These past few years have been dark ones for New Jersey racing, where Monmouth Park was clinging to life while the State of New Jersey and its pro-casino governor decided it wanted nothing more to do with the money-losing track. Fortunately, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and its leader, Dennis Drazin, came to the rescue, stepped in and assumed control of the track. The reason why this is particularly good news is that Drazin is a visionary and he understands that the status quo in horse racing is no longer acceptable.
Shortly after taking over, Drazin announced plans to convert areas of the racetrack, ones that haven’t been put to good use since 40,000 people used to show up every day, to such things as restaurants, shops, a miniature golf course and an indoor water park. Those sorts of things may or may not create new racing fans, but they will bring in revenue that will support racing and purses, something a track that does not have slots has to have.
Drazin barely took a deep breath before announcing his next idea, a circuit that includes Monmouth and Parx Racing. If he can make it happen he will have helped solve one of the sport’s most vexing problems while creating a superior product at two different racetracks.
There’s too much racing and that’s becoming a bigger issue every day. Fans hate to bet on races with cheap horses and small fields, yet too many tracks feed them a daily diet of the stuff. And it’s about to get worse. The Jockey Club estimates that 22,500 thoroughbreds were born in the U.S. in 2012, down 10,000 in just four years. Without a radical reduction to the amount of racing now being run, the sport is looking at the disastrous consequences of a steady stream of three-horse races.
Normally, horsemen are opposed to the concept of less racing. At various times Drazin himself has led the fight in New Jersey for more racing dates. Now, playing the dual role of racetrack manager and horsemen’s representative, he’s going to have to convince owners and trainers in Pennsylvania that less is more. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible.
Pennsylvania racing is in the midst of a crisis because Gov. Tom Corbett has said he is going to take away $36 million a year from thoroughbred racing that it has been receiving from racetrack slot machines. If it happens, purses are going to be cut by about 30 percent at Parx, which is going to do immeasurable harm to racing there.
But if Parx, a year-round racing factory, cut its racing schedule by that same 30 percent purses would remain just about the same. That’s because the vast majority of purse money in Pennsylvania comes from slots and not from betting, so the fewer races they run the bigger the purses will be.
Bigger purses or not, trainers and owners need a place to run their horses, and that’s the beauty of Drazin’s plan. If Parx and Monmouth combine forces the purses at Parx will survive the $36 million cut and the Pennsylvania guys can run all they want at Monmouth when their track is closed. With Monmouth and Parx having two distinct horse populations to draw from, both tracks should enjoy great racing with big fields.
Monmouth will have to get the Memorial Day to Labor Day dates. A summer track in a summer-oriented community, racing works there much better in the summer than it does any other time of the year. Parx will do just fine with the rest of the year.
Circuits used to be a big part of racing, but most of them have disappeared. Create this one and everybody — horsemen, fans, track management — wins.
Why Havre de Grace Should Run in the Apple Blossom: Larry Jones is complaining and moaning and threatening to not run Havre de Grace in the Apple Blossom because he fears the Oaklawn Park racing secretary will put too much weight on her. Jones is just doing his job as a trainer and that means playing his hand so that she gets as little weight as possible. But when it comes down to it, even if they make her carry a Steinway piano, she should run in the Apple Blossom. It’s among the most prestigious races in the country for older fillies and mares and it’s where a horse of Havre de Grace’s stature belongs. Jones and owner Rick Porter distinguished themselves last year by never ducking a challenge with their filly, even when that meant taking on the boys or fellow star Blind Luck. That’s one of the main reasons voters rewarded them with the Horse of the Year title. Don’t go soft on us now. Run in the Apple Blossom.
Originally Posted on ESPN