For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Life at the Fraternity House

You operate at a racetrack and your attendance and wagering numbers aren't so great. By not great, we mean talking about selling off some of your land for redevelopment to keep going. Then you have a great idea. Why are we beating our heads against the wall running against a thoroughbred track across town? Instead of racing our best races of the year during the day, why don't we race at night? So what happens? Simulcasting increases, handle increases, and on a Thursday night, you get about 4,000 people to show up to the track. Granted some of them are college kids; some may be those thoroughbred players who want to see good harness racing and since the trotters are not racing against your beloved runners they travel across town; some are people who just can't get to the track during the day.

So when you plan for the next year's meet, what do you do? Logic dictates your experiment was a success and you repeat it next year. However, when you are the Fraternity TRM (The Red Mile), you go back to your previous format; racing during the day against Keenland. It seems your frat house got too busy to full with pledges; and quite honestly, all these people ruin the fun for regular Brothers . You rather go back to your quiet anominity, where the newspapers don't talk about you, you are sparsely attended, and you don't have to deal with those stupid pledges (those betting through simulcasting, or cluttering up the racetrack). You'd almost think you frat house was a racino.

Yes, after a relatively successful harness meet last year, The Red Mile is going back to their all afternoon racing program. A little disclosure here: What I am advocating here goes against my best interest. I love afternoon racing at The Red Mile. Of course, what is good for me is not necessarily good for the industry.

Now, why would you race the arguably best harness racing in the country during the day when it gets lost competing against Keenland and simulcast tracks like Will Rogers Downs? Because The Red Mile's Grand Circuit meet is actually an advertisement for their sales and they want to keep the Frat Brothers (breeders and yearling buyers) happy. Part of the fun going to Lexington during the Grand Circuit meet is being able to watch the races in the afternoon, go out for a few drinks with your fraternity brothers before the evening sales session and with your inhibitions loosened just a little so you bid more than you intended, the auction begins. Then with the auction concluded for the evening you head out for the night spots for a little more socializing and repeat the next day. With racing during the night, how much fun is showing up at Lexington? The sales during the day, racing at night and repeat the next day. It just isn't the same.

Now I admit, The Red Mile is a little different than other racetracks because the sales occur during their meet and are just as important, but is there was no middle ground to keep everyone happy? Once again, a decision needed to be made, who are our customers? The horsemen or the gamblers and once again, the decision was the horsemen. You would almost think The Red Mile was a racino with their thinking.

I understand the tradition of daytime racing at The Red Mile, but it wasn't working; an intelligent business would say, something has to give and for 2011, it did and it was a success. But here comes 2012 and we go back in time like 2011 never occurred. That makes sense.

Someone asked me would I change when the Hambletonian and Little Brown Jug was raced (meaning night)? My answer was no. First of all there is a significant amount of simulcasting on the Hambletonian card in Europe and being they are 6-8 hours behind us, I don't know how much wagering we would get at 2am London time. As for the Little Brown Jug, it is a county fair so it operates differently and most county fairs race during day time.

Will racing during the daytime kill off harness racing at The Red Mile, probably not since most Breeders sponsor the races and what the heck, as long as there is land to sell off, what is the problem? However it is emblematic of the problem we have at racinos. Who are we racing for? It seems the horsemen and breeders. As long as states are willing to write out welfare checks (subsidies to racing), who needs customers?

Let the frat party keep going!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Your thoughts make a lot of sense. Just remember owners of a business have the right to be stupid, all the way down to the last customer exiting the track and never returning.