It may be getting too late already to save the Minnesota racing season – both for Thoroughbreds and their Standardbred cousins. After meetings yesterday between the DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican leaders of the state legislature, Dayton emerged stating that the gulf between them was same as it ever was. Considering that the tracks have already lost one court battle to keep the MRC open, any positive resolution to getting Canterbury Park and Running Aces open again comes down to winning an appeal or a political resolution to the budget impasse. From what was available in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this morning, it looks unlikely on the political front with both sides retreating back to positions that they held a week ago.
A lifetime ago I worked in the U.S. House of Representatives. This was during the Reagan administration while the House was run by the Democrats. Recipe for inaction and divisiveness, right? But at the end of the day, Congressman Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil, Democratic Speaker of the House, and President Reagan could sit down and have a cocktail and talk things through. Compromise wasn’t a dirty word back then, it was how business got done – and done for 200+ years. It wasn’t perfect, but it was civil. Now compromise is a dead art and disagreements are followed by shouts of “you’re “un-American” or that you hate this country, or worse. Governing has not retained its place as a right or a serious responsibility but a pulpit to push narrow agendas. There isn’t any sense of compromise or civil discourse and it sure as hell isn’t governing. And don’t tell me that your side has tried – neither side’s version of “compromise” is much of one. In the interim who gets hurt? Minnesotans.
Right now horsemen are hanging tough, but you can only do that for so long. As a trainer, your day rate will cover your expenses and maybe just a bit more – you make your real money on the percentage you get for winning races. And what about jockeys? There is no day rate to sustain them – you ride or you don’t get paid, period. There is no way for them to stay in limbo too long without putting themselves at severe financial risk.
The question of the day is: How long will it be before horsemen leave and don’t come back? My best guess would be any day now. One weekend has already been lost but there is still the hope that a court appeal may salvage part of the coming weekend. If there is no resolution, especially if the court appeal is lost, to save this coming weekend, horsemen won’t have a choice but to move on. You can’t blame them, they have to make a living right along with everyone else. Trainers will receive pressure from their owners to get their horses out of the barn and on to the track. Jockeys will be feeling the heat from their own domestic situation to ride. The track can try hard and put all kinds of incentives in place but unfortunately its fate would no longer be in its hands.
I’m not thrilled with the possibility of racing somewhere else for the summer, but pretty soon what other choice will there be?