Things That Make You Go Hmmmm (3)

Probably doesn’t matter who gets credit for the Breeders’ Cup tax-break legislation in Kentucky, because it remains unclear how big a role it played in bringing the World Championships back to the Bluegrass State in 2011 given turmoil in California and New York, but if you’re wondering why horse racing fails to gain traction with Kentucky legislators, look no further than the politics of the most recent situation. … Remember, we still have a struggling industry that needs a lot more help than a two-day Breeders’ Cup can give it, and trying to get more people on the same page wouldn't hurt.

More Kentucky politics: In a June 10 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader about ongoing efforts to allow for bourbon tastings at the World Equestrian Games later this year, Gov. Steve Beshear was quoted as saying: “I think it would be a shame if Kentucky’s signature industry, the bourbon industry, couldn’t have that kind of presence at an event that is going to bring people from all over the world into Kentucky.” … Wait a minute. Hasn’t he said on multiple occasions the horse industry is Kentucky’s signature industry? … Maybe he meant “one of” Kentucky’s signature industries? ... And by the way, what the heck happened to Instant Racing?

The price is wrong: On recent trip to Jersey, it became more apparent the industry needs to do something about how it handles sale of its past-performance data and the information it provides. At Atlantic City Race Course, I was charged $3 for the Daily Racing Program simulcast book; at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, it cost $4; and at a news agency in South Jersey, a larcenous $6 plus tax. … At Freehold Raceway, they got me for $4.50 for the New Jersey simulcast program, which 15 miles away at Monmouth costs $3. … It’s obvious I got ripped off on a couple occasions, so the question is what really is the price of these programs? … And the DRP, which many tracks now use as their simulcast program, still refuses to italicize return winners in its PPs even though Equibase provides that information. (Equibase is half-owned by the tracks.) That information, of course, is available in the Daily Racing Form, which costs $2-$3 more.

Why is it horse racing on television makes you cringe? As TVG scrolled a note June 5 that it couldn’t show stakes live from Belmont Park, ABC—the network with the contract to do so—blew off the grade I Manhattan Stakes, meaning no one saw it live on TV. … Is this a bad joke or what? C’mon, folks, please get your bleep together. If the networks want to show interviews rather than races, let TVG and HRTV have them.

During a recent visit to Charles Town Races & Slots, Sam Huff, president of the West Virginia Breeders Classics, said there’s no way the $1 million Charles Town Classic, run for the second time this year, will receive graded status. I told him I thought it would, and the results of the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) offer more support; the one-two finishers in that race ran third and second, respectively, in the Classic. … Seems to me the biggest threat to Charles Town getting its first graded stakes is a potential policy by the American Graded Stakes Committee that only tracks accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance can have graded races. … Have a feeling that may happen sooner rather than later.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium issued a release June 11 mentioning a “recently published report” that “seemed to indicate there was little support for proposed changes in the recommended threshold for phenylbutazone due to a lack of participation” for a panel discussion at a horsemen’s convention. … The article appeared on and was written by yours truly. The hook—National HBPA can’t line up speakers who support the Bute change—was designed to spice up a typically mind-numbing topic. The headline may have been misleading, but nothing in the story suggested there is no support for the change. The article noted how it was approved by the RMTC, which has about 25 member organizations that vote. … Whatever the case, it seems old Bute is a mighty sensitive topic.

A little less than 10 years ago, Frank Stronach held his first and only “industry summit” at Gulfstream Park, which his company had just purchased. During the event, he basically said he couldn’t wait to tear the track down, rebuild it, and move it into the future. … We won’t get into the pros and cons of the new Gulfstream—personally, I have no problem with it—but the comments of early 2001 beg a question: How long has Stronach been waiting to blow up Oak Tree? … Surely this debacle can be resolved, most importantly for the long-term benefit of California racing, which sorely needs stability, not theatrics, at this time.

That “industry summit” was one of the more intriguing meetings in racing; it’s a shame the chairman of MI Developments didn’t have any more after that one. It was loaded with great comments, including one by owner/breeder Don Zuckerman, who complained about unsafe track conditions, short fields, the NTRA and Breeders’ Cup, and advance deposit wagering providers. … “Stop making it difficult for me to lose my money,” Zuckerman said. ... Some things never change.


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