Pennsylvania Gaming Legislation Sees Heavy Opposition

Legislation in Pennsylvania that would legalize tens of thousands of video gaming terminals in taverns and bars across the state has seen heavy opposition from casino operators and Horsemen’s groups.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is currently considering the gambling expansion in tandem with state budget negotiations. Also a part of legislation talks are airport slot machines, Internet gambling, and off-track betting parlors.

Revenue shares from 12 state casino slot machines are currently distributed to purses and breed development. The Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund last year totaled over $243 million, according to stats provided by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Placing video game terminals in taverns and bars would lead to a reduction of 25-30 percent in revenue for Horsemen’s groups.

“This legislation would provide VGT companies a third of all revenues generated by the new machines, taking money out of the pockets of property owners, the local horse racing industry, its employees, and the farmers who depend on it,” said the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association in a statement.

Their statement continued:

“Statewide, gaming has generated billions of dollars in property tax relief, and the horseracing industry has created 23,000 jobs and invested over $200 million in goods and services in farms and other businesses. All of this would be in jeopardy if this legislation is passed to create thousands of VGT mini-casinos that would literally pop up on countless street corners across Pennsylvania.”

“If some legislators have their way, they’ll expand gaming practically everywhere to include liquor establishments, fire halls, truck stops, video gaming terminals in taverns, and more,” said the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association. “There’s even a plan to allow for Internet gaming at a much lower tax rate. That means casinos with racetracks are more likely to market Internet gaming at the expense of our racetracks.”

One person who disagrees the legislation is bad is the lawmaker who is trying to get the bill passed: Rep. Mark Mustio.

“We are here to say that diversification is needed because Pennsylvania’s brick and mortar casinos are leaving too much of the market untapped,” said Mustio. “At the state level, legalizing VGTs translates into $400 million in tax and fee revenue for the general fund that is otherwise left on the table every year. To look at this another way, Pennsylvania has missed out on an additional $4 billion in general fund revenue over the past decade.”

Bodhisattva Rallies For Win in Return to Pimlico

Bodhisattva Storms Home to Win Featured Father’s Day Race

Making his first start in Maryland in more than a year when he was eighth in the Preakness Stakes, Bodhisattva rallied from dead last with a powerful sweeping move on the far outside to win the featured seventh race on a special Father’s Day program Sunday at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Bodhisattva circled the far turn three deep and made an explosive move in the stretch to win by 3 ¾ lengths as the second-longest shot at 11-1. The $47,000 optional claiming race for 3-year-olds had a field of six after two were scratched. Bodhisattva paid $25.80, $8.80 and $4.40 to finish the 1 1/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:44.50. Fellow stakes winner and even money favorite Mr. Palmer was a decisive second with leading jockey Victor Carrasco aboard, six lengths in front of third place finisher Golden Glint.

It was the first victory for the 4-year-old Bodhisattva since winning the Federico Tesio at Pimlico last April. He had failed to finish in the money in his last seven starts including eighth in last year’s Preakness Stakes won by American Pharoah. However, Sunday’s win was his fourth in Maryland in ten career starts at Pimlico, Laurel and Timonium.

“None of them are easy, but we changed tactics today,” winning jockey Taylor Hole said. “The Owner[Jose Corrales] said, ‘Don’t chase them, let him lag and make one big explosive move at the end,’ and it worked. He just kind of galloped by them. He went from last to first in an eighth of a mile and I galloped him home to the wire. They’re pretty nice when they can beat a bunch like this in hand running away from them.”

Bodhisattva was still reserved in last as the group left the backstretch before getting his cue from Hole and gaining steadily on the far outside, catching the leaders after straightening for home and rolling down the stretch under a hand ride.

“Taylor did a very good job with the horse all the way around,” Corrales said. “Everybody’s very happy that he’s come back and, myself, I like the horse. He’s the horse that brought me to the biggest races of my life.”

NY Workers’ Comp Insurance Legislation Good News for Jockeys

Final approval for legislation in New York regarding flexibility when it comes to workers’ compensation insurance for jockeys was given yesterday. The new legislation will allow the New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund to self-insure or expand pool of covered individuals, like backstretch workers, for example, in order to curb rising expenses.

The fund covers jockeys and exercise riders and is paid for directly by trainers who pass part of the expenses to owners.

“There is a workers’ compensation crisis in New York,” said New York Thoroughbred Horsemen Association President Richard Violette. He also mentioned that compensation costs that make up part of the expenses of trainers’ payrolls have risen from 11 percent five years ago to 22 percent today. He added that, “It keeps people from coming to New York.”

The new legislation will give the fund powers to investigate lowering costs or at least putting a slow burn to the rising costs. The current fund is currently so limited, according to Violette, that they don’t even have the capacity to explore the options of higher deductibles or opting into plans that pay dividends.

While the legislation was given final approval by both the Senate and Assembly, it still needs to be approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Combined with other costs of doing business in New York state and a lot of the bureaucratic necessities, this has stunted a lot of the growth that you would have thought our purse structure would have been responsible for. We have to make New York a more user-friendly place to do business and the best place to start is to somehow within the industry remake the workers’ compensation system,” said Violette.

The Pizza Man Set to Deliver in Wise Dan Stakes

The Pizza Man Toes the Turf in Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs Saturday

Race 7 on the Downs After Dark card Saturday at Churchill Downs is the $200,000 Wise Dan Stakes. The Grade II race is for 3-year-olds and up and contested at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Formerly the Firecracker Handicap, the race was renamed this year for the 2012 and 2013 Horse of the Year.

The Pizza Man is the 6-5 favorite and will carry high weight of 123 pounds when he makes his second start of the year following a fifth place finish February 6 in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.  The most accomplished horse in the race with 16 victories including 11 stakes wins has over $1.9 million in career earnings.

“He really didn’t like the Gulfstream turf at all,” trainer Roger Brueggemann said. “That was the first time I had him on something that he didn’t like. Hopefully he’ll be okay. So far he’s been training real well, so we’ll have to see what happens.”

That training includes a 4-furlongs bullet in :48 seconds June 11 at Churchill. The Pizza Man boasts an impressive 10-8-1-0 record at the 1 1/16-mile Wise Dan distance, and he capped off a 3-race winning streak last August with a late closing kick to win by a neck in the Grade I Arlington Million. Expect a tasty effort with Florent Geroux returning to ride.

Thatcher Street and Pleuven (FR) are a pair of main challenges, and those two ran 1-2 in the Opening Verse Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 21. Thatcher Street loves the Churchill course with three wins and two seconds in five starts.

The Mark Casse-trained gray gelding Za Approval makes his second start after finishing eighth and last in the Grade II Dixie Stakes May 21 at Pimlico. A former rival of Wise Dan, Za Approval has been a consistent in the money finisher in stakes company. Casse will also saddle Grade II winner Conquest Typhoon, who was fifth in the Dixie Stakes and fifth in the Grade I Makers Mile April 15 at Keeneland. .

R Great Adventure may be able to press the pace without one-way speed, and he goes for his third-straight win this year following a pair of allowance wins. A potential long shot who could get free turning for home.

Nine-year-old Wise Dan will return to Churchill Downs on Saturday night for the stakes race named in his honor. Trainer Charlie LoPresti will parade the one of the area’s most celebrated geldings to the paddock with horses for the stakes race, and fans can admire him during the race.

The Wise Dan field from the rail out (with jockeys and morning line odds): Thatcher Street (Brian Hernandez Jr., 8-1); The Pizza Man (Geroux, 6-5); Granny’s Kitten (Gary Stevens, 12-1); Flatlined (Miguel Mena, 15-1); Conquest Typhoon (Joe Bravo, 6-1); Potomac River (Juan Vargas, 15-1); R. Great Adventure (Joe Rocco Jr., 15-1); Pleuven (FR) (Channing Hill, 8-1); Za Approval (Julien Leparoux, 12-1); Kasaqui (ARG) (Fernando De La Cruz, 12-1); and Behesht (FR) (Corey Lanerie, 20-1).

The Wise Dan goes as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m.

Tepin and Lady Aurelia Post victories at Royal Ascot

Tepin, Lady Aurelia Win Big Overseas

Two American-born females took their talents overseas to test their wares against some of Europe’s best, and neither disappointed. Tepin, who is one of the most highly regarded race horses in the United States, went overseas to avoid the summer heat and remains pointed firmly at the Breeders’ Cup Mile with hopes of repeating. Meanwhile, Lady Aurelia made her stakes debut for Stonestreet Stables and did not disappoint.

The Queen Anne Stakes boasted a dense field for its 4+ filly/mare field. At one-mile on turf, many locals doubted that Tepin had the mustard to beat some of the best that Europe had to offer in the sprinter’s category. She was a second favorite at 5/1 despite posting a much stiffer return in the United States books at 7/5. Bellerado and Ervedya were sent off as the 9/2 favorites instead.

This one actually came down to the wire, with Tepin gloriously stretching out past Bellerado to secure the victory with just a few furlongs to go. Trainer Mark Casse was obviously ecstatic with the results. “She’s a great horse and she showed her greatness today,” Casse noted. “She overcame so many obstacles so it’s very emotional for us. I just knew she was going to give her best and I wanted everyone to see how good she is. We’ll now build her up to the Breeders’ Cup Mile again.”

Elsewhere, Lady Aurelia made her stakes debut in the Queen Mary Stakes, a five-furlong sprint for freshman fillies. She blew the field away, much to the delight of her handlers. Some referred to it as the best performance by a two-year old filly that they had ever seen. A seven-length victory has that kind of effect.

Lady Aurelia joined Tepin with a win at Royal Ascot
Lady Aurelia destroyed the field at the Queen Anne

“It was breathtaking from the top,” said Frankie Dettori, her jockey. “To win a sprint by seven lengths at Royal Ascot, I’ve never seen anything like that, especially from a two-year-old. I was throwing some very good splits and when I got to the furlong-and-a-half. I asked her to go and she found another gear. I was completely shocked. Unbelievable. She’s a lovely filly.”

It’s been a triumphant week for the American beauties on the other side of the pond. Next up for Tepin is the Sussex Stakes on July 27th. Lady Aurelia’s connections will continue to determine her next race, but it seems that they’ll keep her in Europe for the time being. The Molecomb Stakes in England or the Prix-Morny in France seem most likely.





Russell Baze Retires as All-Time Winning Rider

Jockeys looking to catch up to Hall of Famer Russell Baze in the All-Times win category can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the number won’t get any higher. The all-time winning rider is hanging up his jockey shoes and calling it a career after winning 12,842 North American races, according to Equibase stats.

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Baze’s mounts earned purses worth more than $199 million during a career that began on October 28. 1974. He won his first race that day and never looked back on what became a historic career. His final win was mounted on Vow to Be Tops on June 10th at Golden Gate Fields. His final race was a second-place finish two days later at the same track.

Golden Gate Fields holds plenty of fond memories for the 57-year-old jockey, having won 54 titles and a total 5,765 races at the venue. Among Baze’s accomplishments, he is the only jockey to win 400 or more races in seven consecutive years. He accomplished that from 1992 to 1998.

A few of his top mounts included: Bold Chieftain, Smiling Tiger, Soviet Problem, Hawkster, Lost in the Fog, Shared Belief, Event of the Year, and Itsallgreektome. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1999 and was later inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2012.

“All of us at The Stronach Group (owner of Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields) would like to congratulate Russell Baze on his stellar career and offer our best wishes as he begins his retirement,” said The Stronach group Senior Vice President of West Coast Operations Joe Morris. “For decades Russell dominated the jockey standings at Golden Gate Fields and other Northern California tracks. His 12,842 wins in North America is a record that may never well be broken.

“Russell should also be commended for having always conducted his business with the highest level of class. His retirement will leave a large void not just in Northern California, but in all of horse racing.”

A poor Belmont Stakes run by Exaggerator

Exaggerator’s Belmont Stakes Run Explained

Exaggerator opened the morning line odds at 9/5, and quickly fell to 6/5. He was the heavy lean at the window by all estimations and should’ve had the best Belmont Stakes run of the day. Sadly, he was barely a factor.

Now we know why. Trainer Keith Desormeaux commented on the situation of the favorite falling so far behind. He quickly addressed that Exaggerator was not hurt, nor was he overworked. He simply had a rough Belmont Stakes run.

“I can guarantee the races haven’t had the toll on him,” Desormeaux said flatly. “He struggled with the track. He gave us his [best] to try to win and it got to him. That’s what I’m settling on. I think he didn’t get hold of the track as well as he needed to in order to win the race. If it’s a mile and a quarter, would he have won? I don’t think he was ahead at the quarter pole. It wasn’t the distance. It was the fact that he struggled with the track.”

Exaggerator’s inability to grip the track in his Belmont Stakes run is a somewhat strange defence to fall back on when explaining his performance, considering how well he ran in the mud at the Preakness Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. You’d figure that he would be able to grip what was noted as a “fast track” at Belmont Park when it’s dry.

But these things ultimately happen in all forms of racing. Steph Curry can have an off-night. Sidney Crosby can go goal-less in the Stanley Cup Finals. Exaggerator can have a poor Belmont Stakes run. It’s not beyond reason.

Exaggerator continues to show all the signs of healing up well after a rigorous Triple Crown run, and has earned some rest. “He’s fine, he ate up, he was vibrant this morning. Maybe a little more subdued than normal, but bright-eyed and happy,” Desormeaux continued, mentioning that Julie Clark will stay with him while the head trainer piques other interests. “We’ll go light on him for a month or so and then crank him up for Saratoga with tentative plans. Maybe the Jim Dandy as a prep for the Travers. We’ll see how he likes that surface.”

For whatever reason, it also looked like jockey Kent Desormeaux couldn’t engage Exaggerator during the race. Wild hand gestures with the reigns indicated that Exaggerator wasn’t responding as the horses rounded the turn in to the homestretch, and his rider essentially took the foot off the pedal once he realized that a strong finish wasn’t coming that day.

I wouldn’t look too much in to Exaggerator’s poor Belmont Stakes run but it does make him more susceptible to the field in the summer stakes races. He was one of only two horses – along with Lani – to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year.

Creator Wins Belmont Stakes in Photo Finish

Creator Closes From the Clouds to Win Belmont by a Nose

The play of the day was on the gray colt in the 148th Belmont Stakes Saturday, as Creator ‘closed from the clouds’ to win a photo finish over Destin. Actually, three gray horses finished 1-2-3 with Lani also closing hard for third. But it was trainer Steve Asmussen’s colt Creator, the son of Tapit, who split rivals in midlane to make steady progress on the leader Destin and nip him by a nose in Creator Belmont Nose 3 picthe final jump at the finish. It was the fourth time the Belmont was decided by a nose — the closest possible margin of victory.

“Today was perfect for us by inches,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame this summer at Saratoga. “Being the victor of the Belmont Stakes will look good on that plaque.”

Destin’s trainer Todd Pletcher called it a “tough beat” after Destin was the lone horse among the leaders to hold up down the stretch in the grueling 1.5 mile Belmont. He shook free and emerged with the lead at the eighth pole and dug in with determination before getting nipped at the finish line.

On a hot and sticky day at Belmont Park with the track rated fast, Creator, ridden by new jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., was sent off at 16-1 in the Belmont after finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby and skipping the Preakness. With Ortiz urging him on Creator made his move into contention as they turned for home and then squeezed and split through horses before chasing down Destin in the final strides.

Creator returned $34.80, $14.60 and $9.40. Destin returned $9.40 and $6.20 and Lani paid $6.60. The $2 exact paid $269 and the $2 trifeca hit for $2,751.

The two race day favorites, Exaggerator at 7-5 and Suddenbreakingnews at 5-1 did not factor finishing 11th and 9th respectively.

“By the time we got to the eight pole, he was stepping on his tongue,” said Exaggerator’s jockey Kent Desormeaux, who said neither the track surface nor the traffic could be blamed. “I couldn’t have dreamt of a smoother ride.”

On one of racing’s biggest race days in the biggest race, Creator closed from the clouds and won the Belmont Stakes just before a heavy rainstorm broke over the track, bringing the Triple Crown season to a soggy close.


Exaggerator Looks Best at Belmont

Preakness Winner Exaggerator Poised for Another Big Run at Belmont

The 148th running of the Belmont Stakes is set for Saturday, and Preakness winner Exaggerator is the one to beat as the race favorite. Many fans and bettors are going to line up on the Curlin colt, who has shown a big closing kick along with sharp speed in a number of Grade 1 races including the Preakness, Santa Anita Derby and second place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

While just three of the last 15 Belmont Stakes favorites have crossed the finish line first, including last year’s Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, it’s clear that Exaggerator looks best as we near the starting gate Saturday.

His trainer, Keith Desormeaux says the dark bay colt is ready to run a big race at Belmont.

“You couldn’t get him any better than he is now. He’s very sound, he’s very fresh. He seems very confident,” Desormeaux told reporters after Exaggerator’s walk on a sunny but blustery cool Thursday at Belmont Park.

“I talk about his antics and his energy all the time but it’s controlled energy. It’s not nervous. He’s very confident and he should be sitting on a huge race.”

Desormeaux was unconcerned about starting so far outside in the one-lap race despite the short run to the first turn.

The starting gate is positioned at the finish line for the Belmont just three-sixteenths of a mile from the clubhouse turn.

“Just because it’s a little shorter run into the first turn here, it seems it would be a disadvantage to be on the outside,” Desormeaux acknowledged.

“If I had a speed horse, I’d be worried. But Exaggerator breaks, drops the bit and relaxes so he should have plenty of opportunity to drop in closer to the rail going into that first turn.”

Desormeaux’s optimism is further fueled by confidence in his jockey, Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, the trainer’s younger brother who won the 2009 Belmont aboard Summer Bird among seven Triple Crown race victories.

“The more experienced, the more tactical hands you can have has got to be for the better, and I think I’ve got a pretty good jockey,” Keith Desormeaux said.

In addition, Exaggerator posted the highest Beyer Speed Figure (103) of any horse in the final Kentucky Derby prep races with his win in the Santa Anita Derby. He came out of the Derby in good shape and the won the Preakness on quick turnaround posting the best Beyer (101) in that race. If speed and stamina are key strengths to winning the grueling 1.5 mile Belmont, then Exaggerator looks best to Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens as well.

“I think Exaggerator will win it (Belmont),” Stevens said. “It takes speed and stamina to win it. Speed is always dangerous in any race but you got to have stamina and you’ve got to have a patient ride.”

Saratoga Races to Air on Fox Sports

A deal announced by FOX Sports and the New York Racing Association (NYRA) will see the sports television station broadcast live from Saratoga Race Course as a part of a multi-year agreement that will begin this season on FS2. This year’s Saratoga meet begins on July 22nd and runs until September 5th, with racing taking place six days a week from Wednesday through Monday.

In addition to airing on FS2, Fox Sports will also stream the NYRA races via their FOX Sports GO App on on their website, according to a joint announcement made by FOX Sports Senior Vice President of Programming and Research Michael Mulvihill and NYRA Executive Producer/NYRA Bets President Tony Allevato.

The NYRA/FOX Sports press released highlighted the fact that with over 80 hours of live racing coverage, this deal will represent the most extensive coverage of live horse racing in television history.

“This summer, NYRA broadcasts on FS2 will amount to more programming hours of horse racing than all other television networks in the United States combined,” boldly proclaimed the release.

The seven week racing season at Saratoga will feature over 40 stakes.

“NYRA and its legendary Saratoga Race Course represent the very best in Thoroughbred racing.” said Mulvihill.

“We are thrilled to bring daily coverage of NYRA to a national audience on one of television’s fastest growing networks, FS2.”

“The opportunity for horse racing to be featured on national television in such a consistent manner is unprecedented,” said Allevato. “NYRA proudly looks forward to partnering with FOX Sports to present live coverage of the sport’s best racing live from Saratoga Race Course.”

‘Saratoga Live’ debuts July 22nd at 4PM EST on FS2.