Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big Brown WOWS in Preakness!

WOW! I don't have enough superlatives to describe Big Brown's performance! Is he really that much better than the good colts of this crop or is the crop just that poor? Again not a hair turned nor a nostril flared in the end. He should have a big "S" on his chest and be sporting a red cape! I'm just at a loss for words. If he doesn't win the Triple Crown it will be his own $50 million dollar hooves that will beat him, because there doesn't appear to be a colt in the world that can come close.

Here's the content of the post I had written for Preakness day that I somehow managed to delete. It's re-written as well as I can remeber. This is in response to an Anonymous comment left regarding my
"Greed" entry (see blog archive). Whoever left it thanks, I truly look forward to responses whether I agree with them or not. In this case I don't. Here's the comment:

You left out one of the largest group of 'greedsters,' horsemen. When Louisiana Downs opens without ADW this will make 7 tracks in 6 states with 5 different owners that THG has blocked:OH - Thistledown (Magna) OH - River DownsKY - Churchill (CDI)TX - Lone Star (Magna)LA - Lousiana DownsPA - Presque Isle DownsFL - Calder (CDI)When you look at the list of tracks supported by an ADW and see a list of states that cannot use the service to bet on a specific track though they can bet on others, you know the horsemen are to blame. For example, on TwinSpires you can wager (by phone only) on Pimlico, but not if you live in CA, ID, KY, LA, MD, MA, ND, OH, OR, VA, WA, or WY.Nobody's hands are clean in this fight and it's time to recognize the horsemen's greed, as well.May 16, 2008 7:55 AM

While I will do agree that "nobody's hands are clean" I still feel that the horsemen's demands are more within the realm of fairness.

The THG, which represents about 20 horsemen’s associations in negotiations with racetracks and ADW companies, hopes to get more revenue from account wagering. It advocates a formula whereby tracks, horsemen, and ADW providers would each get one-third of the blended pari-mutuel takeout rate, which averages about 21%, or 21 cents on the dollar. [Bloodhorse]

That sounds more than fair to me. The money that goes to the horsemen is put toward purses and facilities. That money has a direct impact on the quality of the racing at any track. So as I see it money that goes to the horsemen benefits not only owners, horsemen and their employees, but the fan and the public in general. The fan benefits very directly because the better the purses the better quality of racing they will see and be able to wager on. The public benefits because a healthy horse community adds a demand for other jobs and services in and beyond the immediate community. The jobs and services that benefit from a healthy horse community runs the gamut from restaurants to supermarkets to clothing stores and on. Also a healthy horse community creates the need for open, green spaces to raise horses and the hay and grain they consume. These needs create even more jobs ranging from the farming industry to employees for breeding and training facilities to truck drivers that transport and deliver feed and the horses. All this comes as a result of money going to the horsemen. While it is true that the tracks themselves do create some jobs they are much fewer and less impacting on a community or beyond. The same goes for ADW's. It is a much more concentrated profit. I would go a step farther and say that there is no profit in the horsemen's cut. And let's not also forget that it is the horsemen who put on the show, EVERYDAY. Without them there is no product. They produce what the other two entities - tracks and ADW's - make their money from. To ask for one third of the pie seems more than reasonable to me.

With the inability to watch and wager on races it is understandable that a fan would be angry. And with the predominance of press coming from CDI claiming that the horsemen are the cause of the problem it is understandable that the fans anger is directed toward the horsemen. But I say it is misdirected. CDI can just as easily end this situation by fairly sharing the revenue.

In the suit filed by CDI they claim that the horsemen's demand for one third of the revenue is at "a level that is significantly in excess of current sharing," as though an injustice is alright as long as it has a history. To me that just says that it's been unfair for a long time. Just as baseball had to come to terms with its' player's, in the late 1970's and '80's, so too does the racing industry now have to come to terms with its' players.

CDI also claims that THG has violated Section 1 of the Sherman Anti-Trust-Act, by engaging in a group boycott. But according to equine attorney Doug McSwain (see above BH link) that may be erroneous:
McSwain said previous cases involving the Interstate Horseracing Act have shown “there is no free market in gambling,” meaning the Sherman Antitrust Act doesn’t apply.

I understand that you always have to consider which horses mouth is talking. In this case it is council that represents horsemen so we know his opinion would be shaded toward their view. However, that being said, it also makes sense. There is no free market in gambling. The industry only exists because it is granted a licenses to exist by government. It seems reasonable to me that his assessment is correct. I would also argue that the horsemen are not boycotting they are in fact continuing to work, and for lower wages, while at the same time negotiating for a fair share of revenue which is their right and privledge provided for by The Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. It is that Act that prevents CDI from receiving or exporting signals without an agreement with the horsemen. I don't think this is written into law by accident. It seems obvious that it is in there to protect both the livelihood of the horsemen as well as the tracks.

I feel I'm not remembering everything I wrote yesterday but this is the essence of it. So, thanks again for the comment. It forced me to dig deeper and learn a little more, but I'm still coming down on the same side of the argument. Fair is fair and I think CDI needs to start treating it's horsemen with fairness.

As an addendum to this discussion I would like to bring up something that bothers me in this situation; I want to know where the governments cut comes from. Is it just taxes? I was under the assumption that it also was part of the takeout. But after looking into the CDI, THG situation that doesn't appear to be the case. A friend and I have discussed trying to figure out exactly how each cent in a wagered dollar is distributed. I think it's going to be a more difficult task that it sounds. I imagine there are those that really know for sure, so if you're out there please drop a note.

Notes on Friday:
I was disappointed in the field of The Pimlico Special. I guess that cut in purse has had an effect. I was also disappointed, for the second race in a row, in Grasshopper. Maybe it was the shoe he needed replaced in the paddock, maybe the conditions, perhaps just another clunker. Maybe it's another example of why we need to campaign horses longer. We need to know the best are truly the best and not just for a season. Congaree comes to mind. Grasshopper looked like he would develop into one of those. It's too soon to write him off but it's disappointing nonetheless.

For all of us that follow NY racing it was great to see Channing Hill win aboard Sweet Vendetta! He is a very talented and well deserving of these types of horses! Congratulations to him! And on a David Cassidy NY bred as well!

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