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Monday, November 23, 2015

Burke Rule Ends; Jersey (Horse) Politics

Kiss the 'Burke Rule' good bye.  The Meadowlands has suspended their rule which limited trainer entries in stake finals to no more than two horses (unless they trained the horse from the very beginning).  Some will argue it is a capitulation to the major stables; my take is this is the result of the horse shortage which is facing tracks; especially those without slots.

No, it is not good when a few stables are able to stuff stakes finals with their entries but faced with cancelling stakes or seeing five horse fields, it is better to repeal this rule and welcome all horses willing to show up to the dance.

Are New Jersey horsemen getting restless with the way things are being run at the Meadowlands?  One may get the impression this is the case with the defeat last week of Tom Luchento by Mark Ford in the contest for President of the SBOANJ.  The horsemen are allowing the Meadowlands to race the schedule management wanted this year, eliminating one night of racing in the winter, but in selecting Mark Ford as their new leader, horsemen have sent a message which is they will no longer rubber stamp what has been going on; they want a bigger say in how things will be done.

My suspicion is the lack of racing days at the Meadowlands is the biggest complaint they have.  However until Peter Koch has the delightful problem of an overflowing entry box, horsemen have no reason to complain about the lack of racing opportunities.

Things are far from great in New Jersey, but horsemen in New Jersey should be thanking their lucky stars there are 200 standardbred dates in the state when you combine Freehold and the Meadowlands after all, the way things are, their racing calendar should be more like Illinois, Kentucky, or Minnesota,  


Marv said...

If I were a NJ horseman, I would have a lot of questions regarding leadership of the SBOANJ. Yes, there are no slots and every surrounding state has them. However, what is being done to increase opportunities for NJ horsemen? GSP is now largely a mall. Fhld seemingly will be one soon at this rate. Showplace Farms is gone. M1 and Fhld barely race anymore.

Classified racing was working. Full fields, increased handle. Yet the horsemen killed that. I'd also be ticked that so much of the purse account at M1 goes towards stakes races which attract out of state horses.

Desperate times require desperate measures. All I see is the staus quo and downward trending in NJ. Hopefully Mark Ford will implement changes for the better. More of the same will lead to doom.

Pacingguy said...

Things are going to get worse before better (if ever). Despite their hopes, I don't see a referendum for expanded gaming in 2016. If Sweeney wants to be Governor, letting a referendum go to the polls will be the end of his career. Hence, my guess is 2017 is the earliest you will see a referendum.

The Meadowlands is in a difficult position. Drop the stakes races which get the out of state horses and the track becomes irrelevant to the sport; another Monticello Raceway so to speak. But of course, stakes races take purse money away from the overnights. Increasing racing dates is not possible because every racing day costs the track money.

I think the best which can be done is to alternate seasons between Fhld and the Meadowlands and run the same type of horses. Wagering will not drop off as much as one would think. Remember, competitive races is more important than classy races.

Count said...

Where, may I ask, are we going to fit the horseplayers at the Meadowlands should they ever get to build their racino there. Jeff Gural's cost cutting measures have already chased away lifelong harness fans, myself included, granted but there is barely (actually the reality is that there isn't currently enough) room for them now. It's high time to realize that the Meadowlands is, in fact, insignificant to the sport. The building is woefully insufficient, the restaurant is a farce compared to what they had once, and the track itself with the "no frills" toteboard and temporary-themed winner's circle is a disgrace. 2 nights a week racing in the NY Metropolitan area is ridiculous. Look at what they've done to the Hambletonian. It's quite clear to anyone looking at the situation rationally that track management really doesn't much care for harness racing and is only interested in their bars (the drunks on the grandstand level are quite distracting, to say the least),clubs and casinos.

Marv said...

I think you'll see the expanded gaming referendum in 2016. Controversial state issues are usually on the ballot in off years. Sweeney cannot win the nomination with only south Jersey support (~25% of NJ's population lives south of Trenton). AC is a failed experiment, an albatross that will be hung around Christie's neck if he ever becomes relevant again. Sweeney does not need it around his neck either.

I am not suggesting that M1 get rid of all stakes. I believe that 25% of the purse account goes towards funding stakes races. If some of that money were re-purposed to overnight races, the quality of racing would improve. Most stakes races do not make the track or the horsemen a lot of money. In fact, only the 5 connections collecting a check really make out (and some breeding interests).

Look at Hambo Day. There are so many stakes on the card, how could you possibly promote them all? If you only had 5-6 stakes races on the card, would fewer people turn out and bet? Not likely. That's basically what happens at the t-bred triple crown cards.

If M1 could offer a weekly $60k open pace or trot (and some NW30000L6 and 100k+ claiming races), would that attract better horses and fuller fields? I would think so. I would think that owners and trainers would rather race on the miler than take their chances at the post draw at YR or even PcD.

I don't think you'll ever see Meadowlands-caliber horses racing at Fhld on a regular basis. We never have. Fhld gets second-tier horses and they've lost their afternoon monopoly. That being said, there is a place for second-tier horses. Not all horses can race at M1/YR/Phl/PcD.

Like I said, it's time to think outside the box.

Anonymous said...

A horse owner used to tell me, "There is no show without us." While that is true, horsemen and horsewomen who think they can dictate track business decisions are out of touch with reality.

If the SBOANJ leaders and members believe more race dates would be profitable, they should buy or build a track and show everyone how to do it better.