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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kentucky Racing and State Cutbacks

Kentucky has issued harness dates for 2016 and The Red Mile, even with Instant Racing days will have its usual 32 days of racing, including the two week Grand Circuit Meet.  In addition, Bluegrass Downs has been given a total of 15 days.  A robust (note sarcasm) of 47 days of harness racing in Kentucky.

But wait, Thunder Ridge has been given 21 conditional race dates assuming it can pay its debts to three of Kentucky's thoroughbred tracks or explain to the commission how it plans to repay it.  Astute followers of Kentucky racing, know this year's meet was to be the final year of racing in Prestonburg as their license was to be sold to Keenland for a quarter horse track; a deal which has not closed yet.  Of course, the deal can be finalized which makes issuing harness dates to Thunder Ridge moot.

The one amusing thing at this meeting was the commissions concern that it costs more to regulate a day or racing at Thunder Ridge than is wagered, assuming anyone wagers on the day's card.  Did they only realize it now?   After all Thunder Ridge is the only track a $2(a day) bettor would be considered a whale.  While I realize harness horsemen need all the racing dates they can in Kentucky, how the KHRC has allowed Thunder Ridge to operate as long as it has is bewildering.

States are demanding racing pick up more of its own costs instead of the state paying the expenses.  In New York State, the state will no longer pay for drug testing of claimed horses, an expense of  $150 per horse each time they are claimed.  If successful claimants want a horse tested for drugs, they will need to shoulder the cost.  While this should not be problematic for horsemen racing at Yonkers, the $150 expense may be a deterrent for testing at the upstate tracks in the bottom classes as horsemen may skip the testing since they operate on such a thin margin.  What's important about testing claimed horses?  A successful claimant may void the claim should a horse come up positive.

Passing on the cost of drug testing from the state to the tracks is what is behind the threatened shut down of horse racing in Pennsylvania.  As the state is in the middle of a budget impasse, the fund which regulates racing will run out as the state annually pays $20 million in expenses but receives on $11 million from racing; the $9 million gap is what is spend on drug testing.  If an agreement with the tracks to take over the cost is not reached by the end of the week, the PHRC is planning on issuing a notice of shutdown on Friday.   In addition, there is legislation working its way through the legislature which will require racing to pay for its own drug testing.

Some other notes and observations:  It is reported no one from the Meadowlands management was a t the Breeders Crown this past weekend.  While there is no requirement someone must attend, it is a bad visual if no one from East Rutherford was in attendance.  What a great story coming out of the Breeders Crown with Jimmy Takter winning six of the twelve crown races.  Unfortunately, as good as this was for Team Takter, it also highlights the problem in racing with not enough owners in the sport which would result in horses being handed over to other conditioners.  With more owners, other qualified trainers may have a chance to go against the Takter juggernaut.  We have been following how Share The Delight's off-spring have performed in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Unfortunately, it seem Share The Delight  has not succeeded in the stallion shed up to now.

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