Showing posts from March, 2010

Some Sensible Ideas for NYC OTB

The New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. (NYC OTB), the only bookmaker in recorded history to consistently lose money, is in bankruptcy. Its chairman, Sandy Frucher, has proposed making it solvent through the simple remedy of not bothering to pay the racetracks and the horsemen anything. Unless of course, NYC OTB miraculously turns a profit, in which case the folks who put on the show would get some fraction of that profit.
As we all know, it's easy for creative accounting to either manufacture or disguise a profit, so it's hard to imagine that NYC OTB would have much incentive to be profitable. After all, as NYC OTB is a state-owned corporation, any profit wouldn't stay in the pockets of Frucher and the myriad other managers anyway.
Thanks to my Castle Village Farm partner Peggy Rees Smith, though, for pointing out that there are some good ideas out there for cleaning up the OTB mess, even if New York politicians aren't willing to do the obvious and just close it down …

Betrayal in Maryland

The auction of Laurel and Pimlico and the rest of Magna Entertainment's Maryland properties has been cancelled, and Magna's lawyers went to bankruptcy court today with a revised reorganization plan that would leave Frank Stronach in control of Maryland racing for the foreseeable future.
The auction was to have been held Thursday, March 25th.
According to the Blood-Horse (which posted its story about an hour and a half after mine), Stronach's captive company, MI Developments, will pay $13 million to cover secured claims by the PNC Bank, $6 million for unsecured creditors of the Maryland tracks, and $5 million to the DeFrancis family, as a buyout of their claim to a share of slots revenue. In addition, Stronach's lawyers last week secured agreement from the unsecured creditors committee in the larger Magna entertainment bankruptcy to settle the creditors' pending lawsuit for a payment of $89 million, also to come from MI Developments.
More details are available at the

Rally to Save NY Racing Sunday March 21 at Belmont

New York racing is facing a crisis. There are still no slots at Aqueduct, nine years after the concept was approved by the Legislature, and the latest attempt to select a casino operator has ended in a political farce. New York City OTB is in bankruptcy, owes NYRA and horse owners some $14 million, and wants to solve its problems by having us give them the simulcast signal for nothing. And New York State, which promised NYRA an additional $30 million in operating funds if slots weren't underway by March 2009(!), has shown no sign of coming up with the money, even though it's that state's fault that the slots aren't there. If nothing happens, NYRA really will run out of money sometime later this year.
NYRA, the horsemen and NY breeders all need the state government to step up to its responsibilities right now, before we have to start cancelling racing days and lowering purses even further. New York racing and breeding directly provides some 35,000 jobs at the tracks and …


Industry, scholarly and policy discussions about the future of the news industry in North America and Europe continue to focus on how news enterprises can sustain themselves in the 21st century. Publishers keep asserting that things will be fine if they can erect pay walls and charge for news online and they argue that governments should provide legal protections for online news so they can make news a viable digital business product.

Their approach is wrong and ignores the fundamental reality that news has never been a commercially viable product because most of the public has been, and remains, unwilling to pay for news. Consequently, news has always been funded with income based on its value for other things.

Historically, the first collection and dissemination of news was funded in ancient times by emperors and kings, who used governors and officials throughout their realms to collect news and information and send it to the seat of power. Emissaries, consuls, and ambassadors collect…


Pink Floyd was always a unique rock group and understood its music as a form of artistic expression. It evolved from psychedelic music in the 1960s to progressive rock known for rock instrumental and acoustic effects in the 1970s. The group often saw their albums as integrated works of art in which subsequent tracks built upon earlier ones. They considered their entire recording to be art; that the ordering of tracks was part of the expression and should not be altered, and that the album should be enjoyed as a whole not merely as a collection of individual songs. Even the album covers got special artistic attention reflecting their content and experiences.

The band felt so strongly about the art of its music that it negotiated a contract with EMI that included a provision to “preserve the artistic integrity of the albums.”

Consumers obviously thought Pink Floyd got the art right, helping the group achieve 16 gold, 13 platinum, and 10 multi-platinum albums. Two of its albums sold more …

A Closer Look at the Calder Sale

Initial reports on the Fasig-Tipton sale of two-year-olds in training at Calder last week were cautiously optimistic. For example, the Daily Racing Form focused on the increase in the average and median price for those horses that actually sold, and devoted much of its story to positive comments from, who else, Fasig-Tipton's Boyd Browning, and from the lucky consignors who sold the $2.3 milion sale topper, a colt by Distorted Humor out of Tomisue's Delight.
But, on closer examination, the numbers from the sale look rather like US unemployment figures; the rate of decline may be slowing, but any real upturn isn't in sight yet.
For a start, the auction grossed $3 million less than in 2009, and nearly $40 million less than just four years ago, in 2006 (though that year's $62 million total was inflated by the lunatic bidding war between John Ferguson and Demi O'Byrne for the $16 million colt who subsequently became the lifelong maiden The Green Monkey).
True, this year&#…

The Cost of Ownership in New York

My Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance colleague "CanGamble" recently posted his annual analysis of how much it costs to keep a horse in training in Ontario, and, therefore, how much the horse needs to earn in purse money for the owner to break even. According to that analysis, An owner who bases his or her horse at Woodbine can break even with just $26,750 in purses -- and that's in those cute little Canadian dollars. At today's exchange rate, that's barely $26,000 real (i.e., US) dollars.
Those of us who race in New York aren't so fortunate. I've gone over the last year's bills from our three trainers and myriad vets, and here's my analysis of what it costs to keep a horse in training at the NYRA tracks:
Let's assume that the horse is based at the race track for nine months a year, stays sound (increasingly unlikely), races 10 times, and gets a three-month vacation. Most owners and trainers probably can't afford to give the horse the time off,…

Bill Turner Honored in Barbados, if not in the Hall of Fame

Bill Turner, the only living thoroughbred trainer to win the Triple Crown, is in Barbados this weekend, being honored by the island's racing establishment at a Triple Crown Forum on Friday and then at the 29th running of Barbados's biggest race, the Sandy Lane Gold Cup, on Saturday. Details of the trip are here.
But, while the Barbados Turf Club recognizes Turner's stature in the game, the same recognition hasn't come from the US racing establishment, in the persons of the Racing Hall of Fame's nominating committee. That committee is now engaged in its annual ritual of selecting nominees for the Hall, and it's high time they gave Bill a shot.
In addition to training Seattle Slew and some other pretty nice horses, Bill has trained a number of good New York-breds for my Castle Village Farm over the past decade, including Hollie Hughes Handicap winner Introspect, and multiple stakes-placed filly Just Zip It. You might also have heard of some of the stakes winners h…