Friday, October 16, 2009

The Crown, The Warnings & Trips to Keeneland

The weather is cold here in Toronto, but the racing sure is heating up. This weekend it is not a hockey town, but a racing town. Tomorrow afternoon, as runner players know, is the Canadian International. Tomorrow night, the Breeders Crown eliminations continue (written about by Greg here), after several division finals being settled this evening.

There is quite a bit of talk about the track. I will find out a little more about that first hand tomorrow, but I have a sense that this is slightly overblown. The track does not look too bad to me. The horses who broke tonight did not look totally sound, and I think the track had little to do with it. But again, I will check that out tomorrow and see if I can find out anything.

The TRA conference this past week in New York is come and gone and there were several panels with tough words for racing. Jeff Gural, who runs Tioga and Vernon racetracks, long ago has been warning that the slot money we all receive will go away if we do not do something with it to grow racing. This week he was even more dire, saying racing could be close to finished. When I think that online wagering on skill games (games other than racing) will have close to $600B of handle this year, while racing - the only legal game online in North America with its $15 trillion GDP - will do about $12 billion total, it is not hard to see he has a point.

John Pricci of Horseraceinsider.com lends some thoughts on the conference here. He has a look at a gambling experts comments that the takeout is too high and the “Amount of Money Taken from Bettors Is Not Sustainable”. The Horseplayers Association of North America spoke about these issues today as well, here - "When my sink backs up I call a plumber. I do not call an electrician. Right now in racing we seem to have too many electricians trying to fix the toilets."

A reminder for horseplayers that there are only a few more chances to land a spot in the Trot National Handicapping Championship. Details are here.

Speaking of handicapping contests, I am just back from a short trip to Keeneland. On Wednesday I played in one, along with a couple of friends. The entry fee was $10. One of my friends came 12th, another 27th. I came about 300th, which is pretty poor considering I think there were only around 250 entries.

Keeneland's weather was poor, but the track was not. That place is gorgeous. Walking in you walk into a slice of Americana. You are greeted with a smile, the place is impeccable, and the horses all look great; like they are cared for like they are a child, not an animal. Making my first bet was fun, and it was just like my last bet when a 60-something lady said "why thank you hon. Now you come back and cash ok? I wish you luck."

The ushers of course, were dressed well. They have been there for a long time, and take their jobs seriously. If you need something at Keeneland, ask, and someone will help you out, and do so with a smile. What a wonderful racetrack.

While at Keeneland I got to spend a little time with horseplayer Mike Maloney, which was quite a blast. Mike loves this game to death and is a perfect gentleman. He, myself, my stable partner James and a friend had a nice dinner at a horseman hangout and shared some horseplaying, and horse owing stories. I have some decent ones I thought, until I listened to Mike. He is quite the story teller and it was entertaining.

On Wednesday I was pleased to have dinner with Kathy from Harnessracing.com and her husband, as well as John Cashman, formerly the head dude at Castleton Farms. The conversation was good - everyone cares about this sport and wants it to get better. I had a great time.

My time there was short, and I wished I could have done a Red Mile-Keeneland doubleheader, but it simply was not in the cards. Work got in the way of racing. I hope to make it back next spring. Good times with good people and good racing makes life better.

I'll pop back on Sunday and chat about the Crown elims. Maybe we can come up with some winners. Good luck this weekend everyone.

2 comments:

Pacingguy said...

One of the reasons people at Keenland treat people nice is because it is a short meet; while they race more than one meet a year they are short, something to be relished and appreciated. While all tracks should have such polite clerks, it is easier to maintain such attitudes when it is a short term meet. Even for the best intentioned clerks it is hard to maintain such a good attitude when the meet grinds on and on and on.

This sport will survive. Unfortunately, there will be more pain. Those that look at racing as a way to cash a pay check will have to be forced out first and that will happen as the industry continues to downsize. Once you have those that are in it because they love the sport, then you will see people willing to try new ideas and move forward.

Anonymous said...

or maybe it's because they are not Teamsters like the mutuel clerks at Woodbine who treat customers as a nuisance