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Ohio Standardbred Development Fund Update

By Doug Thomas of the Ohio  Standardbred Development Fund

It was reported last week that I believe there will be a shortfall in revenue to the the Ohio Sires Stakes (OSS) program in 2009, close to $300,000. That is true, although there are some people, including OHHA General Manager Jerry Knappenberger, that don’t believe the shortfall will be that much, and quite frankly, I hope they are correct. Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball and I have to figure a budget, without the benefit of any alternative gaming, based upon a guesstimate of what the future will bring. And keep in mind, I have to be sure to have enough money to pay out the purses, even without knowing how many races will be contested in 2009.

I want the horsemen of Ohio to know why I believe we must cut the guaranteed purse of each race from $20,000 to $16,000. In 2008, the Ohio Standardbred Development Fund (OSDF) will receive approximately $1.25 million in revenue. In 2002, the OSDF received over $2 million. That shows a steady decline of approximately 10 percent each year. I expect that decline to continue in 2009, especially with the state of the economy the way it is.

The majority of the revenue received by the OSDF comes from money wagered on live race days from the four Standardbred tracks in Ohio. In 2007, there were 473 live race days in Ohio. In 2008, there were 410 live days, and for 2009, the racetracks and the OHHA have agreed to race only 387 live days, due to the financial struggles of keeping the racetracks afloat. Northfield Park is the only track increasing their live days, requesting 213 for 2009. The decline from 2008 to 2009 is another potential drop-off of approximately five percent.

Now take into consideration the number of foals that will be nominated to the program in the future. In 2005, there were 2,116 mares bred to Ohio stallions (the resulting foals were 2-year olds in 2008). In 2006, there were 1,984 mares bred to Ohio stallions, resulting in a potential of a 6 percent decline in nominating and sustainments. And to better prepare for the future, let it be known that there were only 1,346 mares bred to Ohio stallions in 2007, and all indications show that maybe not even 800 mares were bred to Ohio stallions in 2008.

When I take into consideration the three possible declines mentioned above, the total comes to 21 percent, again not knowing what the state of the economy will be in 2009. If you take 21 percent away from the 2008 revenue, that comes out to around $260,000, so to be safe, I said $300,000.

Now that I have mentioned the bad news, let me mention some ideas for the horsemen to think about to turn things around until we can get some help from other sources. These ideas are only my opinion and should not be construed to be anyone elses. There are a heck of a lot smarter people in Ohio than I, so there may be some better ideas out there, but I just want to get the conversation started.

First, except for Northfield Park, race more live days with fewer races. Most of the tracks in Ohio currently race 13-16 races each night. This would increase overnight purses and increase the revenue generated to the OSDF. The racetrack management may disagree with this due to the cost of overhead of each live race day.

Second, seek more money from what is wagered through the ADW’s. The OSDF gets absolutely no income from money wagered through ADW’s on Ohio tracks.

Third, sponsorships! If someone would sponsor Super Night (Championship Night), I could keep the legs at $20,000 and possibly more. I read last week where a family from Ohio was going to help sponsor the Standardbred Stakes at Delaware during Jug Week. The family stated how good it made them feel to be able to do this in honor of their grandfather. Just think how good someone could feel if they helped sponsor Super Night, knowing that their contribution was helping an entire industry keep their head above water. Heck, I’d name the Championships after them.

I am sure there are other ideas out there, probably better than mine, but not enough horsemen get involved to express their ideas at our meetings. I only hope some will show up at our next OSDF meeting on December 9, 2008 at 1:00 p.m. in Columbus to express their views.

For those of you who have mares in foal to Ohio stallions, or own Ohio-bred yearlings and weanlings, I do still see tremendous earning potential for you. Consider all the ways to make money with an Ohio bred: the Sires Stakes, the State Fair Stakes at Scioto, the Ohio Breeders Championships at Delaware, and the over 60 fairs that offer Ohio stakes races. Then consider how little competition there will be in the next few years due to the decline in mares bred, and I think there is the possibility of doing very well.

Now consider if slots would come to Ohio, all of you that stuck with the Ohio program would benefit greatly with an increase in purses, but not a lot of competition.
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