Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saratoga 2014

Go to the same place year after year, and do basically the same things year after year, and one might think that life might be boring, predictable and in need of a change. Not so.

When the place is Saratoga and you're going to the races for several days, things might appear to be the same. But they're not. Like a prescription drug whose side effects might vary, success at betting on the horses can vary. Greatly.

There are the usual losses. No one hits every race. But sometimes you do very well and you're not even there.

Take the example from Wednesday, when the day was truly so-so for both. There can be so many races carded that the last race can go off at a point that puts it in conflict with making a dinner reservation at a particular eatery. In this case, the Brook Tavern, directly opposite the track, but a place that was expected to fill up fast.

So, betting the last race was done while walking out of the track with the last race yet to be run. Access to a phone account easily accomplishes this off-track betting activity. And it's a dated technique.  A good number of wagers are now be placed online via mobile phone accounts or Wi-Fi connectivity with iPads.

Bettor A placed a $4 win bet on Chairman Now, a horse who had won his last race, but looked good to do it again against the assembled. The ending balance on the account was noted. Bettor B was asked if he wanted anything. They replied, an exacta on Chairman Now and Bedouin Now, who also won his last race. A $1 or $2 exacta box? Make it $2. Thus, the full $2 payout is returned, rather than a fraction of it if the exacta hits. An exacta is betting on two horses to finish one-two. An exacta "box" is betting on either of the two horses finishing one-two. A combination, rather than a permutation. The $2 exacta box bet was placed, and the $4 bet was subtracted from the previous balance, and noted.

Races and race results can be seen on mobile devices, none of which Bettor A or B walks around with. Each has an old-fashioned flip phone that will stay in use as long as it is supported, or legal.

Seated in the restaurant there is still a way to determine the results without asking others. Did the balance go up? This will tell us if something was hit.

Somewhere between the time of placing the order and waiting for food, the phone account was called and the balance checked. The balance had risen $122. Somewhat aware of what the final odds might have been, this meant that Bettor B had hit the exacta. Bettor A's win only bet may or may not have been hit, but so what? Bettor B ordered another brown ale.

Still keeping the details of the results in a blackout, they weren't checked until the next morning when the newspaper was read. The hard copy edition. From there, is was happily learned that Chairman Now had won by a nose and paid $11 in change to win. Bedouin Now was second. The exacta returned an even $100. Eleven dollars twice, and the $100 exacta, fully explained the $122 surge in the balance.

Bettor A and Bettor B have each been playing the horses for over 40 years, coming to Saratoga together perhaps every year for the past 18 years, staying at the same motel in Queensbury, and eating at some of the same restaurants.

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

This particular yearly outing of doing the same thing resulted in a relative fat plus-side for both participants. Uncle Albert surely never went to Saratoga for vacation.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Typical New York Times

Leave it to the NYT to try and debunk the myth that notable deaths come in threes. This week we have seen Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall pass away, and so before a seven day cycle is even up, the NYT thought they'd do a study and see if it's really true that these things come in threes. (@obitsman is the observant Tweeter who spread this news.)

We got the news about Robin Williams this past Monday, August 11; the news about Ms. Bacall the following day. It's not even seven days from Monday and the Times has launched and published the results of their statistical study debunking the death triad myth. Does anyone know how Joan Rivers is feeling these days? There's still time.

At least the Times explains things. They tell us they looked back at obits that covered 2,000 words, about two-thirds of one of their pages, including photos. Two-thirds! Do you know what two-thirds of a Times page looks like? It's Texas compared to Alaska. A 2,000+ word obit is usually a front pager, above, at, or below the fold, depending on whatever scoring system they use over there and who was at the meeting.

The Times dutifully lays out its results and tells us the "three-off" happens as an event that is no more frequent than any other random series of events. They tell us their statistician worked this up.

The people who believe in the three-off myth are not 2,000 word readers of NYT obits. They are people who play scratch off lottery games, take free bus rides to Atlantic City, take the garbage out in their underwear, drink beer and serve screw-top wine. For them, the death of Joe Flynn from 'McHale's Navy' is news. Or, the latest soap opera star who won't be in the next episodes.

It so happens that Ed Nelson, the actor who played Dr. Michael Rossi on 'Peyton Place has just left us. I'm sure when I get tomorrow's NYT they won't be doing 2,000 on him. But, he does fulfill the three-off myth. At least in my house.

No, the Times poo-poos the whole three-off myth by telling us the rarity of triumvirates such as Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel and KimJong-il passing away within days of one another. All household names, and definitely names people can identify at will. Just ask.

The Times slyly tells us that just recently the conductor Lorin Maazel, and the writer Nadine Gordimer passed away on July 13. They say no one mentioned that when Elaine Stritch, the musical actress joined them did anyone feel satisfied that the three-off had once again been achieved.

No, but I bet if you looked for someone who played so-and-so's neighbor on 'Leave It To Beaver', for example, you'd have four that passed away within a short span of each other.


Murray Hill

Just finished reading J.R. Moehringer's 'The Tender Bar.' It's been out for a while now, but I had heard about it and was willing to give it a try. It was worth it.

It's funny about the origin of his using J.R. as the initials for his name, which are not the true initials for at least his middle name. And then combining them into his preference for them to be his first name.

Years ago on Cape Cod the house we were renting was next door to the owner's mother. The owner's son would stay with his grandmother, but also drifted over to our rental since my teen-age daughter and he were about the same age. At least that's what I suspect.

The son was universally called JR. After making sure I never heard him called anything else. I had to ask him why was he was called JR. It seems he was named William, and was a junior to his father's name: thus JR. Over the years we've heard from him, and he's still called JR. I don't think he ever legally changed his name.

JR of course sounds like big oil, Larry Hagman, 'Dallas'-style. J. R. Ewing. Big hat, does have cattle. JR sounds like it should only be pronounced, or uttered loudly into a phone (well intercom) by someone with a cigar in their mouth after someone has presented them with a subpoena.

'The Tender Bar' is a coming-of-age story that is not 'Catcher In the Rye'. Thank goodness, who needs more of that? Mr. Moehringer comes of age in Manhasset, several stations east of the Murray Hill station on the LIRR's Port Washington line, that was two blocks from our house. In fact, the tracks abutted our backyard, after a steep embankment. The train was a good, regularly scheduled neighbor. I'm sure my father bought the house because it was close to the railroad station for his commute. He didn't drive, so anything that was reasonably within walking distance was how he planned his life.

Murray Hill was scruffy then, and is still scruffy, although we no longer live there. Growing up there I always thought about the stops east of Murray Hill. They had to be better than us, and Manhasset sounded like the best of them.

I never had a reason to travel east of Murray Hill, except when I fell asleep on train ride home very late one night after a Ranger game and after waaay too much to drink in the city. I woke up in Manhasset, got off at something like 2 A.M. and wondered where the other track was. There was only a single track.

Jesus, all this time, and Manhasset only has one track to accommodate east and west bound trains? Whose idea was that? I gathered myself and took a cab home. No more trains for three hours headed back west from the one track that could take me there.

My oldest daughter went to high school at St. Mary's, only a few blocks south of the Manhasset train station. Before we moved from Murray Hill she took the train to Manhasset on a student fare. She got there more often than I did, and did it sober.

One evening, I can't remember why, but I was in Manhasset waiting to rendezvous with my wife. I was looking at the Manhasset train station from the overpass and was just thinking about that single track. A young fellow came up to me, completely sober, and I swear to God asked me where the other track was. I really could only look at him with wonderment, but I quickly recovered and told I used to wonder too. But the railroad seems to manage at this point with only one.

'The Tender Bar' is good. Very good. There is poetry in the writing, and any young boy growing up might easily relate to it. The description of the ride to the beach with the guys from the bar is priceless. One car, several hefty guys with hangovers are picked up like taxi passengers by the guy with the car After the last one squeezes in JR thinks there is now enough muscle in the car to pull off a bank job.

The bar memories are timeless. Mr. Moehringer's Nielsen rating analysis of guys and their TV sports is spot on: guys like boxing because they get off their stools just like the fighters they love to watch box on television. I spent many, many years in a bar, and when the place goes, the memories don't. But the attendance and drinking is usually only a portion of your life, and is worth remembering, but not worth going to back to.

As if you could. The place is gone, the people are gone, and that part of your life has been lived. Who really would ask to go back to geometry class at forty, even if they did do well in geometry?

And finally, Mr. Moehringer's father. He made it all possible. Somewhat like Pete Hamil's observation that life is the leading cause of death. The realization that his father's headstone is one stone object holding two lies will stay with you forever.

My own father didn't come at me with a knife, but I've yet to cry about his passing, and that was nearly 30 years ago.

But Manhasset is still there, with one track, and I no longer wish I lived there.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Johhny's Guests

A few years ago when I was still working, someone younger than me at work (my boss) asked me if I looked at 'YouTube' at all. "No, not at all." I knew something about it, but hadn't really explored it, and considered it another way to waste time scrolling through the Internet. I thought it was just a collection of home videos that people had uploaded about their cats, dogs, children, and funny things with a lawnmower.

Well, all that is still there, but I found 'YouTube' was a vast reservoir of film clips and TV segments that was a wonderful way to spend some time. And when someone notable passes away, if they were a performer, I find myself going to 'YouTube' to see them on the 'Tonight Show' with Johnny Carson.

We know Johnny's gone, but now his guests are dropping off as well. Monday it was news about Robin Williams. Tuesday it was news about Lauren Bacall. If these deaths do come in threes, then the next one will probably be someone you can also see on 'YouTube' with Johnny Carson. (How is Joan Rivers feeling these days?)

In 1980 when Ms. Bacall was promoting her first autobiography, 'Lauen Bacall: By Myself,' she appeared on the Tonight show with Johnny. She looked great, and with every husky word and every flirty gesture, she exuded sexuality.

As with anyone promoting a book, Johnny dutifully held the book up and the camera zoomed in on the cover. More banter followed, and Johnny, ever one to find  a way to sneak something sexy and flirty himself into the conversation, conceded that the book she was inscribing for him was probably the only way he was going to get to have her "between the covers."

The guests and the Carson show were such fun.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

Sadly, funny people are not always happy.

It's not often that someone of note passes away who is younger than me; whose years fit inside of mine. As I age, and if I age to the point of becoming one of those octogenarians, then I suspect I'll be reading about such people more often.

There wasn't much I didn't already know about Mr. Williams when I read today's obituary. I didn't know he had aortic valve surgery in 2009. Such is the case when someone comes to your attention when you're already an adult, and leaves us when you're a somewhat older adult.

In my last annual collection of these blog entries, rather than a dedication I opened with a sentiment. "How bad can the year have been if you're alive at the end of it?"

For Robin Williams, he chose not to be alive at the end of this one.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Anglo-Saxon Words

Maybe it's because English is the only language I really know aside from the smattering of French and Greek, but it seems to me the Brits have a special way with words. And they can shape those words in the form of an insult so sardonic you'd think someone sent the entire Oxford English Dictionary out to be sharpened along with the knives.

Two examples, and they both have to do with newspaper journalists. Perhaps that's because their well-shaped words keep hitting those who don't like it that helps provoke the vitriolic response. H.L. Mencken's "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" dictum.

The first appears via a circuitous Tweet from Australia (@lifeasinzy) that basically is spun off from the event of a veteran reporter resigning (not sacked, but suspended, then resigning) from the Sydney Morning Herald,  It seems a reporter named Michael Carlton, likely loved by many, and hated by the same number, but different people, has resigned from the paper after being confronted with suspension because of the four-letter responses he gave back to readers who recently wrote in about something he wrote.

Without knowing too much, we get the picture. Mr. Carlton stirs the pot, and when a group of people recently got mad at it he responded with a word that Richard Burton once claimed was the best Anglo-Saxon word in the dictionary. This isn't a family blog, but nonetheless the word rhymes with 'truck.' Good-bye Mike, apparently.

But not of course without some readers getting in their licks. Apparently one wrote in that Mr. Carlton was "a funnel-web in the underpants of good journalism."

There's a lot going on with that image. First, that journalism wears underwear. I thought it was "the naked truth." Perhaps because it's winter Down Under right now and they are wearing underwear to the office these days.

Then there's "funnel-web." Completely unfamiliar with the term. You get the idea it can't be a good thing to wish on someone because they're hoping it's in their underwear. Sort of like starch. Or ants.

Turns out "funnel-web" is a web spun by the funnel spider, a nasty looking, and if the right species, a highly poisonous spider. Certainly one you'd wish on an enemy. Having spider webs in your underwear has to be uncomfortable. It also means you should change more often.

Then there's the obituary for Chapman Pincher, a British journalist who has passed away at 100. The picture used in the obituary, seen above, gives you the feeling he was a shadowy guy. Replace his picture for John le Carre's on the dust jacket, and no one would be the wiser.

Never heard of him, but that doesn't mean anything. As a kid I used to sometime stare at the Manhattan phone book we kept at the flower shop and think that there are a great number of people in the book who I don't know. And of course, that's just the ones with listed numbers. Throw in the land across the pond, and it's understandable why I never heard of Mr. Pincher.

But of course I've heard of the type of reporter he was. Apparently he also afflicted the comfortable and came up with highly placed scoops on government doings, not all of which were appreciated.

He revealed details about the atomic bomb and traitors, British and others, notably breaking the story about the "Cambridge Five" and its most well known participant, Kim Philby.

His contacts within MI5 and MI6, the British intelligence bureaus, were so close to him that a British historian, E.P. Thompson wrote that Mr. Pincher was somewhat of "a kind of official urinal where high officials of MI5 and MI6 stand side by side patiently leaking." Mr. Pincher is said to have considered that the best compliment he ever received. It certainly leaves me with a new image when I hear about 'Wikileaks.'

The last word part in Mr. Martin's NYT obituary of Mr. Pincher is very close in spirit to that of Mr. Gore Vidal's, another afflicter of the comfortable, who gave us verbal jousts with William F. Buckley, Jr. that could have been pay-per-view boxing matches and nearly did turn to fisticuffs.

Mr. Vidal passed away in 2012 at 86, not quite 100, but certainly well past the finish line of his enemies. He said of his life it, was "such fun, such fun."

The last word for Mr. Pincher goes "oh, it was quite wonderful, quite wonderful."


Friday, August 8, 2014

Up from the Village

Emmylou Harris is one of my favorite performers of all time. I have most of her albums, but have only ever really seen her live once, in the early "aughts" when she did Carnegie Hall. The album just out at that time was 'Stumble into Grace.'

I did see her live the other night, sort of, when I watched her concert at Lincoln Center Out of Doors at Damrosch Park that was streamed live. She appeared with Rodney Crowell. Most of the concert came through the desktop, but did break up a few times, requiring re-connection. No matter.

Always one of the best things about seeing someone live is what they might say to the audience between songs. Some performers share a good bit, some not so much. Her portion of the concert was just long enough, but wasn't filled with too much chatter.

She did manage to almost whisper into the microphone toward the end of her show that, "I was a lousy waitress in your town once." She truly sounded apologetic in case anyone was out there still expecting their French fries to come out of the kitchen.

The NYT apparently loves Emmylou as well, After the Carnegie concert the reviewer called her "the high priestess." And Wednesday's concert, and the series of concerts, got a fair amount of favorable mention.

I figured Emmylou was into her 60s, but the Times being a newspaper that must have a policy of revealing women's ages, does tell us she is now 67. Sixty-seven, subtract just starting out, and maybe she is the waitress who left my French fries in the kitchen.

Greenwich Village is still there, and performers still come through there. May they all be as good and last as long as Emmylou.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Nose Knows

The smallest margin of victory in horse racing is to win by a nose. The corollary to that is that the smallest margin of defeat is to lose by a nose. "Bet it on the nose" means to bet to win, and win by whatever margin. A win is a win.

Horse racing is not just a randomized run around the track that is repeated x number of times a day, day in and day out, week after week. The activity is "charted" by professional chart callers. A chart is a recreation of the race that's been run, using numbers, special notations, and words. A review of a chart can give the viewer a mental image of how the run was run. Of course replays do that as well, and the use of the two of them give a serious handicapper complete knowledge of how a given horse performed in a given race. Charts are powerful tools in helping to pick winners.

Chart callers by trade write somewhat understated phrases that wrap up the horses' effort. After telling you the progress through the race, they cap off their comments with somewhat understated words like "weakened" and "outfinished."  Even a horse's winning effort can be subtly stated as having "prevailed."

Since there is not a great deal of verbiage, every word carries meaning and is thoughtfully used. "Weakened" and "outfinished" pretty much tell you the horse was tired at the finish and finished poorly. The "chart" above gives you the running positions at the "poles," distance intervals of the race. The numbers represent lengths ahead of the horse running or finishing directly behind them, and an implied beaten number of lengths behind the winner, or the leader at the given pole. To some, this is reading music.

Secretariat's incomparable run in the 1973 Belmont that cemented the Triple Crown shows that he had a 31 length margin of victory over Twice a Prince. A length is rough estimate of a horse's length. In Secretariat's case, 31 lengths translated into a margin of victory nearly equal to a sixteenth of a mile--110 yards. At Belmont, there is a commemorative pole that has been put up at the spot where Twice a Prince was when Big Red glided through the finish. The chart caller for that race reached for a never again repeated phrase of calling Secretariat's effort a "tremendous performance." It certainly was.

I've seen many photo finishes. A photo finish is a very closely run race that needs the help of the camera at the finish line--the wire--to determine the order of finish. There is even a special "placing judge" who examines this photo and renders a verdict. Most photo finishes are close, but not so close that they need a magnifying glass to determine a winner. Even a horse winning by a nose can be determined with the naked eye.

Occasionally, there is a finish that is so close that a magnifying glass is needed. And occasionally, there is a "dead heat." A tie. Both horses were determined to get their nose on the wire at the same time. I've seen a few of these. I've only ever seen a photo of triple dead heat once, the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in 1944, shown above. The photo is as famous as any horse racing photo gets. Dead heats create multiple payouts, and in this era of exotic wagers and linked betting races, they create a bit of pari-mutuel havoc with the payouts. But, the computers are ready.

I have never seen a horse lose by a tongue. The nose is the smallest part of the anatomy that is used to describe margin. Thus, when the photo went up for the 9th race at Saratoga yesterday a quick glance would lead you to believe it was a dead heat. Aren't there two horses with parts of their head on the wire simultaneously? Yes. And no.

Tricky Hat is shown in the chart as winning by a nose. Holiday Star is second by a nose, and is a neck in front of Manchurian High. Certainly a close finish, determined by a photo.

The chart caller tells us Tricky Hat "narrowly prevailed." Holiday Star "just missed." But what of the photo? It certainly looks like a dead heat. Both horses have parts of their head on the wire at the same time. Yes.

Unfortunately for Holiday Star that part of their body that is tieing the nose of Tricky Hat at the wire is their tongue.

Close counts in horseshoes. In racing, tongues don't.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Schrodinger's Cat

I rarely write directly about the events of September 16, 2002. There is an annual posting that is made on the anniversary that obliquely refers to 9/11 and 9/16.

This is the most direct I've been in this blog. The similarities to the Schrodinger cat "thought experiment" astound me.

Sadly, they are not hypothetical.


I’ve only ever heard of Schrodinger’s cat on two occasions. The first was when I read it referenced in a book review. I no longer remember the book or the author, but the reviewer thought it was relevant to something  the author had written. So, I looked it up.

Apparently it is considered a classic paradox and was first conceived by Mr. Schrodinger, an Austrian, Nobel prize-winning physicist in 1935. Paraphrasing text from Wikipedia that can still be understood by a non-physicist, Mr. Schrodinger was posing the thought process that he felt illustrated the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. Schrodinger thought of the paradox as a “thought experiment” reacting to a paper written by Einstein, Polsky and Rosen about “quantum entanglements” and the of dual state of objects. Schrodinger and Einstein did what scientists do: they wrote each other.

The paradox is often illustrated by a hypothetical cat held in a box with say a poison nearby. Some of the poison leaks out. Without looking in the box, is the cat alive or dead? Can the cat be both alive and dead at the same time? There’s more, but it does get complicated. It has to do with particles that have exploded, or not. The second time I heard of the paradox was during dialogue in the new mini-series ‘Manhattan,’ about the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos.

The dialogue takes place while a young Chinese American physicist is being interrogated by a “suit” from somewhere. It seems Liao took some pages of research out of the work area and went back to his dorm room. The pages related to research he had done about radiology and he was going to contact Eastman Kodak in order to develop a patent. It was his research, and he thought he could come up with a few extra bucks in order to help support his family and get treatment for his young daughter who has myeloma.

A very dim view is taken of missing pages and personal appropriation. Liao admits to everything, but insists he is not a spy. He repeatedly says this, but the interrogation is harsh (no water boarding).

At some point in the interview the camera focuses on a cat that is directly behind Liao. The cat meows. The “suit” says something about it being abandoned in the desert and how tough that is for the cat. The screenwriters are having a field day with this. Liao asks for a lawyer. The “suit” explains that Liao is not in the United States, he’s nowhere. He’s inside a fenced in area that doesn’t exist. He doesn’t exist. He’s neither alive or dead.

The “suit” suddenly reacts to the cat, and asks Liao, “which one of you wunderkinds thought up that thing with the cat.” Liao looks a bit puzzled, but eventually responds that it’s Erwin Schrodinger’s cat the “suit” is thinking about. The “suit” now remembers, and says yes, he read about it in “Popular Science.” (We will guess the screenwriters did this research.)

The metaphors are thick now. Liao is either dead, or alive, but is he both alive and dead? Liao explains that the cat paradox is “complicated.” The “suit” says it doesn’t seem so complicated to him: the cat is either alive or dead. He thinks the cat is dead.

There’s more, but then I’d have to issue spoiler alerts. As I said, the first time I read about Schrodinger’s cat it only further informed me about something quite complicated and allowed me to understand the book reviewer who used the term. It definitely belongs in a story about the atomic bomb. But the second time I heard about the “cat,” the light bulb went off.

On September 16, 2002, when my Assistant Vice President John Harrison murdered two of my co-workers in his office, was he now alive or dead? I sat on the other side of the wall of his office but couldn’t see in, To see in, you’d have to get up and walk a few feet down the dead end aisle and look in.

When the gunshots seemed to subside within a manner of seconds, I waved to his secretary who had taken refuge under her desk that it seemed safe to make a run for it. She did, and I did, but only after looking back briefly at the closed glass office door that seemed to be keeping the smell of gunpowder in. Was he still alive, and waiting for someone to come close so he could finish them off as well? Or, was the last gunshot heard the one that was self-inflicted, and the one that ended his life?

In 2002 Schrodinger’s cat would have meant the name of a neighbor’s pet to me. Was John Harrison alive and dead at the same time? I didn’t care. I figured he was dead, but confirming that might prove fatal to me if he wasn’t. I quickly followed the secretary and the others I convinced to turn around, and got the hell out of there. It turned out John Harrison was dead, as well my two co-workers. Looking in to confirm it would have changed nothing.

At this point in my life I’ll never be in a physics or a philosophy class. But if Schrodinger’s cat ever comes up in a conversation, have I got story for them.

http://www. onofframp.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


I had a counselor at a YMCA camp many years ago who joked that the initials stood for 'Your Money Cheerfully Accepted.' Of course YMCA really stood for Young Men's Christian Association, an organization that never really seemed to be a soliciting charity mega-enterprise.

Nevertheless, I always enjoyed the playfulness of the phrase and have often used it to tell people "well, it's the YMCA, you know." My kids always know what I'm talking about.

When I was working I remember hearing or reading that it was a good idea to write a letter when something was truly bugging you. Or a memo to files. You didn't have to send it to anyone, just get it out of your system by putting in words what was bothering you.

Quite honestly I did use this approach, but I usually mailed the letter. If anyone actually follows this blog they'll know a few posting back that I did just that when I let the New York Racing Association know how I felt about their new admission prices. I did get a reply.

A nice enough letter was received last week. It was from an executive whom I have met. I guess the CEO delegated.  It was pointed out that NYRA reduced the prices of season passes from $75 to $50 for clubhouse and $35 to $30 for grandstand. This is true, and significant, if you go to the track x number of times to make it a true savings. We don't. Season passes are no bargain for our four trip vacation week.

What wasn't pointed out in the letter was that NYRA already announced, at least one week prior to the letter that they were no longer issuing season passes. Thus, with something like 6,700 or so already issued, there would be no more. Too popular. They became NYC taxi medallions, with a finite number issued.

Of course this wasn't announced when the racing meet began. Act now, the passes will no longer be available.  Horse players are very good at math. They may strike you as dumb, but the know what a 6/5 shot pays to win. NYRA obviously is good at math as well. They reached a mathematical point that told them that if too many people started using these discounted admissions, they weren't going to get the benefit of having raised the admission prices in the first place.

I understand the season passes have a photo, and I'll assume a control that they can only be used once on a given day. NYRA had to make expedited provisions after the prices were announced, since there was a good deal of initial demand. NYRA took care of any demand there might be after. No more passes for sale. Just suddenly taken off the market, like a pharmacy pill's recall. Not good for your health. Not good for NYRA's health.

I'm trying hard not to think about what it's going to cost me this year just to walk into the place before I've even read the information board for changes and placed a winning or a losing bet. But it's at least $30 now.

Going to the races used to mean an admission price (historically $2 grandstand, and $5 clubhouse), a 75 cent Morning Telegraph, a 25 cent program, find a seat (always free), and start your day.

Okay, prices go up, but it seems they've conspired to all go up at once. The Morning Telegraph is now $9.00, and is the Daily Racing Form, and a program, if desired, but not needed when you buy the Form, is $2.50. The seats at Saratoga in the stands are all reserved and go from $13 clubhouse to $18 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For some  reason, NYRA finds Friday to be a weekend day.

The Racing Form is slightly cheaper at the track, but no true handicapper buys the Form the day of the races. It's always before the races so that they can sufficiently study the past performances.  The Form is not published by NYRA, but their Post Parade program is, which carries a slightly different layout for past performances, and is not desirable to me. It also can't be purchased in advance of the day's racing.

The Post Parade program is usually $4, except this past Saturday, when the Whitney Handicap was the feature race, when it was $6. Reading some Tweets from the day, people also complained of beer that was $5 was now $7.

For some reason, NYRA thinks racing is a spectator sport, and that quality racing demands an outlay. What they never realize is that racing is a spectator sport viewed by people who've made a bet. No bet, no interest. No viewing. The Sport of Kings is supported by its betting. No handle, no take, no purses, no owners breeding and racing their charges in front of a public, whether at he track, or viewing from a simulcast.

NYRA will tell you that they have to make themselves self-sufficient of the casino revenue they are getting from the Resorts World casino that is part of Aqueduct. If that were true, why then are the purses so high ever since the casino money started flowing its portion to NYRA? Maiden Special Weight races are $98,000 and a second level allowance race on Saturday at $105,000 was greater than the $100,000 stakes races.

Years and years ago when my friend was first starting out writing for the Bomze publication's Racing Star Weekly he was mentored by a older fellow named Howard Rowe. Howie was a turf writer who only recently passed away in his 90s. Howie and the other old-timers of that long ago era hated Saratoga. They hated that the prices in the town always went up during what was then only an August meet. Menu prices had tape placed over the old prices that people paid in July, and would then pay in September. Hotels of course went up significantly. Taxi rides cost more.

At the time, the track itself didn't get in the act of raising their prices. They were only there for August, so whatever they were charging ($2 and $5 to get in) never changed.  They weren't acting like a clip joint like everybody else.

Until now.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Original No-Brainer

Zeynep Osman, a niece of the last king of Afghanistan and the widow of the heir to the Ottoman throne, is trying to keep her $390-a-month rent-controlled apartment.

Well, who wouldn't?