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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yonkers Raceway Getting Realistic

Apparently Yonkers Raceway has had an epiphany in realizing better horses were skipping their big races due to the overly inflated estimated purses and high entrance fees which discouraged many from taking their chances and risk drawing the outside posts.   According to this press release, Yonkers will now guarantee the purses for the Open divisions and cut nomination and starting fees by more than 50%; hopefully enough to get some real interest from the bigger stables.

The Art Rooney will have a final purse of $275,000 while the Messenger Stakes will have a guaranteed purse of $450,000.  The Yonkers Trot, will also be competed for a purse of $450,000.  Unfortunately, the filly stakes will continue with estimated purses that are far below the Open divisions with estimated pures within the $110-$115,000 range.

Murray Brown of Hanover Shoe Farms penned a letter talking about the crisis hitting the breeding industry, which was highlighted at this past Monday's sale at the Meadowlands.  While I encourage you to read the whole letter, here are some excerpts from it:

The relatively low sale prices for Idyllic and Martiniontherocks at the Tattersalls January Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands Monday illustrates the problems Standardbred breeders and their clients, those who are selling quality bloodstock after their racing careers are over, face today.

From my perspective, a great part of the reason that breeders find themselves in this pickle is because of the outmoded purse structure found at most harness tracks today. Often mid to low priced claimers have the opportunity to race for as much, if not more money, than they are worth. Whereas the person who has spent a great deal of money for a well-bred yearling and has sometimes spent even more training and staking them finds the opportunity to race them in other than stakes events very limited and the opportunity to race them for significant money virtually non existent. Why would they want to continue doing this when they can get instant gratification and satisfaction by claiming or buying a ready-made racehorse?

The time is coming--sooner rather than later--when those who are looking and willing to pay well for racehorses will find that the well has dried up. The vast majority of breeders are bleeding money with no foreseeable expectations that things will get better.

Unfortunately, the problem is purses are negotiated between track management and the local horsemen's association and most associations are focused on the overnight horsemen.  All they are concerned with is racing for the most possible money and while they likely would agree with Mr. Brown's letter, their attitude often is who cares?  It is time they do care otherwise horse stock will be so low, tracks will be racing one or two days a week due to horse shortages.  The question is how long will it be until horsemen come to their senses?

Good New WEG Equals Bad News Meadowlands?  While everyone is happy things seem to be working out well at Woodbine and Mohawk for at least for the next two years, odds are this will indirectly hurt the Meadowlands in the fact more horsemen will be willing to stay up north with their racing stock, meaning they will be of little help to offset the perrenial horse shortage at the Meadowlands come late spring.  Of course, some of the smaller Ontario tracks may not survives MAFRA's plans but it is not known if those horses would be competitive at the Meadolwands.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I am a bettor, not a breeder or owner, and have to agree with Mr. Brown's look at the future.

Since the start of slots in Pennsylvania, Hanover Shoe Farms has been warning of problems ahead because purses for older horses are out of whack with their worth. The result has been stables investing in claimers and getting immediate and constant returns. No worries about babies getting to the races.

One horseman's group runs racing at two tracks in PA and the majority of members own more overnighters than stakes horses. Don't see them volunteering to help the situation.

If no one does anything, those racing 5 and 10-claimers now won't find many older horses to buy and tracks will lose the races that fill cards. Do we eliminate claiming races?

I wish I had an answer. It just seems as those directly involved in the business are willing to let it die.