Remember when you looked for a race over the track before a stakes race? Well, those days appear to be gone, at least for minor stakes. The Meadowlands offered for this Friday (trotters) and Saturday (pacers) $20,000 prep races for 3yos eligible to the Simpson Memorial races. Even better than getting a race over the track, if their race filled, all starters would have their starting fee paid for by the Meadowlands.
Needless to say, not only didn't the races draw full fields, the races didn't even fill enough to put them on the race card so despite the offer of the best overnight race restricted to 3yos in the area and the potential of having their starting fee paid for the Simpson, most horsemen decided to bypass this race. The only race in the area to have a better purse for 3yos is the Bobby Weiss LC final ($30,000) at Pocono Downs for 3yo colt trotters, after that, the best purse to be found for 3yos outside of the Meadowlands was an $18,000 purse, $2,000 less than the Meadowlands was offering.
Granted, with the Simpson not exactly known for massive purses, many trainers may be going into the Simpson off a qualifier, but it is still hard to believe they couldn't get at least one division of the prep races filled for each gait, This is not a repudiation of the Meadowlands; it is the axiom about having a race over the track being consigned to the scrap heap. What makes it worse is with the forty-five day rule, harness racing is getting more like thoroughbred racing.
Whether that is good or not for the handicapper is not the issue; it is what it is and any horseplayer that is betting as they did back in the early 2000's better alter their thinking or they are going to find themselves 'improving the breed' at the expense of their bankroll.
Darryl Kaplan of Standardbred Canada wrote in Trot magazine an article on what is needed to win back the slot player. Will it be easy to do? Heck not, but for racing to survive, it must try to convert slot players and if that's not possible, it must try to get its hands on potential slot players before the casino gets their hand on them.