Social Icons

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

Can anyone explain exactly what is the real story behind California’s so-called “horse shortage”? Reading Steve Andersen’s piece in the DRF this morning it struck me once again that all we ever hear out of that state in recent years is excuses why they can’t fill cards. For awhile it was some trainers hated synthetics, so an exodus occurred of dirt horses. With Santa Anita’s return to dirt, that shouldn’t be an issue any longer, right?

Now it’s the weather’s fault, with “near-constant rain in late December.” Excuse me, but what poppycock! Other tracks across the nation continue to race in less than ideal conditions; Penn National, for example, keeps right on racing through freezing temperatures and copious precipitation, as does Laurel, Beulah, and Charles Town (and even Aqueduct and Philly barring a blizzard). So, to claim that the weather is a factor as to why Santa Anita can’t fill cards is pretty lame.

Seriously, how is it possible that there is such a low inventory of racehorses there? We’re talking about one of the largest and most populated states in the union, with nearly a complete dominance of horse racing on the West Coast right now, barring Portland Meadows to the north, and Turf Paradise and Sunland further to the east. Three tracks in California are currently holding meets: Golden Gate, Los Alamitos and Santa Anita. In virtually the same amount of geographical territory—and with much worse weather—tracks at Aqueduct, Charles Town, Laurel, Philly (Parx) and Penn National are thriving or at least appear to be doing better than their Golden State cohorts.

As an example, take a look at the number of entries for a weekday Friday, January 14 (with number of races to be contested), minus the quarter horse races at Los Alamitos:

AQU: 73 (9)
CT: 95 (9)
GG: 49 (8)
LRL: 67 (9)
LA: 45 (5)
PHA: dark
PEN: 90 (9)
SA: 57 (9)

For the central northeast, that’s 325 entrants for 36 races, or just over 9 entrants per race. In California, it’s 151 entrants in 22 races, or just fewer than 7 entrants per race. What makes it worse is when you consider that many top stables ship south for the winter, so the northeastern tracks have a tailor-made excuse why their cards can’t fill—but they don’t need it. Here’s how the Florida/Louisiana/Arkansas tracks look for the same day:

DD: 100 (10)
FG: 95 (10)
GP: 134 (10)
OP: 98 (9)
TAM: 97 (10)

That’s 524 entrants for 49 races, or nearly 11 entrants per race (10.69, to be exact). Wow!

Hollywood recently had the same problem as Santa Anita does now, so it’s really not about synthetic versus dirt surfaces, is it? So, what’s the real reason behind California’s inability to card larger fields? Is it purse money? Poor condition book writing? Lack of quality breeding programs? Inadequate development of horse racing partnerships, or ways of attracting owners? Sure, the state has pissed off bettors with its high takeout, but that doesn’t directly affect the number of horses racing in the state, does it?

I don’t know. I do know that I’m tired of excuses, though. However, I’m even more afraid that the truth is that California is undergoing what the rest of the country would be experiencing if slots weren’t propping up it up—a dying sport.


chiefdave said...

I agree with your thoughts. The shortage has been getting worst for years. I remember writing about abouton a message board about 5 years ago when they CA sent to 8 races during the week. Raising the takeout will not help the situation.

trixie said...

Excuses excuses is right!
here are a few little known facts ....
1. Ignorance.... northern Ca. racing especially
the racing office the racing board and just about any one with a small amount of power have a motto it seems " this would be a great job if we could just get rid of these horses"
2. Nepotism ... don't piss off the gate guard .. his great uncle just might be the Clocker ' the racing sec . or??????
3. Divide and conquer .... Never shall the horsemen stand together for fear of retaliation
( a very real fear I might add )
4. the systematic elimination of smaller barns
( if you think horse racing is fixed ... you are correct .. perhaps not in the way you imagine ... its even worse)
5. paying trainers from out of state to race in ca. at the expense of Ca. trainers
6. A few "big trainers" control the racing card
entering multiple horses only to scratch later ( with of course the help and blessing of the racing office] a 5 horse field with 3 trainers ......trifecta betting ?? I don't think so . its probably a maiden race on top of that
7. The ridiculous nonsensical workman's comp. situation
8. different rules for all .....controlled by a group of ignorant , uneducated ,corrupt Czars of Horse racing , Known as the "STEWARDS" . They live in a feudal system of there own creation where their law supersedes both state and federal law .... why ? once again Ignorance and fear of retaliation
10. satellite racing ..." we don't need no stinking horses ". Smart move horsemen!

I will stop here ; just scratching the surface ...

AND THEY WONDER WHY THERE IS A SHORTAGE OF HORSES ..... Perhaps the stewards along with the racing office could form a committee .... as long as the horsemen stay out of it!