During a panel discussion held Wednesday prior to the draw for the Woodbine Mile (G1), trainer Mark Casse was asked about ideas to draw in new, younger fans to horse racing.
The Hall of Famer's response was a proposal that would shake up the way racing has operated for generations -- eliminate claiming races.
Casse said he would be in favor of eliminating claiming races and instead adopting a classification system in which horses can move up and down between divisions, a move he said would give every runner a chance to win without forcing new owners to risk their horses being claimed.
“Somebody went out and bought a horse and won a couple races and did the right thing,” Casse said. “Next thing you know the horse was claimed and then it came back and won the stake. Does that help our industry? I don’t think so.”
In addition, Casse proposed coupling the classification system with an online site where horses could be bought and sold.
“If you knew that you could buy that horse and then find a place for it to win, I think that’s important,” Casse said. “And there’s a lot of people out there who would like to buy horses but can’t do it. They don’t know, you know, claiming race, they don’t get it.”
Trainer Kevin Attard, who was also on the panel, disagreed with Casse. He noted claiming a horse is the easiest way to get someone involved in horse ownership.
“When a client approaches me, it’s easier to sell them on possibly claiming a horse and maybe being back at the races in three weeks time with an opportunity to get some return on your investment,” Attard said.
The panel also discussed how to get new gamblers interested in the sport, particularly those who may not be fans of pari-mutuel wagering. Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment, offered up the possibility of fixed-odds wagering on horse racing in Canada.
“It’s certainly illegal and it will go hand-in-hand with single-game sports betting in Canada,” Lawson said. “We think it’s critically important that holders of pari-mutuel licences, like Woodbine, also are the holders as it relates to fixed-odds wagering.”
Lawson doubled down on the need for Woodbine to be a part of any fixed-odds horse race betting in Canada, saying that not being able to would have dire consequences for the track.
“To do otherwise would destroy this industry,” Lawson said. “If you can imagine that the beneficiaries of the wagering revenue are a party somewhat other than an entity like ours who pays the purses, who pays the operating cost, who does everything but doesn’t get the revenues from it, you can imagine the results.”
The Woodbine Mile, one of the marquee events of the Woodbine calendar, is scheduled for Saturday.