The United States Trotting Association has announced that Joe Faraldo, leader of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York will be contesting existing USTA Chairman of the Board Ivan Axelrod in the upcoming election for officers for the USTA. This is a repeat of the election of 2007. All I have to say is Oh Vey!
This is the same Joe Faraldo who is a constant thorn in the side of Jeff Gural, the last hope for the Meadowlands to survive. When Jeff Gural first started his efforts to save the Meadowlands, it was Joe Faraldo who wrote the press release that Gural was in it only for the potential of slots. It is Joe Faraldo who represents the horsemen's association at Vernon Downs, the very organization that refused to accept a reduction in the takeout rate, despite the fact probably 80% or more of their purse account comes from slot revenue so even if the experiment to reduce takeout failed miserably, there would have been little if any impact on the purses paid.
It is Joe Faraldo who accused Jeff Gural of attempting to cut racing dates at Monticello Raceway when they were negotiating a possible deal to take NYCOTB out of bankruptcy; those dates being dates in the dead of the winter. Now does anyone really think Jeff Gural gives a hoot if Monticello Raceway races during the winter a time when Tioga and Vernon are dark? Jeff Gural was the point man for Monticello's management in this case.
Now make no mistake, Joe Faraldo is a fighter for horsemen and owners at Yonkers and elsewhere in the state. It is true that the SOA of NY has made attempts to increase interest in the racing product at Yonkers in an attempt to increase attendance and handle and for those efforts he should be applauded. But Mr. Faraldo also is a person who is against cutting race dates and as we see from what happened at Vernon Downs is against a reduction in takeout rates. When was the last time there was a takeout reduction at Yonkers Raceway; another track where the vast majority of the handle comes from slot revenue?
As for his opponent Ivan Axelrod, yes it is true that he sees the potential that harness racing will contract to five major all-breed tracks in the entire nation. Note, he does not say there will be only five racetracks, but major tracks. How can a CEO of the USTA feel this way? Maybe it partially has something to do with the old school directors of the USTA who refuse to make any radical changes because this is the way things have always been done; something he has already stated in HoofBeats. Axelrod recognizes major changes are needed, other directors and people in the industry can't or refuse to see it; the USTA's punting on whipping rules two years ago a perfect example. Why can he possibly see only five major tracks remaining in ten to fifteen years? Look at Gulfstream Park as an example, it is more than a racetrack, it is a complete entertainment center. If you want people to come to racetracks, they need to be entertainment centers; a destination. How many track owners of any breed have the financial means or ability to do this? Certainly not tracks like Buffalo Raceway, Cal Expo, Harrington Raceway, and Lebanaon Raceway which are at fairgrounds they have no control of.
Let's not kid ourselves a Chairman of the Board, no matter who he is, can't make all the changes needed; it depends on the directors and the support of the industry. But a person who continues to goad Jeff Gural, takes a strict horsemen versus track operator stance and refuses to allow takeout cuts in an attempt to get gamblers back, where ever they bet, sets a bad tone and may be sealing the fate the Axelrod has predicted.
Hopefully, the voters get past the emotion of the campaign and take a hard look as to who they want to lead the USTA. In my view Faraldo, as well intentioned as he may be, represents the status quo. Axelrod, represents the realization that the sport is broken and needs to change. The voters need to decide which path they want to travel. To me the path is obvious, let's see if it is to the voters.