While the calendar says we are about a month away from spring, spring is awakening here in the Northeast though admittedly, you can argue we went straight from autumn and skipped winter this year. With news that Chester Downs, Freehold Raceway, Rosecroft, and Saratoga Raceway are scheduling qualifiers, it won't be long until those stables which (needlessly) stabled in the South this year will break camp and head back north to complete their final preparations for their 2012 campaigns.
It will be interesting to see how many horsemen will be deserting the Meadowlands for Chester Downs (Pocono Downs opens in April). Of course, a big factor will be the purse structure which is not yet set. Will they wait until a budget is finalized before cutting purses or will they reduce purses in anticipation of some type of shave in order to avoid a massive purse cut later in the season?
Looking at the USTA's fines and suspensions list this week, it amazes me of the number of people who get caught falsifying their state license applications by forgetting their arrest record. Many of these people get a small fine of $100 and continue to be licensed. Let's face it, there are people in the industry that have made stupid mistakes in their life (be it drugs, shoplifting, bar fights, etc.) which could be called youthful indiscretions but were caught and arrested. Hopefully, they learned from their mistakes and there is no reason why they shouldn't be licensed. However, I have a problem when people falsify their arrest record, for they are not owning up to past mistakes. Eventually, the racing commissions get around to running criminal checks and that is where the problem is detected.
Now let me make it clear up front, there are a lot of people who work with horses as grooms who are honest working people who do it for the love of it; I am not suggesting grooms work with a den of thieves. I also realize in today's world, many employers shy away from people with minor criminal records so the racing industry may be one of the few places where these people can get employment often as grooms where the pay is not exactly rewarding. But these people, having seen these seemingly minor arrests keeping them from employment opportunities in the non-racing world are tempted to hide the facts as they figure these offenses may keep them from getting licensed in racing.
Rather than forcing these people to lie to gain employment, I feel horse racing needs to make it clear that most minor youthful indiscretions will not keep someone from being licensed but they need to be upfront with their arrest records. Then if they are caught lying, it should result in a minimum six month license revocation because if they are willing to lie under those conditions, what else are they willing to do?
So last week California thoroughbred horsemen are putting the kibosh on exchange wagering along with most of the racetracks. What else is new? Tracks and horsemen once again afraid of changing the broken business model. I understand the fears and the concerns, but with no risk, there is no gain. What I would like to see is New Jersey approve exchange wagering for a two year trial period and if there are concerns which don't get addressed, the experiment can be pulled. You can have all the fears you want in your mind, but unless you try it out, that's all they are, fears. You need evidences to look at to decide if those fears have any truth to them.