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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Now for the Good Points and a 'But'

My take yesterday on the USTA Summit on Ownership and Breeding painted a pretty gloomy picture, but it was not all doom and gloom in Columbus.  There are some good things which came out of the meeting, some which can be implemented easily, others having to overcome the hurdle of horsemen whose stables are full of overnight horses.

First of all, people are finally coming to the conclusion eliminations for stake races don't work.  There is recognition of some horses competing just to qualify, to have some horsepower in the tank for the final which would be fine if people weren't wagering on it.  This is not the way to attract new horseplayers (who may become owners).  A serious look at stake races being written with horses being seeded into the main event and consolation races such as done for the Battle of the Brandywine based on earnings or points.. 

Myron Bell continues to work on his idea to introduce a 'grand slam' set of stakes races with mega purses and bonuses.  Whether it comes to fruition remains to be seen, but this is not only a way to give races more prestige, it also may be a tool to attract new owners and convert owners who buy ready to race horses (primarily claimers) into yearling purchasers seeking that pot of gold. To fund these races, it likely will be necessary to take some overnight money to fund the purses; more about that later. 

The issue of funding marketing came up and once again the magic number of 1% of purses should be dedicated to marketing campaign.  The difference this time is the need to define what marketing would entail before asking horsemen for funding as in the past it was let's get the money before coming up with a plan.  It may take legislative action in some jurisdictions before purse money can be routed to marketing though admittedly, going to the legislature may give some legislators the idea of giving racing a haircut in reducing the total amount of slot funding dedicated to racing.

Another issue we and others have discussed before is the need to offer bigger purses for young horses beginning their career to make it easier for yearling buyers to break even or recoup expenses.  Of course, raising purses for these races would have to come at the expense of others, it being from claiming races and other races for more experienced horses.

While changing future race conditions can be done by the tracks or stakes owners, the other ideas would require horsemen approval which make no mistake will be a challenge as horsemen associations are primarily comprised of those who race in overnights.  To get horsemen to agree to fund marketing, races for green horses, and fattening stakes purses will not be easy.  It will require education, overcoming parochial thinking, and getting horsemen to recognize these sacrifices are in their best interests.  

To get the horsemen's approval, it will require an enlightened horsemen leadership to guide the rank and file into approving these changes.  Some states may be easier to convince than others.  This will be a formidable task but it is task which can not be ignored. 

The stakes are too high to fail. 

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