There are a number of things I failed to comment on promptly, so here is an attempt to do some catching up:
- Now that’s a March surprise: No not the NCAA’s, but the Israeli election. Candidates in American elections fear the “October surprise” from their opponent – an event so close to the election that there is no time to respond. Bibi Netanyahu delivered not one, but two such shockers. First there was the renunciation of the two-state solution to create a distinct Palestinian country. Then on election day he tweeted about the “droves” of Arabs turning out to the polls. While he has walked back from the first and apologized for the second, I wonder what his enablers in our Republican Party thought of those two developments. The two-state solution has been a long-standing tenet of United States foreign policy, although the GOP apparently now thinks it is OK to have its own foreign policy at opposition to the elected leadership of the country. I fear that many may secretly admire Netanyahu for blatantly playing the race card. Incidentally, for a disturbing account of seemingly wide-spread anti-Semitism in Europe, read Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece in this month’s Atlantic.
- Speaking of the GOP, buy this guy a dictionary: I have long thought that Representative Steve King of Iowa is one of the biggest nitwits to hold elected office. He is the one who talked about Mexicans with calves the size of cantaloupes from carrying backpacks filled with drugs into the country. More recently, he made a typically asinine comment criticizing Democrats who boycotted Netanyahu’s speech to Congress for being “Democrats first and Jewish second.” When Representative Steve Israel demanded an apology, the always erudite King responded that “I defend Israelis from Leftists & misogynists.” Huh?? It was reminiscent of a state legislator from Massachusetts who once defended himself from charges that he was anti-immigrant by saying, “I am not a bigamist.”
- Saratoga Springs does the right thing – so far – on monstrous parking garage: It’s good to know that the big-money interests don’t always win. First, the City Council decided against applying for a casino license, and now the Zoning Board of Appeals has voted down a five-story garage to be built on city property that would have been a monumental eye sore near the center of town. Interestingly, Mark Baker, President of the City Center was a leading opponent of the casino, but the major proponent of the garage. If a parking garage is the most desirable use for this valued parcel in downtown – it’s already a parking lot – the ZBA decision gives time for a rational planning process.
- NYRA equine fatalities decline remarkably: There was no shortage of publicity when there was a dramatic increase in racing fatalities on Aqueduct’s inner track. There were 14 catastrophic injuries suffered in less than two months in December and January. Since January 26, however, there has been one racing fatality and another on the Belmont training track.
- Why was NYRA not planning to race on Dubai’s World Cup day? Were it not for the large number of weather-related cancellations, NYRA would not have run a card this past Saturday even though it is one of the biggest days on the racing calendar. NYRA now focuses on its own “big days,” but doesn’t growing the sport mean educating a potential fan base that there are big races in addition to the Triple Crown and Travers?
- New York’s disputed election ends up with right result: I have written previously about the hotly-contested election for President of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Unsuccessful challenger Terry Finley lost to incumbent Rick Violette by 14 votes from over 1,200 cast. The NYTHA Board conducted an appeal process and made their decision earlier this month upholding the results. I know that there are loud dissenting views – this is, after all, horse racing – but I think a fair-minded observer would conclude that the appeal was taken seriously and the decision-making process was fair. NYTHA posted all of the written submissions on its web site, as well as the transcript of the hearing and then its written decision. That is not the behavior of an organization with something to hide. The hearing transcript was particularly revealing. Board members had obviously gone through the voluminous evidentiary submissions and asked pointed and pertinent questions. It was thorough and professional. I hope we can move on from what has, unfortunately, had an unnecessary personal aspect.
- NCAA tournament is, once again, riveting: Several years ago I decided against filling out a bracket because I did not want to be rooting for heavy favorites in order to win some cash. Now I can just enjoy the games, and this year’s tourney has been worth it. Of course, there are the inevitable annoying commercials and the suspicion that the NCAA is able to cram more of them into a 40-minute game than even the National Football League can with 50 per cent more time. But my personal most-hated spots are the Rob Lowe ones and the promos for Tru-TV programming. People actually watch that dreck?
- A final note of sadness: Racing lost one of its true giants with the passing of Allen Jerkens. I did not know him other than by observation, but it was one the highlights of my life when I met him on the Saratoga backstretch a couple of years ago after another one of his patented upsets in a graded stake. Others can write more knowingly of him (see Steve Haskin here and Teresa Genaro here), but it is unfortunate that his type of horsemanship is fading from the scene.