The industry raised a huge cheer for the most part once Jeff Gural closed the deal on the Meadowlands. A funny thing happened after the lease was signed, there seems to be an undercurrent of doubt and criticism regarding Jeff Gural's ability to turn things around at the Meadowlands. As annoying are those who raise rumors regarding his ability to fund the new grandstand; with people seemingly taking delight in the fact he doesn't have the $100 million in his pocket already. Let's call these people doubting Thomases. Many of them live on chat boards.
Now some of this may be a case of sour grapes; some of this is people who look at things half empty; others are those who feel the sky is falling, or in other words, our doomsayers; then there are people who for whatever reason want to see Gural fail. That;s fine, people are entitled to their opinions, even if their predictions become self fulfilling prophecies.
Let's start with the obvious. Due to the lack of slots at the Meadowlands, the track has not been for several years the track of preference to those looking to make a quick buck. Last year, when there were no subsidies, the floor fell through and we had the racing we ended up with; certainly substandard. With the loses the NJSEA had, the physical plant was allowed to deteriorate and little out of the box thinking took place.
Short of a subsidy coming (it isn't) or slot subsidies, the racing at the Meadowlands will never be the same. At best, the Meadowlands will be able to put on a decent level of racing and make going to the races fun again. To think all the damage which has taken place over the last few years is going to go to be reversed overnight is ridiculous. It may take a few years to get back to where we were but the Meadowlands has something tracks in New York and Pennsylvania don't have; a mile track and a handle; something tracks other than WEG don't have. The new management has shown a willingness to reduce takeout rates (not that they will right away). So those who are expecting the Meadowlands to return to the way it was in the 1990's without slots are smoking something.
Maybe we will not have all the best drivers and trainers at the Meadowlands. However, this presents an opportunity for others to come in and make a name for themselves. At Tioga Downs last year, Ed Hensley came to the track and had a very successful meet. Who is to say some new driver or trainer doesn't take advantage of those abandoning the Meadowlands and make a name for themselves in New Jersey?
Then there are those who criticize the 81 day meet. No, I am sure horsemen want to race for more dates, but I also don't think they want to race for $3,000 purses either. To the credit of the SBOANJ, they realize they can't race as much as they would like to.
Then there are those who feel the way the Meadowlands will be marketed is destined to failure. Who are these people to claim it is destined it will fail; do they know what the plans are? I haven't noticed any other track in the United States which has found the secret formula to improved attendance and handle. I think management realizes most of the wagering will come through ADWs, and getting people into the building is gravy and the opportunity to develop potential serious gamblers. What plans does the NMLLC have for marketing and increasing handle I don't know, but I know one thing, they are trying; something most tracks have given up on already.
A lot of these critical people are what we know as volunteers; quick to criticize and tell you what is wrong, but are no where when you need help.
The success of Gural's team at the Meadowlands will not be known by the end of this year, or the following year. What we have here is a marathon; how we finish at the end is what matters. Sure there will be some ideas that won't work; there will be some ideas that do work.
Let me ask this question. If not Gural, who would you like to be the one trying to lead the Meadowlands back from the grave? I doubt you could name someone else and more importantly have them take on the job. Is the recovery of the Meadowlands a sure thing? Of course not, but at least it has a chance.
Maybe it is time to remind everyone of something they likely were taught in elementary school. If you have nothing nice to say about someone, don't say anything.
Meadowlands Condition Sheet Available. The opening weekend's condition sheet is out. $15,000 claimers and NW6000L5 will race for $8,500 while Invitational horses race for $30,000. If necessary, a substitute race for $10,000 claimers is listed with a purse of $7,500. A NJRC rule change is in place to allow 45 days before having to qualify again.