Two days into the Meadowlands 2010 harness meet and people are already trashing the Meadowlands, taking joy in the decline of racing at the Meadowlands; in particular anticipating what will happen when Chester, Pocono and Yonkers reopen for the year. Often, this talk gets ignited when people talk about the quality of racing between the Meadowlands and Yonkers. With the two tracks less than twenty miles apart, comparisons are inevitable.
Let's start with the argument as to which track has the better racing. When it comes to the overall stakes program, the Meadowlands program is clearly superior due to its depth but when it comes to overnight racing, both tracks are pretty much equal with horses with the ability to handle the smaller ovals racing at Yonkers and the others racing at the Meadowlands. Where the tracks differ is in their desirability to gamblers. With only eight wagering interests (six if you disregard horses starting from the seventh or eigth post positions) on a half mile oval, there is is higher number of short priced horses on the half mile track wich is less desirable to serious gamblers.
I can understand people preferring racing at Yonkers over the Meadowlands and vice versa. What I can't understand is why people are gleeful at the Meadowlands' problems. The industry needs a vibrant Meadowlands in order to remain in the consciousness of gamblers. The first two nights of racing, the Meadowlands handled over $3 million in wagers from all sources. Name another track in the United States which could generate handles like this (Yonkers on rare occasions will handle $1 million). When horses flee the Meadowlands for greener pastures, the result is a decline in racing quality and short fields which results in smaller handles. When this happens, the gamblers stay away and that money is lost; wagered on the runners or remaining in the pockets of the horseplayers.
If not for the Meadowlands, the amount of coverage channels like TVG would give harness racing would be far less than we have now. The Meadowlands gets covered whenever they race. The other harness tracks? IF they are covered, it is only when there are not enough running races available. How many times on a Saturday night when the Meadowlands is closed, the only races of Yonkers that were being shown were races like the Yonkers Trot, Messenger, etc. Regular overnight races from Yonkers? Never on a Saturday night. Without the Meadowlands, the publics' exposure to harness racing would be virtually non-existent.
Rather than taking glee at the problems at the Meadowlands, people should be hoping that the Meadowlands and Yonkers can work out some type of racing schedule which will allow both tracks to flourish; perhaps a schedule like Balmoral and Maywood, with the days of the week alternating.