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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pompano Tosses a Bone; Time Out on Reducing Dates

Pompano Park has announced effective with the Friday, October 16 race card, racing programs for Pompano's live races will be offered free to on-track patrons. While a basic racing program should be available for all, on-track and off-track patrons, this is a step in the right direction. The investment by Isle of Capri is minimal and slot patrons may be more willing to invest a few of their wagering dollars on the horses since programs will be available for free.

While this is a welcome step, it is a long time coming and brings a little recognition to the horseplayer. After all, many racinos provide perks and superior facilities to their VLT players, but have done little to upgrade the racing side of their facility? A 'token' free program is the least track operators can do for the loyal customers who put up with being treated like second class citizens when they come to the track. Other tracks would be wise to follow Pompano's lead.

Meanwhile, north of the border, the traditional process of requesting racing dates is well underway. In Ontario, the various race tracks combined to ask for a reduction of 150 race dates for 2010. If approved, this would have returned the number of race dates back to the level of 1998. Understandably, this has caused a lot of concern to the horsemen in the province and the ORC has ordered a moratorium on cutting race dates this year pending a comprehensive study on the impact of reducing race dates.

The days of racing all or a good part of the year at one track needs to come to an end. There are too many tracks racing at the same time diluting the simulcast wagering as well as the horse population necessary to offer a superior product. Racing needs to go back to seasons where fans can look forward to the start of the race meet and have the meet conclude before the fans lose interest in the racing. Other than Woodbine/Mohawk, many of these tracks race two or three nights a week, some one night a week over an extended period of time. Perhaps the answer is to have fewer tracks opearating on any given day and accomplish this by having the tracks race four or five days a week and end their season in two months instead of prolonging it over a period of seven months. With regards to Woodbine and Mohawk, switch between the two tracks twice a year instead of once; keep things fresh. The key is to cut dates in a well thought out manner as part of a comprehensive plan rather than each track attempting to cut dates in isolation.

While this study is being done on Ontario, American racing interests would be wise to authorize their own studies, but on a regional level instead of locally. As you can see with the fierce competition for horses in the Northeast United States, the various race meets are intertwined. A study to reduce dates in a coordinated matter would benefit all.

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