For many years with handle declines in Ontario and elsewhere, things such as takeout reductions and marketing initiatives - fully funded from slots and elsewhere - were mainly thoughts one would read on blogs, or from bettors. With the large handle declines of the last couple of years, and the recent government rumblings in Pennsylvania, the loss of racing in Quebec as two examples, we are reading more and more from industry insiders who are pledging virtually the same thing.
Jack Darling, a trainer from Ontario writes the following on his blog this week:
"...reducing the percentage of the take substantially from each bet to return more of the winnings back to the gamblers. I think this would be worth a try. Most of our purse money comes from the slots so I don't think it would cost us that much out of the purse account."
"My next comment is not going to be popular with a lot of my fellow horsemen. Just putting on a bunch of races where a handful of people come out and bet almost nothing is not sustainable. We simply have too much racing. Believe me, I am as concerned as anyone about losing race dates but what we are doing is going to destroy us. Sudbury, Woodstock and Hiawatha are in worse shape than this but I will use Rideau Carleton as an example. On a Friday night they will have 15 races with an approximate handle of $60,000. This amounts to $4000.00 per race. This small pool makes it almost impossible for gamblers to bet any amount of money without affecting the odds dramatically, and the contribution from the handle to the purses is pretty close to nothing."
Horse racing, because there is no leadership who can make decisions that we all have to follow, must change from within. This is a good start because for years we would not have read anything like this from an insider.
It is fascinating to read the talk on the web and elsewhere about the battle for Horse of the Year in the US. Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra. It brings me back to harness racing for some parallels and we all remember the battle between Rainbow Blue and Windsongs Legacy. It was virtually neck and neck - Blue was a supermare and Legacy had just won the trotting Triple Crown. Then came the Breeders Crown to settle it all. Rainbow Blue crushed, but Windsongs Legacy did not. Not because he didn't win, but because he did not race choosing to call it a season before the end of year championship. That might have been the kicker and the big filly rolled to win the vote with ease. It will be interesting to see what happens in the US with these two great fillies.