Post-Derby Blues in Kentucky

Man, that didn't take long.

The Churchill Downs meet will be into its ninth day May 7, and already the horse population is a question mark. The May 7 program consists of eight races, instead of an expected nine, and the May 8 program has 10 races instead of 11.

Field size is light--there are five six-horse fields May 8--even though the Kentucky racetrack offers some of the highest purses in the country. Maybe quality can be a curse; even a open $5,000 claimer at Churchill can be tough to win, so horsemen understandably opt for other spots at tracks with healthy purses fueled by gaming revenue.

Kentucky's newest scourge, Presque Isle Downs & Casino in western Pennsylvania, opens May 8 with an eight-race card. No race drew fewer than 10 horses, and the overnight has some familiar names: Corrigan, Cowans, Drury, Miller, Mogge, Reed, Scherer, and Wismer, all trainers with Kentucky ties.

The horse shortage that began this winter at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky seems to be lingering. And it could get worse with many more tracks open in the spring and summer.

Still no word on whether there will be a special legislative session in Kentucky in the next few months, and whether racetrack gaming will be on the agenda. 


Leave a Comment:


TL gives an early red flag, but, i'd like to know, are there too few horses for all the tracks, OR are there too many injured horses, and if so, WHY so many injuries. Does Churchill Downs have a full backstretch or otherwise, and if it's full, for what specific reasons are they declining to enter.

06 May 2009 10:20 AM
TouchStone Farms

Back when I was a boy I had the odd day when my ambition waned with thoughts of doing anything else but chores, and I would put forth a less than stellar effort in the cleaning of tack or the shed row or stalls & pails, folding blankets or applying stall bandages. On a bad day occasionally all of the above would get me set down for a few days from the things I loved to do. My grandfather asked me one day during one of these periods if I could hear the "chomp chomp" .... I said "what chomp chomp" he wryly smiled and said well "that's the noise a bad case of the dumb ass makes when its eating someone up" Ever since then when I start to feel myself backslide I can hear the words "chomp chomp" ringing clearly in my ears.

I guess my point is I am watching the state politicians stagnate, mired down by their ignorance, personal agendas or both with a lack of will to act on the one single issue that would restore Kentucky back to its rightful place as the world leader in its signature Thoroughbred industry by simply acting on the gaming bill that governor Beshear set out. They are guilty of standing idol while the surrounding states grow stronger through their gaming revenue base and relentlessly launch an attack upon Kentucky's weakened breeding & racing industry.

I do believe I hear a crystal chomp chomp coming from the house of representatives.

06 May 2009 11:46 AM

One thing is clear, KY is losing big to tracks who can have large purses due to gambling cash flow.

06 May 2009 4:57 PM

Dear first poster,

Did you read the article?

06 May 2009 8:39 PM

While I can understand why various tracks want gaming, etc., to remain viable, part of me wonders why people go to a racetrack with all those beautiful equines to sit in a building and pull a lever on a machine?  Why not go to the track to see the horses?  Maybe it's unrealistic, but it seems to me that getting gaming has nothing to do with the horses or racing, which is why the tracks exist in the 1st place.

That being said, it'd be a shame to have Kentucky tracks shut down because surrounding areas have gaming and they don't.

08 May 2009 2:39 PM

I would rather watch the horses than pull a slot machine any day. The casinos provide more than just revenue to the track itself , we to often forget that it also puts money back into the communities by creating more jobs and what the state governments take from the handle that used to fund schools and others programs.

13 May 2009 6:07 AM

I have zero interest in casinos, and you have to drag me from the horses, but the casino gets my husband more inclined to want to go, so we'd go more.

14 May 2009 7:37 AM

I have been a racehorse fan since I can remember and have been very concerned about the downward slide of this sport.  There are several factors in play at Churchill.  The biggest one is money and that can be generated with casinos.  (I think casinos are excruciatingly boring but to each his own.)  The CD board has made several decisions that I have questioned.  The main being the ridiculous salary and bonus of the top man while backside workers and security people struggle.  Churchill fired many long-time security people so they could hire cheaper, outside help, most of whom are barely legal age and don't know a thing about horses.  The stable areas haven't seen a coat of paint in many years and I can't believe that at Derby time Churchill Downs doesn't want to present a better image.  I like some aspects of the expensive upgrades but I think the Downs sold out to the image by doing so.

They are catering to the fluff, (concerts and expensive suites) and pushing out the lifelong fans of racing. I think another reason is that Churchill has been going for faster and faster surfaces which are not the safest.  Too many horses are breaking down.  I love racing and want to see it flourish but many issues need to be resolved.

26 May 2009 11:47 AM

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