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Dec 31, 2009

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            As another year comes to an end and will welcome in 2010 we have some wishes for the racing world in the upcoming year. Most of these wishes are close to the same from last year because just like every year in this industry nothing gets done. I am exasperated about how little gets changed and how it continues to affect the horseplayer. Lets hope for better in 2010.

1.      Our first wish for the New Year as always is that all the jockeys and horses return after each race safe and sound. The riders are putting their lives on the line every day and we as fans should respect that. Although there are times we get upset with the rides they give we should also understand that this is a very tough job. The horses on the other hand are out there in all kinds of weather, rain, snow, hot, cold and any track conditions. The horses can’t tell their trainers how they are feeling and they are always out there giving it their all. Although everyone can’t return safe as it is the nature of the game we can hope for the very best each and every time in every race throughout the world.

2.      Our second wish concerns the taxable winnings at the racetrack. This was our second wish on the list last year and it is our second wish again as still nothing has happened. There has been some ads in the racing form about joining a horse racing group as they propose to change these laws. Hopefully before the end of 2010 these laws will be changed that will help the current bettors, the racetracks and getting new blood into the game. Currently if you hit a bet that pays $600 for $2 you have to report those winnings to the IRS, if you hit something for $5000 for $2 the government withholds a percentage of those winnings. The problems with these numbers is that they were put in place a very long time ago. They need to be adjusted. With the advent of the pick fours, pick six, pick three and superfectas, there is a better chance to hit something that pays big. However, if you play a pick four for $500 and collect $700, you have to report those winnings. Same goes for a winning bet that is a withholding. You can invest $2,000 into a pick six collect $5,100 and they withhold money. This takes money out of circulation which hurts the tracks, which in turn hurts the state, which in turn hurts the federal government. With these new bets the numbers should be raised to something like $3,000 for reporting and maybe $15,000 should be the number for withholdings. It is hard enough to win at the racetrack and then if you do and don’t even make a profit they withhold your money. This in addition to many other factors has hurt attendance and interest in the game over the years. Hopefully the NTRA which is in place to help the bettors can do something to alleviate this burden.

3.      Our third wish is for New York racing, this was our third wish last year also. However over the past few days there has been some recent news concerning the state of New York racing as we head into 2010. An article in the New York Daily news on December 21st stated that the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, could be cancelled. As quoted in the article NYRA president Charles Hayward said, “If we can't make payroll, we have to shut down. There is certainly a possibility that Belmont may not open and there will be no third leg of the Triple Crown". The fact that this is even under consideration is a disgrace. The VLT’s which were approved long long ago are still not in place at NYRA tracks. Those slots were expected to generate $125 million dollars a year when all 4,500 machines were up and running. Decisions like which of five private sector groups should run the casino and the breakdown of the money has really put a stop to this project. Other surrounding tracks, i.e. Philadelphia, Penn National, Delaware, are moving ahead. They are running races with very lucrative purses and now New York is forced to sit by and wait. Let’s hope they didn’t wait too long because if the Belmont Stakes has to be cancelled who knows if they can ever recover?

4.      Our fourth and final wish is to have a good year at the racetrack. Get some winners, have some winning days and see some great athletes strut their stuff. Good luck to all in 2010!



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