12/10/2004 1:00AM

Betting into U.S. pools long way off


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The 2004 racing season is almost history, but Canadian horseplayers already are looking ahead to next year and the opportunity to wager directly into the home pools of racetracks in the United States.

The Woodbine Entertainment Group is actively pursuing the change, but Steve Mitchell, vice president of wagering operations, reports that the going is not easy.

"I suspect it will be well into 2005 before we get this rolling," said Mitchell. "But, that doesn't change our resolve. We're obviously committed to getting this done; we just

didn't know how slow the road was going to be."

Woodbine began discussions with the Canadian Parimutuel Agency, the federal regulatory body, shortly after a change in federal U.S. tax laws eliminated a 30 percent withholding tax and paved the way toward allowing foreign wagering directly into U.S. pools.

Canada currently offers separate wagering pools on U.S. tracks, which, because of smaller betting pools and a higher takeout, are less attractive than commingled pools would be.

"The board of directors met and did approve common-pooling with the U.S., so we've got all of our internal approvals necessary to proceed with this," said Mitchell. "We're now busy determining what the regulatory hurdles are going to be at the individual state levels."

In mid-November, Mitchell sent out a questionnaire to various U.S. tracks seeking feedback on any issues that could arise from common-pooling.

"The response has been slow," said Mitchell. "We need more questionnaires back. Once we've got that, and as long as U.S. state regulators haven't put up major roadblocks, we can apply formally to the CPMA."

One issue that already has arisen concerns the question of the minimum parimutuel wager, which is $1 here for many exotic wagering combinations.

Mitchell said major racing states such as California and New York have legislation that requires a minimum wager of $1 and that the Canadian dollar, when converted, will not meet that requirement.

While changing the minimum Canadian bet on such wagers to $2 would eliminate the problem, Mitchell does not see that as a viable option.

"That would be a major change, and I don't think our customers would benefit," said Mitchell.

"The States are going to have to accept the fact we're going to stick to $1 Canadian bets."

Regarding takeout, Mitchell warns that common-pooling with the U.S. will not guarantee a lower rate on all wagers.

"Woodbine is certainly pursuing the basis of matching U.S. takeouts where possible," said Mitchell.

"If everything goes according to plan, we should be able to match the takeouts on win-place-show, exactors, and doubles. But the high Ontario takeout on triactor pools may prevent us from matching those."

The triactor takeout of 28.3 percent includes 4 percent for the horsemen, as opposed to 2 percent for other pools, and approximately 0.7 percent for the Ontario Racing Commission, which comes out of Woodbine's triactor cut.

The Ontario Government retains 0.5 percent of all wagers and the federal government collects 0.8 percent.

No marathon for Parose

Parose, a 10-year-old gelding, has participated in three of the last four runnings of the 1 3/4-mile Valedic-tory Handicap, having finished third in the 2000 and 2003 editions. But Parose will be staying in the barn this closing day.

Parose was in fact entered Sunday under the claiming provision of a $62,500 optional claiming race over 1 1/16 miles, but the race did not fill.

"I didn't even nominate him for the Valedictory this year," said his trainer, Alex McPherson. "I'm not a fan of the race; it's too long for him. He tries, and it seems to wear him out."

Parose is scheduled to winter at Gulfstream Park, where McPherson has been assigned eight stalls and will be spending his fifth straight meeting.

Greattobeloved, a 4-year-old filly who scored when in for $62,500 in an optional claiming sprint here Thursday, also is heading for Gulfstream.

"They've both been down there the last couple of years," said McPherson. "I see no reason to change anything.

"They may not be world-beaters, but they grind out a good living."

Three races on TV

Sunday's second through fourth races will be televised live on this year's final installment of "Woodbine Post Time on Sportsnet," which will air from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The telecast will include the Kingarvie Stakes, which is the fourth race, and a 1 7/8-mile starter allowance, which is the longest race of the meeting and is carded as the third.

* Steven Koch, currently manager of backstretch operations, has been promoted to director of backstretch operations. Martin Velden, superintendent of stabling, will be manager of backstretch operations with Karl Lagerborg, who has been assisting Velden, taking over the superintendent position. The appointments are effective Jan. 1.