The Dude Abides
HALLANDALE BEACH, March 8, 2014--—If all the renewals were like yesterday’s, the Big Cap would be the BIG CAP again. And unless Meydan, for some reason, installs a dirt track, the Santa Anita Handicap will continue attract many of the best older horses in America.
Saturday’s renewal was billed as the “Epic Rematch,” of course. After all, the last time the win and place horses continued their battle from the previous year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was in 1988; in the end Alysheba over Ferdinand.
The rematch was the draw, not the fact that redoubtable Game On Dude was trying to become the first horse to win the Big Cap thrice, thus surpassing three dual winners; Lava Man, Milwaukee Brew and the legendary John Henry.
On Saturday at Santa Anita, Game On Dude became a bone fide legend. Yes, speed had a big advantage in Arcadia yesterday, with four of the seven dirt races won wire to wire, one from a chaser, one from a close-up inside stalker and, oh yes, Sahara Sky.
Game On Dude, who I believed was done, D-U-N, stunned everyone at the track, those in simulcast land and still more on national television. He just didn’t become the first three-time winner of this West Coast classic, he made his rivals look outmatched.
Even as Hear the Ghost chewed on him through fast splits; 22.91, 45.34 and 1:09.39, the Dude had the audacity to trip the timer in 1:32.57 for the mile and stopped it completely after a mile and a quarter in 1:58.17.
Are you kidding me? Seven year olds not named Kelso or Forego or John Henry are not supposed to do things like this. As the kids would say; it was awesome. Awesome Again, as the pedigree would say.
GUEST EDITORIAL By Dick Powell
Dick Powell is a racing renaissance man. A former lobbyist for New York racing, Powell is an industry consultant, writer, handicapper and lifelong horseplayer currently residing in Saratoga County. So it is no surprise he has strong feelings and serious concerns about what a full blown casino might mean for world class racing at Saratoga Race Course
A Full Blown Saratoga Casino? Be Very Afraid
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY--Like the people that read this column, I am always willing to take chances and admire those that do.
That said, how in the world can anyone think putting a full casino right next door Saratoga Race Course is a good idea? Who wants to take the chance of damaging the crown jewel of American racing? Not me.
When the New York casino constitutional amendment passed in 2012, it called for four casinos to be built outside of New York City. There are four regions that were carved out upstate in and around agreements with Native American gaming sites.
One such region is the Saratoga/Albany area and it will definitely have a casino with poker, blackjack, craps, roulette etc. Saratoga Raceway has a video lottery facility across Nelson Avenue with 1,782 VLTs.
The VLTs have been in operation there since March of 2014 and purses for the harness horsemen have more than tripled.
One could argue that part of the decline at Saratoga Race Course the past 10 years has been due to 1,782 VLTs only a few hundred yards away. If that is true, it is a very small part. Walk through the Raceway's gaming floor and you will see more walkers and oxygen tanks than horse racing products. There is little crossover but logistically it had to hurt some.
In 2001, when the VLT legislation was being proposed, I was the media spokesperson and strategist. Nobody wanted VLTs at Saratoga Race Course for many reasons and we knew that the ones next door might have some impact. That was more than balanced by 5,000 VLTs downstate at Aqueduct so the net effect was going to be extremely positive.
The late Bruce Hamilton, executive director of the Harness Breeders of New York, was the driving force behind the effort to get VLTs at New York racetracks and there should be a statue of him outside of every facility. He was indefatigable.
Now, Saratoga Raceway is pushing hard for the table games to complete the transition from a "racino" to a "casino." The problem is that table games attract an entirely different clientele. Horseplayers love to play cards and various games of skill.
From the 80/20 female-to-male ratio that exists now, it will change to about 50/50 and the increase in males will be ones that also like to play horses.