Paul Moran

For 30 years, more than 22 at Newsday, in New York, Paul Moran has covered thoroughbred racing on its highest level. During that time, he has covered 30 Triple Crown series, every running of the Breeders' Cup Championships, 23 race meetings at Saratoga, won two Eclipse Awards, a Red Smith Award for coverage of the Kentucky Derby and other writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Editors, Long Island Press Club, Society of Silurians (the oldest press club in New York), Long Island Veterinary Medical Association, Florida Magazine Publishers Association.

In 2002, he was named New York's best thoroughbred handicapper by the New York Press in its annual "Best of Manhattan" edition. His work has appeared in virtually every racing publication published in the United States and most major American newspapers. He is a licensed owner of thoroughbreds in New York Contact:

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Report: At least the governor is happy

With firmly grounded and well-founded doubt that the long-delayed video lottery terminal facility at Aqueduct will ever be completed, the government of New York State has again turned its attention to Belmont Park.

Ridiculous, perhaps, but a study suggests that two casinos about six miles apart is a good idea. The report, which deals only in broad generalities and suppositions, supports what most believe was a foregone conclusion, since Gov. David Paterson – the man who would tax soda -- beneath whom the report’s authors serve, is on record in support of the absolutely blasphemous concept of a casino at Belmont. The facility, under terms of last year’s franchise deal with NYRA, is owned by the state. The state owns the track at Saratoga, too. What defamation is in the future there?

The Belmont study, the work of Empire State Development president Marisa Lago and New York State Racing and Wagering Board chairman John Sabini, is unlikely to serve a greater purpose, since Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls the fate of bills in the Democratic-run House, has opposed the concept. Then again, we’re dealing with Albany, where anything can happen, none of it good.

“Belmont Park is an enormous asset for economic development in New York," Paterson said in a statement. "I commend all of the participants for their thoughtful analysis and commitment to the Belmont Park redevelopment study recommendations. In these times of fiscal crisis, it’s important that we move forward with projects like Belmont, which can create new jobs, generate additional tax revenue, and bolster economic development in the surrounding communities in Nassau and Queens Counties.”

Yeah, right.

The chosen operator of the Aqueduct facility, Delaware North, has been unsuccessful in financing the development amidst the current credit climate and without concessions will likely balk at going forward under threat of state-supported nearby competition. So, Patterson’s stance on Belmont is likely to further delay the Aqueduct project, the beginning of which has disappeared beyond the horizon.

Excelsior indeed. – PM

Written by Paul Moran

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The numbing chill of winter in New York

The Hollie Hughes, a sprint for New York-breds worth $65,000, was the feature on Thursday’s Aqueduct racing program. Originally, this race was to be run on Monday but drew only three entries. A second attempt attracted a half-dozen, the others probably hustled by the racing office.

This is a sad if unintended commentary of the state of winter racing in New York but I was stricken yesterday while in search of a Thursday afternoon opportunity that I have not seen a live horserace since the Cigar Mile on Thanksgiving weekend, almost three months ago, which is the longest absence from live racing of my adult life after about three decades of daily attendance. Part of the reason is Aqueduct itself, which has the atmosphere of a third-world bus terminal. Part is a personal distaste for winter and part – not the smallest part – is the lack of a racing product that amounts to more than fodder for the simulcast and OTB gristmill.

I find very little at Aqueduct that prompts speculation in the pari-mutuel pools and expect nothing to change after post-scratch re-evaluation of this position. While admittedly more conservative than most horseplayers, a typical week of racing this winter has failed to yield more than a handful of plays and it is not unusual for a card, like today’s – which does not include a single open allowance race but two for maiden claimers and a special weight for state-breds -- to be completely empty.

The quality of winter racing at Aqueduct is now the best argument for a break in the New York schedule.

So, like many others, winter racing is observed from a couch in the living room and wagering, what little there is, is carried out on the Internet. This eliminates exposure to both the first-level clubhouse at Aqueduct and the Belt Parkway. But living with the Long Island cable system that carries the NYRA feed is not the ideal alternative to Aqueduct or an OTB-affiliated simulcast venue if the focal point is a race run out of town. On Monday, with the field for the Southwest Stakes in the paddock at Oaklawn Park, the screen went black and after 30 seconds or so, returned with no horses and people speaking in Italian.

A TVG subscription would have been handy and would have eliminated the need to rush to a nearby restaurant in order to see an out-of-town race run after 6 p.m.—in this case the Southwest and the San Vicente at Santa Anita -- in deference to the local OTB’s arrogant disregard for its customers. That, however, would not solve the problem when Gulfstream or Santa Anita was the scene of a race of importance and HRTV, which carries those tracks, is not available on cable here.

The convenience of account wagering is among the better developments resulting from the off-track migration of players but there are obvious flaws born in the competition among various betting platforms, none of which operate with the best interest of the patron as a priority. Convenience is not always convenient. --PM

Written by Paul Moran

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

The comfort of timelessness

At the heart of the racing experience is a timelessness that is somehow comforting in the face of the continual change, crisis, strife and atrocity that are the threads of human history. The map of the world has been redrawn countless times during the roughly three centuries in which the modern thoroughbred has come to symbolize the definition of equine evolution. Through wars waged in the name of religion, ideology, imperialism and every conceivable form of grotesquely twisted zeal, the essence of racing the fruit of selective breeding remains hauntingly unchanged.

It is not that centuries of racing have produced no advances in technology, veterinary medicine, equipment and nutrition, but that all these have failed collectively to develop a horse significantly faster than those who raced a century ago. The best horse of the 20th Century was either Man o’ War, who was born in 1917, or Secretariat, a foal of 1970.

The eleven horses capable of winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes at age three-- the Triple Crown, which is the sport’s ultimate and most rare achievement -- emerged between the years 1919 and 1978. In a world steeped in violent confrontation the racing world remains one level of reality removed from the strife, plagues and travails of humankind and several levels removed even from the most acrimonious and consuming of conflicts.

Racing in Lexington, Kentucky, continued, with understandable interruptions, throughout the Civil War. In Louisville, the sport was halted for the first two years of the war, but was resumed before it ended.

Federico Tesio, the legendary breeder, owner and trainer of a legion of champion horses and two legends, Nearco and Ribot, observed that, during World War II, the horses at his Dormello Stud, in the north of Italy, became oblivious to the explosions of bombs that fell nearby. The sport was conducted in this country during World War II until shortages or manpower and materials brought on a moratorium at the beginning of 1943. Racing was conducted in Saigon through much of the war in Vietnam, was among the last of public events suspended in Baghdad, days before the invasion of Iraq, and the first to be resumed. In a place where many attach little value on human life, Iraqi grooms stayed with their horses during the rain of bombs.

The planet has seen the rise and fall of pagan, Christian and Muslim empires, fascism and communism, endured Caligula, Nero, Attila, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, Castro, Saddam Hussein, the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, radical fundamentalist Islamofascists and reality television, two global conflicts, revolutions, including the one that resulted in the United States, countless civil wars, including our own, centuries of murder in the name of Jesus and Allah, put humans in outer space, suffered plagues and pandemics, disco, an array of recurring natural disasters, the Industrial Revolution, Prohibition, the information age and 9-11 – but a horse is a horse. If it is capable of running six furlongs in 68 seconds or ten furlongs in two minutes, you’ve got something to work with.

If the animal that is engaged in the central activity, the epicenter of a huge and diverse industry that embraces elements as incongruous as agriculture and gaming has not become appreciably faster in at least a century while the actual task has been affected profoundly only by the invention of the mechanical starting gate and the evolution of the American-style posture of riders, which moved the burden of weight from the back to a position over the withers and greatly diminished its impact on performance, the racing experience is profoundly different than it was when this was really the “Sport of Kings.” -- PM

Written by Paul Moran

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