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Monday, March 28, 2011

Pushback and Giveback

Got some pushback over the last post for just mentioning Andrew Cohen advocating in his First Over column (at - free sub req) for horsemen at the Meadowlands to willingly giveback 5% of purse monies towards marketing efforts...if, that is, Gural gets the concessions from the unions that he says he needs to keep the track alive. (And I actually just touched on Cohen's point - he additionally suggests that, in addition to owners, that trainers, drivers, veterinarians, breeders and consignors, and even horsemen from other states lend financial support!)

I got - twice - a press release from the Standardbred Owners Association of New York regarding the New York horsemen's effots and financial contribution (said by Joe Faraldo to be in excess of $2 million) towards the effort to restore Yonkers' live signal to Channel 71, and permit live streaming on its website, in a joint effort with track effort which contributed to the first $1 million+ handle night at the Yonk since the NYC OTB shutdown (and on an bad betting night too, with eight of the 13 races featuring favorites of 7-10 or leas, far less on several occasions). "The SOA is for marketing through HARD WORK and money in a COOPERATIVE EFFORT, not simply forking over money to a track operator who then does what he or it feels should be done," I was told.

And that's an important distinction, because otherwise I think there's a lot of similarity between what happened at Yonkers, and what has been discussed for the Meadowlands. Under normal circumstances, of course it's the tracks' responsibility to pay for marketing, not the horsemen who supply the product. After all, as it was suggested to me, the Rangers don't chip in part of their salaries to help market the Garden, and that is naturally true.

However, if attendance at Ranger games had dropped by 80-90% over the last 15 years, Governor Cuomo decided that they had to go, and I came along to lease the team for $1 per month (assuming responsibility of course for all personnel decisions), then maybe they would, seeing their livelihoods threatened. (Or maybe they'd take up curling.) Similarly, horsemen at both Yonkers and the Meadowlands faced, or are facing, existential threats. Maybe not quite as literally so at Yonkers, but handle did drop rather drastically after the parlors were shut down. Enough so that the horsemen, who vehemently opposed the OTB bailout bills, were spurred to take action. Though they didn't have part of their purse money automatically deferred, they spent their own money nonetheless.

So I can understand Cohen's principle. Surely not to simply turn money over to Gural to do what he wants. Cohen suggests that the money go to "a smaller group of harness industry insiders who have new ideas about how to aggressively bring bettors and fans back to harness racing at the Big M." Which sounds nice. Unfortunately, I don't know if that's anything more than a fanciful notion at this point in time. And I'm not singling out the harness sport either, it's a conundrum in both breeds that has yet to be deciphered. If anything, harness racing, being conducted mostly at night, with a standardized racing distance and thus simpler past performances, could be said to have an easier task. If, as Gural said, you can't get 18-year olds to read a harness program anymore, I don't see much hope for the Form or the Sheets.

- Speaking of the Rangers, their dramatic 1-0 win in Boston on Saturday moved them seven points ahead of 9th place Carolina, who have played one less game. The Blueshirts are actually closer to 5th than to playoff oblivion, trailing the Lightning by four points, and tied in points (though on the short end of the tiebreaker) with the struggling 6th place Canadians. The Boston Herald noted that the Rangers looked like a team neither the Bruins nor any other team wants to meet in the playoffs. As I've mentioned previously, I wholeheartedly agree. They do however have to get there, first.