Will this be the year?

On Saturday many eyes of the sporting world will be on Belmont Park in Elmont, NY to watch and see if California Chrome can win the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown has not been one since 1978, despite there being eleven chances for it to happen. Tom Durkin has called each of them, and the New York Times produced a wonderful video capturing each of Durkn’s calls on the missed attempts.

The Belmont Stakes is a test of endurance on many levels. The first aspect is that for a horse who will be trying to win the Triple Crown, it will be the first time a horse will go a mile and a half. It will also be his third race in five weeks, something that is generally not done in today’s racing world.

My hope is we get a triple crown winner. California Chrome is the needle in the haystack. A foal from an $8,000 mare bred to a horse with a $2,500 stallion fee proves anything is still possible in horse racing.

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5 Questions for Chris Kay

I read with interest the article by Ray Paulick detailing the fact that the New York Racing Association (NYRA) is INCREASING admission fees at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. While some people may think that an increase from $3 to $5 and Clubhouse admission from $5 to $8 as  nominal. The fact is that if a family were to go this increase becomes something to consider. Additionally if someone goes repeatedly, it makes one rethink whether to attend the track in person or wager from the comfort of their couch where they don’t have to spend this money in addition to the monies being wagered. As a result I have  10 questions that Chris Kay will probably never answer but should be asked.

1.  When Belmont Park has attendance figures that are in the single thousands for a facility that holds much more, why would any admission make sense much less one that increased?

2.  How does NYRA support the idea that increasing fees to the fan will increase handle?

3.  Why would someone bring a prospective fan to the track with or without an admission fee?

4.  How are you educating the new fan in order to get them vested in the game?

5.  What is happening with all the millions in handle and why is that money not enough run the operations?

These are questions that we as fans and horsemen should have answered. Right now Aqueduct offers and will continue to offer free admission, however given the track side experience there; they should be paying us to go there! Sadly it appears that NY racing is once again turning its back on the fans.



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John Veitch’s Saga Contnues

John Veitch is a Hall of Fame Trainer. He was until 2012, also the chief steward in Kentucky. By all accounts, he is a knowledgeable affable man who has spent his entire life in the racing industry. John Veitch had the misfortune of being the “captain” of the ship when Life At Ten ran in the Breeder’s Cup in 2010.

Life At Ten was a filly that was supposed to be the favorite in that year’s Filly and Mare race. She warmed up in a manner that was inconsistent with her previous races, however the jockey John Velasquez (a hall of famer) did not think it was worthy of calling the vet over for an examination. The race ran, and Life At Ten finished last, performing uncharacteristically poor. From that moment forward, John Veitch has been investigated, a hearing held, suspension given and served. Yet the saga continues

According to the Daily Racing Form the Kentucky Court of Appeals has determined that the Circuit Court should review aspects of the Veitch case. Should the Circuit Court determine that Veitch acted within his providence, they can reverse the suspension.  Nothing however, will reverse the damage done to Veitch, personally, professionally and financially. This man who once was a wunderkind of the sport has been relegated to a placing judge.

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My Favorite Day of the Year!

The day is here! I awoke with an excitement that only comes once a year, however this year’s Opening Day is even more special than most.

This is the year that NYRA is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Saratoga! The fans are  excited, the trainers are pumped, and the town looks great. Saratoga year in and year out has the best racing in the Country. This year is no different culminating with the Midsummer’s Derby: the Traver’s Stakes. This years Travers is building up to be a rematch of each of the winners of the Triple Crown races which will make for a thrilling day.

Personally, today is a great day. It is a day of renewing friendships It is a day of reestablishing connections. For me, albeit some may say its heresy, its about the people more than the gambling. I am excited to see friends, old and new. I am excited to watch great racing and I am exited to be in my favorite racing spot.

Sports Illustrated had it spot on naming Saratoga as one of the 10 top sporting places if you haven’t come, you should and I’d he happy to show you around!



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Kentucky Derby Party, 2013

We had a great time at the Derby Party this year! Many thanks to all who came.


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Racinos are helping horsemen

Syracuse.com posted an article  today dealing with the revenue from slot machines at racinos at thoroughbred and harness race tracks in New York State.

The article states that the gross gaming revenue generated from slot machines at racinos was $1.8 billion dollars. Of that sum, roughly 1/3 or $216 million dollars goes to capital improvements, purses and breeding fund awards. This helps owners, trainers, breeders and the ancillary staff continue to make money and be able to buy the feed, employ the grooms and keep racing going. The dollars simply show that VLT’s are helping NY Racing.

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Tax Relief for Horse Owners

Teresa Genaro

Good news for horse owners – take a look at “2013 Brings Unexpected Tax Relief for Horse Owners” in Forbes Magazine by Teresa Genaro.


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Is a buyout the problem or the solution?

Today’s Albany Times Union has a story about former and current NYRA executives looking for a buyout of their employment contracts as well as payment for legal fees relating to an investigation into ethical violations during 2012.

Charles Hayward, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and Patrick Kehoe, the former general counsel and Senior Vice President were dismissed last May subsequent to an investigation about discrepancies in the monies being taken out for the state. They are seeking money for back pay, as well as a buyout from their contracts. Not being privy to their employment contracts,  I cannot state whether they are contractually entitled to a buy out, however if NYRA had cause to terminate both men then these payments are unnecessary.

According to the Times Union the racing and wagering board is investigating how NYRA overcharged bettors by nearly $8 million until state auditors caught the misdeed in December 2011. The report determined that Hayward and other NYRA personnel knew the association was keeping more from “exotic” bets than is permissible under racing law. Should this finding come back and implicate Hayward and Kehoe, the termination should be upheld without any recourse for a severance because their termination would be for cause base on their actions. Nonetheless, if it shown that either Mr. Kehoe or Mr. Hayward are blameless in this, then there can be an argument for monies to be paid. The article states that the final determination is on hold until the New York Inspector General makes his

The article continues to state that Ellen McClain, the acting CEO and CFO during the period when the takeout was not properly removed, is also seeking a buyout of her contract.  Thoroughbred Trainer Gary Contessa  accurately surmises that someone cannot be completely focused on their present job when they are seeking a buyout and looking elsewhere for a paycheck.

NYRA needs an executive now who’s eye is on NYRA and not their own pocket or the next job. There are significant issues facing NYRA, the least of which is the new board and creating stability for New York Racing. NYRA is facing challenging times as there are issues before it regarding the potential for casino gaming. Additionally there are issues with respect to the lease of Aqueduct and the failure of Genting to provide the necessary cleaning and upkeep for the old Aqueduct. The new dormitories for Saratoga backstretch employees need to be redone and we need help reinvigorating our fan base, just for starters. We definitely need a person who is running NYRA who has NYRA’s, the horsemen, the owners and the fan’s best interests at heart, with the pronouncement that she is looking for a job, it’s clear Ellen McClain is not that person anymore.

New York Racing is in need of someone who can guide the ship. Someone who can stand up to Governor Cuomo and fight for our industry. New Yor racing needs someone who will understand the complexities that running three tracks in three distinct communities along with an ADW facility has and be able to make sure that the product put on the track is deserving of the reputation New York has maintained. It is a hard job with little reward as the owners, trainers and fans all can be difficult to please. It is a job that must be done, however, and one that needs new leadership.

So, is Ellen McClain’s buyout the solution? I hope it is.


Todd Engel


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Dutrow Suspension Upheld

The New York State Court of Appeals on January 8, 2013 determined to uphold the 10 year suspension of trainer Rick Dutrow. The suspension plus a $50,000 fine will go into effect immediately upon service of the suspension order.

The Dutrow Case has been fully discussed here.

Rick Dutrow

In my view, this means when a licensee comes before an arbitrator for a hearing, the arbitrator’s decision will withstand Court scrutiny. This means that the best way for a client to resolve these issues with the RWB is to negotiate.

The key to fighting for your client is knowing when the fight is over…..clearly an owner, jockey or trainer has every right to fight and appeal a decision made by a racing and wagering board. They have the right and duty to get spit samples when a horse has tested positive. They have a right to a hearing to examine the evidence and cross examine those who have accused them. These are legal principles afforded to the owners and trainers, and will continue. However, once the negotiations are done, and the hearing officer has ruled, it is clear after Dutrow the Courts will not revisit their determination.



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Dutrow Appeal Denied

Trainer Rick Dutrow had his request to be heard by the  New York State Court of Appeals denied on Tuesday, October 23rd.

The Court in its brief decision declined to hear Dutrow’s case because “no substantial constitutional questions were involved.” This means that part of the Dutrow case is resolved, however there is still the opportunity for the Court of Appeals to reverse the 3rd Department decision denying Dutrow’s appeal of the administrative hearing setting down a ten year suspension from racing. Until that determination is made the stay of the suspension is in force allowing Rick Dutrow to train and race horses.

The Bloodhorse  reports that Dutrow’s attorney, Michael Koenig states, “The trainer will try one more time with the Court of Appeals to challenge the mid-level Court’s findings.” He continues to say that this appeal was on substantial constitutional issues only while their further appeal will be more broad based.”

The questions that are left for appeal deal with whether Dutrow had his due process rights violated when the Racing and Wagering Board investigator entered his office; searching for and finding hypodermic needles. As a result of this discovery, a 90 day suspension was initially issued. Subsequently, based upon Dutrow’s prior record, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board increased the suspension to 10 years. As a result, Dutrow has sought to have the suspension vacated and these appeals continue.

This story is not over yet, and I will keep updating it as it winds through the court system.


Todd Engel

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