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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 11, 2023 – Saratoga, I remember it well, “the August Place to Be.”

Oh, Saratoga’s still there, beginning the day after tomorrow, in fact, but make it Saratoga, “the Summer Place to Be.”

Whatever it’s called, Saratoga, America’s greatest extended race meet, will be the preeminent signal for 40 days and 40 nights until its gates are shuttered for another year after the final race on the Labor Day program.

Per usual, the national competition will come from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, opening July 21 through September 10.

The most meaningful head-to-head match between tracks in Oceanside, CA and Saratoga Springs NY is September 2: Pacific Classic vs Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Not to mention four million-dollar races from Kentucky Downs over the Labor Day weekend.

To a lesser degree, Saratoga faces a race-filling challenge from Ellis Park and Colonial Downs. There are enough horses west of the Mississippi to support Del Mar’s daily entries, but it will be interesting to see how the size and quality of weekday fields shake out at the old Spa.

Churchill Downs Inc. has hurt New York racing as they have a lock on what happens inside the Commonwealth of Kentucky year-round.

Kentucky purses are huge and traditional New York power barns have taken notice stabling smaller divisions there, Ellis presently enjoying the hangover left over by Churchill’s abrupt spring-summer closing.

Colonial Downs, with its magnificent turf course and grass-laden condition book, will offer some alternatives. August 12 is a good test for both tracks.

How will the G1 Fourstardave and G2 Saratoga Special fare up against the transplanted $1M G1 Arlington Million, the G1 Beverly D. and G2 Secretariat Stakes, the last two $500,000 each?

The day-to-day challenge for Saratoga will be to fill races with quality and quantity beyond its historically prestigious graded events and celebrated juvenile program.

Riders up!

Sports Betting Coming to Florida—Maybe

With the NFL season 58 days away, it appears I’ll be able to make a legal sports bet via phone or computer. I say appears because when it comes to political machinations, especially in Florida, who can you trust?

As was first reported in the Orlando Sentinel, Washington’s U.S. Court of Appeals  snuffed out a lower court ruling that stopped  a $2.5 billion pact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida from offering sports gambling as it had briefly in 2021.

Betting was shut down as the result of a lawsuit brought by gambling parlors and brick-and-mortar casinos challenging the compact..

By overriding the District Court, the Appellate Count countered the ruling that better spelled out the language in the agreement between the Seminole Tribe and the state.

It is expected that the Seminole Tribe will have sports gambling up and running forthwith because the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act “does not prohibit a gaming compact.”

At issue was the Tribe’s ability to dole out gaming licenses to existing bet-takers in the state, its racetracks, jai-alai frontons and former dog-racing tracks… along with a District Judge’s ruling that bettors needed to be on Tribal Land to make a sports wager.

The D.C. Circuit Court struck that down, ruling that receiving the wager on reservation land was good enough to satisfy state law, the Tribe’s right to do so in matters “directly related to gaming” via its agreement with the state.

Two years ago Gov. Ron DeSantis, with legislative approval, gave the Tribe exclusive sports betting rights in Florida for 30 years, in return for paying the state $500 million a year for at least the first five years.

In the short term, that would be a boon to the state’s coffers. Long term, as sports betting keeps growing at a its present pace, it will prove a fiscal home run for the Seminoles.

The state’s compact with the Tribe, in addition to the ability to award licenses to private racetracks, jai-alai facilities and former dog-racing tracks, would allow their Hard Rock casinos in Florida to offer craps and roulette at their flagship properties in Tampa and Hollywood.

Alas, the Circuit Court’s decision is not the final word on the matter according to a spokesman for anti-gambling organization No Casinos, who said any expansion of gambling was still subject to the state constitution, the approval for which lies with Florida voters.

Jump ball.

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One Response

  1. Colonial Downs , the ignored pearl for Turf racing , has been just about ignored since its inception some tweny plus yrs ago. Maybe the marketing has been weak, ineffective but I hope that the ” new” Arlington Million venue will start one deserved interest. Competition, everything being equal, should not have been the obstacle that should have made this fresh looking track more appealing. Well , compared to it’s nearest competitors, Laurel , Pimlico , it should have been a cinch to be The track to bet in that Virginia-Maryland region. Of course ,I exclude both little tracks , the often bankrupt Mountaineer, and the politically supported Charlestown. Two of many tracks that make me wonder how they still have their ( casino) lights on .. Saratoga? Hmn , having spent a couple of ‘ seasons’ there I will just compare to a tiny Disney World: too expensive , too hyped that with a hype that does not impress me anymore. As a NY er, is like walking down 42 th Street and expecting the same lure, atmosphere, excitement of my roaring 70’s.” It just ain’t there no more”.It just feels synthetic, forced and relying on its lost, inexistent sparkle. Been there, done that when it felt impulsively ” more better” .Blame it on Papa Time ? Maybe, but there are more reasons than that.. cannot explainthem,now. but some of us know them very well.

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