Tag Archives: Polls

The Alternative Scene: Part One – Slot Machines/Racinos

Racetracks like Indiana Downs have seen significant increases in purse structure since adding new forms of alternative wagering.

Racetracks like Indiana Downs have seen significant increases in purse structure since adding new forms of alternative wagering like slot machines, but can the good times last?

In a poll that went about three and a half months longer than planned, the readers of this blog voted convincingly that slot machines are the most important form of alternative wagering for the long-term health of the racing industry. 

The voting was neck-and-neck between slots and advance deposit wagering in the poll’s early goings. As time wore on, slots pulled away to an insurmountable lead. 

Let’s have a look at the results…

Which form of alternative wagering is most important to racing’s long-term health?

Slot Machines – 58% (123 votes)
Advance Deposit Wagering – 22% (46 votes)
We don’t need no stinking alternative wagering – 8% (18 votes)
Instant Racing – 6% (13 votes)
Card Rooms – 3% (6 votes)
Other – 3% (7 votes)

Total votes: 213

“Other” answers (some of the answers could be placed in one of the categories above, but because they were placed in “other,” I am keeping them here):
– “table games, that’s what they want, only slots is not the answer”
– “telephone/Internet wagering”
– “All of the above”
– “exchange betting”
– “Simulacast”
– “Racino”
– “nothing we’re dooooooooomed”

There is no question slots have had an impact on the racing industry, and will continue to do so. Just look at the career path of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. 

The classic winner started his career at Woodbine, enjoying slots-enriched purses on his way to nabbing the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top juvenile. His earnings in Canada alone were enough to secure him an invitation to the big dance at Churchill Downs, which removed the pressure from taking the road to Louisville going through New Mexico.

Mine That Bird worked his way through the Derby preps at Sunland Park, which would have been a laughable strategy only ten years ago, and is unorthodox at best today. With the help of alternative wagering (mainly casino-style gaming) in 2009, the Sunland Derby offered a purse of $900,000, among the biggest prizes offered to three-year-olds in the country.

The race was not graded, and Mine That Bird finished off the board, but his eventual win in the Kentucky Derby put New Mexico in a position to become a legitimate path on the Derby trail. The little Birdstone gelding that could’s success has spearheaded the campaign to get the Sunland Derby designated a graded stakes race, officially making it more than a cash-grab race for Derby wannabes.

Simply put, without casino-style gaming, Mine That Bird is clunking around the California allowance ranks, Calvin Borel doesn’t tearfully celebrate his biggest upset on national television, Sunland Park still runs cheap Quarter Horses, West Side Bernie wins the Kentucky Derby and nobody goes home happy.

The story doesn’t end there. Just recently, the connections of Mine That Bird spurned the Haskell Invitational, and a rematch with Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, to challenge the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. If Mountaineer were still in the slums of the racing hierarchy, as it was before the implementation of slots, a trip through the hills of West Virginia wouldn’t have even crossed the minds of team Mine That Bird (even if the gamble did blow up in their faces, leaving with a third-place finish).

Alternative wagering, slots in particular, does not only give gamblers more options at the racetrack. It also leads to horsemen having the option to try their charges in spots previously considered no-man’s land for horses with any class. Mountaineer landed a Kentucky Derby winner. Charles Town landed Commentator for the Charles Town Classic. Last year, Hoosier Park enticed Pyro, once considered one of his crop’s heavyweights, to enter the Indiana Derby. There is a $1 million race in the middle of Pennsylvania for crying out loud.

Even if for a brief moment, racinos can draw the big horses to come to your local track and thrust it into the national spotlight. If a few curious onlookers become serious followers of the sport, the track will be ahead for the day – and all thanks to a room full of retirees mindlessly hitting the “spin again” button.

However, the honeymoon between racing and slots may soon be coming to an end.

Many racino tracks are still struggling to find an identity for themselves, especially when the quality of racing has yet to catch up with the caliber of purses being offered.

Despite becoming a beacon for horsemen from non-racino states (just take a look at all the Michigan-based connections racing at Presque Isle Downs), Pennsylvania still faces issues with keeping the balance between the racetrack and the casino. Further complicating the situation is the radical discrepancy between the money the live handle kicks into the purse structure versus the purse money generated by the slots (as high as 20-to-1 at Presque Isle). According to the article linked to in this paragraph, Pennsylvania racing’s heavy reliance on the slot machine dollar paired with its difficulty generating its own funds could be seen as a sign of blood in the water by other groups looking to profit from gambling monies.

Though it has been confirmed at Prairie Meadows, an Iowa racino, that live racing actually boosts the slots revenue, the track plans to restructure its schedule for next year, with plans to jettison standardbred racing and ask for fewer Thoroughbred dates. While purses have steadily risen, live handle has steadily dipped despite being one of the first racetracks to adopt casino-style gaming.

The racetracks of today are the lab rats in the study of the miracle cure known as slot machines. Tracks with slots get the medicine – tracks without get the placebo. Early returns appear positive, but the side effects are still being discovered. Little is known about the long-term effects slot machines will have on the racing industry because they have only been around for the short-term. Proponents say slots will bring racing to an even playing field with competitors and will encourage the breeding of better competitors, while others worry the bottom line will eventually drive the “Rac” in “Racino” to become a full-blown “Cas”.

The answer is likely somewhere in the middle, but as it stands right now, there is only one way to find out.

A poll running this long deserves a post just as lengthy. To help preserve your eyes and attention spans, I am splitting it up into two separate entries. The next post, examining some of the poll’s runner-ups, will be up whenever I get around to writing it. Keep your eyes peeled.

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Filed under Commentary, Polls

Exploring the alternatives

The implementation of alternative wagering would likely speed up the construction process at Pinnacle Race Course. Caught In Traffic is led out of the paddock with Federico Mata aboard.

The implementation of alternative wagering would likely speed up the construction process at Pinnacle Race Course. Caught In Traffic is led out of the paddock with Federico Mata aboard.

The proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube.

The number of states seeing their purses skyrocket from slot machines and other casino gaming is growing with each passing year. 

Just as many racetracks, if not more, are going online for new sources of handle, offering advance deposit wagering for those of us who like to play the races but fear natural sunlight.

With so much competition for the gambling dollar from casinos, lotteries, neighborhood poker games and elsewhere, it appears the days of racing being able to thrive on its own product alone are becoming numbered.

Even Kentucky, the Thoroughbred capital of the world, is working toward legislation to implement slots into the state’s racetracks. 

The implementation of alternative wagering is also widening the gap between functional racing facilities and ones that struggle to keep the lights on.

Michigan, for example, has no alternative wagering options outside of simulcast and is suffering because of it. 

In 2004, a ballot proposal, largely funded by the state’s Native American tribes and three casinos in Detroit, was convincingly approved forcing the state’s racetracks to jump through a ridiculous and costly number of hoops to even get a chance to install slots or table games. In the same proposal, the tribes and Detroit casinos included a clause making themselves immune to the restrictions and free to expand their gaming operations in any manner they wish. To put the final nail in the coffin, the proposal was retroactive, killing a Video Lottery Terminal bill that was making its way through State Congress when the proposal was written.

The proposal was marketed as a way to empower the people of Michigan, allowing them to control where new gaming could and could not go. As any good Snake Oil salesman will attest, the first step in manipulating the masses is giving them a false sense of empowerment. Despite what a federal judge said earlier this year, a fast one of epic proportions was pulled on the people of Michigan in 2004.

Online wagering on Michigan tracks is also prohibited to its populace. Michigan residents are allowed to set up accounts and send their money to tracks across the globe, but can not wager on the ones in their own state. A person who lives on the other side of the Ohio border just a few miles from Pinnacle Race Course can fire up their Xpressbet account and play the races in his or her underwear. Meanwhile, the Michigan racing fan living in the state’s upper peninsula, a good eight-to-ten-hour drive from New Boston, is out of luck. There is something backward about outlawing something to the group that could benefit from it the most.

Through all of this, the number of tribal casinos in Michigan has swelled to 17, with at least two more in development. This does not include The Great Lakes Downs property recently purchased by the Little River Tribe of Ottawa Indians in 2008, which currently sits in administrative purgatory while the Tribe attempts to get a gaming license on non-tribal land.

The Michigan Lottery has also expanded quite freely, and since its inception in 1972 has ballooned to over 20 different drawings, Club Keno, Pull Tabs and countless instant ticket games; all of which are allowed to expand their presence into gas stations, bars, restaurants and elsewhere. The Michigan racing industry is literally being regulated by its competition.

Racing in the state of Michigan can not be expected to survive it is not allowed the same rights of expansion as other gaming outlets in the state and other racetracks in neighboring states. 

Because of the state’s unwillingness to provide its racing industry with the tools it needs to compete on a level playing field, Michigan’s horsemen are leaving in droves. With Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle Downs and two recently slots-enriched tracks in Indiana so nearby, many horsemen are sending their mares to foal in those states to take advantage of their generous breeder’s incentive programs. Others are simply pulling up the stakes and moving their entire operations to states with alternative wagering.

It is sad to see them go, but when a $7,500 claimer can run for double the purse elsewhere, one can hardly blame Michigan’s horsemen for going where the money is. If Kentucky approves slots, it will only give them another place to race for lots more money than they could here. The effects the massive loss of horsemen in this state could have is staggering.

I will now step down from my soapbox and allow you to step up onto yours for the next poll question: Which form of alternative wagering is most important to racing’s long-term health?

Though I use Michigan as an example, the question applies to the sport as a whole.

Slots make the purses nice and big, but is it just a bubble that will eventually burst? Account wagering allows players to wager from anywhere, but could it someday render live handle obsolete? Is there something out there no one has considered?

Personally, I think Michigan could use whatever it can get.

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Filed under Commentary, Pinnacle Race Course, Politics, Polls

Think locally, broadcast globally

Jockeys and horsemen at small tracks could provide a different perspective from those at Santa Anita

Jockeys and horsemen at small tracks could provide a different perspective from those at Santa Anita. Jockey Dale Berryhill looks over his mount, Guys Nite Out, at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Though it seems the producers of the Animal Planet reality series “Jockeys” have already decided to make a return trip to Santa Anita, the readers of The Michigan-Bred Claimer have made it clear they would like to see the show’s next installment held at a small-time racetrack.

I suppose there is always hope for season three if the series does well enough to stay out of the Animal Planet execs’ crosshairs. Unless someone in charge of the show manages to find a way to keep the current group of riders from getting stale, it is very easy to picture the series’ third installment to come from a new locale. Racetracks looking to get some national exposure would be wise to start making some calls and knocking on a few doors before someone else beats them to the punch.

Now to discuss the poll. Because I have already examined each option at length, I am going to keep my reactions brief.

For a review of the pros and cons of holding a season of “Jockeys” at the four choices offered in the poll, click here.

Let’s have a look at the results…

Where would you like to see the next season of “Jockeys” held?

A Smaller Track – 24 Votes (55%)
A Mid-Level Track – 10 Votes (23%)
Back at Santa Anita – Seven Votes (16%)
A Larger Track – Three Votes (7%)

Total Votes: 44

While I was not terribly shocked to see the small tracks win out, I was surprised to see so little support for hosting next season at another major location. I figured the draw of the big names in the saddle and under, as well as the major races they would compete in, would garner more votes than it did, especially considering many of the more prestigious tracks run short, easy to follow meets like the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.

Still, I fully support the results of the poll and agree that a season at a bullring would make for some very good watching, even if that track isn’t in Michigan.

Next time we meet, I will have a new poll question for you to ponder. Until then, what small-time track do you think would be best suited for an undertaking like “Jockeys?”

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Filed under Commentary, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Polls

Jockeys: Mount Pleasant Meadows?

Compelling stories on the racetrack are not limited to the major circuits. Oscar Delgado leans on the outside rail following a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.   

Compelling stories on the racetrack are not limited to the major circuits. Oscar Delgado leans on the outside rail following a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

It’s never too soon to start thinking ahead. 

After reading on Green But Game that a second season of the Animal Planet reality series “Jockeys” is rumored to be in the works, I started thinking about where the camera crews will be found this time around. 

Every racetrack has its charm and every rider has his or her own story. There are about 120 racetracks in North America that feature Thoroughbred racing, and a good crew could make just about all of them into watchable television. Think about it this way: if someone out there can pitch a show about lumberjacks and get it on the air, someone ought to be able to pull a good story out of your local bullring.  

So now I pose the question to you: Where would you like to see the next season of “Jockeys” held?

Because there are so many racetracks to choose from, I am narrowing it down to four options: returning to Santa Anita or going to another large, small or mid-sized track. I have included examples of racetracks I had in mind when deciding the track sizes, but they are by no means the only options available when deciding which one to choose. Of course, if you have a particular track you would like to see broadcast to the world, be sure to leave a comment with your reasoning.

To aid in your decision, I have compiled a list of pros and cons to consider. Feel free to discuss your own points as well…

Back to Santa Anita:

Pros:
– Unless the producers decide to wipe the slate clean and follow a new batch of riders, the jockeys will already have an established fan base. I don’t think too many people would complain if the cameras followed Chantal Sutherland around for another season.
–  The Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita once again this year, so there is a clear goal for the riders and a marquee event for the powers that be to use as a selling point for commercials.
– Because the crew has experience filming at the location, it will already know where to go to get the best shots and who to talk to for the best interviews, so the overall presentation of the show could be improved.

Cons:
–  If the show follows the same riders at the same track, there is the risk that the characters could become stale; especially with the Breeders’ Cup being held at Santa Anita again this year. It would be very easy to mail in an exact sequel to this year’s Breeders’ Cup chase, and barring some kind of outstanding circumstance, it would likely be the same stories on different horses. If I wanted that, I could put the reruns of season one on mute and dub over my own race calls. 
– If some of the riders from this season decide not to participate in the next round, it could create some tension among the Santa Anita jockey colony. In the world of reality TV, tension is money in the bank, but these are jockeys, not actors. They have a job to do and likely do not need the added distraction if they are not being compensated for it.

A larger track (Churchill, Keeneland, Saratoga, Gulfstream, etc.):

Pros:
– Any opportunity to showcase the game’s biggest stars on the biggest stages is a good deal for racing. How could documenting Curln’s stay at the Spa with Robby Albarado not be made into quality television?
– It would go one step further in making this jerk eat his words that every racetrack is a dump. Showing off a well-kept track with historical value, such as Keeneland Race Course, could help smooth over many of the common stigmas that fellow identified in his piece.
– Because many top riders go where the money is, there is a good chance that some of the jockeys from the first season could come back for full-time roles or cameo appearances.

Cons:
– With the exception of Saratoga, many of the preps for the big races are held at other tracks (the Kentucky Derby’s too early in the season at Churchill and Keeneland’s meets are too short). In Gulfstream’s case, it could be argued that a good chunk of its stakes calendar serves as a buildup to the Kentucky Derby, held at another track. Either way, this could create some rising action and climax issues in developing storylines if the crew stays at one track. One of the nice things about this season of “Jockeys” is there is a full slate of Breeders’ Cup prep races that build up to the big event all in one place.

A mid-sized track (Turfway, Suffolk, Hawthorne, Tampa Bay, etc.):

Pros:
– With so many riders on the cusp of racing on a major circuit at these tracks, the added exposure could help them get noticed by someone with a live horse at a big-money oval. 
– Though it obviously isn’t the Breeders’ Cup, many of these tracks have one big race, or day of races, that riders would aspire to be in (the MassCap for example). Having that kind of goal, especially at a place with smaller purses where the winnings would do a lot of good for the local jockeys, could create some high-stakes drama.
– The increased attention the show would draw could result in nice boosts in attendance and handle. Whether I like to admit it or not, I do pay slightly more attention to Santa Anita since watching “Jockeys.”

Cons:
– Many of these tracks have seen better days. The wear and tear may give the tracks character, but to the common eye, it just looks like poor upkeep. With racing in a delicate position with the general public, this might not be the image the sport wants to convey at the moment.
– While one big race could be seen as a final goal, those races are also ripe for the plucking from horses and riders who ship in for one day, get the money and leave. While very realistic, having the next season end this way would leave a bad taste in the mouths of many viewers.

A smaller track (Pinnacle, Mount Pleasant, Charles Town, Beulah, etc.):

Pros:
– The stories of the jockeys may be closer to those of the viewers. It can be hard to relate to Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland when they get dressed up and go drink wine at a fancy restaurant in every other episode. Meanwhile, the rider at the small tack who might have to work another job to make a living can easily be identified by people in a similar situation. In this economy, I would figure they are plentiful.
–  The coverage would likely make the handle, and perhaps attendance, at that track skyrocket, even more so than the mid-level tracks. The increase may only be a drop in the bucket at a large track like Santa Anita, but at at a track that generates a fraction of that, the drop could make a big splash
– Broadcasting the struggles of the smaller tracks to a national audience could help turn the  gears on helpful legislation in states lacking alternative wagering and other things that are now key to the health of the industry.

Cons:
– Obviously, the immediate fan recognition of the track and riders would be marginal compared to those at a major oval. Those in charge of the show would have to quickly establish characters and make the viewers care about them or risk a ratings drop outside of the track’s region.
– Santa Anita has a good deal of scenery aside from the races themselves to use during cutaway scenes. While I have found every track to have its own distinct charm, it may be hard to convey this on camera.
– With little purse money being thrown around at many of these tracks, conveying the importance of the races could be a challenge. It is much easier to hype a $500,000 graded stakes race than a $4,000 claimer. 

It appears the Haiku Handicapper poll has received all the votes it is going to get, so I am easing it up. I will go with the Donn Handicap for my submission and keep everyone posted on its publication status. Thanks to everyone who cast their votes.

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Filed under Commentary, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pinnacle Race Course, Polls

Poetic democracy

I need your advice.

There is a literary magazine at Central Michigan University called The Central Review that publishes student-written writings and poetry. It comes out once per semester and the top prose and poetry pieces get $100 each.

I have tried on multiple occasions to get things published in The Central Review, but so far to no avail. I will admit, most of the things I submitted were pretty bad, but compared to some of the weird, nonsensical things that made the cut, it just didn’t feel like I was thinking on the same wavelength as the people in charge of putting the magazine together.

But that was all before I came up with The Haiku Handicapper. Now I have a concept that just might be outside-of-the-box enough to at least make it into print.

Along with a frustrated piece I wrote comparing life to a bag of Skittles, I would like to submit one of my Haiku Handicapper race analyses. The problem is, I don’t know which one to choose.

This is where you come in.

On the right side of the page, there is a poll to decide which race breakdown I should submit. Have a look at the posts in question and pick which one you like the best or you think has the best chance of grabbing the attention of a bunch of midwestern English majors.

When making your selections, be sure to look at the recaps of the races too, as they will be included with the races themselves when submitted. Also, you may have noticed that the Eclipse Award predictions have been omitted from the poll. It might be asking too much to assume the judges know what an Eclipse Award is and why it is worth writing about, so I left it off the ballot.

The deadline for submission is March 20, so there is some time for debate, but the sooner a clear leader emerges, the more time I have to fine tune it.

I apologize for putting up another self-indulgent poll. I promise I’ve got a good, relevant question on deck once this one sorts itself out.

Here is something to sweeten the deal. If one of my pieces gets chosen as the $100 winner (either the Skittles piece or a Haiku piece), I will select one person who leaves a comment supporting the race that wins this poll (don’t forget to vote there too) and donate $25 of the winnings to the charity of his or her choice (pending my approval). If multiple commenters support the winning Haiku, I’ll select the winner by drawing their names out of a hat. Please be clear about which race you are backing. Comments will not be counted if they waffle between a few choices without making a final decision or simply say “I like them all.”

To see all of the Haiku Handicapper posts, click here.

Thanks for your input.

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Filed under Polls, The Haiku Handicapper

Boom goes the dynamite

A few weeks ago, former Fox News punching bag Alan Colmes made an appearance on The Colbert Report, playing the role of the faux-conservative host’s whipping post. Early in the episode, Colmes was given a list of acceptable responses to Colbert’s opinions, one of which was the infamous catchphrase “boom goes the dynamite.”

Having not heard that phrase used in quite some time, I responded in two ways: 1) By laughing like an idiot; and 2) By heading over to Youtube to watch the famous video that begat the exclamation. 

For those of you who do not recall, the video stars a flustered replacement sportscaster from Ball State University who stumbled through the highlight reel after his teleprompter went on the fritz. As if the poor kid had not suffered enough, the video found its way online, and eventually garnered references from TV shows including Family Guy, Veronica Mars, SportsCenter and the aforementioned Colbert Report.

Where am I going with this, you ask? The next question of the day, of course!

After watching the doomed sportscaster, my mind soon shifted to thoughts of racetrack announcers. Don’t ask why. I don’t know how it happens either.

Anyway, I tried to decide on the worst race call I have ever heard. I recalled a few minor slips – a mispronounced name here, a wrong call on a close finish there – but nothing at the catastrophic level of “boom goes the dynamite.”

This is where you come in.

Even though I couldn’t single one out, I would love to hear your answer to the question: What is the worst individual race call you have ever heard?

Remember, this is a question regarding a single race, not an announcer’s overall body of work. If you think Tom Durkin is the worst announcer in the game, that is not what I am looking for (besides, Durkin takes his place among the best based on his calls of Arrrrr’s races at Saratoga last summer alone). But if he had a particularly atrocious showing somewhere along the line, fire away.

Obviously, this is an open-ended question, so there will not be a poll for this one, just comments. If I happen to come up with something later, I will be sure to chime in as well.

So have at it. I can’t wait to hear the horror stories.

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Photo of the year

The votes have been tallied and after a brief time as a neck and neck race, two thirds of the voting public helped daytime racing pull ahead as the preferred time to hit the racetrack. Let’s take a look at the results…

When is your preferred time for live racing?

Day Racing – Eleven Votes (61%)
Night Racing – Seven Votes (39%) 

I have already written at length about the pros and cons of both, so I will not waste your time with a rehashing of my thoughts. However, if you do have time to waste, there are worse ways to do it than reading this.

Now on to the next poll topic…

As some of you may already know, there has been a bit of a controversy over the choice for this year’s Eclipse award-winning photo. As you can see here, the winning photo is basically a stock, if a little off-center and misspelled, photo of jockey Frankie Dettori making his famous flying dismount following his win aboard Donativum (GB) in the Breeders’ Cup “Junenile” Fillies.

I am not discounting it as a nice photo that captures a moment of jubilance after a major race, but my rule of thumb when deciding the quality of a professional photo is if I can conceivably take the same quality picture on my cheap little point and shoot camera, it’s not that good – at least not Eclipse-quality.

In response to this error in judgement, the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance has staged its own Eclipse Award do-over

I find this contest very interesting. However, I also realize that despite having been a lot of places and taken a lot of pictures, nothing I took in 2008 could crack the top ten against what is already entered.

 That’s why I am holding my own personal Photo of the Year poll showcasing some of my favorite pictures from my travels last year (holy ego stroking, Batman!). The winner will be chosen by you, the viewing public.

Each photo comes with a quasi-pretentious title for identification purposes and a short description to give the back story. Feel free to give your feedback on the pictures outside of simply voting.

Last year gave me the opportunity to take pictures at so many different locations. I hope you enjoy my photos as much as I enjoyed being there to shoot them.

And now your nominees…

Continue reading

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Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pictures, Pinnacle Race Course, Polls

Turn on the bright lights

  A field of trotters gets ready to go at The Red Mile.

A field of trotters gets ready to go at The Red Mile.

 On my second to last day in Lexington this summer, I decided to try something different and went to The Red Mile, the city’s harness track.

I have never considered myself a fan of harness racing. The whole concept of discouraging a horse from running at its fullest potential just to conform to a specific running style seems as foreign to me as race walking. 

This particular evening did little to change my opinion on this version of the sport. I didn’t cash a single ticket and had a general uncertainty about what was going on most of the time. 

My time at The Red Mile did, however, rekindle one aspect of the game that I found myself sorely missing – night racing under the lights.

Having spent my adolescence playing the races at Great Lakes Downs, I grew up with night racing. It made sense – run the races when people were out of work and other daytime commitments so they could blow off some steam after a hard day’s work or have a weekend night out. Plus, they made it possible for me to make the hour and a half drive from Mount Pleasant after classes for a weekday card.

Racehorses look different under the lights. They blur. The gray ones glow. It’s the same game, but there is some irresistible quality about night races that has always made me a fan.

However, I found out as I expanded  my horizons to other racetracks that night racing was far from the norm. In fact, it seemed as though the time slot was reserved for the lowest rung of the Thoroughbred food chain and…shudder…harness racing. Even night-based tracks like Mountaineer move up to the afternoon time slot for their major race days.

My night racing experiences ended with last year’s closing of GLD, which meant I had to get used to afternoon racing in the daytime.

I will admit, it has its perks. There is simply nothing that can top the proverbial “beautiful day for racing.” Plus, the weather is generally warmer in the fall months and it is much easier to take pictures when the sun is out. The early start times also mean a higher likelihood of me getting home on the same day I left.

Some have suggested that Pinnacle Race Course would benefit from a switch to evening post times where there is less competition for the wagering dollar. Because there are not currently lights on the racetrack, the main obstacle is getting them built, which would be another hit to Pinnacle’s already tight budget.

To race at night, the Michigan horsemen would also have to find a way to remove the “6:45 Rule” from the state’s Horse Racing Law of 1995.

For those of you who hate reading through legislative mumbo jumbo, the rule states that if a Thoroughbred track is in the same town as a standardbred track (Pinnacle is within a stone’s throw of two), the Thoroughbred facility can not conduct live racing after 6:45 p.m. and the sulkies can not run until after that time.

Pinnacle ran smack dab into the 6:45 rule on its opening day when gate troubles caused major delays. The races were finished slightly past that time with a lot of hustling (post parades were nonexistent after about the fifth race) and the blessing of the racing commissioner, but it was one of those instances where the obscure rule that no one remembers came into play. It appears Aqueduct recently found itself in a similar situation as well.

With all of the talk about too many tracks fighting over the same blocks of time and saturating the market, one has to wonder if more tracks will consider switching to later post times to spread things out and perhaps capitalize on a softer market.

With that, I present you with the next poll question:

When do you like your live racing:  In the afternoon sun or under the lights at night?

As with all my polls, be sure to vote for your choice in the upper-right corner of the page. Also, feel free to share your opinions and experiences with day and/or night racing in the comments.

By the way, a special thanks goes out to whoever wrote “Free lifetime pass for Joe Nevills” in the “Other” category after I broke down the previous poll. Even though Pinnacle did not charge admission last year, giving me free admission should they decide to start charging would be an immediate improvement. Whoever you are, I like the cut of your jib.

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Filed under Great Lakes Downs, Pinnacle Race Course, Polls