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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Maryland Ailing - The Running Story; The Maine Shell Game

Maryland racing is in trouble.  You probably are thinking about the standardbred industry, but this time we are talking about the runners.  There is a big difference between track operators and horsemen when it comes to racing dates for the 2012 season.  Thoroughbred horsemen want to race the same 146 day schedule next year as they did this year.  Unfortunately, Frank Stonarch wants to race a total of 40 days at Pimlico surrounding the Preakness and is generously offering to let the horsemen lease and operate Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center and let them race the additional days if they want.  Well, I can't speak personally about thoroughbred horsemen running race meets, but based on standardbred horsemen running meets, I would be heading to the hills if I was the thoroughbred horsemen.  As a rule, horsemen running race meets is a sure way to head to the bankruptcy court.

If the Maryland Jockey Club does not run a 146 day meet next year, the deal which would allow them to redirect slot revenue towards operating costs goes out the window.  This means, expect to see our thoroughbred brethren wondering if the Triple Crown becomes the Double Hat next year as the Preakness once again is in doubt.

There is some good news for the Thoroughbred horsemen.  Delaware Park has expressed interest in creating a circuit with the Maryland horsemen.  Anytime you can get horsemen of different states coordinating race dates, it is a good thing.  This is something standardbred horsemen don't seem to get.

On the standardbred side, live racing returns to Rosecroft Raceway this weekend with the opening card being contested Friday evening.  I understand the racing quality will not be there this year but if you live in the area, come on out and show your support and if you use an ADW which will be handling Rosecroft this season, wagering a few dollars on their races would be more than appreciated. 

We would be remiss if we didn't talk about Maine harness racing.  This election day, a referendum legalizing two new racinos in the state is on the state-wide ballot.  If approved, Scarborough Downs would close and move to Bifford, ME where local residents have already approved the idea of a racino.  It sounds like a winning strategy doesn't it?  For horsemen perhaps, but for the sport itself, racinos apparently do nothing.  Since 2003, (the first racino opened in Maine at Bangor Raceway in 2008), live wagering on harness racing has decreased 43% in the Pine State and off-track wagering has dropped by 50%.  Let's not kid ourselves, adding slots to the wagering menu at many states only puts money in the pockets of the existing horsemen as very little is done to introduce horse racing to new bettors.  As I have said many times, racinos is welfare for racing.  If racing would use the welfare to get their act together and strengthen their business it would be one thing, but basically, they are using slots as a way to fund a failing business.  Were I to write legislation legalizing slot machines or casinos at tracks, I would tie in the revenue from the alternate gaming to performance levels on the races.  Meet your levels and get your full allocation; fall short on your goals, and the amount of money you receive from slots gets reduced.  Then maybe a serious effort would be undertaken to grow the business.   

This year, all the press stories indicated that the Lexington Sales showed an increase this year (well, except for NJ-sired horses).  Well, that is true on the surface.  We now find out three of the most powerful consignors had horses in the sale this year but not last year.  As a result of Hanover Shoe Farms, Blue Chip Farms, and Walnut Hall Ltd consigning to this year's sale and not the 2010 sale, what appeared to be a successful sale may not have been as successful as people think as the results may have been skewed.  Some people are saying if those consignors skipped this year's Lexington sale as they did in 2010, the actual sales figures likely would have shown a decrease. 

Breeders Crown eliminations have been drawn.  Excuse me if I don't get overly excited about them.  Other than seeing how See You At Peelers does, I will wait until next week to get excited.  That being said, I know some of you are really interested in the eliminations and I will attempt to give you my selections for the eliminations later this week.

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