Rumor has it that Hazel Park may not be opening their backstretch for stabling in the 2011 meet, obviously in a cost savings move. There was some resistance last year to having to pay a fee to stable on track, so rather than deal with the issue this year, they may have just decided to close the barns for this meet.
I understand the financial hardship backstretches are for racetracks, but I believe a lot of the medication problems we have now result from the closing of backstretches. With the backstretches closed, horsemen are now away from the prying eyes of the racetracks and regulators. I realize at this point it may be fiscallly impossible, but the best thing which could happen for harness racing is the establishment of training centers like the Japanese Racing Association has done. With centralized training centers, regulators could not only provide quality training facilities for horses, it would allow the regulators to keep the facilities under their direct control so they may limit access to those facilities and possibly discourage some activities. Like the JRA, tracks could provide for the vanning of horses from the training facilities to the tracks.
I realize there are existing training facilities that would cry foul, but the impact could be reduced by requiring horses to stay at these centralized farms when they are within a month of making a start.
New York horsemen may be having their pockets picked as Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a 2.75% surcharge on purses paid out in New York tracks. According to the state, "Moneys from this surcharge will be directly deposited in the Regulation of Racing account, which, when combined with cost containment actions undertaken by the racing board, will eliminate the account’s deficit and will ensure that the cost for the board’s regulatory activities are fully borne by the racing industry rather than by taxpayers.”
Fair enough, but as we know the government has ways to rob Peter to pay Paul and there is nothing to suggest the state would not do the same with this surcharge in future years. Last year the state charged owners starting horses in New York $10 per start to help pay for increased drug testing, yet that was not done. It is certainly reasonable to expect racing to pay for its own regulation, but it should be done in a way where funds can't be diverted for other uses.