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Friday, December 9, 2011

Did Thoroughbred Horsemen Overplay Their Hand?

According to Harness Racing Update, there is a possibility that the thoroughbred horsemen may have overplayed their hand.

According to Jeff Gural, it appears patience with the thoroughbred horsemen may have worn out and the Governor and State Legislators may be working behind the scenes to prepare legislation to separate the thoroughbred and standardbred deals so the Meadowlands deal can close on its own.  Because the revenue from the ADW and OTW network is essential for the Meadowlands to become self-sufficient, part of any proposed legislative package may include removing the requirement for a minimum number of thoroughbred dates to keep the ADW and OTW network operating.

Now, just a reminder.  The state can change the rules to allow the ADW and OTW network to remain open but it still needs content; thoroughbred content.  Will out of state thoroughbred horsemen decide they need the New Jersey revenue or will they side with at least temporarily out of work horsemen?  Remember NJ is a must carry state.  Either everyone in New Jersey gets a signal or no one does.

Could this happen?  Well, my sense is legislators may be getting fed up.  During the summer they had been passing legislation to make both thoroughbred and standardbred industries more viable and it seems all the roadblocks seem to be coming on the thoroughbred side.  Why should the legislature have the standardbred industry face collapse when they were able to get their ducks in a row and ready to sign a lease back in June with no movement of the yard markers?  Gural was willing to help the thoroughbred industry to get the deal done and all there has been is pushback.

It is not only the Governor who is losing patience.  According to Michael Schottland, who has been representing the NJTHA, they had outfoxed Gural into making concessions.  According to HRU, the response of Gural was:

"We were going out of our way to try to help Morris make a deal with them by subsidizing them. We were giving them money from our purse account. With the state telling us they had to have a deal on both tracks, in an effort to reduce Morris’ losses we were giving money from our purse account to the thoroughbreds in hopes that the bars and restaurants would eventually offset it. That’s off the table now. I wouldn’t give these guys two cents.”

So unless this is hyperbole, I think the thoroughbred horsemen need to rethink their position and decide if they overplayed their hand once too many; not just with Gural, not just with Bailey, but the Governor too.  They also better be hoping Morris Bailey is willing to come back to the negotiating table.  Otherwise, they may be on the outside looking in. 

Update: As reported in the Daily Racing Form, Dennis Drazin, former chairman of the NJRC had resigned to work on negotiations for the NJTHA.  Drazin was the former executive director of the NJTHA before becoming a member of the NJRC.

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