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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Premature? Perhaps. Confident? Yes

So much for taking the weekend off. 

After reading Harness Racing Update today, a person may be wondering about my last blog entry?  "Pacingguy?  Don't you see they are only racing through May?  There may be no lease."  My answer to that is, maybe the column was premature, but I am confident a deal will be done.

What about the thoroughbred threat to keep all running signals out of the Meadowlands (and OTWs)?  Is that real?  Unfortunately, it is.  You see, under the current Interstate Horse Racing Act, any track within New Jersey does have the right to veto simulcasting of same breed racing within 60 miles, provided it is currently active (which I assume means conducting live racing).  Unfortunately, Monmouth and the Meadowlands are within the 60 mile radius so the thoroughbred horsemen have the right to block the signal of runners meaning the Meadowlands would only be able to carry harness racing and quarterhorse signals when Monmouth is conducting its meet.

So now after reading this, you must be really saying I must be nuts to be so confident.  Well, I believe common sense will prevail.  Yes, in some ways the runners have the standardbred horsemen by the proverbial 'baseballs', but rest assured the standardbred horsemen can squeeze the thoroughbred horsemens' 'baseballs' pretty darn hard as well.   It has been referred to as the Nuclear Option.  Let me explain to you what I feel the nuclear option would be.

 Monmouth denies simulcasting rights to thoroughbred races to the Meadowlands and their OTWs; Meadowlands retaliates by denying harness racing simulcasting rights to Monmouth Park (granted not as big a blow, but done for retaliation purposes and I assume at least the Meadowlands' signal does well there).  Meadowlands races becomes a one mile Freehold Raceway.  Meadowlands opens its own thoroughbred meet with a competing horsemen's group which bans Monmouth from simulcasting races during its meet.  Monmouth and other thoroughbred signals shut out of Northern New Jersey means reducing Monmouth Park to a 141 day Northhampton Fair type-race meet virtually destroying the breeding industry in New Jersey for both breeds and pretty much making Monmouth not popular with other throroughbred tracks who may no longer access the Northern New Jersey market.  As you can see, not very popular outcome for either side.

There are two other reasons I feel it will never come to the nuclear option and hopefully a mutually beneficial agreement will be concluded.  First, there is the possibility of legislative intervention to hammer out a mutually agreeable settlement.  Yes, Oceanport will strongly support Monmouth Park as a major employer, but remember the majority of Monmouth county horse farms are standardbred.  Northern New Jersey will align itself with the Meadowlands so neither side will be able to claim a major knockout punch, some type of resolution will occur.

Lastly, there is the Christie Bomb.  I have said it before that the Governor wants both industries to survive on its own.  Christie holds the Sword of Damocles over everyones' head via the the NJRC.  For a track to send or receive a signal from another track, the New Jersey Racing Commission must approve all agreements.  At first, the NJRC would attempt to negotiate a settlement which will work for everyone.  If that fails, being the Governor gets to review all NJRC meeting minutes, it could be a case of Monmouth's request to send their signal to Calder; vetoed.  Gulfstream Park's request to send its signal to the Monmouth Park; vetoed.  I believe the Governor will make it clear to all the children in the play box it is time to play nice or he will make it living hell for all of them.

The eventual outcome will be Monmouth will receive at least for a period of time a portion of the thoroughbred simulcast revenue from the Meadowlands.  However, the thoroughbred horsemen will be forced to recognize that the idea of running a 141 day race meet is sheer folly at this time.  The revenue is not there at this time.  It may not be a 75 day meet, but 141 days is out of the question.

This is why I am confident that there will be a resolution to this problem.  Despite all the bravado of the sides, it will be recognized some compromise will be necessary.  The thoroughbred horsemen will not get all they want and the standardbred horsemen will have to give up something.  The key is to strike a balance which is mutually acceptable and workable to all of them.

So harness interests, read my last blog entry and take note.  It is time to change attitudes.  You (will) have been given a new lease on life; don't blow it.

Won't it be nice when we get to just talk about horses?  Hopefully, that time will come soon, for everyone.

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