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Northfield\'s show goes on

February 14, 2007
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It didn’t matter that Ohio’s Gov. Ted Strickland had declared a “state of emergency” in the Buckeye State because of a major snowstorm that blanketed the Midwest, Northfield Park went on with the show Tuesday night. Despite blustery conditions and a snowfall that totaled more than a foot, 12 races were contested, with the final times ranging from 2:01.4 to 2:09.2.

“That was pretty good considering the governor said it was a state of emergency,” Northfield’s director of simulcasting Dave Bianconi told harnessracing.com Wednesday morning. “Midway through the card he came on television and said it was a state of emergency.”

Bianconi said total on-track attendance for the day fell between 150 and 200 persons, with a live handle of slightly more than $15,000. Overall handle on the 12-race card was $847,000, which he said was down from a normal average of about $1.2 million for a Tuesday card.

“They were trapped,” said Bianconi about the hearty on-track patrons. “Luckily for us the people who came for simulcasting early couldn’t leave, so we had them for awhile.”

Northfield Park has canceled just one racing program due to weather this decade—Dec. 13, 2004—and he said the decision to continue Tuesday night was done after consulting the horsemen. There were 17 scratches on the card, which was delayed just once (after the fourth race) to scrape the track.

“Track maintenance did a great job and the horsemen were totally game and wanted to race,” said Bianconi. “Some of them had a chance to race with short fields and make some money. We didn’t have any complaints. There were no horsemen saying they wanted to cancel.”

With several tracks including the Meadowlands completely closed it left an open simulcast market that Northfield could tap into. Bianconi noted that when Dover Downs finished its program, Northfield was just about the only track still racing.

“Our horsemen understand the importance of our simulcast network that counts on us racing,” he said. “We don’t want to cancel unless we have to and it’s dangerous.”

One person who couldn’t make it to the track was announcer Greg Young, whose normal 35-40 minute trip would likely have taken more than two hours, according to Bianconi. Publicity director Keith Gisser filled in admirably considering the wintry conditions that sometimes made it hard to see the races.

“It was hard to see sometimes because of the blowing snow, but it wasn’t dangerous,” said Bianconi. “All things considered, we handled $847,000 so it was a good thing we raced.

“And we’re racing tonight too, brother!”
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