As if racing doesn't have enough issues, the emergence of super ownership groups, such as the one controlling Justify, are threatening even the Triple Crown as they pursue their own interests in creating and protecting potential stallion stars...

On a more positive note, Monmouth is ready to break from the gate with a world class sports betting facility.


The emergence of super barns is among racing's latest downsides. Now it has an entry-mate, super ownership groups.

This has largely fallen into the "inside baseball" category among casual fans. Only those deeply involved in the sport appreciate the problem.

Falling back on Journalism 101 training--you can never assume anyone has read yesterday's paper--a quick primer:

Some highly successful trainers, e.g., Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown and Bob Baffert, have as many as 100 stalls at their base racetrack. Many of their horses fit into the same races--MSW's, entry-level allowances and stakes--so they usually don't race against each other.

If half their allotted stalls went to other trainers, it would be easier for racing secretaries to fill races and there would be more starters per race. I don't have the time or inclination to deep dive into the numbers but speaking anecdotally I feel safe saying most smaller barns have a higher start per stall ratio than the superstars.

Super ownership groups are having a negative impact on even the Triple Crown events. A perfectly healthy and sound Quip was held out of the Derby because his connections, a coalition of some of the heaviest hitters in the game, had others in the race.

Even before Audible was reported to have some an issue requiring a full scale exam in Kentucky, it wasn't expected that he would be in the Belmont because he and Justify share the same ownership. To have the strongest challenger to a Triple Crown favorite sitting in the barn would have bordered on scandalous for the sport, which might be why Audible suddenly came up with problems.

Even taking his connections at their word, the cynic in me can't help suspect that this situation was like declining an invitation to a party you didn't want to attend, only to come down with the sniffles in the next day or two.

Justify has almost as many owners as AT&T. Among them are some of the biggest outfits in racing, WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing and Starlight Racing. These operations, jointly or separately, own dozens of other top thoroughbreds, including Audible.

Racing is merely a means to an end, lucrative breeding deals, for these people. American Pharoah would have packed tracks and commanded massive TV and media attention if he had raced as a 4-year-old. There was a report after the Preakness that Justify's breeding rights already have been sold, so he, too, will end his career at the end of this season, or a month into the new year if he goes in the Pegasus.

Just to be clear, I am not going back on what I said in my last column. If I was involved in the ownership of Justify and Audible, my vote would also be not to run Audible. But if I owned Audible separately, be damned sure his name would be in the entries if he were healthy.

There is a simple solution to breeders controlling the game to its detriment. The Jockey Club should refuse to register the offspring of any stallion, who was less than 5-years-old at the time of conception.

This, of course, has as much chance of happening as racing fans being given a taste of the casino windfalls.

Monmouth at the gate

Monmouth Park is under-estimating itself. This past Saturday I took a busman's holiday to the New Jersey shore track.

Monmouth is as pleasant a racetrack as you'll l find under any circumstances. But my purpose was a reconnaissance mission to check out the site of what will be the first legalized sports betting book this side of Nevada.

It's only fitting that it should happen there. New Jersey took the fight that will benefit gambling locations nationwide all the way to the Supreme Court. Other states merely rooted New Jersey on.

Call it cocky but Monmouth was all-in that it was going to prevail. With its partner, William Hill, it has had a sports betting room ready for more than a year, so it's ready to go while other states are still pondering their drawing board.

It's a beautiful room. Unlike Nevada sports books, where the sun never shines, the entire back wall of Monmouth's is glass, facing the backyard of the track. Comfortable cushioned chairs surround tables and extended counters with high-top chairs on both sides provide plenty of places to relax and follow your action.

There are sufficient TV monitors to carry every game in the country and the races.

Betting counters, backed by dozens of TV monitors to display odds, are at each end of the room. This is where I see what could be a problem, albeit a wonderful problem.

With only about a half-dozen dedicated sports betting stations, the sellers could be overwhelmed by hardcore players and those who want to be first for everything.

Fortunately, the problem should be short-lived. With the NBA finals expected to be a quickie, baseball will be the only major sport for the first couple of months. Once the novelty wears off, it's not a heavy action game for novices.

When King Football arrives at the end of August, some form of expansion will be mandatory. Fortuitously, the end of the Monmouth racing season and the opening kickoff of football roughly coincide. Monmouth has several other comfortable rooms and bars, normally dedicated to racing, where the overflow could be handled.

Of course, questions still abound. How quickly will the Meadowlands, with its proximity to the New York metropolitan area, get into the game? When will phone and internet betting eventually be part of the mix? Also how soon will neighboring states challenge New Jersey's monopoly?

It shouldn't be long before Pennsylvania and Delaware, which has had had limited parlay card betting, opens for sports business.

Fortunately for Monmouth, New York appears to be dragging its feet, which is typical. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the issues require a lot of study, which generally translates into how will political patrons be cut in. Nothing is expected in the Empire State this year.

Monmouth has a message for its neighbor: Take your time.