In New England 2017 started out on a sad note, as colorful trainer Carlos Figueroa passed away on January third. The "king of the Massachusetts Fairs" was 88.

To my knowledge, the only track with a casino to go under was Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. Not surprising considering there's a Cherokee Casino at every major intersection in Oklahoma, but now that phenomenon may be heading east.

Back about twenty years, the states of Delaware and West Virginia embraced casino gambling and their racetracks were rewarded for it, but over time competition began to creep in especially for West Virginia and Mountaineer Park in particular. Once a rags to riches story, the track has suffered a double whammy, with casinos now in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two of it's main customer bases. Over the past couple of years Mountaineer has cut racing dates, number of races per card and purses, while continuing to loose money, making some question whether racing is doomed at the Chester oval.    

Another track that could be in trouble is the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Finger Lakes Gaming and Race Track will feel some stiff competition from a casino opening nearby, which will not have to contribute to purses at Finger Lakes. Already plagued with a short fields, horseman may be looking for other venues. Not a rosy outlook for the Farmington facility.      

Another favorite to fold in my book is Scarborough Downs it is not a racino, but that's probably the problem. Scarborough can still be bet on some internet sites, but has not sent out a video feed for a couple of years and the betting pools are measured in hundreds not thousands. Another negative sign came when the barn area was shut down late last year. Maybe this will finally be the year, leaving once fertile New England, with only two commercial tracks.

It could just be me, but there doesn't seem to be many tracks running nowadays? Let's see how it goes! 

Hail to the new King, Ohio. The latest entry into the racino wars, Mahoning Valley is a far cry from Beulah Park, with full fields and increased purses, if they published attendance information they might show more than five people going through the turnstiles. On the harness side Miami Valley is an upgrade from old Lebanon Raceway, with many races having ten horse fields.

Finally a look back at New England, once in awhile I get some feedback, but not once has someone mentioned Lincoln Downs technically, I guess the guts of it are still there somewhere inside the casino, so it's still exists. Then I realize that it has been over forty years since a horse crossed the finish line there. Say you were the minimum betting age of 21 when it closed, now you could be able to collect social security. Thinking back I don't recall many twenty something's in the crowd, I thing the average age of those people today would be between 80 to 100. The same can be said for Narragansett Park and Green Mountain Park, both of which also closed many years ago. Add that to the recent closings of Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park and you have the extinction of thoroughbred racing in New England, which in 1966 had 12 sites that hosted flat racing.

Added a few pictures for Saratoga Race Course and got a little nostalgic. Can you remember when the horses were saddled under the trees instead of the paddock or in Fred Capossela's last year, when he would call the first eight and the "apprentice announcer" Dave Johnson, would call the finale. Speaking of Saratoga, Saratoga Harness is facing a similar problem to the Finger Lakes as a new non-racino casino has opened up in nearby Schenectady. Word on the street is that the take there is down 25%, which will eventually affect harness racing purses. 

Look's like the Finger Lakes may be safe for a couple of years. The new del Lago Resort & Casino has offered to kick in a couple of bucks to offset purse money it may siphon away from the Finger Lakes Casino. The season is scheduled to start on April 22, running ten less days than last year. Thinking about racinos, have they made racing more honest? With the once casual bettors, now tethered to a VLT by their Wam-Pum cards, oblivious racing is even going on. Their money now goes to purses, not in the pools to be feasted on by the hard core gamblers, who now have to fight each other for nickel's and dimes. With smaller pools and much higher purses, why not just win races, not play games. Maybe that's why at a place like Dover Downs, 1-1 on a Yannick Gingras horse looks like a major overlay.                

Time For Some Crow: Well it looks like my fearless predictions are not going to come true. Finger Lakes is going to get some of that casino money and return to racing for now. My other racino track, Mountaineer Park has not started yet, but it's showing up on the simulcasting schedules, a good sign it to will be back. My non racino track, Scarborough Downs has started up for the year, leaving me 0 - 3. A posters on a popular harness site eloquently summed up the first Sunday of racing there "Scarborough Downs, eight races, five horses a race, everybody gets a check, everybody goes home happy, life in Maine - the way it should be", what more can you say. I guess you could mention that you can bet Scarborough online, but you can't watch, probably why the average win pool was about $400 a race. Maybe not that much but it's still $398 to $400 more than they bet at Thunder Ridge. Speaking of Thunder Ridge, I also predicted their demise, so I guess I'm 0 - 4, so much for betting favorites. Looks like it's easier to handicap horses than horse tracks!