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Monday, November 30, 2015

Can You Spot The Problems?

The following comes from the Atlantic City Race Course Facebook page.   I thank Tim Cramer for his permission to reprint his comments on this blog.  Yes, his comments are about thoroughbred racing, in particular in New Jersey, but if you read his comments, you will see common themes which apply to the standardbred sport.  For this reason, I am reprinting his comments.

See if you can spot the problems.

Hello: My name is Tim Cramer and I was the announcer at AC Race Course for 6 years after Larry Lederman left. I spent 15 years working there and the better part of 40+ years betting there!

I read many of the posts and a lot of them seem to just " BLAME " this , that or them. So be it. 2015 and the 21st century seems to be the century of BLAME! One needs to only turn ANY news program on and every story offers you the opportunity to hear them " BLAME " someone or something from global warming, to different religions to the space program and then to the upbringing of people who have chosen a life of crime and the list goes on and on ad nauseam. 

So with your indulgence let me offer you a caveat: AC Race Course was built in 1946 and it is by today's standards Obsolete for Racetracks today. Yes many others are also obsolete but offer full racing meets to offset the many costs of running a facility that large. AC lost money the last years and many people at least the MANY people I know usually visited 3-5 DAYS a year! Yes there were the people who came to the simulcast day in and day out but they were few and hardly enough to sustain business yearly there! 6 days of live racing helped but only so much and AC Race Course always allowed Oakcrest High School Band to have a concession there throughout the live meet thus cutting into what little profit they made!

Couple that with a declining simulcasting base ( one needs to only look east to Atlantic City and see the ONLY simulcasting site left in ANY AC Casino is at the Borgata! And sadly of the people there MANY just walk over from the Poker Room to smoke and couldn't care less if it was horses or giraffes racing!
Racing in New Jersey is all but dead with Monmouth Park BARELY holding on. the old days of 5 and 6 days a week racing are long gone and while memories remain of AC, Garden State Park and Full live thoroughbred meets at the Meadowlands ( they have a FEW weekends of turf racing only now! ) The racing calendar at Monmouth park is etched with 3 days a week and sometimes 4 from May to September! Winter thoroughbreds in New Jersey ended 14 years ago with the closing of Garden State Park ( story to follow ) and NO ONE has ever tried to revive it!
Everyone has a story of AC Race Course and Probably Garden State Park and of course WE all have our memories! But in the 21st century memories and reliving the " Old Days " is done in your mind and not in real time. Will AC Race Course ever reopen again? Personally I can't see it but I'd be PLEASANTLY Surprised if they did!
Garden State Park burned to the ground on Thursday April 14th 1977 I was actually one of the 10,000 people there which now has grown to a million people in folklore who were there! I watched from the racetrack as the Wonderful track burned to the ground and 8 years later almost to the day on April 1st 1985 this brand new spankin' MONSTROSITY opened up as the NEW Garden State Racetrack! A little more then 16 years later it would close and 2 years after that it would be demolished for stores and apartments/condos! Only the 1942 Guard Gate remained as the final symbol of Garden States 50 + years of racing!
When you drive by AC Race Course through the back of Hamilton Mall let your mind wander ( it's OK ) and fill it with thoughts of All YOUR wonderful memories of AC Race Course, your great WINS, your friendships and the people you sat with and around. You see the faces and the names make up our memories!
When I drive by I think of my late brother and how during those live nights I was in the paddock on the TV simulcast my brother would come and sit with me between races and we'd handicap together. You see I handicapped the daily double races during the day and really studied at night. My best night was a warm Saturday in August. I gave out 8 of the 9 winners including a $54.80 winner! A $700 + Trifecta and 5 Exactas. I LOST the 7th race that night. I only bet 2 races all night. The 4th race I bet $120 and got back $330 or thereabouts. The 7th race was my BEST BET and I pounded $100 Across the board. The horse went off 5-1 and was a non threatening 4th! EVERY other winner including the $54 dollar horse I didn't have a penny on! Hit the double and MANY had it in the walking ring area..... The 54 dollar horse I believe was my 6th in a row and many had it for $2 just because I was on a streak not me, I was trying to give out winners BUT only bet my best bets so I didn't bet too many races!
And there you go, one of my racetrack stories with my late brother and maybe even some of you in it! We all have them so share them and be loud and proud of your time spent at AC Race Course. I AM!
As I said every night at the end of a replay show I did with JJ Graci called It's Post Time: May all your bets be winning ones and may you always leave with a SMILE!
Garden State Park Story to follow:

The attendance was 717 the other day at Garden State Park, racing fans, gamblers and mourners. It was a poor showing for the funeral of an old friend, but what else would you expect? Garden State has been, for al practical purposes, dead for several years. It will be put out of its misery May 3 and then the wrecking ball will come in and wipe out everything but the memories.
On the surface, the passing of Garden State Park isn't that big of a deal for the sport. There hasn't been a good horse to run there in years and the daily cards are held in front of an eerily empty grandstand. With business worse than ever, Pennwood Racing, which leases the track, announced that it would not renew its contract when it expires May 29. Meanwhile, the property has been sold to a developer, who will undoubtedly build a shopping center or an office park or something else that society can surely do without. But beforehand, Garden State will go out with barely a ripple, a sorry 15-day meet that ends Thursday.
But let us not forget what a wonderful place it was in its day and all the potential it seemed to have after Bob Brennan threw his ill-begotten millions into rebuilding what was supposed to be the track of the 21st century. There is indeed something sad, tragic even, about seeing it come to an end, even if it is a rather pathetic end.
I saw Secretariat run at the old Garden State in the 1972 Garden State Stakes as a young boy, simultaneously falling in love with the horse, the sport and that track. Take a look at what Garden State has become today and it seems preposterous that the greatest horse of the modern era could have ever run there before a packed, excited house and that was nothing out of the ordinary. 

That was before the entire sport was turned upside down, during an era that seems impossibly distant. Back then, no one had ever heard of simulcasting or year-round racing or casinos in states not named Nevada, and you might get 35,000 out at the track on a nice Saturday afternoon.
The old Garden State, opened in 1942, was as pleasant a racetrack as there was. It ran on sparkling spring afternoons and crisp fall days. From all over the Philadelphia, South Jersey area, fans came to enjoy an afternoon spent in a beautiful grandstand watching the finest horse racing found in this country outside of New York and California.
"The old Garden State was a very nice track," said veteran trainer Willard Thompson, who settled in at the South Jersey track in 1969. "It had a nice, wooden grandstand. It was like Saratoga in that it had a lot of class and ambiance."
Two months into the track's first year, Triple Crown winner Whirlaway competed there in the inaugural running of the Trenton Handicap. He would be the first of many superstars to race at Garden State. Actually running in between the Preakness and the Belmont, Citation stopped in to win the 1948 Jersey Derby by 11 lengths. They just kept coming: Nashua in the 1956 Camden Handicap; Bold Ruler in the 1957 Trenton; Kelso in the 1962 Governor's Plate; Dr. Fager in the 1967 Jersey Derby; Riva Ridge in the 1971 Garden State Stakes; Secretariat in the 1972 Garden State Stakes.
"You couldn't have a better race meeting," said Sam Boulmetis currently a Garden State steward and a retired Hall of Fame jockey. "You had huge races like the Garden State and the Gardenia and a lot horses became the 2-year-old champion by winning those races. Other than New York, racing there was probably as good as any place in the country."
Garden State was destroyed by fire April 14, 1977, leaving a huge void on the New Jersey racing circuit. A few years later, the Meadowlands was born and it became an instant success, which attracted the attention of financier Robert Brennan. He hoped to build a Meadowlands South, only he was determined to make his track bigger, better and glitzier than his neighbor to the north. 

Brennan poured a reported $150 million into the track, which re-opened for business April 1, 1985, and vowed that it would be the track of the 21st century. The expectation level was huge. Garden State was supposed to be on its way to being the next great racetrack in this country.
Brennan, recently convicted of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering, the latest chapter in his long battle with authorities who allege he was a stock swindler, was intent on putting his track on the map from the start. He shook up the Triple Crown by wooing Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck away from the Preakness with the enticement of a $2 million bonus offered up in the Jersey Derby.
But once the Spend A Buck hype started to fade away reality set in. The new Garden State was operating in a different world than the old one. Area gamblers were flocking in droves to the bustling casinos in Atlantic City and the remaining horseplayers were being divided up among a glut of racetracks in the area, from Philadelphia Park to the west and Delaware Park to the south. 

Meanwhile, the track's fan base was aging and there wasn't any new blood coming in to replace them. Brennan had spent far too much money and was unable to recoup his investment with the meager crowds that were showing up.
"There was just too much damn racing in the area," said Russ Harris, who covered Garden State for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1970 to 1977. "You had all those tracks in close proximity to one another. Say New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania had all gotten together and put together a circuit, then it would have been a very successful circuit. Instead, they wound up with nothing. But you can't get the politicians in one state to agree on anything when it comes to racing, let alone three."
There were a few more bright spots along the way, many of them coming with a moderately successful harness meet, but it's been obvious now for several years that Garden State was never going to make it. In a few short days they will pull the plug. Garden State will best be remembered as a massive white elephant, the last injustice to a track that deserved so much better.

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