Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Changes at the Spa

As you may have read there appears to be a general displeasure with the changes ongoing at the Spa as undertaken by the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

Everybody has there take so here is one man's opinion (mine) on a couple of changes:

1. As a 11 year season seat subscriber who buys 4 reserved seats each year, I did get the feeling this year that NYRA does not value my business. Each year prior to this NYRA would slowly move my seats closer to the Finish line, usually a section closer each year.  Last year I had my seats in the Clubhouse Section C.

Now this year I was kicked back all the way to Section J, a full 7 sections away from the finish line. When I called NYRA and explained that as a long time customer I was displeased as to how far I got moved back, they did not make any offer to move me or otherwise accommodate me.

They said if perhaps I was a NYRA Rewards member that might make a difference. When I explained that I WAS a NYRA Rewards member (since Day 1) they then told me I was not a "High Roller" (which I agree as I am only a small time bettor). They explained that only the High Roller Rewards members who are also ticket holders could be moved to better sections.  So let me get this straight, your experience as a guest will be enhanced, but only if you are are a high end bettor?

I am also not a fan of the bundled admission with the reserved seats, which really ends up as a hidden tax as you get no refund on the Admission fee if the ticket is not actually used that day. So if you go 30 out of the 40 days, NYRA still collects the admission fee off you for the other 10 days.

2. Changes to the Paddock will now reduce visibility of the saddling of the horses before each race in the Paddock area. This year reserved picnic tables will be moved in front of the Paddock Fencing.

 With the tables in this location there is almost no where a fan can go to view the horses without some serious elbow jostling. The Rail outdoor bar by the Shack Shake is great, but that has reduced visibility of the Paddock area.

Also the TV Platform for NYRA's Talking Horses/Pre race analysis shows takes up space. I love walking the backyard of the Spa, it is like no other track, but the Paddock area is not as open and accessible as other tracks.

Yes, it is still the summer place to be, and I love going there, but NYRA has to be careful to not make the regular faithful customers feel they are not welcome.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

At last a Big Day on the Big A Inner Track

After a spurt of inner track fatalities and cancellations due to snow, ice, and cold we finally get to focus on actual racing at the Aqueduct when the Withers Stakes, a Grade III Derby Prep goes this Saturday.

For my preview click here to read my preview I wrote for Thorofan 

Friday, August 29, 2014

They're in the Gate for the Last Time-Tom Durkin

It's the final weekend for NYRA racetrack announcer Tom Durkin. Sunday will be his final day calling races at Saratoga (and any other track) as he retires. His last race call will be the Spinaway Stakes (2 year old Fillies).
This summer at the Spa I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of people I spoke to who were aware that Tom Durkin is retiring. The fact that so many fans know who Tom Durkin is and are aware he is retiring says something about Durkin. There are many adjectives you can use for Mr. Durkin and one of the best is memorable.
You know the sound of his voice, you know what he looks like, and you know his familiar phrases. Heck, I named this blog "They're in the Gate" after the phrase Mr. Durkin uses every time the last horse enters into the gate before a race. Listen this final weekend to how he says: "They're in the Gate"
The way he says it has the just the right mixture of enthusiasm and succinctness. I love it and it will long echo in my head.
And of course, there are the race calls himself.  We have the internet so Durkin's calls will not go away.
What I liked most about Durkin was his humor and sense of entertainment.  Have you ever watched other race calls on TVG, or your local OTB simulcast and been bored to tears by the calls. Of course you have. Durkin is smart enough to know that he is in the information business but also in the entertainment business. He could be very serious in his race calls, but when the moment called for a little fun, he knew it.
 He also knew when a big moment was here and called for a memorable call. A perfect example of this is Durkin's call of the Rachel Alexandra win in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. He knew many of the fans came to the track that day with one goal in mind-to see Rachel win. And when she did Durkin was ready with the big call.  I will never forget that call as the horses came around the final turn and Durkin says" A Dramatic Stretch Drive Awaits", and when she won, proclaiming "Rachel raises the rafters here at the Spa".

Simply the Best, enjoy your next venture Tom. 

Friday, May 02, 2014

Derby 2014 Musings

The Big weekend is now upon us. With Hoppertunity scratched and Pablo Del Monte not going in as an AE you have 19 horses to play with.

If there is one race to tune out all the chatter from various touts it's this race. With 19 horses coming out of the gate, no one, even the experts can tell you before the race how the trip will be for each horse.

Too many horses, too much dirt flying, too much jockeying around early.

For this race, just envision how YOU think the trip will be for each horse and than make your picks. Forget the others, they don't know the trip any better than you do.

Do I know? Heck no, I can only view it my head and make picks accordingly. Clean trip I think California Chrome wins, but can I really expect a clean trip? Probably not, so with a little rough going I have to consider the others, especially closers coming late.

I will play with the following horses, watching the odds boards just before race time, and then the bets get sent in: California Chrome, Tapiture, Intense Holiday, Medal Count, Wicked Strong.

Good luck all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Coulda Woulda Shouda

Love reading all the post crisis sanctimonious ramblings after the PETA undercover investigation was released. I heard about it first by reading  Joe Drape's NY Times article .

My first reaction was "oh wow that's not going to be good".

But then I watched it a second time, looking closely and listening for any "illegal activity". Didn't really see or hear anything definitive at least as far as illegal treatment of the horses in the video put out by PETA. Some chatter about buzzer use, but even that was very unclear and perhaps a story of a long time ago.
There was some talk of illegal hiring practices of backstretch workers.

But is that Racing's problem or say The NY Department of Labor (some of  the investigation by PETA  took place in Saratoga). Everytime my business adds even a part time worker to the payroll I get workers comp and NYS Disability notices up the wazhoo.

Where was the Workers Comp Board and Labor Dept on this? Shouldn't we be asking them when was the last workers comp audit they did?  How about the IRS or the various State Tax Departments. Any recent audits? notices? request for payroll records? How about the NYS Gaming Commission? Same goes for all the various Kentucky boards and departments?

If these various entities can't do their job, you think a Federal Governing body for racing will?

But no coulda woulda shoulda's from me. I view the game for what it is (or at least how I  see it) : a mostly on the level game filled with a ton of people who love to compete (owners, trainers, equine athletes, horseplayers) with a bunch of crazies mixed in with a sprinkling of miscreants.

The game is filled with colorful characters, and a ton drink, swear, eat and smoke too  much and many gamble the mortgage money away each month. Some of these characters will always push the envelope and will continue to do that in 2014 and 2024 and onward.  Don't see how that is ever gonna change. I'm OK with that, mostly because I already know that it is what  it is..

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A word on Moran

It is with sadness that I note the passing of award winning journalist Paul Moran, dead at only 66.
He was a wordsmith till the end with his last column published on the ESPN website on 10/28/13.

New York City metro readers of old will remember him from Newsday, back in the day when the NY Post, NY Daily News and Newsday all had multiple pages on racing every day. That's almost all gone now as are the days of racetrack patrons walking around the track with the entries and writer selections cut out from their favorite NY tabloid sticking out of their hand or back pocket. 

Here in upstate NY I can still read the daily entries and selections of the NYRA tracks in my local paper of choice, The Times Union, but how much longer will that last?

I will miss Moran and his way with words and his biting wit that would shine through in his columns. The game goes on, just now without one of its' best writers.