The Friday Show Presented By Cal Racing Cares: Redesigning The Future?

by | 01.12.2018 | 8:50am

A visit to most of the newer Major League Baseball stadiums is a vastly different experience than it once was, thanks to a rethinking of the location and design of modern ballparks. Is horse racing on the verge of a similar shift?

In this edition of The Friday Show, Scott Jagow and Ray Paulick discuss the potential future visions for some racetracks and what they might look like. Plus, how will new race conditions at Santa Anita designed to help smaller stables and owners affect the game?

Watch The Friday Show below and share your thoughts.

  • John Richter

    Race day drugs and the “poker” like philosophy of claiming will always limit ownership interest. Don’t agree with SA’s first effort but admire the thinking. There are plenty of places internationally to study alternative conditions.

  • Barry

    Sorry to be a pain about this but if the subject of a sentence can be quantified the correct usage is “Fewer”, not “Less” : “20 or fewer horses”.

    • Dadnatron

      Feel better now?

      • Lehane

        Love it.

    • Judoon

      Exactly! That mistake has been bothering me also. I’d rather adhere to high (grammar) standards than regard low ones as being good enough.

  • David Burris

    Not sure how Santa Anita can widen the turf course without shortening and making the turns in the turf course tighter than they already are. Gulfstream Park has a 1 1/8 mile dirt track which allows for a wider turf course.

    • Shoalbay

      Build a new turf course on the outside of the dirt track. Have 2 turf tracks.

      • Lehane

        Japan has done a brilliant job on altering at least one of its racetracks in getting rid of tight turns and making the design of the track safer for horse and rider. They did a study (university involved) and horse breakdowns/injuries were reduced.

      • David Burris

        Sort of like how Woodbine now has a turf course outside the main track. It’s an interesting idea.

  • Horsemonger

    The problem with horse racing is that it is not a SPORT anymore. Too many racetracks were built, every state got into the game, year round racing in all weather conditions, and now a major track like Santa Anita is cheapening race conditions….sorry but we horse players who create the handle have seen the art of handicapping revert to “you may as well just play names and numbers.

    • Dadnatron

      That’s an interesting take. As an owner, I would have thought, perhaps naively, that you would have welcomed races in which the competition at least has some chance of being more closely matched. Can you expand on what you are explaining a bit for me? I’m not sure the changes are going to work, but my initial thought would be that the horse players would like it better than a smaller field.

      • Horsemonger

        I am 67. I have been playing horses since I was 17, so I have 50 years of experience. In addition as a successful businessman, while living in Florida,
        I owned horses that raced and won races at Calder, Gulfstream, while mainly racing at Tampa Bay Downs. In 1992 my horse RANDY won the Sam F. Davis Stakes. I have won Stakes at the Finger Lakes, won with Jean Cruget up at Saratoga – so here’s my take
        Of course we betters hated the small fields. Of course we love big fields which make for larger payouts, vertically and horizontally. I will gave you an example of a Card the customer who drives the handle prefers. SANTA ANITA DERBY DAY – the card has more races, higher quality runners – stakes races with big fields…on dirt and lawn…YES the BAFFERTS have an advantage but on that day you can make an argument that you should go to the track and witness LIVE RACING in all it’s glory. AND on that day PEOPLE ACTUALLY GO TO THE TRACK – Sorry everybody got greedy…the good horses we would go see live are sent to stud all too early.. I hate to sound like TRUMP but who wants to go to the races to see some shitty horses run.

        • Lehane

          As I see it, there is far too much racing. Agree with Scott on his view about year long racing. It not only cheapens racing but the horses and the track surfaces need a break.

          • Baloo

            Yep – there needs to be a governing body and a season

  • gus stewart

    Good discussion, disagree with k desormeux this isnt socialism or a handout. Its like salary caps in other sports. Enterainment, using it to draw in fans to a facilty a necessity. Of course changing publics perception of racing as boring and abusive mandatory also. Im very appreciative of this blog. Lots of good ideas from differnt people are allowed. For me a fan for 40 years, a background working under a man for 20 years living in his home for a few, that changed sports in the late 70s to sports entertainment, i think my veiws and im sure others have merit. Just in racing the management folks are blockheads Unfortunately the paulick report hasn’t gotten to the espn level of horse racing nees.. but thanks for the platform

  • Michael Castellano

    The racing model for Turf racing has a lot more elasticity that dirt racing, which is largely tied to a very flawed Triple Crown model, which reinforces many of the negative aspects of racing — meaning the mass burnout of horses which are not even fully developed to get a placing In the TC, the early retirement of the better runners, a paucity of good older horses, etc. With Turf racing, there is a chance to change the model: Turfers survive to run as fully developed older horses, can run longer careers and more races, fields are bigger, etc. We can have many races to prove their class, and encourage higher stud values for horses that have longer careers. Combine that with what Scott and Ray were talking about in regards to bringing other pleasures to the tracks, seeing them more as Parks. Belmont has tremendous potential when viewed that way. Hopefully the Hockey arena will double as an event center for many other things. Racing in downstate NY needs warm bodies, not just betting dollars, to survive.

  • Shasta Sam

    If you want to open the races to the smaller barns, instead of limiting it to barn size (which is difficult to quantify), limit the race to trainers with less than a specified number of wins in the previous calendar year. Almost by definition you will attract smaller barns and owners.

  • Shoalbay

    I believe you guys are missing the point, and perhaps the racing secretary is as well. There is a desperate need for owners and trainer to competively race a horse of average ability without the high likelyhood that they will not be bringing their horse home with them. The very best owners and trainers given a choice would rather have their horse come home with them after the race regardless of outcome. Given an opportunity to run in a race against horses of similar abilities for less purse money without fear of being claimed would primarily reward participants of the highest ethics. Get rid of claiming.

    • Hamish

      On today’s show Scott discusses developing a non-claiming system whereby runners are ranked based upon the horse’s racing records, perhaps using money won or speed and class ratings. If owners wanted to sell their horse, they could do so privately and the price would be based on where they are competitively racing on this new scaled system. Seems quite plausible.

      • Shoalbay

        This idea is based on the handicap system used successfuly in Europe for the last few hundred years,….or so. It is in no way a perfect system but I am sure with intelligent study it could be modified to suit American racing. The claiming system not only discourages any emotional attachment to the average horse but actually penalizes it. The only people who profit with claiming horses are those who treat them as tradeable commodities. American racing would be well advised to start rewarding people finacially for “caring” for their horse. I believe it is entirely possible.

        • Hamish

          Yes, of course this is possible and necessary to keep horse loving owners in the game.

        • Baloo

          Some people think that not having attachments makes them more “ professional”, even in the sporthorse world

      • Baloo

        Greyhound racing exists with a ratings system.

    • Ben van den Brink

      The old fashioned hcp racing might be introduced on a small base, not all the owners and trainers like to see their horse claimed, some are liking that and use the claiming races as an cull instrument.

      • Shoalbay

        In response to both your comment and the one above,… Why? Why is there a place, or a need, or a requirement that we run races in order to provide connections with an opportunity to “cull” a horse? If at any time an owner wished to sell a horse they could simply notify “agents” that this horse is for sale. Or utilize any one of a number (certain to increase) of horse-in-training sales. There is a very healthy market for a fit horse capable of winning at any level. If the horse is in such bad shape as to be physically incapable of racing, then that is the responsibility of the current owner, a risk they willingly takes on when becoming a thoroughbred owner, not an unsuspecting buyer.

    • Concerned Observer

      I was with you until your last sentence. There is a place for claiming races. But in addition there is a need for lessor level racing without the fear of losing your horse.

  • David Worley

    Two quick thoughts:

    (1) I applaud Stronach and Tim Ritvo or trying new things. The sport needs experimentation and the 20-horse-or-smaller race is a useful experiment. Keep trying Stonach!

    (2) “The socialism” or “welfare” comment made by Scott and Keith D, is sort of ridiculous and intellectually sloppy. All conditions, on any race, are in fact a form of order imposed from an authority. If that is “welfare” then the term has no useful meaning. That said, the Asian example of classes in racing is a good one.

    • Peter Scarnati

      David, I think you are off the tracks in the following, most critical sense.
      While you are correct that conditions are a form of order, the key difference here is that the traditional and usual conditions to which you refer are based solely on the horse’s past accomplishments on the track (i.e., claiming price, distance, NW 2, etc). This 20 stall or homebred/lower auction sale conditions are quite different in that they seem to be related to the ability of the owner and/or trainer with no regard whatsoever to the demonstrated ability of the horses. The implication being a lower priced or homebred horse, or a trainer with 20 or fewer stalls, somehow are inferior to all others. A most flawed, and I believe, impractical belief. One needs to only look at the result of the first two attempts — Baffert wins the maiden race and an ineligible horse wins the claimer, to see how truly impractical (senseless really) these particular conditions are.
      For this reason, I can see the words “welfare” and “socialism” applying in these circumstances.

      • David Worley

        I don’t have a lot of investment in the particularities of the 20-horse example, rather I just want to see experimentation. Perhaps this isn’t the right new condition to incentive new owners and small trainers, but without trying things we won’t hit. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” was my favorite adage when I was playing basketball. I feel the same here.

  • David Worley

    Here’s a new idea that I’d love to see Stronach or someone else implement. How about a “new owner” or “rookie trainer” class. Create races in which the horse must have a majority “new owner” (maybe defined as within 24 months of their first start in the state or something like that). Same for trainers who are moving up and out from other those they learned under. We do this for apprentice riders, why not owners and trainers.

  • David Worley

    A final idea, which will inevitably be controversial. How about creating a rule that top-class horses are bought via a sports draft rather than through open market auction bidding. So, owners get a draft slot for something like a 2-yo sale and the first round is selected. As they are purchased there is a range at which the horse is sold (let’s say round 1 two yo’s go for between $500K-800K, maybe by round 10 the horses go for $150K-200K) then there are “undrafted” free agents. Owners would be required to participate in a set number of rounds (say 10) and therefore committing something like $3-4M on 10 horses. This would do two things: 1) it would distribute nice horses throughout the owner and trainer ranks, and 2) it would cap yearling or 2-yo purchase values which would disincentivize the rush to the breeding shed. For breeders it would also provide a floor for a given cut of horse. So while it would cut out the sky-high sales, it should also provide predictable consistency that would enable the growth of the breeding business on the top half. It’s a radical idea, but it might really change things on both owner and breeding ranks. Right now the free-market operations of the big sales are creating an unsustainable ownership environment that doesn’t serve the larger sport.

    • Lehane

      Anything that puts a stop to the rush to the breeding shed is a good idea.

    • Michael Castellano

      Anything that can break the tremendous overpricing of horses. I’d like to see an actual study of what a thorough bred costs versus what they might earn back if the same owner keeps them. Maybe 1 or 2% likely show a profit, I’m guessing.

      • Baloo

        Oh my – the salesmen will NEVER stand for changing their money grab, based on the emotions of big pocket folks

  • Concerned Observer

    Question for Scott…What is the casino season? What is the Las Vegas season? Racing is funded by gambling. If racing relied on the pretty lassies in skimpy dresses at Keeneland for funding….there would be no racing. Do gamblers all decide to hang up their hobby for 6 months of the year? Nope…they would switch to other options. Sadly….too many already have.

    As for socialism….I guess the lessor conferences for football teams can be called socialism. So If you can’t compete in the SEC, that team should fold up and quit? Look at allowance race conditions, they are all over the map, and sometimes written to give a special horse a special prep race. Howard Battle was notorious for quirky conditions and he is an Icon in the sport.

    These new condition ideas will be harangued and vilified until they work…then the lemmings will jump on the ship.

    • Baloo

      Machines don’t need to rest.
      Horses do.
      Thanks for asking

      • Concerned Observer

        So you think that in states where there is year round racing , some horses never get a freshening break on a farm? Happens all the time, read the form.

        Scott’s point is that the “fans” need a break (I think).

        • Baloo

          So you think low level claimers are all given breaks. I worked on the backside for years – you are obviously the uninformed fan ;-)

          • Concerned Observer

            I am on the backside every day. It is not year round racing that keeps a horse from getting a break….it is bad trainers. You need wider exposure to quality owners and trainers. What about the trainer that moves from track to track as the meets move? Oklahoma to Texas, to Arkansas to Minn. That qualifies as a “season” at each track but that does not give the horse a break. Don’t confuse a local racing season with training practices.

  • Tom Davis

    If “survival of the fittest” mentality is to be practiced in racing, then this sport is on it’s way out. There is no way the lower profile owners and trainers can compete against the upper echelon. If someone wants to label the new maiden race conditions at Santa Anita as ‘welfare’ or ‘socialism’, then so be it, if it works. Only time will tell if this will work and be good for the sport. If the smaller owner and trainer is pushed out of the sport, that would be comparable to pushing out the $2.00 bettor. Then where would we be.

  • CEOmike

    I keep suggesting this but no one enters into the discussion. One simple change. Same trainer or owner, same race the horses MUST run as a coupled entry. It would start at the top, the really good horses would get spread around more. Instead of Pletcher running ten Derby horses with sometimes three in one of the points races, one of those owners might realize it would be better to run not as a coupled entry (and split the purse) and get a different trainer.

    This change would only affect the big stables now and the small “shady” ones but it would make a big shift in money. So instead of Baffet and Pletcher and even Assmussen having 5 or 10 Derby and Breeders hopefuls a number of those will go to Attfield, McPeek or Day-Phillips.

    It might also force the big stables to race their good horses at smaller tracks and less well known Stakes in order to avoid coupled entries.

    And if they insist in running entries, very soon there will be no one else for the race or the field so small as to make it useless for a race plan to train a horse up, a glorified workout. The tracks could also just add “no entries” as a condition.

  • Dave Stevenson

    an interesting discussion however our future depends on our knowledge of the past. Europe has developed and effectively cultivated the public’s use of “Timeform”since the early 40’s to determine the ranking of its entire horse herd. They have a much smaller herd than North America and the u.s. in particular and out handle the U.S. with much lesser racing dates allowing the herd to regenerate its form and value. they do not aspire to the American values of “if a little bit is good a lot is better” and consequently have now created a welfare system that is unsustainable. Through an exhausted “over-raced” herd, the U.S. has replaced a seasonal classification system with a self imposed random application of uncertainty. unfortunately many of the competitive offerings are placing a premium on mediocrity in an attempt to attract entries for an unlimited array of non-events. we have come through a recent 15 years of the resurrection of “beaten claimers”; maiden claimers going 5 furlongs on turf; optional claiming and bastardized allowance conditions that have compromised the no-priced segment of the herd. Many of these races were abandoned in the early 60’s by A tracks.
    Our biggest threat appears to be the potential loss of many owners, livestock and fans who will migrate to Europe and Asia for a more upscale experience. If we notice recent developments in the sport other than North America, no other racing systems are copying our ours! Let’s hope that the future will spare us the extremities of modern racecourses without the proper management of the greatest horse herd in the world!

  • Fred

    While trying to reinvent the wheel and still sorting the dust from the lint. You need full fields to gamble on ,4-6 horse fields Is a management problem not the horsemens.Get rid of the racing office staff and start over .3,000 horses at the tracks in Southern CA. and they struggle to put a card together is pathetic …

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