HRU Feedback (2020-01-19)

Gural: Disappointing that we have to beg people

While I appreciate Brett Sturman’s story last week about how the Meadowlands drives the industry (full story here), with almost all of the $48 million increase in handle for the year coming from the Meadowlands as a result of the purse subsidy, I find it very frustrating that we continually have to beg people who have benefited by the decision I made to step up at the last minute after the Governor announced that the State would no longer continue to operate the facility since it was losing $10 million a year.

It is very discouraging that year after year we literally have to beg people who have benefitted to help us by sponsoring a stakes race. We offer almost $15 million in stakes and $4.5 million comes from the purse account along with sponsorships. Essentially, our goal is to raise $600,000 in sponsorships and when we come up short we have to make up the shortfall from the overnight purse account. The same people year after year have been very generous in their support and, conversely, the same people year after year who are selling yearlings at prices far higher than previously refuse to help the cause. I believe that this should be a team effort as, until sports betting arrived, I was personally funding the losses of $2-3 million a year in order to keep the lights on.

I’ve asked Jason Hall to reach out one last time to those people who are benefiting from our stakes program in an effort to raise the $600,000 we have budgeted to sponsorships. I have to believe that one of the main reasons that yearling prices increased so dramatically is that with the subsidy the Meadowlands is now in a position to offer higher purses and a much higher quality-racing product. I doubt we would be seeing yearlings selling for a million dollars if the Governor had succeeded at closing the Meadowlands.

—Jeff Gural, chairman Meadowlands Racetrack

Agreeing with Driver Indifference

I totally agree with the feedback Driver Indifference from this past Sunday’s HRU (2020-01-12 Feedback). Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s you could look at a program and narrow a field down to who you thought were the contenders and sure enough after the race the horse you thought would win many nights would be the case or at least the few contenders you thought had a chance were right there in the money. The difference was back then was that catch drivers really hadn’t become prominent as it is today, who trained also drove and I believe gave the betting public a more consistent drive.

Racetrack operators only care about how much money is being pushed through their windows or bet online, as a steward of their property and what goes on they are terrible. These drivers that leave then tuck and then get shuffled to the back of the bus had they pulled that back in the day the tracks race secretary would call him in and give him a warning, “One more drive like that and you’re out of here.” The AGCO in Ontario should be more aggressive and harsher penalties must be enforced not just for drugs but for these lackadaisical drives which have become the norm. This modus operandi of chemist trainers and lackadaisical drives has emptied the stands at racetracks across the country and the people will never come back until the racetracks and the authorities who are supposed to be policing the sport wake up and do their job. If not the federal government is going to see a rise in unemployment that they just elected with a minority have never experienced and it will be a fiasco.

—Bob Adams / London, ON