Meadowlands race secretary Scott Warren details new era

Big Day at the Big M

March 1, 2019

New race secretary Scott Warren starts his job at the Meadowlands on the day the track launches the first of two purse increases thanks to the subsidy from the state of New Jersey.

by Brett Sturman

With today marking the start date for new Meadowlands racing secretary Scott Warren, as well as the date where the first of two purse subsidies kick in, it is the beginning of a new era at the Meadowlands. Between a boost in wagering and a beneficiary of other good news throughout the state, the Meadowlands has been on a run of good fortunes of which Warren will look to build on.

Heading into spring, this is traditionally the time of year that the Meadowlands has struggled most since the advent of neighboring slot racing. The opening of Chester and Pocono in March usually decimates the Meadowlands horse population. Now though, the race secretary at the Meadowlands will be afforded more to work with than in recent years.

Addressing what’s being done now for the Meadowlands to stay moving in the right direction, Warren said he is aware of the challenges.

“We’ve had our first purse increase… this weekend and at the end of March we’re going to get a second one,” said Warren. “We’ve put together a series for 3-year-olds for the month of April prior to the start of the sire stakes in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I’ve got a few other ideas in mind about trying to keep the horse supply, be able to keep some horses and attract some new horses, but I want to run them past Jeff (Gural) and Jason (Settlemoir) before they’re made public.”

Warren echoed comments similar to a prior proclamation made by Gural with regards to how competitive the Meadowlands will be from a purse standpoint.

“The purse subsidies are going to put us on a level playing field with Pennsylvania and even with Yonkers in some classes,” Warren said. “I don’t know it’s going to necessarily turn around and our box will be overflowing with horses and having to turn people away to race, but at the same time I think we’re going to be in a much better situation than the Meadowlands has been in years past, as far as horses to work with come spring time when Pocono and Chester – and even Plainridge reopens.”

With a change in racing secretary often comes speculation in the way that races will be carded. Based from what Warren describes, initial changes will be more gradual than something sweeping.

“I think the condition sheet is something that will change from week to week,” he said. “For the condition sheet that went out (Wednesday), I put in a new non-winners of 8 or $150,000 life. There were a good number of those and the non-winners of $15,000.”

Having noted of late a few New Jersey-based trainers racing at Dover Downs in higher claiming races than what the Meadowlands typically offers, Warren added a conditional claiming race to the Meadowlands condition sheet as a way to get some of those horses back.

On the claiming topic, for years the Meadowlands was known for racing higher-end claimers, but hasn’t been able to offer those races in recent years because the horses haven’t been there. When asked about that, Warren said it’s something that he would like to see.

“Right now we’ve had to work at it, but on a consistent basis we’ve been filling a $7,500 (claimer), a $10,000, a $12,500 and a $15-20,000. Last week we put a $30-40 and a $50-60 on the sheet. We had three entries in the $30-40 and only one in the $50-60 race. I’m hoping over time and in the springtime with more horses getting qualified that we have a shot to fill something above that $15-20 range. The claiming races make for good races for both the track and for the bettor.”

What remains to be seen is the effect that the purse subsidies and adjustments to the condition sheet will have for the Meadowlands compared to years past. Perhaps a big “if”, but if the track can sustain full entries through the spring and summer it would be interesting to see if the Meadowlands could at some point begin to expand back out the number of days it races each week, currently at two. Warren understandably couldn’t speak to that, but acknowledged carding the additional races would be a nice problem to have.

Coming from being the race secretary at Rosecroft Raceway and more recently at Vernon Downs (a position in which he will retain), Warren recognizes the Meadowlands as being unique.

“I think it’s a big difference (from where I’ve been) because of the fact that it’s the Meadowlands, and the Meadowlands has the highest handle each night of any track in harness racing. So, the pressure is on to put out full fields and competitive fields as possible. You try to do that wherever you are, but you’re going to be more in the spotlight at the Meadowlands.”

Heading into his new gig as Meadowlands race secretary, Scott Warren said he feels optimistic.
“It’s going to be a task, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to. It’s the Meadowlands; it’s the mecca of harness racing.”

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