Monday, January 30, 2012

Shake, Rattle, and [Heads] Roll

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the Cowboys aren’t playing. In fact, further inspection shows that the Dallas Cowboys have only been to the playoffs once during the past 713 seasons, or something to that effect. Regardless, there is suffering and angst here in Texas; teeming millions are calling for owner/general manager, Jerry Jones, to fire himself and hire a real GM.

It’s a popular business model: When business is crappy, it’s time for a shake-up. Change management. Change strategy.

I bring this up because a few days ago Lone Star Park announced its 2012 Spring Thoroughbred Season. It will feature 12 stakes. That is not a typo. 12 – yes, count ‘em, 12! – stakes, down from 19 stakes in 2011. Lone Star Park has effectively obliterated its best day of racing, Lone Star Million Day.

"We took a long hard look at our purse structure and felt the best way to support local horseman was to make some difficult cuts to our stakes program," said Lone Star Park President and General Manager Drew Shubeck. “Eliminating stakes from our calendar was a difficult but necessary decision in order to preserve overnight purses as we attempt to remain competitive with tracks in neighboring states that have purses supplemented by gaming.”

Oh, like this is going to increase handle???

How did Lone Star Park go from its horse racing glory and crowning achievement – hosting the 2004 Breeders’ Cup – to crap in 8 short years?

It’s time for somebody to do something because doing nothing is not working. A shake up is in order; horse racing at our premier racetrack is officially crappy. Eliminating great stakes such as the Grade 3 Ouija Board, and supplanting them with an assortment of cheap claiming races is not going to lure bettors. Using this business model, the 2013 season should feature about 4 stakes!

Don’t get me wrong: I like Drew Shubeck. He’s a nice guy and snappy dresser. But he originally landed his position as part of Magna brass. You remember Magna Entertainment (MEC) whose claim to fame was a swan dive into bankruptcy. It seems to this horse racing fan, each year Mr. Shubeck just brushes off his usual doom-and-gloom speech, never offering up even the slightest shred of optimism.

Lone Star Park has new owners this year and a nice, bright, shiny updated simulcast facility. Additionally, Global Gaming is making some sort of attempt to “improve” Texas racing by introducing the Global Gaming Triple, a three-race series linking the Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile, Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, and the $200,000 Governor’s Cup at Remington Park. There’s incentive for horsemen to enter all 3 races but is it incentive for the wagering public?

New vision is needed. New strategy is required. It's time to get shakin'!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year's News

After suffering through weeks of post-Breeders' Cup malaise, I started the New Year feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

So I immediately took a week off.

But now I have a solid toe-hold into the New Year so let's see what's new for 2012, as well as the rapidly approaching Chinese New Year, 2012 being the Year of the AARP Card.

1. I've updated my blog. New photo, new motto, same old crap.

2. A sordid variety of Eclipse Award voters have taken the time to publish their thoughts and commentaries as to how and why they voted for the prestigious Eclipse Awards. After reading how many of the voters cast their ballots, I can safely predict that Horse of the Year will be either Zenyatta or some other horse that actually raced in 2011.

3. Gulfstream Park started its meet in December which, I don't know about you, kind of wobbled my internal calendar. No word as to whether or not it will affect the Chinese New Year. Regardless of what I term The Calendar Effect, it appears to be a popular decision. Additionally, on New Year's Day it featured the inaugural running of the $ 100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, the first derby in the country for 3-year-old colts. The race was won by Reveron, immediately catapulting him to the top of Steve Haskin's Derby list.

4. Speaking of Derby lists, Post Parade's pal, Gary West, is now a contributor at Unfortunately, it is not the easiest column to locate. However, he recently posted his own list of Top 20 Triple Crown "noisemakers". Reveron and Steve Haskin didn't make the list.

5. On Friday, Hot Springs, Arkansas, turns into a horse racing mecca when Oaklawn Park begins its meet. Gone from the popular meet is Terry Wallace calling the races, with the announcing duties turned over to his long-suffering-dammit-Terry-when-are-you-going-to-retire-so-I-can-have-a-turn understudy, Frank Mirahmadi. Meanwhile, it appears that Mr. Wallace has taken to blogging with gusto!

6. The Not-so-Naughty New Yorker, Ms. Genaro of Brooklyn Backstretch, is on a bold turf writing conquest. She's now a contributor to Forbes used to be for geeks and nerds. When did Forbes get hip and cool?

7. And when it comes to hip and cool, our local simulcast digs at Lone Star Park has been renovated, renamed, and reopened. Horseplayers of North Texas have not suffered the fate of those who toil away at Aqueduct as the newly christened "Bar & Book" (formerly known as the Post Time Pavilion) recently opened its doors. The facility features a new expansive Sports Bar with a colossal TV screen, hundreds of individual racing carrels with individual 19" flat screen televisions, and - my favorite - big comfy club chairs! Betting has never been so comfortable!

I invite you to peruse the photos on Facebook. It's truly a remarkable venue. And it's free! The grand opening gala is January 12th, by invitation only. Clearly, my invitation to cover the event was lost in the mail or perhaps displaced by The Calendar Effect.

Regardless, this New Year is off to a pretty good start.

Photos courtesy of Lone Star Park