Here is a video The Record took of the facility while on a tour.
Of course, the real test will come on Saturday night when the place is full of gamblers. I am sure people will show up to see what the new facility is all about. The question is will it be enough to get people to come back a second and third time.
The entry box at the Meadowlands for opening night remains open for another 24 hours due to a lack of horses dropped in the box. Part of the problem is none of the Final Four Stakes (not the TVG FFA series) drew enough horses to make eliminations necessary so while many horsemen were planning on racing their overnight horses elsewhere because of the planned eliminations, there is a need to rely on overnight races, in particular for classes they didn't expect to use. I suspect some of those horses which qualified last night may be dropping in to race Saturday. I am sure there will be thirteen races for the Pick the Winner of 13 Races - Win a Million promotion, the question is whether or not they will be full fields. Still, with the track having its grand re-opening, this is certainly not what management needs to deal with off the bat.
If Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment is looking for another entertainment option for the warmer months, may I suggest something which was tried this year in Ontario, minature harness races. No, I am not suggesting we introduce minature horses racing as a wagering sport, but something which can be used to attract families to the track, a stated goal of Jeff Gural plus getting people interested in horse ownership. Some spectators may have children interested in the sport plus while their children get involved with the minis, their parents may be attracted to ownership of standardbreds.
Here is a video of miniature horse harness racing this past year at Grand River Raceway:
We are not talking about races where professional drivers get behind these horses, we are talking about those approved by the IMTPA between the age of 8 and 15 (youth division). As for prize money, it could be a token amount of $500 or even a blanket for the winner. Absurd idea? It is done over in the Scandinavian countries.
According to the Paulick Report, the witness list for the House Subcommittee holding hearings on the proposed Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013 has been released. If you look at the list, there is no one from the standardbred industry testifying at the hearing. Now, to be fair, those testifying were invited to testify so it is not as if the USTA or any other standardbred group could have just signed up to testify but does anyone think if this bill becomes law, harness racing is going to not be included in the reach of the legislation? Standardbred interests would do best not to ignore what is going on with this legislation because while it may be under the radar right now, if the legislation does become law, it will be right in the cross hairs with the thoroughbred industry. This may be one of those cases where you want to be seen, seen and heard to be precise.
Lest anyone thing harness racing is the only sport where participants can stretch out suspensions, out in California, the CHRB has a case against trainer Jeff Mullins which started back in 2010.
In upstate New York, Vernon Downs has increased wagering on its product from out of state sources by 17%, resulting in an increase in export wagering of 63%. Now granted, it is easier to increase handle by 16% at Vernon Downs than it is to increase wagering at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment or Yonkers by the same amount but it goes to show you gamblers are more interested with full fields than it is with quality, not that quality is not important.
Unbeknownst to most people, Internet Gaming has begun in New Jersey. At this point, wagering is available only to 'invited guests of casinos'. If all goes well, online gaming will be available to all in NJ (you don't need to be a NJ resident, just in the state at the time you play), starting November 26. Are racetracks worried about Internet Gaming? Surprisingly not. Hopefully, their lack of concern is well-founded.
A stallion comes to New Jersey? It is reported that Vintage Master is setting up shop in New Jersey for the 2014 breeding season and stands for a price of $3,500. He moves to New Jersey after spending two years in Ontario. Granted, this is not the equivalent of a blue chip prospect starting their career in the stallion barn, but for a state decimated of stallions, it is a welcome announcement.