Blind Luck is raring to go for the El Encino Stakes next Sunday. She worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita on Friday in 1:25.20 and then galloped out another seven furlongs. “For a slightly built filly, she has loads of energy,” observed Jay Privman. On Sunday, it was The Factor flying over the Santa Anita dirt, going five furlongs in :58 flat. “He went a little too fast — he got away from the rider,” said trainer Bob Baffert of the 3-year-old colt.
Culture clash at the Big A? “I feel like I’m in an OTB! I feel like I’m in an OTB!,” LATG overhears an Aqueduct patron telling a security guard. Friday was the one month anniversary of NYC OTB’s closure. Funny, but the parlors already seem like something out of the far past, which I suppose says something about how removed from the mainstream life of the city they had become. (If you’d like to remember days at the OTB, here’s an unexpectedly poignant little video that captures the operation’s waning hours.) While there are some pains as the new element is absorbed into the track scene, NYRA’s efforts to attract displaced OTB bettors are paying off with higher ontrack handle and 2,434 new NYRA Rewards customers since December 8. On Saturday, the new Belmont Café took in a high point $137,889 in wagers from 325 players. “It just goes to show you that simple accommodations — a clean bathroom and a decent place to eat — can go a long way,” writes Jerry Bossert. There’s a still a significant shortfall in NYRA’s total handle, but the trend is positive.
So, the investigation into the l’affaire Life at Ten is ongoing, with the Office of the Inspector General in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet being brought in “to have some independent review for certain aspects of it.” That’s KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood talking to Jennie Rees, who also reports that the KHRC has conducted 90 interviews regarding the Breeders’ Cup
Distaff Ladies’ Classic fiasco. Ninety? Once this investigation concludes, how about another into what’s been a frustratingly opaque and slow process.
A New Year’s resolution particularly relevant to the above: “Protect the punter.”
Final handle numbers for 2010 were down 7.3% from 2009, to $11.4 billion from $12.3 billion. That’s the lowest annual total since 1995. “Obviously, we are losing bettors to other forms of gambling,” TRA executive vice president Chris Scherf tells Janet Patton. “We are in the midst of an unmanaged, market-driven contraction touching most aspects of the racing business.” Unmanaged is the key word, and nowhere is that more apparent right now that in the date dispute shaping up in southern Florida between Calder and Gulfstream. As for losing out to other games, sports bettors and poker players are pretty upfront about why they’re not paying much attention to racing.
Reactions to the updated equine fatality rates released by the Jockey Club yesterday on Twitter: An experiment with Storify. If there was a theme to the chatter, or to the comments left on this post, it’s that the fatality stats aren’t enough on their own going forward. Now that we know there’s a statistically significant difference between dirt and synthetics, deeper analysis is wanted.
Horse owner Ted Grevelis raises a couple of excellent questions about the TJC stats: “If we don’t know the fatality rates at each racetrack, how can there be any action taken on the results of the study or, more importantly, how can horsemen decide where to perhaps avoid racing in the future?”
Over on R2, Dean considers where storefront OTB bettors will go, and the possibility that many will stop playing. An NYC OTB board member suggested illegal bookies would make a comeback, telling WNYC: “It’ll be a local bookmaker or, from what I understand, they now have a lot of places offshore. But it’s not gonna go away.” The AP seems to have picked up on that, reporting in passing, “That betting apparently is headed to illegal bookmakers, regional OTBs that can now handle city bets more easily, and foreign-based Internet bookmakers.” Apparently? Evidence, please, that bookies and offshores are gaining when legal ADWs and outlets are available. If NYRA does open teletheaters in the city — an opportunity arising from NYC OTB’s closure — it seems even more likely that money will stay in the pool.
A field of ten for the Hollywood Futurity on Saturday, the final graded stakes of the year for juveniles. JP’s Gusto has to prove he can go the distance.
New York City OTB was big, but it paid peanuts for simulcasting rights, and not just to NYRA (which gets about 50% more from out-of-state ADWs than it did from NYC OTB). In the Courier-Journal, Gregory Hall reports:
The New York City system wagered $9.6 million on Turfway Park races in 2009, resulting in $169,000 in revenues that were split between Turfway and its horsemen through purses, said Bob Elliston, president of the Florence, Ky. track. This year, with fewer Turfway racing dates, the total so far is just over $5 million, resulting in $87,000 in revenue split between Turfway and horsemen, he said.
That’s about 1.75 cents per dollar wagered. Turf Paradise had a slightly better deal, but NYC OTB still wasn’t adding much to the pot, reports DRF:
Vince Francia, the general manager of Turf Paradise, said on Friday that New York City OTB bettors had wagered $3.7 million on Turf’s signal since the track opened on Oct. 1, or about $77,000 a day. Because of New York City OTB’s bargaining power, Turf Paradise only kept 2 percent of that money as the simulcast fee, Francia said, for total revenue of $1,540 a day, an amount that was split with horsemen.
12/21/10 Addendum: New York breeders aren’t missing NYC OTB much either after two years of not receiving payments. “If you’re not getting anything it’s hard to feel like you’re losing something.”
NYRA keeps up its efforts to capture displaced OTB bettors, adding dark day simulcasting at Aqueduct and more bus routes from the city to the track. According to DRF, another 74 NYRA Rewards accounts were opened on Thursday, bringing the number of new accounts opened over the past couple weeks to 300. Friday’s on-track handle (which includes money bet through NYRA’s ADW) was $572,687, or $36,327 more than Thursday’s on-track handle; $22,125 more than the previous Friday. Slow, but steady gains? They must be hoping the pace picks up a little. Adding streaming video to the service would be a boon, but making that little change is tied up in the NYSRWB and, quite possibly, the legislature. Brooklyn Backstretch has been keenly following that part of the story.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the state senate Republicans announced the newly formed Task Force on the Revitalization of the Racing Industry in New York. Said task force member senator John Bonacic: “Racing is more than about people sitting in betting parlors. It is about the sport — making the tracks viable as racing entities — not just places where VLTs are played. We need to focus on helping the breeders and horsemen since they are the infrastructure that develops a successful racing product. We then need to market racing in a manner which brings fans to the track and generates interest in the sport overall.” Good luck, New Yorkers. [12/13/10 Addition: Over on ESPN, Paul Moran comments: “But wherever there is a New York politician, there is never the lack of calamity.”]
Juvenile graded stakes racing winds down for the year with the Hollywood Starlet, which drew eight fillies, today and the Hollywood Futurity next Saturday. “A field of 13 or 14 is shaping up for the 30th running of the race,” including JP’s Gusto and Delta Jackpot winner Gourmet Dinner. Joe Talamo, back from injury, will be on JP’s Gusto once again. The jockey rode the horse through his first three starts. Pat Valezuala then had the mount through the Breeders’ Cup, winning the Del Mar Futurity and Best Pal with JP’s Gusto.
What a process, getting Zenyatta settled into farm life.
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