Sudbury Downs concluded their 2012 season last night which probably signals the end of racing at the track thanks to the cancellation of the Slots at Racetrack program. The Sudbury Star paper also had an article about the end of racing there. In the article, there are the expected comments from horsemen and employees lamenting the likely passing of an era there. The handle on the final night of racing at Sudbury was $17,502 while purses were $59,600.
If you are reading this blog, you can pretty much imagine the comments coming from horse people and those directly impacted by the closing of the track but what about the comments from the general public? To say those comments cut like a knife would be an understatement.
One individual, who from the comments appears to be a race fan stated:
Just what did the Downs spend the money from OLG on? The money meant to be used to to try to increase interest in racing?
What they didn't spend it on was anything to attract people to the track. Including the restaurant.
Another, in response to a quote in the article which states horse racing can't survive the relocation of the slot machines:
So what he is saying is that from 1974 to 1999 a 25 year period they managed to stay in business, and now that the SLOTS are leaving after 13 years being their, they can no longer continue to operate? WOW sounds like a bad business...I guess there really is no interest for horse racing in sudbury [sic] if for 13 years this business only survived thanks to OLG....Well then SEE YA LATER...just be thankfull [sic] for the extra 13 years you had and couldn't turn a profit without those OLG Slots!
Here we have someone who feels sorry for those being put out of work:
In a way it is OK to feel sorry for the handlers, the groomers, the other people working at the track, the farmers who sold the feed and the rest of the people who didn't make a lot of money but loved the animals.
To the owners who made a lot of money, I don't feel sorry one bit.
Now granted, this shouldn't be considered a scientific sampling. These are three people who happened to take the time to comment on a newspaper article. How many others are sympathetic to the plight of horsemen (as well as those not)? Who knows? Abacus does or do they?.
In a survey done in August, Abacus Data (who was commissioned by Racing Future) found that 17% supported the plan to end the SAR program while 41% opposed the plan. Case closed, victory for the horse industry right? The press release announcing the results of the survey indicate three out of four oppose ending the SAR program. Of course, if you look only at those with firm opinions, you can make this argument. But there is 42% who were indifferent to what happens to the SAR program, which is a problem in itself as you can argue indifferent is a nice term for 'I could care less'. Mind you, since this survey was commissioned by Racing Future, odds are the question was worded in favor of racing. I would suggest the 42% who are indifferent about the SAR program is what allowed the Liberals to take aim at the racing industry.
Being South of the Border, I am not really connected to Ontario politics but if I had to venture whether or not the Liberals control Parliament after the next election, it probably be more about other issues, such as the decision to prorogue (suspending) Parliament, questionable decision which appear to be costing Ontario taxpayers money than it would be about ending the SAR programs. This is a problem for Ontario racing interests, and doesn't bode well down the road for American racing interests unless they somehow engage the general public.
In the meanwhile, here is a photo gallery from what was likely the final night of racing at Sudbury Downs.