This morning, we sat in the Parx backstretch kitchen and had breakfast while talking with the track’s all-time leading rider, Tony Black. Black, who still gets on some horses in the morning but has geared down his afternoon riding assignments, was discussing the oversaturation of racing in the mid-Atlantic region, particularly at this time of year, when Monmouth Park, Delaware Park and Parx Racing are all running against one another.
“Just like the stock market is going through a correction, you’re going to see a correction in the number of live racing dates,” predicted Black. He cited the declining foal crop as a catalyst for tracks to reduce the number of days they run, and even forecast an end to the year-round racing calendar in Pennsylvania.
While the Report of Mares Bred won’t be published by The Jockey Club until late October, it’s almost certain to reflect a decrease in the amount of mares bred to Pennsylvania stallions. From just a rough estimate garnered from talking with stallion owners and managers, this breeding season has been even more difficult than last year, when by all accounts we were still in the teeth of the economic recession.
That recession has driven many owners to sell – or is many instances, give away – their mares, with many more deciding not to breed this year. When the ROM is issued, it most likely will reflect that less than 10 stallions in Pennsylvania got books of 40 or more mares.
Fast forwarding to 2014, when the foals from this year’s breeding season are 2-year-olds, the shrinking horse population will force racetrack owners and horsemen’s groups to come to an agreement about scheduling fewer race dates in order to keep offering a product that horseplayers want to bet on. It’s no secret that a nine-race card filled with short fields is the most unappetizing of handicapping fare.
Back in the mid-1990’s, when Garden State Park in Cherry Hill, N. J. was still open, its management chose to run head-to-head against Philadelphia Park, which was located about 16 miles away. Granted, Garden State ran during the night, while Philly ran during the day, but they both cannibalized each other’s fan base and horse population to the point where Garden State succumbed to staggering decreases in both attendance and handle.
The beautiful - and now demolished - Garden State Park
Only time will tell whether Black’s prediction will come true, but it does seem the mid-Atlantic region is due for a dates correction, else have one or more tracks suffer the same fate as now-defunct Garden State Park.