Horse Racing Opinion Piece: Essential Business

by Art Parker

What is essential? People or a business?

Even though I now play online almost exclusively, I’ve been going to race tracks for decades. Last time I went to a track was last August when I visited my daughter in the Washington D.C. area. We slipped over to Laurel for the Friday afternoon card.

At Laurel that day, I observed the same things I’ve seen for years and years. Track employees and vendors. The people selling beer and hot dogs. People selling programs and Racing Forms. They didn’t charge for general parking but there was still a man at the gate watching cars go by. There were a couple of fellows handling valet parking. Naturally there was security and police as expected.

Empty row of seats at racetrackWe didn’t go where any real meals are served, but I imagine there was plenty of employees taking care of the many chores related to cooking and serving. And of course there were plenty of people constantly cleaning – I guess us horseplayers are just messy folks.

Of course there were pari-mutuel tellers taking bets. The list of people making things happen goes on and on. These people were there because patrons were there. You take away the patrons and all of a sudden a track is a ghost town.

The employees I didn’t mention are there to work – patrons or no patrons.

Here is my beef with the decision to close tracks because of the corona virus. If we race without patrons very little will be different than the days when there is no racing at all. Open the doors, be diligent with all precautions regarding the corona virus, let the patrons play online and let’s run.

Horse racing was slow to embrace television and that probably cost us a generation of potential players. When we caught up with the times and used technology, we held a possible edge – simulcasting and online wagering. In this day and time an enormous percentage of our handle comes from online wagering. I have been told by several that online wagering is now 85%-90% of horse racing’s handle. The sport is staying alive without patrons on site. Why shut it down? The risk for the few people is minimal. I read in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune where top trainer Bob Baffert said, “It’s safer out there (track) than going to a grocery store. Those are packed.”

Got rebates on your wagering?  Learn more about your options.

I think Baffert is right. In fact, I went to the grocery store yesterday and saw more people in close proximity than one would find in three gate crews.

The most interesting statement I have seen came from Southern California trainer John Sadler, who was quoted in the Press-Telegram as saying, “I don’t see how not racing the horses makes us any safer. This isn’t a factory where you can shut the doors and turn out the lights. People are still going to have to be there to look after these equine athletes.”

I’m sure the real problem with closing race tracks comes from the words “non-essential business” and “essential business.” What is not understood by decision makers is that while a race track may truly not be essential (like a grocery store), it can be closed but still open for business. Why? The non-essential people will not be there if the track is closed to patrons, but the essential people must be there regardless. I don’t know any thoroughbred that can take care of itself. They need to be bathed, groomed, exercised and fed. They can’t pick up the cell and call Pizza Hut to get a pizza delivered to the barn.

Comparatively speaking very few hands are needed if a track is running but closed to patrons. Have you ever been to morning workouts? If so, how many actual track employees were around?

With no patrons in attendance the handle will diminish some – no doubt about it. But purses can be adjusted for that and I promise the horseman would rather run for a little less than not run at all. Don’t forget that 100% of nothing is nothing.

Many horsemen are going to be in dire financial need if they can’t run. Many will go out of business and/or they will need to jettison some stock. Other trainers will not be willing to take stock off their hands because it will only deepen their financial burdens.

The corona virus is very serious and many precautions must be taken. But when it comes to horse racing I don’t think anyone will convince me the open track without patrons is more dangerous than a grocery store full of them inside an enclosed structure.

Share this with your horse racing friends

Got Rebates? Or do you just get points that add up to little?

Got Rebates?
reCAPTCHA is required.

Sign up for the AGameofSkill.com e-news



About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 17-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He cashed on the 2018 NHC Tour with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

Comments

  1. Then there will be no racing for a number of tracks this year the way things are going.

    It is either race without patrons which can more easily be controlled in relation to Covid-19 with respect to sanitizing, etc. right now

    No racing period

    Or racing with patrons in later months but as a friend said he can hold out for a half month past opening & then the horse’s conditions are so off – no real training, just basic exercise – what’s the point in even bothering with racing them?

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More in Horse Racing News, Horse Racing Survival
Virtual horse race raises £2.6 million for health workers
Virtual Horse Race Raises Nearly $3 million for Health Workers

“The Virtual Grand National has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. There was nothing virtual about the feel-good factor this race generated...

Close