Times Are A-Changing

by Ed Meyer

posted on April 25, 2010 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

Every circuit has a historic oval. In Lexington, it is the pristine Keeneland. Louisville belongs to the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. As you make your way into the track, you will find it right in the middle of a residential area that looks as if a giant crane picked up a race track and dropped it in the city.  But, when Churchill Downs was built,  it was surrounded by rolling fields, and farms for as far as the eye could see.

Today, Churchill Downs is not only the home of the Derby, it is a giant among racing. It owns many tracks, and has extended its hand well beyond Louisville.

I once read that there would be ten “Super Tracks” and the rest would just die off or become simulcast parlors. This was about 15 years ago, and I thought this was so goofy that words could not define the lunacy. Well, if you look around at Magna and Churchill Downs (CDN), it is becoming true.

I am watching six horse fields at Churchill as I write this, and even the Twin Spires is feeling the pinch of competition. All of racing is at the end of the rope, and there is no cavalry in sight. It seems like every oval that I see has smaller fields.  Hollywood Park last night had night racing, and I would have thought that once upon a time people would have flocked to the West coast. But not anymore.

This past summer, Arlington Park was having daily slams about their surface. Ohio racing is being sandwiched between the slot / casino laden Indiana and West Virginia…. And as all of this goes on, the legislative bodies have done nothing.  So, is the game finished?  Not just yet….

Take a look at Monmouth Park this summer. They are going to have a mega-meet. They will have 50 days worth $50 million. Now, let’s see the field sizes grow, and wagering jump a notch or two. Turfway Park went from 5 days to three days a week. The attendance and handle spiked a bit. Ohio is attempting to cut back racing days to fuel the purses, and drop one expensive day of live racing overhead.

So, there are some plans. I don’t know if they are the answers, but they have plans. If and when any legislation allows gaming, this could help the cause and allow tracks to gain that needed breath.  A time to drop back and punt and see where you can go. Once upon a time, racing was king. But that was during the days when there was little to NO competition. I still think it can survive. Just watch what will take place this summer and see if other tracks follow suit.

At the end of the article I read as a younger fan, it said that we have too much racing. Once again, I thought this was crazy and we could never have enough action. But, I think whoever wrote this piece was looking into the all-seeing crystal ball. Less is more, and let’s make it an event rather than a marathon. Don’t take my word, just wait and see what the summer holds. I think we will change direction sooner than you think.