Even in Small Ways, The Meadowlands Keeps Trying
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., January 17, 2017—It is no secret that horse racing in New Jersey is in trouble and has been for some time. Competition from casino-enhanced purses in neighboring racing states has dealt a serious blow to its economic viability.
But unlike, say, California, the Garden State’s woes can’t be attributed to lack of trying. Contrarily, when it comes to new ideas, it can be argued New Jersey is one of horse racing’s most progressive jurisdictions and has been for some time.
New Jersey was the first to embrace exchange wagering in the U.S., and while that concept hasn’t set the horse-betting world on fire, it has raised awareness that expansion is possible via diversification and choice given its appeal to a Wall Street mentality.
Exchange wagering pits player against players or player vs. crowd by locking-in prices based on handicapping skill and knowledge of the public’s betting habits. At once, players have diversification and control over their money.
In an effort to spur business, The Meadowlands lowered parimutuel takeout to 15% across the board at its brief all-turf meet. But lowering takeout works best only over the sustained trial periods needed to overcome near term revenue shortfall.
In order to attract people into their buildings or online bet shops, New Jersey horse interests have lobbied for sports wagering, with its venues as gateway, a concept that has received governmental support, then not; public support, then not again.
At blame is hypocritical right-wing attitudes toward gambling and because New York casino interests and sports leagues have lobbied against competitive racinos that are 20 minutes from Manhattan or Westchester County.
Whatever it’s tried, New Jersey has been stymied to the point where horse racing is rapidly becoming unsustainable.
The pressure to stop the bleeding by any means necessary occurred recently when The Meadowlands decided to computerize it the harness-racing morning line earlier this month.
In the big picture this looks like a small issue, but it’s indicative of the fact that horse racing everywhere is failing in its attempts to keep the fans it has, never mind attracting a new audience.
Interesting, Puzzling Year for Eclipse Award Voters
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., January 2, 2017—In a recent online poll, roughly three out of every four respondents thought that 2016 was a good year for racing. In light of what happened between the fences, I agree.
There were many great performances and memorable moments. As for the rest of the year, we have chronicled the game’s shortcomings here too much already, so we’ll await another time, another day for that.
Please note, however, I must disagree with those who posted that a good number of categories with respect to making cases for 2016’s Eclipse champions were open and shut. Far from that, in our view.
Either way, here is what one final ballot looked like for the racing year 2016 and the thinking process behind some of our choices. But first, our annual disclaimers that all folks who care about such things should know.
As one of the late, great founding members of the National Turf Writers once counseled, there are no rules: “The Horse of the Year can be anything,” said Joe Hirsch. The same applies to other categories; some champions are obvious, others in a beholder’s eyes.
But what it shouldn’t be is a popularity contest or a predictor of who will win. It should be about voting your conscience in the face of peer pressure and regionalism. To wit:
When one California-based horseman was polled on Horse of the Year, his response was: “California Chrome, Art Sherman’s my man.” Friendship and loyalty are wonderful things but Sherman could have gotten this support on the merits: Superb management!
Here, then, is one man’s ballot. [Voters must cast a 1-2-3 vote in order for the category to count or he can abstain].