My last post generated a comment that I was not sure I would post. I don't like when folks use anonymity to make accusations or sweeping statements, but this comment was very typical of some of the comments I've been hearing as a member of the Board of the Directors of the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association so I decided to pull out the comment and make a blog post out of it. My response is not meant to be the be all, end all but simply my view on what seems to be a very large misperception out there about Minnesota racing.
Given the shrinking of the Minnesota foal crops over the last decade, there were bound to be issues at some point filling Minnesota bred races and with the 2013 foal crop likely being the smallest on record, the problem is going to get worse before it gets better: you simply cannot fill maidens, maiden claimers, three allowance levels and three different claiming conditions over five or six claiming prices, short and long (of course) only bringing 80 or so horses to the races every year. This will change in a few years with the 2014 foal crop poised to be the first increase in years and 2015 promising to be even bigger, but until then Minnesota bred races will continue to be difficult to fill.
Here is the comment and then my response.
Good luck with Ellie and Bourbonology in 2014!
Hopefully Ellie is able to compete at the allowance or stakes level. Otherwise, you can look forward to the following, if 2014 is anything like 2013:
-MN bred claiming purses that are actually lower than they were in 2012.
-MN bred claiming races that fill but the racing secretary decides not to use them, time and time again.
-MN bred claiming races only being used on Thursday and Friday nights and only at 5 1/2 or 6 furlongs on the dirt. Best of luck to you if it turns out Ellie likes the turf, is a router or doesn't run well under the lights.
The good news is if this doesn't change you will be able pickup yearlings even cheaper this year than they were last year. Was anyone really surprised the sales results were so poor last year given how difficult it is to actually get your MN breds in a race that fits them? Something needs to change or there will be no more MN breds in training before we know it.There is absolutely no loyalty to MN bred owners by track management or the racing secretary.
Thanks for the good wishes and for reading.
My perception on your points are the following:
- Because of the ongoing dispute with Running Aces, nearly a million dollars in purse money is being withheld from their card club revenues that should be going to Canterbury. The SMSC money makes up this shortfall, but doesn't exceed it. Purses will at least be level to 2013 which were higher than 2012.
- The accusation that the racing secretary is not using MN bred claiming races "time and time again" does not hold up from what I was able to see. The number of MN bred races per card has been constant over the last several years even as the foal crops continued to dwindle and the crop up for sale this year will be the bottom, The number of MN breds racing is just going to keep decreasing over the next couple of years before it begins to rise again. If your definition of "filled" is 4 or 5 horses, our definitions differ considerably. The draw process is relatively transparent so if I were you, I'd watch the races as they fill (you can do that in the racing office on the backside by watching the TV monitor) and make notations of full races that aren't used to bring to the track's attention. The times that I did this, the MN bred races were not getting more than 5 entries - and even then the track let a few of them go, passing over open races of 9 or 10 horses which did not go over well with owners and trainers of open horses.
I understand that there will be some changes coming this year to try and consolidate the MN bred claiming ranks as well as widen the tag discrepancy between MN bred and open horses when running in open company to help MN bred claimers be more competitive and provide them more racing opportunities.
- While I agree that there seemed to be a considerable number of MN bred claiming races late - especially on Thursday nights; these races were full fields (10 - 12 horses) and placed at a time on the card to give them maximum exposure on TVG at a time when few - if any - thoroughbred tracks were running which resulted in considerably higher handle year-over-year. That's a win for everyone.
If anything, the track has tried very hard to provide racing opportunities for MN breds in the face of precipitously declining numbers.
The problem is going to be worse the next two years before it starts getting better so I would suggest stepping out behind the wall and join the dialogue. We (the MTA board) held an open meeting at Canterbury to discuss changes in black type requirements with owners, breeders and track management and many of these issues came up and we had a very lively, interesting and informative discussion that will result in changes that will help us get through this period. Please come out and join us next time.