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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Kentucky Dilemna

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has released the racing dates approved for 2013,  Here is the schedule for the pari-mutuel standardbred tracks:

Thunder Ridge Raceway: April 10 - May 24 (21 days); Racing Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
Bluegrass Downs: June 7 - July 7 (15 days); Racing Friday-Sunday
Red Mile: August 4 - September 21 (21 days); Racing Sunday, Thursday, and Saturday
Red Mile (Grand Circuit): September 26 - October 6 (8 days); Racing Thursday-Sunday

Excluding the Grand Circuit meet at the Red Mile, there is a grand total of 57 racing days for overnight horses on the pari-mutuel circuit.  While not yet released, if the 2012 fair schedule is duplicated, there will be an additional 8 days of racing on the fair circuit (the finals are held at the Red Mile).

A racing program, be it thoroughbred or standardbred, can not be sustained with a total of 65 days for the entire year, which explains why in Kentucky, between 20-28 yearlings were nominated to the KYSS in each of the four classes this year.  Overnight purses figure to be anemic as well, especially since the adoption of Instant Racing has been stalled thanks to legal action by its opponents.  Until a final ruling with regards to the legality of Instant Racing gambling, a track would have to be foolish to move forward with installing the games (Kentucky Downs already had them before the court decision) which means the number of standardbred foals born in Kentucky will continue to be insignificant.  That is unless something happens to change this quandry. 

So thinking outside of the box, Kentucky standardbred interests proposed merging the KYSS and NJSS programs so horses from both states would be eligible to compete in each others' sires stakes programs.  Both states are suffering from similar problems with respect to a shortage of horses for some of their racing and sires stakes races due to the lack of breeding in the state resulting from the exodus of sires to other states.   The problem in Kentucky is the sires stakes program is only contested at the Red Mile and while the finals are lucrative ($30,000 preliminary legs, $250,000 finals), there is only one series, no other opportunity for Kentucky-sired horses to race in state-restricted events for good money.  Well, the same is true in New Jersey.  While there are two sets of sires stakes races in the Garden State, only the Meadowlands series is worth any real money with $150,000 finals; the Freehold Green Acres series consisting of $7,000 preliminary legs and a $25,000 final. 

Clearly, neither series on their own is going to attract sires to stand in the state so the thought was if horsemen were given the chance to compete in two different states' programs, perhaps better stallions would stand in both states.  For whatever reasons, the proposal went nowhere.

An alternate plan in the Bluegrass state is to change the KYSS program to allow foals of broodmares which spend the season in Kentucky to participate in the program.  While it will not bring more sires to the state, having additional broodmares take up residence in the state would not only increase the number of participants in these state-restricted races, it would also provide increased revenue to farm operators as well as provide more horses to race in the state.

Whether this second option will take place, the key is they are not sitting still in Kentucky.  When you are given lemons, you try to make lemonade.  New Jersey interests would be wise to start thinking out of the box as well. 

2 comments:

Harry Lare said...

Let's combine forces and reap the benefits instead of fixing the problems in each respective state and Harness Racing as a whole.
Why am I not surprised?

Pacingguy said...

Harry,

In the ideal world, you are right. The problem is you can only band aid the situation on an individual state level if the rest of the industry is not willing to fix the problems.

Kentucky is a state where with the exception of eight days a year, the sport is the equivalent of minor league baseball, think AA level at the Red Mile, A level at Thunder Ridge and Bluegrass Downs.

New Jersey is in better shape. Using the baseball analogy, it is still on the major league level at the Meadowlands and AA level at Freehold.

That being said, joining the sires stakes would have been nothing different than being able to race in the NJSS and MDSRF events. A horse sired by a NJ sire but the broodmare residing in Maryland.