After Decades of Decline, Nebraska Horse Racing Relying on Racinos

The year was 1979. The location: Aksarben racetrack in Omaha. This was a time when horserace betting could draw thousands of spectators, many visiting from out of state. Kotulak said he was blown away.

“When the horses came to town and left, my mother had talked enough sense into me to say: ‘You are going to stay right here and you’re going to finish your schooling,’” Kotulak said with a laugh.

Since the 1980s, the sport has lost popularity in the state and country. Nationally, over the past five years, the industry shrunk by an average of 8.4% – with profits declining by 24%.

In Nebraska, the state has gone from around 100 thoroughbred race days in 2001 to half that by 2021. Aksarben, the one-time crown jewel of Nebraska racing, was demolished in 2005. Now, the area it’s a mixture of businesses and apartments.

Of the six remaining licensed horse racetracks in Nebraska, Fonner Park is by far the largest. Built in 1954, it…

What Happened to South Florida’s Calder Race Course?

Florida Racing Prepares To Say Goodbye To CalderCalder Race Course was a beautiful facility in South Florida, which ran a healthy part of the racing calendar.  Known for its deep, sandy course, Calder featured many great horses over the years.  One of those was Lost In The Fog, the great sprinter who I got to see in my only visit to the track.  Unfortunately, for this Florida horse track, it was purchased by Churchill Downs and turned into a racino. Under their guidance, it would suffer the same fate as other racetrack purchased by the Louisville ‘horse racing company – spectacular tracks like Hollywood Park and most recently, Arlington Park.

So what is now happening to the former parcel that Calder sat on? According to TheRealDeal.com Link Logistics paid $291 million for Calder’s former horse racing track and surrounding property, with plans for an industrial complex and movie studios in Miami Gardens.

A New York-based company, Link Logistics purchased the 115.7-acre site from an affiliate of Calder Casino’s parent company, Louisville, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs, according to records…

What Happened to South Florida’s Calder Race Course?

Horse racing in Nebraska?

Atokad Park holds first horse races of the year and looks ahead to future plansHorse races are regularly held in only two spots in Nebraska, and the tracks in Grand Island and Columbus are usually pretty quiet apart from the rumble of thoroughbreds that stomp past the half-empty grandstands.

Suddenly, though, communities throughout the state are clamoring to revive mothballed tracks and build new ones.

Why the surge in interest in a sport that for decades has waned throughout the country?

In a word, casinos.

“All of a sudden you have a bunch of communities who don’t give a darn about horses saying, ‘Hey, we love horses!’” said Pat Loontjer…

For an industry that for years has struggled to attract any interest, the sudden embrace of the sport has led to plenty of eye-rolling and more serious concerns about even finding enough jockeys, exercise riders and veterinarians to hold races, never mind whether spectators will actually show up.

Nationally, the sport has been in decline for decades. The number of race days has fallen by almost 40% in the last 20 years. Omaha’s once-popular Ak-Sar-Ben (“Nebraska” spelled backwards) racetrack closed in 1995. Given that, proposals for nearly a dozen tracks has annoyed even some racing supporters…

More on horse racing in Nebraska

New Data Collections and Applications in Horse Racing

ProfitDuring a presentation at Wednesday’s Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, Duff Gordon presented a chart showing the acceleration and speed of a horse during the race, and how it was impeded by the winner.

“You can see how that horse in blue, how much its velocity was cut off,” said Duff Gordon, pointing to the marked deceleration of a beaten runner at the time of The Ridler’s antics.

“That’s a much better way of telling the story rather than running the replay 700 times, which is what the TV companies have done to date,” said Duff Gordon. “The stewards can’t yet use that information,” he added, “but hopefully they will soon.”

“This is a new frontier,” said Scott Palmer, equine medical director for the New York Gaming Commission, about the StrideSAFE sensor, which TDN has written [in the past].

Nevertheless, the panelists emphasized how, in many regards, the stamp from data collection on the racing world is still very much a fresh one.

More on new data collections and applications in horse racing:

Data, Data, Data: The “New Frontier” for Horse Racing

What You Need to Know about HISA

The Horseracing Safety and Integrity Authority, HISA for short, is set to take effect on July 1 when racetrack safety standards begin. That will be followed by the anti-doping and medication control component on Jan. 1, 2023.

Combined the two are a monumental step forward for an industry finally under one governing body thanks to the HISA act backed by Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., and signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020.

Finally, thankfully, the sport will no longer be undercut by competing jurisdictions with different rules and regulations. No longer will there be confusion brought about by inconsistent guidelines and messaging.

Lisa Lazarus is the new person in charge. An attorney from New York, HISA’s chief executive officer boasts an impressive international sports background, most recently as chief counsel for the Fédération Equestre Internationale and before that a decade with the NFL where she was involved with strategy and development as well as collective bargaining negotiations…

Horses and connections — including trainers, jockeys and owners — must be registered with HISA by July 1. If the deadline is not met, horses could be scratched from races. The registrations will result in daily records of a horse’s conditioning and medications for review.

The body is also building a database of detailed injury reports on horses and jockeys. It is also in the process of reaching agreements with state racing commissions, who will enforce HISA rules. For example, accreditation will be required for tracks wanting to participate in interstate simulcasting.

New Turfway Park Will Open on This Date with Racing and Gaming to Northern Kentucky

Kentucky horse racing hype is at its peak around Kentucky Derby time, but many people in northern Kentucky have been wondering when they will play games and watch races at the region’s newest state-of-the-art facility.

Turfway Park is a track full of history and also looks to be the future of racing in the northern part of the state.

The park’s new facility has come a long way since a ceremony in September 2021, when the last steel beam was lifted to the top of what was then just a skeleton structure. Now there are walls, a roof and a sharper view of what the facility will look like when it opens to guests Sept. 1, 2022.

While it wasn’t quite ready for the Kentucky Derby, the finish line is now just around the corner, to the delight of racing and gaming fans like Robin Bradford.

“I can’t wait for it to open. It looks nice. I’m ready for it to open. I think a lot of people are,” Bradford said.

Bradford makes the occasional trip over to Newport Racing and Gaming, the other Churchill Downs-owned gaming facility in the region. She said while northern Kentucky is not quite the epicenter for racing and gaming in the state; it has a healthy appetite for everything Turfway Park will offer.

“Louisville is obviously number one to everybody. But up here, you’d be surprised. Up here is a good place,” Bradford said. “I do it every year. Once a year, I bet on at least one horse.”

For a long time, people have been questioning the future of Turfway Park, which opened in 1959 as the Latonia Race Course in Florence. That even included General Manager Chip Bach….

Industry Profile: Track Owner Belinda Stronach

Santa Anita eyes April 2 for horse racing fans’ returnBelinda Stronach leaves her mid-town Toronto home by 7 a.m. most days for an hour-long walk. She dresses in black athletic gear for her neighbourhood rambles, occasionally a ball cap, and eschews earbuds and podcasts, preferring to soak in the sounds of a city waking up.

Her route varies, day to day, and is plotted to avoid streets scheduled for garbage pick-up. Should she have time before heading in to work at The Stronach Group (TSG) offices in a spacious Victorian-era house near the Royal Ontario Museum, the family company’s chief executive will grab a cappuccino at a favourite Italian haunt. And if she comes across a historical plaque anywhere along the way, she will stop to read it, local history being an area of personal interest.

Stronach’s home is also in a heritage conservation district, while the house itself was built in 1878. For anyone counting, that’s five years after the inaugural running of the Preakness Stakes, a historic Maryland horse race in a historic sport, one that the 56-year-old Canadian owner of American racetracks is aiming to revitalize before horse racing becomes fodder for the plaques.

Stronach, mind you, is no nostalgist chasing the resurrection of the grand old days. Rather, TSG, branded as 1/ST in thoroughbred racing circles, is chasing new fans, not to mention a fresh generation of bettors, and the core pillars of her approach will be on display, for both racing fans and industry players, in north Baltimore for this weekend’s 147th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course…

More on Stronach, the future of horse racing and the connection to sports betting

 

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in New Mexico

Returning meet at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino wraps up on positive note

The 55-day 2021-22 Sunland Park meet is in the books and after Sunday’s last race, it can be considered a success.

In March of 2020, the Sunland Derby and the final few weeks of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 virus. The 2020-21 season never happened as the casino stayed closed until early March of 2021. With the closing of the casino, that in turn affected racing since casino money is used to help the money allotted for horse racing purses.

But the racetrack opened in December and the Sunland meet found success. The Sunland Derby returned on March 27 with Slow Down Andy winning and earning 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Nearly $3.5 million was wagered during the 12 races on Sunland Derby day and there were nearly 17,000 people in attendance.

Sunland Park Purse increase

The final month of the meet [horse racing in New Mexico] also saw a 25 percent purse increase and the amount of races per race day, which were Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, increased from 9 to 10, 11 and eventually 12 races per day.

“We were happy with the meet,” said Dustin Dix, who is the Director of Racing at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. “We had quality racing in terms of both thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Having the return of the Sunland Derby was big for us, it is certainly a highlight of the meet.”

The latest on the Kentucky Derby Preps from Agameofskill.com – Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

Is the Future Bright with Horse Racing in Virginia?

Churchill winner's circleContrary to popular opinion, Churchill Downs has a plan that includes a bright future for Colonial Downs, their new racetrack purchase in the state of Virginia.

“As Colonial Downs prepares to change ownership, the new company has a message for Virginians: “We’re bringing our checkbook.”

That’s what Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said during a recent visit to Richmond, as his group prepares to take over Virginia’s only Thoroughbred racing venue, as well as the six Rosie’s locations around the state.

Churchill Downs is the most famous venue in horse racing, hosting the annual Kentucky Derby, and once the deal to secure Colonial Downs’ parent company for $2.4 billion is in place, Carstanjen said his group intends to invest to build up its presence in Virginia.

“We really loved what we saw in Virginia, which is the rebirth of the equine business here,” he said. “It was historically an important part of the U.S. scene, but in the last number of decades it hasn’t been.”

More on the future of horse racing in Virginia

USADA Will Not Oversee Horse Race Doping

A deal for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to police drugs in horse racing cratered Thursday after months of negotiations that the agency’s CEO said did not give it “a reasonable chance to put in place a credible and effective program.” USADA was set to become the regulator for anti-doping and medication control for thoroughbred racing under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which is set to go into effect next July.

But in a surprising announcement, CEO Travis Tygart said the deal stalled.

According to Kentucky.com:

The lack of uniform rules across the nation came into focus after Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance after the Kentucky Derby. One key issue was the length of time it would take to corroborate the test with a “B” sample, which was needed to confirm the positive. USADA said part of its program would have ensured a faster turnaround on the “B” sample.

Medina Spirit ended up racing, and finishing third, in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, even though his victory in the Kentucky Derby was in dispute. Earlier this month, Medina Spirit collapsed and died after a workout at Santa Anita.

More on the Horse Race Doping and the USADA