Other than this statement, there will be no talk about the NJ racing situation. We are going to talk Triple Crown events.
Quick, name the three pacing Triple Crown events? Name the three trotting Triple Crown events? There is a good chance you had to think for a moment as to what they are. For the record, the pacing triple crown is the Cane Pace, Little Brown Jug, and the Messenger. Trotting's crown is the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity.
Now, people have been talking for years about changing the triple crown events as the crowns are meaningless. The Messenger has been wandering and now the Cane Pace joins the ranks of the wandering stakes, moving from Yonkers, to Freehold, and to Tioga Downs (ignore this year's flood move to Pocono).
The only races people talk about wanting to win is the Little Brown Jug and the Hambletonian and the Gold Cup and Saucer. People want to change races to reflect the mile racing which is now in vogue. Personally, if there is going to be a Triple Crown, there should be a race on the half, the 5/8 and the mile (or 7/8) oval; to show a horse's versatility. But why bother?
Part of the problem is the fact we have two gaits and the concept of two Triple Crowns is hard to promote in one sport. However, quite honestly, I wouldn't waste my time with the Triple Crowns; especially since harness racing has such a low recognition in the general public.
However, if the public had a larger recognition of harness racing, we still wouldn't get it right. Why? Because either we don't know how to market the races or we don't want to market them correctly.
People in our industry don't understand it is not the race itself which attracts the public's interest; it is the hoopla. Go to the Kentucky Derby and it is a week long festival of activities in Louisville which includes the 'beautiful' people which makes it a happening. It is the party in the infield. Even the Preakness, which has lost a little lustre, keeps things going by having a party in the infield of massive magnitude. The Belmont Stakes, still popular, does none of those things and if there is no potential Triple Crown, attendance takes a hit. It is at the mercy of the racing gods.
The Little Brown Jug is an event. The Gold Cup and Saucer is an event, and by event I mean it is more than the race. There is at least a week of events in the towns where the races are held. The Hambletonian draws 28,000 people and they are happy when in fact it is a disgrace. The race had so much potential when it moved to New Jersey when the Meadowlands first got the race. Could you imagine how many more people would be attending this race if it was part of some festival where the non-racing events are almost as big as the race?
With the exception of the LBJ and the GC&S, we don't put on the big show. Some will say the NA Cup and the Meadowlands Pace gets built up but primarily it interests the racing fan. Do they do anything for the general public you are trying to get into harness racing? Maybe a little. If you want to have a Triple Crown that is worthwhile, even if it doesn't get television coverage, you need races that are willing to become part of a greater event; tied to charities and/or concerts and social events; otherwise, it is just a race.
Look abroad. The Inter-Dominion is a big event and it is part of a festival. People talk about it for a long time beforehand. The Prix d' Amerique is an event and the whole week at Vincennes is an event.
The runners learned a long time ago in their marketing plan that the race is only part of the package they are selling the public. We make the race the whole package and wonder why most of these races mean nothing if you are not seriously into harness racing and it shows in the attendance.
Harness racing needs to learn how to promote races as part of a bigger events. Until then, why bother talking about the Triple Crown. Who cares?