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Friday, April 16, 2010

Su Mac Lad Final, The PA Onslaught

This may be the year of the FFA Trotter with a rejuvinated Enough Talk taking on Lucky Jim through out the season.  However, it would be unfair if we count Arch Madness out of the mix.  While Arch Madness may not be able to make his own luck, he has enough class and ability to be heard from should racing luck go his way. 

Tonight, we see these top FFA trotters featured in the $125,000 Su Mac Lad FFA trotting series final at the Meadowlands.  If the final lives up to the first two rounds, fans should be treated to an exciting finish.  Many people feel Lucky Jim will be able to rebound to take revenge for last week's defeat, feeling Enough Talk was able to get away with a slow middle half.  My gut feeling tells me tonight it is a question of who is able to control the tempo of the race; post position being the key.  The projected order of finish for the final is Enough Talk, Lucky Jim, with Arch Madness rounding out the field.  Being the odds will be low, this will be a race to watch and enjoy.

In addition to the Su Mac Lad final, there is a Mare Invitational and the finals of the Jersey Girls and the Art Unger on the Meadowlands card.  Here are my selections for these three races.

3rd Pace - $32,000; Mare Invitational
3 - Southwind Swallow            8-1  May upset in seasonal debut.
4 - Tug River Princess            9-2  Class of the race, may be short this week.
1 - Rile Rose                          5-1  Takes advantage of rail to complete the trifecta.

6th Pace - $65,800; Jersey Girls Final
8 - Harper Lee                        10-1 Strong mile last week.  Possible upset with trip.
6 - Laughandbehappy               9-5 Favorite can't be disregarded.  Skipped last week.
1 - World Fame                        6-1 Minor spoils with trip.

7th Pace - $54,000; Art Unger Stake Final
3 - Allamerican Chief                 4-1 Looks to complete sweep.
5 - Tamayo                                8-1 No match for top choice.
8 - Brandon's Colt                     12-1 Needs trip to be a factor.
1 - Bet the Town                        5-1 Will attempt to control from the start.  Usually falters.

The racing season is well underway with a trio of tracks kicking off their race meets in the next few weeks.  Tonight Vernon Downs kicks off their 2010 season and on May 1, the eagerly awaited (at least by gamblers) opening of Tioga Downs with their reduced takeout gets underway.  However, of the most concern to the Meadowlands is next Friday's kick-off of the 2010 Chester Downs race meet.  Chester Downs has published their purse schedule and the Meadowlands is showing $10,000 claimers and three year old non-winners of 1 pari-mutuel race on their current condition sheet, clearly planning for the possibility of a shortage of horses in the entry box.  Time will tell how much of a drag Chester Downs will have on the Meadowlands' horse population.

While last year, the drain of horses came predominately from Chester Downs, the Pocono Downs influence can not be underestimated, particularly with regard to claiming races.  Let's compare a few claiming prices off current condition sheets.

Claiming Price      Meadowlands      Chester Downs     Pocono Downs           Yonkers
$10,000                    $8,000              $8,000                  $9,000
$15,000                    $9,200            $10,000                $13,000
$20,000                  $11,700            $12,000                $17,000                  $12,000           
$25,000                  $14,400            $15,000                $19,500                  $14,000  
$30,000                  $17,000            $18,000                $20,250                  $16,000
As you can see, horsmen certainly have their choices as where to race.  Unfortunately, horseplayers looking for quality full fields don't have a choice.  The serious horseplayers stick with the Meadowlands and it looks like they are going to have to deal with cheaper and short fields.   


Ryan said...

Quick correction...Yonkers has 10k claimers that race for $6,000, 12.5k race for $8,000 and 15k race $10,000

Pacingguy said...

The reason I didn't list those were because on the condition sheet those claimers were used as AEs. I noticed AEs for other claiming tags went for different purse amounts than straight claimers did. Yonkers did not have a purse schedule posted for me to refer to.

Scott Jeffreys said...

From those four tracks, there is no doubting that the Meadowlands still attracts the heaviest handle, day-in and day-out. Why is that important here?

When you realize that Chester Downs operates exclusively for the license to run the associated casino/slots, how long before Harrah's get the green light to operate in the "most profitable manner" from the state Pennsylvania government will the track close and be bulldozed? Should be real easy to push the whole track right into the water over there.

Pocono Downs has always been a minor league vacation area racetrack, slot infused or otherwise. There is certainly an April-October lifespan for such an entity, but without their slot money made available under the Mohegan Sun banner, would there be a major casino player involved? No.

If both Chester and Pocono were to cripple the Meadowlands, forcing it to close it harness racing doors forever, is this just natural business evolution or two minor league temporary tracks acting as "shining Meccas" in the short term?

Smart owners and those involved in the sport need to understand that the actual fate of the entire game now rests on the New Jersey/New York axis between the Meadowlands and Yonkers. Right now, the Meadowlands is a tenuous proposition and without that track, horses will be beaten up on smaller ovals forever in this area. We will no longer have big time records or big time racing. Ignore the small time purse differences - this is for the long term survival of the entire game.

Pacingguy said...

In fairness, it must be noted management at Pocono Downs, seem to be investing in harness raicng for the long haul. Management and horsemen have worked together on joint marketing efforts to get more awareness to their track (and casino). Now, if they can get the takeout on exotics reduced, it could be played seriously.

Certainly the same can't be said for Chester. They would drop racing in a moment if they had a chance; they have made no secret of it.

JLB said...

"Time will tell" has arrived sooner than most thought: this Thursday's Meadowlands card shows a serious drop-off in quality. I cannot recall ever seeing such a card there, and Mr. Jeffreys is correct: the loss of such a flagship track could present very serious challenges to the fate of the entire industry.

Pacingguy said...

For those who have not looked, there are three 10,000 claiming races and two 3yr nw1cd races.

Only saving graces is out of the eleven races, nine have full fields (one has eleven).