JC / Railbird


Weekend Notes

Buzz builds for “Luck.” A producer claims, “it will be the greatest show on TV.” TV critic Alan Sepinwall (who writes some of the best “Mad Men” recaps out there) is excited — and worried — about the HBO drama, noting that it “may have the most prominent creative firepower, in front of and behind the camera, of any show in the channel’s history,” but what about Dustin Hoffman? Entertainment Weekly tabs the Oscar winner’s presence as a “breakthrough” for TV, while Santa Anita reveals what Variety didn’t, that the first season will consist of the pilot and “seven to nine additional weekly episodes.”

Sure, bring the kids for a day at the races. But don’t let them bet at Saratoga. (A trespass charge and an anti-gambling class? Oh, come on.)

Wow. Monmouth Park reports incredible results for the first 24 days of the “elite summer meet,” with attendance up 13% over comparable days in 2009, on-track handle up 43%, and total handle up an amazing 118%. The average field size is also up over last year, to 9.0, compared to 7.44 in 2009. Monmouth doesn’t mention claiming activity in its press release, but that must also be up by a huge amount, with 215+ claims so far. At the start of the Monmouth “less-is-more” experiment, Steven Crist wrote, “Gov. Chris Christie has said his goal is to make the racing industry ‘entirely self-sustaining.’ Unless handle increases from last year’s $3.1 million a day to $10 million, that isn’t going to happen.” That hasn’t happened, but with average daily handle of $7.6 million, Monmouth is still in a very good spot. [7/19/10 Addition: Business of Racing digs into Monmouth claiming activity vis-a-vis Belmont.]

By Ragozin figures, Blind Luck tops 3-year-olds of either sex.

After the Massachusetts state senate approved a casino bill 25-15 earlier this month, expanded gaming looked almost certain. There were just a few differences with the house bill to reconcile in committee, and a tight deadline for getting legislation to the governor. Difficult, but not impossible. Now, State House News Service reports, “… serious people are talking in somber tones about a two-week stare-down that yields nothing in the way of major legislation. The unimaginable — failure to sanction casinos despite Big 3 ardor and at least $1.8 million spent on lobbying during the first six months of the year — looms.” It’ll be a tense watch for slots supporters …

Yes, a gentleman!” I never tire of the General Quarters story.

A Better Strategy

Steve Davidowitz, making sense*:

Too often, the sport’s leaders look in the wrong direction to build up the fan base while seeking stop gap measures to keep some tracks afloat.

Whereas slot machines have boosted purses at several tracks in states that cooperatively legalized slots a decade ago, the numbers of contemporary tracks seeking slot machines has increased to the point where the impact is bound to be diluted, if not an apocalyptic foreshadowing to the end game of this 400 year old sport….

It is my judgment, and I know I am in the minority now, but I believe strongly that racing would be better off trying to expand on-line wagering access rather than repeatedly banging its collective head against stone walls, seeking more slot machines.

*Login alert: Davidowitz’s column is now part of the Trackmaster Players Club; you may have to register before viewing if you don’t have a free account.

Tough Times Ahead

As if there were doubt that the aftermath of the recent hard-fought Kentucky slots battle would be rough, turf writer Lenny Shulman fires away at state senator Damon Thayer, who works in the industry but kept quiet through the debate: “If there is any justice, the next job that will be lost because of you and your buddies, will be yours.”

After →