Pompano Park, the last remaining harness track in Florida, is now officially dead. Last May, you might remember, a bill passed allowing Pompano’s owner, Caesars Entertainment, to “decouple” its casino operation from the racing – i.e., it no longer would be forced to subsidize the horse people. Freed from the shackles of the moribund harness-racing industry, the result was predictable: Caesars said, we’re out (of the racing business, that is; reports have Caesars transforming the property into an upscale retail, dining, office and entertainment hub). The end came Sunday.
This is, of course, the future, not just on the harness end, but at the slew of propped-up flat tracks across the country as well. That future was readily acknowledged by the pro-racing writer Bill Finley of the Thoroughbred Daily News. Sunday, he wrote:
“So, what does this have to do with Thoroughbred racing? Plenty. If it can happen to Pompano Park it can happen to any racetrack running any breed. The threat of decoupling is real and it’s not going to go away. It is a huge and ominous threat.” He added: “Most every casino company that owns a racetrack doesn’t want to be in the horse racing business, and most don’t bother to hide their disdain for the sport.”
And so, Pompano has officially become the 41st U.S. track to close since 2000 – and they’re not opening new ones, folks. I’ll close with this quote from celebrated driver Wally Hennessey (pictured below): “I wouldn’t call it depression to talk about the ending of racing at Pompano, it’s more like a funeral.” One funeral I’m happy to attend.