Monday, December 20, 2010

The Demise of Horse Racing

 Before going into my take on the demise of horse racing, I would like to make a comment on another sport that seems to always get a bad rap, boxing. Three fights that I remember vividly were the Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti battles. I was always a Gatti fan and I would be glued to the television during those memorable bouts. Having seen those fights, I decided to go see the movie, "The Fighter", the story of Micky Ward.  It was one of the best movies I have seen this year and hats off to Christian Bale, playing Micky Ward's brother. I would recommend this movie to anyone, whether you are a fight fan or not.

Now back to our regularly schedules program.

As a horse racing fan, I am always looking forward to December 26th. This is the day that Santa Anita Race Track opens the doors on the winter meet here in Southern California. With this occasion coming up in less than a week, I was reading the other day that the Off-Track Betting parlors have all closed in New York State. I remember when I was in my early teens and I learned the art of handicapping from the neighborhood guys in Brooklyn, New York, I was hooked. I remember going to the OTB in my neighborhood and I remember having a phone account, no internet then, a phone account was pretty high tech. Since those times in the seventies, the world of horse racing has basically taken a beating. Think of it like this, but New York's OTB is probably the only bookie that ever went broke.

Once internet gambling was legalized, people did not need to go to the track. They could make bets over the internet and also watch these races on television, either on HRTV or TVG. This was supposed to make the game more accessible. It didn't. The horse racing game needs to do a few things in order for it to make a resurgence. The game of horse racing needs to have a national organization running it and not each state making its own rules. Having different organizations is like having professional football having different rules from state to state, that would be ridiculous. Horse racing needs to consolidate its racing meets in order to get bigger fields and more betting interests, it is a little hard to constantly go to the track and see fields of 5 horses. Everyone is the favorite. But the biggest thing that needs to be done is to try to get the younger generation interested. Right now the track is dying a slow death because most of its customers are in their sixties or later. The game is going to die with them. An idea that has worked in other parts of the country has been the installation of slot machines at the track. This brings in more people to play the slots and then they see what the excitement is with this whole horse racing thing.

This is why Hollywood Park is always in a state of limbo. It is sitting on prime real estate and it is just a matter of time before it gets bulldozed. The attendance is almost non-existent on an average day.

I hope that I don't see the disappearance of horse racing during my lifetime but until then, I will make my way down to Santa Anita, pay my clubhouse admission and make the biggest decision of the day. Where should I sit, there are so many empty seats?

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