03/23/2010 1:12AM

Stand Up


On an otherwise idyllic seaside afternoon a few years ago at Del Mar, Julie Krone dismounted after a race, grabbed a tack bucket and made a beeline for an opposing jockey.

"Hey, Jay," said the West's tallest handicapper, Bob Ike, peering down from the pressbox balcony. "I think your wife's gonna hit somebody."

Well, no one got hit, but the public display of temper got Krone a $300 fine from the stewards. It also got her a hero's welcome from her colleagues, both on horseback and on foot, since the object of her ire was a notoriously erratic rider who, according to just about everyone who rode against him, put others in jeopardy far more often than should have been officially tolerated. The next day, Krone had a dozen people offer to pay her fine.

This happy little tale came to mind Sunday morning when word went out that six trainers in New York offered themselves as the cutting edge of a dramatic protest over the failure of the New York politicians to get the slot machine ball rolling at Aqueduct. Those half dozen -- hereafter to be known as the Big A-6 -- each were fined $500 for failing to bring their horses to the detention barn by the 8 a.m. deadline. There were other costs inflicted by the cancellation of a race, including tax dollars, purse money and whatever the house gets, as well as any bad blood incurred among horseplayers convinced they had the first race nailed. I would submit, however, that desperate times require desperate measures, and the message sent by New York's horsemen at large hopefully served to shed a bright and shining light on the bizarre political stranglehold holding back a revenue stream that has been legally approved.

Of course, you can't embarrass a politician into doing the right thing. (I will avoid the temptation of citing news clips from South Carolina, Louisiana, Minnesota and the other 47 states in which the duly elected misbehave). Whatever public monies were lost in that single race is chump change compared to the huge number running on the meter as long as the New York slots aren't coming on line. If New York's elected state representatives are not moved by the millions in slot revenue lost, or the dire threat to the economic health of an honorable industry, what will get their attention? At some point the people in the street will grow exhausted by the counter-productive behavior of some latter-day court of Borgias running the show. Instead of cancelling a race here and there -- or even a Belmont Stakes, as NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward had the courage to utter aloud -- it might be time to cancel out the political careers of the governors, state senators and assembly members blocking progress. But what do I know? I'm from California, and everything is just fine out here.

What New York racing needs right now is Newt Gingrich, or at least some local New York version. Love him or not, Gingrich is the guy who flipped an entire branch of the U.S. government in 1994 by writing 10 things on a cocktail napkin and then repeating them over and over and over and over. To move the VLT issue sooner than later, there needs to be a face and a voice, wailing loud and long and into the night, every single day into whatever media megaphone is handy: "Save Jobs, Slots Now, Save Jobs."

Look, I know and everybody knows that slot machines are nothing more than a crutch for horse racing. And the crutch is already crumbling at some pari-mutuel/casino sites where the casino side is looking for reasons to dump the horses, or the dogs. Unless the pre-nup is ironclad (see Woodbine), the romance between horses and slots was never going to last longer than the average Hollywood marriage.

Still, the law is the law, and the sport in New York deserves the chance that slot money could provide competitive footing with its neighbors. Hats off to the Big A-6. Fed up with the system, they took one for the team. Prorated over the industry, those fines won't amount to much, but neither will the gesture unless so-called public servants can be convinced that there is such a thing as the greater good.


Training After word got out about my wife's freak injury at the facility where she boards and trains pleasure horses, there were a lot of very kind comments posted to this site, completely off topic and deeply appreciated. She is home now, after a week in the hospital, where the surgeon who put her left femur back together complained daily about the mass of muscle he needed to cut through to get to the bone.

"What did you do, exactly?" he wondered aloud, apparently unable to work the Google machine.

The last time I saw an incision like hers was on Chris McCarron, and before that Bill Shoemaker, so she is in good company, even if she didn't earn hers on the traditional field of play. There will be a certain amount of rehab before Julie Krone walks the walk again, but when she's ready, there is a beautiful palomino mare waiting for her, and she's already forgiven Julie for letting another horse mess her up.