For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Outriders Rock and Where Have the Racehorses Gone?

The outrider's job at any racetrack is invisible to patrons, unless there is a problem.  However, if there is a problem, the true purpose of an outrider becomes evident.  A perfect example of this occurred today at Tabcorp Park Menangle in Australia.  Take a look at the fancy work the outriders performed in the third race.

If there is any track without an outrider, shame on them.

Now that stakes season has now kicked into a higher gear, how is the entry box being supported at the Meadowlands?  With twelve races on tap for both Friday and Saturday, we can see:

Number of
Horses                    Friday                Saturday
10 (or more)              3                         0                      
  9                               4                         4
  8                               4                         2
  7                               1                         5
  6                               0                         1

The Meadowlands is in a tough position.   With short fields, a logical step would be to cut back to ten races a night but the Meadowlands has a policy of 'if you enter them, they get raced'.  To cut back to ten races may result in some horses not getting in; something which may result in owners and trainers who are loyal to the Meadowlands to take their chances and enter elsewhere.

With Freehold Raceway closing this Saturday, hopefully this is as bad as it gets for this meet as those racing in Central Jersey will need to find a new place to race.  In the last couple of years, the Caramore and Cathedra Dot Com series have been offered to encourage some of these horses to race in East Rutherford and this year is no different.

Yes, the caliber of horses has dropped off at the Meadowlands; Saturday features a $7,500-$10,000 claiming handicap.  There is no sense complaining about it; this is the new reality.  Without alternative gaming, there is nothing the Meadowlands can do about attracting a better class of overnight horse.  The only thing in their control is having race secretary extraordinaire Peter Koch continue writing races which are competitive with the stock available to him.

Of course, the Meadowlands is not the only track suffering from short fields due to a decreasing foal crop.  One would expect Freehold to have similar problems as the Meadowlands and you would be right, but what about some slot tracks?  Monticello Raceway has cut back and is only programming nine and ten race cards and still has some short fields; six horse fields and fewer races on the card are common at Vernon Downs; Pocono Downs starters per race is declining.  Of course, for slot tracks where handle isn't as big of a concern the problem may not be raising immediate concern, but when legislators start seeing seven race programs with four horses per race, they may wonder if the slot money these tracks receive is a good investment.  While a track or two may not care as they are doing relatively well horse-wise, it would be in the long term interest of the other tracks to negotiate schedule changes to maximize their use of the declining foal crop.

You can tell times are bad in New Brunswick when Horse Racing New Brunswick gets locked out of their offices, bar, simulcast area, and slots at Fredericton Raceway by the property owner for alleged violations of their lease.  Among the violations is HRNB has planned to race only three days at Fredericton when the lease calls for a full slate of racing programs.  Of course, there were allegedly financial breaches as well.  Considering HRNB has slot machines, one would have to wonder if HRNB is really located in Atlantic City.


JLB said...

Brilliant job by the outriders. It would appear the race was official, as opposed to being a No Contest. Wonder how that would have been handled in North America.

Anonymous said...

Harrah's Philly races just eight on the gate. Cards a few nine horse fields with permission of the horsemen. No horse shortage. Also eligibles listed in many races.

Marv said...

Good job by the outriders, but I also thought the reason the driver was unseated interesting. They used the standing bungee start with distance handicaps. One horse near the front refused to go. The driver of a handicapped horse was unseated when his sulky ran over the refusing horse's sulky. The driver of the refusing horse appears to be booting the heck out of his horse to get it to move. It's a bad optic.

Pacingguy said...

Anon, I stand corrected. Thanks for bringing my mistake to my attention.

Pacingguy said...

Marv, many jurisdictions in Australasia have eliminated standing starts. Come August 1, Harness Racing Victoria will no longer sanction standing start races for trotters.