Okay, maybe the title would have been more appropriate if I left 'damn' out of it. But the frustration of local horsemen not being able to look past the trees makes you want to go for something a little more catchy; hopefully to get people to pay attention. So now that you are reading this blog, let's try this title:
You Are Killing Your Own Industry by Racing Too Much
Ed DeRosa, in Thoroughbred Times, calls for a serious reduction in racing dates; despite the fact there is an abundance of money to race for now as a result of alternative gaming; something he himself indicated may be temporary.
With respect to Joe Faraldo and other proponents of racing as much as possible, we are killing the standardbred industry off quicker with this excess racing. Granted Yonkers Raceway, because they are the only half mile track giving out obscene amounts of purse money thanks to slots, pretty much fills all their races, there is just too much racing for the number of horses we have available and for that matter too much racing for the demand of the wagering public. The Thoroughbred Times article talked about how much racing there is within a six hour distance of Thistledown, but we don't need to go that far. Let's look at how many harness tracks are racing within a three hour radius of East Rutherford, NJ; home of the Meadowlands.
The Meadowlands, Yonkers Raceway, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Harrah's Chester Downs, Freehold Raceway, Monticello Raceway, and Dover Downs, Saratoga Raceway (Tioga Downs and Harrington Raceway is within a three and a half hour radius; Plainridge Racecourse is within a four hour radius; Vernon Downs 4 hours and twelve minutes). That is eight harness tracks within a three hour radius from the Meadowlands.
Tell me we need eight harness tracks within three hours of each other. We are not just talking about eight harness tracks geographically, these are tracks which at certain times of the year will race within the same week. Is there any wonder why these tracks are having problems drawing full fields? As a result, these tracks (with the exception of Freehold Raceway) are throwing obscene amounts of money for combined class races to get full fields as owners shop their horses for the easiest spots and even then you get short fields. The net result is you have short fields so all you have to do is beat one or two horses to pick up a check.
A beautiful time to be a horse owner. A great way to kill off an industry; especially one where there is not enough interest to support the amount of product being produced. This leaves horsemen at a long term risk for employment. Don't worry about the racinos, they will remain open as gambling houses; just without the horses. As we have this oversaturation of racing, the gambling dollar is being spread so thin that horse racing will be an even greater money losing proposition, enticing these racino operators to attempt to get rid of harness racing either out of desire or necessity.
Yes, contraction is inevitable but do horsemen need to be the ones to pull the trigger on racetracks? I believe out of all eight tracks listed within three hours, all but two can be assured of survival if a racing circuit is established instead of our current free for all when it comes to scheduling. I am not saying only one track can operate at a given time, but if we scheduled intelligently, we can develop a racing circuit which makes sense which will provide a better product for the gambler; reduce the losses and possibly convert losses to profits on racing for racinos as well as benefit those non-racino tracks.
Horsemen would benefit with a meaningful circuit where they would not have to travel excessive distances to race. Simulcast revenue which is being distributed over X number of races will be distributed over fewer races, meaning higher purses. For those tracks with slots, the slot revenue will be paid out over fewer races so purses would be higher.
Mr. Faraldo has complained about such a plan saying if you race fewer days at a track and your horse is unable to race, what good is higher purses? Well, here is a solution. In addition to your Sire Stakes and state bred races, let's establish a regional sire stakes program in addition to each individual states' sire stakes program. In addition to the regional sire stakes program in the case of the example above, establish races for Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania owned or sired horses thus allowing racing opportunities that previously only existed at their local tracks. By doing this, the problem of horses not being able to race when a track is open goes away and you get many more lucrative events to race in.
It is time to roll the number of racing days back to meet the supply of horses and demand for the racing product. In the long run, everyone wins. Will horsemen agree to do something which is in their long term interest?