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Monday, November 17, 2008

Tough Call

- Given my socialist leanings, you can of course generally find me sympathizing with the cause of working horsemen against evil corporate owners with only the bottom line in mind. But in the matter of the current dispute between New Jersey harness horsemen and the Penn National/Greenwood combo which owns Freehold, I must say that the corporate side has some valid points.

One horse owner actually spoke up in defense of Pennwood at the SBOANJ meeting last week; and explained on Andrew Cohen's First Over blog that he felt that actions of the group's leadership smacked of tortious interference, if not antitrust, against Freehold. Peter Gerry suggested that the SBOANJ, should it fail to prod a renegotiation of the subsidy agreement, seek relief from the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority, which negotiated the agreement on behalf of horsemen. "..the NJSEA is every bit as much to blame for the flaws in the PEA and its contractual requirements," he wrote.

Freehold's president/GM Don Codey Jr, in a letter to the Casino Association of New Jersey, wrote:

“Freehold is willing to be bound, and that will prevent future gaming to occur at Freehold Raceway during the next three years, which we believe was one of the goals of the (purse enhancement agreement).....Asking for restrictions beyond that is unreasonable, non-mutual, and unrelated to the benefits conferred. Most importantly, Freehold has no authority to bind its joint venture partners.
Codey suggested the document be modified to reflect location restrictions — racetracks — rather than entities that may own them. On Nov. 14, he told The Blood-Horse PNGI has obligations as a publicly traded company to avoid such restrictions on potential business activities.

“Who in their right mind would do it?” Codey said. “Any prudent businessman cannot do this.” [Bloodhorse]
Again, it's hard to really disagree. But having said that, it's also perfectly fair to question the companies' motives as the horsemen have. SBOANJ president Tom Luchento said that “Penn Gaming is more concerned about its casino investments and properties elsewhere in the United States than it is about harness racing at Freehold.” Indeed, a little harness track without slots, in a region surrounded on all sides by them, can't be more than a festering annoyance on the financial statements. The current situation gives the Pennwood partners an excuse, and an ethically defensible one in my view, to extricate themselves. It's bad for the sport, horrible for the horsemen, and threatening to a long tradition of harness racing in Freehold. But it's hard for me to see how any true capitalist could really criticize.

- A tour de force for Somebeachsomewhere in what is scheduled to be his final performance in Canada. On a sloppy track rated three seconds slow, and in the face of a driving wind and rain, he won by nearly a dozen lengths in an unbelievable, under the conditions, 1:50 3/5.
"I think it might have been his greatest race ever," said Reg Petitpas of Shediac Bridge, one of the six members of the Schooner Stable, who share ownership in the stallion, who went over the $3-million mark in career earnings with the victory, his 19th in 20 lifetime starts.

"I have never seen him as strong in the mile," said groom Jean-Louis Arsenault, a Moncton native, who said trainer Brent MacGrath had decided to use aluminum shoes on the horse for Saturday's race.
"I just let him ramble home, I never even popped his ear-plugs," said MacDonell. [Times & Transcript]
The Beach now travels towards these parts, for, if necessary, an elimination heat for the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands on Saturday night; and for what will be his final career race on November 29.

1 Comment:

Nick said...

How often do you see a thoroughbred pointing to race again two weeks after his "greatest race ever" with maybe an elimination heat in between for good measure? Don't quarter horses follow a similar schedule?

I think I chose the wrong form of racing to follow.