Top Horse Trainer Agrees: Boycott Churchill Downs!

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
Top Horse Trainer Agrees: Boycott Churchill Downs!

Momentum is building for a fan boycott of Churchill Downs, the iconic horse racing track in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, where the world-famous Kentucky Derby is annually run and will be again this Saturday.

Bettors are outraged that the track recently increased the amount of profit it takes out of every wager, leaving less for the betting public when they manage to cash in a winning bet ticket.

The track raised the takeout, or vigorish ("vig"), from 16 percent to 17.5 percent on all win, place and show wagers, and from 19 percent to 22 percent on all exotic wagers, such as exactas, perfectas, quinellas and daily doubles.

Mike Dempsey, a horse bettor, professional handicapper and head honcho of the horse capping website, told earlier this week he was speaking for legions of fellow race fans when he declared: "The takeout is already too high and it is driving players from the game...You can't keep taking money out of horseplayers' pockets at these high rates and expect us to be profitable and keep playing."

It's no surprise that racing fans, the ones who actualy bet on the races and feed the funds that keep the tracks going, are miffed that they won't be earning as much on their winning tickets when they wager at Churchill Downs.

But what might be surprising is that at least one prominent horse trainer is also on the side of the racing fans.

Roger Stein, a trainer based in Los Angeles who has earned millions of dollars in his 35-year-career, told on Thursday in an exclusive interview that he agrees 100 percent with Dempsey's assessment of Churchill Downs' actions and also with his urging of a boycott of the iconic track.

"If they (those in favor of a boycott) can actually unite, it is a great idea," Stein said.

A horse trainer supporting a fan boycott of a track may seem counter-intuitive, since less money going to the horse bettors would mean more money for the trainers, jockeys, owners and the track.

Not to mention that if a boycott is effective and shuts down a track, it's one fewer place the trainer can ply his trade.

But Stein is in the profession for more than the bucks it brings--he cares deeply about the future of a sport that's dying a slow death from a multitude of problems.

Asked why a boycott of the classic Kentucky track with the famous twin spires is a great idea, the 60-year-old Stein didn't mince words in giving his opinion about the powers that be that run Churchill Downs.

"These greedy fucks are ruining our game," Stein declared.

And Stein knows that game.

He started in the horse racing business as a standardbred owner in 1977.

Two years later got a trainer’s license and became California’s top conditioner through the mid 1980s.

He then switched full time to training thorougheds in 1987, as at one point in his harness racing career he won training titles at 17 straight meets.

In addition, he has had two major stakes winners: Southern Truce, who he claimed for $16,000 in March of 1991 and developed into a two-time Grade 1 stakes winner, and Forty Niner Days, who brought him his biggest purse ever when he won the $400,000 Golden Gate Handicap, also in 1991.

He has also won stakes with To B. Super and I’m the Business, and he won the 2005 Turf Paradise Derby with General John B.

In 2005 he also won Belmont Park’s Sport Page ’Cap with Gotaghostofachance and Del Mar’s Daisycutter Handicap with Starkay.

Besides his continuing career as a trainer, Stein also hosts a weekly radio show in Los Angeles about horse racing.

By Tom Somach Staff Writer

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