Friday, April 16, 2010
An anxious start for the 2010 Racing Season.
Horses settling into summer homes at Oklahoma track
Thursday, April 15, 2010
By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Outriders Dave Ravinski and Stephanie Markert unload horses Thursday at the Oklahoma Training Track.Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Wishingonadream couldn’t seem to stop chewing on the stall door next to him after he got settled at the Oklahoma Training Track.
After spending several hours riding in a big horse trailer from Belmont Park, the horse and his stablemates were antsy.
Today, they’ll get their first workout on the Oklahoma track as it opens for the training season, which runs through November.
Under clear skies on Thursday, eight horses arrived, workers prepared stalls and put up stable colors and the first backstretch dog rested in the shade.
Seven of the thoroughbreds were trainer Glenn Disanto’s horses at Barn 68. Disanto is typically among the first trainers to move here for spring training.
“This is where I live,” said Disanto, who has a farm in Greenwich. “It’s tough living down in New York, and it’s also very expensive. I’d rather be here.”
His horses, particularly the two 2-year-olds that are new to life at the track, also prefer laid-back Saratoga to the busier Belmont.
“It’s nice that it’s not crowded,” he said.
But even on the peaceful, sunny backstretch, there were signs that things aren’t what they used to be.
Disanto expects to have 10 horses here this year during the training season’s height — down from about 15 last year — and he said other trainers are in the same boat.
“Almost everybody has less,” he said. “The industry’s in a tough way right now, real tough.”
Tough times for racing
Some breeders have moved out of state, and others have cut back on their number of brood mares and, as a result, on their number of foals.
Those in the industry say the combination of the insolvency of New York City Off-Track Betting, the lack of video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Race Track despite two attempts to name a bidder and lucrative offers from neighboring states will mean a decline in the quality of New York racing.
“The horizon isn’t as bright for New York-breds,” said Bob Giordano, who is involved with ThoroFan, the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association.
Giordano noted that things may seem fine once the Saratoga racing meet starts July 23.
“We have to be concerned about after August,” he said.
ThoroFan has 350 local members and is trying to triple its membership this year.
The group is co-hosting a rally to urge state lawmakers to choose a VLT provider for Aqueduct. The rally will take place at the track from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 25 in front of the ticket booth area on Union Avenue.
Because New York City OTB has not been paying the New York Racing Association money it is owed, purses have been smaller for horsemen.
There’s less money to go around, and individual trainers are working hard to get what is there.
“You want to try to get a piece of it every time you go out,” Disanto said.
Slower out of the gate
The training season is getting a slow start — last year, about 60 horses worked out on the first day, compared to fewer than 10 this year.
But that’s partially because work is still taking place at Horse Haven, where stables are closed for another couple of weeks.
New concrete wash pads and storm sewers have been installed all over the stable area to comply with federal stormwater regulations.
“This whole project is monumental,” said Peter Goulet, facility manager for Saratoga Race Course.
Workers are preparing to lay 1,000 yards of asphalt in the next week, Goulet said.
By May 1, about 150 horses will be stabled at the Oklahoma track, said NYRA spokesman Dan Silver. That figure will jump to 800 by mid-June, the same as in past years.
The track has 1,800 stalls and fills every last one of them during the 40-day racing meet.
NYRA officials said they did not want to speculate on how many stall requests they will get for the meet this year. Typically, trainers request stalls for many more than 1,800 horses.
Trainers pay $10 a day per stall for rent during the training season, Disanto said.
Kelley and Glenn Maydan of Wilton, who own one racehorse and care for him themselves without employees, also brought their horse back to Saratoga on Thursday.
Goodandacceptable will race at Belmont Park on May 5, but trainer Glenn Maydan was eager to get the 4-year-old back to Saratoga as early as possible after training him in Belmont since February.
“This is home,” Glenn said. “We live up here, and he loves it up here.”
Within the first half-hour, Goodandacceptable’s special purple rubber ball — in the stable’s colors — was by his door.
“He plays with it, bites it when he gets mad,” Kelley explained.
She said she’s confident that despite the difficulties in the state racing industry, racing will prevail.
“I think it’ll just all work itself out and things will get better,” she said. “This is just such a great institution, and it’s been around for so long.”