Things That Make You Go Hmmmm (14)

This edition is dedicated to @pullthepocket. Thanks for the push, man.

Leadership in the Kentucky Senate and House last year indicated resistance to be the first to introduce casino legislation, and not surprisingly, that's the case during the current General Assembly session. ... Broken-record time: Not enough votes in the Republican-led Senate, and the Democrat-controlled House won't act even though the Democratic governor wants a constitutional amendment on the ballot. ... Given what's happening in other casino states–repeated legislative money grabs from funds dedicated to racing and breeding–might this actually be a blessing? Never thought I'd ask that question, but ...

On a similar note, I'm thinking Instant Racing may be the best option for Kentucky if the state Supreme Court upholds it–a decision is expected soon. ... The tracks argued it's pari-mutuel wagering, which is their core business, and if every track in the state installed the machines, linking them to produce large jackpots (and marketing the jackpots) would be perfectly legal. Yes, the track owners' cut would be far less with Instant Racing than casino gambling, but purses and breed development would greatly benefit some tracks. ... Isn't that what this is supposed to be about?

It has been a good 15 years since advance deposit wagering really got rolling in North America. And the industry still doesn't document and report a firm number on how much pari-mutuel handle is generated through such services in total on a yearly basis. Can you spell t-e-c-h-n-o-l-o-g-y? Or should we keep guessing?

Newspapers in the Dayton, Ohio, area have reported on a lawsuit filed by the previous operators of Lebanon Raceway regarding the Ohio State Racing Commission for allowing Penn National Gaming Inc. to build a racetrack gaming facility less than 50 miles from the now-operating Miami Valley Gaming and Racing, which replaced Lebanon. ... Ohio law was changed to allow the facilities to be within a 50-mile radius, so what's the beef? The previous owners were to get $10 million from the current owners–Churchill Downs Inc. and Delaware North–if another racetrack casino wasn't built within 50 miles of Miami Valley. ... The previous owners merely sold two racing licenses for $60 million to CDI and Delaware North after leasing the fairgrounds track for a pittance for decades. Really? Now they want another $10 million? Hasn't the Lebanon cow been milked enough?

Miami Valley opened for live harness racing Feb. 8–one day late. The Feb. 7 program was canceled because of a power outage. ... I feel for the racing fans that made the trip and got shut out, but it's really quite fitting. This is an operation that had to be threatened by the racing commission to hire mutuel clerks or lose its racing license. (The track planned to have only self-service betting machines.) Look, we know it's all about the VLTs, but show some respect for racing and its customers. That's how you got the damn VLT license.

Speaking of Ohio, which now has four racetracks with VLTs, January wasn't too kind to horse racing. Through Feb. 1, on-site wagers on live and simulcast races at eight facilities in the state totaled $11.38 million, down 31.13% from the same period in 2013. ... Yes, weather played a big role. But with new traffic at some of these VLT facilities, wouldn't you expect some money would make its way into pari-mutuel pools?

Packaging stakes to create big-event days has worked well for horse racing, but the New York Racing Association triggered debate among horseplayers when it moved a bunch of grade I events to the Belmont Stakes program. ... It doesn't bother me, but Belmont Stakes day seems to stand on its own; maybe another big-event day could have been created during the Belmont spring meet, which doesn't generate much excitement anymore. ... That said, the latest NYRA move sure beats sleepy Saturdays highlighted by five- and six-horse fields in expensive grade I stakes. ... I'm guessing this $8 million racing card all but assures a horse will be shooting for the Triple Crown this year.

What do Cajun Beat, Caller One, Fatal Bullet, Golden Attraction, Hansen, Hard Spun, Perfect Drift, Reraise, Silver Charm, Spain, Tabasco Cat, Thunder Gulch, and Vindication have in common? They all won Kentucky Cup races at Turfway Park, and several went on to win Breeders' Cup races. ... Still trying to understand how this day of racing was allowed to go away in a state such as Kentucky. Churchill Downs made no effort to carry on the tradition when it got Turfway's September dates, and horsemen's groups didn't seem to care, either. ... With the growth of the "Kentucky Proud" program and its link to the equine industry, why hasn't anyone devised an event linking the Kentucky Cup to a Kentucky Proud day at the races, complete with vendors and events? An opportunity lost. And I'm no genius.

It remains to be seen whether the suspension of the 2014 racing dates of Harrah's Philadelphia (located in Chester, Pa., miles from Philly) by the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission because of issues with its racing surface amounts to anything more than grandstanding, but if it doesn't serve as wake-up call to all racetracks something is wrong. ... All that money from casino gambling can't buy a quality, properly maintained racing surface? You've all been put on notice.

I'm apparently one of a handful of people in horse racing who actually believe progress has been made when it comes to equine drug policy. I accepted an invitation to attend a normally private meeting of stakeholders in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast to discuss progress on the national uniform model rule on medication and drug testing. ... Yes, my eyes glazed over at talk of nanograms-per-milliliter. But for those whose accept the reality that therapeutic medication isn't going away, here's the deal: The only thing that can screw this up is political meddling by politicians or industry organizations with ulterior motives–and of course, egos, the true poster child for racing industry stagnation. Enough said.

One final note on drugs: If organizations in this industry actually thought federal intervention was a possibility, why would they invest all this time in this endeavor?

Sorry, one more note on medication: After several years now I'm still waiting for someone to give me a legitimate reason why racing on medication screws up the Thoroughbred gene pool but regularly training on said drugs does not. Any takers?


Leave a Comment:

Little Bill

Kentucky Cup- It ran just a few years and look at that list. was a great day. Greed. Not enough pie to go around for the Phattys.

11 Feb 2014 7:45 PM
J Shandler

Nice blog Tom, you still got it...

Regarding the terrible handle at Ohio tracks, when will you get this through your head--Ohio racing is an awful product! I'd rather wager on the raindrops falling down the window in your beat up Saturn.

See ya in Florida dude.

11 Feb 2014 8:36 PM

Thanks Tom for all this information.  Like a one-stop convenience store, you have the important information!

I'm watching carefully for Thistledown' Racino's decision whether to stay or pack up and move to Akron/Canton area.  I understand this decision needs to be made in June.

J Shandler:  any chance the Tampa Bay Derby is on your schedule?

12 Feb 2014 6:32 AM
J Shandler

No Tampa Derby for me Trackjack. I'll be at Fla. Derby though.

Tom won't be at either but will be at the Ohio Derby

12 Feb 2014 3:29 PM
Eric Rickard

As for the medication question. You are spot on. The medication is a crutch in my opinion. If we did not use them, trainers would have to find a way. It was not to long ago that they were not in fashion. Let us treat the athletes with respect and in turn they will treat us to good sport.

12 Feb 2014 4:46 PM


12 Feb 2014 6:43 PM

Not going to win support outside the industry calling the allocation of some receipts for education as a "money grab".  Virtually all gaming bills and propositions are marketed to the general public as revenue raisers for education, though little additional funding ever reaches the classrooms.  Work on the PR aspect, if assistance to a billion dollar industry is expected.

12 Feb 2014 8:25 PM
Bill Two

Jason, speaking of wagering on raindrops that is exactly what happened at Bowie years ago when a big snowstorm stranded thousands at the track overnight. Some people just have to get action wherever they can find it.

13 Feb 2014 11:18 AM

Concerning the meds, many of them act as uppers and blood thinners, Speed = more adrenalin pumping the faster the horse runs, blood thinners = thinner the blood more oxygen utilization. As far as breeding, horses have to deal with hypo/hypertension just as humans do, and the meds make them more susceptible to this as it does humans. Training for speed/precosity instead of stamina/longevity are hazardous to bone growth and density because racing horses before its' bones are fully developed stunt the growth in the horse and future get of the horse. Why do you think other countries tend not to race their horses before they are three years old and the horses have longevity in racing? They allow the horse's bone growth to mature to a reasonable state that can sustain the punishing force placed upon them thru racing. Breeding horses before their bones are fully developed (a horse's bones mature between 3-5 years of age )perpetuate the under development of bones and heart muscle in the next generation. By constantly doing this, weakens the gene pool by introducing under developed muscular structure and less bone density and elasticity. Even the high school science student knows this, but equine vets won't stand up and say this because they know which side pays the bills. The sooner they can get a horse on the track the more money they make, so bandage them up, pump them full of drugs and let them run. And if they come back alive, I get to do it all over again, which means more money in my pocket.

14 Feb 2014 2:28 AM
Old Timer

Nice summary, Tom.

I had the chance to stop at Miami valley in January before the racing started, and it was fairly obvious to me that the racing side of that facility had not gotten the attention that the VLT's had. Not much indoor seating for a facility with mostly winter racing.

15 Feb 2014 11:16 AM

Old Timer: Haven't been yet for live racing but did stop there in December. Not impressed with simulcast room. A few people who went on opening night (the canceled opener and the actual opener) said the live racing area resembles a high school cafeteria. They also said there are no self-service machines in the grandstand, and that they didn't see mobile clerks. ... I'm sure I'll get up there soon, but bottom line? Opportunity lost, and a disgrace given the revenue they are making from VLTs.

15 Feb 2014 6:15 PM

One other note on Miami Valley: I'm told a few individuals involved in this lawsuit are on the payroll at Miami Valley as executives or consultants. ... You can't make it up.

15 Feb 2014 6:20 PM

Still a smarty pants I see huh Jason?

15 Feb 2014 9:46 PM

Racing on medication screws up the gene pool by letting horses perform above their unmedicated capacity on race day, which makes them look better as breeders. Bleeding, for one, has a high hereditary component. Training on medication helps horses get to race day but they still need to be capable of maximum effort without medication, so if they run and win it's less deceptive.

19 Feb 2014 8:03 PM

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