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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lessons from California

Reading how Fairplex Park (Pomona) is moving their thoroughbred meet over to Los Alamitos brought back memories of when the trotters raced at Pomona.  Right now harness racing in California is restricted to Cal Expo except for the summer when they clear the track for the runners competing in the California State Fair meet.  Wouldn't it be great (though unlikely) if harness racing could return to Pomona for the Summer and re-introduce the Los Angeles area  to harness racing? 

Someone responded to my post by saying the following:

 "When I still owned horses out in CA about 15 years ago, I was pushing for a year-round circuit of Los Al in the winter, CalX in the spring/fall and either Bay Meadows or Golden Gate in the summer (when both closed for the fairs). My efforts left me with the distinct impression that the majority of the trainers and drivers did not want to leave Sacramento at all. I thought that was a mistake to give up 2 huge metro areas in LA and SF. They went from having a $300k stake to racing nearly exclusive $3k claimers. And they are on operator #4 at CalX. A case study in what not to do."
It should be noted that harness racing did have a stay at Pomona and for whatever reason, that didn't last.  It is quite possible the fair board there would not want to see the trotters back.

I checked with another friend still active in the California racing scene and they concurred that horsemen want to stay at CalExpo instead of going on the road so now, instead of racing elsewhere in California, they are forced to go on the road to states like Minnesota or elsewhere in the Midwest to find racing opportunities during the summer.

There is no saying going statewide would have harness racing in better shape in California; there are antiquated regulatory rules; casino gaming controlled by native Americans; a limit on simulcasting, all rules which makes operating a harness meet  (or any meet for that matter) challenging, but when you keep your sport out of the major metropolitan areas, you have it that much harder to build a following, especially in theses days of simulcasting.

What I will say is complacency is the bane of any industry.  Being satisfied with your current situation means you tend to enjoy the status quo and rest on your laurels.  Then, when someone throws you a curve ball, you are left scrambling to find your footing, hoping you aren't standing on quick sand.  If you are lucky, you survive; otherwise, you suffer.

Ontario horsemen were complacent when SARP was cancelled.  Horsemen in racino states are basically complacent; give them their racing days and they are happy.  So we don't have many fans in the stands, does it matter?

It may be too late to make California a  major harness destination, but if nothing else can be derived from the California experience is complacency is the ruination of racing.  Maybe this lesson won't be lost on horsemen.

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