Chad Brown and I studied the two possibilities for Normandy Invasion’s next race. We reluctantly decided on the Alysheba over the Westchester. There were several reasons that we thought the Alysheba would benefit Normandy.
This morning I asked Victoria, my able assistant, to call the lady she knows at Churchill that distributes the tickets for owners of horses in the stakes on Friday and Saturday. She told Victoria that I was entitled to no seats as an owner of a horse in a $300k G2 race on Friday. I was also informed that I did not even get a ticket to get in the track. We were offered several seats for $200 but the lady that knew Victoria said that we would not be happy with the seats.
Furthermore, Chad had a horse in another G2 undercard race and the owner wanted to bring 9 guests. This owner was from South America and a great guy. Chad was informed that he also would be given NOTHING!! He was offered a table in a room with many other tables for a mere fee of $42,000.00 plus food, drinks and gratuity.
I was so upset over the matter that I called the president of Churchill Downs, Kevin Flanery. He called me back after I left a message and informed me that the information that was given to us was true. No seats were available and you had to pay your own way in. He said they were the facts. The facts, he made the facts. He is the president. I said, “Kevin, do you think that is fair?” He said that they were the facts. I said I didn’t give a damn about the “facts” I just wanted to know if he, the president, thought it was FAIR. He would not answer my question so I asked him three more times with the same answer. He said he would verify the facts and call me in the morning. I again said I don’t care about tomorrow. I want to know if the president of Churchill Downs thought the facts were FAIR. He said he would call me tomorrow.
Ladies and gentlemen there are no more than a hundred horses in the undercard graded stakes this coming weekend. If Churchill gave each owner two tickets that would be 200 seats in a stadium that holds at least 52,000. I can’t imagine that it is too much to ask of the president of Churchill Downs, Kevin Flanery, to forego the income on that small number of seats.
Last year I brought 4 90 year old veterans that had stormed the beaches at Normandy at Omaha Beach. I called Flanery’s office for tickets for them and a table where they could watch tv. They had aides with them and could not move around very easily. The answer from his office was a flat out NO. That is even worse. I couldn’t take it so I called the chairman of the board, Dick Duchossois, who I know casually from racing. He could not believe it and called me back in less than 3 minutes and said you have a table for 8 in one of the nicest rooms at Churchill.
What is wrong with this management group? No wonder racing is on the decline. They don’t have any regard for the owners, in my opinion. They are for themselves and the race track as I see it.
Not only do I feel that owners are treated like second class citizens by Churchill Downs, so too are the handicappers and everyday bettors. Their takeout increase has so angered horse players that they have called for a boycott of betting at Churchill Downs.
Without these two components(owners and bettors) racing would be over.


4 Responses

  1. Jvans
    April 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm | |

    To echo the words of Mike Repole in 2013, “I would have to win the Oaks and the Derby just to pay for this weekend.”

    I long ago stopped being amazed by the ability of our industry to shoot itself in the foot given the opportunity. The absolute lack of understanding displayed by Churchill Downs in dealing with Messrs Porter and Turcottes requests is simple evidence of a more deeply rooted corporate problem. The simple truth is that every organization at various times will institute bad policy, the role of management when such policy is exposed is to rectify the policy in the best interests of all the parties involved, this is simple customer service. That was not done in this instance, so when participants at the highest levels are treated in this manner imagine how those us far further down the ladder are feeling these days.

  2. Rewards Farm
    April 30, 2014 at 6:30 pm | |

    Rick, This is just a quick note to let you know that I am totally with you on the issue of how owners are poorly treated (and often ignored) as a part of the racing sport/business. As an old Chevrolet guy (retired from GM in 2001) I now live, eat and breathe horse racing on a daily basis, and although I certainly do not play the game on your level, I am no less passionate about it.

    Racing has been going the wrong way for a long time, and I am convinced that the racehorse owners are the key to turning the ship around. While I am strongly dedicated to the free enterprise system in America, I am also increasingly convinced that it may not be the best formula for racetrack ownership. Publicly owned and traded tracks are especially prone to make terrible short term business decisions, for the sake of a quarterly profit statement. This can seriously damage the sport. One needs look only at the best racing in America; Keeneland, Del Mar, Saratoga and the old OakTree to realize that a less profit focused (but financially sound and responsible) model may hold the key to our future. This may be especially true as the Casino companies work to shed themselves of the racetracks which were the cost of entry, but which many obviously see only as a burden.

    I am happy to see so many prominent racehorse owners becoming more active, more vocal and more aggressive about issues that affect our future. Owners now seem to be the only ones focused on reversing the declining indicators in the sport/business.

    Lead the charge! I’ll enlist and march in the infantry.

    Edd Roggenkamp

    1. katrina
      June 8, 2014 at 12:36 am | |

      Hi Edd,
      Here in New Jersey, the State owns the tracks. while yes they are Beautiful Tracks, with Great Hospitality. they are money losers! as you said, prime bait for the casinos to absorb them to get a foot hold in and then ignore them!
      we need to get more people interested in Horse Racing! Hopefully young people!! maybe all this electronic graze stuff will die down, and they will realize what a great time they can have at the track!

  3. PatsyK
    April 30, 2014 at 10:18 pm | |

    I’m in on the tail end of the business….I rescue OTTBs and now pretty much only provide a retirement home for them as it’s gotten too hard to find good homes for them. Over the years I’ve seen both kinds of owners….those who go way above and beyond for their horses, and of course those who just see the horse as a commodity to be disposed of as soon as it is no longer useful. Reading a blog such as this gives me hope for the future…..may all the good owners band together and indeed create a new way of doing business. I believe that the good owners would not only make the industry better for owners and bettors, but also for the horses and would do much much more to provide for the horses’ inevitable retirement. Oh, and let’s not forget the backstretch workers when we get the new league!
    Thanks for speaking out as you have!

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