First, what defines a better horse? Is it speed? Well, a horse racing on a half mile track obviously will be slower than a horse on a mile track so speed alone (with all due respect to breeders) is not the sole factor. True, a horse that can handle a half mile track may not be able to handle the mile track, but the converse is also true, a horse that can handle a mile track may not be able to handle the smaller oval. This doesn't mean one horse is better than the other; it means they are different. As a fan and bettor, the better horse is the horse than can be competitive week in week out in the proper class. In effect, what we want is evenly matched fields with sound and reliable horses.
So of the two tracks, who has the better horses right now? It depends on the type of horse you are referring to. If we are talking about your overnight horses, the nod has to go to Yonkers Raceway. At Yonkers, nw6000cd (optional 15K claimers) are going for $15,000. The comparative nw6000cd class at the Meadowlands is racing for $9,375 (without the NJSO supplement). Where would you be racing your horse? If you are not racing this horse at Yonkers it is likely your horse is unable to navigate the smaller oval. On the other hand, if you have a potential stakes caliber horse, you are racing at the Meadowlands. As good as the stakes program is at the Meadowlands, your main incentive for staying on the mile track is once the Meadowlands closes, it's on to Indianapolis, Du Quion, Springfield, and The Red Mile (after a stop at Delaware). In effect, if you are thinking about the possibility of breeding or syndication, you need to show a fast race record.
Bottom line is being there are more overnight races than stake races, Yonkers has the better horses over all, for now. Once NYRA finally gets their slot parlor open and when VLTs come to New Jersey (it eventually will), the revenue flow from the slots will decrease at Yonkers and the purses will level off unless the horsemen are willing to race for fewer days. Once that happens, I suspect the overnight programs will be pretty close; the decision where to race will depend on your horse's ability to race on a half or mile track; similar to the way it is in Chicago where you decide whether to race at Balmoral or Maywood.
This year has been a disaster for the Meadowlands. Due to the purse structure at slot fueled tracks, the Meadowlands has been forced to race less races, shorter fields and cheaper caliber horses to fill their card. While things on the whole are going well at Yonkers, all is not well; it is hard to get a horse raced at Yonkers due to the number of horses passing through their entry box. Is there a way for both tracks to work together and benefit the horsemen and fans at the same time?
For the benefit of the entire industry, the best thing would be to coordinate racing dates so each track did not compete against each other. Either reintroduce a circuit similar to the old Yonkers/Roosevelt circuit where one track is dark all the time or do something similar to Balmoral and Maywood where each track races different nights during the week; possibly switching days periodically so each track gets a chance to race on Saturday nights. However, being horsemen have still not recognized less racing dates at each track is needed in the long run, it is highly unlikely that this proposal could be implemented.
A more acceptable proposal would be to coordinate the condition sheets between the two tracks. For the top classes, let's alternate on a weekly basis which class races at each track. For example, one week a Saturday night at Yonkers could have an open trot and the Meadowlands could have the open pace. The following week, the two classes would switch tracks. This would occur for other classes as well. By doing this, each track would benefit by having the best horses in each class available racing at their plant during the week the class races at their track. Horsemen win because more money remains in their purse account for other races and horses who would normally not have the opportunity to race will be able to get in due to the races being shifted to the other track that week. Horseplayers win because they get fuller fields and you have the potential for higher payoffs since horses will be switching back and forth between the two ovals unless they are willing to miss a week of racing.
Working together, we can have a superior product at both racing facilities for the benefit of all. Let's see if we can rise to the occasion.