State of the Union

Where does horse racing stand after the 2009 Triple Crown races?

What's good:

Slot machines and related casino games.

Thanks to the hypnotic trances created by spinning bars, cheap claimers at Dust Bowl Downs are running for $20,000.

Tracks like Sunland are small in population only.

Purse structure, not seating capacity, is now the measure of a track's value.

Attendance stinks.

The people who used to lose at the horse races are losing at the slot machines.

The horse racing industry is to be credited for displaying genius in following the money trail.

Older people.

Belmont day, I sat by somebody 74, and somebody who said he was a year or two older than that.

At one time, it was feared that the base of horse racing support would die off.

Then people started living to be 85, bringing their relatives to the races.

TV ratings.

The numbers for all three Triple Crown races were excellent, made all the more impressive because the real horse race fans are on the scene, not home, filling out viewer diaries.

You could double the Nielsen numbers to account for live attendance at tracks and off-track venues, and it probably wouldn't be off by much.

Why the increased interest?

One answer has to be that horse racing has far fewer punks than you find in other sports.

Bad experts.

When some expert pickers make their selections, it's like lottery numbers are being announced; some friends and I hang by each and every wild pitch.

If you as an expert can't hit your fair share, you may as well miss them all and develop a cult following.

In all seriousness, some people are extremely good at being bad.

The occasional losing ticket.

Having to fill out an IRS form over a horse race win sounds unconstitutional; but at least losing tickets are considered to be corroborating evidence of a day at the races, gone south.

Unless you are a professional, gambling losses are only deductible up to the amount of money won.

Fewer drugs.

Fewer accidents.

What's bad:

Weak penalties.

Too often the governing bodies of racing are like the NCAA - they'll give stiff penalties to Panhandle Tech, and put the major powers on unsupervised probation, seven strikes and you're out of action over the weekend.

A racing commissioner with the power to dismiss cheaters sounds like a pretty good idea.

The horseplayer as a necessary evil.

There can be only one answer as to why quarter slot machine players are treated like royalty and horse players are treated like panhandlers.

Horse race track management is overpaid.


If you play the same amount on every favorite at 2-1, and a third of the favorites win, you break even.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.