Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What is your plan Mr. Minor?

The Baltimore news has been buzzing all day about Halsey Minor buying both Pimlico and Laurel Racetracks (as well as the others owned by Magna).  He is getting all of this press because he met with state comptroller Peter Franchot, the leader of the anti-slots movement in Maryland.  Mr. Minors quote of the day:
Well than Mr. Minor.......How are you going to turn around racing in Maryland? How are you going to save Pimlico Race Course and all of its great tradition.  I think it would be great to have slots free tracks.  Let the slots go to some other location, as long as the subsidies come to the sport.  My problem is the hype.  We keep hearing all of this talk, but what are you going to do differently?  Please tell me and the citizens of Maryland.


Halsey Minor said...

Lets start with the fact that Pimlico and Laural are in deplorable condition. I know you probably think Laurel is OK but you have accepted the presence of trash everywhere and a ceiling that's so stained from roof leaks it looks like its going to come down on you. I wouldn't even get out of the car with my kids if i saw the condition of the parking lot. Have you been to Camden Yards or Pac Bell Park lately?

These are not the horseman's fault. They are product of management failure. If we did NOTHING MORE than improve the facilities we would go along way torwards turning around the sport.

How about a $90 mm renovation? That's what I was planning in a public private partnership with the town of Hialeah for Hialeah Park. Each track is different but lets start with the goal of building facilities that aren't disgusting and instead belong in Disney World and not skid row.

This is an industry that started with disdain for the fans as Lord and Kings raced against each other and has continued that practice right up to today. The sport needs to begin a reformation where the participants are accountable to the fans. A novel concept I know.

The truth is no one has invested anything in this sport for decades and every dollar Stronack has invested has gone into malls, slots, training facilities etc and not the facilities and has only WEAKENED the company and the sport.

I can proved racing works in nice facilities, go back to 1959 or visit Saratoga, Keeneland or Del Mar today. Show me one place that has slots that has advanced horse racing? If Maryland gets slots the track owners won't care if you're racing pigs or thoroughbreds so long as the casino get the biggest cut possible. You guys have been saddled with bad management and now that same bad management is going to make out like bandits as you, the horse owners, are made to push the button of our own demise out of desperation.

Slots are a mirage. You are grasping at something that will bring about the inevitable destruction of your livelihood.

Lets rebuild the sporting of racing by starting out doing the basics right. When I can walk alongside the track at Laurel in front of the clubhouse and not fill 5 trash bags with 2 year old garbage and its still not working then you can say we need to try a new high risk way. Until then lets clean up the sport and the management of the sport and see what happens.

I have a million other things that I think need to be done but when the basics are so poorly executed its easy to know where to start.

Steve Zorn said...

Good points, Mr. Minor. If Maryland wants gambling, why not go toward the Atlantic City model, and then let the casinos subsidize the tracks, as they do in New Jersey.

Cleaning up Laurel and Pimlico would be a start, with perhaps more twilight and evening racing, better food, better customer service, better parking (esp. at Pimlico). But I'm sure you know all that. From a horseman's point of view -- we won the Maryland Million Distaff a few years ago -- I'd need to see major improvements in the barn areas and purses that made it worthwhile to ship in to run before I'd think about going to the MD tracks for anything but a stakes race. How can we get purses up to a level that offers the average working horseman a chance to at least break even?

Handride said...

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