Saturday, December 19, 2009

Horse Racing Survival

All who know me also know I have been in the horse racing industry my entire life. Horse racing is and always has been my first true love. The excitement, color, and drama cannot be duplicated anywhere. Well, everyone also knows racing is in dire straights. WHY?
A friend of mine, John Pricci wrote a great column which he called "Back to the Future, When Racing Was Special". In it was a question and his quote.
“When did racing begin to slip?” Without hesitation I said “the day tracks decided to relax the dress codes in the clubhouse.”
I commented as follows:
Your answer to the slide, “the day tracks decided to relax the dress codes in the clubhouse.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!
Back to Hialeah. when I first went there in the late 60’s, you had to wear a jacket in the clubhouse. And my God, the people an 18 year old ( Couldn’t go to the races there legally until 21, but as long as you had a license, groom or whatever, you could get in) kid could meet!
Mickey Rooney. Steve Lawrence. Imagine coming fact to face and meeting Liz Taylor! And the list goes on. The point is, the race track was one of the few places where the common guy could not only rub shoulders with the “gentry”, but actually talk to them one on one on a subject they all enjoyed. Never got that feeling at Gulfstream. So I fully agree, retro can be quite good.
As I travel around, I have noticed one thing. The young folks that do frequent the tracks seem to do so for the same reasons we did all those years ago. The love of the sport and the tradition involved can be an intoxicating elixer.
Kids get that, if presented to them correctly! As this sport didn’t bother to go after two generations of could be patrons, we are re-starting from behind. but as I said about Hialeah. It can be done. It will take an industry that is willing to put aside egos and work together and promotion reminding people of the good that is racing.
Notice I make a reference to Hialeah. John Brunetti has the track open for Quarter Horse, hoping to get slots, but also hoping to get T-breds back. I sent an email to the above mentioned writer as follows.

“As you well know, I for one have seen too much of this inane idiocy as to the industry refusing to work together. Too many people having their own agenda, as always!

“As to Gulfstream, for what it’s worth, I hated the old Gulfstream and hate the new one. They had a chance to get it right and as usual, blew it.

“However, there is a track, one that everyone should hope can come back one more time like the Phoenix from the ashes. HIALEAH!

“Faint hope on my part, I agree, but what an [opening day]! If they can hold it together and in the end get T-breds, what a great shot in the arm for our sport!

“In turn, this brings us back to the industry and it’s refusal to work with each other. No better example then Fla. and Hialeah. Yes, Brunetti was as much to blame as the rest, but one thing still remains a fact. The “Saratoga of the South” could be resurrected!

“I have always advocated a one month-to-5 week super meet at Hialeah centered around the traditional dates of the Flamingo and the Widener. No brainer here!

“Fla. in one small step could begin to lead the way in “cooperation” and save a grand lady in the process. RACING WOULD BE BETTER FOR THIS! And the people will come, just as they do to the Spa!

“This in my view has always been something that could only enhance our sport. The Spa proves it can be done. Racing needs it's heroes and grand dames and, for me, there is no track dearer to my heart than Hialeah!

“Just wanted to toss that your way. As I said, I really think something like this could do so much more than help racing. It could be a first step towards some form of civility and cooperation in this crazy industry.”
I followed up as follows.

There are very few times in this life that a chance is presented to correct a grievious mistake. The racing industry in Fla has a chance to not only do that, but to possibly lead the way and show exactly what co-operation could do for the racing industry.
Here is a chance for someone, anyone to lead! Listen up Florida and the horse racing industry in general. You’re running out of chances. Show us we are wrong! The problem is as always. To many egos, political shenanigans, and corporations forgetting the basics of any business. the customer!

Just a lesson in life here kids. Whether it's horse racing, government or life in general, mistakes can be rectified! In this case, I do believe racing in general can be saved. It takes co-operation and common sense. Which now brings me back to my earlier tirade.
The mistake the electorate made last year can be rectified. It is up to us, "We The People" to hold our elected officials accountable, be it horse racing or life in general.


  1. It seems to me there are too many tracks. A whole bunch of tracks that get a very small piece of the pie. Perhaps there needs to be consolidation. A few super tracks with a moderate bunch of medium tracks. Too many small tracks who seem to only stay open for simulcasting. Only my opinion but I think that is what the future is for horse racing.

  2. Anontmous,
    good point on one hand. however, you can also make the case that with the younger crowd, you need more action quicker, so the small tracks could theoretically thrive. While I agree the majority of them do only stay open for simulcasting as stated, much of that is due to what I said earlier. The tracks, big or small do not seem to want to help themselves. corporate morons who refuse to spend any money to make money. just take. Thanks for your comment!