Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural has written an open letter to all owners and trainers who are racing in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Here is the letter:
As you know, the first 29 days of the 2013 meet at the Meadowlands have been an overwhelming success. The public has adapted to the classification system, along with the competitive style of racing full fields, etc. as our handle is up approximately 33 percent. Last year we only had two days excluding the Hambletonian and Meadowlands Pace where the handle exceeded $3 million. This year we already exceeded $3 million on 13 occasions.
We are building a brand new grandstand as anyone who has visited the track can see. I assure you it will be a first class facility and a place that you will be proud to come to with your family or other guests.
That is the good news.
The bad news is that because all of our income is derived from wagering and horse racing we need to continue to generate handles of over $3 million every Friday and Saturday. In order to do that we require full fields and since we are only racing two days beginning next week essentially we need 250 horses each weekend to fill both cards. Last weekend we had 25 fewer horses racing over the weekend and as a result our handle declined by $508,000.
As we all know with Chester opening last week and Pocono opening in another week, in order for those two tracks to fill their cards they would probably need to have a minimum of an extra 1,000 horses assuming both tracks race four days a week as scheduled and 13 or 14 races per night which seems to be their plan.
Since both these tracks, as well as Yonkers, derive the majority of their purse money from casino gambling they often have purses equal or better than ours and most people think it is easier to win at those tracks as long as you do not draw too many eight or nine holes. I understand all that but the Meadowlands cannot survive without having full fields and competitive races. The last two months have shown that the product is extremely popular with the people who wager on standardbred racing. In fact, on a typical Saturday night 40 percent of all the money bet at US tracks is wagered on our product.
To be blunt, I need the industry to step up and support the Meadowlands which may not be the best business decision for everyone in the short term but, in my opinion, the industry needs a healthy Meadowlands and we deserve the support of the industry.
The other option would be for us to drastically reduce the stakes program which I think would help increase our overnight purses but would have a very negative impact on the industry because our stakes program is vital to support the breeding industry. It also serves to attract new customers by showcasing our best horses and creating the kind of excitement we see for our major races. This will be especially true when we move into the new building. Currently we use 25 percent of our purse money to fund the stakes program approximately $4,200,000 while our competitors are typically using 10-12 percent.
To be honest, I am not sure there are enough horses for all of the race days that are scheduled at Chester, Pocono, Yonkers, Dover and the Meadowlands. It would seem at some point it should be addressed as the number of mares bred and yearlings born each year continues to decline significantly. Common sense would tell you that this has to have an impact and that race days have to start to come down. The bottom line is we cannot survive without full fields as we get killed when we have six or seven horse races no matter what the quality is. We struggled to fill the card with short fields the last two weekends and Pocono is not open yet.
One possibility would be to work with Pocono and Chester and try to come up with a schedule that would allow all of us to have full fields and quality racing. One suggestion was to lower the purses in December, January and February when there is an oversupply of horses and increase the purses when the Pennsylvania tracks reopen. Another option that we might consider is a loyalty program whereby we create a formula that allows preference to those horsemen who support us in the spring and summer when we are racing the fall and winter meet.
I would rather see the industry support us on a voluntary basis as I think it is in everyone's best interest that we continue to provide the type of product we have been providing for the last two and a half months. Hopefully I can count on your support.