It really is no secret the Meadowlands upcoming meet which begins this Friday, November 13 faces tough sledding. You would think with the TVG series final qualifying leg and eliminations for the Final Four stakes, there would have been no problem filling the card. You would have been wrong.
The TVG races for the most part are going with short fields, likely a victim of its coming after the Breeders Crown as many horses have already shut down for the year. If the Meadowlands does indeed open next year's fall-winter meet in October, they should look to see if a move to October is feasible. Where the Meadowlands hurts this weekend is in the overnight races where 7, 8, and 9 horse fields are on the card. Let's face it, what drives handle are large wagering fields. With short fields, a vicious 'chicken or the egg?' scenario develops; short fields leads to small handles which leads to short fields which leads to low handles and so on.
How low can purses go? $10,000 claimers are racing for a base purse of $6,000 ($6,900 with the NJOS allowance). On next week's condition sheet, we see the earliest arrival of the GSY Amateur Series ($5,500 purse) which last year was good for one or two races each Friday night. I am all for amateur racing as a purist, but financially these races tend to be avoided by gamblers. It is one thing to have an occasional amateur race on a racing card, but an extended run is too much. Of course, with Pocono closing next week and Harrah's closing on December 13, the supply of horses should improve at least until they reopen in the spring though many trainers will be checking out Yonkers' condition sheet before the Meadowlands for those who can handle the half mile oval.
Then there are the yet to be approved race dates for next year. While the Meadowlands proposed dates for next year, the horsemen made it known they were not happy, nor was Freehold Raceway which opposes the currently proposed schedule. Meetings with the SBOANJ have taken place so while the final proposal being submitted is not known, the NJRC is due to issue racing dates on November 18.
Lastly is the possibility of a constitutional amendment which may bring slots to the Meadowlands; 'may' being the operative word. First of all, we don't know what the wording of the amendment may be or if it will even make it to the ballot in the 2016 election cycle as its placement on the ballot is dependent on the whims of Senate President Sweeney, who as an undeclared gubernatorial candidate would seriously hurt his standing as a candidate with South Jersey were he to let this proposal see the ballot box. Current polls show New Jersey's electorate against the expansion of gaming though to be fair, there has been no real campaigning up to this time to sway voters. Will the Presidential election make it hard to reach the voters? Also, with the likelihood of additional public questions starting with revamping election law to bypass the Governor's veto, one must wonder how many public questions there will be on the ballot which may get more 'noise' than a possible gaming amendment or provide another convenient excuse by Sweeney to delay its placement on the ballot.
Of course, there is some good news for gamblers in the Garden State. According to the agenda of the November 18 meeting of the NJRC, initial licenses for exchange wagering may be issued, meaning NJ may be the first state to offer exchange wagering beginning sometime in 2016. Betting-wise, this may be the gambling innovation to get more interest for all types of horse racing by those who are currently dissatisfied with pari-mutuel wagering.