A couple of weeks before the yearling sale at Harrisburg, Jeff Gural announced for the most part, the Meadowlands stakes schedule would remain intact if the harness racing industry would step up and sponsor those races which appears to be the case. He also announced despite the defeat of the casino referendum, the Meadowlands was here to stay for the long haul.
Many rejoiced at hearing that news. I for one am not.
Make no mistake, I am glad racing at the Meadowlands will continue despite the defeat of the referendum. However, in times like these, maintaining the stakes program at the detriment of the overnight races is unacceptable. It was commented if the Meadowlands cancelled the stakes races, their purses could be competitive with the purses in surrounding racing jurisdictions. There is a large deficit in the purse account which must be repaid.
A good portion of the stakes purses comes out of the same purse account which is used to pay the purses of the overnight races contested at a track. Offering lower class races with reduced purses merely to offer stakes races for the major stables and well-heeled owners is an insult to the rank and file individuals who put on the races which make up 95% of the contests; many who are having a hard time to make a living or break even. It is one thing if a track is making money on its racing program or are subsidized by racinos to offer stakes races it would normally not be able to afford, but to ask the the struggling New Jersey horsemen to foot the bill for the 'elites' in the current situation is unacceptable.
Now I am not saying the Meadowlands should cancel all the stakes races; having a few stakes races is fine, but to ask horsemen to fund over $10 million in stakes is unacceptable. Think what these $10 million could do for the overnight horsemen? Increased purses and a better product for the gambler versus short fields of horses racing for a pittance to what they can out of the state; possibly increased racing dates. Perhaps more pressing is the albatross of purse account deficits, something which could easily be paid off without cutting existing purse levels if the decision was made to cut stakes and not raise purses the first year.
Yes, Gural a strong supporter of harness racing. Time to show some love to the every day horsemen.