I have said for years harness racing needs a more youthful leadership, specifically to get away from people whose stock answer tends to be 'This is the way we have always done it'. Well, the youth movement is alive and well at the tracks operated or leased by Jeff Gural (the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs), and continues with the appointment of Darin Zoccali as the Director of Racing Operations at the Meadowlands.
If you read the biography provided in the press release, you will see Zoccali gave up a career in law for his passion, racing. This is something common in the appointments being made at the three tracks in question; passion. These younger individuals don't look at racing as a job, but a way of life. You don't see racing as a dead industry playing out the string but an industry which still has legs on it, you just need to develop it right. When you are passionate about something you don't accept 'this is the way things have always been', you make things work and if it doesn't work, you change the rules so it can work. New ideas are encouraged, not dreaded.
Of course, while the youth movement at the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs is welcome, we need the youth movement to expand to horsemen groups as well as regulatory agencies and others for while tracks like the Meadowlands may lead in innovation and experimentation, unless we have others willing to buy in, all we are doing is spinning our wheels.
This is not to say there is no future for the veterans in racetrack management and racing, but it is time for them to step down from the leadership roles and let the youngsters take a crack at things. With youth comes hunger and it is time to let the hunger work for racing.
New Jersey Doings: The SBOANJ and Freehold Raceway have come to an agreement on racing dates for 2013, settling on 110 racing days. Freehold originally applied for 90 days which was rejected by the horsemen who by state law can veto anything under 180 days. The horsemen originally wanted 120 days.
Remember when racing was declared dead in Quebec? Well, a rebirth is underway in La Belle Province. Granted not back to where it once was, but it is growing. It's a long way back but back is better than going. You can hear about their progress here.