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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Time to Pull the Plug?

Going through the process of assigning race dates for the 2015 season (yes, it's time), the Kentucky Horse Racing Commssion (KHRC) is asking questions about the suitability of two of the Bluegrass state's harness racing dates with regards to financial stability.  The KHRC has conditionally given Player's Bluegrass Downs 15 dates dependent on reaching an agreement with the horsemen group and showing the financial stability of Caesar's which operates the meet.

Why the questions about financial stability?  Last year Bluegrass Downs had a total handle for their meet of $27,000.  That's right, $27,000.  It costs the KHRC more than that to regulate the meet.  Caesar's officials say why they can't pay the bills on a total handle of $27,000, they handle over $5 million on thoroughbred simulcasting; which covers the expenses of the meet which brings us to a new form of coupling; holding a harness meet so one can simulcast thoroughbred racing.

As much as one may chuckle about Bluegrass Down's, consider Thunder Ridge, where the total handle for this past meet was $950.  You read that right, no missing digits there.  Thunder Ridge has committed to racing 21 days in 2015 if the sale and transfer of the license to another location in the state to Keenland has not been approved by then.  Keenland, wisely has made the decision to run a quarter horse meet if they get the license.  Unfortunately, this deal has been on the plate for a while but the KHRC has not approved the deal as of yet and while Thunder Ridge is not lucrative, has cautioned the owners of Thunder Ridge not to assume it is a done deal.

As sad as it may be, I understand Kentucky horsemen need these race dates as the number of racing dates at The Red Mile is not enough to keep racing going, but what is the state of horse racing when your $2 horseplayers are your whales.  One has to wonder if the industry would be better served if the KHRC pulled the plug on these two tracks.

We have been critical of Yonkers for the lack of entries to their classic events.  Sixteen trotters will be racing this weekend for a spot on the gate for the final.   While there are NYSS and hence half mile specialists competing, Nuncio and EL Titan will be competing so the race is drawing Grand Circuit qualify horses as well.

As for the Messenger, there were nine horses entered which means there will be one elimination race (thankfully it was not split into two eliminations) where one horse will be sent home early.

On the distaff side, only six horses dropped in for the Hudson Filly Trot meaning there will be no eliminations but eleven fillies will be competing in the Lady Maud, meaning the race will be divided into two eliminations prior to next week's final.

Three out of four races drew enough horses to require eliminations; a great improvement where in the past some of these races had short fields or raced as non-wagering events.  So kudos to Yonkers Raceway for their restructuring of their entry fees to get horsemen dropping their horses in.  Thanks to their efforts, October 25 will be a great night of racing at the Old Hilltop with the appearance of Commander Crowe and Sebastian K in the International Trot Preview.

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