What does The Raceway at the Western Fair District and The Meadowlands have in common? Both track are trying to get more people in the seats and betting. So what? Ask yourself if your local track is really working to get more people to go to the track or if they merely go through the motions with a periodic promotion? In Harness Racing Update, there is a cover story on Western Fair and Greg Blanchard and their attempts to get their track more business. Through their tireless efforts, including re-branding The Raceway, and expanding into the states, this London, Ontario racetrack is now the number two track in Ontario behind the WEG tracks.
We can expect a similar effort at the Meadowlands starting this year, but really taking off once the new grandstand is built. Sure there are some initial bobbles, such as raising the takeout on the Superfectas to 20% and the confusion caused by having different minimums on the Superfecta (currently $.10 and $1). Some people complain about only one Pick 3 on the race card. I assume General Manager Mike Newlin and his staff will be monitoring betting and demand and making changes accordingly. Of course, being a slot track, The Raceway has a little more ease in making changes, but make no mistake, the Meadowlands will be returning to its former greatness; it is just going to be a little slower.
One of the changes is a claiming series for $7,500 claimers at a distance of 1 1/4 miles which was won in week 1 by Tearful Image in 2:57.2. Betting was off a little from last week in the ninth race; whether it was the odd distance, $7,500 claimers, or both is hard to say. The fact is the Meadowlands is willing to make changes instead of playing it safe The Raceway in London, Ontario is doing similar things, may they both be rewarded.
Many people have been wondering happened to Bob 'Hollywood' Heyden, a staple o the Meadowlands for many years. It turns out he retired in August but will be working for the Meadowlands on special projects. He will be co-host of the television show in February and then will be working on special event days, such as Meadowlands Pace night and the Hambletonian..