OK, so I go away for a week and all hell breaks loose in New York racing? I guess that we can thank our state government and the New York Racing Association for adding a little spice to a generally moribund period on the racing calendar.
I hope that I’ve got this all straight, and please do step in if I’ve missed anything.
It starts—sort of—on the morning of December 21st, when a headline story on NY1 reads, “Infighting Could Derail Belmont Stakes.” Based on a story in that morning’s Daily News, NY1 reports that NYRA’s financial crisis could lead to the cancellation of this year’s Belmont.
The next morning, the story shows up on ESPN’s crawl during SportsCenter. That evening, Jessica Chapel of Raceday 360 passes along that the story has made it to New York magazine. This is great, right? Racing in the news? On lots of channels? Reaching loads and loads of non-racing people? Putting a little heat on the state for its irresponsibility in failing to name a VLT operator?
A few quiet days later, the Daily News is back on the story, this time reporting that State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli wants to see NYRA’s books, curious about how NYRA has spent its money, now that it’s in such desperate financial straits. Uh-oh.
Later that day (December 28th), NYRA responds to DiNapoli, essentially saying, “Nuh-uh, don’t have to” regarding the request to open their books. Perhaps realizing that they’ve created rather a PR nightmare for themselves, given the hit that they’re taking in virtually every forum in which the story is being discussed, NYRA appears to back off on their stance, as reported by James Odato in the Times Union on New Year’s Eve. And that’s the last that I’ve heard/read on that particular situation…not surprising, given the holiday and the weekend, that both the NYRA and the DiNapoli camps have been quiet.
But wait—that’s not the end of holiday NYRA news. New York racing: the gift that keeps on giving? Yesterday, as reported in the Saratogian, Governor Paterson announced that he would declare his choice for a VLT vendor for Aqueduct this week. This week! How exciting! How great that, at long last, there’s going to be some movement on this issue that started…when was it?…oh yes, in 2001. Only nine years ago. But really, better late than never, right?
So that’s the update on the business end of racing in New York, but there’s some on-track news, too. On December 30th, NYRA announces that it’s now authorized, by the State Racing and Wagering Board, to “direct licensed owners or trainers to bring horses to New York tracks for testing when those horses are being stabled out of state within a 100-mile radius of a New York racetrack” within 180 days of a race date in New York. Great news, right? New York getting tough on performance-enhancing equine drugs?
Oh, dear. Wait. Some people aren’t so happy about it, according to Matt Hegarty in the Daily Racing Form. And some of those people are stabled right here on New York tracks. Like Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
“In a time when we’re begging for standards from state to state, this is not the
time for New York to adopt a different rule, especially when we’re dealing with
a new rule.”
And lest too many days go by without New York racing giving us something to talk about, on Saturday David Grening wrote on the Inside Post blog at DRF about the case of Tim Kreiser, trainer of Peppi Knows, entered to run in Saturday’s Count Fleet. Peppi Knows was scratched by the stewards because Kreiser didn’t have workman’s compensation insurance prior to the day on which the horse was scheduled to race, a NYRA requirement that is apparently different from the procedures at Finger Lakes, where Kreiser has previously run horses.
Kreiser had never before run a horse at a New York Racing Association track and
was told that he could not purchase workman’s comp insurance the day his horse
was to race. He said he was informed on Friday — New Year’s Day, a day when he
could not buy insurance _ by New York racing officials that his horse would not
be able to run because of this issue.
So while I’m off blithely exploring South Florida racing—Calder, Gulfstream, Hialeah—my home tracks are making all kind of headline news—in both the mainstream and the racing press. Oh, sure, there was good news, too. How about that Todd Pletcher, running 1-2 in the Interborough on Friday and the
Count Fleet Gallant Fox on Saturday Thursday?? How about Naughty New Yorker running second in the Alex Robb, with no pace and in the mud? How about Hudson Heights paying $233 in Saturday’s 6th race—and the horse who finished second being named Empty Wallet?
But really, maybe those of us who love racing in New York can just pretend that Wednesday, when racing resumes, is the real first day of the new year, and see whether we can put all of these unpleasantries behind us and turn over a new racing leaf for 2010. At least until we hear what the Governor has to say…
Thanks to Steve Zorn’s Business of Racing and Alan Mann’s Left at the Gate for their coverage of these stories, and their links to multiple sources. Check out both of them for excellent posts on the financial shenanigans of the last week.
Posts to come this week on Calder and Hialeah–it will be nice to recall wearing short sleeves to the races as I bundle up against the wintry weather that greeted my homecoming.