So how are things playing out in the breeding industry? Winbak Farms reports breeding bookings are down between 60-70% in Ontario and 20-30% in the United States. The severe breeding downturn in Ontario is to be expected for while tracks have committed to racing for the next few years, no one really knows how things will play out. The breeding this year will become 2 year olds in four years; past the expiration of the transition agreements. Few apparently are willing to roll the dice in this environment..
But forget about Ontario, what about the United States? Why a 20-30% cut with all the slot money available for play? Quite honestly, some of this drop may be related to the doings in Ontario but it would be a mistake to consider Ontario the main issue. Quite honestly, breeders have been getting killed and as such some have stopped breeding or the stallion who may have been getting bookings in the past are loosing them to the stallion du djour; ones most likely to return the investment put into the future yearling and more. Unless the industry makes it more exciting to take a chance on breeding (i.e., offer better purses to the unproven horse instead of raceway stock), the numbers of breedings will go down and then even the race secretary at tracks with über purses will be hard pressed to put together race cards.
Speaking of Ontario, what should be happening in Ontario is the development of a transition plan for breeders seeking to get out of the breeding industry orderly, as done in Quebec. Provide transitional aid to supplement the selling price of yearlings bred prior to the decision to end SARP and provide aid for these farms to transition to other agricultural pursuits. Up to now, I have heard nothing about from the racing industry or government to help breeders. For all the claims regarding breeders controlling this sport, it sure seems like once again the breeders are the last being considered.
I (and many others) have rightfully takent to task SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo for his interloping at the Meadowlands. Faraldo writes a new piece how horsemen should get a share of any table game revenue in New York even from non-racinos. You may agree or disagree with his position but at least this is where he has a legitimate interest to get involved in; something which may directly impact his constituents. As I said before, there is enough on Faraldo's plate in New York that he should concentrate on that.
The racing press focuses on the superstars of the sport. Most people are likely unaware of Monticello Raceway's super pacer Tracey's Song is a winner of 11 races straight, racing in claiming races for a $9,000 tag and leads the nation in victories. The rewards for this effort, $19,958 for twelve starts in 2013.
When the Pennsylvania tracks opened, the Meadowlands changed their condition sheet to make the bottom claiming price $12,500 instead of $10,000. I must confess, I wondered then if it was a wise decision to make. No, $10,000 claimers may be a class which the Meadowlands wanted to avoid, but it eliminates certain horses which could be used to fill race cards if necessary. Were I the race secretary, of which I am glad not to be, not only would I have kept the $10,000 claimers on the condition sheet, I would have expanded the classified system to allow C-3 for lower class horses. No, these are not the races which the Meadowlands wants to put on their card, but as we have seen full, competitive fields are what the gamblers want to see. Let some scoff at the 'cheapness' of the racing if those races are needed to fill race cards, but it would keep the handle growing.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik will be riding the full meet at Churchill Downs. Why do I mention this? Harness racing is so anti-women when it comes to drivers, I am not sure if we will ever see a headline like this involving harness racing. The sport needs to institute a program to help allow not only women a chance to make it in the sulky as well as minorities. But will they? Let me save you the time. "We have bigger fish to fry" will be the answer.
Buffalo Raceway track announcer Gabe Prewitt claimed a Exotic Toy out of a race at Buffalo Raceway on Friday and this caused a slight tizzy on the chat boards. Is this a conflict of interest? Hardly. What is the worst thing he can do? Get a little more excited in his race call if his horse looks like it's going to win? While I assume this was a topic on a slow day, worrying about a track announcer claiming a $5,000 claimer is the least of our worries.