Friday night's card at the Meadowlands features three races for $8,000 claimers in an unofficial late closing series as the highest money earners after two weeks will race in a $12,500 final. Is this a temporary phenomenon? Probably not. In the past, $10,000 claimers raced only if they couldn't get the regular races to fill. No more, $10,000 claimers are regularly scheduled with non-winners of $3,000 in the last six starts now being the filler race.
The thoroughbred world is still talking about Life At Ten, the horse who was in the Breeders Cup with more than $7 million wagered on him who was allowed to race despite the trainer and the jockey knowing somerhing was wrong with the horse. For those, such as myself, who did not watch the Breeders Cup, Life At Ten's race was over as soon as the starting gate opened. It turns out the stewards at Churchill Downs were aware of the comments by Life At Ten's jockey during the warm up that something was wrong, yet they did not ask the state vet who was at the starting gate to check the horse out. Granted, if not the fact it was the Breeders Crown, the stewards would never have been made aware of jockey John Velasquez's comments but one has to wonder if the stewards didn't make the call to the state vet because they feared having to refund $7 million dollars in wagers. In front of all those television viewers, a fraud was committed on the wagering public.
You may be wondering what does this have to do with standardbred racing? Harness racing also has the experience of horses racing when they had no business to be doing so; perhaps the most poignant being the late great Tarport Hap. On that fateful night driver Ben Webster wanted Tarport Hap scratched as he determined she was clearly unfit to race during the warm-ups. The judges refused to scratch the horse, allegedly because management didn't want a race with a short field and have to refund the wagers bet on the Hap. As you may be aware, Tarport Hap died on the racetrack that night during the race and may have very well passed even if she didn't race, but by refusing to scratch Tarport Hap, tens of thousands of dollars wagered on the ailing horse went up in smoke because the judges didn't want to scratch the horse.
Yes, Judges are paid by the racetracks, directly or indirectly, but their job is as much to protect the wagering public as it is ensuring the races are conducted fairly. The judges in the stand at the Meadowlands that night in 1978 failed the wagering public and the judges at Churchill Downs failed the public this past Saturday. Who knows how many other times, in overngniht events judges are closing their eyes due to financial concerns?
This and That
Governor Christie was quoted in an interview with The Record's editorial board as saying "What I really don't want is to have a plan that includes long-term taxpayer subsidies for the horse racing industry. We don't have the money to do those things." This would appear to indicate a change from the Governor's previous hard line stance against spending money to keep the racing industry afloat in New Jersey. It remains to be seen if he was referring to funding operational losses of the NJSEA as a subsidy or if he is starting to wiggle a bit on his previous pronouncements that there would be no subsidies for purses.
In the past I had criticized Freehold Raceway for having a horrible website. Well, that is no longer the case as Freehold has given their website a significant upgrade; it actually looks like a track which wants people to take them seriously.
The NJRC has issued racing dates for 2011, pending revisions once the bill permitting a cut back in racing dates is passed. Under the current law, the Meadowlands will be racing standardbreds 141 days from January thru December with no racing in September; Freehold will race 168 days from January through December with no racing in July. On the thoroughbred side, Monmouth is scheduled to race 104 days during the summer from May through September with the Meadowlands racing their 31 thoroughbred dates at Monmouth Park in October and November. Atlantic City will continue their botique meet of six racing days during the last week of April and the first week of May. If the bill permitting a cut in racing daets is approved, the Meadowlands and Freehold are expected to revise their racing dates downward to 100 days each. As for Monmouth Park, thoroughbred interests have indicated they plan to veto plans to reduce their racing calendar unless a purse subsidy is provided. Of concern to harness interests is the fact the NJSEA reserved the right to change the venue for their thoroughbred meet so if the thoroughbred horsemen refuse to cut their meet back to a schedule similar to this years, there is a chance that the NJSEA may move the Meadowlands' thoroughbred dates back to the Meadowlands, displacing the standardbreds.
At the ongoing Harrisburg sales, yearling prices have been doing well; except for New Jersey sired horses. Of course, this should not be any surprise with the ongoing uncertainty regarding racing at the Meadowlands. One has to wonder if any stallions will be leaving the state or if some of the breeding farms will be forced to close after a dismal sales season.
Meanwhile, Delaware Park, a mixed bred racetrack, reported a 3% increase in handle this year. No doubt part of this increase can be credited to their 37 day experiment where they paid a 9% bonus on Exactas to people who wagered on-track. Management is reviewing the results of the program but have indicated they may include additional wagers next year. Wouldn't it be interesting to see what would happen if the Meadowlands tried this type of program?
Indiana horse racing interests are circling their wagons around their slot revenue as the state is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall in their next two year budget. With the Governor pledging not to raise taxes and cut school funding, you can be certain the slot money will be looked at to make up part of the shortfall.
Did you want to send in your comments regarding a possible Fair Start rule in New Jersey but you missed the deadline? Good news, the deadline has been extended to December 6.