Thoroughbred owners hoping for racino
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 04/07/2011 8:52 AM
CANNON FALLS, Minn. — If racino passes, Lisa Duoos will stay in Minnesota and expand her business.
If it doesn't, she'll be in Indiana by October.
Duoos, secretary of the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association, has 38 horses in her care. She operates Dove Hill Farm and Reproduction near Cannon Falls.
Her business is to breed horses. A lot of people who own stallions don't want to deal with the stallion's personality or with an influx of mares, Duoos said. It's a lot of work, but work she enjoys. Duoos refers to herself as a horse pimp and nanny, as her job is to mate stallions and mares and make sure the mares get in foal. She also does artificial insemination of mares, which isn't allowed for Thoroughbred race horses. She raises the foals as well.
"I love the horse business," Duoos said. "I love the reproduction end of it. I love raising the babies."
The Thoroughbred community has embraced her over the last seven years, but the going has gotten tough, Duoos said. Around 230 mares foaled in Minnesota last year, and she expects that number to fall to around 190 this year.
"There's no reason to foal a Thoroughbred race horse in Minnesota anymore," Duoos said.
"You just can't operate on the purse structure," said John DeMaria of Hayfield. "Everything has gone up except the purses. In my case, they've gone backward."
DeMaria and Craig Bishop of Blooming Prairie are partners in B&D Thoroughbreds.
A Minnesota-bred Thoroughbred can race for a purse of $18,000 at Canterbury Park, compared to an Iowa-bred Thoroughbred that can race for $30,000 at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa. Prairie Meadows is a racino.
Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses race at Canterbury Park. Standardbred horses race at Running Acres Harness Park.
In Minnesota, the Thoroughbred industry is in decline right now, said David Dayon of St. Michael. Dayon owns one of the largest all-breed foaling facilities in the state.
The purse structure at Canterbury drives the value of Minnesota racing prospects, he said.
A racino will generate more money for purses and put more money into a Breeders' Fund, which is an incentive fund to breed, foal and race in Minnesota, Duoos said.
"Will the racino make us more money? You bet. Do we spend it? You bet," she said.
Horse owners are struggling with the same increasing expenses that dairy, beef and hog producers are dealing with, Dayon said. Meanwhile, the value of horses is stagnant or decreasing. It's hard to make ends meet, he said.
The states that have passed racinos will be the winners in this game, Dayon said. Those tracks take in more revenue and are able to offer higher purses. These horses are like professional athletes, they go where the money is, he said. The states that don't have racinos will come up short.
Dayon says the argument that a racino is an expansion of gambling is ridiculous. Adding a racino is no different than Mystic Lake adding more slots or card games to their facility, he said. He said he's never heard an argument against the expansion of gambling when a tribe builds a new casino.
DeMaria gives the racino bill a better than 50-50 chance of passing this year.
Neither Republicans or Gov. Mark Dayton have gotten campaign money from the Native Americans, he said.
Likewise, Greg Budach, who raises Standardbred horses near Janesville, is optimistic.
"I feel pretty strongly that this year it's more likely to pass than any other year," he said.
Budach said he thinks legislators will see the opportunity for both the tracks to raise money for the state.
And if it doesn't pass?
He hopes the card club at Running Aces can make enough money so that the track can continue to survive.
But Bishop says the Thoroughbred industry needs the racino now.
"Minnesota will lose the Thoroughbred industry … it ain't going to be around that much longer if this don't pass," he said.