Massive snow storm didn’t stop Meadowlands draw from going forward

Race secretary Scott Warren, working from home, used electronic tools — including the USTA’s Online Entry Program — to successfully draw this weekend’s cards on time.

by Debbie Little

Did a major Nor’easter wreak havoc on the draw for tonight’s Meadowlands card? S“no”w way!

With East Rutherford, NJ expecting somewhere between 18 to 24 inches of snow and a State of Emergency declared earlier in the week, it seemed unlikely that the draw would be done at the track on Tuesday morning (Feb. 2).

“Right now, if you’ve got a laptop and a printer, you can basically do [the draw] from anywhere,” said Meadowlands’ race secretary Scott Warren.

On Sunday, the track posted on its website “Due to the winter snowstorm, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment and Winners Bayonne OTW will be closed for simulcasting, Monday, February 1st. The FanDuel Sportsbook located inside the Meadowlands Racetrack will also be closed.”

Since the majority of the snow fell between Sunday night and Tuesday morning, Warren could have attempted to make the three-hour drive from his home in Delaware to East Rutherford, which got buried in over 18 inches of snow, but he would have been at the track alone.

“They made an announcement [Monday] afternoon that state employees didn’t have to go to work [Tuesday] so there were no judges,” said Warren. “That made my final decision that I was doing it from here and it worked out well.”

“I’ll tell you one thing, I enjoyed the virtual ride up and the virtual ride back,” Warren added with a laugh.

Ultimately, the remote draw was made possible by technological advances made by the U.S. Trotting Association in the last 10 years, and although the track still has an actual entry box, it mostly gathers dust.

“You get the occasional entry that may be in it, but 85 per cent at least is online entry and we still get a handful of people that call each time for a draw,” said Warren.

One of those consistent callers used to be trainer Ron Burke, but in 2014 everything changed when the USTA debuted its Online Entry Program (OEP).

Burke was one of the trainers asked to beta test the OEP and it was one of his horses that made history as the first ever entered in a race electronically.

“[The USTA] figured I would be the one to come up with the most problems or issues due to the fact that I enter the most horses,” said Burke. “Right off the bat, it was great. To me, it’s life changing.

“I don’t agree with [the USTA] on everything but as far as that, it was a great thing. I always say that Aimee Hock [USTA assistant registrar] is one of the best in the industry at what she does. She’s as good as Joe Morris is at shipping horses. He’s the best at what he does in the industry. Like the Dexter [Dunn] or Yannick [Gingras] of the drivers, he’s that of the shippers and [Hock is with] with customer service.”

But the OEP alone would not be enough to allow Warren to do the draw from home, he also needed eTrack.

According to Michele Kopiec, the USTA’s racetrack operations and licensing manager: “eTrack is the one-stop, online package that a race office uses to create condition sheets, accept online entries, carry out the draw, produce race programs, enter racing results, and complete record-keeping functions. In short, eTrack is a racetrack’s door to providing all racing information to our database.”

The USTA launched eTrack in 2007, replacing the RTS system which had been in use for more than 20 years.

“You pull up the horses for each event and you click on the button ‘random draw’ and it does post positions,” said Warren. “It’s very easy. And if anybody has got any questions, you can contact the USTA and they can pull the report.”

Even though this was the first random draw Warren would do for The Meadowlands, he has a lot of experience with the system, which added the random draw feature in 2014.

“Since I’ve come to The Meadowlands [in 2019], I’ve done 98 per cent of the Vernon [Downs] draws remotely, either from my house or the Meadowlands,” said Warren, who doubles as Vernon’s race secretary.

In anticipation of Warren doing the draw remotely on Tuesday, a voicemail was put on the race office phone directing everyone to reach out to him on his cell.

“I took calls from 7:30 to 9 and there were a couple of people that hadn’t called yet that we made phone calls to and got their entries and it worked out well,” said Warren.

According to their website, both Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment and Winners Bayonne OTW opened at 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon for simulcasting and the FanDuel Sportsbook also opened at the same time, which was welcome news for fans looking to bet on Sunday’s Super Bowl LV.

But the winner of Chiefs-Bucs might have to share the news with yet another coastal storm being forecast for Northern New Jersey. Good thing no matter what the forecast is the Meadowlands won’t end up six feet under.