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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Getting Shown the Door in Florida

The march towards decoupling continues in Florida as two bills worked their way out of a Senate committee, allowing all parimutuel facilities with the exception of Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park to decouple.  In the adding insult to injury department if Pompano Park decouples and ceases harness racing, they would be required to subsidize the remaining thoroughbred dates in Florida; no money going to harness racing interests (or greyhound for that matter).

I guess this shouldn't surprise anyone being harness racing has always been a poor relative to the runners in the Sunshine State.  Where legislation had guaranteed thoroughbred interests a portion of slot revenue up to now, the bill originally passed didn't require any contribution to the standardbreds.  Harness racing was always number three in the state, behind the runners (quarter horses) and the dogs.

If harness racing does get shown the door at Pompano Park, one would hope standardbred horsemen will find another place to winter.  After all, if the state won't lift a finger for the trotters, why should standardbred horsemen contribute one cent to the state economy.

Of course, thoroughbred horsemen shouldn't feel too snug.  How long do you think it will be before legislators and casino operators come back and decide to end the subsidy to racing at Tampa and Gulfstream?  Death may happen quickly to the standardbred horsemen but the thoroughbreds will eventually die a death of a thousand cuts.

It may not seem that low but the Meadowlands has a 32.26% winning favorites rate which is the lowest of all harness tracks and even some major thoroughbred tracks.  Even when favorites win, they are paying well, well enough to account for horseplayers flocking to the races there, explaining the $3 million handles for the last five nights of racing.  

Credit goes not only to the horsemen who enter but racing secretary Peter Koch who every week works his magic in getting the racing cards assembled with creative conditions to make sure winners don't get to languish in the same class week after week as well as keeping horses from plunging down multiple classes into easy races.

There is no secret racing at the Meadowlands has taken a hit with lower purses and the carding of cheaper horses, but once again it shows gamblers care more about competitive racing than it does high quality racing.

Bernie Noren who has been working with Ake Svendstadt has announced he is returning to Scandanavia as apparently the American culture and lifestyle is not what his family wants for their children.  Before people get too offended, it should be noted several Canadian drivers left the States and headed back to Canada for the same reason.   Contrary to what some may suggest, it has nothing to do with the current slate of Presidential candidates.  Here's wishing Bernie much success as he returns to Europe. 

A few more trainers have been named as allegedly having positive due to Glaucine.  Since no formal changes have been brought yet, I will not be mentioning these trainers though one has to wonder who is leaking names to the press?  At least those in the media reporting on this story are now making it clear no trainers have been formally charged.    

While Racing Under Saddle (RUS) continues to languish in the United States due to the lack of parimutuel wagering, where is a RUS participant or fan supposed to look for action?  North of the border in Ontario is where as there is a slate of 16 races scheduled for the 2016 season (2 dates finalized).  Qualifiers begin on March 17 with the first parimutuel contest slated for May 15 at Flamboro Downs.

This is not to say there is no RUS action in the States, RUS-NY continues their circuit of exhibition races primarily at the fairs but there are a few parimutuel track races as well.  However, until the first state gets parimutuel wagering on the races, or in the case of New York, even legalized, races will be spotty.

In Alberta, Northlands has announced they will be getting out of the racing business after 2016.  How fortuitous that Century Downs finally opened last year after a long delay. It remains to be seen if harness racing will return to Alberta Downs which last received standardbred dates in 2014.  If not, harness racing in the province will be restricted primarily to the one track, sharing the plant with the runners.

Post Time's Heather Vitale has put together a documentary on the 2015 Vincent Delaney Memorial which is contested in Ireland.  If you have 18 minutes, it is worth a look.

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