The sport is about as close as we come to watching ancient gladiatorial chariot races in the Coliseum.
And now, as the state debates removing the racing requirements at pari-mutuels, longtime Florida tourist attractions like the harness racing track in Pompano Beach are left in some kind of limbo. Right now, casinos like the Isle of Capri, which runs Pompano Park, are required to race a certain number of days every year to operate slot machines and poker tables. Although the races lose the company upward of $6 million a year, it's worth it to keep the lucrative casino -- which made about $60 million last year, according to director of racing John Yinger.
Knowing that this new "decoupling" legislation was only a matter of time, the drivers, trainers, and horse owners have been left in an awkward situation.
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"They have kind of felt like the unwanted stepchildren," Yinger says. "There has definitely been tension."
But earlier this month, that all changed. Yinger says the track signed a three-year extension with the horsemen, guarenteeing that, while the long-term future of a sport like harness racing is certainly cloudy, the track will continue to race for the near future regardless of what the Legislature decides. That means at least a little job stability -- for better or worse -- for hundreds of race workers and about 2,000 horses.