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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Briefs

HRU estimates less than 9,000 foals were born in 2012, a modern day low, further showing how harness racing is in a bubble with all the action occuring in the 'used' market but people not buying 'new' models which is the foundation of the sport.  The decrease in foals being born is directly related to the lack of demand for yearlings at a fair price.  Sooner or later the bubble will burst which will result in the industry being forced to act.

Of course, there may be some advantage to the decrease in foals being born.  The horse shortage may eventually force horsemen to agree to shorter meets to allow the horse population to be spread around.  Make no mistake, horsemen will love racing in six horse fields, having to defeat one horse to pick up a check, but sooner or later the tracks will put a stop to it, resulting in fewer tracks racing at the same time, benefiting all.

The Meadowlands continues to post impressive numbers.  On Saturday night's card, all source-handle increased 46% with on-track handle increasing a staggering 48% when compared to the same Saturday last year.  What makes this impressive is every night handle has been up when compared to last year when there was no winter.  While not horific, the weather was certainly better last year.  Whatever they are doing, they should keep on doing.

Of course, the real test will come once Pennsylvania's eastern tracks re-open for the season and horsemen move on to green pastures.   However, it appears the Meadowlands has hit its stride so while the wagering may level off somewhat, it would be a fair guess handle will continue to exceed last year's figures. 

Feuding continues between Running Aces Harness Park and Canterbury Park with Running Aces planning on cancelling the simulcast agreement with Canterbury.  Cancellation of this agreement means each track will only be able to simulcast their own breed of racing which means harness only for Running Aces and thoroughbred and quarter horse racing for Canterbury Park.  Needless to say, this will hurt Running Aces more.  In addition, Running Aces has stopped paying Canterbury impact fees they negotiated to get their license which go directly into Canterbury's purse account, claiming Canterbury Park has breached the contract; an issue which is now in the courts between Running Aces and Canterbury Park and its horsemen association.  While specifics are not known, one has to think the fact Canterbury sacrificed Running Aces to make their own deal with an Indian tribe for purse supplements has to be a factor.  It should be interesting to see how this plays out.

While doing research on the last story, I came across the Minnesota HBPA website where they had a tab for retired horses.  Under this tab they describe the no-slaughter policy at Canterbury Park plus provide links to horse rescue groups.  In addition the site has a basic one page contract for surrendering or selling a horse for non-racing purposes preventing the horse from being sold to slaughter.

What makes this amazing is I am not aware of any standardbred racing industry site which is a black mark on the standardbred sport.  On the Rosecroft Raceway site, a standardbred track which is alleged to have a similar policy being owned by Penn National gaming, there is no mention of the policy and there is nothing on the local horsemen's group site either.  When will harness racing formally embrace such policies and post links like the MN HBPA?

NJAW going through a makeover?  A decision has been made to replace the current NJAW wagering platform with a new turnkey operation.  At the present time, bidders are Sportstech (the current vendor) and TVG with others possibly joining in the bidding.  The current contract expires at the end of 2013.  If done right, hopefully the shortcomings horseplayers in New Jersey experience will be a thing of the past.

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