With the 2012 Meadowlands meet having concluded, it is time to look back at the meet. In Friday's HRU, Jeff Gural opined his thoughts on the first year which you may read here. Clearly there is some disappointment being expressed, primarily due to the lack of cooperation with the horsemen.
A couple of things have become obvious to me. The first thing is when the new grandstand opens up at the Meadowlands, the Giants and Jets must be convinced to give up their right to have the racetrack go dark. Parking for the new facility will be off of Route 120, away from the parking the stadium uses. As long as post time and the last race's off time may be altered so not to conflict with the kick-off or end time of football played at the stadium, there is no real reason why the football teams should object.
While the final attendance and wagering figures have yet to be released, it is clear until 2014 when the new grandstand opens up, the chance to expose the New Meadowlands product to the general public will be hard to accomplish. No doubt those who do attend are reacting favorably to the new attitude being displayed, but the new building is going to be the impetus to attract the general public and reach out to those disaffected gamblers to come back.
The stakes program needs to be reduced. As much as I hate eliminations, I am not happy seeing them eliminated because not enough entries are being dropped into the box. Spending all that money on races without sufficient demand is foolish. That money is better spent on overnight races to get more horses entered. Which stakes need to be cut? I'll leave that to the experts.
In addition to these two ideas, I would offer the following suggestions:
As for the overnight series, I would suggest a unique approach. Charge an entrance fee which gets refunded if a horse starts in all preliminary legs, or if not entered into all preliminary legs, did not race at any other track during the preliminary legs. Too many times horses raced in the first leg only to disappear and race elsewhere for various reasons. By offering a refund of fees for competing in all possible legs, it may be easier to hold on to horses at the track.
I would suggest a new condition to be added to overnight races this coming winter, something to the effect of 'Horses that made X number of starts at the Meadowlands in 2012 between April 1 and August 17 preferred", thus rewarding those horsemen who supported the Meadowlands this past year. This condition offered during the winter when Pocono Downs and Harrah's Philadelphia is closed and plenty of horses will be looking for places to race would be comeuppance to those who decided not to support the Meadowlands when they were needed (i.e., one hand washes the other).
It is clear there needs to be coordination of racing dates between the Meadowlands, Pocono Downs and Harrah's. Ideally, coordination of racing dates with Yonkers would be ideal but with the strained relationship between Gural and the leadership of the SOA of NY, I don't see the horsemen at Yonkers doing anything to accommodate the Meadowlands. Assuming a deal can't be worked out, I would suggest the Meadowlands hold two meets in 2013. A five wek meeting starting with the last week of June and concluding with the Hambletonian; a meet similar to the Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile where the bulk of races would be stakes racing and yet allow NJSS races to be contested on the big oval. Other than this specialty meet, I would race the bulk of dates in the winter where there is less competition for horses; race where your strength is.