From the editor's desk. . .
We’re horse people. We’re supposed to be optimistic. We’re supposed to look ahead. We’re supposed to tell others the industry is holding its own, steaming along, going to be all right.
But we don’t know. Not for sure, anyway. Economics, politics, competition, weather, nature, luck all play roles in the success or failure of the Thoroughbred industry. We look for signs, do our best, push policies we think will help, try to work together while also looking out for our individual best interests.
Lately, we’ll take the good news.
Two new sires, Etched and Friesan Fire, have people talking about Maryland again. The first foal of champion Blame, conqueror of the great Zenyatta, was born in Pennsylvania. West Virginia’s Charles Town set multiple records for pari-mutuel handle in 2011 and gets a Grade 2 stakes in 2012. Last year’s Horse of the Year Havre de Grace trained at Delaware Park for an owner who lives in the state and a trainer who owns a home in Maryland. Purses are up at Laurel Park. Sales numbers at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic were strong. More big names, 90 North Racing and trainer Jimmy Toner, are moving in to Fair Hill Training Center. Northview PA flexed its muscle to bring Silver Train from Kentucky as part of an expanded stallion roster.
All those and more point to ripples of health in the regional industry. Regional industry. For despite the borders, we’re all in this together. Health in Maryland means health in Pennsylvania, which means health in West Virginia, which in turns counts on health in Virginia and Delaware, which feeds health in North and South Carolina.
Pennsylvania can pat itself on the back all it wants for the robustness of its Thoroughbred industry. Strong purses and owner/breeder incentives make it enticing to have a Pennsylvania-bred now, where years ago the concept was as foreign as putting ketchup on a soft pretzel. The Keystone State needs successful breeders and owners in the neighboring states to truly thrive, however.
Maryland owns the history in the region, but must find a way to solidify its racing product. For the second consecutive year, a racing schedule didn’t materialize until the 23rd hour. Try being optimistic under those circumstances. Good news followed bad, however, with the announcement of a 10-percent purse increase?–?meaning the impact of slots is no longer a guess or an estimate. It’s reality, and the Maryland tracks are again in the game when it comes to attracting Mid-Atlantic horses.
Charles Town received a dose of the big time with Grade 2 recognition for the $1 million Charles Town Classic for 2012. Last year’s running, the first graded stakes in track history, attracted Acclamation, Game On Dude, Tizway, Awesome Gem, and winner Duke of Mischief among a standout field of 10. But when the big names are gone, Charles Town?–?and West Virginia?–?count on the region’s Thoroughbred players (just like every other track).
Virginia’s Colonial Downs will call more attention?–?literally?–?to its acclaimed turf course this summer with the relocation of lights from the dirt track. The move hopefully bolsters attendance and handle.
The region’s most fragile racing climate, New Jersey, seems to be in a semi-constant state of flux. As the others know, that’s no way to support an industry but a healthier region will mean a healthier New Jersey.
So as 2012 truly gets started, where do we all go from here? Up, hopefully. Be confident, look ahead, push for what you believe, strive for improvement. Promote your industry, your state, your brand, your racetrack, your message, your farm, your horse.
And your region.