Quadruple quadfectas? Pass me the aspirin

Message to Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach, who seems to think these magical quadruple quadfectas he talked about during last week’s California Horse Racing Board meeting at Hollywood Park and the free enterprise he covets will be the cure-all for what is a rapidly declining sport in California: Take a look at last Sunday’s card at Hollywood Park if you really want to know why horse racing is struggling.

There was an average of six horses per race for the nine-race card, including five-horse fields in the first two races and a four-horse lineup in the third. The largest field of the day? Five races had seven-horse fields. And this was a Sunday program, allegedly one of the premier days of the week.

What is so difficult to understand about this: Nobody wants to go to the track and bet on ridiculously short fields. There’s absolutely no value. The declining purse sizes are driving owners out of the game and until a solution is found for the problem, horse racing is going to continue to decline. It’s really a simple formula — lower purses are leading to fewer owners, which equates to smaller fields and a lot less handle.

“I’ve never seen it as bad as it is right now,” said Dr. Jack Robbins, the executive president and founding director of an Oak Tree Racing Association that was kicked in the gut by Stronach recently when he voided a lease that was scheduled to run through 2016. Stronach agreed to let Oak Tree race at Santa Anita one more year this fall, but reiterated at the CHRB meeting that it would be the final season because Santa Anita doesn’t want any tenants in its house.

Perhaps Stronach should worry more about the real problem — shrinking purse sizes — and not who’s renting his house.

“I don’t know where the horses are going to come from,” Robbins said. “It’s a whole lot different than days gone by. But we’ve got to face it. The economy is different, everything is different. The young people don’t seem to like the game like we used to when we were that age. Kids like action and they don’t want to wait 30 minutes (between races). They don’t understand the betting, it confuses them to some extent, the different exotics that they’ve got.”

Robbins is so pessimistic that he doesn’t even foresee larger purses saving the game.

“I don’t think that’s the savior,” he said. “Racing is in trouble all over the country. The breeders in Kentucky, the race tracks in New York and Chicago. I don’t know the answer.”

Neither do Stronach and his soldiers at Magna.

But despite his pessimism, Robbins isn’t part of the brigade that predicts the sport will cease to exist in California within five years.

“I’m not that pessimistic, but I don’t know what’s going to save it,” he said.

One of Robbins’ sons, Donald, used to run the show at Hollywood Park in the 1990s before leaving the sport in what has to rank as one of the all-time shrewdest moves in many years.

“He knew,” Robbins said of his son. “He could see the light coming. He knew that this thing was going downhill.”

Of course, Stronach could do us all a favor and just sell Santa Anita. How about it Frank? Time to cut your losses and run?

“I want to avoid that, because if I sell the thing, then it’s wasted,” Stronach told Pasadena Star-News reporter Brenda Gazzar after the June 22 CHRB meeting. “I really believe that if you work together, you can make a viable racetrack with a fair return.”

Even if he can’t change the current structure of the sport?

“I’m optimistic, not negative, with good common sense — there are thousands of jobs involved — I’m optimistic that changes will be made.”

Southern California fans and members of the CHRB are still waiting to hear what changes he has in store besides the quadruple quadfectas.

9 thoughts on “Quadruple quadfectas? Pass me the aspirin

  1. Is there something that is stopping California Racing from doing what needs to be done…

    Mandate 3 day race weeks with 9 or 10 races per card !
    Admittedly this is a stop-gap measure but it does serve to create a higher quality of racing product.

    But the question remains, when will the horses be looked at on the backstretch? Why can’t they race regularly as those in other racing circuits?

    Regular layups for horse of 45 days, 6 months, 2 years while declining in racing ability. That is patently absurd. Those in charge of the horses should be under the microscope, not the racing surfaces.

  2. I guess the owners cannot make a living running their horses every three or four weeks in SoCal like owners do at other tracks. It appears that the owners and trainers want to keep their winning percentages high so that they will only run horses where they think they have an almost certain victory. For the last few years, I have suggested to track management here in SoCal about four day weeks. I was told that the tracks are profitable even with 2000 people in attendance. I have also encouraged full card simulcasting so that players have an equal incentive to come to the track to play rather than the current bonus for staying home and being able to play everywhere rather than the 30 or so non-California, non-US races that we have today. While it was never mentioned during the ramblings of the CHRB meeting, I would sure hope that the players would be a part of any “summit” regarding improving our game. After all, we are the ones paying for it.

  3. Problem in CA is twofold..actually threefold. Declining Purses, Cost of racing here (vet bills, day rates), and that if you race here you have nothing else as an option close by. Northern California is dying and barely has a pulse, so you have no alternatives to find races for your horse. On the east coast there are 5 tracks within a two hour van ride on many circuits. You can cherry pick and find a race for your horse, the purses are better, and training is cheaper. CA racing is in big trouble unless some miracle happens. A 5-10% purse increase is not enough.

  4. If the players and customers are not considered in the “solution” there will be no solution.

    We need a better product at a competitive price… and that is not happening so far and no one in power wants to consider that.

    Quadruple Quadfectes ? Ha Ha.

  5. CORRECT STATEMENT: “If the players and customers are not considered in the “solution” there will be no solution”

    CORRECT STATEMENT: “I guess the owners cannot make a living running their horses every three or four weeks in SoCal like owners do at OTHER tracks. It appears that the owners and trainers want to keep their winning percentages high so that they will only run horses where they think they have an almost certain victory.”

    CORRECT STATEMENT: “….if you race here you have nothing else as an option close by. Northern California is dying and barely has a pulse, so you have no alternatives to find races for your horse”

    INCORRECT STATEMENT: “Quadfecta jackpots will save the game.”

    INCORRECT STATEMENT: Bigger purses lead to bigger handle. Absolutely no DIRECT corollary there.

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