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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Soup - Meadowlands Lease Signed (Updated)

Governor Christie announced this afternoon that Jeff Gural has signed a thirty year lease for the Meadowlands Racetrack, bring a long, complicated process to a conclusion.  In the meanwhile. a one year agreement has been signed to continue racing at Monmouth Park while the state re-bids the property for a long term operator.

Not mentioned in this article, the NJRC has issued a conditional license to New Meadowlands LLC which will be converted to a full license once the lease takes effect.  While the NJRC gave Gural till January 5 to complete the requirements, that should not be necessary as this Friday, the NJSEA will formally approve the leases. 

At the NJRC meeting, Gural indicated there may be a delay in building the new grandstand as they are $25 million short in funds.  The hope is with a signed lease they can get the missing funds or it may take a year of operation to give bankers the number involved in operating the track,  Hopefully, some other breeding farms will now come up and invest in the funds.

While Gural will run the Meadowlans meet, the NJSEA will operate Monmouth's meet one more year without any subsidies until a new long term leaseholder is selected and a lease signed.  However, with the horsemen running for what they earn in wagering, operating losses at the Monmouth should be reduced.

There is a speculation that only the harness license was included in the lease deal of the Meadowlands with the thoroughbred license remaining with the NJSEA.  This would be a formality.  First of all, as the lease holder, no thoroughbred meet could be held at the Meadowlands without the permission of Jeff Gural.  If in fact the thoroughbred license for the Meadowlands has not been transferred to Gural, I suspect the NJSEA is going to merely pocket the license.  Of course this is all speculation and as time moves on, we will learn more specifics.

It is finally done.  Now the proper steps can be taken to move forward and attempt to bring the Meadowlands back to prominence.  It won't be this year, unlikely next, but it will come.  If not, we can kiss harness racing as we know it good bye.  But for now, let's bask in the good news.

At Monmouth, things are not as happy.  Yes, racing continues but it looks like there will not be any stakes racing at Monmouth this summer, including the Haskell Invitational as there is not enough purse money expected to fund the $4 million stakes program.  The NJTHA has 'respectfully asked' the NJSEA to supply the funds to maintain their stakes program but based on previous actions, one can expect Governor Christie will veto the minutes of the NJSEA the moment their minutes show them subsidizing the stakes program.  I'll be the first to admit you never want to miss a year with a race like that as you lose momentum, but perhaps the NJTHA can get a sponsor for the race; can you see the Betfair Haskell Invitational?

While this year will be lean, the NJSEA will be re-bidding next month the Monmouth Park contract calling for $500,000 in daily purses for a seventy day or so meet as part of their lease.  That is even more than Morris Bailey was offering.

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