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Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Folly of Moving to Monmouth Park

New Jersey's Robespierre, Jon Hanson, has suggested harness racing move to Monmouth Park.  Obviously, Hanson must have consulted a Ouija board when making this decision as there is one slight problem with the proposal as currently proposed; it would never work.

Let's start with the obvious, Hanson proposes $4.6 million dollars to put lights at Monmouth plus build a receiving barn for the standardbreds and winterizing part of the grandstand.  Churchill Downs spent $4 million to put lights in at their track, leaving only $600,000 for a receiving barn and winterizing the grandstand.  With New Jersey's famous cost overruns, I imagine horsemen will be asked to bring their own space heaters with them whenever they race to warm up the paddock.  As for the customers, I imagine winterizing the grandstand will include putting in a swimming pool for members of the polar bear club to watch the races from. 

Besides the estimate obviously pulled out of the air by Hanson, there are other reasons why a standardbred meet would not work at Monmouth Park. is the so far quiet objection of the thoroughbred horsemen.  No, it is not the usual opposition to another breed which is the problem, but the realistic practicality of having to share the same oval.  Followers of the Meadowlands thoroughbred meets of the past recall the cancellation of many days in the late fall which were required due to an unsafe track surface caused by raining and freezing and thawing of the track.  Blame for these cancellations is due to the need to convert the track back and forth from a standardbred to a thoroughbred track  Do the thoroughbred horsemen want to deal with this again?

If Monmouth was ever to support both breeds of racing, it would be necessary for it to become another Woodbine Racecourse.  Either a standardbred track, greater than a mile in diameter would need to be build outside of the current course, which would take up some of the standee level or an even greater effort would be required to move the turf course outside of the current main track and replace the thoroughbred turf course with a standardbred oval like Woodbine.  Either proposal would require a larger influx of  revenue to accomplish it, but then both meets could race during the warmer months eliminating the need to winterize the grandstand.  But the cost would be well over $4.6 million dollars; something the state would never agree to.

If the standardbred horsemen are to be evicted from the Meadowlands, there are two better options available.  One would be having the state pay the expenses to install lights, a receiving barn and testing facility at Gaitway Farms and let the track operate without a grandstand to keep costs down by racing as a studio facility for OTW and ADW wagering.  Once the meet was financially successful, then a small scale grandstand could be constructed there.  The other option would be to revisit the possibility of racing at Atlantic City Race Course as they don't use their main track for thoroughbreds and use the facility primarily for studio racing; but there would be a need to install lights as well as they were removed once Atlantic City Race Course virtually closed.  The only problem with using ACRC wold be the question of Philadelphia Park wanting to hold a meet or lease their facility out.

Studio racing would be a novel approach but considering the amount of money bet on track, would it be that dramatic an experiment?

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