Note: Updated regarding Freehold Purse Cuts to specify some of the cuts.
Purses at Freehold Raceway are getting shaved once again. Starting with racing on March 2, purses will be reduced 25%. With a prior purse cut announced in January, purses at the Freehold oval will be reduced a total of 40% two months into the season. The purse cuts are across most classes as $4,000 claimers will now be racing for $1,800 instead of $2,000. Open $10,000 claimers get their purse shaved from $5,100 to $4,400; nw8000L6 drop from $8,700 to $7,400. In addition to purse cuts, certain classes such as the Trotting Preferred Handicap ($11,700) disappear from the condition sheet, despite a full field of eight horses entered for this week's contest. The only light in tunnel is apparently the NJSEA still owes Freehold $500,000 from the expired purse enhancement agreement. Should the NJSEA come up with this money, part of the purse reduction would likely be reversed. However, with the problems the Meadowlands is having, it may be a long time before they see the money handed over; if at all.
Last year Freehold had cancelled some stakes races to save purse money but still kept a few stakes races, It would not surprise me to see Freehold shed a few more stakes races; or possibly offer overnight racing exclusively like Monticello. Clearly Freehold is in trouble as once more Eastern tracks open up for the season, don't be surprised if the base claiming prices drops to $3,000 or $2,500 as the exodus begins.
Lean days indeed for The Afternoon Delight"
In other news, Mike Gulotta once again makes an excuse for Governor Christie's veto of legislation that would have allowed sales taxes on claiming horses to be used for breeding awards, understanding the
current economy. I wish Gullota would stop being an apologist for Governor Christie. Gulotta reminds everyone that instead of closing the Meadowlands, Christie is trying to privatize racing. That's true if you consider throwing a life preserver two miles out in the Atlantic as attempting to privatize racing. It seems Mr. Gulotta forgets the Meadowlands was two days away from being closed for good in December and unless the Gural consortium can swim out to the life preserver to save the the Meadowlands, Christie has no problem of seeing harness racing in New Jersey go under quicker than the Titanic. Gulotta cites the pro-racing legislation that Christie has signed this year, legislation he would have likely vetoed if he didn't need the Democratic-controlled legislature to pass his Atlantic City reform bills.
The fact is Gulotta and others were charmed and snookered by Christie on the campaign trail to get the horsemen to support him instead of Corzine. It is time to admit it and recognize Christie is no real friend of racing. He could care less if racing survives or fails.
News has come out that Betfair is looking at the possibility of purchasing Monmouth Park. Why does this deserve mention on a harness racing blog?
It may represent the future of racing in the United States and this would not surprise me. In fact, this model is not that unusual. If you go to a racetrack in Australia and New Zealand, the wagering at the track is handled by TAB, a wagering company that handles wagers down under at all the tracks (there are different TABs depending on the region of the country. This is the same TAB that you can log on to your computer to make a wager with, walk into a store front to make your wagers and watch it on television. So if TAB handles the wagering down under, how do the tracks get purse money? From the commission on all wagers made on the racing at that track.. In effect, the track is owned by a harness racing club and they get their money from TAB for the purses.
Should Betfair taking over Monmouth Park, they can continue to offer a championship meet, though this year due to the lack of subsidies, Monmouth is scheduled to run a 104 day meet which will likely be a fiasco. No doubt TVG will continue to have the exclusive on live racing from Monmouth and when negotiating the commission on exchange wagering which they likely will be offering in New Jersey, they would be able to keep the commission they need to pay on exchange wagering low from the track's perspective, ensuring the success of exchange wagering with regards to Monmouth Park. As to the four OTWs, the winning bidder of Monmouth gets to build, these OTWs will likely offer traditional parimutuel and exchange wagering.
Ths means unless the NJSEA or action of the NJRC precludes exchange wagering from being offered in New Jersey until all tracks negotiate a deal, there is a possibility of only having exchange wagering available for thoroughbred racing, with the standardbreds cut out initially.
If Betfair is successful in obtaining and running Monmouth Park, it may be anticipated that more racetracks will be purchased by ADWs.provided they don't run into anti-trust violations. This may mean the consolidation of racetracks may be controlled by the ADWs.