beyer of 100; not bad for an off day. The winner had dominated in her prior three dirt races (all in Brazil), and might just be very good. It's a race that can only benefit the defending Horse of the Year. "The filly's lacking fitness," said Asmussen. But horses get fit with tighteners like this, and I bet she'll be fitter for the effort in a few days. If she's not, they might as well retire her now.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Exit AEG

Remember that Governor Paterson had, laughably, recused himself from the mess surrounding Aqueduct Entertainment Group that he helped to create. (And recusing sure seems to be a trend these days in the eternally conflicted capital.) So the announcement of the demise of the group's racino project was in the form of a statement issued in his name; and a terse and detached one at that.

“The Division of the Lottery has concluded that it cannot issue a gaming license to Aqueduct Entertainment Group.....Therefore, the state has officially withdrawn its support for AEG” to develop and operate the video lottery facility. [Bloomberg]
I can't imagine though that even Paterson couldn't help but roll his eyes shake his head when he saw was read the part about the next selection being "done pursuant to an expedited, transparent, apolitical, and publicly accountable procurement process." Of course, the process that led up to this latest failed selection was none of the above; had it been, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Nice of him to think of that now.

There seems to be some question as to whether the problem is that Lottery, as Paterson claims, cannot issue the license (not that the governor would ever lie); or whether they just don't want to.
An official at the lottery who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the lottery division did not want to issue AEG a license because the structure of its partnership underwent continual changes since the group submitted its bid last May, including several changes just prior to a deadline to submit background materials on the partners on Tuesday. [Daily Racing Form]
Those last minute changes included the departures of Floyd Flake and Jay-Z; and Elizabeth Benjamin reported that those were the final straws.
"Such belated removals could not be expected during the ongoing (Lottery) investigation since they created the appearance that AEG was being allowed to conceal relevant information,” an official with the state Lottery Division said.

“AEG claims they’ve given us everything, but you can’t say someone is in one day and then when we want to see their (background) information, say, ‘No, they’re not in anymore. It doesn’t work that way.” [Daily Politics]
But, for one thing, by eliminating individuals with any possible issues - all investors with insignificant stakes as far as I've seen - wasn't AEG merely complying with the conditions set forth to it by Sheldon Silver? And what's really the big problem with two investors who owned barely over 1% combined withdrawing out of their own substantial self-interest in keeping their personal financial information to themselves (knowing the details would turn up in a Fred Dicker column before too long)?

OK, I know, now I'm sounding like a big AEG supporter again, and say what you will. I know, they obviously were not the most qualified. But at this point, I'm fed up enough to settle for qualified enough. The group was apparently prepared to hand over the $300 million and finally get this thing going. If Lottery can't license these guys over some minor stakeholders that are no longer even connected, how, in the case that SL Green/Hard Rock is up next, are they going to license an entity which is running blatantly illegal table games in Florida? And what will a likely AEG lawsuit do to the process?

And besides, do you want to see this thing go on for the rest of the year? While we've generally heard calls for a new winner to be selected from the losing bidders from this round, James Odato reports on Capitol Confidential that Paterson’s office said it wants to rebid the project and select a winner by Dec. 31, the governor’s last scheduled day in office. (!!)

That frightening statement is blind ignores the fact that NYRA is running out of money, and that the state is broke (though maybe Dick Ravitch has a plan to borrow money on NYRA's behalf).

It's funny - I recall when Paterson selected AEG, there was an initial report I read that it was all a clever scheme. The Assembly Speaker would reject the choice, thus putting the onus on the Senate Democratic leaders who persistently insisted on the group despite the obvious appearance of impropriety given the connection between Flake and Senator Malcolm Smith. And though it didn't quite work out that way, the end result was the same. However, the focus is all on the beleaguered governor instead of where it really belongs. Maybe if he wasn't foolish enough to have that ill-fated meeting with Flake, at a time when he was still delusional enough to believe he had a shot at re-election, that wouldn't be the case. Instead, it's Paterson who, again, ends up looking bad.

Of course, these days the governor looks bad compared to everyone around here. (Well....almost everyone.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not So Awesome

The owner's lot was full at the Big A when I arrived there on Saturday. It was a bright and beautiful day, and it almost seemed crowded. I guess that 4,028 people will make it seem that way these days.

But I can't hang at Aqueduct for much more than 2 1/2 hours nowadays, so I didn't make it to the Gotham (despite a decent score on a cold $28 exacta in the 5th). Surely, I would have taken a bath had I stayed and found a horse I liked to beat Awesome Act as the favorite in his first race on of those no-brainers as far as I'm concerned. And besides the fundamentals, I'd decided additionally that the colt is totally bred for grass on his distaff side, being out of Mr. Prospector half sister to a host of Euro stakes winners, including the successful, and deceased stallion Machiavellian. It's also the female family of the Arc winner Bago.

And despite his Gotham win, I still think his best days could very well come on grass. I think the fact that people seem to be hepped up on this colt off of this race just shows how hazy and wide-open the Derby picture is. Sure, he gets full credit for shipping in and handling the surface change. And his trip was not uneventful; he was in and among horses and showed ample poise and professionalism.

However, Awesome Act also benefited from a highly favorable pace scenario which set up his late run against a field of questionable quality. The first quarter was run in 22.85; the four-year olds Wall Street Wonder and Custom For Carlos were only slightly faster at 22.76 in the six furlong Toboggan. The half split of 46.60 was easily the quickest of the day in routes. And the horses who ended up 2-3-4 behind him were two who were making their third career starts and going beyond six furlongs for the first time; and the sixth-place finisher in the LeComte whose highest Beyer was 80. Further back were the top three finishers in the Whirlaway, dismissed by the bettors, and rightly so as it turned out.

So I'm tabbing Awesome Act to bet against in the Wood should he be favored against some new faces with more experience and talent than these.

- She & Him is the lovely and talented Zooey Deschanel, and Monster of Folk M. Ward. And given the bright blue skies and the itsy bitsy taste of spring at the races this past weekend (still a bit too chilly for me to get excited), their song In The Sun seems an appropriate one. And it has a pretty cool video too.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

AEG Probe Is Special

James Odato reported in the Times Union on Monday that Inspector General Joseph Fisch has recused himself from the investigation into the selection of AEG because he's a Paterson appointee. The probe will be handled by Special Deputy Inspector General Philip Foglia. What makes him Special I'm not sure, but I suppose we'll find out.

Records required cover every e-mail, letter or report associated with the matter, according to a subpoena.....The award set off a controversy fueled by some of the finalists in the bidding war -- so fierce that a private entity furnished a thick investigatory report to the Lottery Division late last summer critical of people once associated with AEG, according to two people, one who saw the document said.
Catching up a bit, a couple of interesting quotes in an article by Paul Post in the Saratogian from Friday. Charlie Hayward said that NYRA is seeking $30 million from the state, to be repaid from slots revenue. “We’re in discussions with the state....They understand their obligations.” And NYRA's general counsel Patrick Kehoe added: “We’re close."
Hayward said NYRA could generate considerable extra money if certain legislative and regulatory changes were made, but chided state officials for failing to act.
He's talking about uncoupling trainer entries, and allowing live streaming of races on its betting platform. NYRA is not permitted to do by law because the OTB's aren't; isn't that Special? And, of the report issued earlier this year by the Task Force on the Future of Off-Track Betting which called for consolidation of certain operations of NYRA and OTB (stopping short though of recommending a NYRA takeover), Hayward said: “I think that report’s going to sit on a shelf and never be acted on." There's a big surprise.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Gulfstream Sunday

I've picked some live runners at fair odds lately - including, on Saturday, Summer Romance (5th by a length, head, and neck, and a fleeting moment at which she looked like she had a shot, at 22-1 in the Herecomesthebride; and Custer, third by a length and a nose at 5-1 in the finale - and, though they didn't get the job done, I figure that eventually I'll get a couple home if I can keep doing that. Right? So, forging on...

In the 5th, Paris Weekend (6-1) showed a bit of improvement with blinkers on three races back; and much more so when she was then stretched out to the one-turn mile distance of this race. This daughter of the AP Indy sire Full Mandate had to wait for room after moving up sharply inside on the turn, then angled out and wore down the leader before getting caught late. Coa returns; another shot here.

In the 10th, Saint Jude (8-1) comes off a maiden special win over Paddy O'Prado, who came back to win the G3 Palm Beach with a 93 Beyer on Saturday. There goes 8-1 I guess. Still a tough task stepping up to face winners, so you have to demand some value; but I love the way this three-year old son of Eurosilver has taken to the grass. He was three wide on the first turn of that last race; and a good 4-5 wide turning for home. Still, he came home in 11 2/5 (don't you love turf racing?) and prevailed in a long drive over Kaiser Chief, a $450,000 Johannesburg colt making its grass debut for Pletcher, and finishing almost three lengths in front of Paddy O'Prado. His prior was a second in a race which has produced four subsequent winners. Trainer David Vivian repeats a successful workout pattern with a five furlong breeze a week before this race. Solid barn, 20% over the last three years, has had a slow meet, but has shown signs of life with a win (Givonna Alyssa at 26-1), a narrow second and a third with his last three starters at the meet. Forty Nine Acres (5-1) seems overpriced at those odds; lone grass try was an excellent second at this level with a field high Beyer.

Gulfstream Saturday

The 7th at Gulfstream is the G3 Herecomesthebride. Tough race with four out of the top five finishers in the last month's overnight Coconut Grove Stakes meeting again after they all finished within 1 3/4 lengths of each other. Musical Romance (8-1) did not come out of that race, and maybe will get overlooked in the betting despite having beaten In the Rough (4-1), the Coconut Grove winner, two races back. Three-year old daughter of Concorde's Tune was forced to take up when she found a wall of horses while gaining on the turn; and she showed determination and a nice closing burst to get home in time. It was an impressive move forward off her turf debut, and, after a race on the synthetic at Ocala which I'll toss, she's a play at this price in her third grass try, breaking from the inside two hole.

In the 8th, Custer (5-1) has been a consistent performer on the turf since switching to the surface at Monmouth last summer, fits in this flawed field class and Beyer-wise, and starts from a favorable post for the live Edward Plesa barn (three wins and four seconds from his last 13 starters here). Tierra Del Tigre (12-1) came on last fall on Woodbine; graduated on the grass, and returns to that surface off a layoff after two good efforts on the Poly. Versatile and consistent four-year old son of Catienus could add value to the exotics here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Gulfstream Friday (Updated with Nyra)

In the 4th, Ancient Sunlight (4-1) is back after just three weeks, and that in itself seems significant. Trainer Bill Turner, who lit up the tote with Platinumplus ($53.20) last week, has found it difficult to keep this one on the track; just one of his first six races is not followed by a layoff line. The only exception though resulted in a narrow loss at Belmont last summer. Here, he returns to the grass and drops in class from his previous tries on the green. Two races back, in maiden special company, he lost by just 3 1/2 lengths to the impressive Dynamoor, who we mentioned the other day after his second straight subsequent win. Love the two workouts since the most recent race; looks ready to go with Prado aboard. Perfect Boom (3-1) should benefit from his inside post after a wide journey last time out; likely favorite for Tagg has settled for minor awards two tries this level.

In the 9th, Ermine Slippers (5-1) is another one who has raced infrequently; her latest layoff is three months. She always seems to give a good account of herself though, and should definitely like the return to turf after her last effort on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, for trainer Christophe Clement. Daughter of El Prado may also appreciate her reunion with jockey Joe Bravo, who rode her to her two best career efforts, which came after the addition of blinkers. Gets a nice post in a tough field with other main contenders drawn outside. Siren Seranade (3-1) has been beaten as the favorite in her last three, and switches to Castellano today.

- Quite an evening at the Guggenheim Museum last night. For it's 50th anniversary, it staged a three hour performance art piece featuring video artist Danny Perez, and Brooklyn's much-beloved indie art-rockers Animal Collective. Hard to exactly describe, you had to be there on the ramps which ascend up and around the building's massive circular tower; but video projections and light shows were accompanied by an original score composed by the band (which appeared and "performed" in costume, though the music was recorded). The tower was completely wired for sound, and the music literally seemed to swirl around the building. The sound board was visible to the public, and a computer screen showing the potential paths of the music looked like one of those maps of Los Angeles' highways from those old Johnny Carson routines. It all provided for an eerie and captivating effect. Time Out NY suggested that you BYOLSD; don't know if that was quite necessary, though a bong hit or two certainly wouldn't have hurt.

Of course, then I had to go and ruin it all by catching the second half of the Rangers losing to the Penguins while being outshot 24-1 over the third period and overtime!

This is the video for the song Brother Sport, from Animal Collective's 2009 release [Merriweather] Post Pavilion, which you've surely heard of if you checked out any top ten album lists from last year.


Helen Mirren as Nyra, an evil queen of the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, where the birds are actually brainwashed into becoming soldiers...that from the new film Legend of the Guardians. And, you know, it's animated, so that's not really Helen Mirren. More in the comments section.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Strike Three?

Apologies to the NY Post for the headline. The right-wing rag is particularly proud, since it was its own Frederic U. Dicker (credited by name in the Times today) who first broke this story. I'm busy today, but I'd certainly be remiss if I didn't post the Commission on Public Integrity's findings on Governor Paterson's receipt of World Series tickets from the Yankees last fall (and I certainly wouldn't want to be accused of bias!). In any event, the report speaks for itself. As is so often the case, it's the coverup - which in this case, according to the Commission, includes lying under oath (indeed, the Times, in its third consecutive front-page right-hand column on Paterson, notes that the commission had asked prosecutors to determine if criminal charges should be brought) - that is worse than the crime.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Two Sides To Every Story

The Times kept up the pressure on Governor Paterson with another story in prime time on the front page of the print edition on Wednesday. Investigators Are Told of Paterson Bid to Quiet Accuser, reads the headline.

'Make This Go Away'
It's not until you get to page A29 that you get to read Paterson's version.
The governor has begun telling top state Democrats that he had a conversation with Ms. Booker only because she reached out to him to complain that she was being pestered by reporters from The Times.
And there are a couple of articles in other outlets - Daily Politics and the Village Voice - that elaborate on his side of the story.

And I'm not taking that side for now....I just don't know. Nobody does for sure except for the parties involved. The investigation is ongoing. So I'm just saying that just because something is published in the right hand column on page A1 of the New York Times doesn't make it true. As we've seen in the past, and with tragic results.

Gulfstream Wednesday

In the third, Wicked B. Havior (4-1) returns from a ten month layoff for Barclay Tagg. This barn is having a rough Gulfstream meeting, with just four winners from 53 starters. However, Tagg is a solid guy as we know, and these things tend to even out over time. And maybe those two close seconds on Saturday (including Nehantic Kat at 14-1 in The Very One) are an indicator of a turnaround? This seven-year old son of Unbridled's Song was in career best form coming off a two year layoff last year; and his best race was a narrow second to Discreet Treasure in a key race over the track at this mile distance with today's rider Joe Bravo aboard. (And Bravo also rode the horse to two impressive wins in 2006.) Tagg is just OK off the layoff - 12% over 180; and 1 for 15 over 270, though in the money nine times. But steady works and heavily flawed first and second ML choices make him the pick. Hold Me Back (6-5), second in last year's sloppy Travers with his 415 Tomlinson, is 0 for 1 on fast dirt tracks, and has never run in a one-turn race. Our Edge (3-1) has a lot to prove coming off three uncompetitive efforts, excuses in his last notwithstanding.

- Wow, did you guys see the TV ratings for the gold medal hockey game on Sunday? It was the third highest ranking Olympic broadcast, most of those in prime time. That compares favorably to this year's NFL wild card playoff games, according to the NY Times' sports media columnist Richard Sandomir.

And right underneath his column in the print edition of the Times is a story on horse racing - Joe Drape reporting on the animal cruelty trial of Ernie Paragallo. Our sad little sport is still playing defense while the NHL tries to capitalize on the exposure. Of course, we do have our big filly showdown coming up. On a Friday late afternoon.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Blockhead Gov Created His Own Blockbuster

The most incredible thing to me about the latest, and possibly last straw article in the NY Times about Governor Paterson is the timing of the events described therein. According to the story, the governor's press secretary, on his orders, called the woman (still being identified only as such in the Times; no longer in the Daily News) on the very evening that the Times was preparing to publish its first article in the series - the widely-panned piece on Paterson's close aide, and accused domestic abuser - David Johnson. It was on February 9 that Paterson was interviewed by the Times' Danny Hakim, and subsequently bragged that there was no blockbuster story that would cause him to step down, as was widely rumored the time.

It was another week, on Feb 16, that the first article was published, and it contains the following passages regarding the two incidents involving Johnson and a girlfriend, one in 2001, and the one last October:

Asked last week about the episode, Mr. Paterson said he was not aware of it. But the governor recalled a separate episode involving Mr. Johnson and a woman, which he said also occurred in 2001, where the police were called.
The governor said he was aware that Mr. Johnson might have had another problematic encounter with a girlfriend last October in the Bronx. He described it, essentially, as a bad breakup.
So, according to this timeline, Paterson had already been questioned by the Times on the October assault in question.....but then still allegedly initiated the calls to the woman nearly a week later, despite the fact that he knew that the Times was aware of the incident and snooping around. It's hard to believe that he could be that complacent about the paper's intentions. Paterson himself actually created the blockbuster that the Times didn't have. He stepped right into his own poop. That kind of poor judgment goes far beyond the mere political naivete we all agree he is guily of, and into the realm of shocking stupidity. Almost like a death wish.

I had predicted, should it come to pass that Paterson's initial contention that the woman had initiated the contact to him was a lie, that he would be gone within 48 hours. So the clock is ticking on that. But so far, the calls for his resignation have been scattered at best; he even picked up some support from Sheldon well as from a group of Latino lawmakers, including Senators Ruben Diaz Sr and Pedro Espada. That should come as no surprise, considering that those two voted against the expulsion of Hiram Monserrate, an actual convicted domestic abuser, rather than "mererly" an alleged coverer-up.

And of course, Paterson, who affirmed late on Tuesday that he will not resign, deserves the opportunity to tell his own story; the accusations are merely ones made in a newspaper. Nothing he will say could excuse his lack of judgment, and it's certainly a fair argument in my mind that it was lacking enough so that he should go. Still, I'm thinking that he's gonna hang on here, at least for awhile.

Late Payment

Governor Paterson said on Monday that the deficit for the new fiscal year which begins on April 1 has "probably" grown from $8.2 billion to $9 billion because several expected payments will be late or not materialize..

His list included a $300 million payment from a slots machine vendor for Aqueduct Racetrack and $200 million from the Battery Park City Authority. [Reuters]
Perhaps Paterson is just being realistic given that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (the subject of a scathing attack by Senator Eric Adams on Monday) has said that he won't sign off until the Inspector General is done with his probe, which certainly won't be concluded by April 1.

Indeed, Tom Precious reports on
Sources, however, said negotiations with the state over a memorandum of understanding for the casino agreement are proceeding. One source said talks were scheduled for March 1 with state officials to try to reach a final deal on various aspects of the AEG contract for the VLT operation. [Bloodhorse]
However, Precious adds, ominously:
There has been growing chatter.....that some state negotiators might be interested in putting off the Aqueduct project until after January, when a new governor takes office.
Oh, man! We could surely kiss our beloved Big A goodbye should that happen. A new governor could very well turn his/her attention to a grander project at Belmont rather that starting this process over again.

That doesn't make sense to me though. I think that this project can still happen with AEG (if they come up with the payment!) - the state really has no incentive to kill it and have to deal with a bankrupt NYRA and a $300 million hole to fill. I also think that this probe by the Inspector General is just bullshit; he's not going to find anything illegal. Dicey, probably, and the Senate Democrats will come out looking the worst (Paterson has no reason to pull any punches in his testimony, does he?); but what concrete evidence of what is he going to find that will kill the deal? A written quid pro quo with Floyd Flake? And I surmise that the feds may become less interested in the matter now that the governor has bowed out of the race. The community is fine with it, as are the local representatives. So this thing should still happen (which of course doesn't mean that it will).

- This piece by James Odato on Capitol Confidential is certainly worth reading. It concerns a "huge, long-term bid award, papered in controversy.....and it did not involve a racino at Aqueduct Race Track." A lot of this sure sounds familiar - a winning bidder being accused of not meeting "vendor responsibility, experience or financial standards;" not to mention having Joe Bruno as its CEO.

- Frank Stronach now says he won't replace the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. Not because it's gonna get any better of course. Frank won't spend the money (which the bankrupt Magna doesn't have anyway) until the state backs off and allows "free enterprise."
"Let us open up our store when we think we get the most customers.....Let the market decide . . . whoever is going to put on a better show will get the greatest market."
"So what?" Stronach said. "We're saying, you can race when you want to race. Are you afraid to compete?" [Daily Racing Form]
Hmmm, sounds like Frank's been smoking some of those tea party leaves. Aren't you glad he's still around?

Monday, March 01, 2010

There Is Silver In You

Well, I suppose it was all for the best. Canada got its damn gold; we wouldn't have wanted to see people try and hurt themselves and be subjected to the horror of government-run single payer health care. Jeez! Y'know guys, we wouldn't have thought any less of you as the prevalent hockey power in the world if you had lost, eh? The silver-medal-winning U.S. team, only a handful of which would even have been considered for Team Canada, played with determination and tenacity and took the home team to the limit, leaving us with a classic moment along the way.

Great job, by the way, by the NHL which incredibly did not run a single ad for itself during the entire broadcast (during which ads were limited to between periods), thus failing to take advantage of what must have been some kind of record viewership for the sport. Hmmm, does that remind you of another marketing-dysfunctional sport?

Meanwhile on Sunday, at Gulfstream, Christine Daae ($2.80) was pounded on the tote from 5-2 ML first time against winners, and first time two turns in the 6th. Biancone's filly, by Giant's Causeway out of a stakes-winning Dehere mare (distaff family of FOY winner Highland Park), is nominated to the Triple Crown.

On Saturday, Sabin winner Aurora Lights ($23) was the second longest shot on the board, but the only horse other than 7-5 Justwhistledixie (the second choice) to have previously won a graded stakes. She's a four-year old daughter of Pulpit out of a Lord At War mare, and she's a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes winner Master Command. She's also very closely related to Dynamoor ($5.40), an impressive winner of the race before on the grass, in which I was positive he was being way overbet first time against winners. Between that and the well-bet first-time dirt horses Radiohead and Amen Hallelujah, a couple of my standard rules did not work out at all...just one of those days as far as I'm concerned. I'd approach those situations the same way every time. The second dam of Aurora Lights is the third dam of Dynamoor; and the latter is a half-brother to the G1 grass winner Honor In War, and hails from the female family of the likewise La Gueriere and Al Mamoon.

- OK, completely off topic, how about a couple of music notes regarding bands other than Dinosaur Jr for a change? Chris Knox is a prolific singer/songwriter from New Zealand who, according to his website, has released 46 albums, both in his own name and as the leader of bands such as Tall Dwarfs, over the last three decades. He's one of those pop song machines who somehow flies totally under the radar; Robert Pollard comes to mind as an American equivalent. But when Chris suffered a debilitating stroke last year, some of this country's top indie artists were eager to contribute to a tribute album intended to help with his medical expenses.

The album, called, appropriately enough, Stroke: Songs for Chris Knox, includes contributions from Yo La Tengo, Bill Callahan, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Stephen Merritt of Magnetic Fields, Portastatic, AC Newman of New Pornographers, The Mountain Goats, Lou Barlow of....well, Dinosaur Jr. (sorry), and the late Jay Reatard. There are also contributions from some Down Under stalwarts such as The Chills, David and Hamish Kilgour of The Clean, The Bats, The Verlaines, and Shayne Carter of the long-gone but fondly-recalled Straitjacket Fits. Stroke is available in the U.S. on Merge Records.

Four Tet is the nom de plume of the British electronic artist/producer/DJ Kieran Hebden. His latest album, There Is Love In You, is a delicious collection of hook-filled, mellifluous electronica set to cozy dance beats. It's available on the UK label Domino and, of course, at the online download store of your choice. That choice should probably be Lala, where you can preview all of the tracks in their entirety once before purchasing for cheaper than ITunes. (For now, since Apple recently purchased the site.)

The Four Tet video below is actually a few years old, from the album Everything Ecstatic, but I think it's really cool, so here it is: