Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Politics as Usual

It was good to have a little time away to just enjoy what racing I could without thinking of blogging much. However, on returning to the task I was struck by yesterday's article on the DRF site about the news that NYS will, or is, trying to link track attendance to the cut NYRA will eventually receive from the inevitable racino(s). Somehow it is not surprising and, perhaps, maybe even an unconsciously expected complication to the ongoing drama of racing in New York State. When it comes to dollars and "sense" the later rarely is a result or cause of the former. The politicians want every red cent they can get and they will try every avenue to get them.

Just last week Governor Patterson was stumping about how bad the current economic crises was and the need for everyone to get on board and share the pain. He basically said that no one was exempt from the effects of the current downturn. Of course if you are NYRA and the economy is at all to blame on the current downturn of business, (-16.6% @ Saratoga) and how can it not be to some degree, you get to be a victim twice. Once from the loss of revenue resulting from the difficult economic times (as well as weather) and again by being penalized through loss of future income that is going to be determined by an anomaly created by the difficult economic landscape. It is also disingenuous for the State to assign attendance as the determining statistical factor in fixing NYRA's cut of the racino purses. Even if $4 gas was the only mitigating circumstance in an otherwise healthy economy, attendance would be likely to continue falling because of the other opportunities for the fan to wager and watch the races. The State has decided to use the sports most vulnerable and predictably declining statistical figure as a measure of value. It's outright ridiculous, otherwise known as politics as usual. If The State was to make any statistical relationship the yardstick for allocation of racino money then it should use revenue brought into the state as a result of New York's racing product. At least that way there is some reflection of the true measurable value of the product. Of course the state doesn't look for fair, does it?

NYRA's biggest mistake, (I know I've gone on about this before) was ceding title to the tracks to the State. They were it's biggest asset and bargaining chip. And, I believe, if they (NYRA) didn't own them then it is more likely that the heirs of August Belmont and W.C. Whitney have a better claim than the State. NYRA could have decided not to allow the racino's on their property or had more leverage in hammering out a fair deal. Actions truly speak louder than words and I see the State's action here as just the ominous tip of the proverbial iceberg. It seems they have already made a distinction between racing money and casino money. It's obvious which is more desirable and manageable to them. If this is a peek into the future it certainly doesn't look sunny, fast and firm for racing. The new contracts aren't even drawn and signed and NYRA's being kicked about. If anything other than a racino remains at Aqueduct in 26 years I'll be amazed. While I don't envision 'New Rochdale' can anyone say Capital City? The other big mistake seems to be the "undefined" benchmarks that are part of the new 25 year agreement. How can anyone agree to something that hasn't yet been spelled out? NYRA shoulders much of the blame here. Anyone that had any say on NYRA's side had absolutely nothing at stake here other than securing a 25 year work contract. By that time they will all be retired and collecting their hefty pensions, I'm sure. Who involved in these negotiations truly had racings' best interests in mind? What a mess! Can we find integrity anywhere?

For a fan this is all hard to digest. In all other racing jurisdictions that I am aware of slots were put in not only as a cash cow for state's government but also as a supplement for racing. Suddenly it seems NYS wants to change the formula. It is so underhanded and greedy a move that everyone that cares about racing should let their local representative know that they are against soaking the public with slots unless it is going to benefit the racing industry, as had been promised. At some point the populous has got to say no to the greed of government. If the State truly wanted to help the industry they would do what's right and they would also help the tracks get crowds. Create more and more frequent mass transit opportunities to get to the tracks. I'll guarantee that they'll be shipping their pigeons into the slots by the busload. The Aqueduct racino will probably get an express train! It's all just too much to stomach!

On a lighter note there is the happy news that we will see Curlin run at Saratoga in the Woodward! Saratoga is a track he should have on his resume. I don't mean to count eggs before they're hatched but if wishing can make is so than it shall be.

I haven't yet read any opinions about Big Brown's Haskell win but I imagine most felt as I did; any win is a good performance. However, my immediate feeling following the race was that Desormeaux probably wishes he had kept after Curlin in the Belmont. He ran the exact same race and seemed to start to quit at the exact same spot on the track. While he may not have beaten Da' Tara in The Belmont Stakes, you never know. I didn't think he was going to catch Coal Play on Sunday. As to why B.B. has fallen into this apparent bad habit it is any one's guess. Maybe his past performances through the stretch, that seemed so effortless to the observer, hurt him more than his appearance suggested. One thing that has been suggested to me by several friends is that he doesn't look like happy horse. I'm not sure I see that but his actions may suggest that. After the race he acted up just as he did after being pulled up in the Belmont. Something is working on him or in him. I also didn't hear what Dutrow said after the race but after reading some other articles I surmise that he knocked Curlin again. What can be so distasteful about Dutrow at times is that he is like a child that never learns. It's as though experience is no teacher for him. It would be wonderful to see Curlin and Big Brown meet! I would prefer it be on a surface that they both have excelled on. Jess Jackson, as ever, continues to take the higher road. Kudos to him!

I can't end without mentioning Zenyatta! - winning the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr.II). It hardly looks like she's exerting herself and the result is a new track record! Wow, she is scary good. That's the way you want to see a horse return after a substandard performance. Added distance should only help her as it takes her a while to get under herself. I suppose most big horses run like that, Point Given comes immediately to mind. Of course her one race at 1 -1/8 - The Vanity (gr.I)- doesn't support that observation but I think that was just an off day for her. But, as I said about Big Brown's Haskell, any win is a good performance. The great ones find ways to win on their off days, and she did. Add Mike Smith and John Sherriffs and it just makes one feel added joy about her success.

1 comment:

Steve Zorn said...

Nice discussion of the slots issue. We've thought this was settled several times over the last few years, in the interminable franchise process, but apparently not. Now that Joe Bruno, the principal advocate for racing and horsemen in Albany, is no longer on the scene, I suppose it's inevitable that the politicians would once again try to tinker with the formula. At some point, though, the amount they'll be leaving for NYRA won't be enough to turn on the lights and pay the mutuel clerks.

It was pretty clear, at yesterday's Racing and Gaming Law Seminar in Saratoga, that the folks now in charge of racing issues in Albany are suffering from a severe case of cluelessness. Let's hope we can get them up to speed in time to have some sort of rational decision made.