Here is an article from the Broward Palm Beach New Times regarding harness racing at Pompano Park. More specifically, it is a cautionary tale about what is going to happen to harness racing unless some dramatic changes are made in the way the game is marketed and played. Needless to say, it is not pretty. If the game is going to be saved, it is going to be based on changes made in the next few years at the Meadowlands.
As states are suffering economically, they look towards racing to make their budget cuts. In New Jersey, the state has jettisoned the two state run tracks and handed them over to private operators. It's not just the United States. In New Brunswick, Canada, the provincial government has taken away their contribution towards the Atlantic Sires Stakes. It is only $100,000 and the purses in the ASS are small, but when governments are hurting, they cut money from the least important areas. As a result, the entire New Brunswick series of the ASS are in jeopardy for 2011 and perhaps beyond. One has to wonder where the next cuts are going to happen in New Brunswick and if it delivers harness racing a fatal blow there. If it can happen in the Maritimes, it can happen in the United States.
On Friday night at the Meadowlands, eight horses go in the Miss New Jersey Prep race. Typically, they run prep races when there are not enough horses entered to necessitate eliminations. What a waste of $20,000 of purse money. Not that I have a problem with a prep race other than the fact the horses (trainers) are eyeing next week's race more than this week's, but the racing secretary should have had the race on the condition sheet written that in the event not enough horses entered to require eliminations, the prep race would have been for 3yo fillies with NJ sired fillies preferred. This way, the race could have had ten starters, including horses that would have been racing for a win as there was no big payoff the following week for them. Same thing for Saturday night's New Jersey Classic Prep going for $25,000 with only nine starters behind the gait; it should have been written for 3yo colts and geldings, NJ Classic eligible horses preferred.
Can someone explain to me how serious a field of horses in a $25,000 prep race will race when they are racing for $400,000 the following week? What is particularly frustrating for me is the Meadowlands can have a $30,000 final for a field of nw6000 in the last five starts, but they can't offer a more realistic purse for eliminations of stakes or prep races. This is a problem not unique to the Meadowlands. Until harness racing offeres more realistic purses for eliminations, it allows itself to be open to perceptions of chicanery.