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Monday, February 13, 2012

Prepare to be Disappointed

When Jeff Gural received his awards last night at the USHWA annual awards presentation, Gural indicated he would be disappointed if someone could not get horsemen to dedicate 5% of the slot revenue towards marketing, claiming out of the $500 million earned in slot revenue, this would provide the industry with $25 million a year towards ridding the sport of drugs, marketing, and getting harness racing on television numerous times.

I agree horsemen and owners should donate 5% of their purse account towards marketing.  However, breeders should be expected to kick in 5% of their breeder award funds as well.  No, I don't expect racetracks to kick in anything; they lose bundles of  money on racing already.  That being said, be prepared to be disappointed.  When Standardbred Canada asked horsemen to donate 5% of their purse accounts towards marketing; Ontario horsemen responded with a resounding 'No'.  Sadly, what would make anyone thing American horsemen say 'Yes'?  First of all, horsemen who were racing for small purses up to now are going to be stuffing their pockets and mattresses full of dollar bills; half of them thinking racing is doomed so they may as well grab it while they can.  Question number one starting in New York will be "Why should the horsemen contribute money?  It the track's responsibility to market the sport" (I have heard them say it personally at a meeting). 

Secondly, horsemen can't look past their state's borders.  Heaven forbid horsemen in New Jersey and Pennsylvania work together.  Horsemen groups in states doing well with welfare payments could care less about their starving counterparts in another state.  Universal to states with purse accounts flush or bone dry is race, race, race; the more the better.  To think horsemen in New York are going to donate marketing money to a program which will benefit horsemen in New Jersey as well as their own state would be giving horsemen credit for forwardthinking which sadly would be giving them too much credit.

Remember the concept discussed two years ago in Canada by Standardbred Canada, called Canada One?  You haven't heard anything further about it since.  For those not aware of Canada One; it was a concept where tracks across Canada (excluding WEG), would coordinate schedules and starting times so you would not have multiple tracks operating at the same time and allow for a single simulcast channel which could be exported and marketed.  In theory, having one signal and one track racing at a time would allow for bigger wagering pools which would be helped by having Pick x wagers where if not hit at track A would carry over to the next track racing and so, on allowing for jackpot pools. 

Before we worry about marketing the sport, we need to get progressive thinkers in charge of horsemen groups who can convince their membership that working together with track management and other horsemen groups in other states is in their best interest.  Whereas the Zielinski Report said racing was basically the same as it was in the 1950s, horsemen groups are stuck in the 1950s as well.


Anonymous said...

Pacing Guy,
In as much as I can agree that money needs to be spent on promotion and the horsemen should pay for much of it, the issue of horsemen coming together appears much more important.
What's missing is the fact that while we can think that there is a divide between states isn't it obvious that some of the same trainers dominate in NY, PA and NJ at the same time. Those guiding the ships in these three states aren't even interested in the fact that they aren't even protecting themselves. Coleman, Burke, Kesmodel, Ford, cross borders with regularity claiming a lions share of purses in all three states.
Is it in their interest to change?
The lesser level trainer is of course going to want to hang on to the limited slice of the pie (welfare or not).
Any ideas on figuring out a way that the guys on the bottom benefit from any change?
Less races-more top end trainer dominance.

Pacingguy said...

Anon, I agree 100%; unity is needed first. Until that is done, no one is going to pony up. At a minimum, I would love to see racing authorities such as in Australasia where the local authorities set racing schedules and the like. Down there it is done by racing states; we could do it by regions (i.e., Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South, and West).

Yes, the big stables are all over and they cherry pick the big purse events. However, those big stables may have owners in those regions too. To try to cut them down to size so to speak will run up against anti-trust laws.

The answer may be to card more races for locally owned, sired and foaled horses and have the top classes unrestricted; or even write conditions for horses that have made x number of starts at a particular track as of a certain date.