Here we are, the last week of harness racing at the Meadowlands; with luck until May. Jeff Gural has presented his bid to take over the track. Everyone breathing a sigh of relief; it looks like victory has been snatched from the jaws of defeat. All we need to do is get a good final week of racing under the belt and wait until the 'T's are crossed and the 'I's are dotted, right?
Wrong. Thursday's program has only nine races carded, which if not for two finals of late closing series, may have had only seven races carded. A plea goes out to end the race meet on a high note for Friday and Saturday. The entry box closes normally at 9AM, at 10AM the box was still open as it was reported the number of entries for Friday were poor. As of noon, the overnight sheet has still not been published for Friday. UPDATE: Friday has nine races - four races have short fields including a six and seven horse field.
This is the attitude of horsemen fighting for keeping the mecca of racing open? Can't wait two weeks to get to Chester and Pocono Downs? It seems to me horsemen have taken victory for granted and are looking out for #1.
At this point, if horsemen are acting this way with their livelihood on the line, Jeff Gural must be wondering how they are going to act once the Meadowlands is saved; especially when there will be no subsidies? Why should someone like Gural risk his reputation for a bunch of uncooperative ingrates? I sure the hell wouldn't.
This has always been a problem with harness racing. Everyone watches out for themselves and sacrifice for the common good is rare. The SBOANJ has tried to work with Gural but the rank and file hasn't. What the horsemen may have done is snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Even if Gural was willing to move forward, what financial institution would be foolish to invest in a business which depends on a bunch of loose cannons?
If Gural pulls out, the horsemen will curse Gural out because it is human nature not to look oneself in the mirror and take the blame yourself. You figured you can do what you want and let everyone else sacrifice. Well, one problem, everyone else was looking for you to make the sacrifice. The truth is the failure of obtaining a lease for the Meadowlands would be a collective effort.
So assuming the Meadowlands is toast, I wonder how happy horsemen will be trying to get their horses raced at Chester, Pocono, and Yonkers where they will be lucky to get in to race once a month. How happy will they be when the need to race for $1,800 purses at Balmoral next winter (assuming there is a meet at Balmoral)? The ironic thing is many of these horsemen will be trying to race at Tioga and Vernon Downs. Well, if there is a good side to this, it may be Cal Expo, which always has a shortage of horses, may be able to get some additional horses to race as there will be horses unable to get in to race on the East coast. Of course, the horsemen won't blame themselves, they will paint themselves as a the victim.
And the shame is, we were so close. But greed may have won out.
Update: Jeff Gural will be on the Meadowlands pre-show Friday evening.