JC / Railbird


Maryland Mess

John Scheinman has a full report in the Thoroughbred Times on the apparently imminent end of Maryland racing. Here’s the kicker:

Asked if he believed the Preakness would be run next year, commission chairman Louis Ulman said, “I’d say no.”

That state is exploring all its legal options for saving racing dates and the Preakness Stakes. “That could involve seizing the tracks by eminent domain.”

10:30 AM Update: MTHA general counsel Alan Foreman tells the Blood-Horse: “This needs to be solved in the next 48 hours …

11:55 AM Update: Tentative agreement reached? That’s what Maryland governor Martin O’Malley’s office is telling reporters. (Confirmed. Details TK.)

12/23/10 Update: As Frank of That’s Amore Stable mentioned in a comment below, a compromise deal was reached on Wednesday. The Preakness has been saved; 146 days of racing have been scheduled for 2011. One aspect of the agreement that should please horseplayers is this — horsemen won’t be compelled to lobby for takeout increases, as MID-Penn was demanding earlier.

More from the Baltimore Sun: “The governor’s deal puts racing on life support for at least a year, but it doesn’t change an obviously poisonous ownership structure for the tracks that imperils racing’s long-term viability.”

Loan Is Not a “Bailout”

Ugh. This Blood-Horse headline qualifies as a gross error:

Blood-Horse NYRA loan story headline

An Associated Press article has the slightly better headline, “Paterson: NYRA, Saratoga meet will be saved,” so readers aren’t told the proposed $17 million loan is a bailout … until the story’s first sentence. While not overlooking the good news that the state may come through with the money it’s obligated to provide NYRA (money it desperately needs) if the Aqueduct racino wasn’t in operation this spring, it’s hard to see the inaccurate characterization of the deal in the AP lede, and in at least one headline from a publication that should know better, as anything other than a public relations disaster. I look forward to the inevitable editorials and letters demanding to know why New York, with its seven weeks overdue budget, is “bailing out” the undeserving NYRA, when it’s merely fulfilling the promises of the franchise agreement made in 2008.

5/19/10 Update: Never mind? Matt Hegarty reports in DRF that the Governor’s comments “did not reflect any substantive progress” towards a legislative resolution to NYRA’s situation. “I think they’ll pass it,” said Paterson of the proposed loan plan on Tuesday, but a few legislators may balk.

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Meanwhile, in California …

A shame CHRB cut meeting webcasts in January; items #10 and #11 on the board’s Thursday meeting agenda (PDF) should be quite interesting. Magna (MI Developments) is scheduled to give an update on its future racing plans, which won’t include Santa Anita president Ron Charles. He’s resigned, effective Wednesday. A discussion of the voided Oak Tree lease (and potential impact on Oak Tree dates this fall) is to follow. Oak Tree had been talking with the Breeders’ Cup about hosting the event permanently; MI’s decision to pull the lease, affirmed only two weeks before, has complicated those negotiations. “Maybe this will derail BCup freight chugging into SA station,” tweeted Nick Kling. Maybe. Del Mar executives, who have offered the track to Oak Tree, are hoping it might renew the possibility of a Del Mar Breeders’ Cup.

It’s Frank Speaking

… but it’s hardly frank talk in a Blood-Horse interview with Frank Stronach on the Magna bankruptcy and what it might mean for the racing industry. The transcription interview, begins with this illuminating exchange:

The Blood-Horse: Can you give us any insight into the Magna bankruptcy?

Stronach: “The horse community really has got to get together. There are so many flaws in the thing. We’ve got to correct it or otherwise racing will have a hard time.”

Read on, and learn that there are a few things (unstated) that Stronach would do differently and that his heart really, really is in the right place.