Wow, and I thought my bank account was in disarray.
Raise your hand if you think the California horse racing industry could get any more messed up than it already is today.
Didn’t think so.
Let’s start with two of the licensed Advance Deposit Wagering companies.
I’m no genius, but it seems to me this is a sport that should be bending over backwards to attract new fans. Yet TVG continues to gauge its customers by charging them a small surcharge per bet and then making them pay even more if they want to watch their horses run on the Internet.
But at least TVG knows how to distribute its product, unlike Horse Racing TV, which continues to snub its nose at DirecTV and its potential 18 million viewers.
Santa Anita president Ron Charles has been telling me for three or four years it was only a matter of time before HRTV and DirecTV reached an agreement, and yet we’re still waiting for that announcement.
Of course, TVG and HRTV don’t have a monopoly when it comes to head-scratching decisions.
Can anybody tell me why Fairplex Park began racing this year the day after Del Mar closed?
Did somebody on the California Horse Racing Board mandate that the Southern California tracks have to race as many days as possible, or were those rulings limited to our wonderful synthetic surfaces?
Trainer John Sadler does not work for Santa Anita, Hollywood Park or Del Mar, but maybe he should. He’s a guy who knows horses and is smart enough to realize we’re racing them way too often.
“I’ve preached for years to the blind if we don’t cut our dates a little bit we’re going to be in trouble,” Sadler said. “These (horses) are not machines. They can’t run a hundred million times.
“I think Del Mar was a success this year. For this economy, it was really good. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact they took a little initiative and didn’t race that sixth day. But you shouldn’t have to wait until you’re down in the dumps to do something.”
Then Sadler got really wild and crazy.
“I’d love to see a rule go into Del Mar that you can’t run more than three times at the meet,” he said.
Of course, he’s bright enough to know management will never allow that to happen.
“It’s funny, but anything that you say that affects anybody’s money line, they don’t like,” Sadler said. “When it comes to (management), they like field size, so they don’t want anything to discourage that. In an ideal world, you’d run every week in a 10-horse field. But that’s just not reality.”
No, reality is the current skirmish between the California Thoroughbred Trainers and the newly created California Horsemen for Change, the latter group comprised of some of the most prominent trainers in the Southland who believe a more aggressive approach is needed while confronting the problems they face.
CTT president James Cassidy might be right when he says this isn’t the economic climate for horsemen to be seeking more money or working to get the artificial tracks ripped out and replaced with traditional dirt surfaces.
After all, Santa Anita is embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings and might be under new ownership sometime early next year, Hollywood Park will fall victim to the wrecking ball when the economy improves and Del Mar’s license is running out. Money is in short supply.
But maybe if the CTT and CHC banded together with the Thoroughbred Owners of California, sort of the way it used to be before the old Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) was disbanded in the early ’90s and the trainers and owners went their separate ways, the horsemen would be better equipped to confront their many problems.
“It seems like it would be in the interests of both owners and trainers because they’d have a lot more negotiating leverage,” said Chris Knight, interim executive director of the CHC. “If the owners and the trainers stand together, we can hopefully push everything in the right direction.
“When you work together, you’re always stronger.”
When was the last time those two words were used in conjunction with California racing?
Now, about that synthetic tracks mandate, those shrinking purses, the rising costs of workman’s compensation …