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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time to Plan for the Future

Racing is coming to a critical time. Horse racing (all breeds) in New Jersey is on the verge of becoming irrelevant if not extinct after 2010. Once again, the two major gubernatorial candidates have stated their willingness to sacrifice racing for the benefit of Atlantic City despite studies showing the state overall would benefit from VLTs at New Jersey racetracks; this time with Governor Corzine downplaying the possibility of a full casino coming to the Meadowlands. Make no mistakes about it, it appears the state is willing to subsidize the casino industry and the jobs that go with it by sacrificing tax revenue that VLTs at the racetracks would provide by recapturing New Jersey gambling dollars currently being spent at racinos in New York, Pennsylvania and to a lesser degree Delaware.

So what is racing, harness racing in particular, doing about it? For sure, New Jersey racing interests need to continue the good fight; perhaps there will be a game changing moment which will give the drive for VLTs or a casino new life (perhaps table games in Pennsylvania or New York), but nationally, what is standardbred racing planning for in light of the increasing possibility that the flagship harness track in the United States disappears or becomes the home of $5,000 claimers?

In California, harness horsemen have shown amazing resilience. Realizing their days racing at Cal Expo may becoming to an end because the Cal-Expo fairgrounds may be redeveloped for an arena, the horsemen are looking to have a harness meet at Fresno starting next year. The goal is not to abandon Cal Expo, but to race at the two tracks for six months each so they may ensure themselves of a year round circuit and hopefully have a strong presence in Fresono should the Sacremento arena plan come to fruition, possibly in 2013. That is right, they are planning for a contingency that won't occur for at least four years, if at all. Not only are they looking to secure their position in California, the horsemen are hoping to become stronger racing more, for more money and other benefits. They are being proactive and look to come out even stronger than they are now.

If California horsemen can plan for something that may never come to fruition, one would hope the sport on a national level is considering the possibility of life after the flagship Meadowlands which may come as early as 2011. Will there be a new flagship for harness racing or will we do without that one 'super' track? What will happen to the Hambletonian if the purse account at the Meadowlands will no longer support the race? Does the trend of racing on mile tracks reverse and all of a sudden the 5/8 mile track reign supreme or does Yonkers recapture the mantle as the center of the harness racing universe? Do we reduce the books of stallions to prevent the collapse of the yearling market?

The time to plan for the future is now. The possibility of losing the Meadowlands is too significant for last minute planning. Hiding one's head in the sand is not an option. The stakes are too high.

1 comment:

Scooter D said...

That is many questions you have asked Pacingguy and if I had a crystal ball, I'd tell you the answers but I don't. I can say that if the M crumbles, the sport will suffer greatly. We do need a super track to support the large bettors. I think we will be too spread out without a major player. I can't see Yonkers taking the lead or any of the 5/8's unless it is Chester. Then you have the problem of the high takeout rates in that silly state so I doubt the high rollers will go there.

Kudos to the California horsemen for being pro-active as opposed to reactive. Now if that attitude would migrate east, we would all be better off.