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Friday, September 9, 2011

Newell is the Right Man; Slot Money Being Used for Promotion?

Jeff Gural obviously figures Mike Newlin is the right person to lead the New Meadowlands Racetrack (that is what the track is now being called to reflect a brand new experience).  So do I.  Having run the thoroughbred meet at the Nebraska State Fair, Newlin obviously knows how to run a racetrack where racing is part of the complete entertainment experience; something which is part of the philosophy of running Tioga Downs.  However, Newlin has been able to do something which Tioga has not been able to do as fast as it like, which is building live handle.  Not only did he increase live attendance at the Lincoln, Nebraska Racetrack (the State Fair has since moved to Grand Island, home of Fonner Park, where racing is not contested as part of the fair)  24%, he was able to increase the live handle by 17%; this in a market of 250,000 people.  While the New Meadowlands Racetrack is in an area that has more entertainment options, imagine what the potential is.

I imagine the 2012 year will be a transitional year as there are limitations with an enclosed grandstand.  Once the new grandstand opens, there will the potential for more entertainment options such as open air concerts.  One thing to be expected is where the old Meadowlands was primarily geared towards gamblers alone, the new Meadowlands philosophy will be to make racing an entertainment option for the whole family.  Once the racetrack has a reputation as family destination and not a place for 'degenerate' gamblers, one can expect attendance to increase and with that increase, comes handle.

Make no mistake, the days of racetracks handling more in live handle are long gone.  Many of the serious gamblers will rarely leave their computers to bet on the live product.  But a new audience can be captured and if they can be kept on track, it will be a big gain for the New Meadowlands.

Hats off to the PHHA for agreeing to take over the Cane Pace and Shady Daisy from Tioga Downs in literally the last minute.  If the PHHA did not take the race over from Tioga Downs which is in the middle of an area suffering from a flood emergency, there was a good chance the race would have been cancelled for this year; something which should not happen to a Triple Crown race.  You may ask couldn't the race have been moved to Vernon Downs like the NYSS races?  Probably not.  First of all, who knows if the purse account at Vernon Downs could have handled the added money the races required (NYSS races are funded by the state program) and secondly, the race was already done and final payments were made anticipating the race being contested on a 5/8 mile oval.  To move to a different size track may not have been possible.

But the PHHA has done more than that.  They are sponsoring the broadcast of the Little Brown Jug on Sirrus XM ssatellite radio from the Delaware County Fair.  The Delaware County Fair in Ohio, it should be noted.  For the Pennsylvania horsemen stepping up to promote harness racing both inside and outside of their state needs to be noted.  If not for the PHHA, the only harness racing event on television this year would have been the Hambletonian.  Thanks to the PHHA, the three big races from Super Sunday at Chester Downs were broadcast on MAV TV, giving harness racing another shot at drawing interest not only from the non-racing public, but from the desired demographic group.  Could the PHHA do more to promote the sport sure.  But what other horsemen group is doing as much to get the sport publicity.  Hence, they deserve the recognition. 

The Bourbon Slush team is starting to see dividends for their investment.  Earlier this week, Lil Miss Bourbon captured an $18,00 race at Mohawk Racetrack and later this week, Bettorwithbourbon captured an $1,800 purse at Plainridge Racecourse.  In a way, it is a blessing that the Bourbon Blush syndicate was expanded to three horses as it teaches these potential owners an important lesson.  For an owner to race only one horse is an expensive gamble, most often a costly gamble.  By having more than one horse in a stable, having the one horse do well can carry the stable, helping subsidize the horses that are not performing at the level you didn't anticipate or the horse sitting in the barn for whatever reason.  As for the stable namesake, Bourbon Slush is scheduled to compete Sunday at Saratoga in a NY LC event.  With Bourbon Slush's lifetime earnings being $90, it would be nice if he responds with a victory, completing a rare trifecta of winners for the syndicate.

Ever wanted to be the first on your block with your own starting gate?  The FSBOA is offering their old starting gate car used at Pompano Park for $10,000.  The 1974 Lincoln comes fully equipped with the lights and microphone.  Imagine impressing your neighbors as you drive up and down the block with the gate open.  Realistically, being your town's zoning board will be paying you a visit, it may be better suited if you have a training facility which can use a starting gate. 


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