Empire State: ‘Racing Makes More Sense’ But Challenges Lie Ahead

by | 07.23.2015 | 2:19pm
'Horse racing makes more sense for my clients," says New York-based trainer Linda Rice

We've shown you how large purses and incentives in New York have changed the dynamics of the state's Thoroughbred breeding industry and given farms a brighter outlook on the future. The impact of the new flow of cash is also visible on the racetrack.

Trainers and owners have good reason to buy and race New York-bred horses these days. There are more opportunities than ever, and the quality of runners is at an all-time high. Still, the breeding business has its eye on several potential obstacles to continued success.

Scott Jagow has more in this edition of our summer series, Empire State.

  • Phil

    At least the report mentioned decline in handle, takeout and aging facilities . . . tantamount to the industry’s survival. Remember, NYC OTB, the nation’s largest horse racing bet taker, WENT OUT OF BUSINESS. Even with the flush of casino cash, racing in the Empire State is skating on thinner ice. Connect the dots.

    • Chris Lowe

      Yes, when that casino in Tyre is up and running, Finger Lakes is gone, and if Tioga Downs doesn’t get their table games, they are not far behind.

  • nathan rotstein

    purses way too large. these trainers don’t deserve to make this kind of money.the greater the purse, the greater the attraction to cheat. now ness and midwest show up. LOL.

    • carate

      That is an odd comment to make. Trainers get a share of the purse, lokely 10% and a percent formtheir barn help. Purses are not too large, and the purse is an incentive to win, not to cheat. It is free market system too and yes trainers gravitate to where the purses are larger. They get in a car and drive, its called America.

      • NR has it AB. When purses or any sort of payment/rewards for initiative are small, it forces people to cheat in order to survive (not that some of them wouldn’t have to be encouraged to try it anyway).

      • Keyne

        “It is a fre markey system”…..NOT!!! it is racino socialism,NOTHING more.Inflated purses from stealing from the most gullible of our society,putting it into the hands of people(trainers,jockeys,owners) who did NOTHING to earn this extra largesse.The “free” market set sail a looooong time ago….

        • Figless

          I think you need to research the definition of Socialism.
          The AQU Racino couldn’t be more of a free market deal no matter how it’s spun in media or blogs. Genting wanted to run a Racino, NYRA has the extra space on its property, and the State wanted the revenue. It was fairly bid and Genting won. They all made money. Capitalism at its finest.
          Genting pays a share to NY which represent their License fees and a share to NYRA which is essentially Rent for the land. NYRA’s share is used to prop up their business.
          No different than any other business subleasing a portion of their space during a downturn.

          • Tinky

            Boy, have I got a local bridge to sell to you.

            Among other things, are you really not aware of the fact that NYRA, in its deal with the State, has relinquished its claims to the land?

    • cbs1234

      When you consider what it costs to stable and race in NY, the purses are not too high. Workmen’s comp is a nightmare and the cost of living and taxes certainly counteract what others would consider too large purses. Out of state folks want to look at NY as the golden goose that they can snatch the gold egg from, but when they get there they realize that golden egg has been hyped a little too much.

    • Jocko

      Are you implying that Ness and Midwest would ever “cheat”? I thought they were clean as a whistle.

      • nathan rotstein

        LOL

    • Figless

      Absurd, these owners should all lose money, correct, instead of only 90% losing money.

  • Tinky

    I know that this won’t make me especially popular amongst those who are involved with NY-bred, but the whole system is a joke. By which I mean that you now have temporary subsidies, emanating from a competing industry, serving to grossly over-inflate purses for horses that, as a group, remain deeply inferior to open company stock, and quite obviously shouldn’t be rewarded to anywhere near the degree that they are in restricted maiden and allowance races.

    In other words, much like the current stock market bubble, there is excitement amongst those participating which is certain to be short-lived, and then rapidly turn to anguish, as both the (perverse) incentives and underlying capital are soon to prove ephemeral.

    The only sensible approach to state-bred racing and breeding is that which was taken a long time ago in both Florida and KY. Healthy bonuses for winning in open company, and few, if any restricted races. It’s the only way to sustainably improve the breed over the long term.

    • Figless

      The program is doing exactly what it was designed to do, it helps racing in the state and preserves green space upstate. It is a success and the model for programs across the country. The goal was never to supplant KY as a breeding power.
      Like it or not almost every track is now subsidized by other gambling money. So why is the NY Bred program singled out as a “joke”? Why selectively chose NY when the CA, FLA and most tracks have casino gambling as well? It is the norm not the exception.

      Regarding allocation of funds, it cost as much to feel a NY Bred as it does another horse. Do you want 120k open alw races? Because if you reduce the NY Bred purses that’s what you will have. And the NY Bred races generate more wagering due to larger average field size.
      As for quality, its improving, this years crop of 2yo’s are the first since the VLT money began. There were three NY Breds in the Derby this year, how many Florida breds? And there are a LOT fewer NY Breds.

      • Tinky

        First, I never suggested that the goal was to “supplant” any other state in terms of their breeding.

        Secondly, I have been very vocal on the site about the dark side of casino subsidies, so it should be obvious to you (who also frequent the site) that I am not singling out New York in that regard.

        More to the main point, this sport was developed hundreds of years ago on the principle that horses should prove themselves on the racetrack, and be rewarded with increased breeding value and/or purses. That intelligent foundation has remained largely intact, although the shift towards breeding to sell has, among some other issues, worked against it.

        It is ludicrous to reward inferior state-bred horses to the level that they are being rewarded in NY today, and, I might add, perverse. The purses are jarringly dissonant with the caliber of stock. A NY-bred that is sound enough to race, say, 30 times, can remain a maiden and make serious money.

        This isn’t at all how racing should be structured, and, to answer your question, yes, NY-bred purses shouid be lower, and the savings should be distributed amongst purses for better class horses. Whether it is legally possible is a separate matter.

        Finally, to use the three runners in the Derby as support for a claim that the NY breeding program is improving significantly is analogous to claiming that North Dakota and Delaware are exceptionally important business states.

        Not one of the sires of those three stand in NY (all are in KY), so what you are talking about is a loophole, in essence, and along the lines of the tax incentives that brings big credit card business to the two above mentioned states.

        • Figless

          And NY does in fact offer open awards as well as the restricted races which are as lucrative the Florida award. I get 30% of the purse for any winning race in an open race in NY, and the owner gets a bonus as well. So how is that worse than Florida, especially taking into account the purse levels which are almost twice Florida for identical conditions.

          You contradict yourself in the last paragraph, the broad population of NY horse owners own the NY Breds that are receiving the allegedly too high purses. The elite own the expensive KY Breds.

          • Figless

            For instance the breeder of the NY Sired NY Bred that won the 85k ALW on Saturday earned a $15,300 breeder award. How much would have a FLA bred earned?

            NY SIRED horses earn 30% vs. 15% for non NY Sires, which is incentive to improve the NY Stallions.

            Its not just the restricted races.

          • Tinky

            Offering bonuses for open company success is neutered in a system in which bad horses can win big money for beating other bad horses in countless restricted races.

            In other words, there is still great incentive to breed cheap horses, and benefit from outsized purses.

            My last paragraph was a specific reference to the claim that having three starters in the Derby (or pointing to anomalies like Funny Cide, etc.) is a meaningful gauge of the quality of the breeding program. It’s not. The horses that you see racing in the maiden, allowance, and NY-bred stakes, just like the broader American population, is the true reflection.

  • Tinky

    I appreciate the link, but given your presentation of the facts, you should consider a job in Government.

    A number of horses notched multiple Graded wins, so it is misleading to simply add up the gross number.

    Only a very small percentage of those good class runners are actually by stallions that stand in NY, underscoring my point that the definition of NY-bred is so elastic that it loses much of its meaning.

    The winners of those Graded races emanated from several crops, So, when put into context, your argument would be that a handful of good class runners out of thousands of foals suggests that NY-breds are, as a group, somehow remotely close to open company. They’re not, and the facts obviously support that conclusion.

    I will give credit to City Zip, which was a terrific state-bred sire while standing in NY. One of the best ever, and he deserves high marks.

    I do agree with your final point, that NY-bred races are crucial to NY racing, and have never argued otherwise. But that is like arguing that while the U.S. military budget is grotesquely bloated, the American economy relies heavily on jobs related to the MIC. In other words, it was a mistake to have have become over-reliant on the NY-bred program to begin with.

    Finally,and back to my original, and central point, offering wildly inflated purses for a brief period of time will hurt, not help the NY-bred program in the long run.

    • E

      In 2014, there were 31 OPEN COMPANY stakes won by NYbreds all over the country. Your right they must be inferior and certainly have not improved.

      By the way, Nybred restricted purses have been the highest in the country for over a decade when there was no VLT money in place and the resident mate rules are 25 years old. People tend to forget this program wasn’t created in the last three years, it’s been around for decades with the exact same format. The only difference now is that there is 40% or more purse money in the State of which has bee evenly distributed across the board. Which has for fact improved quality for state reds. Your not just giving money to 5 horse open fields.

      • Tinky

        Those five horse open fields might well be 10 had there been a KY/FL-bred system in place years ago. Instead, NY-breds race for inflated purses in restricted races.

        This type of program subsidizes weaker stock, and perpetuates the breeding of modest horses. The primary reason that there has been an uptick in better horses in recent years is that more people have sent mares to KY stallions in order to try to grab a share of the wildly inflated purses temporarily on offer. City Zip played a major role as well, and isn’t likely to be replaced anytime soon.

        • E

          Dinky, you clearly don’t own any horses nor have bred or sold before. By the way the FL breeding industry toileted a few years ago. Perhaps you should look at the arsenal of KY farms for sale too.

          The only people sour about NY are those who want all the mares in KY.

          Also City Zip stood in NY over ten years ago (in 2002, 03 and 04) so it’s a thing of the past for what it’s worth.

          • Tinky

            There are indeed problems everywhere, and they will soon become much, much worse.

            You have offered no substantial responses to my main points, i.e. that purses for NY-breds are excessive, that the slot-fueled boost is certain to be temporary, and that a large menu of restricted races fosters mediocrity.

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