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As Valley racino prepares to open, race horses continue decline

Published: Sat, July 19, 2014 @ 10:55 p.m.


James Gagliano, Jockey Club president and CEO, wants to know: “Where have all the horses gone?”

“The foal [young horse] crop has dropped from approximately 38,000 in 2004 to 22,000 in 2014,” he told the American Horse Council in a June 24 speech.

“Field sizes should continue to decline if other factors remain the same. Races that averaged 8.28 horses in 2004 will have fewer than seven in 2014.”

In fact, even as the finishing touches are made to Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course, the Austintown racino, those in the horse business across the county worry about declining numbers of horses.

Representatives of Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in New Cumberland, W. Va.; Penn National and Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course; the Jockey Club, which runs the national breed registry for North America and was established in 1894; and local owners and trainers are gauging the situation.

“It’s always a concern,” said Mark Loewe, vice president of Ohio racing operations for the Austintown facility’s parent company, Penn National.

A resurgence in Ohio racing started in June 2012 when Gov. John Kasich signed a bill authorizing racinos and video lottery terminals in the state, among other things, in a gaming-related bill. That opened the door for Dayton’s new racino and Hollywood Gaming here, both Penn National-owned racinos opening later this year.

“The hope is that with the Ohio VLT [video lottery terminal] legislation, it’s going to create a greater need for horses in Ohio, so that the Ohio foal crops should start seeing an increase,” Loewe said.

Mountaineer is working with the West Virginia Racing Commission to reduce its number of race days, specifically due to declining numbers of horses and new competition from the Austintown race course.

“It’s been talked about in the industry for years and when the economy changed, there was less money to put into breeding, so it’s been declining,” said Rosemary Williams, senior director of racing at Mountaineer.

Read more views about the situation in Sunday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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