In less than a month, perhaps earlier, we will learn the fate of the Meadowlands. We will be able to get a reading of the tea leaves come around March 15 as Jeff Gural had promised a status update around the time the second series of stakes payments are due and April 1 is the agreed upon deadline to have a lease for the Meadowlands in place. If no lease is locked up by then, racing at the Meadowlands is scheduled to cease, excluding a one week meet come Hambletonian time and purses will be slashed even more at Freehold as the agreement to have a winter meet at the Meadowlands came with the proviso that the first $1.2 million in simulcast earnings from April 1 on that would be earned by harness horsemen would be paid to the state instead to recoup what was paid out. If they are not racing at the Meadowlands, it means the contribution to the Freehold Raceway purse account will be devoid of simulcast revenue generated at the Meadowlands for a while.
So while we worry about what happens to the Meadowlands, we tend to forget (or care less) about what is happening to the New Jersey thoroughbred industry. It is possible that the NJ thoroughbred meet may consist of six days of racing at Atlantic City Race Course. We tend to forget the State of New Jersey is putting the screws to the runners as well as us; most likely because harness racing tends to end up on the short end of any deals involving both breeds. The NJSEA has put out a request for proposals for groups to lease Monmouth Park as of June 1 for the next five years. As of now, there is no thoroughbred schedule at Monmouth as the lack of a state subsidy to the thoroughbred industry means at present there will be no Super Meet at Monmouth and the thoroughbred horsemen are insisting on a 141 day race meet. A 141 day race meet at Monmouth means they would be racing through December at Monmouth; which would guarantee a financial disaster. Unless one of the winning bidders agree to subsidize purses to get the horsemen to agree to a reduced schedule similar to last years, costing the lessor money; not only will there be no life thoroughbred racing in New Jersey, there will be no simulcasting of thoroughbred race as well. With harness racing benefiting from thoroughbred simulcasting, it would put a strain on harness racing purses as well, Right now the alleged bidders for Monmouth Park are Betfair, Hialeah Park, Churchill Downs Incorporated, Greenwood Racing (Parx Racing; Philadelphia Park to most of us), and a real estate developer and a horse owner.
There has been some talk that Betfair is interested in an equity stake of the Meadowlands which would be good for the possibility of meeting the necessary capital requirements necessary for a new grandstand and th development of OTWs, but I worry about the length of the lease they are willing to give the Gural team. If the NJSEA is only willing to give a five year lease for Monmouth Park, how long a lease are they willing to offer for the Meadowlands; will it be enough to substantiate the building of a new grandstand?
So it promises to be a month full of anticipation In New Jersey, and it isn't the standardbred industry alone holding its collective breathes.
We spent two days last week talking about my interpetation of the HANA survey. You may now make your own analysis as complete survey results have been released.