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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Casting Lots

It looks like driver Brian Sears has cast his lot with Yonkers Raceway. The latest defection to the Old Hilltop wasn't hard to see coming being Sears had not driven at the Meadowlands during the current meet, albeit it five days long. Sears defection no doubt will sting those at the Meadowlands, but this is the way racing is, chasing the big money. Not that I can blame him as in this industry you are one accident away from retirement or worst so you need to make the money while you can. Still, you are not exactly racing for peanuts at the Meadowlands either. That being said, one driver's departure means another driver gets the opportunity to establish themselves at the Meadowlands, picking up the drives Sears would have normally gotten.

The good news at the Meadowlands is with Yonkers Raceway reopening this Friday, the Meadowlands is still being well-supported at the entry box with the only short fields on Thursday and Friday resulting from their late closing series; racing multiple divisions only to be stuck with short fields.  This is one of hte problems the Meadowlands has with all their late closing series.  While they may well subscribed, when the race needs to be divided into divisions due to the number of horses entered, you end up with short fields which means less handle.

Look at Thursday's Super Bowl where thrity-five horses dropped in the box.  As a result, the Meadowlands has four divisions but you have three races with only nine horses, and a fourth having only eight horses entered, assuming no scratches.  If the race was put into three divisions, you would have had one eleven horse field and two twelve horse fields; races which make better betting events.  I know owners hate the second tier but the conditions could be written if you draw the second tier the first week, you are guaranteed a spot on the starting gate the following week.  More importantly, races better supported at the windows means higher purses in the long run which benefits everyone.

For a progress report on the Meadowlands new grandstand, watch the following video:

With the January 11 deadline fast approaching, it looks like Michigan Governor Snyder is going to pocket veto legislation authorizing Instant Racing machines at the states four racetracks. Signing this legislation will be a big boost to the three harness and one mixed breed racetracks, a veto will signal another knife in the back of racing of which I would imagine at least one of the four tracks will go under.

The Paulick Report reports on the thoroughbred side of the industry, the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) has blasted trainers and veterinarians who fight the efforts to reduce the use of medication in race horses.  WHOA calls for federal intervention to solve the problem to fight the log jam medication reformists are facing.  The reason for the log jam?  Trainers who entered racing during the permissive era of medications, not knowing how to train a horse without medications and the veterinarians who look at medications a cash machines. 

The same can be said for the standardbred side, especially with its reliance on furosemide (Salix).  Rather than attempting to solve the problem through breeding, racing rather deal with the crutch which furosemide provides instead of looking long term.  As much as people dread federal intervention in industry, the time has come for the federal government to intervene and deal with race day medication, in particular the abuse of furosemide.

Also on the TB side, trainer Richard Dutrow is about to begin a ten year suspension from New York state after exhausting his appeals in the New York courts.  Assuming he decides not to attempt moving on to the federal courts, this is justice served relatively fast, a period of fifteen month.

Lincoln Race Course in Nebraska has conducted its last thoroughbred meet by conducting a one furlong race with three horses competing for a purse of $4,900.  Yes, there was wagering on the event, with a handle of  $2,499 bet in the win pool by an on-track gamblers estimated to be between 200-300 people.  By racing this one race race meet, Lincoln Race Course will be able to simulcast through 2014.  Why is racing ending at Lincoln Race Course?  The property is owned by the University of Nebraska which has plans for the property but they agreed to let the horsemen have simulcasting through 2014 in order for them to raise some money to build a new racetrack in Nebraska.  It seems Nebraska horsemen have been experiencing their own problem of tracks closing up. 

You may be wondering why I am talking about Lincoln Race Course when this is a primarily harness site.  Look at the attendance and handle for the final day (race).  Granted attendance was probably as high as it was due to many of these people coming to simulcasting, but the truth is how many harness tracks would be lucky to get 200-300 people watching their live racing and/or to get $2,500 wagered into their straight pools eachrace for a regular race card?  Those tracks who can't reach this milestone need to do some serious soul searching and wonder why they are still racing. 


JLB said...

I do not think too many tears are being shed by Brian Sears' decision. Heavy bettors will continue to fire away, as long as a competent driver is available, and the Meadowlands is chock full of them. I fully agree that drivers have a very risky job and are one accident away from involuntary retirement. Having said that, I find Sears' decision surprising, given that I think there is more risk posed by horses racing around Yonkers' four tight turns, which would be expected to cause more soundness issues. I am sure that their more frequent weekly race schedule, and virtual year around racing, were factors in his decision.

Harry Lare said...

I'm curious is Sears really chasing the "Big Money"? Is there any fact to that statement? Could it be something else? I can name one but would be only speculation but probably right.
I applaud Sears.
Oh and Brennan.

Pacingguy said...

I don't criticize Sears for leaving the Meadowlands. The fact is purses are bigger over at Yonkers. Could there be other reasons besides the purses? Certainly.

Sears has to do what is right for him. You will not hear me criticize him or any other driver for making the jump over; it just gives other drivers a chance to make it at the Meadowlands.

Anonymous said...

Through much of the Spring, Friday and Saturday nights at Yonkers feature the Matchmaker and Levy series -- Sears would likely be at Yonkers anyway. Shortly after that, MANY of the Meadowlands regulars will be venturing out of town on Fri/Sat nights as the stakes in Canada, etc. begin. Committing to a steady work week at this time was a no-brainer for Sears. I'll also point pout that many of the Meadowlands regular drivers are forced to do "double duty" in order to make a living -- perhaps Sears realizes that as he gets older, running from track to track is a lot less appealing!