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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Horseman or the Gambler?

There is still a debate on Facebook about The Red Mile deciding to race their Grand Circuit meet in the afternoon instead of at night during the week this year.  It all seems to prove my point that harness racing doesn't seem to know who their customers are.

Are the customers the yearling buyers and horsemen who like the idea of going out with friends for dinner and a drink before going to the yearling sales (or partying the night away) or are the customers the people that go to the races and wager on them?  Well, I suggest if the yearling buyers and horsemen want to treat the two weeks at Lexington like it was Old Home Week, why not close the doors at The Red Mile to outsiders and race these stakes races as non-wagering events.  The public won't notice anyway as they will all be busy over at Keenland

 It seems The Red Mile is so successful that they sold 10 acres of land where the old sales pavilion was to the University of Kentucky and are redeveloping 80 acres of their property for mixed use.  I look at the plans to redevelop those 80 acres and you know what I see?  Atlantic City Race Course; not the level of deterioration, but the way it is shoehorned by box stores and housing.  It also makes me wonder how long it will be before the track is redeveloped.  But never mind, management has apparently decided having Old Home Week is more important than having gamblers in the grandstand.

You may ask why I bring this up again?  While the situation at The Red Mile is more obvious, at every racetrack in the United States, there is a quiet battle as to who the customer is.  The horsemen think the owners are the customers because they pay the training bill.  But ultimately, it is the gambler who matters and they are voting on the way they are treated by staying away from the tracks and not wagering..

What do Pennsylvania and New Jersey horsemen have in common?  They both backed 'friends of racing' for governor and got burned.  In Pennsylvania, their governor is using the racehorse development fund as a picnic basket for non-racing budget items and in New Jersey, they picked a governor who came thisclose to shutting down the tracks.  I don't know who the New York horsemen picked; based on track record my guess is Cuomo,  It seems the Governor of New York is now wondering about the efficacy of the payments are made to the horsemen. Apparently, this is why the horsemen and agricultural industry is worried about a future casino gambling bill.  The Governor may have a few surprises for the racing industry.

Maybe the gambler matters after all.

Monmouth Park Deal All But Done - The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen Association has a tentative deal to lease Monmouth Park starting next year.  The deal calls for 51 days  of racing at Monmouth.  A six day meet at the Meadowlands in the spring like at Woodbine (thoroughbreds during the day on the turf and standardbreds at night).  In the fall a 14 day meet would be run either at the Meadowlands, Monmouth or split between the two tracks.  The assumption is the fall meet at the Meadowlands would be another turf only meet.  Purses for the 51 days would be an average of $400,000 a day and the fall meet will run for whatever the purse account will allow.  The only thing is the deal must be finalized by the end of the month.  This year's meet will still be operated by the NJSEA.  The NJTHA is in good shape if the deal gets done this way.  It is conceivable that they could build additional OTW locations and have them ready to open once they receive the license to conduct the meet.  It is unknown if the NJTHA will get the thoroughbred license for the Meadowlands or if the meet would be a Monmouth Park at the Meadowlands meet.  While the thoroughbreds are not my game, I am happy to see Monmouth Park survive as well as the New Jersey thoroughbred industry.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't the Red Mile have done night racing on Thursday/Friday and day racing on Saturday/Sunday? Seems like the obvious compromise to me.

Anonymous said...

I think you’re a little harsh on the Red Mile’s function during Grand Circuit week. Last year was an aberration due to the timing of the Jewish holidays and this year represents a back to normal. Basically the function of the grand circuit meet is to complement and enhance the yearling sales which did not happen last year as the schedule was disruptive.

While the overall simulcast handle may have increased, the live handle probably didn’t as that track is like no man’s land when its dark and cold and I made periodic trips to scout the empty levels some of which would have spectators during the afternoon.

In addition the owners of the red mile comprise the ownership of the Tattersalls half of the Lexington Sales Company.

Yes the Lexington ambiance is for the industry (what’s left of it) and the traditional venues allow the Muscle Hills and Somebeachsomewheres the opportunity to stride on the same hallowed turf that Mack Lobell, Niatross, Billy Direct and Greyhound all made marks on.

The Derby is the first Saturday in May.. The Jug is the third Thursday in September and the Lexington trots are the last week in September and first week in October or thereabouts….