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A word to the wise: 418-plus men on a horse don’t work

Nov 6, 2007 5:27 AM

Some things you’re aware of and some you may not be.

Item One: You know of Curlin, of course, having watched him blitz his opposition and almost certainly win Horse of the Year honors in his Breeders’ Cup victory at Monmouth Park. What you may not know is that since then he has picked up 418 new owners, each of course with ideas on what should happen to the horse.

All this came about as a result of the decision of a county judge in Boone county, Kentucky, who ruled last week that the 20% interest in the horse owned by his original owners — now in the clink — should be turned over to 418 people who claim the jailed owners defrauded them out of $64 million.

The two, both lawyers, are William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. They owned the appropriately named Midnight Cry Stable, and they originally bought Curlin for $57,000 and then, after he won his first race at Gulfstream Park in Florida last February by 12 ¾ lengths, sold 80% of him to three major thoroughbred owners for millions. The horse has won $5.1 million since then.

Gallion and Cunningham are in jail, however, not for making people fat but for claiming to make them thin. They are accused of defrauding the horse’s new owners by selling them interests in the drug fen-phen, a supposed diet substance, in what turned out to be a massive alleged fraud.

A major owner of Curlin, Jess Jackson of the Kendall Jackson distillery, is thinking about racing the champion next year. As someone who has had a few partners in horses, a word to Mr. Jackson: Don’t do it, Jess. You don’t want 418 partners, all with their own ideas on how to race the horse. Besides, there isn’t a winner’s circle in North America that can hold them all. The current lawyer for the 418, incidentally, says they want to sell.

Item Two: You probably know of the battle in New Jersey, where Atlantic City casinos, which pretty much run the state in Trenton, are refusing to allow slots at the state’s three tracks, the Meadowlands just outside New York City, Monmouth Park on the Jersey shore, and Freehold Raceway, near Monmouth.

What you may not know is that a study on the effect of slots at the tracks on casinos and the state lottery, ordered by Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration, is causing a minor furor.

The study was commissioned from Christiansen Capital Advisors, a preeminent consulting firm in racing and gaming circles. It based its assumptions on 2,100 slots at the Meadowlands and a like number at Monmouth, and drew immediate fire from former governor and current senate president Richard Codey. Codey, a backer of slots at the tracks, called the methodology used by Christiansen Capital Advisors "useless," saying, "Putting 2,100 VLTs at the Meadowlands is a ridiculously low number. That’s like a toy store at the holidays hiring only one employee. Clearly, this report developed scenarios that enforce a negative outcome — scenarios that no logical businessperson would utilize."

More importantly, Codey pointed out that Christiansen Capital Advisors had performed another study two years ago, while he was governor. That report concluded that adding VLTs at state racetracks would not hurt state lottery revenue. This one says they would. Codey asked which was correct, and said, "Should we let them do another report and then decide on the best two out of three?" He said Harrah’s Entertainment, which in the last year opened a successful harness track and racino in Chester, just south of Philadelphia, and considerably closer to Atlantic City than the Meadowlands, impacted Harrah’s Atlantic City operation "more than any VLT operation in New Jersey ever would."

Finally, you probably watched, along with millions of others, the Patriots and Colts last Sunday. It was smash-mouth football, with spectacular pass catches and sensational broken field running, a battle between two undefeated teams, two great quarterbacks, and two exceptional coaches. Except for their personalities. Both are impassive and unemotional in expression, although to many — but not in New England — Bill Belichick of the Patriots comes across as the bad guy and his Colts rival — Tony Dungy — as the good guy.

Belichick is a very smart man, with a degree in economics from Wesleyan. Whether he was born with that grim personage, or whether, more likely, he learned from his dour and glowering mentor, Bill Parcells, that being silent and sullen is the path to success, in unknown. He actually smiled at his team following Sunday’s victory, and patted a few players on their backs. There is hope for everyone.