The media, in the form of Harness Racing Update (HRU), attempted to attend the supposedly 'open' meeting between Freehold Raceway management and the SBOANJ yesterday and were promptly denied admittance to the meeting which suddenly became a private meeting. After being threatened with arrest, HRU left the premises.
One can only speculate as to why the meeting became closed to the press. My suspicion is the raceway didn't want any public reporting of the actual comments due to the fear of legal action being taken against them due to the starting gate mishap last Friday (HRU reports that Driver Debbie Rucker has been swarmed by lawyers who wish to represent her though she has made no decision to seek legal recourse).
Yes, Freehold and the SBOANJ had the right to make the meeting a closed meeting, but if doing so, the decision to close the meeting should have been made ahead of time for treating one of the few remaining independent press sources dedicated to harness racing this way is not smart business. Could you see a thoroughbred track doing something similar to the Daily Racing Form? Highly unlikely.
After the meeting, track and SBOANJ representatives discussed in general terms what transpired in the meeting. While the SBOANJ has had concerns over the track for the past couple of years, Pennwood (the operator of Freehold) has felt the track was in good shape. Track management has now agreed to have a consultant come in and review the track conditions, presumably to make suggestions on if and how the track may be made safer.
Horsemen have been given assurances there would be no retribution if they go to the raceway management with concerns about or scratch out over track conditions as horsemen allegedly feared being punished for rocking the boat. In addition, a drivers committee will be formed to bring track condition issues up with management, something similar to what is done at Monticello Raceway.
While the SBOANJ claims the track has ultimate responsibility for what happened, it appears they attempted to demur a bit to minimize legal exposure to the raceway. As stated by SBOANJ President Tom Luchento, "...I know they did what they think was their best, but we’re going to follow up because what they think is best for the track may not be the best".
Hopefully after this meeting, something gets done and the same old becomes unacceptable to all involved.