The Pennsylvania horse racing and breeding industry, currently concerned about a steady decline in the revenue it gets from slot machines, got some surprise public relations May 3 courtesy of the grade I Longines Kentucky Oaks.
The $1 million race was won by King of Prussia Stable's Princess of Sylmar, a 3-year-old filly by Majestic Warrior out of the Catienus mare Storm Dixie who was bred in Pennsylvania by Ed Stanco, the principal of King of Prussia Stable. The filly, who won the Oaks at 38-1, made her first two starts last year at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, including a 19-length maiden victory.
Princess of Sylmar is believed to be the first Oaks winner to have broken her maiden at Penn National.
The major victory by a state-bred could be used as Pennsylvania interests tout reasons why the industry needs to maintain a revenue stream from slots. The morning of May 3 the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition issued yet another release showing slots revenue has declined in nine of the last 10 months.
"Slots revenues at Pennsylvania's racetrack casinos have now fallen for nine of the last 10 months, which has resulted in a 6.14% or $14.3 million drop this fiscal year in funding to support horse racing and breeding in the state," coalition spokesman Pete Peterson said. "It is becoming increasingly clear that this is not an anomaly, but a trend that will continue due to the increasing competition from casino gaming in other states."
The coalition said slots revenue at the state's six racetrack casinos was down 7.4%, or $1.77 million. Slots revenue at non-racetrack casinos dropped 1%.
Peterson said the difference is significant because the Race Horse Development Fund authorized by the 2004 slots law in Pennsylvania is based only on gross terminal revenue from slots at racetrack casinos. He said RHDF revenue will fall about $28 million short of projections by the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett, who in his next budget has called for some of the horsemen's slots revenue to be diverted.
"Competition from neighboring states for patrons' gambling dollars is increasing, and those being hardest hit are the state's racetrack casinos," Peterson said. "That in turn is causing a decrease in funding available to support the horse racing and breeding industry in Pennsylvania, forcing cuts in purses and breeders' incentives.
"Given the hit we are already taking from increased competition, the budget proposal to divert $31 million from the fund could drive small businesses out of Pennsylvania to other states that offer better purses and incentives."
In 2004 Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and then finished a game second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) Some have attributed that publicity to helping get the slots bill passed in the legislature a few weeks after the Triple Crown.
Princess of Sylmar was foaled at Sylmar Farm in Christiana, Pa., about 30 miles from Stanco's hometown of Malvern, Pa. The farm is owned by Betsy and Ronald Houghton, a Penn National-based trainer who foaled the filly.
Princess of Sylmar is the second Pennsylvania-bred to win the Oaks in the past three years; Plum Pretty did so in 2011.
"I'm really, really happy for Pennsylvania racing and also for Penn National," Betsy Houghton told Penn National officials.