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Outside of a "guarantee" that the $1 million Grade 1 Haskell will run on July 31, Monmouth's calendar, depending on what you read, in my view depicts three primary scenarios as we await the outcome of real estate developer Morris Bailey's bid for a five-year lease on the track by June 1:
- Optimistic: New ownership will be in place by June 1 and shake sensibility into New Jersey's horsemen and breeders that the 2011 meet should follow the "2011 Season Events" spelled out in a marketing brochure that hit my mailbox this week and, even if ambiguous out of necessity, hints at a rational schedule from May 14 through Labor Day, with live weekend racing until the scheduled Oktoberfest celebration on September 25.
- Kudos to Monmouth's marketers for working with what is likely a sliding scale and recognizing the customer with free admission and race program passes (via the circular), and lending some sanity to what the bettor is seeking - i.e., fuller race cards, more opportunity to win low-takeout exotic wagers (more later on this).
- Less likely: The track could go dark as of June 1 as Governor Christie's actions would have it, since he would rather not subsidize peanuts to a salvageable entity that can rebound but instead give bags full of tax dollars to privately owned casinos with flawed business models and who have shown no aptitude at anything but running the cash sieve known as Atlantic City deeper into the ground
- Maybe Mr. Bailey's ownership of the Resorts casino (and eventually Monmouth Park) will give racing an breath of hope in persuading the Governor (though I put the odds at a million-to-one) that slots at the Meadowlands is a plus, rather than a detriment, to NJ.
- Even-less likely: Ownership will change and racing will proceed by the laborious calendar on Monmouth's website and in accordance with the legislature's preposterous law for 141 thoroughbred racing days annually through 2016, as endorsed by the Horsemen and Breeders "associations"...but to anyone who watches the sport knows is overdone.
I agree that every effort should be made to promote the state's breeding, but graded-stakes-placed Nacho Friend (second to Trappe Shot in the 2010 Long Branch and a game third in the 2010 Gotham Stakes prep to the Kentucky Derby) is running in a $32k optional claimer. This indicates to me that few connections with big-name horses would commit to stabling and entering horses this early at Monmouth - a big negative for horseplayers and a detriment to those marketing the event.