South Ozone Park, NY--I wish I could say I enjoyed myself more at Aqueduct last Saturday. I so looked forward to the Cigar Mile program that included the Remsen and Demoiselle for colts and fillies, respectively, horses that will celebrate their third birthday in another five weeks.

As it turned out, the live card was terrific. Now A Victor showed in the Discovery that he could be a significant four-year-old in 2008. Of course, Street Sense and Hard Spun, to name two, won't get that chance.

Mushka was super impressive swooping the group in the Demoiselle. Court Vision was a game and classy winner of the Remsen. And, as fans will note again and again in the future, it's no disgrace to finish second behind Daaher, racings newest star. Protem sprint champion Midnight Lute has nothing to be ashamed of.

But as I looked around the Aqueduct grandstand--there were 4,712 people in attendance--it was impossible not to think about the current morass which is the franchise situation. Its not that the totally unfair and disingenuous Capital Play spots honestly depicted the state of NYRAs New York City track, but the Big A is in significant stages of disrepair.

For someone who spent 20 years of his professional life there on a daily basis, it was depressing.

With no infrastructure money available, fixing Aqueducts myriad problems was unrealistic. Worse, however, is what this situation has done to the morale of the hard working people who put on the show. They appeared to be on automatic pilot, just going through the motions.

When I asked a colleague who works there every day why there was no all-stakes Pick Four carded, I was told its because nobody cares anymore. When I asked why there was no mutuel clerk in the press box to take wagers on the Churchill program that began at 11:30 a.m., he added: Remember where you are. Dont expect things to be the way you think they should be.

Finally, when the clerk arrived, in plenty of time for the live program, I asked if I could purchase a betting account card to replace the one I misplaced. Ill have to get you one, I was told. I could call a supervisor to come up here, but they probably wouldnt.


Instead of a celebration of the last Grade 1 of the season on the final weekend of racing before the winter surface opens tomorrow, I saw people that were in a mental state of life support, servicing their customers professionally but joylessly. There was no energy in the press box or, for that matter, the parts of the building I walked through.

The only anticipation was that of people waiting for one last shoe to fall. And while they were doing a slow burn at a racetrack in Queens on the final big New York Saturday this year, the only sound coming from Albany was that of fiddle players giving thanks because department stores had opened for business at 4 a.m. the previous morning.