Bill Finley wrote in the latest edition of Harness Racing Update that for the Meadowlands to make it, the industry must come together. That is putting it nicely. The ultimate question is can the industry save itself from themselves?
Gural needs the Meadowlands to have the best drivers racing there. He is not talking about a driver going elsewhere for a stakes race; he is talking about night in and night out the driver being out there on the limestone at the Meadowlands. This is a change of course as many of these drivers have headed south to Chester Downs, east to Yonkers, or simply gone on vacation. Will these drivers go against their natural tendency to look at the short term and race for the most money or look at the long horizon and race at the Meadowlands?
Will trainers stabled at New Jersey training facilities resist the temptation to enter their horses at Chester, Pocono, or Yonkers for a couple thousand more to race at the Meadowlands and explain to the owners why it is in their best interest to do so?
Will the owners seeking to maximize their profit instruct their trainers to race their horses at the Meadowlands, provided a class is available for $10,000 instead of racing Chester for $12,000? Owners tend to look at each horse as a balance sheet and at the end of the year they want to show the greatest profit. However, if the Meadowlands depends on $7,500 claimers to fill the race cards, the Meadowlands may not be there and the whole industry may collapse. Will these owners leave a little skin on the table for the assurance there will be an industry to participate in in a few years?
Knowing Gural believes our horses need to remain on the track through at least their four year old career, will breeders allow horses to come back and race at age four or will they continue to head to the breeding shed after three based on any type of claim they can come up with? This will be important because stakes at the Meadowlands will require stallions standing through their four year old career; otherwise the stakes will be few and light on entries.
Will horsemen realize they need to treat the customers fairly; and the customers are not the ones who pay the training bills? The customers are the one in the stands, at the simulcast locations, and in front of the computers. Horse racing, where there is no racino is truly trickle-down economics; trickling down from the customers to the purse account, from the purse account to the owner, trainer, and driver. This requirement applies to horsemen at the Meadowlands and elsewhere. While at present, the customer means less at racino tracks, when the inevitable occurs, those customers will matter. Are we going to continue to chase away our customers so they don't exist when they need them or will horsemen embrace them as if they are the only source of funding? After all, in the age of the Internet, shenanigans at a small track in Michigan will resonate with those who wager at the Meadowlands.
Unfortunately, the answers are not so certain. In hindsight, negotiating with the NJSEA and the State of New Jersey may be the easy part. Negotiating with the industry may be the hard part.
Return of Racing to Syracuse? Harnessracing.com reports that Jeff Gural is looking to return racing to the New York State Fairgrounds with the establsihment of Syracuse Raceway.