11/29/2007 1:32AM

Q&A 11/29/07

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bc says: Would it be in everyone's best interest to privatize horse racing in NY? Sell everything, including the tracks, betting franchises, etc., to the highest bidder?

Privatizing New York racing would be in the best interests of whatever private investors were receiving profits, but only in anyone's else's best interest if privitization made the entire enterprise significantly more profitable. If business continued at the same levels, you would simply be adding another very hungry mouth to feed to the current economic equation.

Privatization becomes very tricky in a landscape where ownership of racing also means operating a slot-machine business which is always going to be more profitable per square foot than the sport of racing. In the hands of private ownership driven solely by a desire for higher returns, it seems inevitable that racing would become increasingly marginalized. This has already happened at many harness tracks, where management shoves racing farther and farther out the back door and often stops promoting it altogether.

It became clear in the process of bidding for the NYRA franchise that the groups proposing a for-profit model had no particular interest in the entire proposition without slots being part of the equation. That may be perfectly logical from an investment point of view, but are those the people you want being the keepers of the game?


mike says: I believe Wednesday's the 25th anniversary of Landaluce's passing. I know that you had filed a number of stories on her in your time at the Times. Any thoughts on her career, however brief yet brilliant it was, and any favorite stories about her?

Landaluce was a foal of 1980 from Seattle Slew's first crop as a stallion, produced by the Bold Bidder mare Strip Poker. She sold as a yearling for $650,000 to L. R. French and Barry Beal, who named her for a town in Texas and turned her over to D. Wayne Lukas, who picked her out at the sale. It was in reference to Landaluce that Lukas coined his oft-repeated desciption of an ideal sales filly as having "a head like a princess, a butt like a washerwoman and a walk like a hooker."

Landaluce won all five of her starts as a 2-year-old filly:

*Her debut by seven lengths at Hollywood in 1:08 1/5;
*The Hollywood Lassie by 21 lengths, in 21 2/5, 43 4/5 and 1:08 flat:

*The Del Mar Debutante, by 6 1/2 lengths, in 1:35 3/5;
*The Anoakia at Santa Anita, in 1:21 4/5 for seven furlongs;
*The Oak Leaf Stakes by two lengths over Sophisticated Girl, in 1:41 4/5 for a mile and a sixteenth.

It was the most spectacular campaign by a 2-year-old filly since Ruffian's, and Landaluce had developed a national following and widespread coverage (including a front-page story in the New York Times before the Oak Leaf by its green racing writer.) Joe Hirsch wrote that "She was an international celebrity. Europeans coming to the United States all asked about the 'Wonder Filly of the West'."

She was scheduled to race twice more as a 2-yar-old after the Oak Leaf, in the Hollywood Starlet and then against colts in the Hollywood Futurity, in a bid to unseat the retired Conquistador Cielo for the Horse of the Year title. On Nov. 22, six days before the Starlet, she ran a high temperature and stopped eating, and she deteriorated quickly. She died the morning of the Starlet with her head in Lukas's lap. An inconclusive autopsy showed she was probably stricken by Colitis X, an intestinal disease that almost killed her sire four years earlier. She was honored posthumously as the champion 2-year-old filly of 1982 over the then-undefeated Princess Rooney, with whom she shared topweight among fillies on the Experimental Free Handicap.

Five and a half years later, when Lukas won the Kentucky Derby with the filly Winning Colors, he said at the press conference after the race, "''This filly hasn't filled that void that Landaluce left. It's like your second love affair. You're a little more cautious the second time."


dennis says: I would be interested in your thoughts about the Plonk article on espn.com on the pick six.

It's a provocative article worth a look, and I was glad to see someone else raising the troubling issue of how some racing secretaries now feel it's their "job" to make pick-sequences as difficult as possible in order to create carryovers. I strongly object to the practice of burying races loaded with first-time starters in the middle of multirace sequences. This deprives bettors of crucial information -- how those firsters are being bet.

I did not, however, agree with the piece's proposal that tracks only offer the pick six once a week in order to protect bettors from "chasing rainbows," that the pick six is "nearly impossible to hit" or the prediction that "Today's craze is tomorrow's bust."


george_melillo says: Wondering your take on Mushka's performance? I think we may be watching a star in the making here. Granted that wasn't the strongest field ever assembled, but to break that bad, spot all those lengths, then come 5 wide turning for home to blast that field was quite impressive.

Mushka, a Zayat/Mott $1.6 million Empire Maker-Sluice filly, showed a great deal of raw talent in her first two starts and was visually impressive rallying from far back to win the Demoiselle in her third start. Her winning time of 1:51.61 was 0.87 seconds faster than the roughy-run Remsen half an hour later, though a much quicker pace in the Demoiselle aided the final time and flattered Mushka's running style. Indian Blessing is still the clearcut divisional leader and certain juvenile champion, but she's a little questionable stretching out while Mushka clearly relishes added distance.


cayman01 says: Why is the Pick6 so much more popular on the west coast than the east?

That's such a good and tough question that I'm going to throw it back at the audience: What do you all think? My inadequate response is that it's just one of those regional cultural differences that defies rational explanation. California got the pick six a few years earlier, but after 23 years of both circuits offering the bet, non-carryover pools are routinely roughly twice as high in Calfifornia than New York despite similar total handles. Even dropping the takeout from 25 to 15 percent on non-carryover pick-sixes in New York has had no effect. There was a carryover Wednesday, opening day on the Aqueduct inner track, of a paltry $21k.

Not so paltry that I won't take a look, but still.