Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey President Tom Luchento has issued this statement/letter on the news that Showplace Farms is closing:
It started with a four paragraph announcement, and it sent shockwaves through the racing industry in New Jersey.
On July 23, 2015, Showplace Farms in Millstone, NJ announced that after 36 years in business, it would be closing its doors on October 1, 2015.
Showplace is 140 acres of prime real estate on Route 33. When it opened nearly four decades ago, it reflected the health of the standardbred racing industry in New Jersey, thanks to the debut of the Meadowlands Racetrack in 1976.
Showplace, home to more than 425 horses, was a new concept: a first-class training center with its own track, state-of-the-art barns, a swimming pool for rehabilitating horses, and fenced in pastures for grazing.
It would be the inspiration for other training centers throughout Central New Jersey where horsemen would pay for the privilege to house their racehorses in pastoral Monmouth County rather than free stabling at the Meadowlands.
New Jersey horsemen, however, have fallen on hard times, competing against the casino-fueled purses in surrounding states. It is making it more difficult for Showplace and other training centers to collect rent and make their businesses viable. Meanwhile, the racetracks – including Freehold and the Meadowlands – have torn down their barn areas, leaving many horsemen without stabling options.
In a matter of months, the bulldozers will be demolishing Showplace Farms, and it will not be long before other training centers and breeding farms will be following their example. These farms will soon be shopping malls and housing developments.
Until now, the owners of the farms and training centers were willing to gamble on the future of New Jersey racing, believing that the addition of gaming at the Meadowlands would raise the purses and justify the risks.
However, the failure of our leadership in Trenton to put the question of North Jersey gaming on this year’s ballot has been the last straw for Showplace Farms, and perhaps others to follow.
“It has been a good run,” said Bix DiMeo, general manager of Showplace, in the announcement of closure. “But with fewer horses racing and the current economic climate here in New Jersey for harness racing, this business model no longer works for us.”
For anyone in the state legislature and the governor’s office who thought racing’s leadership was crying wolf – well, the impending closure of Showplace Farms on the heels of the dismantling of the 1,000-acre Perretti Farms in Cream Ridge seem to suggest that instead of crying wolf, the wolf is at the door.
This is an industry that represents thousands of your friends and neighbors, who could go from taxpayers to unemployed in a heartbeat.
If the racing industry in the Garden State were to fail, it goes beyond track ownership and track employees. Its demise would trickle down to the veterinarians, hay and grain growers, blacksmiths, horse transport companies, and others who make their living in some fashion off the racing and breeding industries. This is a billion-dollar industry in jeopardy, a meaningful source of revenue to the state’s economy.
Unless New Jerseyans want to see our farmland, of which 20 percent is equine-related, paved over, we need Trenton to step up and bring gaming to the Meadowlands now.
President of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey