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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Florida Shootout; Sounds Familiar?

Unless things change, Calder and Gulfstream Park are going to go head to head this summer starting July 1 and odds are it is going to be a bruising fight.  If I had to bet on a winner, I would think Gulfstream Park is going to come out ahead if this battle goes forward as Frank Stonarch is reportedly willing to subsidize purses.  Calder has basically told its horsemen if they ship a horse out to race at Gulfstream, they need not return with the horse for it will be denied access 

This sounds a lot like a re-run of the battle these two tracks ran against Hialeah years ago which resulted in Hialeah shutting down for a number of years before it reopened as a quarter horse track three years ago.  This can be blamed on a state that doesn't regulate the sport enough, allowing the tracks to race whenever they want.  One thing for sure, there will be short fields, most likely at both tracks.

So you may be wondering why I am talking about a dispute in Florida between two thoroughbred tracks.  When you think about it what is happening in Florida, is the situation in the NJ/NY/PA area that different?  Granted the battle is more polite, and the dates are approved by racing commissions but the problem is each state assigns dates in a vacuum.  As a result, you have tracks fighting each other for the same horses, often unable to have full fields and keeping racing secretaries awake at night if they are not digging out anti-acids from their desks.

The big difference between the situation in Florida and the Northeast is while it is the tracks doing battle against each other down South, it is basically the Northern horsemen doing battle; tracks would be more than happy to race fewer days to put on a better product.  Horsemen wanting to race 52 weeks a year at certain tracks so the horsemen can always race without traveling with other tracks trying to race at the same time provides an inferior product as well as a diluted handle. 

The solution to this is a regional or national organization to establish race dates on a regional basis to avoid too much competition and look out for the interests for all horsemen instead of couple tracks in effect bullying each other.

Assuming Governor Christies signs off on S-2759, and there is no reason to assume he won't, a program allowing stakes races for New Jersey foaled horses will become law.  True the amount of money going to NJ-sired horses alone may be reduced, but allowing NJ-foaled stakes race should help provide both Freehold Raceway and the Meadowlands with additional horses to race at their tracks.

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