They can't help themselves, can they? - Yonkers Raceway advertised harness racing during the opening telecast of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN recently. This is certainly something worthy of highlighting and bringing to the attention of the harness racing industry and Yonkers deserves to be applauded for doing this. I always thought Yonkers Raceway has been supportive of harness racing and will be, at least as long as a Rooney is running the show. Of course, considering the luxury of being in the New York City metropolitan area, it makes it a lot easier to make such an expenditure. This is a sharp contrast to Harrah's who tries to keep harness racing at Chester Downs (or what is to become Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack) a secret.
So here we have an opportunity to pat a racino on the back for doing something they should be doing anyway, which is a sad commentary on the current state of the industry, but the fact remains Yonkers did something out of the ordinary so let's take a moment and glow in the news of this development.
Wrong. As mentioned in another press release by the SOA of New York, Yonkers Raceway didn't make a big deal about the commercial, but the SOA did. But instead of just applauding what Yonkers did, they took the opportunity to take another veiled dig at Jeff Gural, even though they didn't mention him by name. It was quick, a one sentence paragraph but it was clear who they were talking about.
If they released the press release without this one sentence paragraph, the SOA would have made their point, "See a racino does spend money on marketing racing, it shouldn't just fall on the horsemen", but no, they had to take that dig. It is obvious that the SOA's management is incapable of not taking a dig at Gural. They just can't help themselves.
Of course, show us a harness racino besides Yonkers which does something similar to what they did. When you are in the largest metropolitan area in the United States, a harness racino has the ability to spend that type of money on an advertisement to be shown regionally during a sporting event. They have the opportunity to offer great purses. They have the a horsemen's group that can look through rose colored glasses and say, what problem?
But get out of the New York City area and the story changes. Where is the television advertising of harness racing at Monticello Raceway, at Harrah's, at other harness tracks on similar shows as Yonkers did. There are none. I would like to see what tune the SOA leadership would be singing if they were the leaders of the MHHA at Monticello Raceway, at Chester Downs. I suspect they wouldn't be crowing like they are now.
Yonkers Raceway is an exception to the norm. It is time the SOA realizes this.
Cal Expo Requests Racing Dates - Cal Expo has requested fall racing dates which they don't plan to race. The Sacramento track is planning to get out of the operator role for harness racing, yet is requesting dates for the fall meet to quell uncertainty in the backstretch to keep horsemen and their horses in California instead of them flocking elsewhere and to facilitate the transfer of the race meet to a new operator. As they point out, the CHRB can always revoke the license if a new operator is not found.
The CHRB should reject Cal Expo's request. Yes, horsemen are getting antsy and you want to keep them in California to ensure harness racing remains viable in the Golden State if a new track management company is found. However, you shouldn't play with the horsemen and give them false hope only to have them find out at the last minute there won't be any racing. If Cal Expo wishes to ensure the horsemen remain in California for a fall meet, they should resubmit their request for fall dates by guaranteeing that the California State Fair Board will race those dates if management of the meet has not been transferred.
Change the Coupled Entry Rule? - Saturday night the semi-final of the Spring Survivor Series takes place drawing a ten horse field, but there are only six wagering interests. The Takter stable sends out a three horse entry and the Burke and Schnittker stable each send out two horse entries. Seven of the ten horses are in entries. No, this is not a major stakes race, but if there are so few horses available for racing at the Meadowlands, maybe it is time to uncouple entries as they do at Cal Expo. Six betting interests do not make for a compelling wagering event and the last thing New Jersey racing needs are carding races which are not conducive for wagering. In the ideal world, horses should be coupled when there is common ownership, but the reality of the situation suggests otherwise.
Balmoral Wagering is Up 35% for Q1 - Thanks to the USTA Strategic Wagering Program and hard work at Bamoral, their handle is up 35% in the first quarter (or $10 million). What they don't say in their press release is how much of that is being wagered on track. Let's assume that all of this increase is wagered off track (where most of it is likely wagered); this results in $150,000 more going to the track and horsemen each. When you consider the number of races involved, it doesn't add that much to the bottom line. We need the tracks to form their own non-profit ADW so more money goes to the horsemen and tracks.
Another Trainer Shown the Door - Add Mark Kesmodel to the list of trainers banned from the Meadowlands, and in this case, Yonkers Raceway. Considering his 105 day suspension as one of the New York sixteen just expired, I believe it is safe to assume his persona non-grata status is related to this suspension being one too many medication violations. Kesmodel joins an impressive list of trainers excluded from the Meadowlands. While Gural is to be applauded for trying to make the racing at the Meadowlands the best it can be, it is pretty sad seeing which trainers are no longer welcome. It says a lot about our industry.