Senate Bill 8, which has passed a very early hurdle in the Florida legislature, would outlaw ADW in the state. Obviously there is no chance this is going to happen but it got everyone talking. Apparently the real purpose of the bill is to give tracks and horsemen the opportunity to squeeze more money out of off-track bet handlers. Meanwhile, major 3-year-old stakes Saturday at Santa Anita and Tampa Bay Downs might somewhat clarify an increasingly muddled Kentucky Derby picture.

Mark Twain is widely credited with coining the phrase, “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” However, a Wikipedia post reports a New York politician of the same 19th century era, Gideon J. Tucker, is the source. Whoever the originator, the message, which endures to the present day, is there is no limit to the mischief lawmakers can cause.

A piece of legislation that would outlaw Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) in Florida, Senate Bill 8, passed an early hurdle last week. It got the tales in a tangle of everyone in the horse industry even though common sense dictates it has no more chance of becoming law in its current form than a bill to declare suntan lotion a controlled substance. Moreover, a companion bill in the State House, contains no such ADW language.

“That bill is dead,” Gulfstream’s Tim Ritvo said emphatically last Saturday.

“None of us in the thoroughbred industry believe that language in that form is going to be approved,” Lonny Powell, chief executive officer of the FTBOA, was quoted in the BloodHorse.

This raises the question of where did such a draconian solution to a non-problem come from? Lawmakers generally don't get involved in pari-mutuel issues unless they are doing someone's bidding. My thinking is, if you scanned the bill, there is a good chance you would find the fingerprints of many of those who claim to be aghast at it.

Senate Bill 8 seems to be serving as a stalking horse for what the industry really wants, more money from ADW’s.The best way to get it is to put the fear of God into them with a threat that they could be put out of business in the Sunshine State.

Nobody wants that. There’s a big downside. The state, tracks and horsemen all would forfeit big bucks. If there’s an upside, it escapes me. This is why SB8 cannot and should not be taken seriously.

Marc Dunbar, who represents The Stronach Group, estimated licensing and taxing ADWs could generate an additional $1.5 million for racing interests. An intriguing sidelight is The Stronach Group owns Gulfstream and ADW company ExpressBet.com. So TSG appears to be lobbying for one of its subsidiaries against another.

“Give us what we want and the horse industry’s support for the anti-ADW provision disappears” seems to be the message. Don Corleone would smile.

Derby trail needs a leader

I can’t remember a week like the last one when the Kentucky Derby picture became so muddied. Classic Empire, already a question mark, put further doubt on his Derby status when he refused to work in the first attempt since his foot abscess. McCraken went on the disabled list with an ankle sprain, forcing him to skip the Tampa Bay Derby, although he has resumed training. Holy Bull winner Irish War Cry fired a blank in the Fountain of Youth. Jerome and Withers winner El Areeb did the same in the Gotham.

Perhaps Saturday’s San Felipe will restore some order to the top of the rankings. Gormley, who outfinished Bob Baffert’s American Anthem in the Sham, takes on the Baffert barn’s big 3-year-old, undefeated Mastery. There’s a wild card with an intriguing angle in San Vicente winner Iliad. He’s one of the horses Kaleem Shad took away from Baffert. Now he looks to upset Baffert’s leading Derby hopeful.

The Big ‘Cap might be the nominal feature but when it comes to generating conversation, this is the race of the day out West. This time of year my money is always on Baffert.

Back in the East, there’s no over-estimating the Tampa Bay Derby, which has produced a pair of Kentucky Derby winners in the past decade. I’m all in on Tapwrit, who didn’t get the best of trips while chasing McCraken home in the Sam F. Davis. Jose Ortiz got him trapped down on the rail behind horses as McCraken zipped by on the outside with all the momentum at the top of the lane. Once clear, Tapwrit was running as well, if not better, than the winner.

Ortiz, the uncrowned best rider in America, won’t make the same mistake twice. If Tapwrit does what I expect, he’ll become my new Derby horse. I anticipate a lot of company.

Elsewhere on the traditionally terrific Tampa Derby card, I like La Coronel in the Tampa Oaks a lot, too.

THE STRETCH DRIVE:


Sometimes I just want to scream. Graham Motion is an outstanding trainer. If I owned a horse, I’d be thrilled if Motion agreed to train him. But Saturday after Irish War Cry came up empty in the Fountain of Youth, Motion said his first instinct was the Holy Bull winner ran back too quickly.

The Holy Bull was four weeks previous. Fountain winner Gunnevera came out of the same race. So did Talk Logistic, fourth in the Holy Bull and the Fountain. Three Rules, a game third after doing all the dirty work, ran on the Holy Bull undercard.

Gulfstream continues to amaze. Not only did it handle a record of more than $26 million on Fountain Day, Gunnevera, now one of the favorites for the Derby, and Three Rules, who is being pointed for the Preakness, are products of the supposedly second tier summer meeting.

Poor Wood Memorial. NY winter wonder El Areeb gets thrashed and Dale Romans, trainer of Gotham winner J Boys Echo, says the Blue Grass almost certainly will be his final Derby prep. The injuries to Eclipse champion Classic Empire and McCraken have their connections also pointing for April 8 at Keeneland. So the Blue Grass could get its Grade 1 back quickly. Meanwhile, the Wood is left with...?

Go figure. (You’ll have to on Saturday.) Getting back to Santa Anita and the Big ‘Cap card, one of the top dirt horses in California, Dortmund, is skipping the main track feature to run on turf in the Kilroe Mile and one of the top grass horses, Midnight Storm, is passing on the Kilroe to run in the Big ‘Cap.

The greatest racetrack robbery this side of The Grifters took place Sunday at Santa Anita. If you missed it, the last race was taken off wet turf. Since the decision was announced after betting had opened, it made the race an “all” in the Pick 6 and Pick 4.

According to the single ticket jackpot rules of the Pick 6, the “all” dictated there could be no jackpot winner. Nevertheless, Santa Anita carried over the 15 percent set aside for days when there isn’t a single winner. So bettors couldn’t win but they could lose. Do that in other gambling games and someone calls the cops.

West Coast activist Andy Asaro is calling for a two-week boycott of Santa Anita to protest. Big Cap Saturday isn’t an optimum day to include but the point could be made by skipping all the other days the next two weeks. It's the only thing racetracks understand.