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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Extra Extra

The Dirt Mile is my favorite of the extra races that were added to the Breeders' Cup event in 2007; and one of just two, along with the F&M Sprint, that I will consider for a serious wager. It always seems to attract a competitive field of horses not quite good enough to race for the big prize (though in some cases simply not suited for the distance), which may make for its inclusion as a "World Championship" ludicrous, but generally makes for an attractive betting contest featuring horses with North American form that one can make sense of. And isn't betting the whole idea?

On the other hand, I won't be wagering seriously on the two juvenile turf races, both of which feature a host of horses shipping in from Europe. Doesn't mean I won't throw a few bucks on a longshot based on breeding or a hunch. But you're just guessing when trying to judge the competitive merits of North American horses versus the European ones. Personally, I'd be just as happy if all of the BC races were limited to horses that have started at least once in North America.

Here Comes Ben comes into the Dirt Mile after a two month layoff following his win in the Forego, which came some ten weeks after he won the Kelly's Landing over the Churchill track. That relative lack of activity is my main concern regarding a horse that I otherwise really like in this spot. Always love to see a horse who improves at four in the way that he has, especially with the bulk of that improvement coming after he was switched exclusively to one-turn races such as this one (the first time that the Dirt Mile will actually be run at that distance, and around one turn). In fact, put a line through the races other than those, and Here Comes Ben has four wins and a second in five starts (four of them at Churchill, including his graduation at a mile). He'll be going a furlong longer than he did in his last three races, but I think that will only help given his late-running style, and the possibility of a contested pace up front.

Love the breeding too; he's by Street Cry out of a mare by Dayjur mare who's a half-sister to the dam of Albertus Maximus, who won this race in 2008, as well as to a couple of sprint winners overseas. And as far as that layoff goes, he demonstrated his sharpness last week in a bullet half mile work at Keeneland.

Here Comes Ben then galloped out five furlongs in a sensational 584/5 and six furlongs in 1:124/5. [Louisville Courir Journal]
“The track is admittedly very fast here right now,” [trainer Charles] Lopresti said at Keeneland. “But he did it very easily. I told my rider to just let him run from the eighth pole home, and he really exploded to the wire and galloped out strong. The best thing was that he wasn’t even blowing when he came back to the barn.” [DRF]
Thiskyhasnolimit is another one with improving form who has also shown that he likes one-turn races at Churchill. He ran his two best career Beyers in his last two, both of those around two turns, most recently his game second to Lookin At Lucky in the Indiana Derby. Here he cuts back to the distance at which he won the Iroqois on this track last year. Tough spot to face older horses for the first time, and I know I've been dissing the three-year old crop. But this son of Sky Mesa out of a Deputy Minister half-sister to Bernardini seems to be coming to hand at the right time for Asmussen, and looks dangerous to me at a price. Shows a couple of excellent works over the track too, and would love some rain.

Tizway also comes off a couple of career best Beyers, and in one-turn mile races too. Depending on the post draw and whether Morning Line and Tropic Storm opt for their first preference races instead, he could find himself with a perfect stalking trip behind just one (Mad Flatter) or maybe two (Vineyard Haven) others. Nothing sexy or creative about handicapping this one; he's simply an in-form runner who has the tactical speed and talent to make it to the winner's circle. Classy pedigree - he's by Tiznow, out of a Dayjur mare who's a half-sister to the Grade 1 winners Will's Way and Willa on the Move.

Mad Flatter could find himself alone on the lead, and is yet another coming off a string of career best efforts. Incestuously-bred son of Flatter is inbred 2x2 to the half-brothers AP Indy and Honor Grades.

Vineyard Haven has only raced twice this year, and doesn't show evidence of improvement at age four. He can beat me, pass. Crown of Thorns shows fine form on synthetic tracks, though he's lost his last five. Not like I automatically throw out horses making their first start on dirt, but the price has to be right. I'd be on him at 8-1, but he figures to vie for favoritism. Gayego had had a disappointing year until winning at Presque Isle; that's not enough to convince me that he's good enough here.

In the F&M Sprint, Switch is listed at 10-1 by the Form, which is the only site where I've been able to find a definitive list of the pre-entries for each race (and it includes the race charts and videos for most of the entries' last races. I read that there are official preliminary morning line odds, but don't try to find them anywhere on the official Breeders' Cup sites. Seriously, is that too much to ask? That the official Breeders' Cup site would have the official Breeders' Cup pre-entries and odds? Maybe they are there somewhere...please let me know if I missed them.

Anyway, I discussed Switch here in this post, and I like her here; this is the kind of synthetic track horse at the right kind of odds, that I'm willing to back. (Switch did run once on dirt, a 4th at Gulfstream earlier in the year.)

Rightly So appears to be the likely favorite, and she looks like possible, if not probable, lone speed. However, I for one wouldn't be surprised to see her get run down in the long stretch in the seventh furlong. The Ballerina, which she dominated while achieving a career best fig of 100, may be a Grade 1; but that doesn't mean that it was a great race. I just don't think much of the field she beat; nor of the one in the Bed O'Roses, despite the fact the latter produced three subsequent winners. There's more to determining how strong a race was than how many horses simply won their next time out. Get the Formulator pp's (a worthwhile investment for these races) and check it out in more detail. She just hasn't been running against great horses. So I'll look to beat her should she be favored as expected.

Besides Switch, Champagne d'Oro is another who has the tactical speed to track the speed, as she did before drawing off to win the Test with a career best fig of 97. This was the culmination of a string of improved efforts since cutting back to one turn after fading badly in the Ky Oaks. After two months off, she rallied moderately to finish 4th, behind a couple of others in here, at Keeneland. But I look at that race strictly as a prep, and a useful one at that. She prefers dirt anyway, and has been working in spectacular fashion at Churchill. “She'll be 10-1 and run like 3-5,” said trainer Eric Guillot. That's the kind of odds we like. She's by Medaglia D'Oro out of Champagne Flow, a Saratoga Six half-sister to the ill-fated Grand Canyon, runner-up in the 1989 Juvenile.

Informed Decision prefers synthetic, and seems to have slowed down this year. Dubai Majesty switches back to dirt after three sharp efforts on turf or synthetic. She has run well on dirt too. But she seems to prefer six furlongs and shorter.

Sunday Morning Notes

Made it to Belmont for a bit on Saturday, and that's a wrap on the meeting for me, as I'll be elsewhere today.

Saw a couple of interesting maiden races. This time of year we see two-year old maiden races at longer distances, and these were both at a mile. In the second, Buffum was 4-1 on the morning line, making his debut for Darley, who paid $1.2 million for the son of Bernardini as a yearling at Saratoga. So, when I saw him fluttering between 6-1 and 7-1, I put him in the "dead on the board" category; a notion reinforced when he drifted up to 8-1 at post time. Wrong. My dependence on the tote board is either the strongest or weakest aspect to my game, I can't decide. Buffum ($18.20) eased his way to the lead around the turn after a hot early pace, and held off another first time starter in Cool Blue Red Hot (of whom I made a similar judgment based on the tote....the Angel Penna Jr barn is not generally one to hide its enthusiasm on a debut runner). The winner bore out under left-handed whipping, and a good job by David Cohen to straighten him out just in time to avoid fouling his rival, who did concede ample ground on the big turn for home. Joe Vann was an awful favorite at even money and checked in last, and I'm not red-boarding....left him off my tickets entirely.

Buffum is out of Storm Beauty, a stakes winning Storm Cat mare who's a half sister to the champion sprinter Gold Beauty, who is the dam of Dayjur, a horse who always brings back memories around Breeders Cup time.

The 4th was for the girls, and Royal Delta ($16.40), another first-timer, dominated after an eventful trip. No need to go to the videotape when we had our descriptive chart-caller on hand.

ROYAL DELTA, away in good order, was allowed to settle into stride down the backstretch, was guided into the three path departing the half mile pole, galloped into contention, displaying a tough of greenness in the process, encountered a wall of rivals spread out four deep, reacted kindly to the solid hold put to her by the rider, bided time behind the traffic, dove to a newly-created opening along the four path coming to the five-sixteenths pole, was forced to swing out an additional path turning for home, cruised to the front, being asked for the barest amount of speed, then proceeded to draw off to an authoritative victory while being ridden out to the finish line.
Royal Delta, a rare first-out winner for Bill Mott, is by Empire Maker, out of the graded stakes winner (on grass) Delta Princess, a full sister (by AP Indy) to the G1 Garden City winner Indy Five Hundred. So, wouldn't be surprised to see Royal Delta try the grass at some point.

- So it's on to the Big A, for what will presumably be the last meeting there conducted under the current dilapidated conditions. The groundbreaking ceremony did take place on Thursday, and, in this case, let's go to the videotape.

As I expected (and as the mainstream media subsequently reported as "news" [yawn]), the Senate Democratic leadership vilified in the AEG report did not show up. I mean, did anyone consider for a second that they would??? That's NYRA Chairman C. Steven Duncker talking at the end about the good fortune that NYRA and the racing industry has apparently lucked into after all these years. Still seems too good to be true, doesn't it? Nobody really deserves to get "credit" for it; I know that the governor is saying that he changed the process in a way that led to this result, but that, of course, wouldn't have happened if he hadn't allowed the prior round to spiral beyond his control.

A reader reminded me the other day that I myself had grown exasperated enough to be willing to settle for AEG once they were selected. Can't say I'm at all proud of myself for that little bit of misjudgment....but I was not the only one who was that fed up as I recall.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


This is Proviso galloping at Churchill yesterday...again, this photo is courtesy of Churchill Downs (and thanks to them for having the good taste to include yours truly on their media list). Goldikova might be the most tempting horse to single on the Saturday card. But I think that this mare is one, listed at double-digit odds (along with The Usual Q.T., who I mentioned previously), who is eligible to provide some value underneath. She's proven to be no match for the two-time defending Mile champ in the past. But all she's done this year is win four Grade 1's in a row, running just a bit faster (according to the Beyers, anyway) each time, for trainer Bill Mott, who took over from the late Bobby Frankel this year.

Gio Ponti is entered in the Mile, but as you probably know, will be going in the Classic instead where, as far as I'm concerned, he's a dead-on no-doubt-about-it throwout in his first race on real dirt. Just another case, like Paddy O'Prado, of a turf horse caught in the middle of the Mile and the Turf, and taking a shot on dirt for no other reason than possible breeding shed glory. Well, fine with me, just subsidizes the odds on the others, in my opinion.

Zenyatta galloped a mile and a half at Hollywood Park, and her trainer says: "She looks just terrific.....Her weight is great, her coat is perfect." And her exercise rider, Steve Willard, said:

“Is superb adequate enough?....Judging by her aggressiveness, she’s training really forwardly. If I gave her her head, she’d go [three furlongs] in 35 and change. Her mind is in a different place.” [DRF]

There might be a lot of good horses and compelling races on the two Breeders' Cup cards (though also several races that I personally couldn't care less about). But let's face it, all of it - Goldikova included - is just a preliminary for the Classic, which, in turn, is just a showcase for Jerry Moss' spectacular, undefeated champion. Win or lose. What an amazing story for this mare to take her 19 for 19 record into this final race of her career. Only the bitter sourpusses of the world, those who just can't bring themselves to accept change and innovation in the name of the attempted betterment of the sport (especially when it poses a threat to their own methodologies and perception of how races should be run), would possibly be rooting against her. I mean, in the name of playing the game, I might bet on others, especially if Dirty really wants to give me 10-1 on Blame. But, even if she beats you, if you can't enjoy a deep appreciation what she would then have accomplished, then I think you should just be playing the slots, or some other game with less takeout and better odds of success.

And I don't see why she can't and won't end her career in the storybook fashion that we all...or at least most of us....would like to see. I'm not buying this stuff about this being amongst the deepest and/or most talented Classic field ever. I think it's being way overrated. You have the two throwouts I mentioned above, plus a collection of some pretty nice horses - including some three-year olds from a terribly mediocre crop - whose success I would attribute mostly to the general deterioration in quality that we have in racing today. Zenyatta aside, I would venture to say that there's not a horse in this race - with the possible additional exception of Quality Road, who, however, is not going to last the mile and a quarter distance - who's nearly as talented as any of the three horses who battled to the wire in that very first Classic. And I say that knowing full well that none of those three are even close to ranking amongst the all-time greats of the game.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

BC Notes and Photos

- I'm on the Churchill Downs media list and been getting photos, so I thought I'd share a couple.

Here's Uncle Mo arriving at the track from New York, where he breezed a half in 49 4/5 on Sunday, his first work since the Champagne. Just ten pre-entered against him for the Juvenile.

He arrived, along with several other BC runners, just Tuesday afternoon. So no, he was not the Rand Paul supporter who stomped on the head of the woman from Move On before a Kentucky Senate debate on Monday night. Good thing for her I'd say.

The Juvenile is usually a race that I look to take shot somewhere. After all, it's like a blank canvas for these young horses, especially these days when they've raced so little. And it's often the case, as with Uncle Mo this year, that the favorite is trying two turns for the first time. But this year, the picture is especially uncertain - each and every one of the 11 juveniles will be running around two turns and on real dirt (in North America) for the first time (the 'in North America' is for Murjan, who raced at a mile in Peru). So while it's against my principles to bet a favorite who's doing something he or she has never done before, in this case Uncle Mo is surely not alone. So I'm thinking of him as a single candidate at this point. It certainly appears as if the route won't be a problem considering the way he's finished. Though that's all I have to go on really; not much on the catalog page, really, for this son of Indian Charlie out of a minor stakes placed daughter of the Super Derby winner Arch.

- Here's Haynesfield working over the track for the second time; this one a bullet (out of 7) six furlongs in 1:13 3/5. Asmussen's colt figures to face tactical problems given the presence of other speedy types like Quality Road, First Dude, and the improving Morning Line, but it certainly seems to me that he's a serious racehorse at this time.

Here's Switch breezing five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 (2/32) for the F&M Sprint....and this will be a switch for Switch, and in more than one respect. John Sadler's three-year old daughter of Quiet American has been routing of late, and comes off her career-best effort running second to Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret. But Sadler sounds like a man with a plan.

"I am not sure she wants a mile and eighth as a three-year-old....If the Sprint was six furlongs, she would not run but it is not really a 'sprint' sprint. Seven-eighths to a mile is her best distance. Next year we can come back in the (Ladies') Classic at a mile and an eighth." [BRIS]
She's also moving to real dirt, on which she's only raced once, a 4th in the Bonnie Miss at nine furlongs. She sure seems to love CD though; this work follows a bullet (of 40) half in 47 flat last week.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Breaking Ground

- Another press event at the Big A, on Thursday, this time to break ground on the construction of the racino.

Elected officials, union representatives and South Queens residents will launch project creating 2,100 jobs and generating more than $300 million in annual state revenue.
Governor Paterson will be among the scheduled speakers. On Tuesday, the governor proudly proclaimed that the AEG report "clears me of any wrongdoing, which I am very happy about." And it's true. Sure, he was criticized for acquiescing to the Senate Democrats' demand; but, on the other hand, the report emphasized just how insistent they were being. He was also criticized for choosing the advisors who chose not to advise him of the pertinent information provided by the Lottery. And that's fair I suppose, if a little bit of a stretch. But I'd say that he definitely comes off as the most innocent of the elected officials portrayed in the report....not that that's saying too much.

I'm gonna guess that neither Senator John Sampson nor Malcolm Smith will be there. Nor even Senator Eric Adams, even though you'd normally expect the chairperson of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee to be present to mark such a long awaited and significant occasion. But the AEG report concluded that Adams "was instrumental in persuading the Governor in January 2010 that the Senate was standing firm with its choice of AEG." Among other things, that makes the fact that Adams was one of the senators who was targeted to receive donations from AEG particularly concerning. And Adams was another whose testimony was labeled "incredible," "regarding a pivotal dinner with the Governor and Senator Sampson which was contradicted by both Governor Paterson and Senator Sampson, in an apparent effort to limit his involvement and responsibility in the choice of AEG."

I would expect however to see Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. appear, even though he drew attention in the report too for being ignorant on pertinent facts of the situation even though he represents the district.

I dunno, if I was a Democrat, with the election coming up in a few days, I personally wouldn't want to be anywhere near that track on Thursday morning. Sure, we have what appears to be a happy ending, with a big upfront fee, an enthusiastic and cooperative vendor, and creation of jobs. But isn't it too soon after too damaging a report, and too close for comfort, to an election, and to the subject at hand to be providing photo opportunities at this point?

The Fallout

- Here's an AEG-related ad that was rolled out by GOP Senator Jim Alesi against his Democratic challenger in the 55th SD, Mary Wilmot.

As is usually the case with negative ads, this one is deceptive and unfair in some ways. Ms. Wilmot, as she was not a senator (though an employee of the Senate Democrats), was not one of the persons named in the report as having a payment steered to her by AEG, as the ad infers. And the figure of $185,988 that flashes on the screen is the amount she's received in general campaign funds from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. To imply that she should return that entire sum is rather ridiculous.

However, she did receive some $18,500 from senators names in the report; some other Democrats have returned such funds, and Ms. Wilmot probably should too. And besides, the Democrats have brought this trouble upon themselves, and it's totally fair for any Republican running for office to bring this pervasive corruption to the attention of the voters.

(With Senator Alesi comfortably ahead in the polls, the whole matter is probably moot anyway; and his ad is likely intended just as much for general NY audiences courtesy of You Tube and the Daily Politics blog, where I found it.)

'Ridiculous' also describes the Democratic response to the ad.

"Jim Alesi doesn't want to talk about creating jobs, lowering taxes, or reforming Albany; instead he is focusing on the flawed Aqueduct procurement process Joe Bruno created and Jim Alesi supported."
Tax Law § 1612, which established the procedure which gave the three men in the room nearly sole authority to select the racino vendor, was created under the auspices of Bruno, along with Governor Spitzer and Speaker Sheldon Silver, both Democrats. And, by the way, Bruno at least had the good sense to stand down on the franchise selection when his ties to Empire Racing became known.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Veritable Case Study in Corruption

- Don't really know where to start in discussing Inspector General Joseph Fisch's report on the investigation into the shenanigans that resulted in the selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group to operate the Big A racino. The report (pdf file) runs 308 pages; about 90 of those deal with background. The rest are devoted to what was described as an unabashed favoritism towards AEG "nearly from the outset of the process" by the Senate Democratic leaders; leaked information on competitors' bids, a coordinated effort to target campaign donations from AEG to selected senators, a passive governor left in the dark (figuratively and literally, in his case) on the merits of the bidders by some of his closest advisors, agencies which did their jobs admirably seeing their conclusions ignored, conflicting accounts and incredibly (and convenient) lapses in memory, and a Speaker whose passive-aggressive approach to an outcome he knew very well was untenable cost the state additional time and money.

The short line in the long report which might best sum up what transpired is the one that called it "a veritable case study in dysfunctional and politically driven government." But that only scrapes the surface.

The report has become a contentious issue in at least one campaign in New York. And though the Republicans, a desperate breed in this state at least, are going overboard in some cases, as usual, I think it's a totally legitimate issue and one they'd be fools to not try to exploit to full advantage. I mean, I think the GOP is full of it in most respects; they've spent the last two years opposing the president at every turn, demonizing him merely for fulfilling his campaign pledges as if he's steered the country in some unexpectedly radical turn, and purposefully not condemned nor disassociated itself from the basest incitements of hatred and racism emanating from its fringe elements. (Not that it hasn't been brilliant politics of course, supplemented by the massive influx of money from anonymous conservative outside groups protecting their own self-interests.) But in this case, the conduct of the Democrats in question was so egregious, that it's all fair play as far as I'm concerned.

And, as I've written repeatedly here, what makes it all even more outlandish is that the connections between AEG and Senator Malcolm Smith were broadly reported from the very first day. Still, Smith, Sampson, and their cronies carried on the corrupt process in a display of brazen and shameless disregard for appearance and consequences that is shocking to me even in the context of Albany. Not to mention that this went on with the Bruno trial in the background.

If, like me, you haven't yet found the time to digest the report in its entirety, you can get a comprehensive overview by investing around 20 minutes to read the final section - 15 concise pages - FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS. Or, you can just scan through the Table of Contents. Here's some highlights:






1. Senator Malcolm Smith’s Illusory Recusal Due To Relationship With AEG....152

A. AEG INFLATES IT’S WIN-PER-DAY PROJECTIONS....................................183

C. AEG’S CONTINUED LICENSING PROBLEMS AND LOTTERY’S E-MAIL REGARDING AEG’S LICENSABILITY.......................................................194

X. SENATOR SAMPSON DISCLOSES INTERNAL SENATE MATERIALS TO AEG LOBBYIST CARL ANDREWS.........................................................................211


C. CARL ANDREWS IS FINANCIALLY REWARDED FOR HIS “DIRECT LINE TO SAMPSON”.............................................................232

B. AEG TARGETS CONTRIBUTIONS AT DIRECTION OF SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE....................................................................237

A. GOVERNOR PATERSON: SENATORS SAMPSON AND ADAMS DEMANDED SELECTION OF AEG..............................................................246



There you have it, basically. But let's take a closer look at some aspects which I found to be surprising or particularly noteworthy:

- As the process wore on, we started to read reports that Karl O'Farrell, the irrepressible leader of Capital Play, the Australian franchise contender who wanted to turn Aqueduct into a singles bar and build a "beautiful fence" around Saratoga, was involved with AEG (and, following the selection, that his involvement was one of the issues regarding their licensability). Turns out that he was more than just involved. At various points in the report, he is referred to as the "AEG founder!"

AEG was formed by two principal partners of the 2008 bidder Capital Play: Mohegan Sun, the well-established gaming operator, and Karl O’Farrell, the individual jettisoned by Capital Play due to his inability to obtain a New York State Lottery license. However, a few days prior to the May 8, 2009 submission deadline, Mohegan Sun announced it would not participate in the bid and AEG was required to find another gaming partner. Although O’Farrell was described by AEG to the executive agencies as an “independent consultant,” O’Farrell’s testimony, other AEG members’ testimonies, and documentary evidence demonstrate that he was an organizer and founder of AEG and clearly was a moving force behind AEG and its bid submissions.
As you may recall, AEG announced itself as a partnership of various entities along with the gaming company Navegante Group; O'Farrell was never mentioned, and AEG maintained a consistent effort to hide his involvement throughout.

The report also describes a relationship between O'Farrell and Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini, with whom O'Farrell testified that they "actually would catch up for a beer now and again.” Sabini lobbied for, and was granted a role in the selection process, and in an email to an AEG colleague, O'Farrell wrote “our friend has just been appointed by the governor to be a part of the aqueduct decision making process," which drew the response, "that is very good."
O’Farrell confirmed for the Inspector General that his “friend” referenced in these e-mails was Sabini.
While the report concludes that Sabini ultimately had no role in the actual selection, it calls his involvement "unwise in light of his contacts with O’Farrell."

- This was the first I knew of the involvement of Hank Sheinkopf with AEG. He's a prominent and well-respected Democratic consultant who has worked with the likes of Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, and Mike Bloomberg (well, mostly Democratic....though he's not the only one to have sold out to the Mayor).

Sheinkopf was able to obtain, from the office of Angelo Aponte, the Senate Secretary, "the actual Senate review documents which provided the exact components of each of its competitors’ submissions." The documents were emailed to Sheinkopf from Matthew Rey, the Special Assistant to the Secretary, with the note "Here is what I have as per Angelo." O'Farrell subsequently forwarded the memo to the AEG team "(subject: “Comparative bids”)," though not before having them electronically scrubbed to hide its source.

Aponte denied authorizing his assistant to send the materials, a claim that the IG called "implausible" and "simply not credible."
"Incredibly, Aponte went so far as to claim that Rey, a recent college graduate, had the authority to retrieve Aponte’s e-mails in order to obtain the materials and “probably” had the authority to unilaterally disseminate the memorandum and that this action would not be “inappropriate.”"
As for Sheinkopf's testimony, there was none. He invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, "as his answers could incriminate him in a criminal proceeding, and noted his intention to do so with every question." Unbelievable.

- OK, an 'I told you so,' if you don't mind here. When Governor Paterson met with AEG investor Rev. Floyd Flake the next business morning after the selection, I wrote that it was incredibly foolish and ill-advised. But I also maintained that it was nothing more than that, and that the bad press aimed at Paterson should have been reserved for the Senate Democrats instead. So, Voila! (Still floating from our Paris trip!) The Inspector General confirmed what we've all known - that Paterson was weak and passive in this matter - but also that he "adduced no nexus between the award to AEG and the Governor’s attempt to garner the support of Reverend Flake" (though that the "unfortunate timing" "undermined the perceived integrity of the selection of AEG."

The governor is portrayed as basically being clueless about the actual relative merits of the bidders; but the report accuses his advisors, of withholding pertinent information. The governor's General Counsel, Peter Kiernan, had a report from the Lottery which ranked the bidders in order of preference, with AEG being 5th out of 6 (and that's besides the fact that they were considered by Lottery to be unlicensable due to the presence of O'Farrell.) However, the report states, this information was deliberately withheld from the governor.
Consistent with Kiernan’s decision to not inform the Governor of the recommendations of the September 17 draft memorandum authored by the Budget Director and Governor’s Counsel’s Office, this new version deleted the recommendation contained in the original memorandum to commence negotiations with Wynn, and, if such failed, to proceed to SL Green, and to reject all other bidders including AEG.
The report also details testimony on the subject by Secretary to the Governor Lawrence Schwartz in which he repeatedly can't recall the events of oh, so long ago.
Schwartz further incredulously claimed to not recall myriad meetings he organized and attended, various e-mail correspondence between himself and other individuals, and numerous conversations in which he engaged, and claimed unawareness of the Governor’s selection of AEG despite personally engaging the Governor’s press office in a colloquy about the very subject.
The Inspector General, however, fails to even speculate as to why information was withheld from the governor as it was. But he doesn't let Paterson off the hook. "To the extent that this information was not sufficiently relayed to the Governor, fault lay in his choice of advisors and the directionless manner in which he acted to make his selection."

- Malcolm Smith recused himself early on after the reports of his ties to Flake and the Darman Group surfaced in the press. But the Inspector General is not buying it; in fact, at one point the word "recusal" appears in quotation marks, and he later refers to it as a "façade." The report relates several instances in which Smith received detailed information and charts about the progress of the process. And, the report references emails amongst AEG principals which "are replete with references to not only Smith’s support but his assistance."
For instance, on August 9, 2009, Larry Woolf, an AEG principal, wrote “It appears we have the support of Senator Smith, they have challenged his credibility due to past business with Rev. Flake. Hence, Sen Smith has formed a committee of four senators that will vote as one block for us. The Senators in that block are; Sampson, Adams; Abaddo; [sic] and Johnson.”
- Sheldon Silver revealed in his testimony with respect to the conditions that he placed on his approval of AEG, that he "was fully aware that the imposition of these conditions was tantamount to a denial of the Governor’s request that he accept AEG." So, then why didn't he just kill it than waste more time?
“I considered it, and then I determined that putting those conditions on it would probably have the same effect and would be better in terms of being consistent with what I had been saying all along,” that he had “no horse in this race.”
Nice to hear that Silver considered the perception of his neutrality ahead of the best interests of the public. The report further concludes that not only was Silver deficient in his judgment in that regard, but he was shirking his responsibility by law to act as one of the decision makers in the process.
..Speaker Silver was obliged to assert an active role to at least overtly eliminate vendors he found unacceptable and use his statutory authority to ensure that the most qualified bidder was awarded the franchise. Such action would have prevented the loss of much time, and expedited the infusion of urgently needed revenue.
- Senators Sampson, Smith, and Adams attended an affair shortly after the selection that was described by AEG as a "victory celebration."
It reflects, at a minimum, exceedingly poor judgment for these senators who were actively involved the selection of AEG to cast aside any pretense of preserving the appearance of objectivity and celebrate with AEG principals and lobbyists at the home of an AEG lobbyist paid to influence them in regard to a contract which had yet to be finalized.
OK, I'm tired of writing, and you're tired of reading, and we haven't even really gotten to Senator Sampson. I'm sure we'll have ample chance to detail the Senate Majority Leader's leadership role in the scandal (and his attempts to suppress the investigation) when the matter is brought up by the Legislative Ethics Commission (definitely) and/or the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (possibly....and, I might add, deservedly). Suffice....for now.... to relate these comments from Fisch:
"When Sampson appeared before us to answer questions, his testimony was incredible....I stopped counting the number of 'I don't recalls' when I reached 100." [NY Daily News]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Better Times Ahead For NY-Breds

Looks like it was a nice NY Showcase day at Belmont on Saturday, with, according to a NYRA press release, a 30% increase over last year's event; while on-track handle was up by 40&. Of course, when you're dealing with a baseline attendance number of 4,180, an impressive-looking % gain isn't too hard to come by. (And we won't even mention that it rained and the track was sloppy last year.)

In any case, the ten state-bred races were full of field, and mostly quite competitive on the tote. And this comes on the dawn of a new era, with the expected infusion of new blood and energy into the program thanks to the slots which we're told will be online at the Big A in May. So I'm sure I would have sensed the extra buoyancy (if I was there).

Friend Or Foe was certainly buoyant in his return to the friendly confines of state-bred competition in the Empire Stakes after his two futile tries in open company upstate. The son of Friends Lake, making still just his 6th career start, handled the field of mostly older horses easily. Wishful Tomcat is a pretty solid five-year old who has proved that he loves the track, and he was absolutely no match in the stretch for this three-year old after a perfect stalking trip. Friend Or Foe kicked home in 12.28 seconds, and earned a career-high Beyer of 100 while breaking the stakes record. The Cigar Mile at the Big A may be next.

First-time starter Adirondack Summer ($8.50) was a well-bet winner for Christophe Clement on the grass in the 5th. This is a two-year old son of Thunder Gulch out of a French stakes-winning daughter of Caerleon who's a half to at least four other horses who won or place in European stakes races on the lawn. This is also the distaff family of the US grass stakes winner Red Giant, and the Euro champ Bosra Sham. So plenty of grass pedigree here.

Trainer John Terranova celebrated the coming of slots by winning the first three races.

- As for me, couldn't resist the lure of free music and free booze (not just NY wine tasting!) courtesy of the Brooklyn Vegan blog and Converse. This was one of several daytime parties on the last day of the CMJ Music Festival. In addition to the mighty Titus Andronicus, who has developed into one of the most accomplished live bands on the local scene, I saw and enjoyed Nashville's rockin' Heavy Cream with their impressive vocalist Jessica, Montreal's shoegazing No Joy, Blacksburg, Va.'s Wild Nothing, and, from Detroit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. The latter was particularly busy during the festival, and seems poised to be one of those bands which will take off from the extra exposure. Below is their video for Nothing But Our Love, from their EP entitled Horse Power. So you should like the name of the EP, if not the band.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome to Resorts World

Hopefully, we'll never go there and hear this. (Can't find a clip of the John Candy line, please forward if you have it.)

Continuing this magical mystery ride, Genting insists that not only will racing be integrated into the racino, but that their building renovations will include the racing side as well. Those of you who have been to racinos at Saratoga, Yonkers, and Monticello know that that's not usually the case.

“The fact that they’re embracing racing as part of the makeover – a lot of the other companies a few years ago weren’t interested in doing that,” said Hal Handel, NYRA’s executive vice president and COO, who accepted the check. “So we’re going to walk out of this with a building that’s not only a world-class casino but is going to be a very different racetrack.”
“There might have to be changes in how people get into the building over a period of time when they’re doing the clubhouse lobby over,” Handel said. “We don’t expect to lose any racing days or expect to lose any training or have any problems on the track.” [Daily Racing Form]

Tough Spot for Sidney

Noticed some chatter in the comments section about Sidney's Candy's prospects and prospective odds in the Mile. Not to take anything away from his record-setting performance in the La Jolla, but it just seems like a tough sell to me. I mean, we're talking about a three-year old with a single turf start, a Grade 2 restricted to his age group, and who hasn't raced since August 14 taking on the undisputed top miler in the world in Goldikova.

And he only got a Beyer of 102. (I just said that to get DiscreetPicks all riled up!)

On the other hand, the kind of brilliant speed he showed that day at Del Mar is dangerous in any race, against any opponents. And John Sadler's colt is working up a storm of late.

Since Sept. 13, Sidney’s Candy has turned in six published workouts over a combined 34 furlongs. His last two, on the main track at Hollywood Park, have been bullets: five-eighths in 58.60 seconds on Oct. 11, and six furlongs in 1:11.80 on Monday morning.

“He galloped out in [one minute] 24 and four,” said Sadler said. “He’s ready to run right now. He’s sitting on go.”

Sidney’s Candy will have at least one more work at Hollywood Park, but then Sadler will have to decide whether the colt’s final breeze will come in California or at Churchill.

“I might breeze him on the turf course there,” Sadler said. [Daily Racing Form]
The son of Candy Ride has some Grade 1 precedent in his pedigree too. His second dam is Exchange, who was a G1 winner on the turf in the Santa Barbara Handicap, the Santa Ana Handicap, and the Matriarch. Sidney's Candy would have to show the kind of gameness through the stretch that his granddam did in the latter. Exchange, by the way, raced in the colors of owner Sidney Craig.

Goldikova is racing in the best form of her already brilliant career, at least if you go by the Racing Post figures, and is being offered at around even money overseas. She is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs from Europe on Oct. 30..

The Usual Q.T. is a go for the Mile, and any horse who can sport a turf record of 10-8-2 (not counting a trip to Dubai) against top competition has to be of some interest when it comes to rounding out the tickets.

- Zenyatta had a well-orchestrated drill at Hollywood on Friday.

Shirreffs said he was not concerned about the final time, saying that overnight rain had made the track tiring.

"I thought the synthetic track was soft, and when it's like that they're laboring a little more in the longer works," he said. "You can't skip over it."

Smith described the work as "dynamite" and said that Zenyatta was far from extended through the stretch. [DRF]
All the better for her conditioning I suppose if the track was a bit laboring has Shirreffs said.

Paddy O'Prado is being pointed to the Classic, a race he seems particularly unsuited for given his poor performance in his only fast track dirt race (his 6th in the Preakness). However, as is often the case, the decision is being driven than something other than pure racing consideration.
"With the stallion potential of this horse, we'd like to see him do something big on dirt." [Racing Post]
Dale Romans must also be hoping for some rain considering Paddy O'Prado's third place finish over a sloppy track in the Derby. A horse like this, who excels at 9-10 furlongs on the turf, is kinda between a rock (the Mile) and a hard place (the Turf) when it comes to Breeders' Cup day....though he certainly wasn't horrible in his second in the mile and a half Turf Classic. If they have to have these extraneous Breeders' Cup races, I'd personally rather see a mile and a quarter turf race than a turf sprint or those juvenile turf races. Of course, there is another option for Paddy O'Prado. If his connections feel he can't get the Turf distance, he doesn't have to run at all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Industry Requests" in OTB Deal

As expected, the deal reached between NYC OTB and its creditors' committee includes a plan for racetracks to take over OTB's advance deposit wagering (ADW) system in return for the forgiveness of $65 million worth of debt, reductions in certain payments to the industry, a reduction in its tax payments to the state, layoffs of around 400 employees, and closure of some branch offices. In addition, as feared by standardbred horsemen, it includes perks for owners of the state's existing harness track racino owners which appear to be totally unrelated to the immediate issue of the corporation's emergence from bankruptcy.

A new corporation will be established to run the ADW operation on behalf of creditors which include NYRA, Empire Resorts/Monticello Raceway, Finger Lakes Racing Association, [and] Churchill Downs.

Shares of the account-wagering company are expected to be allotted based on the amount of pre-petition debt that is being forgiven by each entity in the transfer. [DRF]
Wagers on in-state tracks placed through the ADW will be treated as on-track bets as far as the tracks' retention percentages go; except that NYC OTB will get 2% on wagers placed on terminals at one of its 50 remaining branches. Not only will bettors be able to use, fund, and withdraw from their accounts at the remaining 50 parlors, but OTB is required to "prominently display offers to sign-up for new Track ADW accounts." So there's a change for you; OTB serving to benefit the racetracks. Whatmore, a "New York first" policy will require the parlors to show less out-of-state races, and "carry all operating in-state tracks and....feature these events on the largest screens available in the parlors" (except on Triple Crown and BC days).

The provisions that are upsetting the harness horsemen are included in a section which is labeled "Industry Requests." They would, if approved by the legislature, allow the racinos to offer tax-free "free play" credits to lure slots customers, up to 5% of the net per machine at the facility (though only half that at Yonkers and Aqueduct); eliminate a requirement for dollar-for-dollar matching when racinos tap into the state's share of VLT revenues for capital improvements; lower the minimum number of required racing dates specifically for harness racing; and, rather bizarrely, grant a variety of legal indemnifications to Yonkers and Monticello, including regarding any underfunding of purses resulting from NYC-OTB failing to meet their financial obligations to them. (An effort to also eliminate a 1% increase in the state's share of VLT revenues that was included in the recent budget seems to have failed.)

How these clauses got into the agreement seems clear. As Tom Precious reported on earlier in the month:
The source involved in the talks said the harness push is coming strongest from Jeff Gural, who owns Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs.
Gural is not on the committee because he owns those tracks; but rather because he's the chairman of Newmark Knight Frank, a real estate company which is the landlord of several buildings with OTB properties, including their headquarters at 1501 Broadway. Gural is a guy who's been praised for his efforts to promote racing at Tioga Downs, which has set takeout rates at the state's minimums. However, it seems fairly clear that he's taking advantage of the situation to try and push through provisions that don't relate to money owed on his properties, nor to the OTB bankruptcy.
“Everybody just assumes that we’re just a bunch of greedy racetrack owners who are trying to take advantage of the situation to line our pockets,’’ Gural said. “The truth is exactly the opposite. We recognize it’s good for the industry to keep OTB afloat."
It's hard to figure how these proposals would help to accomplish the latter.

Whether these proposals will get the legislative approval they need is not clear. Though the Senate Racing Committee chairman Eric Adams signed on approvingly to the press release, the Assembly Racing Committee chairman Gary Pretlow declined to do so. “I’m not in a mood to give away any of the state’s money," Pretlow said of the “free play" plan. []

We still haven't heard from the thoroughbred guys on this agreement. Though nobody is threatening to reduce their racing dates, you'd think that they might share at least some of the concerns that the harness guys expressed here. NYTHA president Richard Violette, and New York Thoroughbred Breeders Executive Director Jeffrey Cannizzo are both preparing for the Genting ceremony at Aqueduct on Friday, and are giddy no doubt about the prospects of the slots money to soon come.

- Speaking of Senator Eric Adams, he got a prominent mention in the Inspector General's scathing (for lack of a better word despite the fact that everyone else used it) report on the Aqueduct Entertainment Group selection, though the harshest criticism was reserved for John Sampson and Malcolm Smith. They should be quaking in their boots knowing that the report recommends that the matter be referred for possible criminal charges. But this matter warrants a post of its own, so stay tuned for that. I told you that this was gonna be a doozy.

- Bad Religion at Irving Plaza on Wednesday night!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breeders Cup Notes

The Sprint has picked up some more entries, including Atta Boy Roy, who figures to be a stout factor on the front end. And besides being fast, he's a five-year old who has developed into a steady triple-digit Beyer horse with three wins and two seconds on the dirt this year. Supreme Summit was supplemented for $100,000 and will be hoping that the Atta Boy Roy ensures that the pace is hot.

I guess this isn't a great development for Big Drama, who doesn't need to be on the lead, but who likes to track up close. I think he's coming up to the Sprint in extremely promising fashion. I love the way this son of Montbrook has developed, building on the promise he showed winning five in a row at age two, culminating in the Delta Downs Jackpot. Though he won just one in five at three, he acquitted himself pretty well; dq'd in the Swale, 5th in the Preakness, caught late in the W Va Derby at nine furlongs. But this year, trainer David Fawkes has him committed to sprinting, and with excellent results - two wins, two game bad-start seconds in Grade 1's. He's working up a storm down at Calder, and I personally think he's the horse to beat; at least tactical issues aside. There's not tons of speed here, but as you know, sometimes things just get out of hand on the front end in this race.

I was surprised to read in Haskin's column about the early wagering on the Classic overseas.

Lookin At Lucky is getting heavily supported in Europe, with William Hill, Ladbrokes, and Stan James all listing him as co-favorite with Zenyatta at 4-1. The other major bookmakers have it close with Zenyatta 7-2 and Lookin At Lucky 4-1. If you like Blame or Quality Road, you’ll find value, with Blame between 6-1 and 7-1 and Quality Road 7-1 to 9-1. Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Haynesfield is pretty much 8-1 all around. [Bloodhorse]
Gosh, I don't see that at all. Sure, Lookng At Lucky is on a roll, and he's a nice colt and all; but they must think a lot more of our three-year old crop than we do. I'd have to be on Blame at 6 or 7-1.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Genting Zone

Genting will present NYRA with a ceremonial $25 million check at a press event at the Big A on October 22.

The check presentation signifies Genting’s commitment to help NYRA keep the state’s horse racing industry strong in the months and years to come. [NYRA Media Advisory]
The $25 million figure represents the loan granted to NYRA back in May, at its darkest hour, which was to come out of the $250 construction bond and be ultimately guaranteed by the winning racino bidder. Surely, NYRA will never again need to be rescued in that way, right? This comes just a few weeks after Genting presented the state with another ceremonial check, though that one represented a real check which Governor Paterson immediately raced to a bank to cash (though it was too big to deposit in an ATM).

In the ensuing weeks, we've read of accelerated construction plans, merit raises for NYRA employees, millions to the community in jobs, big hikes in purses and awards for breeders, an influx of fresh stallion blood, inquiries about stall space from out-of-state stables, and physical improvements at all three tracks (eventually). I'm almost expecting flowers to sprout through the cracks in the parking lot, and a golden glow to emanate from the netting out beyond the grandstand turn.

Who are these mysterious Malaysians who have come from afar to breathe a new vitality into an enterprise that was teetering on the edge just last spring? And where the hell have they been for the last nine years? Genting has done and said all the right things since emerging onto the scene, going even beyond what has been required and expected of them. Could this really be? Are they as genuine and sincere in their intentions as we think? Or is their something about them that we haven't yet deciphered? Could it turn out like this?

- The Head Chef reminisces about Paris on her Grapes and Greens blog.

Tuesday Morning News and Notes

- Echoing the letter from NY harness horsemen to NYCOTB CEO Greg Rayburn that I posted about here, the prominent standardbred breeding outfit Blue Chip Farms is also wondering exactly what reduced racing dates for harness tracks and a restoration of a 1% cut in the vendors fee included in the state budget have to do with the bankruptcy reorganization of OTB.

While we obviously recognize that all of the stakeholders in our industry will need to sacrifice something to make any reorganization of NYCOTB work, this plan contains countless "gives" to the track owners - including upstate VLT operators with virtually no financial interest in the bankruptcy - with absolutely nothing but "takes" from the breeders, horsemen and multitude of related agricultural industries and professions. [Harness Link]
- Blame drilled a half mile at Keeneland in 47.60 seconds, and will work there again before vanning over to Churchill to prepare for the Classic. No issue with the Keeneland Poly for trainer Albert Stall; he's two-for-two over the surface there. As a matter of fact, there doesn't seem to be any problems at all with the Polytrack at Keeneland. The times have been snappy, horses are winning on the front end and coming from behind; and though, yes, Kopitar broke down and was euthanized on Sunday of opening weekend, as some in Kentucky like to say, "sometimes accidents happen."

So, here we have one of America's most prestigious race meetings, and the synthetic surface there barely seems to be a story anymore. Seems to me that it's just as much of a synthetic surface success story as Santa Anita was a failure. Yet you won't read that in the mainstream racing press.

While Blame appears to be set for a top effort coming off what I think was a useful prep in the JCGC - note that this horse is three-for-three second time off a layoff line - Pletcher is playing catch-up with Quality Road.
At Belmont Park, Quality Road breezed six furlongs in 1:13.46 as he continues to build stamina in the lead up to the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be his first start following an easy victory in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Woodward on Sept. 4.

"We're running 1 1/4 miles off a little bit of a layoff, so we want to make sure we have him fit enough," trainer Todd Pletcher said. [DRF]
Of course, nobody forced the Toddster to lay this horse off; it was the plan all along to give him nine weeks off before the Classic. I'm going to be all in against Quality Road, even though his track record running fresh is good. He's a question mark at the mile and a quarter distance to start with (0 for 2, though both on sloppy tracks), and if the trainer is trying to get him fit enough to stay the route with workouts, then I'm going to bet that he doesn't.

- Wow, Cliff Lee was ridiculous, and the Rangers (Texas, not New York) are to be commended for the way they've dominated this series since what seemed at the time like a devastating loss in Game 1. Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't help matters by overmanaging his way out of any chance to come back in Game 3 when he needlessly replaced Kerry Wood in the 9th after he easily set down the Rangers in 15 pitches the inning prior. At that point, at least Texas manager Ron Washington had to at least consider going to his bullpen after Lee had thrown 122 pitches. Six runs later, it was a moot point. Girardi maintained after the game that he will stick with AJ Burnett in Game 4 despite his going 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in 12 starts to close out the year. Yikes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Debate Or Bust

Tonight's gubernatorial debate promises to provide more in the way of laughs than any substantive discussion of the issues in New York; the five fringe party candidates are guaranteed equal time. I'm sure none of them will be a bust.

As far as I'm concerned, the less time Cuomo has to speak, the better. For one thing, as his margin in the polls expand in direct proportion to people learning about Paladino, it would seem that only a series of truly colossal gaffes could sink him now. But also, for guy with such a fine pedigree when it comes to public speaking, I don't find him impressive at all, particularly in situations such as a debate, when he doesn't have a teleprompter in front of him. I find him to be halting, repetitive, and generally unimpressive when he attempts to articulate his positions on demand. Of course, he's fine compared to Paladino, who would have nothing constructive to offer even if he was as elegant as the president.

The Cuomo campaign released this ad last week.

Well, of course, we all just hate these attack ads. However, this one is completely fair given Paladino's extreme position on abortion, which would ban a woman's right to choose even in the case of rape, incest, or, I suppose, bestiality, a Paladino favorite. What I particularly like about this ad is the line: "In Carl Paladino's New York, the government would make medical decisions, not doctors."

That of course turns Republicans' and Tea Partiers' arguments against the healthcare bill, and for that matter, government programs in general, right back against them. It also brings to mind what Jon Stewart told the House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (in an enlightening and civilized exchange that I highly recommend checking out): It's a "fallacy that limited government is the principled stand of conservatives. It's only limited to the shit they want to do." Like tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, who can or cannot marry whom, who can wager on what online, and when we can invade sovereign countries for made-up reasons.

By the way, even the New York Post has eschewed Paladino, and endorsed Cuomo. That should surely tell you something.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


John Sherriffs may have another star on his hands with Harmonious, who made short order out of the G1 QEII Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Saturday with a dominant run home in the stretch; final furlong in 12 seconds flat. Her still limited past performance lines - this was just her sixth start, her 4th win - are a thing of beauty with an unbroken string of improving Beyers which I'd presume will continue once the fig is posted here. Still ample room for improvement here; though she ran straight this time after bearing out badly last time, she seemed to get mixed up with her leads midstretch before leveling out to the wire.

Harmonious (Dynaformer) is a relative rarity these days in that she's a total outcross through her first five generations. She's out of an unraced Storm Cat mare who's a three-quarters sister to Jade Queen. You might remember that filly from a few years ago for also making a big splash at three, when she won two Grade 1's - the Garden City and the Flower Bowl, beating older horses in the latter - on the grass for Pletcher. Jade Queen never followed through on that promise, and in fact, never won another race. One gets the feeling that the story will be different with Harmonious.

The French filly Zagora rallied from last for second, and will stay in the U.S. with trainer Chad Brown.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time for Thoroughbred Times Again

As was the case last year, the Thoroughbred Times website looks to be the only place to go for Breeders' Cup information that is presented in a sensible, organized, and concise fashion. Click on their Breeders' Cup section, and choose a link to a specific race.

You get a list of contenders, each of which links to connection, pedigree, and race record info; a list of preps complete with a handy link to a video of each in most cases, and links to relevant news stories. Voila.

This is not rocket science, just commons sense, yet the other major sites, including the Breeders' Cup itself, just don't seem to be able to grasp the concept. The Daily Racing Form announced its intention to be primarily a commerce site with its recent redesign - they should really consider going into the ADW business in my opinion - so I wouldn't count on it to provide much more than the cursory link depository that they have there now (other than to provide easy access to purchasing their past performances). is a bit more organized, but doesn't contain nearly the depth of information as TT. And the Breeders' Cup 360 site is just an unruly mess worthy of the LIE at rush hour. Click on a division, and you don't even get a complete list of contenders, just Jeff Siegel's top six with some meaningless arrows and numbers. (Though, on the plus side, no sign this year of Jeremy Plonk.)

- The Yankees' 8th inning rally last night was surely one for the ages. You (especially you Red Sox fans) just had to love the way that, after Darren Oliver came in to walk the only two batters he faced to load the bases, Rangers' manager Ron Washington marched in his right-handed sidewinding specialist Darren O'Day, only to see A-Rod whack his first pitch into left field to make it 5-4; and then his left-handed sidewinding specialist Clay Rapada (activated for the series specifically for this purpose), only to see Robinson Cano rocket his first pitch to center field to tie the game. Oh man. Derek Holland was much better, but Marcus Thames laid off a nasty 1-2 slider (after lunging at a similar pitch earlier in the sequence), and fought off the next pitch to single in the winning run despite breaking his bat. If the Rangers recover from this, I'll be quite surprised.

- By the way, just wanted to mention that we thought that the people in Paris couldn't possibly have been nicer. So, so much for that stuff about how they are cold and don't like Americans, especially ones who don't make much of an attempt to speak their language. (I didn't encounter anyone who didn't speak at least rudimentary enough English to communicate.) And also wanted to add that in addition to the low retirement age, government-run health care, post-pregnancy state-paid, extended course(s) of vaginal gymnastics, complete with personal trainer, electric stimulation devices and computer games that reward particularly nimble squeezing, and other benefits of a socialist democracy, I found that there are no ATM fees. At all. So, I could walk around the block in Queens and get charged $2.50 to use my ATM card in a non-Chase bank; but I can go to Paris and use my card at any bank to withdraw Euros with no fees at all (and a very fair exchange rate to boot). Welcome home to capitalist greed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Harness Guys Respond

New York's harness horsemen respond to the ongoing negotiations regarding the future of NYCOTB in a press release (pdf file) from the Standardbred Owners Association of NY. [Non-pdf link here, thanks Chris.] They express gratitude to Greg Rayburn for for "providing us with a general briefing on the outline of the plan," and then proceed to rip it to shreds, starting with the fact that the harness owners and breeders "have been excluded from the development of this proposal and simply have not been at the negotiating table."

Other main points:

- Although the horsemen are due more than half of OTB's $22 million debt to the industry, the proposed transfer of the phone and internet wagering operation intended to compensate would be made to the racetracks, and "the horsemen would have absolutely no ownership interest in the entity nor any role in this new entity’s governance." The proposal, according to SOANY, even prods legislators to include language that would “provide maximum protection to the racetracks against claims by Breeders’ Fund and Standardbred Owners Association”

- The proposals contain provisions that have nothing to do with the immediate situation at hand and everything to do with increasing the tracks' bottom line, particularly one that would reduce race dates at harness tracks.

Less racing means less breeding, less horses, less mutual clerks, less farriers, less feedmen and more farm managers, grooms and trainers on the state’s unemployment lines. This proposal alone should raise the level of consciousness of every legislator as to how very little this entire package has to do with “helping racing” and everything to do with helping a handful of wealthy racetrack operators.
Of course, it's a tragically sad comment on the state of racing and its dependence on slots that actual live racing is seen as a drag on the operations' bottom line.

Unmentioned in the release but, I'd imagine, another complaint of the horsemen is a push led by Jeff Gural to rescind a recent 1% reduction in the racinos' retention rate.

- Any provisions included in an eventual deal could become precedents for bailouts of other regional OTB's, thus further threatening the viability of harness racing in the state.

- Carl Paladino may want to take an axe to ruthlessly cut state spending, but the Daily News reports this morning that he's the one spending liberally on his army of campaign aides.
Veteran GOP consultant Ed Rollins said many campaigns try to limit their employee costs to 10% of their total spending. Paladino has more than doubled that rate.

"What's happening is that there's all these consultants in there getting paid enormous sums of money and there's no money for voter contact," Rollins said.

The Paladino campaign this week unveiled its first TV ad since last month's primary. There also have been no mailers, Rollins said.
Give Paladino some credit though - it's Friday morning, and he hasn't put his foot in his mouth all week, since his shameful comments about disgusting gay parades over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Waiting for the Plane

Our flight home is three hours late. Not sure if it is because of the general strike here in France which started yesterday and which some unions, including Paris rail transit, are apparently continuing today, and indefinitely until the government abandons its plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. The plane is actually here, but we were told that it arrived late, and that the crew needed their eight hours of sleep before heading back. Even though it was posted last night that the departure would be delayed, we were still told that we should arrive in anticipation of the original departure time; and that in fact, we still had to check in and deposit our luggage an hour before that time. I mean, why then do they tell you to call ahead if you have to be here at the scheduled departure anyway, and even though we were told when we arrived that the new departure time was firm? What's the point?

Well, just more time to drink cheap wine (cheap in price, not in quality). Even at the airport, it's not overpriced here.

We were in the Musee Carnavelet on Wednesday, and were thrown out at around 3 so that employees could participate in the protests (as were tourists at the Eiffel Tower I understand). We eventually found ourselves in the heart of the action, and just by chance (thanks to my insistence on finding some good glace [ice cream].

I don't know if I'm ever going to be hungry again after this trip. The food may not be cheap, but they're certainly not cheap with the portions. I ordered oeufs le plat (fried eggs) this morning and got four of them, ooo la la! The Head Chef is spoiled by her own food and didn't think that any of our meals were transcendent, though they all met her standards. Don't tell her that I thought they were all amazing. I thought it might be all downhill after the first night, when we went to a restaurant specializing in steak frites. In fact, it was the only thing on the menu. Actually, there was no menu, the only question asked was how do you want it cooked? (saignant!) But each night seemed to exceed the prior one, climaxing with the roast sucking pig (I'm not kosher) followed by the lemon sorbet soaked in vodka at Le Petit Prince de Paris, right in the Latin Quarter section where we stayed.

Well, obviously we have tons of photos and stories, but, I know, it's time to get back to racing, mostly equine, but the electoral ones as well. The Head Chef will surely comment on her Grapes and Greens blog, and we'll put the photos up on flickr or something like that. Just over three weeks until the Breeders' Cup. Here, I'll be focusing on handicapping, at least on the races I either care about (not the Marathon or the juvenile turf races), or can decipher without the uncertainty of a preponderance of European entries with their scanty past performance lines. We're not going to get bogged down on the stuff we know - that the Breeders' Cup has effectively diluted and ruined most of the rest of the racing season, that there are too many BC races on too few days, that ESPN sucks, that the BC Challenge races have gotten totally out of hand and meaningless, that the Ladies Classic should still be called the Distaff, and that the whole Fillies Friday idea is stupid. You have plenty of other blogs to read about that crap. None of it really matters anyway, because the issue at this point is strictly handle in the face of all of the competition for gambling dollars that the industry faces. And even if Uncle Mo is for real, even if ESPN devotes a few minutes at halftime of a Monday night game to the races, even if their ratings go up by a couple of points, even if Joe Tessitore is less insufferable than usual, that's not going to change or help the bottom line given the current state of the industry. So we'll just deal with the game. Be back stateside soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Waiting for the Sun

We're scheduled to come back to NY on Wednesday, though our flight is already listed as being three hours late, oh man. So please indulge me another post (or two if I have time to kill in the airport), and we'll get back to the subjects at hand.

We visited the Pere Lachaise Cemetery on Monday which, as you may know, is well-known for housing the remains of Jim Morrison. However, a vast list of well-known artists, musicians and celebrities are interred there (the works by some of whom - Jacques-Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, Amedeo Modigliani, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot - we saw in our visits to seven museums in five days here). It's hard to describe what it was like, especially on another brilliant, cloudless early autumn day. The monuments there range from majestic to eerie to haunting to, and it was like being in a dream. Or a Tim Burton movie.

I have to admit that I got quite emotional upon visiting Morrison's grave. Not that I was such a huge Doors fan, though I've owned their entire collection since back in the day, and their music was an important part of my teenage years. I think it was more the fact that the Doors were part of the '60s musical culture that represented such hope in those heady days of peace and love. Maybe we were all just naive kids, but the notion of 'peace on earth' and 'war is over, if you want it' seemed to be such a real possibility then. Now it's just a pipe dream, and a joke to many. I think it was the memory of those long-past years contrasted with the terror of the current times and the bleak and, yes, hopeless outlook for the future which really got to me.

Waiting for the sun, waiting for the sun, waiting for the sun
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting

- We were really surprised that you're allowed to take pictures in the Louvre, and it made for a scene which just seemed undignified considering the brilliance of the masterpieces on display there. And while flashes are prohibited, that rule was widely ignored and completely unenforced. I think what I'll remember most about the Mona Lisa on this visit is the frenzy of the crowd jockeying to take photos of it. (When I was there in 197....well, a long time ago, it was basically just another painting on the wall; now, it stands by itself behind plexiglass with a barrier and a guard keeping viewers a good distance away.) At one point, some American rudely ordered me to move from in front of a canvas because she was trying to take a photo! The nerve! The only harsh words I had with anyone the entire time we were here.

On the other hand, no photos or filming are allowed at the Musee D'orsay, which made for a far more pleasant visit. However, that rule was recently relaxed for the filming of an episode of Gossip Girl (of all things), and the Head Chef is very jealous of her good friend Ron Fortunato, who shoots the series (and also directs some episodes). He was permitted to film Blair and Serena standing in front of Manet's masterpiece Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass). Very cool. xoxo.

- Another reason I wanted to come here for the Arc was so I wouldn't miss out on going to the Jets-Vikings game on Monday night. But between the 45 minute rain delay and the deluge that came towards the end of the first half, I guess it didn't turn out so bad. With the win, the Jets are now 4-1 and in first place. Just in case you missed it.