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Rack Bob Roberts

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Rack Bob Roberts

Unread postby swerb » Fri Sep 29, 2006 8:41 pm

Great column. And he went to Willowick Middle School! My alma mater, and several others on these boards. Take a second to read this, and then take a second to vote for it on election day.

http://www.cleveland.com/horseracing/pl ... xml&coll=2

Handicapping Ohio's Issue 3 debate
Thursday, September 28, 2006


Iknew at a very young age - per haps when I was updating my Hialeah Park jockey standings in seventh grade study hall at Willowick Junior High - that playing the ponies was going to be a lifelong passion.

Solving the puzzle, which is handicapping a race and being able to visualize how the thoroughbreds and standardbreds will reach the wire, is a fascinating and satisfying cerebral exercise.

But what I've loved doing for more than 40 years, be it at Thistledown or Northfield, is threatened. Surrounding states like West Virginia and Indiana, and soon Pennsylvania, are robbing Ohio of its best horses and horsemen because of purses that dwarf those being offered at the seven Buckeye raceways.

The richer purses are the result of funds generated by slot machines. It has put Ohio tracks at a disadvantage.

Slots aren't my game and probably never will be. However, to protect live racing in Ohio, I'm going to vote for Issue 3 on Election Day. I'm not voting against slots because why should I tell you how to spend your leisure money? Not to mention a yes vote provides millions for college-bound high school students.

And please, don't give me the hypocritical party line of Sen. George Voinovich and Gov. Bob Taft who are anti-slots because they fear the expansion of gambling in Ohio. Ask them how many lottery games were added during their administrations.

Pocono Downs, a harness track in Wilkes-Barre, isn't waiting for its Pennsylvania slots license to kick in. Management recently announced that, starting Friday, purses will be increased 15 percent to 20 percent. Pocono's bottom purse will jump from $3,400 to $4,000. That's double what the cheapest claimers race for at Northfield.

Friday's total purse distribution at Pocono will be $55,890. Northfield will pay out $43,700. If that gap doesn't appear wide to you, keep in mind that Pocono has nine races and Northfield has 14. And that slots revenue will fuel additional purse increases in Pennsylvania. There is also competition for horses from the tracks around Buffalo, N.Y. They, too, have slots.

Thistledown is in just as much trouble as Northfield, if not more. It faces competition next year when Presque Isle Downs opens in suburban Erie with both slots and horses. What horseman in his right mind would run at Thistledown for an average purse, which by then will be around $7,000, when he can van a horse 90 miles and run for nearly three times as much?

Racing might not be Ohio's biggest industry, but it employs thousands, not to mention the ripple effect, which includes suppliers of equipment, hay, straw and feed.

And, there is a connection between the public and the animal. Racehorses are elegant, even the ones who barely make enough in purse money to pay for their oats.

People love horses. How else do you explain the overwhelming interest in the continuing improvement in the health of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro? Rarely does a day go by without an update on his condition at the New Bolton Center.

So, even if you are like me and never think about reaching in your pocket for a coin to drop into a one-armed bandit, voting for the slots in Ohio in November isn't such a bad idea.

You'll help racing, you'll help a young kid get money for college, and you'll help an old kid like me in the grandstand who still likes handicapping the ponies.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

broberts@plaind.com, 216-999-4661
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