Things That Make You Go Hmmmm (8)

Interesting but not unexpected reaction to comments from Peter Carlino, chief executive officer of Penn National Gaming Inc., regarding racetrack gaming. … The reference to horseplayers being dead was a red herring; slots players die, too. His overall point seems to have been missed: The slots welfare system is doomed to fail without changes—changes that can be readily made if horsemen and tracks work together. … Yes, PNGI could do itself a big favor by embracing horse racing rather than looking like it doesn’t care, but the bottom line is this: The guy, for the most part, is right.

Walked into a newsstand in Miami Beach a few weeks ago to buy Daily Racing Form but ended up walking out without it. Why? The $7 price on it had been blacked out with a marker, and a sticker with a price $8.95 was placed next to it. I didn’t wait to find out if tax was included. … DRF informed me that stores can charge what they want. … Ended up getting the tracks I wanted to bet in Gulfstream simulcast programs that cost a bit less in total. … Houston, we have a data cost problem, perhaps yet another reason pari-mutuel handle continues its decline.

Speaking of data, there’s still no upgrade to the Daily Racing Program being sold as “official” track simulcast programs at various facilities. Still no italics in the PPs for horses that return to win races, jockey/trainer stats that may or may not appear depending on space, and yearly stats instead of meet-specific stats, even though all this information is readily available through Equibase. I guess it really is that difficult to provide bettors with complete, cost-effective information? … Or maybe no one gives a crap. ... Or maybe it's about saving pennies to lose dollars.

How is it that a track with a pool of about 2,400 horses can’t fill fields, but a track with about 1,500 at its disposal can? Maybe because at the latter track, where purses are at least half what they should be, horsemen need to make a buck and are more appreciative of what they have, as inadequate as it may be?

When bettors are hurting, raise prices. … The industry can then blame Penn National Gaming Inc. and companies of that ilk for killing it rather than admitting to suicide.

Did you know there are racetracks, or entire states, that don’t mandate pre-race exams for racehorses? It’s one of the reasons why accreditation through the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance has been fairly light thus far. … You would think by now this industry would get it: Being proactive when your conduct is under a microscope is priceless. ... Don't whine when you're caught with your pants down.

The numerous weather-related cancellations around the country this winter haven’t been lost on Turfway Park, which thus far (I don’t believe in jinxes) has lost only two live racing programs in what has been a very unpleasant Kentucky winter. Yes, racing only three or four days a week instead of five reduces the chance of cancellations, but the reality is this: Whether you like synthetic surfaces or hate them, the Polytrack works at Turfway. … The over/under for programs that would have been lost this winter with the old dirt track in place is 10—and it’s only mid-February.

Seems everyone wants a racetrack license in Ohio, where dates have been drastically reduced and handle has drastically dropped in recent years. … You’ve got to love the ones that say they’d build and open a track even if it doesn’t have VLTs. ... Hey, can I have a license? Maybe I can revive the old half-miler at Hamilton Raceway north of Cincinnati.

Can’t find anyone to criticize last year’s meet at Monmouth Park. It was hailed as a game-changer—and here we are in mid-February, again, not knowing what this year’s meet will look like. … We may see live racing at Atlantic City Race Course in late April before we know Monmouth's "official" schedule. ... I’d say only in New Jersey, but that wouldn’t be fair, would it? Look around.


Leave a Comment:

Bill Daly

Any track that PNG owns outright or a piece of is living in austerity. I was at Charles Town the other day and they have the worst simulcast facility I've seen. Hardly any seating, no real separation from smokers, TV monitors that should have been replaced years ago, extremely cramped quarters including pathways from the seats to the mutuel windows that are more congested than I-495 at rush hour.

The second floor used to have a scattering of chairs and tables along with wagering machines. That has been replaced by a poker room. Not a fun experience for a non-smoking horseplayer.

15 Feb 2011 12:11 PM
needler in Virginia

Bill Daly, I AM a smoker, but the thought of an enclosed poker room filled with smoke puts me off, TOO! YUCK! I'm also a very small horseplayer (the horses aren't that small, but the budget IS) and hate what's happening at the tracks, as well.

PNG seems to be the worst at this moment, Gulfstream really stinks and no one seems to give a damn. If I remember my history correctly, states all over the country "RE- discovered" racing in the 30s when ANY way of making money sounded good. After the years of racing being "immoral", the income it produced suddenly became not so immoral after all. It seems to me (THAT and a buck will get you ............. whatever a buck gets you these days) that a way to offer entertainment, the chance for visitors to make an extra buck here and there, spend an afternoon in the April sunshine, see the most amazing equine AND human athletes around, and present an attractive alternative to video games would be a POPULAR idea rather than one that's being shuffled into a smoke-filled poker room.

SAD, SAD, SAD. I don't pretend to have the answers, but what's happening in racing literally breaks my heart..............

Cheers and safe trips.

15 Feb 2011 12:42 PM
June Moon

I did hear some criticism of the Monmouth meet on TVG (Michelle Yu) about top jockeys not making enough money. MP will also not have as much "hush money" from Atlantic City to keep slots out of the tracks for purses. It may not only be in NJ but unfortunately we lead the list :(

15 Feb 2011 12:45 PM
Darren J Fish

I am waiting. Every problem that horse racing has has a marketing solution. Each track and every track must market to the locals to come out once or twice per year. If everyone came to the races annually there would be no problems. I have 39 years horse and people (marketing) skills. Bring the people in the doors and you will have a successful business. Like all business. Bring in and service the customer and the customer will bring the dollars.

How do you get the people to come??? I know how? I have a direct mail marketing plan as well as many many other marketing plans that will work at every single track racing horses today. We need 2011 marketing. I can be reached at 780-935-7257.

15 Feb 2011 2:11 PM

brilliant idea.

sell weed at the track.

will definitely increase ontrack attendance, not handle.

also calif. horsemen got their higher purses, now what?

15 Feb 2011 3:30 PM
Jason Shandler

That guy selling the DRF program in Miami Beach for $8.95 should be fined, possibly jailed. That's absurd.

15 Feb 2011 5:15 PM

Here's a topic I don't see being discussed anywhere: the Santa Anita dirt track!

many fans and writers lauded the return of a dirt surface to Santa Anita and west coast racing. Now we've got milk-wagon horses breaking track records every other day out there! Six furlongs in 1:06 and change. Freakin' Tapizar runs a :19 quarter and a :42 half!?! Are you freakin' kidding me?

My point is: where are the comments celebrating the great return to dirt on the west coast? Come on, don't be shy. Speak up. You got what you wanted. Oh wait: Tapizar did get injured in that race, so dirt racing is still safer, right? MAKES YOU WANT TO GO HMMMMMM!?

15 Feb 2011 8:00 PM

If the Industry would give the Past Performances away this would create thousands (tens) of new horseplayers.

15 Feb 2011 8:36 PM
The_Knight_Sky racing blog

palace place wrote: also calif. horsemen got their higher purses, now what?


They get to inject more medication into the 2,400 horses so their owners get to watch them stand on four legs at Clocker's Corner.  :(

Starting in January The Meadowlands racetrack raised the simulcast program from $3 to $4 and the live harness program from $1 to $2.  

So in addition to my regular handicapping data, I am shelling out $8 minimum for my day/evening double-headers which include tracks that I have no interest in playing:  Plainridge - Buffalo raceway - PARX - Louisiana Downs etc.

Yes - $8 bucks would buy how many bottles of Yuengling?   Think about that for a minute. :P

It is colossal waste of paper and ink.  Surely someone out there can offer an alternative  such as single-track's race with bare-bones past performance data for a nominal 50 cents, can they not?

16 Feb 2011 1:07 AM

Back when Great Lakes Downs was open, they sold individual simulcast track programs for $1. Might be the best (only?) horseplayer-friendly thing I've ever witnessed at a Magna track.

16 Feb 2011 9:03 AM

DRF prices PP data very reasonably online.  TwinSpires gives free Brisnet PPs if you use their betting platform.  Data can be had at a moderate price if you go outside traditional "newspaper" format.  Making me go hmmm... are the ongoing small field sizes and unreliably fast times in conjunction with higher takeout in CA.  I used to play every weekend.  No longer.

16 Feb 2011 11:09 AM

Back in the old days I went to a bookstore in Houston to buy a form for Delta Downs and they tacked on $2 extra.  I asked the cashier if there is any other publication in the store that they sell for more than the printed price. He said 'If you can't afford it you shouldn't be betting on horses.' So I said 'well then why not charge a hundred dollars'?  The clerk said nothing.  This was 30 years ago.  By the time we bought a form, gas, admission and parking  we were about $25 in the hole without even making a bet.  

16 Feb 2011 4:27 PM

Any state that allows smoking at indoor events should be invited out of their caves and into the 21st Century.

I used to have to put up with it, but since Ohio entered the 21st Century, NEVER AGAIN will I go into a racetrack/simulcast area that allows smoking.

Darren J Fish,

You are right on and I hope someone is listening.

16 Feb 2011 5:06 PM

I am shocked and angry with the recent breakdowns at SA. Stakes, allowance, maidens, claimers, turf or dir. t... Who will step up and address these issues?When will they change that insane downhill course to eliminate crossing the main track? Can't count how many in the past few weeks "vanned off." Did they live or die?

07 Mar 2011 11:35 AM
Criminal Type

Philly, Horses break down everywhere. On dirt, on grass, on Polytrack/Tapeta. Santa Anita, Churchill, Pimlico, Penn, Delaware, Gulfstream. I could go on but you get the point.

Is it sad, even disgusting?? Hell yes, it is, but sadly, it happens. It is a terrible thing to see or read about. People have been trying for years to figure out a way to limit the number of catastrophic breakdowns in horse racing, without much success. A horses cannon bone is relatively the same density as concrete. Can you imagine the amount of stress it takes to actually break one? It must be incredible. I read somewhere that the weekend Barbaro was injured in the Preakness, 8 other horses broke down and where euthanized at different tracks around the country and no one ever heard anything about them. Whats your point ? How many horse's have raced on that downhill turf course at SA and not been injured?

13 Apr 2011 12:21 PM

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