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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thoughts from the Frozen Tundra

Eighteen horses have been listed to start in Sunday's Prix d'Amerique.  What a shame a quality race like the Prix is not available to most of North America for wagering.   Hopefully, the new Franco-American agreement being signed on Saturday will deal with this miscarriage and allow North Americans the ability to wager on future classic events.

The Meadowlands begins a Super Bowl-mandated hiatus and will be dark until February 6.  The final card before the break shows why it is tough to race special cards on typically dark days.  While there were only eleven races on the card, the total handle of $1,428,816 is certainly a downer.  It makes business sense to race consistently on the same days rather than racing on different days.

There have been articles of late showing how the mile tracks do a lot better with race handle than the old half mile ovals.  There is no doubt the mile tracks are doing a great job in attracting wagering,  but can half mile tracks recapture some of the old magic?  It can if tracks are willing to be innovative in how they present their product and horsemen are willing to support such changes.  Unfortunately, with many of these half milers in states allowing slots, there really is no incentive to innovate.  This is a shame for there is no better track than a half miler to get people hooked on harness racing, being able to see the race without the use of binoculars or depending on television monitors; something you can't do on the larger ovals.

Remember when racing commissions were charged with the promotion of horse racing in each state?  What happened in Michigan with regards to Hazel Park and Northville Downs dropping harness racing would never have been allowed to occur if the old Michigan Racing Commission was still in operation, but with the commission being rolled into the Michigan Gaming Control Board, a slot-focused organization, horse racing is a minor distraction to their work so allowing tracks to change their race dates and drop a breed is allowed as they don't care what happens to standardbred racing.  With Sports Creek Raceway likely to drop the trotters next year, harness racing is looking to be on its way out in Michigan, dying a slow death.

The Michigan HBPA is likely feeling pretty smug right now.  But most likely their product will not be of interest to many for simulcasting as I can't envision out of state stables shipping in to Michigan to race.  After all, why pay to enter your horse when there are plenty of tracks you can race at which don't require you to pay to race.  Without simulcasting dollars, how much will the mixed breeds actually be racing for?

Have a great Thursday everyone.

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