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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Having Their Say - Edition 1

I have invited certain individuals from racing (track management, owners, trainers, drivers, journalists) to offer their opinion why we can't seem to get people to show up to the races anymore.  In particular, I wondered how Atlantic City Race Course can draw more people for one day of a six day meet for only six races than almost any harness track can draw for their biggest race days.

This is not a question of betting, I am talking butts in the seats simply watching the races.  Has harness racing declined to the point we can't even draw people to simply watch our races?    Are we doing something wrong and if so what is it?  What can we do to fix it, if any?

Since many of these people have key positions or relationships with the industry, I promised anomynity to these individuals.  Other than themselves and I, no one will know who these people are.  Since I call this having their say, they get their say without my commenting on their words.

Well, here is the first of those responses.  We will call this person Hal.

The one thing I would say, though, is that I don't think the difference between harness and thoroughbreds is as big as you think. Other than places like Saratoga, no one goes to the thoroughbreds any more, either.

Atlantic City is a very interesting situation. No track in America is in worse condition. It is literally falling apart. But by running 4-5 days a year, they have an audience in South Jersey that is hungry for live racing. A day at the crappiest track in America is now an event. If the Meadowlands ran five days a year they, too, would have big crowds. The ACRC phenomenon speaks to the fact that there is way too much live racing in this country and that the number of tracks and race dates needs to be cut down on dramatically. That goes for both breeds.

1 comment:

Scott Jeffreys said...

Dear Pacingguy : Having been to Atlantic City Race Course on closing day 2010 and for the Saturday and Sunday cards in 2011, I can attest to the fact that Maureen Bugdon, the ACRC staff, and the facility itself generate so much interest, you would be surprised - the plant has a buzz for each and every day of the Turf Festival.

Yes, the grandstand seats are all peeling (even my wife just laughs it off as part of the history), no tote board (one thing I wish they had) for the infield, the interior has some worn and crumbling concrete, but all of that is superficial. Someday, the ACRC meeting style will gain more and more favor yielding more and more betting - someday all of these physical plant issues will get addressed.

Atlantic City has a heart beat that goes far beyond those material trappings.

Grass racing, full fields carded (before scratches in every race), six or seven race programs, and a six day meeting : this year 38 grass races as Spring is just about to hit.

Free admission, $1.00 programs, $3.50 beers, local groups selling snacks/treats, great racing and tons of people having FUN. Fun at the races ... fun playing $2 ... fun playing $20.

Look around at how many parents discuss conversations they have with their children telling them about the history - what it was like when they were young.

You see, that is how you learn about the game in the first case : from mom or dad. It gets passed along like a family tradition. Somewhere, we lost the family tradition in the drive to increase handle by just focusing on the gambling.

Atlantic City is special. While I would love a second six or ten day meeting in the fall to bookend Monmouth, maybe the fact that I find myself tonight counting down the days until next April's meeting tells you everything you need to know about why ACRC works ... and is so special.

Long Island lost its special Rossevelt Raceway. Here's to hoping that Atlantic City never forgets its heritage.

Sincerely, Scott