If you follow racing at all, you can't help but follow the Life At Ten incident at last year's Breeders Crown. As you know, Life At Ten's jockey told ESPN before the race began that the horse did not feel right but nothing was done. The starting gate opened, and the horse was almost immediately eased, taking millions of dollars with him. Well, this past week the KHRC issued their report (four months in the making) and they decided the jockey, John Velasquez and steward, John Veitch were to be the sacrificial lambs. No doubt both made mistakes, but it was magnified by the presence of ESPN. The truth is this happens almost every day at your local racetrack regardless of breed. Does a driver who warms up a horse say someting when a horse doesn't warm up right before the race? They don't want to lose their drives for a trainer (ask yourself when was the last time you saw a horse scratched after the post parade). As for steward Veitch, how reluctant are judges to scratch a horse that has a lot of money wagered on them? I once mentioned before how Ben Webster wanted to scratch the great pacing mare Tarport Hap from a race at the Meadowlands and they refused to scratch her because she had so much money wagered on her; less than a quarter mile into the race, she laid on the track dying (she probably wouldn't have been saved if she was scratched).
The fact is Life At Ten situations occur every day at racetracks around the country; the only difference was this was a high profile event. If ESPN did not interview John Velasquez during the post parade, no one would be saying squat about what happened; it would have been chalked up as one of those things. You may rest assured that at whatever racetrack and breed you support, horses will continue to race when they are not sound enough for their condition and judges and tracks will be reluctant to scratch horses that have huge amounts of money on them. It is part of the game, perhaps an ugly part, but part of the game.
Greyhound racing in North America is on its way out. An article in the St. Petersburg Times indicates a bill has been proposed to allow the sixteen dog tracks to drop racing and continue to offer card games and slot machines (depending on where they are located). Also, they want to allow them to offer Internet poker with out of state dog tracks. The bill would not require racetracks to drop greyhound racing, but it allows them the option without losing their license to operate. As reported by the newspaper, "The market has dictated already that this may be a dying industry, but I don't think it's dead," said Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, sponsor of the bill. "I do believe there should be some dog racing where the people want it, and it should be dictated by the people and not by government." Sounds familiar? Unless the standardbred industry acts, we can be talking about similar legislation in other states. In some ways, wasn't the Hanson report saying the same thing? The question is do the horsemen care?
Chester and Pocno Downs will both be open by Tuesday evening, yet Tioga Downs makes news with a 10% across the board increase in purses. The top horses on the grounds will be racing for $16,500, Last year there was an influx of horses from Pompano Park due to their closing for the summer. Despite the fact Pompano will continue racing, I don't think Tioga will have a problem filling their race cards.
Jeff Gural had his first meeting with Governor Christie's staff regarding his proposal to save the Meadowlands. To no one's surprise, the proposal was not accepted as is. This shouldn't cause concern, at this point; this is all part of the common negotiations which typically occurs in these types of matters. I do have one concern. Why there was no competitive bidding for the Meadowlands lease? Now make no mistake, I don't think anyone other than Jeff Gural wold want it, but the NJSEA put out a RFP for Monmouth Park and eight groups expressed interest. I can't help but wonder if the Meadowlands becomes profitable once again or should the prospect of slots come back, someone is going to bring up the lack of bidding for the Meadowlands to get their hands on the track..
In California, the CHRB is considering eliminating the coupled entry rule completely to make up for the shortage of horses that plagues the state and create more wagering interests. Under the proposal, all the track will have to do is mention at the bottom of the program the names of the owners who have an interesting in the uncoupled entry. Why is this important, once this rule takes hold in California, it will likely sweep East.
Lucky Jim and Cassis qualified at the Meadowlands yesterday, getting ready to make their seasonal debuts. Prime time is almost here. The question is where will they be racing this spring and summer?