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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lessons From the Stronach Group

As you may have heard, the Stronach Group has been making changes in the thoroughbred world which could be used as a model for changes in the standardbred world.  In Florida, they in effect took over racing at Calder (while allowing Calder to retain the racino portion of the plant), creating a circuit between Gulfstream and Calder (now known as Gullfstream West).

Even more dramatic changes are occuring in Maryland where The Stronach Group operates both Laurel Park and Pimlico.  First of all, they are reducing the takeout rates at their an effort to improve the handle at their facilities.  In addition, to develop a year round circuit, racing at Delaware Park and in Virginia (wherever it may occur) will be controlled from a centralized race office.  Not only are horsemen benefiting by having a year round circuit, gamblers benefit by being familiar with all the participants (human and equine) and there are cost savings by having one central office.

Wouldn't racing in the New Jersey - Pennsylvania region benefit from such an approach?  Instead of competing with each other for horses, a coordinated schedule between Pocono Downs, Harrah's Philadelphia, and the Meadowlands would benefit everyone involved.  Imagine the Meadowlands racing primarily in the winter, November - February and then a three week meet leading up to the Hambletonian; Harrah's operating March - June; Pocono Downs operating July-October.  The tracks would have full fields with the best horses available.  With the Meadowlands operating in what has been their most lucrative months, they would. be able to increase their racing dates perhaps to five days a week.

Unfortunately, cooperation between the three tracks seems unlikely; with two of the tracks having slot revenue, why would they wish to cooperate with their poor cousin?  This leads me to wonder if it may be time to develop a circuit within the Gural-operated tracks.  As above, have the Meadowlands operate a winter meet and a three week super meet similar to The Red Mile with Tioga Downs book-ending the Meadowlands meet and Vernon Downs operating during the Summer,  Not only would this provide a circuit for the horses to race on all year, it would allow each track to be promoted in order to raise their profile.

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