Jessica Chapel / Railbird

NYRA

Last Word (This Year)

NYRA’s Martin Panza on why he’s not having conversations about changing the Triple Crown schedule by moving the Belmont Stakes into July:

“Right now if you look at the Triple Crown, a month or three weeks before the Derby is when the preps end and there’s really not another big 3 year-old race until a month after the Belmont.

“I’m not sure the rest of the tracks in America would be willing to give us a 4-month break with no big 3-year-old races and that’s what you would be asking for. I just don’t see how that could happen.

“It’s a much more complex situation than just those three races …

“And anything I do at Belmont, I’m also very conscious of not wanting to affect Saratoga. I’m trying to complement Saratoga, not hurt Saratoga.”

Dissipated

Dick Powell:

No matter what the reason for California Chrome coming up empty when it counted, I am convinced that had the Belmont been run a week earlier, two weeks after the Preakness instead of three, he would have won since he was full of energy then. I felt the same way with Funny Cide and Smarty Jones who also looked great the week before but came up short on the big day.

Running the Belmont two weeks after the Preakness would definitely not be traditional: One of the most striking things in Natalie Voss’ report on the race schedules of the 11 Triple Crown winners is that the Belmont is consistently three to four weeks after the Preakness. Citation won a race between the two, but his Triple Crown season stretched 42 days. Assault, the only horse to win the Triple Crown in 28 days, had three weeks between the two races.

Related: Matt Hegarty writes about the proposal to increase the time between Triple Crown races to four weeks. “Plainly stated,” he asks, “is it worth it for the racing industry to risk the significance of the one event that the entire sporting world rallies around when there is no evidence that the public is clamoring for change?” Of course not! What makes me hopeful that this scheme will fizzle for another year is that NYRA just set a record, handling more than $150 million on their new mega-Belmont Stakes day.

Commodities

Jay Hovdey on why it’s time to talk about the claiming game:

… there also remains the undeniable fact that claiming races, by their very nature, serve to weaken the inherent responsibilities of both ownership and animal husbandry. The demands of constant turnaround require short-term solutions in veterinary care. The claiming game also nurtures the ability to suppress any real emotional attachments to the horses involved. They are, after all, merely transients — poker chips, as one famous claiming owner called them — no more or less than means to an end.

What’s the future for claiming races?

That’s one of the questions I took away from reading the New York Task Force report, which determined that sharply increased purses “commoditized” lower level claiming horses earlier this year, and suggested reforming claiming rules so that claims may be voided if a horse is vanned off. “The voiding of a claim should not require the death of the horse,” the report’s authors write on page 60. Practical, humane — exactly the sort of rule change that’s necessary if claiming races are going to continue to be a significant part of the game. But while the imbalance in purses and claiming prices at Aqueduct may have led to the resulting claiming frenzy last winter, it didn’t actually commodify the horses, because they were already commodities. Most in racing don’t question the system — the claiming game has been a pretty elegant solution to keeping races competitive over the years — but it’s becoming harder to defend.

New York, New York

Huh:

Gov. Cuomo, in a startling move, has decided to “privatize” the running of the famed Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga thoroughbred tracks with a new management company that will replace the scandal-scarred New York Racing Association, The Post has learned.

I have no idea how this will play out, can make no predictions on how New York racing will be changed in the coming years, but do wish I could shake the unease and cynicism that comes with everything I read of Cuomo’s plans.

Five days until Super Saturday. Try to enjoy. (Maybe a little Kelso will help?)

9/25/12 Addendum: Tom Noonan gives three reasons why privatization isn’t such a hot idea. Cuomo walks back the report, according to the New York Times, saying privatization is just one option that might be considered.

9/27/12 All you need to read on the subject: “I don’t see this happening.”

Odds and Ends

In June 2011, Courier-Journal reporter Gregory Hall live tweeted the John Veitch-Life at Ten hearing. It was superb coverage. “My 140-word tweets give fuller picture of the Veitch hearing than my newspaper story tomorrow will,” he wrote then, a realization that helped lead to yesterday’s launch of Hall’s new blog, HorseBiz, which promises “inside baseball” for racing folk. I’ve already added it to my RSS reader. You should too.

Few use 140 characters as effectively as @o_crunk, who tweeted about Trakus:

Trakus could be so much more — efficient data distribution, an open API for developers, etc and this is what they come up with?

Trakus could be the group that leads industry out of the .pdf past performance dark ages. But here’s jockey efficiency ratings, have fun!

Trakus could be. Why isn’t it?

Also seeking answers re: New York racing …

Liz O’Connell pursues information on the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety and its delayed report on Aqueduct breakdowns (via):

On May 30, 2012, I made a freedom of information request to Racing and Wagering that was partially answered after the maximum number of delays allowed by law; then the information was mailed to the wrong address.

Frustrating. And the information she does get is illuminating only in what it reveals about the current state of New York’s racing stewardship.

In happier news: “After a period of time, IHA regained his calmness and he [grazed] in stately fashion just like a star.” Big Red Farm’s weekly I’ll Have Another updates are delightful (via).

The Gaming Trade

Bill Finley on the approaching end of slots-supported racing:

… now things are starting to change. Where will the sport be when the slots money starts to go away? Whatever the answer is, it’s not a good one.

NYRA president Charlie Hayward speaking in support of full-fledged casinos:

“The racing industry will get 16 percent of the racino’s net earnings,” Hayward said. “We can take a little bit of pain in terms of reduced handle.”

In Hayward’s favor, NYRA numbers are strong post-NYC OTB.

Good News Sunday

Doug O’Neill reports Square Eddie is looking good after his first race in a year:

“He came out fantastic, legs ice cold, jogging sound at the shed row and ate up everything,” Santa Anita’s three-time training king said.

Nice to hear! The Donn could be next for ‘Eddie.

This is Todd Pletcher gushing about early Derby fave Uncle Mo:

“Yes, I think he will get better,” Pletcher said. “And it’s kind of scary to think about that.”

The famously cool trainer just can’t contain himself, can he?

Jerry Bossert’s a fan of the Belmont Café:

It’s amazing, but in a month the NYRA put together a better OTB than NYCOTB, which opened its first parlor in 1971.

Almost makes me wish I still lived in New York so I could check the place out.

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