Gural changes mind, stakes program will return to Big M in 2017
by Jeff Gural
I would like to thank those of you who participated in our many stakes races this season. The battles between Wiggle it Jiggleit and Always B Miki have been quite thrilling with one more round coming up in next Saturday’s TVG Championship. In general, I thought we offered a wide array of sires stakes, small stakes and major stakes with total stakes purses for 2016 amounting to over $17.8 million, including the Breeders Crown.
As the stakes season winds down and we face the reality that the (casino) referendum is likely to lose because of the clever approach the opposition took tying this into a vote on whether you trust the politicians in Trenton, it is clear that we have to be in this for the long haul. It is only a matter of time before we succeed in this effort, but it could take as long as six years until all seven casinos open in New York.
As I previously stated, we have overpaid the purse account by approximately $6 million and my original plan was to drastically reduce the stakes program to recover this money. After seeing the strong showing in Lexington at the sale, I had a change of heart and decided it was important to maintain the majority of our stakes. We have also agreed to play host to next year’s Fall Final Four races for two-year olds when we open in mid-November of 2017.
We decided to reach out to the participants who benefit from our facility and our strong stakes program by trying to get sponsors for all our stakes. As Harrisburg approaches, I am pleased to say that the response from the industry has been quite positive and I am reasonably certain by the end of the stakes season next Saturday with the $1.2 million TVG finals we will have lined up sponsors or co-sponsors for all of our stakes.
I am also very pleased to report that we have received sponsorship support from the Meadowlands drivers’ colony, the veterinarians practicing in New Jersey, major breeders, owners, trainers and others who benefit from keeping our stakes program close to where it was this year, with the exception of the Breeders Crown, which is going to Hoosier.
As far as our long term future, I have reached out to my major partners and we all agree we are in this for the long haul. I am in the process of reworking our debt, so no one should be worried that this likely defeat at the polls will affect the long-term survival of the Meadowlands.
I remain concerned about the horse shortage as fewer and fewer mares are being bred each year. The fact is that, unlike Canada, we do not work together to adjust for the horse shortage and instead hurt ourselves by racing as many races as possible and as many days as possible. We should sit down and address this problem together for the good of the sport.
The other mistake is the failure of the states that do subsidize the sport to insist that a percentage of the slots money be used for marketing. The law I helped write in New York requires that the racino owners spend a minimum of 10 per cent of their VLT revenue on marketing.
In the end, people will look back at that decision as the single biggest mistake ever made by any business and the result will be devastating to our young participants. The sad part is I bet if we took a vote the horsemen would support that concept overwhelmingly but we have no Commissioner to head us in the right direction.
In any case, for those of you looking to buy a yearling next week, rest assured that our stakes program will be strong and we are here to stay.