The Demise of Arlington Park?

His name was Richard L. Duchossois, the same man honored today by the final running of a race that can no longer vaunt a seven-figure purse and instead patches up its dignity as the Mister D. Stakes.   An apt tribute, undoubtedly, to a remarkable man closing on his 100th birthday: one of the last of the great generation raised in the Depression, their endurance tested and deepened further yet as the vigor and dreams of their prime were diverted, and often fatally consumed, by war.

Mister D. himself shared a vivid recollection of lying on a stretcher in Normandy, one of the dying among the dead. To the overwhelmed medics, these two categories had to be treated as one and the same. They had separated only those who stood some kind of chance. And the 22-year-old Duchossois couldn’t argue with their verdict. He was paralyzed from the neck down. After days and nights of combat without respite, sedated, absolved of responsibility, he began to yield to a great weariness. Dimly he heard a shout: “That one over there, you better bring him along.” It was only when he felt the stretcher being raised that he realized who “that one” was.

By a no less tenuous thread of fortune, it turned out that the bullet had not severed his spinal cord. The nerves were only in shock. Lying in a Paris hospital, booked for a passage home, Duchossois could think only of the unfinished battle. If anything, the British pilot in the next bed was a still harder case. He had lost a leg, but between them they got hold of… read the rest about Arlington Park:

This Side Up: A Million Memories, From Heaven to Hell

Turns Out, Horse Racing isn’t quite dead yet

Belmont Park crowd

copyright Agameofskill.com. 

Horse racing is dead, right?

That’s all we’ve heard for the last decade or two, much less years. All those horrible equine fatalities at Santa Anita a couple of years back. All those Bob Baffert drug positives in all those high-profile races. All those PETA protests against a sport thought to be well past its prime, one on a slow, agonizing path to extinction.

Don’t tell that to the bettors.

Don’t tell that to the 15,874 who turned out for opening day at Del Mar last week, leading to a record handle of $21,339,643. The California seaside track’s weekend handle: A cool $80.5 million, a 17 percent increase over 2019, the last time fans were allowed to visit the beautiful venue.

Don’t tell that to the 27,760 who turned out for opening day at Saratoga, generating a record $21,935,534 handle. That set the stage for a four-day all-sources handle of $90.1 million. Last Saturday’s handle was $32,117,869 for the 11 races. And the Travers, Saratoga’s signature stakes race, isn’t until Aug. 28.

Don’t tell that to the 20,983 who showed up at Monmouth Park for last Saturday’s Haskell Invitational, which helped produce a $16.4 million handle. And that was without a Kentucky Derby winner in the field because, well, at this point, we don’t really have an official Kentucky Derby winner.

By now we’ve heard the horse-racing-is-dead narrative so long it has almost been taken for granted. The popular storyline persists that there just isn’t much interest in Thoroughbred racing beyond the passionate subset that clings to the sport…

Celebrities in Horse Racing: Tony Parker

copyright Equidia

He is one of the most successful sports personalities his country has ever produced and has huge popularity both in France and in Texas, where he helped the San Antonio Spurs to four NBA Championships.

Now Tony Parker has returned to a childhood love of horses and has embarked on the life of a racehorse owner.

Nothing unusual about a wealthy sportsman investing in horses, you might think. But Parker is determined to spread the gospel that racing is a sport for everybody, with his Infinity Nine Horses stable attracting widespread attention on social media, and the launch of a new fly-on-the-wall documentary, Tony Parker: The Big Bet.

And he has made himself available to racing institutions, signing ambassadorial deals with Equidia – which co-produced the Big Bet – and France Galop.

“My idea is to modernize the world of racing and make it more popular, to shine a light on the sport and to share my excitement with the community,” said Parker at a press screening of episode one at Longchamp…

Read more about Tony Park and horse racing

New Horse Racing Chief calls Sport’s Clean-up ‘steep climb’

Washington DCThe chairman of horse racing’s future governing body said the failed drug test of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit shows the need for a uniform set of rules and penalties in place of the sport’s current patchwork system.

In his first public comments since being appointed chairman of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s board, Charlie Scheeler said Wednesday that Medina Spirit’s case is instructive for how the sport should be run going forward.

The HISA is set to take effect in July 2022, although early work is underway to “try to make a sport which is safer, which is clean, and which is fair to those who we govern,” Scheeler said on Zoom. “It’s quite a steep climb.”

Scheeler, a retired partner at a Baltimore law firm, worked as lead counsel to former Sen. George Mitchell’s independent investigation of performance-enhancing substance use in Major League Baseball, as well as a monitor of Penn State’s compliance with the NCAA and Big Ten on athletics integrity.

He has turned his attention to cleaning up horse racing, which is mired in its latest drug-related scandal.

Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after the Kentucky Derby on May 1, and split-sample test results announced Wednesday by the attorney for trainer Bob Baffert confirmed the drug’s presence. Soon after, Churchill Downs announced it was suspending Baffert for two years through spring 2023, prohibiting the seven-time Derby winner from stabling or racing at tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc…

Make Horse Racing about True Sport

true sport of horse racing tampaThey say the first time you “breeze” a racehorse (that is a term for letting them run as if you were in an actual race) the adrenaline rush is so high that when you get off your legs crumple underneath you.

I had just graduated from college and had the opportunity to gallop race horses. This was a childhood dream of mine, so I thought if not now, when? Can’t be doing this when I’m 50. I signed on the dotted line

The job was at Fairview Farm in Landrum, S.C., which included a mile and a quarter track. I arrived and was told to shorten up my stirrups, put on my helmet and begin galloping. I had to pinch myself because here I was galloping some of the most elegant, athletic horses in the world, a dream come true!

After many hours of galloping, you can earn the opportunity to “breeze” a horse. The guys in the barn all referred to me as “New York” as they found my fast-talking New York persona incredibly amusing . The big day came and I heard over and over again from the barn workers,

“Hey New York, be careful, your legs are gonna crumple when you get off,” accompanied by a lot of laughter. I had ridden over some pretty imposing fences in my show jumping career, so I just laughed right back at them.

When we got the horses to the track (you run in pairs) the trainer told us to pick up a nice slow gallop and when we hit the quarter pole to drop down on the rail and let them run.

It is hard to describe the elevated beauty of that moment. The power, the grace, the wind in your face. It was like nothing I had ever experienced, even when jumping huge fences and getting that moment of suspension in the air. This was a whole different level of thrill..

Governor Wolf (D) Attempting to Terminate Horse-racing Subsidy

“Average daily attendance for the Williamsport Crosscutters minor league baseball team is greater than attendance at any of the state’s six horse tracks.”

A proposal by Gov. Tom Wolf to redirect about $200 million a year in subsidies that currently go to the horse-racing industry has the backing of animal rights and school funding proponents, but faces stiff opposition from the horse-racing industry, the agricultural industry lobby and rural lawmakers.

Pennsylvania: racing handle drops by more than 10% in 2019Wolf first proposed shifting the horse-racing subsidy to other uses in 2020. In this year’s budget, unveiled in February, he repeated that call and suggested that the money should be used to fund scholarships for students to attend one of the 14 universities in the State System of Higher Education.

“When you think about it, when you support a college student, that person’s going to live another 50 years and be a productive member of society,” said Sharon Ward, a former Wolf administration official who authored a report released on May 2020 examining the horse-racing fund. “These horses are around for three to four years and then they are gone.”

She called it a “bad use of tax dollars.”

That report noted that, despite the state subsidies, public interest in horse racing has been consistently waning.

“In 2018, the subsidy of $240 million was almost five times the amount wagered by Pennsylvanians on races run on Pennsylvania tracks,” that report found.

“Average daily attendance for the Williamsport Crosscutters minor league baseball team is greater than attendance at any of the state’s six horse tracks,” according to the report…

Can horse racing at Arlington be saved? Jockey Chris Emigh hopes so

Arlington Park racetrackAlthough it doesn’t appear likely, veteran jockey Chris Emigh is holding out hope that Arlington Park’s parent company can reach an agreement with someone to save horse racing at the famed site [in Chicago, Illinois].

If Arlington closes, Cicero’s Hawthorne Race Course will be left as the Chicago area’s last horse track — and it doesn’t run enough races to support all the jockeys in the area, Emigh said, not to mention the many other racetrack employees who will be left out of work if Arlington shutters.

Since track owner Churchill Downs Inc. put the historic site up for sale in February, many jockeys and other workers have moved to other states, chasing bigger purses and employment opportunities, Emigh said. He doesn’t want to join them.

“This is my home,” said Emigh, 50, who lives near Marengo. “I’m toward the end of my career. Nobody wants to start over in another state or area.”

Emigh has been a jockey since 1989, not long after graduating high school. He started racing in Louisiana but came to the Chicago area in 1996 when it had four tracks: Arlington, Hawthorne, Maywood Park and Cicero’s Sportsman’s Park.

Sportsman’s closed in 2003 and Maywood in 2015. Both have been demolished…

Mayor of Prescott Valley: Arizona Downs Horse Racing is a Benefit to Area

Arizona DownsAs Mayor of Prescott Valley, I am proud of our thriving community. We have a diverse community with residents from across the nation choosing to relocate to our area. From outdoor recreation to exploring local shops, to enjoying a day at Arizona Downs, we have something for everyone…

Horseracing has been an important industry to Arizona since statehood, representing our state’s ranching and old west roots. For rural Arizona, ranching, breeding, and farming are embedded in our community and a local economic driver.

Arizona Downs is part of our state’s history and as we continue to grow and thrive, we must also modernize the industries that are at our core. For the past decade, Arizona’s horse racing industry has suffered due to increased competition from other states. As efforts to bolster the local horse racing industry have increased across the nation, Arizona has lagged behind. Since 2004, Arizona horse tracks have seen live race attendance drop 45% and parimutuel handles drop $55M a year.

This decline in revenue impacts every small business owner and employee that is involved in race days. Arizona has a lot to offer and can easily become a national destination for horse racing. The Arizona Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 1794 which will support Arizona horse racing and generate more than $100M in new state tax revenues. By implementing Historic Horse racing in the state, purses will increase from $80,000 to $300,000, attracting horses and revenues from California. It will also attract $300M in capital investments and help create nearly 4,000 new jobs…

The Future of Horse Racing?

Las Vegas sportsbook contestIf the US is the room, sports betting is the elephant everyone wants to address…you arrive at 2021, where US bettors have an unprecedented knowledge of sports betting.

“Point spread,” “moneyline,” and “totals” now mean something even to the casual sports fan. The past three years have seen a remarkable increase in layperson sports betting knowledge.

Naturally, that’ll have a huge impact on horse racing.

Horse race bettors–especially casual fans–now have an entirely new vocabulary they can leverage to bet on races. Historically (and even nowadays) horse racing has been dominated by the parimutuel structure. Odds and payouts change based on the wagers that come in from around the world. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for race tracks and horse racing tech providers.

Dr. Laila Mintas says: “Fixed odds will certainly help the cross-sell of racing to sports betting players; it’s not a good experience for someone used to fixed odds to back a horse at 5/1 and get paid 5/2 through the pari-mutuel system.”

“The opportunity for fixed odds betting,” she continues, “is in taking the sportsbook player who has a $50 football parlay on a weekend and giving them the opportunity to place $20 win bets in a format and presentation style which looks like their existing online sportsbook […] this is about bringing betting players to view racing as another sport they can place bets on.”

National HBPA sues to stop Horse Racing Integrity Act

Washington DCOrganizations representing Thoroughbred horse owners and trainers have filed a federal lawsuit to stop a new law in which Congress punted on its legislative duties and, instead, handed the power to regulate horse racing over to a private group. The suit claims that under the new law, the authority created is allowed to monopolize power and change not only the rules, but the federal laws that govern horse racing across the country…