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Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Morning Briefs

With winter finally showing up to the Northeast, it is time to look ahead to spring and beyond.  Looking for a place to race this summer?  In an effort to bolster the racing stock available to race at Tioga Downs, Tioga is offering a 15% bonus to owners and a 5% bonus to trainers on overnight earnings starting with the horse's fourth start at Tioga.  To be eligible, a horse must be stabled at Tioga or an approved local training facility.  Granted, if you have a horse eligible to race at a track like Harrah's or Yonkers, the 15% bonus may not mean anything to you but if it is a question of racing at one of the upstate tracks in the Empire State, the bonus and lack of (or greatly reduced) shipping fees is a great incentive.

At the HBPA convention this week, thoroughbred interests had a discussion about large gamblers and how they are not understood, a common theme which transfers to the standardbred industry.  The Meadowlands has been criticized last year about wagering being done by syndicates and how little they add to the purse accounts.  While they may get rebates to make their wagering more profitable, the fact is they provide liquidity to the market making it attractive enough to allow other horseplayers to tip their toes into wagering waters.

Don't get me wrong, it does seem unfair when someone who makes their wagers the old fashioned way have to go up against computer programs which seek every inefficiency to ensure they make a profit; the same way it works on the stock market.  It seemingly stinks to the retail investors but without those who arbitrage the market, investors would have a hard time finding liquid markets to buy and sell in.

One can cut out these large players with a technical advantage, as long as one doesn't mind wagering pools at the Meadowlands which rival Freehold.

A meeting regarding standardbred aftercare is scheduled for this weekend.  I am hopeful some concrete steps towards a true aftercare program will come out of this meeting.

Elsewhere, a bill to allow parimutuel wagering at the Far Hills steeplechase meet has been introduced.  The bill requires wagering to be handled by an existing permit holder, either the Meadowlands or Monmouth though I would assume Monmouth would get first crack at it.  I expect this bill to sail through the legislature as it had in the past only to be conditionally vetoed.

The only reason I bring this up is perhaps some time in the future, standardbred meets could be held on a fair circuit, perhaps allowing wagering there.  Yes, this bill is specific in only allowing it for Far Hills, but once in place and (hopefully) successfully executed, another bill could open it up at a fair(s) in the state.

In Florida, legislators are considering 'partial decoupling' apparently in an effort to thread a needle which will be acceptable to horsemen and race track interests.  Such a plan would allow the dog tracks to stop racing yet continue with their poker rooms and/or slots and allow Calder and Hialeah to cease wagering with Gulfstream Park continuing to race, presumably adding quarter horses to their menu; no word on where Pompano Park falls into this plan.  

Horsemen are not going for this threaded approach as they realize their ties to racing in Florida would be down to one or two precarious strings, Tampa Downs and Gulfstream Park.  With regards to standardbreds, the link would be even more precarious as there is only one facility offering wagering.  Depending on how the legislation is written, the standardbred industry in Florida may all be eliminated.

It's not decoupling, but racing at Dresden, Leamington, and Sarnia may be coming to an end in an effort to divert purse money from these Grassroot tracks to the Raceway at Western Fair District.  Make no mistake, it is expensive to race horses and purse hike at Western Fair would be helpful, but should it come at the expense of the smaller tracks shutting down?  It would be easier to make the case if these three tracks had access to the simulcast market to see if the demand is or isn't there, but it seem like the powers to be in the industry have made their mind up.

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