NYRA Stalls On Belmont Stakes Attendance Request

On August 12, 2015, I made a simple request under the Freedom of Information Law for the attendance numbers on Belmont Stakes Day, June 11, 2015. See below in blue type.

When NYRA was taken over by the State of New York, the mandate to the newly formed NYRA board was

“This temporary reorganization board shall be under public control to ensure The New York Racing Association, Inc. works in the best interest of all stakeholders in horse racing including fans, owners and breeders by managing the state racing franchise with transparency and accountability.”

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

Transparent? Like lead.

Rather than supply the information as requested, NYRA though its Records Access Officer Iris Roberts has chosen to stall its response for 20 business days.  See below in red type.

 

8/20/2015                                                                                                   Gmail ­ FOIL Request

Dear Ms. Roberts/Records Access Officer, 

This is a request under the New York State Freedom of Information/Open Meetings Law. On 12/12/12 the NYRA board moved that NYRA would conduct business subject to compliance with the NYS Open Meetings Law and NYS Freedom of Information Law. http://www.nyra.com/assets/1/7/Reorg_Board_Minutes_Dec._12,_2012.pdf

Please email the following records:

Attendance numbers, not the attendance cap, for the 2015 Belmont Stakes day, June 11, 2105.

If any the requested records cannot be emailed to me, please inform me by email of the portions that can be emailed and advise me of the cost for reproducing the remainder of the records requested ($0.25 per page or actual cost of reproduction).Please advise me of the appropriate time during normal business hours for inspecting the above records requested prior to obtaining copies.

If my request is too broad or does not reasonably describe the records, please contact me via email so that I may clarify my request, and when appropriate inform me of the manner in which records are filed, retrieved or generated.

If it is necessary to modify my request, and an email response is not preferred, please contact me at the following telephone number: XXXXXXXXXX.

If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name, address and email address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed. Thank you,

Liz O’Connell.

1/1August 19, 2015

Dear Ms. O’Connell:

On behalf of The New York Racing Association, Inc., I hereby acknowledge receipt of your Freedom of Information Law request received August 12, 2015. Your request is being reviewed and you will be provided with a further response within 20 business days hereof.  

Best regards,

Iris Roberts

Iris Roberts, Esq.

Records Access Officer

 

 

American Pharoah returns a Winner

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Zayat Stables’ Triple Crown winner American Pharoah wins the 2015 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Race Course. Photo courtesy of Penelope Miller/ABR
It’s a tough year to be a three year-old colt if your name isn’t American Pharoah. The Haskell Invitational and Triple Crown winner’s classmates have been chasing his famously scant tail across the finish line since his second start, and first win, last September when he trounced the field in the Del Mar Futurity.

American Pharoah’s victory in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, last Sunday, answered all questions about his comeback from the Triple Crown trail – he’s fit and game to run. For the better part of the race, the bay colt was unhurried, loping close behind Competitive Edge. On the far turn, American Pharoah opened his stride and floated to the lead, leaving the rest of the field to vie for his crumbs.

At one point before jockey Victor Espinoza eased the throttle on Pharoah coming down the stretch, he was four lengths and gaining ahead of the field. At the finish, Pharoah cantered past the wire two and a quarter lengths in the lead. Donegal Stables’ Keen Ice, gained ground in a strong drive, but had to settle for second. Upstart, running for Ralph M. Evans and WinStar Farm (lessee), finished third.

In a post-Haskell press conference, Espinoza described the race:

It was pretty easy. For me the key was just coming out of there running. I didn’t want to get in into any bumping out of the gate, I just wanted to let him run his race. I knew that other horse would want to take the lead so I sat back just a little bit. I never like to go head and head with another horse so I sat back maybe half a length behind. He did everything by himself. It was pretty easy, pretty impressive.

With his Haskell earnings of $1,100,000, American Pharoah’s total earnings are $5,630,300. Zayat Stables, his owner-breeders, have the $5 Million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) penciled in as his final race. Since the Haskell was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, by winning it American Pharoah’s $100,000 entry fee to the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be paid for by the Breeders’ Cup.

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American Pharoah walking back to his barn after his victory in the Haskell Invitational. Photo courtesy of Penelope Miller/ABR
Where will American Pharoah run next?
Between now and the Breeder’s Cup on October 31, racetracks throughout the country are courting Zayat Stable and trainer Bob Baffert to secure American Pharoah’s next appearance. Baffert has declined to disclose future plans.

Last week in a teleconference from California, Baffert was explicit, at that point his intent after the Haskell was to return Pharoah to Del Mar:

Tom Pedulla: … I know clearly you can’t say what’s after the Haskell. Could you say at least is there a plan to ship him back to California?
Bob Baffert: The plan is to ship him back to California.
Tom Pedulla: Okay, just because you want him under your eye every day I guess?
Bob Baffert: Yes, and it’s cooler here. It’s nice and cool, and it’s relaxing. It’s good to have him here in Del Mar.

It is likely that American Pharoah will return to the East Coast before running in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Racecourse, Lexington, Kentucky. Baffert is in no rush to run him against older horses – that would be the likely scenario in California. Back east there are the Travers Stakes, the Pennsylvania Derby and the track management at Monmouth Park has offered to write a race to meet Pharoah’s conditions.

In terms of prestige and future credibility in the breeding shed, the Travers Stakes held at Saratoga Race Course is a persuasive option. In fact, the New York Racing Association has offered to raise the Travers’ purse from $1.25 million to $1.6 million, if and only if, American Pharoah starts in the race.

Despite the enticements of the Travers, Baffert is not a fan of the race – his horse Bayern was entered as favorite last year, and finished last. Baffert shared some thoughts on running Pharoah in the Travers during last week’s teleconference:

So it would probably be a little tough on him. I think the Travers, you need a prep. Ideally the Travers is to run in the Jim Dandy (run on the same weekend as the Haskell) and then get a race over the track, because at Saratoga, it seems like that’s what they do. They run in the Jim Dandy and then run in the Travers; you know, give them a race. I think it’s probably a big plus for some horses.

Although some horses benefit from having a race on a track before a major stakes run, American Pharoah has shown up a few days before his big races and dominated. Most notably he demolished the Belmont Stakes’ field despite the notoriously challenging surface and scope of Belmont Park’s “Big Sandy” main track.

A stallion in the making
Ahmed Zayat, the principal of Zayat Stables, secured American Pharoah’s future as a stallion when he made a deal with Coolmore Stud, the Ireland-based Thoroughbred racing and breeding global sovereignty, prior to Pharoah winning the Triple Crown. The substance of the agreement was outlined in a Sports Illustrated article by Tim Layden,

Zayat announced during the Triple Crown run that he had sold the colt’s stallion rights for an undisclosed sum to Coolmore Stud. But several sources have told Sports Illustrated that the deal had been done long before–early in 2015 at the latest. “I categorically deny that the deal was done in 2014, which some people have said,” says Zayat. “I won’t comment further on the date. I will say that I am a businessman and there has not been money left on the table, because when I made the deal, I considered every possible future achievement and had kickers written into the deal. What if he wins the Derby? What if he wins the Preakness? What if he wins the Triple Crown?”
Zayat says that American Pharoah’s stallion deal includes several additional incentives attached to race victories. He says that a victory in the Haskell would probably do nothing to increase the colt’s value as a stallion, but a victory in the Travers (a Grade I race) would. As would a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.