Lower takeout could cure SoCal ills

Two new plans are being floated in Southern California to increase the horse population. Both seem short-term solutions to long-term ills.

The first idea is to spend money from the California Marketing Committee to buy racehorses from back east. The horses would be shipped to California and then sold to owners for local racing.

The other plan is to pay rich bonuses to horses that are shipped in from outside California to start at Del Mar. The first bonus is $1,000 just to start. The second bonus is worth 20 percent of purse earnings if the horse finishes among the first five in the race.

The powers that be think that if field sizes increase, then betting handle will markedly increase, too. I suggest a cheaper, more common-sense approach to increase wagering: Just lower the takeout. A lower takeout would instantly make the product more attractive in the simulcast market.

I consider the first plan a gross misuse of funds because the California Marketing Committee is meant to promote horse racing. That money comes from takeout, which means our wallets. If buying horses in training is considered the best way to market the sport, then we are in dire straits.

Del Mar is funding the second plan. The concept is actually an incentive plan for California owners to buy or claim out-of-state horses and bring them back to race. The bonus money is essentially to pay for shipping costs.

It’s a roll of the dice, but at least horseplayers aren’t paying for it.

■ JOCKEY EXODUS — A typical Hollywood Park overnight race three years ago might have listed the following riders: the late Michael Baze, David Cohen, Jon Court, Kent Desormeaux, Corey Nakatani, Alex Solis and Jose Valdivia.

They are all elsewhere now.

Nakatani is the latest jockey to leave Southern California, having moved his talents to Arlington Park in Illinois, where he should do well. With Joel Rosario, Rafael Bejarano, Garrett Gomez and Joe Talamo getting the choice mounts in shrinking fields, not many live mounts are left over.

■ POPULAR NAME — The name of Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is also the title of a hit movie out of Australia.

“Animal Kingdom” the movie is described as a cross between “Goodfellas” and “The Sopranos.” It received a 97 percent approval rating from film critics at rottentomatoes.com.

Great movie, great horse.

■ BLAST FROM PAST — HRTV will feature 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew on the network’s Inside Information show at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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