Weblog: From Kentucky to the World Wide Web
Dark clouds obscured bright Derby sunshine
THEY'LL soon be singing "The Sun Shines Bright On My Old Kentucky Home" as the horses for the 138th Kentucky Derby come onto the famous Churchill Downs oval for a once in a lifetime post parade.
Emotions will be riding high, no doubt, but there are some very dark clouds lurking behind the sunshine of those lyrics.
As in years past, the Kentucky legislature failed to produce a slots law that would result in much-needed capital for the state's signature industry.
Slots are not - and never will - be the be all and end all for racing in Kentucky or any other racing state for that matter.
But the thoroughbred industry is lagging in Kentucky, a state nearly surrounded by others that do have racing and slots.
Some of those other states are now being cannibalised by their respective legislatures to take back much of the revenue produced by those slots and passed on to race tracks for prize-money.
Pennslvania, Indiana and West Virginia are just three such states where the battle rages.
Those are legislative moves dictated by poor economic conditions in most all state governments these days.
Even Canadian racing, particularly in Ontario where Woodbine is located, is threatened as the government there wants to eliminate entirely the benefits of slots and other forms of casino gambling currently going to racing.
Meanwhile New York began receiving the windfall that is slots revenue when a casino at Aqueduct finally was completed and opened after years of bitter haggling. Purses at New York tracks have skyrocketed.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported last week that the daily average purse distribution at Belmont Park (which opened April 27) will total $620,000, up from $430,000 last spring, while that at Saratoga will reach $930,000, up from $670,000 last year.
That has resulted in trainers like Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito leaving Kentucky behind after having always left horses in Louisville for Churchill Downs' spring meeting.
Gone, too, will be perennial leading rider Julien Leparoux, who will begin riding full time in New York after Derby week.
Churchill will have a devil of a time filling races after Derby week, even with a four-day race week in place.
There were even two races scheduled for turf, an always-popular surface for trainers, that went begging on the opening-day card of Saturday, April 28.
Look for an abundance of cheap selling races on many Downs race cards instead.
Look as well for a request by Churchill Downs to race fewer days next spring than the 39 they will host this spring.
Churchill Downs is a very bottom-line oriented entity, one for which racing isn't always the best proverbial horse in its stable. Especially in the days that follow the singing of My Old Kentucky Home.
There will be more tears flowing from Kentucky racing fans, but they will have nothing to do with the Kentucky Derby.