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Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Joyful Ocassion; An Ugly Undercurrent

Racing returns to Rosecroft Raceway starting next week (qualifiers and training has already begun).  Granted, it is only a twenty day meet but after no live racing for about three years, one would think everyone would be pleased.  After all, next year there will be fifty-four days of racing. 

Yes, there are problems; no backstretch, there is opposition to slots at Rosecroft which could be making this reincarnation of racing at Rosecroft short lived; still no agreement for simulcasting thoroughbred races but this will come as a result of an agreement being imposed on thoroughbred and standardbred interests.  But for now, you would think this would be put aside as people get ready to race as the new Rosecroft gets ready for show time.  Here is a chance to put your best foot forward to your customers who have missed live racing for a long time.

Well, you would be wrong. People are complaining all races are Maryland Preferred; don't like the order of preferences; some people don't want to join the horsemen's organization.  My answer?  Get over it.

So the races are Maryland Preferred.  I generally don't like a closed race circuit as it provides for inferior racing but this is a special time in Maryland.  There was four days of harness racing in Maryland last year; non-wagering MDSS events at Ocean Downs which was basically closed as their slot parlor was being constructed which quite honestly were held to keep the track legal with regards to zoning.  There was a summer meet at Ocean Downs this year but for the most part horsemen of Maryland have been suffering big time since Rosecroft ceased live racing in 2008.  Why not a little protectionism to help get the Maryland standardbred industry back on its feet?  After all, if you are a resident of Maryland, you try to get your lower class horses raced at Dover Downs or Harrington; you can't.  Delaware horsemen have no right to complain.  With the exception of Virginia-based horsemen who have only a short meet at Colonial Downs, no one should have a problem with the preference rules at Rosecroft Raceway.  Perhaps after this year, there can be an alliance similar to the Diamond Alliance used at Cal Expo which would treat Virginia horses the same as Maryland horses with the exception of the sires stakes races to jointly promote their respective breeding and racing industries.

There are plenty of racing opportunities elsewhere.  For these twenty days of racing let the Maryland horsemen race for their $1,600-$3,800 purses; money desperately needed by them to keep the industry on life support.  During this period of resurrection of their industry, let Maryland horsemen get what little money is being offered to them.  The time will come when such protections won't be necessary.

Then there are people complaining about having to join the Cloverleaf Standardbred Horsemens Association.  Talk about a tempest in a teapot.  Here is the order of preference for racing at Rosecroft.

1) Maryland-owned horses (100% Md owned);
2)  Maryland-sired horses;
3) Maryland-trained horses;
4) Maryland-foaled horses;
5) Horsemen who have historically raced at Rosecroft; and are members in good standing in the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owner's Association.

Some people say they are being forced to join the horsemen's organization.  Well, if you meet any of conditions 1-4; there is no need to join the CSOA; you get in without it.  The only people membership would be required of is if you used to race at Rosecroft and shifted your operations to another state; pay the paultry $30 a year and become a member.  For probably 95% of those who will likely race at Rosecroft, there will be no need to join the CSOA to get in to race.

Instead of complaining, its time to get to racing.  After the meet is over you can do a post-morten and improve things for the next meet.

Not an issue directly related to the Maryland situation is the politics of horsemen associations.  I understand some people don't like what their horsemen's association is doing.  Some may disagree strongly with what they have done, some may disagree what they want to do.  Some groups make some big mistakes which cost members dearly.  What the dissidents are tempted to do is form a rival horsemen's group to wretch control from the existing bargaining unit.  Breaking away from a horsemen's group to form a rival organization should be the last step taken, efforts should be taken to work within the existing horsemen's organization. 

A lot of people like to complain about what their group is doing but they seldom do anything about it.  Do they run against existing officers?  Do they offer to help or do they pay their dues and that is their only contact with the group?  A lot of times they are volunteers, people who come out of the wood work when things go bad but are never heard from beforehand.  Typically, a passive organization is the one where problems occur.  Officers get content and as with human nature, they may regard their organization as being a personal fiefdom.  Members have a responsibility to attend their horsemen organization's meetings and keep apprised as to what is going on, not just when things go wrong. 

This is not to say horsemen groups should never be replaced; it should be a last step, such as the split in Ontario where OHHA seemed to have their own personal agenda which was diametrically opposed to those who raced at WEG tracks.  Let's face it, usually the only one wins when there is a question of dueling horsemen groups are track management.  In a way a horsemen's organization is like marriage; it is easier to get divorced than try to work things out.  The easiest way out is not always the right way.  Some things are worth fighting for.


Pacingguy said...


As you probably knew, I am unable to print any allegations without concrete proof as I have a responsibility to be fair to all parties.

In general, if there is any wrong doing going on at any track, it is the responsibility not only of the regulators but of the participants to help police the sport. Closing eyes do not solve any problems.

Pacingguy said...

And may I remind everyone the USTA has an integrity line where anonymnous claims can be filed; so there is no excuse for any horseman not to make any legitimate complaints known. The number is 1-800-887-USTA (1-800-887-8782). You call, anonymously (if you wish), explain what you saw, heard or perceived, hang up, and let the industry take it from there as they will forward the complaint to the appropriate individual(s).