Passage of legislation that would allow video lottery terminals at Kentucky racetracks would provide a boost to the state’s yearling auctions later this year, according to Brereton Jones of Airdrie Stud.
“The horse business has a way of weeding out people who are negative thinkers pretty quickly, so we generally are left with mostly positive thinkers,” said Jones, who is a former Kentucky governor. “If we get this legislation passed and a reasonable percentage of gaming revenue goes into the purse structure so that a person has a chance of making some money if he’s racing a good horse, then I think you would see some people really respond to that right away at the sales, and it would have a positive impact.”
In Jones' opinion, there is a “50-50 chance” racetrack gaming will be approved in a special legislative session that will focus on the state budget. The session is scheduled to begin June 15. Gov. Steve Beshear released the details of his gaming proposal June 9.
“There are others who will tell you that we do not have a good chance, but I believe that we do,” Jones said. “If it doesn’t get done in the special session, I, for one, am not going to give up. You’ve got to keep working.
"One thing I found out when I was in Frankfort (Kentucky’s state capital)–and I mean this sincerely–is that if you’ve got logic and reason on your side, and you never give up, you eventually will win. But it’s the never give up part that’s tough.”
There is a lot of uncertainty heading in the yearling selling season, which begins in Kentucky in July with Fasig-Tipton’s select auction in Lexington. Battered by financial crises here and abroad, the Thoroughbred marketplace has experienced downturns of 40% or more in prices for breeding stock and 30% or more in prices for 2-year-olds in training. The Thoroughbred industry in general also has a variety of problems that have been exacerbated by economic setbacks worldwide.
“If we can get this legislation passed, then we’ve got to deal some of the issues like Fred Pope (an advertising executive and founder of the National Thoroughbred Association who would like to see a major league structure for racing) has been talking about,” Jones said. “If those things happen, you will see the Thoroughbred industry on a very upward cycle. If they don’t happen, you will see it on a very downward cycle.”