My Christmas wish list

Jockey Lee Gates gallops Bobbin' For Loot in the post parade prior to a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Jockey Lee Gates gallops Bobbin' For Loot in the post parade prior to a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

As the holiday season enters its creamy chocolate center, it’s about time to figure out what I want for Christmas. Being as though Christmas lists are all the rage in the racing blog community, I figured I should throw my hat in the ring as well.

The items on this list are not necessarily for me (or even real at times), but seeing them get delivered would make this a very happy holiday season for yours truly.  

(In no particular order)

1. A quasi-legitimate Michigan-bred Triple Crown trail contender
–  I know Sheik Mohammed has Santa’s (or I suppose the Muslim equivalent of St. Nick’s) ear for a Kentucky Derby winner this year, so I have no problem conceding that wish to His Highness. For now, I would be perfectly happy to see a Michigan-bred cause a minor stir in a few Derby preps and work itself into the fringe of the “who’s in, who’s out” discussions similar to Kentucky Bear’s run this spring. Entry in the Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes would not be necessary, but sure would be neat.

At the moment, the only horse with even a shred of a chance of checking this one off in 2009 is Michigan’s two-year-old of the year Mr. Conclusive, who won all four of his races this year by a combined 19 lengths. As I have stated in the past, I would love to see him give it a shot, but I am willing to be patient on this one.

2. An open stakes race for Pinnacle Race Course
–  In the buildup to the opening of Michigan’s newest racetrack, plans were announced to introduce a Kentucky Derby prep race and revive the marquee race from the old Detroit Race Course; The Michigan Mile (later known as the Michigan Mile and One Eighth) Handicap. Despite the economic crunch Pinnacle faced this year, it appears at least the latter is still on the radar for the track’s future plans.  

3. The conflict-free implementation of Advance Deposit Wagering at Pinnacle
– It may not do much for the live handle, but ADW appears to be the next step in wagering after OTB simulcasting took local wagering to a global scale. Any way to bring in the gambling dollar is a good thing.

The scary thing about account wagering is that a battle seems to precede it wherever it goes. Pinnacle can hardly afford to lose dates over disputes between the horsemen and management like Ellis Park did this summer or  face the possibility of not running at all like the Ohio tracks recently avoided. I have touched off on this in previous posts, but small tracks can not give horsemen reasons to leave. For ADW to work in Michigan, all parties involved must negotiate with the goal of peace on earth.

4. A crowd for Mount Pleasant Meadows
–  To this day, it still boggles my mind that people who have spent their entire lives in the Mid-Michigan area have no idea there is a racetrack in Mount Pleasant. That percentage is even higher at Central Michigan University, which is less than five miles from the track. 

Yes, the quality of racing is about as low as one will find and a large casino sits only a few miles away, but one would think the free admission and unique experience would attract a few bored college students or townies who make the wrong turn at the Mission/US 27 fork in the road. If anything else, a higher attendance would be nice to boost the pools and maybe produce some higher payoffs.

5. A big can of Raid for the MPM jockey colony
–  Why a can of Raid you ask? Because in recent years, the riders at Mount Pleasant Meadows have been bitten hard by the injury bug. An already small jockey colony was decimated by injuries this year (strangely enough, all of the season-ending injuries I can think of occurred at other tracks…). Add that to several jockeys making trips to Indiana and The Red Mile during race days and things got pretty lean at times.

Obviously good health is something I always wish for riders (even the ones that lose me money and/or give our horses lousy rides, I guess), but the Mount Pleasant platoon could use it in bunches.

6. A dominating 2009 stakes campaign for Mrs. Murphy
– Okay, this one is mostly for me. Mrs. Murphy is a two-year-old filly out of Janies Enjoyment, a mare that raced under my grandpa’s colors at Great Lakes Downs. To help pay for my grandpa’s 24-hour care, we gave Janies Enjoyment to her trainer in 2005 under the stipulation that my grandpa and I would be listed as the breeders for her foals.

To quote the Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association website, “…the Michigan Department of Agriculture pays the breeder of a Michigan bred winner an award of 10% of the gross purse from a licensed Thoroughbred pari-mutuel track located in the state of Michigan.” This means that for the first time in my life, I will have a non pari-mutuel related vested interest in a Thoroughbred. Obviously, I want her to make as much money as possible, and winning the state’s biggest races would be a swell way to accomplish this task.

The top half of her pedigree gives me a bit of concern, but the bottom half has produced hard-knocking, if a little distance-challenged foals, and her mother rarely backed down in a stretch duel. I can’t wait to see how she does this summer in Detroit.   

7. “The greatest comeback since Lazarus” for Great Lakes Downs
–  This is probably one of the longest shots on the board, but I miss this place. I miss the scenic drive down to Muskegon for a summer evening at the racetrack, the breeze blowing off the Lake Michigan shore and the sun-bleached stencil of “Muskegon Race Course” on the front of the plant endearingly reminding everyone of its past as a harness track. Some of my greatest days were at GLD and saddens me to see it sit vacant, likely to face the wrecking ball by the end of 2009.

As noted in previous posts, the property was bought by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians over the summer. From what I have heard, and from my general gut feeling, the odds of another race leaving the gates at Great Lakes Downs are very slim. It would take nothing short of a Christmas miracle to get this one off the ground.

8. Money
– People hate giving money as a Christmas gift. They say it ruins the excitement. These are the kind of people who give out gift certificates instead, which are essentially the same thing, but restricted to a particular store. 

Of course, most of the time, money would be the best, or at least most useful gift one could get. The same can be said about racing in Michigan. Most of the items on this list would be helped by, or are being restricted by, money (and the wise use of it).

Pinnacle Race Course probably won’t get that open stakes race until its profits get a little healthier to afford a purse big enough to attract big out-of-state horses.

Great Lakes Downs probably won’t open again because the tribe would almost certainly make more money with a casino.

Mount Pleasant probably won’t get that crowd until its purses can compete with neighboring states who are offering more money on the strength of slots and alternative wagering. If the purses can compete, the horsemen will come, leading to bigger fields, leading to a higher probability of high payoffs from a more divided pool. If people think they can make easy money somewhere, they will show up.

In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.

Happy holidays, everyone.

1 Comment

Filed under Commentary, Great Lakes Downs, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pinnacle Race Course

One response to “My Christmas wish list

  1. Joe, I enjoyed this post. Thanks for the link too! Happy New Year.

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