Looking back at 2011, harness racing can breathe a sigh of relief as the Meadowlands has been saved. One point has not been talked about, and that is Governor Chris Christie was not as anti-racing as we thought. Make no mistake, if Jeff Gural did not step up at the end of 2010, the Meadowlands would be history. But Gural could have easily been dismissed and the track could have closed.
However, remember the infamous Hanson Report. The report called for the closing of the Meadowlands, perhaps leasing the existing track for a period no more than five years in order for the industry to build its own track elsewhere in the state or possibly racing at Monmouth Park. Instead of holding to this report's recommendation, Christie did moderate his position and while he did accomplish his goal of getting the state out of the racing business, the Meadowlands has now been leased for thirty-one years; something certainly not envisioned in the Hanson Report.
Also, how many times did Christie have the opportunity to pull the plug on the Meadowlands? While I believe his policy regarding gaming remaining only in Atlantic City is misguided, admittedly because it allows revenue to flow out of state, make no mistake if he wanted to kill the harness racing industry in New Jersey (and possibly nationally), he had the opportunity to do so. Hence, I believe we need to moderate our view regarding the Governor. No, he has not yet allowed gaming to come to New Jersey, probably more because of the Senate's leadership refusal to post a gaming bill to vote. I suspect when the Senate leadership changes or modifies its position, the Governor will be quick to support gaming at the Meadowlands.
It may turn out that Christie is a supporter of harness racing after all. He just believes the industry needs to be self-sufficient. I expect some ideas that work at the Meadowlands will help the industry become self-sufficient or at least less dependent on slot welfare.
The Lady is a Race Caller: I played Woodbine yesterday afternoon and it was the first time I hard Dawn Lupul call the races and let me tell you, Dawn can call the races. I must confess, it is unusual to hear a woman call a race. However, just because we are not familiar with a woman calling a race is no reason not to have someone like Dawn call races. As far as I am concerned, she can call a race anywhere. Any track would be lucky to have Dawn to call races. She may not be one of the all time best, but she is good.
Larry Lederman sighting: It was nice hearing Larry Lederman calling the races at Parx Racing yesterday. Everyone knows by now of Larry's illness, so there is no need to repeat it here, but any day you hear Lederman calling a race is a good day.
Pet Peeve: I appreciate the fact I am getting quoted periodically in thoroughbred blogs, but would ask to be referred to as a Standardbred blogger instead of a 'Sulky' blogger as the connotation is somewhat derogatory. When I quote form thoroughbred blogs, I use the term 'thoroughbred' blogger, not a 'saddle' blogger. We are all part of the horse racing industry, so treating each other with respect it appropriate.