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

New York Bill Would Divert Horse Racing Funds

Wagering Tote self service machine

copyright AGameofSkill.com

ALBANY — State legislators have introduced a bill that would shift approximately $230 million in annual funding from slot machines and paid to horse racing tracks and breeders and redistribute it to schools, human services and other causes.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, is also backed by a cadre of animal rights groups and social services non-profits, who said they plan to use advertising and grassroots organizing to draw attention to the issue.

“The state has been propping up this industry for decades and there is no reason for that to continue, especially when we need the money the state has been giving to the industry,” Rosenthal said in an interview.

The supplemental payments to horse racing also have defenders in the Democratic caucus, like state Sen. Joseph Addabo, D-Queens, who said the money helps preserve jobs created by the industry.

The bill would allocate a portion of slot machine revenues to…

More on this New York bill and how it affects horse racing in NY

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…