Ray Paulick will be live blogging the meeting of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's Task Force on the Future of Horse Racing at 1 p.m. Eastern today. The Task Force meeting takes place at Keeneland. Following is the agenda:
Opening remarks from Task Force chairman Tracy Famer
Discussion regarding Proper Staffing and
Funding Levels of the KHRC Ellen Hesen
Discussion regarding Industry Financial Matters Nick Nicholson
Discussion regarding Integrity of Racing
and Pari-mutuel activities Edward Bonnie
Discussion regarding Laboratory Facilities
in Kentucky Robert Beck Jr.
1:15 p.m. … Late starting, but Task Force chairman Tracy Farmer calls the meeting to order and announces that there is a quorum, Steve Sexton of Churchill Downs being the only apparent no show. That's better than the last Task Force meeting I covered, when a subcommittee on integrity failed to attract a quorum.
1:20 p.m. … Quarter Horse racing now has a representative on the Task Force, Ed Ashcraft, who talked briefly about a Quarter Horse meeting held on the Polytrack at Turfway Park this year. He called it a success and said something about people like Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert, who used to train Quarter Horses. Relevance?
1:25 p.m. … Sexton arrives. Must have got a speeding ticket on I-64 coming over from Louisville.
1:28 p.m. … Ellen Hesen reported on the proper staffing and funding levels for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and source of funding. She's not talking loud enough for anyone to hear her, but we know what she's saying: the commission needs more staff and more money.
1:29 p.m. … Someone in the audience asks the speakers to talk louder so that people can hear what they are saying. Amen!
1:29 p.m. … Correction on Sexton. No speeding ticket. He went to Fasig-Tipton instead. Keeneland president Nick Nicholson hopes that's not an omen.
1:30 p.m. … Speaking of Nicholson, he takes the floor to offer his report on the subcommitte on industry financial matters. It's a huge industry, he says, with $4 billion in economic impact and between 80,000-100,000 jobs. He's done this PowerPoint thing before. Very professional. (Click here to read his entire report.)… “It should not surprise us that other states are coming after what we have,” says Nicholson. “The competition for horses in other jurisdictions is probably at an all-time high. … Racing secretaries (in other states) are pressuring trainers not to ship their horses to Kentucky. … Alternative gaming has fueled dramatic increases in purses in other states. .. Breeders are moving broodmares and stallions to others states.” In short, we are headed straight to hell.
1:35 p.m. … In big bold type: “PURSES ARE KEY MEASURE OF COMPETITIVENESS,” say Nicholson. They lead to better horses, higher quality racing, which attract more fans and betting handle and a better simulcast product that people bet more money on. Total purses in Kentucky have not grown in recent years, Nicholson says. All states where purses are growing have alternative gaming, he adds.”Slot machines at New York tracks will dramatically alter Kentucky racing. … Illinois racetrack will soon begin receiving riverboat subsidies…of $75 million. … The Illinois condition books will be stronger than they have been in years. … Purses in Indiana will double from slots from 2006 to 2008.”
1:40 p.m. .. Nicholson puts up a map like one of those red states/blue states maps showing the electoral count, in the presidential except its slots states and hobo states. The slots states are taking over racing.
1:43 p.m. … If you like bar graphs and electoral maps, Nicholson's presentation is a dandy. But it's also downright depressing. It's clear that our wagons have to be removed from horses and hitched to slot machines.
1:45 p.m. … More depressing news. Pennsylvania will be the center of the Thoroughbred world by 2009. Purses will be $166 million, a 400% increase from 2006. Pennsylvania's purses will even be better than New York's. Looks like Kentucky polilticians better legalize moonshine or medicinal marijuana to replace the lost Thoroughbred business that's a comin' round the corner.
1:48 p.m. … Still, Nicholson says Kentucky is the only “exporter” of Thoroughbreds in the U.S., that other states focus on having their horses competing against each other in restricted state-bred races, and that Kentucky-bred horses are competitive on a world stage. Check mark to Kentucky.
1:49 p.m. … The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund is shrinking like a horse coming off steroids, one chart shows. The amount of awards have dropped by 25% from over $8 million in 2002 to less than $6 million this year. Erase that check mark.
1:51 p.m. … Pennsylvania again. Their breeders funds have jumped from $8 million to $15 million. Nicholson runs through other states with breeders fund programs. Louisiana and New Mexico up. New York heading up soon. There is a saying here in Kentucky about the national ranking of our state's education system: “Thank God for Mississippi.” Nicholson doesn't say it, but when he shows how pitiful the California bred breeding fund is, you can almost hear the people in the room say, 'Thank God for California.”
1:55 p.m. … “This subcommittee's been a wakeup call for us,” Nicholson concludes. He talks about a deluge of competition from other states and says, “We cannot afford the status quo.” Ellis Park owner Ron Geary talked about all the new slot machines at Indiana tracks he saw on a visit there. Then he said he went to Philadelphia Park to see the slots. “I came back completely stunned about what kind of competition we have,” Geary said. “We'd better get on-track or we're going to get left behind.”
2:00 p.m. … Ned Bonnie, the attorney who chairs the subcommittee on integrity, gave a lawyerly report on his panel's meeting that focused on how to make sure wagering is stopped when it's supposed to (i.e., once a race begins). He reviewed the presentations from the meeting and then moved on to talking about backstretch “shakedowns” of trainers and veterinarians. He seems to intimate that harness tracks are doing a better job of surveillance and searches, citing a recent search at the Red Mile of two veterinary trucks during which some prohibited substasnces were found. “The responsibilities on the integrity issues vis a vis medication issues have been delegated to the Equine Drug Council,” Bonnie said, “and they have assumed the responsibility of talking about integrity related to the medication issue.”
2:05 p.m. … Another attorney, Bob Beck Jr., is head of the laboratory facilities subcommittee. “There is a great deal of support for establishing a (drug testing) laboratory in Kentucky,” he says. “If we're not going to do a lab that isn't world class, it isn't worth pursuing,” he added. Beck said it will be important to hire a lab director, he added.
2:10 p.m. Chairman Farmer thanks all of the committee chairs for their reports and says, “The task force is moving forward very forcefully. We intend to meet Nov. 25 in Frankfort, hopefully with a conclusion of all these committees and combine them into one report, which we will give to the governor.”
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