It’s a day of odds and ends…
As has been widely reported in both the blogosphere and — in a surprising twist — the mainstream media, Magna Entertainment, the company which owns Laurel Park and Pimlico (as well as Santa Anita and Gulfstream) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware.
Oh, wait. It’s bad news about racing. Of course, the mainstream media would cover that. Heck, even the Washington Post, which can’t spare even one word to cover actual live races, runs articles about the bankruptcy. So generous.
Sunday’s Baltimore Sun (here and thanks to Equidaily for the tip) urged the state of Maryland to take action to protect the Preakness, at the very least. “We don’t want to be scratching our heads if the paddock door slams shut,” the Sun opined.
Would have been nice if some folks had been thinking that way for the last 15 years, rather than dithering while every surrounding racing state got slot machines, assuming that Maryland racing would never end…
It’s been a common, and oft-lamented sight these last couple of years: a New York-based horse shipping down to Maryland to make off with yet another of our local stakes races.
It happened again on Saturday, when Saarlight ran an absolutely spectacular race to hold off Strut the Canary by a length to win the Wide Country Stakes for three year-old fillies. Saarlight dueled for the lead through a zippy half in 44 4/5 seconds, dispatched her speed rivals, then had enough to hold the closers safe while getting the seven furlongs in 1:22 3/5 and earning a gaudy 91 Beyer (better, notably, than Stardom Bound’s 87 in the Santa Anita Oaks). Grumbling ensued: damn New York shippers.
Of course, maybe we shouldn’t grumble so much. After all, Maryland-based shippers did their own damage on Saturday, with Ah Day and Eternal Star running one-two in Aqueduct’s Grade III Toboggan Handicap…
Other People’s Money
Racing has no shortage of people inclined to spend the money of others, or to reduce the value of owners’ investments. It’s a little light, however, on ideas to increase revenue.
Regardless, one of the more common claiming rules in horse racing is a restriction on the movement of horses after they are claimed. Most often, rules require horses to race at the same track for the duration of the meet in which they were claimed. In other words, if I claim a horse at Laurel tomorrow, I’ll need to race him there until the end of the Laurel meet, in April.
According to the Paulick Report, however, California wasn’t content with this garden-variety type of restriction. In true Golden State fashion, the California Horse Racing Board apparently believes that if something is worth doing, then it’s worth overdoing. So the CHRB has adopted a rule preventing horses from being moved out of state for 60 days after the end of the meet in which the horse was claimed. They did so, despite a state attorney general’s opinion that such a rule would be a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Now, that rule is the subject of a lawsuit by a frustrated horseman.
Rules requiring that claimed horses remain at a track during a meet make sense. Tracks — and horsemen — have an interest in preventing the depletion of a track’s equine ranks.
But the CHRB’s rule is, essentially, a de facto tax on horsemen — a limit on how they can deploy their property (since they may believe their best use of their horses is to ship them out-of-state) which thus reduces the value of that property.
Most horses, and most owners, lose money at racing. It’s a tough game that way. No reason to make it tougher with utterly arbitrary and frankly capricious state rules. Here’s hoping that the CHRB sees the light and repeals this rule.