January 24, 2010
A shame no one from Magna Entertainment was on hand at the January 21 Maryland Horse Council meeting (for information on that meeting, see post that follows) to present their plans for Maryland Racing. As I see it, Magna's intention is to do exactly what Coridsh proposes to do -- only at Laurel Racetrack.
Others present at the MHC meeting were quick to point the accusing finger at Magna, making statements like "Magna screwed up." But consider Jim Freer's article that appeared in the "Blood Horse" of January 2.
Freer reported that Magna has changed it's previously frustrating three-year-old stakes schedule back to one that appeals to horsemen. The Holy Bull, won yesterday by the Unbridled's Song colt, Winslow Homer, was shortened to one mile. The Fountain of Youth will be run at a mile and 1/8 on February 20, and the Florida Derby -- also at a mile and 1/8 -- will run on March 20, six weeks before the Kentucky Derby as opposed to the five-weeks-before-Derby schedule of recent years.
Magna's shopping and restaurant complex is on schedule, with some stores and restaurants already open for business. The complex will feature a hotel, living and office space, as well.
But most importantly, Freer reports that according to the Florida Division of Pari-Muteul Wagering, Gulfstream's total slots income rose 15% from the five-month period July-November 2009, over that same period in 2008. This, at a time when slots play fell 6.7% at nearby Greyhound track Madi Gras Racetrack and Gaming, and 8.9% at the Isle Casino and Racing at Pompano Park harness track. Both of the latter two sites have more machines and more total play than Gulfstream Park.
Maybe Frank Stronach and Magna just rode the wave too far, bought too many tracks, overextended, and got caught --like many other sharp businesses -- by an economic downturn. Maybe Magna isn't a screw up. Maybe Magna might still be a best hope.