Stronach seems to break promise on racing
So it looks like Frank Stronach isn't going to hold races 140 days next year at Pimlico and Laurel after all. Earlier this month he told me he would. But Monday night Stronach's Maryland Jockey Club submitted a plan to the state with only 47 racing days -- 30 at Pimlico and 17 at Laurel. Not surprisingly the racing commission saw this as tantamount to smothering the industry and rejected the plan. But this isn't the end. Expect some sort of compromise that bumps up the number of days and of course includes the Preakness, Pimlico's big (only) moneymaker.
The most charitable thing that can be said about Stronach is that his intentions are good but that he has trouble fulfilling his vision and that he keeps choosing inappropriate business partners. He bought the tracks by agreeing to give the previous owners, the De Francis family, enormous portions of any potential slots profits. He almost immediately regretted it and tried in vain to renegotiate the deal. Wrangling over reducing the De Francises' slots cut delayed and then sabotaged the Jockey Club's bid for a slots license at Laurel Park, which allowed David Cordish to swipe the prize and put slots at Arundel Mills.
Now Stronach has gone into league with Penn National, the gaming company, which naturally seems to have been more interested in slots profits than in horse racing. As co-owner of the tracks, Penn National wants to cut their losses by reducing races. And the company seems to have substantially overruled Stronach, although the previous plan to shut down Laurel altogether was modified. Even a compromise with the racing commission probably won't give the industry enough meets to test how slots-fattened purses draw crowds and contenders. Just when the thoroughbred community thought things couldn't get any worse, they got worse.