10/11/2013 2:34PM

Hastings 2014 dates look set, but revenue splits up in air

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – According to Glen Todd, a leading owner of horses at Hastings and a member of the British Columbia Horse Racing Industry Management Committee, an “agreement in principle” has been reached on dates for Hastings next year.

The committee is in charge of managing the horse racing industry in British Columbia, setting the dates as well as allocating the money that is split among the Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Great Canadian Gaming Corp., the operators of Hastings and Fraser Downs, the local Standardbred track.

If the agreement is finalized, the first of 63 days of racing will be April 19 and the meet will end Nov. 1, the same day as the Breeders’ Cup.
This year, 69 days were scheduled between April 13 and Oct. 14, but six days were canceled due to a combination of a shortage of horses and a virus that hit the backstretch. The dwindling supply of horses is a big concern, and Todd thinks it makes sense to spread the season out to help manage the shorter supply.

“It puts less pressure on the horses, and it doesn’t help the business if people show up at the track expecting there to be racing and find out they’re not running,” he said. “It also helps keep people employed longer.”

The committee met Wednesday, and horsemen were hoping for clarity regarding on how it is going to allocate funds in the future. But that did not happen. The committee had heard presentations from the three stakeholders Sept. 23, and in a press release on Thursday committee chairman Douglas Scott said it was clear from the presentations that wide gaps separated the participants’ positions and that the committee is going to need more time to come up with a plan.

At the Sept. 23 meeting, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association of British Columbia, the local Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and the British Columbia division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society made a joint presentation that asked for a bigger cut for horsemen of the dwindling pie. They believe the only way to solidify the local horse population is to increase purses at Hastings.

There was $29.7 million in revenue projected for the industry this year, but with the total live handle down by 5 percent from last year, there will be less paid out when the year is completed.

One of the Thoroughbred horsemen’s groups complaints involves the share of the revenue that Great Canadian receives from what is wagered on horse racing. In this year’s budget, Great Canadian is going to receive 65 percent of the money derived from all sources of wagering on horse racing. The Thoroughbred groups want the split to be 50-50.

“Before the committee was formed, under the free-enterprise system that money was split 50-50 between the operator and the horsemen,” said David Milburn, president of the HBPA. “We strongly believe it should go back to that.”

The Thoroughbred horsemen also want all slots and wagering revenue to be split with Standardbred interests based on the share of betting on each breed. Currently, the money derived from slots is split 50-50 and the wagering revenue is split 72-28. Milburn said Thoroughbred interests should get more because more money is bet on them.

“Eighty percent of the money wagered on horse racing in British Columbia is on Thoroughbreds,” Milburn said. “We believe all the revenue should be split accordingly.”

When the racing days will be officially allocated isn’t clear. It probably depends on resolving the funding issues, and there is a big gap between what the Thoroughbred groups want and what Great Canadian and the representatives of the Standardbreds are willing to give.

The press release from the committee stated progress has been made in recent days and that a mutually satisfactory set of agreements on funding and governance could be reached by early November.

Wilo Kat poised for another big run

The Hastings meet ends Monday with four stakes, headed by the $100,000 Premiers for 3-year-olds and up going 1 3/8 miles.
Commander will be trying to defend his title, but trainer John Snow thinks he has a good chance of beating him with Wilo Kat.

In his last start, Wilo Kat finally earned his first stakes win, upsetting Commander in the $50,000 S.W. Randall Plate. He finished second in the Sir Winston Churchill and Lieutenant Governors and went into the Randall off a third as a solid favorite in the $75,000 B.C. Cup Classic.

“He was a little flat going into the Classic and he came back full of mucus,” Snow said. “He was obviously off his game, but he’s 100 percent now and ready for a big effort.”

Wilo Kat finished fourth in the Premiers as a 3-year-old last year.