03/16/2009 12:00AM

Catching up on all the crazy news


Man, things move fast in the horse business. I'm away only a few days and just look at what havoc has rained down. Time to get current.

Let's start up there on America's great northern tier, where the deer and the antelope play. Or something like that. The story has been brewing for a while, but apparently there are people in high government places in both North Dakota and Montana who hope to make their states the new horse slaughter havens of the U.S.A.

It should be noted that North Dakota has its own state horse, the Nokota Horse, said to be descended from ponies stolen from Sitting Bull when the warrior finally surrendered. A state with an official horse must be admired, but now there is a bill before the North Dakota legislature that would authorize $50,000 to study the feasibility of either building a horse slaughter plant, or simply converting an existing facility. There is no sentiment, at least at this time, to rename the state Baja Manitoba.

In Montana, there is a state legislator named - and please, hold the applause - Ed Butcher, who got a bill passed by the Montana House of Representatives that would pave the way for the establishment of a vigorous equine slaughter business, primarily by making it almost impossible to challenge the permit process. The bill was debated last week in the state senate, to the accompaniment of loud protests both pro and con outside the capitol building in Helena.

"This bill is really providing a humane and regulated processing plant," said Butcher in local press reports. "Demand is there."

To borrow an observation made by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" last week, there's demand for cocaine and hookers, too.

As long as there is no U.S. federal law specifically prohibiting the slaughter of horses for the international horsemeat industry, slaughter supporters in individual states will be allowed to concoct schemes to revive the practice, while the forces of anti-slaughter - overwhelmingly supported by public sentiment - must continue to play whack-a-mole whenever these slaughterheads pop up.

Did you hear? The Kentucky Oaks will no longer be broadcast by ESPN, allegedly a sports network, as long as your idea of sports is restricted to baseball, basketball, and football. Instead, the May 1 telecast of the Kentucky Oaks will be carried by Bravo. Bravo!

I used to watch Bravo before it had commercials. Tyra Banks came along much, much later. The demographic for Bravo, which is owned by NBC, would seem to be skewed toward the metrosexually engaged, feeding upon shows like Top Chef, Make Me a Supermodel, The Millionaire Matchmaker, and Real Housewives of Someplace Really Cool. There is also Inside the Actors Studio, which has pretty much run out of "actors" now that Conan O'Brien has been grilled by James Lipton.

The mating of Bravo and Thoroughbred racing will have folks scratching their heads. But hey, any port in a storm. Bravo is just another number on the box (129 on Dish), and tonight I may even tune in, since they've got "Ghostbusters II" featured. Still, you worry that Bravo does not seem to display even a trace of a sporting pedigree. As far as a connection to horse racing, at least there's Bethenny Frankel, Bobby's daughter, on the New York version of Real Housewives. She also has a blog.

Question number four under the heading FAQs on the Hollywood Park Tomorrow website asks:

"Is the race track closing and, if so, why?"

The answer:

"Yes, the Hollywood Park Tomorrow plan will replace the race track. Unfortunately, declining attendance and dwindling purses - in addition to competing gaming opportunities - have seriously impacted the viability of horse racing, not only in Inglewood but throughout California. We expect Thoroughbred horse racing to continue at Hollywood Park in the 2009 season."

Not sure what gives Stockbridge Investments, the owners of Hollywood Park and the pile of rubble in San Mateo that used to be Bay Meadows, the right to question the viability of horse racing anyplace other than Hollywood Park and the pile of rubble that used to be Bay Meadows. As for declining attendance, Hollywood Park has been the leader of the pack over the course of the Stockbridge ownership, and before that Churchill Downs, going from a daily average during the 1998 spring/summer meet of slightly more than 10,000 to last year's reported 6,063.

Purses are dwindling, true enough, and especially Hollywood Park's, which was forced to eliminate $1.5 million in stakes purses for the upcoming meet. Among the casualties was the $250,000 Jim Murray Handicap, at 1 1/2 miles on grass, named for the Pulitzer Prize winning sports columnist who worked for the Los Angeles Times until his death, in August 1999.

Murray would have laughed. He would have compared the cancellation to a one-night run on Broadway, New Coke, the Edsel. He would have chided the track for giving a race such baggage. "The odds on the Jim Murray making the decade were worse than Titanic v. Iceberg," he might have written. "Never bet on a guy who types for a living."

The rest of us, though, will miss the Jim Murray Handicap, just as one might miss the theater where you first saw "Shane." There's another 1 1/2-mile grass race at the end of the Hollywood Park meet they could have renamed the Jim Murray without a missing a beat. But then, if they had, Hollywood Park would have lost its signature event. It's called the Sunset.