02/13/2008 1:38PM



Looks like you can take your Valentine to Aqueduct on Thursday after all. (And really, what says True Love quite like statebred maiden claimers in the slop?) The Big A cancelled its Wednesday card due to 24 hours of steady rain, snow and sleet here, but it looks like racing will resume tomorrow until at least the year 2033. According to the latest report (but check the homepage for updates later), an agreement has been reached to renew NYRA's franchise for 25 years, in exchange for the state's assuming uncontested title to Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. The bill was expected to pass both houses sometime today before lawmakers adourn for 12 days, but there also needs to be an agreement on a third temporary franchise extension that would take effect when the second expires tonight, because details of the land-transfer documents still need to be ironed out.

If you've got a lot of time and patience, you can read through the 190-page bill here. This is not necessarily the final draft, as the parties were still poking at it this morning and it could be amended when the legislature reconvenes Feb. 25.

--With Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream and Santa Anita all dark Tuesday, the best purebred action was at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where Uno became the first beagle ever to win Best in Show. Uno, whose formal name is Ch. K-Run's Park Me in First (the Ch. is for champion, not chestnut), had also been the first beagle to win the semifinal hound group since 1939. Despite that history, Uno -- a photogenic loudmouth with a piercing ah-roo that filled Madison Square Garden -- was no worse than the 8-5 co-favorite among the seven finalists along with Vicky the toy poodle, a cagey tournament vet who had already won 108 best-in-show titles. The others -- an Akita, an Australian shepherd, a Sealyham terrier, a standard poodle and a Weimaraner -- never stood a chance.

The show got six hours of live coverage on the USA and CNBC networks Monday and Tuesday nights, and it will be interesting to see how the ratings compare to those garnered by the Breeders' Cup last fall.

The WKC show may be silly and elitist but it raised over $500,000 for rescue and shelter efforts through a series of excellent advertisements sponsored by Pedigree. Not that this stopped the grandstanders at PETA from launching a counteroffensive series of ads shown elsewhere on cable, the worst of which featured a hooded Ku Klux Klansman attending an American Kennel Club meeting and saying "I'm going to fit right in here, you're my kind of people." According to The New York Times, PETA spent over $130,000 producing and placing these disgraceful ads, which could have just as easily been set at the Jockey Club. That money could have spayed, neutered and rescued a lot of dogs, if that was what PETA actually cared about.

My only beef with the AKC is that only greyhounds weighing 70 pounds or less are eligible for show competition, precluding what otherwise surely would have been a Best in Show dead-heat between a pair of 90-pound littermates: