The famous Hialeah Park for all practical purposes is gone. A track of grander in its heyday, Hialeah has some of the best thoroughbred racing in the country with horses like Citation running on their track. Then, in a bit of deregulation genius, the other South Florida thoroughbred tracks killed off the track, seemingly for good.
Then the possibility of slots arose and the track rose from the dead. Not picking up thoroughbred racing, but going with the quarter horses. It no doubt lost money, but it was the cost of doing business.
Well, after three years of quarter horses, the track has descended into the joke which only can happen in the State of Florida. They have gone the Gretna route. Having eight match races in each card; two quarter horses going against each other from a starting gate without doors; just waiting for someone to shout 'Go' and a quick dash of 110 yards (1/16th of a mile). Just enough racing to qualify for a casino license.
The reason for revamping their quarter horse program? To reduce its racing costs.
Do you think?
I know the harness horsemen are trying to fight of decoupling and such games haven't occurred with the trotters (probably because there is only one harness license in the state), but if this is the future of racing in Florida, someone turn the lights off and let it go for this is a disgrace.
In some ways, Florida is an anomaly, it shows you what can happen when you deregulate the racing industry, to allow for the survival of the fittest. First it was the best kept on going while the weak went away but in recent years, it has been a race to the bottom with racetracks hiring lawyers to find ways to exploit the laws to get their hands on card rooms and/or slot machines. Clearly, an experiment which went woefully wrong.
But as much as it is an anomaly, should decoupling ever become law in Florida, it will become a trendsetter for other states where racinos will be working to get rid of racing. This will be a battle in multiple states where already the question of why are we giving money to racing when it hasn't improved things is heard constantly in Maine, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. You will have a confluence of casino operators seeking to shed racing and legislators looking to cut subsidies to racing; a formidable combination indeed. All it will take is for one leg of the foundation to be kicked out.
Scary times indeed.