With Harrah's Philadelphia opening, the question was not if, but how bad the Meadowlands was going to be impacted by the defection of horses. Well, we are starting to get an idea by looking at Friday night's entries at the Meadowlands. For Friday evening's card, there are only eleven races being contested (versus thirteen last week) with no odd distance race on tap; the first time this year a race card will be conducted without an odd-distance race. Of the eleven races, nine races (vs. five) have short fields, anywhere between seven and nine starters being contested, resulting in a net difference of twenty-nine horses scheduled to race this week compared to last Friday night. With two less races on the card this week, is this the Friday night the string of $3 million handles come to an end?
Things are likely to get worse when Pocono Downs reopens on March 23, but by then I would not be surprised if the local horse population gets a boost by an influx of refugees from Ontario unless something dramatic happens in the Canadian province. Twenty-six days remain until the end of SARP and with the exception of the WEG circuit, there are no other racing dates in the province after then scheduled.
Of course, the way wagering is taking a hit at Pennsylvania racino slots, the annual trend of horsemen defecting for Pennsylvania may slow down or come to an end as the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund experienced a drop of 14.3% in February for a cumulative drop of 6.1% ($11.16 million) so far for the first eight months of the current fiscal year; a drop attributed to additional non-racing casinos in Pennsylvania and the expansion of gaming elsewhere; something which will only get worse once the new Ohio racinos open on the Pennsylvania border. Then Pennsylvania horsemen will realize handle does matter.
Casie Coleman's license has been suspended indefinitely pending a hearing on Monday in front of the ORC for three class four medication violations. Before people get too excited, a class four medication is a therapeutic drug with little impact on the performance of a race horse. While Coleman will likely be given days, I don't expect the book to get thrown at her. It should be noted Coleman claims she doesn't know where the positives came from and is supplying the ORC with veterinary records to prove it.