|The crow at Saratoga Racecourse|
Not quite what you are used to at your local harness track is it? I think the last time I saw a crowd similar to this at a harness track was back in the early to mid 1970s at Yonkers Raceway and most likely when the Meadowlands first opened back in my 'youth'. Now you are more likely to see a crowd like the following picture from Saratoga Raceway at your local harness track?
|Saratoga Raceway and Casino.|
Well, if something good is to be said about the attendance at the Raceway, it is you can stretch out and you can find your friends without much trouble.
All kidding aside, where did all the gamblers go after the day at the runners? For sure, some went bust during the afternoon and decided to call it a day. Others decided to avail themselves of some of the other entertainment options in the region while others did go over to the harness track but never found their way from the slot machines to the track side of the facility. Then there are those who will decide to just go another night because they trotters are 'always there'.
Would you believe at one point harness racing was the more popular sport of the two forms of horse racing? No one disputes the runners are the more popular form of horse racing in 2014 so barring extremely rare occasions such as the Little Brown Jug, you'll never see a grandstand packed to the rafters at your local raceway. Make no mistake, the scandals which have hit harness racing in the past has had 'legs', the consequences of real or perceived acts of malfeasance has spanned generations. The number of odds-on favorites and low priced exotics when compared to the runners has also made it harder for a gambler to come out ahead playing the trots.
Some of these factors we can't do anything about but there is one factor which can be controlled; limiting the length of race meets but horsemen could care less; their adage is the 'more the better'. The race meet at Saratoga Racecourse runs this year from July 18 through September 1; a total of six weeks. The race meet at Saratoga Harness runs from mid-March through mid-December; a total of nine months; closing only during the coldest and snowiest time of the year. The thoroughbred track benefits from being a boutique meet, people make a point of getting out to the track because if you miss it, you have to wait a year before you get another chance. As for the harness track, it's basically there all the time so there is no impetus to get to the track because it is always available (in the grand scheme of things).
Clearly there is no demand for those many racing days for while the running fans have a pent-up demand, the standardbred fan is more likely suffering from exhaustion, leaving too much product product for the amount of demand there is. Even in the old Yonkers/Roosevelt days, while there was a year-round circuit, it was a case of tracks alternating between being open/dark on a three month. Of course, as mentioned earlier, horsemen want to race all year, creating too much product than the sport can naturally support but with the band-aid called slots, horsemen can get away with it.
What should happen is tracks should go back to seasons so racing becomes an event again and instead of spending the purse account as money flows in from simulcasting, build up the purse accounts during the dark period and spend it during the live racing meet for bigger purses. Unfortunately, with slot revenue, economic logic can and does get thrown out.