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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advice to NJTHA - Capitulate

I offer this post to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen in the spirit of friendship.  You tried to get a better deal with additional racing dates and it didn't work.  My advice to you is to capitulate.

In all reality, this is what the harness horsemen did in New Jersey.  Yes, they still have 171 days of harness racing in the state but don't kid yourself, Freehold Raceway is in a whole different league than the Meadowlands.  For harness racing in the state, the Meadowlands is what matters and as much as the horsemen didn't want to give up subsidies, didn't want to cut race dates, they realized who they were dealing with in Governor Christie.  Hence, instead of a typical 180+ day race meet, the Meadowlands will be racing only 81 days this upcoming year.

Yes, the breeding industry has been devastated.  Where many stallions once stood there are but a few 'name' stallions remaining; if not for the fact they produce Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian winners, they likely would be standing elsewhere.  One of the most prominent breeders in standardbred racing had a dispersal sale of their mares and is scheduled to close once next year's yearlings are sold.  But remember as quick as the stallions leave is as quick as they can return; when the time is right.

As for racing, you will find your meet stripped of a lot of talented horses.  As with the standardbreds, the better thoroughbreds at training facilities in New Jersey will be getting on the van heading to Parx Racing, Delaware Park, and Saratoga Racetrack.  You second tier horses will be racing at Monmouth Park, but you have something going for you that the standardbreds don't have.  You have a summer meet on the Jersey Shore; a boutique meet.  People will still bet your product.   Yes, the racing will be second class, but at least you will have a place in New Jersey to race at when the good times come.

The fact is you are negotiating with a Governor with higher aspirations; it helps his aspirations by being inflexible.  The truth is, he prefers racing to survive, but if it dies, so be it.  How do you beat a man who feels he has nothing to lose but can only win with the outcome either way?  If horseracing ceases at Monmouth Park, he gets to say he got the state out of a money losing business.  If racing continues at Monmouth, he gets to take credit for privatizing the racing industry.  The guy can't lose on the national scene.  Make no mistake, he is performing for the national audience.

There is already an agreement that a percentage of simulcast revenue on thoroughbred racing at the Meadowlands would go to Monmouth Park for purses.  An agreement how to split slot revenue if it comes to the Meadowlands and/or Monmouth Park.  Better times are coming.  Come 2014 when Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct Racetrack become full casinos, the legislators and Governor will have no choice but to allow slot machines at a minimum at the Meadowlands, if not at all racetracks.

Forget about the Meadowlands thoroughbred license.  The reality is you need to be a track operator to have a license.  How many times has the NJRC threatened to pull ACRC's license due to the number of days they race.  They only got to keep their license because they didn't get any subsidy money.  Unless you are prepared to enter into a contract to race a number of days at a specific track and get the NJRC to approve those dates, that license is going to get yanked anyway.

The key now is to eat crow.  Once horseracing leaves the state, it will be highly unlikely to return.  Stick around eat row now and bide your time.  The Governor will not be here forever and the slots will be coming.  Yes, you may race 71 days but with that slot revenue, you will be racing for purses similar to the Super Meet of two years ago.  If anything, work on the number of Jersey bred races that will be on the card.

Remember, you are up against the most dangerous negotiator; a person who can't lose.  Capitulate to live another day or die. 

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