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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Notes - Nov 12

- New Jersey harness horsemen met at Freehold yesterday, and issued an ultimatum to management: Sign the purse subsidy agreement which would bring the horsemen some $4.2 million in purse monies through the end of 2009, or sell the track.

“We, the horsemen, would be one of the bidders to buy the track,” said Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey at President Tom Luchento...

“Pennwood [the company jointly controlled by Penn National Gaming and Greenwood Racing that owns Freehold] only seems concerned with what they perceive to be a restriction on their rights to pursue gaming in New Jersey....If they want to be in the casino business, they should sell the track.” [Standardbred Canada]
The horsemen are threatening to shut down the track's simulcast signal, as is their right under the Interstate Horseracing Act. Pennwood is balking because of a clause in the agreement which would prohibit them from pursuing a casino in the almost unimaginable event that such gaming is ever permitted in the state outside of Atlantic City.
State Senator Jennifer Beck, who represents much of Monmouth County, has questioned Penn National Gaming’s concerns about the future of Freehold Raceway.
“In my opinion, Penn National Gaming is a Pennsylvania-based company that does not have the interests of New Jersey horsemen in mind. I certainly don’t want to see Freehold Raceway shut down, but I question if Penn National Gaming wants to avoid that result.”
A reader raised the excellent question of whether Pennwood would still be able to operate their OTB parlors if they lost their license to conduct live racing. Because if it can, why go through the troubles of running a racing operation if you don't have to? Why indeed? I'm endeavoring to get some more information on this question.

- Here's another great comment, this one on the matter of VLT's at Belmont. I would have to agree that this seems a very possible, if not likely, scenario. I've argued all along that Belmont is a far more appropriate location for the racino than is Aqueduct, and I'll briefly reiterate those arguments here. For one thing, there's far more room (as in, wasted space). As far as the surrounding communities go, I'd guess that the demographics, at least in terms of economics, are fairly similar - solid working class neighborhoods. And I'd say that, aside from job opportunities, both of them could live without the easy temptation of gambling next door.

However, just to the east and south of Belmont are some of the most affluent areas on the South Shore of Long Island. And the rest of the suburbs are an easy highway trip away. Whatsmore, even those in Manhattan would be far more likely in my opinion to hop on the Long Island Railroad (to what I presume would be a renovated facility at Belmont) then on the A train to Ozone Park.

Of course, I've never been down with the idea of closing Aqueduct, but I'd have to agree that the writing is likely on the wall. Winter racing at the present Belmont plant is unacceptable, but, as the reader suggests, a new, smaller oval (synthetic?) with a small grandstand which could accommodate the 1800-4000 or so degenerates who ever come these days during the winter, and built to face the sun, would certainly do the trick.

It's interesting that the theme of Excelsior reappearing to run such an operation is a constant theme in the comments. Of course, it all could be the same anonymous commenter for all I know....but still, it certainly makes a lot of sense. A Belmont racino was one of the centerpieces of their bid, and, towards the end of the process, they made it clear they were not interested in the franchise should there not be one. "Any bets?", this reader poses? I for one certainly wouldn't want to wager against.

- Flashbulb Breeze took today's second, on the turf, at the Big A for Contessa, his sixth winner of the meet. Interesting to see horses like this, who break their maiden after consistently knocking at the door but falling short; and then, gaining confidence perhaps, go on to defeat far better against winners in its next start. This barn isn't known for its proficiency on the grass, but has been quietly doing extremely well on the surface at the Meadowlands, where Flashbulb Breeze had graduated, making her one of three such winners from a limited sample for the trainer there. (I'd be more specific, but Formulator Web doesn't seem to consider the Meadowlands to be a valid thoroughbred track.) Could be worth following others from the barn who ship back over here in the waning days of grass racing at Aqueduct.


Anonymous said...

Greenwood Racing, the partner of Penn National in Pennwood racing, is willing to take the casino subsidy at Atlantic city Race Course, but it only intested in live racing for (6) dates in 2009. The NJRC and NJ horsemen want a minimum of 20 race dates or no dice. I'm interested in seeing how this standoff resolves itself as well.

Anonymous said...

The only reason Greenwood keeps that crappy little meet at Atlantic City alive every year is to hold on to the OTB and simulcast facility. Why put another nickel in when you don't have to, and squeeze the horsemen for every nickle of theirs in return?
What a shame they've let the facility rot, because the turf course is stellar to this day.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Hayward said back in early October in the Troy Record that the firm the NYRA hired Turnberry Consulting from London, England would have preliminary recommendations on all three tracks by the end of October that would be presented to some of the NYRA board in early november. i'm guessing that has been accomplished? He also made the comment "We may still run at Aqueduct forever." Emphasis on the words MAY STILL.

Contrary to the other poster thinking it might be the Excelsior team being reinvented for Belmont, I think that all those that stayed in the bidding game until the end should be given first crack at Belmont Park, if it's on the table.

Anonymous said...

Patterson's comment the other day regarding Belmont that, I paraphrase, "development of this land that the State now owns is paramount in this time of economic downturn" gave me the chills.

Say goodbye to all these tracks the minute this franchise terms ends.

Maybe sooner if the monitor can find an excuse.

Anonymous said...

I happened to see Charles Hayward a few months back, and got into a friendly discussion with him. I asked him about slots at Belmont. His answer was very direct. NYRA had raised the issue and wanted slots at Belmont. The politicians, especially Sheldon Silver, would not address it. The message communicated was that the issue of slots at Belmont would be addressed, when Silver and the Democrats needed some agreement on some other legislation passed. And then, the slots at Belmont would be used as a bargaining chip. Yep, the old adage still applies. You never want to watch how sausage, or the law is made. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.