Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hialeah back on track beginning Nov. 28 ... and what of it?

Long-dormant Hialeah Park in Florida has received approval of dates for a 40-day Quarter Horse meeting beginning Nov. 28.

The races will be the first of any kind run at the track since Cheeky Miss won the last race ever run at the historic racetrack on May 22, 2001.

News of Hialeah's approved dates comes on the same day that word breaks of Mountaineer Park's desire to run the statutory minimum number of dates (210) on an eight-month schedule, instead of year-round, putting the track at odds with horsemen who -- well, duh, I suppose -- would like to have an income during all 12 months of the year.

And that news comes of historic Ellis Park's decision to shut down Nov. 8 and suspend simulcasting operations.

And on the heels of news that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved reduced dates for all three breeds racing within the state.

And shortly after California changes its laws to allow a much higher takeout on wagers, essentially lifting money right out of the pockets of winning bettors before they've had a chance to win, reducing the incentive to be a horseplayer in the first place.

And only days after news from Florida itself, Hialeah's home state, that Adena Springs is transferring its entire Southern stallion roster out of state, all the way to Canada.

Could Hialeah be reopening at a worse time? Or is the Hialeah resurrection one of only a few signs that there's still a chance for horse racing to rebound?

I realize the markets have been poor. Purses are falling in many jurisdictions. It's a tough time to be in the horse racing business -- although when has there ever been an "easy" time?

But I often do believe that the horse racing industry knee-jerk overreacts to difficult financial times in the same way my own industry, the newspaper business, does.

We in newspapers slash staff, reduce our pages, cut dates of publication -- and somehow hope that customers to continue advertising, reading and spending with us the same way that they always have.

Horse racing slashes dates and purses, state governments treat their own lotteries as fiscal Godsends while scorning horseplayers that really keep an entire job-creating industry alive, and the quality, frequency and visibility of racing as a sport suffers more each day. But we in the business lament the declining lack of interest among the public.

I've heard the arguments for fewer dates as a return to the good ol' days. I'll have a blog entry soon on why I believe there's a big misconception about the supposed over-scheduling of horse racing.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to believe that less is almost never more.

Hialeah, I know you have your rooters and your detractors.

So good luck, Hialeah. You're gonna need it.


  1. Chief -

    The success (or failure) of Hialeah hinges on its takeout rates. That was their downfall when they last ran thoroughbreds.

    Granted there will be fans who may want to revisit the "new and refurbished" Hialeah, and take pictures but the bottom line for that track will be who will play the quarterhorses if there is no value to be found there?

    In short, the novelty of Hialeah racing will soon wear off within a year or two of racing.
    Then what?

  2. Until there is a National uniform standard for racing, controlling product output and overlaps, takeout, drugs, enforcement and focusing on the entertainment values of horse racing at the track via a National Commissioner....the mess will continue.

    While gambling is a critical aspect of this industry, it has become the "anything goes" GOD that at the same time is killing racing across America. Racing is more than betting. Betting is a part of it and not insignificant. Until this is brought into balanced perspective and control, the gaming, the drugs, the wonton disposal of the athletes and infighting will continue to grease the downward spiral track of the sport.

    And none of the entities could give a damn less as long as they got their's. Too many cooks in the kitchen as far as I'm concerned.


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