Sunday, May 11, 2008


No matter what notes I make to write an entry it always seems to wander in its own direction. Yesterday's entry is a perfect example. While I wanted to discuss the CDI situation I really had intended them as an example to point out a different, larger problem. Today I could continue with another entire discussion about their (CDI's) problems at Calder but it's easy to point fingers and not so easy to find solutions. Today I'd rather try what I set out to do yesterday, offer a solution to what I see as racing's biggest problem: disorganization.

I believe the lack of organization results from there not being any mediate body that has any power. There is the NTRA but it's power is non-existent as far as I can tell. Alex Waldrop can state anything he wants, as far as I can see it holds no sway over a single person. More often than not the NTRA seems to be a cushion between the industry players and the public. The largest industry players CDI, Magna and NYRA all act and negotiate for themselves with little thought, if any, as far as I can tell, toward the industry in general. Then there are the plenitude of Horsemen's associations, which are splintered by state and concern. Figuring out which is representative of whom is a full time job in itself. And as we can see illustrated in the CDI situation at Churchill you can pick one from list A or B depending upon your appetite. Then there's the Jockey Guild. Of course if we gauge what influence they have by the situation at Arlington Park (another CDI holding) where they have been fighting -unsuccessfully- for almost two years, to increase their mount fee from $45 to $75 dollars, one would have to argue that their only influence would be through the courts. Of course mount fees are an issue for another player, the owners (if you can't afford to maintain it don't drive it off the lot!). And we have the ADW's. Oh, I almost forgot, then there is also racing's biggest partner: government! And now many state governments seem to have partners in the casino business. Yes, this is the simplified model! YIKES!

How do you get all these parties together and come up with a working model that is not only equitable to each but also serves the best interest of the sport? You need a model of industry standards (pcts. fees etc.) that are fair and malleable enough that they can be changed to reflect the economic situation each faces. Then you need a governing body that has some teeth and can enforce decisions.

Any such body should be as lean as possible. It should not be allowed to become an industry in itself! Where ever there's a lot of money that is what is most likely to happen. One suggestion may be to have each entity (with the exception of ADW's or any betting outlets. They are the remoras in the tank as I see it.) vote for representatives that will sit together, negotiate and vote on issues of pcts., fees, race schedules, etc. with a 2/3 majority necessary for passage. So as I see it there would be tracks, horsemen, jockeys and owners. I think the first two should have equal representation let's say, six members each. The jockeys and owners should have one third representation, or two members each, because their biggest concerns are not as embroiled in these issues as the other two. Quite often their interests would coincide with the horsemen's since money allocated for the racing is what funds purses, maintenance of the tracks / facilities etc. And a lot of the owner's interests lay in the breeding end of the business.

Once these reps have been appointed have this body hammer out a binding agreement. The best way to see this accomplished is to not let any racing take place unless one is agreed upon. Everybody is more likely to negotiate when they are hurting. And we all hurt proportionately to how we gain. Of course this would have to be enforced by government bodies and they would lose cherished tax dollars every day - and they may be the greediest of all the parties - so I'm not sure they would agree to this.

As I said this needs to be a very trim organization made up of representatives AND ONLY representatives. Get them one room -in the worst part of town if it would expedite decisions! -
and set a calender to meet bi-annually with the ability to call for a meeting or whatever seems best. It is imperative that the members be working in the industry. This should not turn into an agency that needs its own offices etc. It must not end up like so many non-profits that start with good intentions but end up being just lucrative endeavors for a board of directors who then become money managers. And they must not be paid. (Maybe we should get back to this in congress as well!)

Okay, I know this is all pie in the sky. It is not a truly workable model; it is not meant to be. It is naive and simplified. It is just an idea meant to open up a dialogue . From where I sit there's a big problem and action is needed. Ideas are needed for action. So that's what it's meant to be, an idea for a start. There is so much waste and greed and it's hurting the industry as a whole. So much of how things are structured in the industry makes no sense.

Here in NY we have NYRA that has just received the go ahead to continue conducting racing in NY for 25 years. But we also have regional OTB's as well. This makes NO sense. Why splinter revenue when it shouldn't be? The OTB's have budget problems, so now it seems as though the government will allow Capitol District OTB's to adjust the fees they have to pay out. This is going to result in a net loss of $12 million for NYRA (if the figures are accurate) So now NYRA is already playing catch up after figuring an operating budget etc. I can only imagine that the NYC OTB's are going to get at least as sweet a deal! Shortfalls for NYRA will obviously lead to larger takeouts. It doesn't make any sense to have more than one entity conducting business in this case. Why is there a need to support another entire organization to do a job that is best suited to be run by NYRA. It just creates more expenses that have to be made up somewhere by somebody. That somebody is usually (always) the fan. And a fan already pays approximately 6% of their winnings to OTB if they play there even on in state wagers. What does the fan get for this 6%? Usually bad monitors, too few and unfocused tellers, broken betting machines and poor access to industry publications! Unbelievable! If you were going to make money off someones winnings wouldn't you do all you could to maximize their ability to win?

I know there are those who are much more knowledgeable about how all this works than I am. I know they will see inaccuracies in what I have written that I am unaware of. It's just so convoluted and I'm trying to make the best sense of it that I can. I wonder if anyone really understands it all? One thing that is obvious is that the whole system is broken from the national model to the local model, and something needs to be done. Greed is killing the sport. The fight for the dollar is making them all forget that the sport needs to be healthy to continue collecting those dollars.

The first two entries I wrote when I started this blog touched on the lack of vision caused by greed in the industry (Repeat Performance). I have a feeling it will be an issue revisited many, many more times. I have a sense that as I start to unravel exactly how everything works the situation will appear worse to me instead of better.

As an aside, I have decided to put any late comments I have on a days racing at the end of that days entry. I will signify this as I did in yesterdays title. The entry title will be followed by......and late racing.

Added 5/13/08 An update on Jockey situation at Arlington. DRF

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