What the heck, we have been following the story all along, so it would seem foolish to stop now. Today is supposed to be "The Big Day". I also lost track of the Drop Dead Dates in this ordeal. Jeff Gural is expected to finally sign the lease for the Meadowlands today with the NJRC scheduled to approve the transfer of the racing license from the NJSEA to New Meadowlands LLC tomorrow.
We will also see if the thoroughbred industry has truly reached a compromise on their plans for a one year lease where they will race 141 days for "generated purses" (read that greatly reduced purses). As part of this deal, the NJSEA will rework portions of a proposed long term lease to memorialize the agreements Jeff Gural had reached with Morris Bailey concerning simulcasting splits and the rights to some of the slot revenue should slots ever come to New Jersey racetracks and then re-bid the contract to get a long term lease operator after this year. If final agreement can't be reached, Monmouth Park may be dark in 2012 (though I think there would still be time to get live racing at Monmouth before their meet is scheduled to begin in April). I predict Churchill Downs will be one of the operators interested in Monmouth Park in the long term.
One thing is for sure, today is the drop dead date as the NJRC meets tomorrow on the transfer of the racing licenses.
I will update this entry as appropriate. With luck, this will be the day we can finally put this to bed.
We can hope can't we?
1PM Update - No news as of now. I would speculate the thoroughbred horsemen are still negotiating with the state and they want to announce the signing of both agreements at once, assuming the thoroughbred horsemen and the Governor make a deal. This is about all the speculation I wish to make at this time.
2PM Update - The DRF reports negotiations are ongoing between the state and the NJTHA. Outstanding issues remain concenring off-track betting and the abilitiy to race at the Meadowlands. The NJTHA horsemen are demanding the right to a six day mixed meet at the Meadowlands in the spring where the runners will race on the turf while the trotters will race on the main oval. The NJTHA also wants the right to race up to 15 turf only race dates at the Meadowlands in the Summer or Fall. No comment from Jeff Gural regarding the NJTHA demands. My guess is the six mixed dates may pose a problem with the SBOANJ, either outright or depending on how many thoroughbred races would be required.
5:30PM Update - Make sure you keep up with John Brennan of The Record. There is some concern if the Meadowlands lease will be tied to Monmouth Park's lease or if it will be a stand alone agreement. According to Brennan's sources, it appears neither the NJTHA or the state wants to see Monmouth closed. You can also follow Bob Jordan of the Asbury Park Press.
If I had to guess what is going on, I would assume Gural is pushing back on the idea of a six day mixed meet but willing to let the runners have up to 15 days of turf racing at the Meadowlands in the late summer or fall. In addition, I would think Gural would not want his lease tied to the Monmouth meet as I doubt he wants to go through this next year again; especially if he is planning to start construction on a new grandstand. It is going to be a long night; for both sides.
7:30PM Update - Thoroughbred horsemen have basically come to an agreement on this year's contract and are accepting a much smaller purse account provided the state rebids the contract within a month. However, there is no money for stakes races, including the Haskell. The horsemen are asking the NJSEA to pay $4 million to keep the stakes program going. No word if that request will be honored. At best I expect the NJSEA to be willing to loan the money for the stakes program to be repaid.