Carrying over from our post on Chester stealing Meadowlands entries away with the bandit money, we have had tons of good comments on the 'Mecca' of harness racing.
It was also only a few short years ago that the Meadowlands typically scheduled a total of one overnight trot race on their Friday and Saturday night cards combined. On Friday's program you would find the Open Trot nestled in amongst 11 or 12 full fields of quality pacers. And on Saturday nights it was wall-to-wall pacing affairs in which you could make a legitimate case for at least 6 or 7 of the entries. It was a value player's dream come true as horses that should have been 4-1 or 9-2 would regularly light up the toteboard at 6, 7 or 8-1.
The Meadowlands has turned into a Vernon Downs type of track, overloaded with trots for young, developing horses. As a longtime fan, the racing at the moment is pathetic, and it is my understanding that, in addition to those who have already done so, at least one top driver has expressed an intention to abandon the Big M during the week for driving assignments at Yonkers when Chester is not racing.
Last year I was lamenting here about Yonkers, that harness racing handle hotbed, taking entries, and drivers, and handle away from the M. Now they are getting ganged up on by Chester and Pocono. Both the latter tracks have takeouts approaching three card monte levels. In fact, a columnist had this to say about Presque Isle Downs and their PA takeouts:
The sky-high takeout rates that are in place at all Pennsylvania tracks remain in place. Takeout is the set percentage of money taken from a betting pool and not redistributed in winning payoffs.
Presque Isle Downs has developed a reputation as a track that cares about its own slots players and cares about keeping the horsemen content, but does not care about the horse player.
So clearly we have a problem. Jersey racing is pretty close to Kentucky racing - on life support. The horseman won't support the tracks at these purse levels. Drivers, who most would say do not have loyalty as one of their strong points, certainly won't support a place with lower purses. Bettors? As the poster above said: Small fields and crap racing is not exactly what we are looking for either.
Let's hope something gets done in Trenton. And of course, let's hope tracks and horseman groups do not do what they usually do when they have a windfall like this. Without some cash going back to the player to grow harness racing, you might as well not have a slots scheme at all. Just dole out a few checks like welfare does and be done with it.