Let me preface this by saying I don't believe a hundred day race meet at the Meadowlands would be 'elite'. To be an elite meet, the meet needs to be short enough to maintain the attention of the racing public and needs to be high quality. This is why meets like Del Mar, Keenland, Monmouth, and Saratoga get well supported and maintains the interest of the gamblers; those that attend the races in person and those who wager via ADWs and simulcasting. Otherwise, without that certain spark, gamblers will continue to wager on the races they are familiar with. A hundred day meet will not gain any notice, even with a purse subsidy which is uncertain at best; certainly with thoroughbred playerss who will be needed to boost handle substantially.
Won't standardbred players flock to the Meadowlands product? Even if they would, how many standardbred gamblers are out there and from what market is the money going to come from? California? Not likely as those standarbred players tend to come on line at 9:00pm Eastern. Chicago? Believe me, if they are still playing the Balmoral and Maywood product it is highly unlikely they are going to switch to the Meadowlands; the best hope would be the Illinois horsemen deciding not to race the early part of the year to boost their purse account so they can address the recapture payments. New York? There may be some players who may switch if the Meadowlands' meet becomes high caliber, but realistically you would need dark days at Yonkers in order to draw the bulk of their wagering, and the horsemen there are not looking to cut any of their racing dates to help the Meadowlands out.
That being the case, I understand the desire and need for horsemen to race as many days as they think the purse account will accomodate. Not only do the horsemen need a place to race, but there needs to be sufficient opportunity for New Jersey Breds to race in order to help booster the demand for state breds. Let's assume for argument sake they are committed to the hundred day meet. So what would the ideal meet look like?
First of all, there would be no hundred day meet; it is too long. This is not to say we won't race a hundred days, but there will be three distinct meets, complete with breaks between them. There will be a winter meet, a summer meet, and a fall championship meet. The early and late closing events would be visited to cull some of the less subscribed events and certain stakes races will either be shifted or eliminated in an effort to prop up the purse account. This is not saying any of the meets would be bare bones, but reality says the Meadowlands will be unable to support the stakes program they have in the past. Secondly, Freehold would race primarily during the dark times at the Meadowlands; a spring meet, a late summer meet (with some overlap) and a late fall meet.
The winter meet would be held from January 1 through March 27. The meet would typically race Thursday through Saturday except on holidays when there would be 4:00pm racing on Martin Luther King's birthday, Sunday (that's right Sunday) before Presidents' Day and closing day Sunday, March 27. Opening day, New Year's Day would host a double header. The Presidential series for older pacers and The Su Mac Lad for older trotters would under go a format change so they would have a similar format as Yonker's Levy series; attempting not to conflict with the Levy. Other than that, the meet would the typical Meadowlands fare for the winter with some races restricted to NJ Breds. Total number of racing days: 41 days.
The summer meet would be held from May 27 through September 10. The meet would typically race Friday and Saturday with the exception of the Sunday before Memorial Day when racing begins at 4:00pm, Sunday, July 3 when racing would be at 7:00pm to allow for a fireworks display, and a twilight card on September 4 (Labor Day weekend). The Historic Grand Circuit meet unfortunately would be eliminated. The two year old stakes; the Harriman, Acorn, Goshen Cup, and Debutante stakes would be released and offered to other tracks while the three year old races would be retained and fit into the regular schedule.
But this wouldn't be the only changes to the summer meet. The only action two year olds would see are baby races as no two year old races are to be carded during the summer meet. Races with inexperienced two year olds are hated by most serious gamblers so why card races that gamblers hate? The three year old NJSS races would be run during the summer meet as they are now. With the exception of the Peter Haughton Memorial, Merrie Annabelle, Woodrow Wilson, and Sweetheart which are to be raced during the fall meet, the other two year old events get dropped. Let the two year olds get their experience elsewhere. Total number of days of the Summer meet: 35 days (76 days total).
The fall meet runs from September 29 through November 19. The initial part of the meet races Thursday thru Saturday through Novmeber 5 with a twilight card on October 10 (Columbus Day). During this time, the NJSS races for two year olds are to be carded with additional races for two year olds added to the regular overnight fare. Some races for NJ Bred three year old and older would be added (Breeders Crown is at Woodbine on October 29). Starting November 7 through November 19 racing goes Monday-Saturday and would be similar to the Grand Circuit meet at Lexington. The Peter Haughton, Merrie Annabelle, Woodrow Wilson and Sweetheart moved from the summer meet are to be contested during this two week period. Total number of days for the Fall Meet: 24 days (100 days total).
Hopefully the three meet idea will break up the monotony which currently is experienced in the January thru August meet the Meadowlands has had for years and increase interest from people who would go to the track as well as bet over the Internet. By eliminating two year old races until later in the year, there will be less drain on the handle by inexperienced horses. Lastly, the racing calendar for the year would end with a bang with the best horses in the nation gracing the East Rutherford oval; possibly part of a festival style meet. Something like this probably should have happened before; perhaps the current situation in New Jersey would make horsemen and track management make changes to the traditional calendar. Whether these suggestions are the answer or not is unknown. All I know is somethings gotta give.