Lucky '13 breeds feeling of optimism
Nowhere does it say this space must be optimistic, but more often than not it is and probably should be. Complaints and gripes about the racing industry occur as naturally as weeds in a pasture so the editorial space of a regional Thoroughbred magazine ought to be a respite from the storm?–?sometimes anyway.
As the calendar turns to 2013, I’m optimistic. Hopeful even. Really.
This region can be an impact player on the national Thoroughbred landscape, now.
Think about it. . .
Sires standing in Pennsylvania produced two Breeders’ Cup winners. A short time ago, I would have been hard pressed to name two Pennsylvania sires. Penn National hired a guy away from the New York Racing Association, and lured a division of horses from entrenched New York/Florida trainer Linda Rice. Penn also announced a $500,000 turf stakes for 3-year-olds, to be run at a mile June 1. Get ready for more in 2013, Keystone State.
Maryland’s purses are climbing, and the horsemen and racetracks finally have a long-term deal (reached as this magazine went to press). The latter is a crucial part of the equation, as it’s tough to breed horses with confidence if you really don’t know the racing landscape into the future. The state in the region with the longest Thoroughbred pedigree, and deepest roots, is on its way to firmer ground and a spot next to the early slots states. Keep the train on the tracks, everyone.
West Virginia just announced a
$1.5 million purse for the Charles Town Classic. Do the math, it’s the country’s third-highest number after some Breeders’ Cup races and the Kentucky Derby. At Charles Town. In a promotional twist, the Grade 2 race’s winner will get $1 million. The race is in April, let’s all go.
The region, through the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, stands as a leader in the push for national uniform medication rules. In December, the Association of Racing Commissioners International Model Rules Committee adopted medication reforms calling for a simple list of therapeutic medications, withdrawal times, penalties and all the things most sensible people want. Of course, it’s up to individual states to adopt those model rules, but it’s a big step toward cooperation and sense. And here’s one for the to-do list regional leaders?–?uniform medication rules for all Mid-Atlantic states. Make it happen.
The list goes deeper: The Delaware Handicap is a Grade 1 again. Zenyatta’s half-sister Eblouissante prepped at Camden Training Center with South Carolina horseman Mickey Preger. The best steeplechaser in North America, the Virginia-trained Demonstrative, is only 6 years old. Virginia’s Audley Farm produces some of the world’s best Thoroughbreds. Maryland’s Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center is the go-to place for Thoroughbred rehabilitation and recovery. Timonium is a great place to buy, or sell, a horse.
Like any industry, opportunity drives and there’s more opportunity than ever for regional owners, breeders, trainers, fans. The same Thoroughbred can be West Virginia-bred, Maryland Million-eligible and Delaware-certified. Or some other combination of regional programs to boost the chances of making racehorse ownership a more viable choice. Extend the radar just a bit?–?to New York?–?and the East Coast is a good place to be involved in racing. Add it all together and this side of the country rivals the racing climate in Kentucky or anywhere else with strong purses, beefy state-bred incentives, high-powered horses and horsemen all within a short drive of each other.
All that cheer does not erase the need for work, for progress.
New Jersey could use a break after a year of radical change, and a blast from Hurricane Sandy, at Monmouth Park. The horsemen have a chance to control their destiny, however, which will help fuel the breeding industry over time. Here’s to a year of stability. Colonial Downs shortened its meet by a few days for 2013, looking for balance between economics and opportunity for horsemen. Like New Jersey, the Virginia track could use a break from the legislature, from somewhere. Keep the Thoroughbred alive in the Commonwealth.
I’d love to see more progress on a regional racing calendar, where crossover of horses was encouraged not discouraged. Run in Maryland, run in Delaware, run in Virginia, run in New Jersey, run in West Virginia, run in Pennsylvania. Just run. Will it mean fewer racing days in an individual state or at an individual track? It might, but it might also be an improvement over battling for the same horses all the time. And that’s not a green light for tracks to slash racing dates or for horsemen to dig in their heels and fight the concept. Over time, horsemen and tracks will all be better served by racing in the region?–?anywhere in the region. Some tracks, despite the success, battle to fill races when the calendar gets crowded. Looking at the big picture would help that problem.
But Happy New Year.