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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Racing Date Game - Ontario Edition

The Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) has issued tentative racing dates for the 2012 racing season.  There are fewer race dates in 2012, but the cut is minimal and there is some movement of race dates based on attendance and wagering drops during certain days or months of the year.  Dates changes may come based on appeals by the individual tracks but they need to make a legitimate business case for any date changes they wish.

As you may be aware, racing in Ontario is classified in three levels to ensure each track is supplied the appropriate quality of horses they deserve to avoid short fields.  The three levels of racing are Premier which features the high quality horses (think YR, Chst5/8, and arguably M1); Signature (DD5/8 and Har); Grassroots (Bgd5/8. TRR).  While all the tracks are allowed to import simulcast signals, Grassroot tracks are not allowed to export their signals as the demand for their product is strictly local.

There are some advantages to the current methodology, there are problems.  For one thing, this proposal seems to be all about propping up WEG, but not requiring them to adopt to modern reality.  If there are not enough horses to put on a quality cards, may WEG is racing too many race dates in the year and there should be a cut in racing days each week; that is what other tracks do when they can't produce a racing card which meets their standards.

One problem is that signature tracks are not allowed to put on any premier race days.  For example, the Meadowlands, Mohawk put on great racing cards on their signature event days, by loading up on top races.  Let the fans see the best there is.  Why shouldn't Flamboro put on a similar type of race day on Confederation Cup Day?  On these days they race 'A' level horses in the stakes race, and immediately return to 'B' level horses for the rest of the card.  There is no reason why Flamboro Downs can't shoot for the moon on these days; they don't come about that often, let these tracks make the most of these days.

One of the complaints of horsemen at Signature tracks is in order to keep the best horses at WEG, their purse accounts grow in banks instead of being paid out.  Maybe instead of allowing bank accounts to grow too much, a starters fee can be paid at the end of the racing season to each horse that started at a signature track; this would keep premier-level horses from racing at lower level tracks, but allow those who support racing at these tracks to benefit.

In whole, the concept for Ontario is good, but the sacrifices should not be made only by the grassroot and signature tracks.  WEG must be held accountable and make sacrifices as well.

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