Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Time for A Hart to Hart

--Andy Belfiore

   Thank you, Randy Hartley. After getting beaten over the head by those who preach that racing is a dying sport and we’d all better find another way to make a living, it was refreshing to read Hartley’s comment in the TDN coverage of the Keeneland April sale. “People love horse racing, and they are always going to buy the good racehorses.” Yes, they do. Yes, they are.

   Not that I’m an expert, but the Thoroughbred market seems to mirror that of real estate. Things get good, investors and buyers get caught up in a wave of enthusiasm that causes them to extend beyond their means. More and more helium gets pumped into the balloon until it gets just a little too high and then, pop, and back down to earth we all come. Real estate always rebounds, and, guess what? So does racing. In both industries, the best players regroup and adapt and weather the storm.

Mike Repole
   Are some people getting out of the business? Sure. But plenty more are jumping in with both feet. Think about it--10 years ago, there was no Stonestreet Stables, no IEAH, no Zayat Stables. Mike Repole wasn’t boosting the attendance at the Big A by bringing 120 of his nearest and dearest out to the track. Kaleem Shah and Westrock Stables only hit the scene in the last three years. You only have to go back 15 years to find a world without Robert LaPenta or Paul Pompa Jr. or Starlight Racing or Southern Equine. And those names are pretty much off the top of my head.

   Handle on horse racing is down, for sure, but in this economy, you have to expect that. Gambling dollars come from discretionary income, and there just isn’t as much cash to toss around these days. But we don’t have it as bad as some...just ask the Atlantic City casinos.

   Some tracks are suffering, but others are thriving. Business at Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs is booming. Fair Grounds and Laurel Park both announced purse raises this year, as did Remington Park and even Hastings Park. Morris Bailey is looking to make a five-year commitment to Monmouth Park, and they could just about be minting money at NYRA when the casino opens its doors.

Oaklawn Park
   It’s a good thing, too. Like just about everyone in the racing business, I’m in it because I love it. I love the horses, I love the people, I love to cash a bet on a longshot (thank you, Jeff Bonde and Twice the Appeal). I’m grateful for every day that I've been able to make my living doing something I am passionate about. If not for racing, I’d probably wind up endlessly asking, “Would you like fries with that?” And those little paper hats just don’t suit me.

   So thank you, Randy, for that reminder.

1 comment:

The_Knight_Sky said...

Ms Belifore wrote:
Gambling dollars come from discretionary income, and there just isn’t as much cash to toss around these days.

For a vast majority it is gambling and having a good time at the track.

But horse racing is not just "gambling" but a game of skill. Undeniably racetracks are staying in business through the Pareto Principle. This rule stipulates 20% of the clientele wagers roughly 80% of the total handle on any given day.

And those skillful bettors are aging, have passed on, or move to other games of betting skills. That is the area which must be addressed as it takes many years for newcomers to become as proficient in handicapping and wagering.

Racetracks are not going to keep themselves in business if they plan to hawk $4 hot dogs and $8 bottles of Yuenglings (hmm... sounds like Monmouth Park). That's gouging and leaves a sour taste among those casual race-goers. So many of them will not return to be fleeced again.

With the U.S. conducting roughly 45,000 (yes, forty-five thousand) thoroughbred races over the course of the year. I am most certainly welcoming this downsizing period. We'll all be better off after the dust settles - every facet of the industry. Let us brace ourselves for only a few more years.