Being there are three holidays in the month of December (Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza) I am hedging my bets and coming up with one list of things I want for the three holidays. Hopefully, at least some of these will come true in the waning days of 2014 or in 2015.
1. Exchange Wagering - Exchange wagering has been promoted as the greatest change in wagering for the gamblers yet its introduction has been delayed for its misplaced fear of its impact on handle and the small amount tracks and horsemen would get per dollar wagered despite the anticipated volume of wagers anticipated. Well, exchange wager in working in Europe, what makes people think it can't work in North America? My wish is exchange wagering is introduced somewhere, sometime in 2015.
2. Night Time Racing at Freehold - Well, knowing Freehold would never invest in lights on a full time basis believing the cost would outweigh the benefit. But with the Meadowlands racing a limited schedule and only two days a week once the Pennsylvania tracks open, isn't it worth running an experiment at the historic oval? How about using temporary lighting and run night time cards two or three weekends and see what happens? Who knows, it may pay off despite what management thinks at present. If you don't try, you don't know.
3. Racing Under Saddle Goes Mainstream - In Canada, which is a step ahead of us, I would like to see more trainers and horses getting involved RUS with one race a night at a Canadian track dedicated to RUS. With more horses involved, we can eliminate the 'open' RUS races and have conditioned tilts as well as legitimate stakes. In the United States, I wish for pari-mutuel racing in at least a couple of states with a circuit of riders and horses racing in states with or without wagering.
4. Muzzle the Gural Haters - I am sick and tired of hearing people trash Jeff Gural. Can they be quiet? This is not to say everything Gural does is right, nor does everyone have to fall unquestionably in line with his policies, but please stop complaining about Gural just because he is doing something different. If you haven't noticed, things aren't doing so great. Something needs to be shaken up.
5. Kudos to Joe Faraldo - Lord knows Joe hasn't gotten much credit from me for what he has done, but his involvement in getting France to take Yonker's signal on Sunday mornings was quite a coup. The future of racing is to go global. I would like to see more exporting of races to foreign nations.
6. Longer Races and Overflow Fields - This is not to say every race needs to be a 1 1/4 miles long and with a second tier, but our racing has become stale. Carding longer races with more horses can make for more attractive wagering events and make our product more attractive to foreign countries which must be wondering why every one of our races are at a mile.
7. Free Basic Programs on the Internet - A snowball chance in hell I realize, but if you don't ask you don't get. Our Canadian friends must be laughing at us for having to pay for a program when their tracks give them away for free on the web.
8. TVG (and other ADWs) to Offer More Harness Racing - I'm not naive in thinking TVG will show more harness racing live on their broadcast; there are $2,000 quarter horse races to show. We will need to be satisfied with most of harness racing being shown over the Internet. Bring back Swedish harness racing and perhaps add French harness racing as well. Add the trotters from Australia and New Zealand. Some of us want to bet early in the day or late at night. Maybe asking for all this may be too much, but can't TVG offer all the harness tracks they offer on their regular platform on PABets and 4NJBETS? I want my Fraser Downs and any other signal offered elsewhere.
9. The MGCB Approve Jackson Raceway for Harness Racing in 2016 - The MGCB shot down the application for Jackson Raceway operating in 2015 but if the horsemen want more racing dates in Michigan, it looks like Jackson Raceway is it. May the horsemen get behind it and Jackson get the necessary financing so the MGCB looks favorably on a new application by Jackson Raceway.
10. Someone to Pick Up the Thunder Ridge Dates in 2016 - With 2015 being the last meet at Thunder Ridge, hopefully Bluegrass Downs or a Historical Racing machines-supported Red Mile pick up those dates. Better yet, with all that HRM revenue flowing in starting in September, perhaps the Red Mile can restore a meaningful racing season, including their traditional spring meet, to Kentucky Otherwise, Kentucky horsemen may as well go to California.
11. Slots in Illinois - Racing is on the ropes in Chicago. I hate slots but one thing I hate more is racing to disappear in a state due to a bunch of 'bumbling' politicians.
12. A Gaming Referendum in New Jersey Passing - Since it makes sense policy-wise for NJ to open a casino in the Meadowlands to get those NJ residents currently heading to the racinos at Aqueduct and Yonkers to drop their hard earned dollars in a casino in New Jersey where the state benefits, it may as well be at the Meadowlands which is a centrally located location and would provide a benefit for NJ horsemen of all breeds.
13. Casino Licenses Granted to Tioga Downs and the Montreign Casino Project - I confess, Monticello is my guilty pleasure. Even though Empire Resorts decided against building a new racetrack at their proposed casino development, the fact is Monticello is likely dead in two years if the Montreign project doesn't get approved. As for Tioga Downs, if a casino has to come to the Southern Tier, it may as well go where there is gambling already (both Tioga and Vernon Downs are in jeopardy if their bid fails). December 17 is the day of reckoning.
14. New Jersey to Change the Law When it Comes to Animal Cruelty - We recently saw how broken the law is when it comes to animal cruelty. When it takes roughly a year and a half to confiscate horses when alleged abuse takes place because the Department of Agriculture doesn't have enforcement powers, allowing three horses to die in the meanwhile (and two euthanized after seizure) due to the delay, it is clear the process doesn't work. Yes, a case must be built before criminal charges are brought but the length of the delay was inexcusable. Here's wishing the State changes the law or at a minimum its regulations to allow the Department of Agriculture either on their own or in concert with animal welfare agencies to enforce animal cruelty laws and seizures so such obscene delays are a thing of the past.
15. Owners willing to Give Other Trainers a Chance - I am not wishing any bad luck on the Burke or Takter stables, they have earned their success. However, it is not good for the sport when it seems every stakes race is won by these trainers. Here is hoping some of the well-heeled owners will be willing to give other trainers a chance.
16. Racing Commissions that Block Trainer Transfers - Please, let me see at least one racing commission refuse to allow a transfer of horses from a trainer to their spouse, family member, someone who works for the stable, or girl/boyfriend. If a trainer is being penalized by a suspension, make the horse go to a bona fide different trainer where the suspended trainer risks never getting their horses back.
17. Better Regulatory Websites - Take a look at the California Horse Racing Board website and then look at the site for the NJRC. One site is up to date and open with information, the other is out of date and secretive. Since racing commissions are chartered to promote and regulate racing as well as protect the public interest, is it too much to ask commission websites to be open such as the CHRB's instead of secretive so the public has no clue as to what is going on? Which brings us to....
18. Read the Mission Statement - Would it be too much for racing commission commissioners, staff, and judges to once in a while read the mission statement of their commission? Perhaps then the horseplayers' interests will be considered instead of just doing what is best for tracks and horsemen.
19. A Successful Yonkers International - It has been a long time since the United States had a race of the stature of the old Roosevelt International. 2015 is the year the International returns to Yonkers Raceway. May the race truly be international in nature and as great as some of the legendary battles in Westbury.
20. A Successful European Campaign for Maven - May the Elitlopp champion be an American mare.
21. The selection of William Parker Jr. to the Hall of Fame (I don't give up easily)
22. The Return of Walter Case Jr. - A perennial entry on this list. Someone give Walter a chance to come back and earn his redemption. Put him on a tight leash, a probationary license if you will. He deserves one last chance (I mean one chance).
23. More exploits by Sebastian K in 2015 - Need I say more?
24. A Successful Graduate Series - Gural has led the charge to keep 3yos racing as 4yos before heading off to the breeding shed. Owners complained there were no money events for 4yos. So after seeing how the 4yos struggled against the FFA crowd this year, Jeff Gural reformats the old Graduate series into a $1 million series for 4yos which will allow them time to become seasoned before they need to mix it up with older horses. May the Graduate Series be well supported by horsemen and be a success.
25. A Coordinated Race Calendar between NJ and Pennsylvania - Yes, I realize peace in the Middle East may be more likely, but it would be nice if a calendar between Harrah's, Pocono Downs, and the Meadowlands could be developed so each track would have more than enough horses for their racing program.
26. Some More Winners - Doesn't every racing fan have this on their list?
Wishing you all a Happy and Safe Holiday season