Dear Breeders and Members,
Trying to be positive and optimistic during these times has been challenging. Making decisions has not been easy with the uncertainty of many aspects of our industry because of the Covid-19 virus. I do not want to dwell on this as we are all aware of the changes and disruptions it has caused. I would only add that in today’s world a Pandemic of this magnitude and the loss of life has been tragic and unexpected.
To breed or not to breed was a tough one this year. The old cliché damned if you do and damned if you don’t came into play in the decision making. On a personal note our farm made the decision to breed back all of our mares. Was this the correct decision? I hope many breeders in our state and across North America also decided to breed because the industry has been suffering from a shortage of foal crops every year and any more of a decrease would only compound an already serious problem throughout our industry at a state and national level.
On the racing side the decision making has been equally difficult. Where to go, which tracks are going to run and if so when will they start. This has constantly been changing as dates have been set and then changed and pushed down from track to track. Some tracks have cancelled their entire meet. It now appears that tracks are opening up and racing is beginning to start at more and more tracks across the United States. Most of these tracks, with a few exceptions are racing with no fans allowed. Is this going to be the new normal?
Until recently only a few tracks were running, all with no fans. With no college or professional sports and closed casinos there was nothing to gamble on so the handle at those tracks was good. Now more tracks are opening and changing their race days to try and increase their handle unfortunately this will most likely have a negative effect on the handle at most tracks. Add the startup of college and professional sports, which seems to be in the near future, the gambling dollar will be spread even more. In saying that, it appears the tracks that have alternative gambling whether it be a racino at the track, from a casino contributing to the track, from historical racing machines or any other form of gambling, those tracks will be better able to maintain their purse levels. Unfortunately tracks with none of the above will suffer especially the tracks with no fans. Arizona has none of the above and I can only see that as having a negative effect when competing with tracks that have alternative gambling.
We must continue to support year round racing in Arizona. This will support our breeding industry and create a healthy racing environment in Arizona. Year round racing will keep horses here instead of leaving to other states and possibly not returning. It was also apparent that with Arizona Downs running last summer, Turf Paradise had more race ready horses when they opened in October.
Year round racing can only be accomplished with the support of all stakeholders involved. This includes (in no specific order) breeders, owners, trainers, race tracks, the Department of Racing and Racing Commission continuing all the way to the governor’s office.
For Arizona to have year around racing, we must create an opportunity which would benefit all of the involved stakeholders. With the involvement of many different stakeholders it must be considered by all that the goal is to create a healthy year round racing schedule in Arizona supported by a breeding industry that knows there will be year round racing.
It was very unfortunate for breeders that finally after getting a bill passed through the legislature, racing was shut down shortly after the ATBA made the first distributions to breeders. Breeder awards distributions are calculated and paid based on live racing results.
I know as breeders we could say that without breeders producing the horses there would be no racing. Likewise the tracks could say that without tracks there would be no racing. Jockeys could say there would be no racing without jockeys. You could go on and on but the reality of the situation is that without the support and involvement of all stakeholders as I mentioned earlier, the breeding and racing industry in Arizona will further contract or remain at the current level with short fields and breeders not producing enough horses to support healthier racing.
As breeders in Arizona as well as any breeder in other states, we are making decisions trying to predict the future three years ahead of time every year when we breed. Arizona must have stable year around racing to enable breeders to make the decision that in any given year when a mare is bred the resulting foal will have the opportunity to stay and race in Arizona year round.
I have always believed that Arizona with its winter weather and the influx of people that come here during the winter has always been a positive for the long Turf Paradise met that runs during that time. Add summer racing at Arizona Downs at a higher and milder altitude which very few other racing states can provide, racing and breeding in Arizona would thrive. What a shame it would be that does not happen due to the division within the industry of the very stakeholders that would benefit the most from year round racing.
Marvin Fleming, President