Midlantic racing New Year’s hopes

As the new year dawns, and thousands of Thoroughbreds age in unison, we have some hopes for what 2023 will bring.

In racing it’s often best to assume the worst, however, so these are hopes, and not expectations. Still… here’s what we’re hoping for:

No more late odds changes

Want to turn newcomers off? Get ‘em in the door, get ‘em to bet on a horse that seems to offer fair odds, and then have ‘em watch as the horse – in wagering only revealed well into the running of the race – is much shorter odds than they thought they were getting.

It’s pretty much a guaranteed way to a) convince people the game is crooked and b) make them feel like losers even when they win.

Fixing it may be complicated, but resolving this problem is one of the all-time no-brainers. So don’t hold your breath.

Peace in our time

Given the way the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act came to be – without the involvement of significant factions of the industry – what’s transpired since was pretty much a 1-9 shot. So, predictably, came the lawsuits and the kvetching and, and, and…

And if you think this is fun, just wait until the Lasix ban kicks in.

Sure would be nice if the powers that be could find a way to work with rank-and-file horsemen, racing commissions, and everyday racetracks to make this program succeed.

A resolution in Maryland

The 10-year deal that governed racing is up, extended for just 30 days. The status of Laurel and Pimlico remains as unsettled as ever. Even who will own and manage the racetracks in the Free State in the future is unclear.

Instability is bad for business, especially a business that requires some folks – namely breeders – to make decisions years before they are likely to see any payoff. Instability on this grand a scale is pretty much off the charts.

Here’s hoping that the upcoming months, including the legislative session about to kick off, point the way to solutions to a bevy of thorny problems.

Clarity in Virginia

The rebirth – and unprecedented growth – of Colonial Downs has been one of racing’s feel-good stories of recent years. So good, in fact, that it helped entice Churchill Downs into the Old Dominion.

Well, really, that was the “historical horse racing” machines. But you get the picture.

So  you’ll forgive Virginia folks if they’re feeling a little bit shook-up about what’s happened there in the last couple months. The leadership team that built the new Colonial into a track that handled over $6 million-plus on successive days in 2022 is no more, general manager John Marshall and VP of racing Jill Byrne having headed for greener pastures.

Churchill then proposed shifting the Monday-Wednesday schedule that’s worked wonders for Colonial the last couple years to a weekend slate that will pit the track against just about every racetrack, including summer behemoth Saratoga. That may bring more people in the door, but it’s hard to imagine it’ll help wagering handle.

Mysteriously enough, even though the horsemen and the racetrack did not at the time have a contract for 2023, the state Racing Commission went right ahead and approved the change.

Let’s hope these are mere hiccups in Colonial’s renaissance tale.

Continued racing luck in the Breeders’ Cup for Midlantic-bred runners

In 2021 two Maryland-breds – Knicks Go and Aloha West – won Breeders’ Cup races, with the former winning the Classic en route to Horse of the Year honors.

In 2022, the Pennsylvania-bred mare Caravel scored a stunner in the Turf Sprint, beating the boys.

Who’s up in ‘23? 

A Maryland-bred to make some Preakness noise

Post Time, anyone?

This year will mark 40 years since the last Maryland-bred Preakness winner, that coming when young jock Donnie Miller steered the Billy Boniface-trained Deputed Testamony up the rail to a big upset.

Since then, we saw Oliver’s Twist – also trained by Boniface – finish a troubled second in the ‘95 Middle Jewel and the Nancy Alberts-trained a fast-closing runner-up behind Charismatic in 2002.

Other than that? To quote Yukon Cornelius, “Nuthin’.”

It makes the Maryland spring a little springier when there’s a local hopeful, and at the moment, it seems like Post Time – three-for-three to start his career for trainer Brittany Russell – may fit that bill.

Good fortune to new(ish) racing execs

Longtime Charles Town chief of racing Erich Zimny departed his position in 2022 for a bigger job, elevating Charlie McIntosh to the top racing spot. Even longer time Delaware racing honcho John Mooney retired mid-meet in ‘22, with racing secretary Jed Doro taking on added responsibility.

Here’s hoping the newcomers thrive in their roles with good results for bettors, horsemen, and horses to boot.

Safe trips and good racing for all

Big fields, competitive racing, close finishes, and everybody making it home safely – if we can get these, that’ll be a great start to the new year.