For photos from the Meadowlands contact Lisaphoto@playmeadowlands.com

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Month of Apprehension....for Everyone

In less than a month, perhaps earlier, we will learn the fate of the Meadowlands.  We will be able to get a reading of the tea leaves come around March 15 as Jeff Gural had promised a status update around the time the second series of stakes payments are due and April 1 is the agreed upon deadline to have a lease for the Meadowlands in place.  If no lease is locked up by then, racing at the Meadowlands is scheduled to cease, excluding a one week meet come Hambletonian time and purses will be slashed even more at Freehold as the agreement to have a winter meet at the Meadowlands came with the proviso that the first $1.2 million in simulcast earnings from April 1 on that would be earned by harness horsemen would be paid to the state instead to recoup what was paid out.  If they are not racing at the Meadowlands, it means the contribution to the Freehold Raceway purse account will be devoid of simulcast revenue generated at the Meadowlands for a while. 

So while we worry about what happens to the Meadowlands, we tend to forget (or care less) about what is happening to the New Jersey thoroughbred industry.  It is possible that the NJ thoroughbred meet may consist of six days of racing at Atlantic City Race Course.  We tend to forget the State of New Jersey is putting the screws to the runners as well as us; most likely because harness racing tends to end up on the short end of any deals involving both breeds.  The NJSEA has put out a request for proposals for groups  to lease Monmouth Park as of June 1 for the next five years.  As of now, there is no thoroughbred schedule at Monmouth as the lack of a state subsidy to the thoroughbred industry means at present there will be no Super Meet at Monmouth and the thoroughbred horsemen are insisting on a 141 day race meet.  A 141 day race meet at Monmouth means they would be racing through December at Monmouth; which would guarantee a financial disaster.  Unless one of the winning bidders agree to subsidize purses to get the horsemen to agree to a reduced schedule similar to last years, costing the lessor money; not only will there be no life thoroughbred racing in New Jersey, there will be no simulcasting of thoroughbred race as well.  With harness racing benefiting from thoroughbred simulcasting, it would put a strain on harness racing purses as well,  Right now the alleged bidders for Monmouth Park are Betfair, Hialeah Park, Churchill Downs Incorporated, Greenwood Racing (Parx Racing; Philadelphia Park to most of us), and a real estate developer and a horse owner. 

There has been some talk that Betfair is interested in an equity stake of the Meadowlands which would be good for the possibility of meeting the necessary capital requirements necessary for a new grandstand and th development of OTWs, but I worry about the length of the lease they are willing to give the Gural team.  If the NJSEA is only willing to give a five year lease for Monmouth Park, how long a lease are they willing to offer for the Meadowlands; will it be enough to substantiate the building of a new grandstand?

So it promises to be a month full of anticipation In New Jersey, and it isn't the standardbred industry alone holding its collective breathes. 

We spent two days last week talking about my interpetation of the HANA survey.  You may now make your own analysis as complete survey results have been  released.

3 comments:

The_Knight_Sky said...

Pacingguy wrote:

Unless one of the winning bidders agree to subsidize purses to get the horsemen to agree to a reduced schedule similar to last years, costing the lessor money; not only will there be no life thoroughbred racing in New Jersey, there will be no simulcasting of thoroughbred race as well.
________________________

Are you implying that the horsemen will pull the plug on simulcasting, if there is no lease deal signed by Gural and partners?

If so to what extent?
Just the Meadowlands simulcasting, OTW / NJAW or all the off-track options?

Pacingguy said...

No, this refers to the thoroughbred horsemen. The horsemen would have the right to pull thoroughbred racing out of all outlets in the state. It would hurt harness racing because much of their simulcast revenue comes from thoroughbred racing.

The_Knight_Sky said...

Okay I see what you're saying. I don't think it is in the horsemen's best interest to mess with simulcasting signals in NJ.

You saw what happened is Massachusetts. The horsemens's groups pulled the signals - and they lost the dates battle with Suffolk Downs anyway. By doing so they also did much damage to their fan base.

Nice way to salute the fans who padded the horsemens' purse accounts for many years right?

It is imperative that both breeds of horsemen in NJ strive to make thing work over the short-term (2 or 3 year plan). That means no one should be boasting they want a 141 day thoroughbred meet when that is NOT what works for New Jersey racing.

Not even 100 days of live racing will work for New Jersey in 2011. Some people need to Get Serious.