Monday, November 2, 2009

Alright Already - Can We Not Just Do Something?

Darryl Kaplan, editor of the trade magazine Trot, pens a column this month with some stark stats on the dismantling of racing.

His thesis contends that it is finally time to do something with slots money to grow the sport. We have heard these things before, however with some of the following, is it not time to stop fighting and get to work? If the past tells the story of the future, this article should be read by everyone. In Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania; And don't for a second think that this can not happen to thoroughbreds either. Over $100M was just taken from the Horse Initiative in Pennsylvania - and that was runner and trotter money.

Just days before the Quebec provincial government recently announced their end-game for harness racing in the province, they put out a release. It included this paragraph:

Let us not forget that the horse racing industry started its decline several years ago. Since 1995, the government poured more than $450 million in subsidies to support this industry. In spite of this aid, the industry continued to regress. The evolution of wagering on horse racing proves this. In 1990, $315 million was wagered and fell to $136 million in 2008.


Four hundred and fifty million dollars
was put into racing. Now it is gone.

Kaplan then speaks about the lack of public outcry in Quebec for this demise of this once proud industry. As well the response from horse racing overall? Nothing.

Yet somehow month after month, meeting after meeting, we are met with industry leaders who have no problem distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in purse money without any plan to drive bettors or new patrons to the track.

Virtually all the cash that slots are used for is purses, and for breeding. Marketing, lower takeout, perks for customers like a casino gives? Nope, and the sad part is no one is even looking at Quebec and offering a new plan. Just more of the same.

And the product? How is the massive cash doing for sires stakes and other things here in Ontario to grow the sport?

A few weeks ago, I watched a five horse Gold Final at Kawartha Downs go for $170,000. One owner had four of the five horses. The single-file event had less betting on it than a $4,000 claiming race later in the program.

A Sires Stake program, mares residency, breed improvement and new ownership initiatives are all very positive things. They’re vital pieces of the puzzle. But without a product that is relevant to the consumer, harness racing is hurling head first toward its demise.

A $170,000 purse. Five horses, no betting and no customers. How can anyone think this can possibly be sustained?

Kaplan concludes:

Right across North America, despite mounting evidence that the sport is out of touch with the general public, the event is presented in a manner that, aside from the odd superfecta, is virtually identical to what it looked like 15 years ago.

So now, it’s just a waiting game. Waiting for courageous leadership to stand up and invest in the future. Or waiting for the next press release to take everything away.


Nice job Darryl. I wonder if anyone is listening.

6 comments:

Pacingguy said...

Sadly, they don't care. It is all about grabbing the money while they can; most of these people don't care about the future.

Strangely, I suspect the future of racing is at the minor league tracks, the places where 4K claimers are the king. Tracks where the majority of the people involved in racing are in it for the love of it first rather than making a living. Once the fair weather people are out of the business, these are the people who are going to keep racing going; the ones that won't let the sport die. They will innovate.

Anonymous said...

Here Here I agree so much!!!! Who was the first idiot that suggested race horses as a serious investment?? I love racing and believe that some sort of racing will survive, and it will survive with open minded people that understand that gambling is important. Once those kind of people are in charge things will slowly change. I really believe that there are plenty of people out there that will find handicapping an exciting challenge, especially when there is a chance they can make a buck. Point blank; people love to gamble and some people love to think while they do it. WE WILL SURVIVE!! With the right leadership in place.
Regards, Rebecca

Roger said...

I am a horse owner in Ontario and if they decide to take 2% or so off my purse checks to go to something good for the sport I would be more than happy to contribute.

The problem as I see it is I am in the minority. People like their purse money, even if it is going down every year and will continue to go down unless we do something.

Roger D

eric poteck said...

It gets more bizarre than 5 horses-2 owners going for $170K. As reported by Standardbred Canada, only 3 horses were entered in the
~$265k 2yr old Matron at Dover Downs....so they just split the purse money 3 ways....no race, just purse money divided up.
A cynic may suggested this represents the success of the industry's marketing strategy, the elimination of the horseplayer!

Anonymous said...

This is a bit off topic, but in regards to "doing something", I can surely point out one thing not to do. Do not let Ron Pierce voice his opinion publicly ever again. The piece in Standardbred Canada, and the majority of comments that followed were disgusting. Pierce uses terms like "Mommies and their daughters", and "a good lickin", talk about alienating, or eliminating, new fans. Does he live on a different planet?
I know the ORC hasn't solved any of the industries severe problems with their new whipping rules, but wow, this is a perfect example of the mentality and total ignorance that is running this sport into the ground, and of the complete denial from which there is no return.
Imagine an individual with optimism, passion and dynamics trying to talk to the likes of this attitude about change, good luck.

Sandy said...

Actually PTP, myself and a few others who frequent your site were surprised that you let those Pierce comments go by without any mention or opinion ? You know the ability to drive a horse does not come complete with an MBA, apparently it doesn't even include any tact in some cases. And unfortunately most in the industry would rather line up behind one of their own, like Pierce, with no regard for common sense. It's really sad.