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Sunday, April 15, 2012

When Should a Racing Commission Pull the Plug?

Horsemen love to race as much as possible.  Kentucky has few harness dates with 2012 having only 65 days; 29 days at The Red Mile (including the 8 Grand Circuit dates), and the balance of the dates being split between Bluegrass Downs and Thunder Ridge Raceway, so the last thing anyone wants to do is race less days. 

This weekend, the 2012 season kicked off at Thunder Ridge Raceway and it was received the way it typically has been; badly.  So bad that in those pools which were reported, one race had a whopping $117 in WPS wagers, but that was out of the norm as many races had WPS pools combining to less than $20.  There were a total of 13 races contested over the three days.   

Horsemen fared better, thanks to incoming simulcast revenue and wagers placed at Thunder Ridge's two OTBs.  Due to a purse account shortage, the meet opened up with Maidens going for $700 and the Open class going for $1,200.  However, the purses are going to their regular levels this coming week with the bottom class of maidens and $2,000 claimers racing for $1,000 and the best horses on the grounds racing for $1,600 and instead of thirteen races contested during opening week, with some more horses qualifying there should be more races this week.  However, one thing which won't change much is the handle.  There will be many races where horses are not bet to win (place, or show as well).

To say this meet is a public embarrassment is an understatement.  Could you imagine being at a track where exotic wagers are refunded  for lack of wagering or there are no win payoffs because no one wagered on the winning horse?  To be quite frank, presenting this type of product only hurts the sport in the long run with the public.

Yet, the KHRC continues to allow Thunder Ridge to race where it is obvious the product has been rejected by the wagering public.  I can only assume the reason Thunder Ridge is racing is the hope of slots coming to Kentucky one day.  I imagine the horsemen love it because at least there is somewhere in Kentucky where they can earn some purse money; otherwise they would be forced to race out of state or wait for a shorter race calender, having to wait for the meet to begin at Bluegrass Downs. 

What the KHRC should be telling Thunder Ridge is if they can't get their racing product improved with respect to wagering within a certain period of time, they will no longer be licensed.  As for the horsemen losing race dates, make Bluegrass Downs and the Red Mile race additional days to compensate the horsemen if you must, but to allow racing continue where the public has so clearly rejected it is not in the best interest of the sport.

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