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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Time to Modify the PMU Agreement?

Once again, we in North America miss the best in foreign harness racing due to the inability to simulcast the Grand Citérium de Vitesse from Cagnes-Sur-Mer in France Sunday (morning our time).  Forget about Maven racing, though she does bring a backing of North American pride as the upstart taking on Europe's best.  There are some great trotters in the race; Timoko, who looks to make a North American swing in October in the International Trot and the Breeders Crown; Roxanne Griff (one of my European faves); defending champion Univers de Pan.

The agreement Yonkers has with PMU is to simulcast American races to France;  it's one way.  It would have been fortuitous if the agreement allowed for the simulcasting of key races back to the states.  If this was the case and Yonkers started their simulcasting at 10:30,  the first race could have been the simulcast of the race from Southern France followed by the races from Yonkers.

As it is, Yonkers is scheduled for a 1:10PM post time so clearly PMU is not in need for the Yonkers signal early in the day.  Just the same, the agreement should be reworked not only to allow major races to be sent to North America and to maximize participation come up with a way to fit Yonker's signal in with their regular programs. 

By now you may have seen the new logo for the Meadowlands Pace, prominent with the named sponsor Crawford Farms.   While sponsorship is always good in promoting races, it is a necessity for non-slot tracks as purse accounts are not as deep as at racinos.  Without such sponsorships, purses for these races will be significantly lower.  The current sponsorship agreement runs through 2017.  Give credit to Crawford Farms as their target audience is quite limited as when compared to a national brand.  This sponsorship is more a vote in the faith of the Meadowlands rather than what Crawford Farms will get in return from it.  Kudos to Crawford for stepping up.  Now if others would step up to sponsor other races, it would be a real vote of support for the Meadowlands.

While the $1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup drew 72 nominations for this year's edition, the $800,000 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace drew 53 nominations for the 2015 edition, 5 less than the 2014 edition.  While the cost to nominate to the Pace has been made more affordable, owners are being more selective to where they nominate horses. 

Rosecroft Raceway opens up their 2015 season tonight with a card of 10 races.  First post is 6:40pm with the final race scheduled for 9:13pm.  I know some people like the longer times between races, but give me a racing program which contests 10 races over approximately 2 1/2 hours and I'm in heaven.

Horsemen in Alberta are happy as a contract agreement with Century Downs Racetrack and Casino has been reached and racing will begin at the Balzac, Alberata facility this year, giving harness horsemen a track in the Calgary market.  When you consider out of the 113 race days in Alberta to be contested this year, the 90 days at Century Downs will be a welcome change to the nomadic horsemen of Alberta.  Of course, there is one potential fly in the ointment.  The track is a 1 1/8 mile oval with a chute meaning thoroughbred and quarter horse racing could debut in 2016, possibly competing with standardbred interests for race days in 2016.  Alas, that is next year.  The important thing for Alberta horsemen is to maximize the opportunities this season will bring them.

Proponents of slot machines in the Meadowlands have some work to see this come to fruition.  Forget about who will operate the slots, right now if the referendum to expand casino gaming outside of Atlantic City was held, there is a good chance it would get crushed.  In a recent poll by FDU, 36% of the voters approve the idea of expanding gaming while 57% oppose it.  Now granted, the campaigning hasn't begun and my suspicion is the pro-casino side will be able to outspend their opponents, but just the same one would hope proponents would be starting with a smaller margin to overcome.

Players of exotic wagers may be getting relief from the IRS.  A proposed rule change would allow horseplayers to consider the aggregate amount of their wagers in a particular pool
 when determining if winnings are subject to reporting on the dreaded W2-G form.  Currently, you can have a ticket with 12 combinations costing $1 each and you would trip the 300-1 threshold based on the one winning combination.  If the rule change goes through, in this simple example the entire $12 wagered would be used to see if you trip the threshold.  A public comment period is currently underway.  Meanwhile, the casino industry is not thrilled as they would be subjected to similar reporting and withholding requirements meaning the gambler and slot machine would be put out of action until the reporting could be completed.  Welcome to our world, deal with it.

In the thoroughbred world, while it's early, the Chutzpah of the Year award goes to jockey Roman Chapa who is appealing his 5 year suspension and $25,000 $100,000 fine for using a buzzer in a race.  The fine was originally only $25,000 but the director of the Texas Racing Commission raised the fine due to extenuating circumstance.  I realize Chapa has the right to appeal his suspension, but when they have the alleged offense on film, it seems kind of absurd to appeal unless he is hoping to tire the TRC into a plea agreement to reduce the offense.  Of course, the question to be asked is what trainer would use Chapa if he was able to ride once again.  

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