Some harness racing people were surprised when the Meadowlands Pace, which was won by A Rocknroll Dance, last Saturday (July 14), had a race purse of just $600,000.
The Pace, which previously was raced for $1 million, was projected to be an $800,000 race when first advertised – hence the public disappointment when it was dropped to $600,000.
Well, the truth is the race wouldn’t have been raced for $1 million for some time now as the track artificially kept the purse at the million dollar mark by overfunding the race past the guaranteed added money thanks to subsidies.
While the hope was by reducing payments, more people would nominate to the race but in fact, there were fewer nominations this past year.
“We were down 23% from 2011 to 2012 for the first payment which really put us behind the eight ball as far as generating money from the later payments”, Race Secretary Peter Koch explained.
“We dropped the estimate 20% from last year but the combination of less nominations and not putting any additional funding (other than the guaranteed $300,000 added money) into the race left us at $600,000”.
The real question is why did less horses nominate to the Meadowlands Pace?
There are several factors which have contributed to this.
According to Koch:
“Owners have stopped staking to as many races as they did in the past. While a few years ago owners would stake to both the N.A. Cup and the Meadowlands Pace, some of them just stake to one of them now.
This is true with races across the board and has had an effect on the nominations to all races”.
Contributing to this selective nominating process are racinos offering larger purses for their stake races so while the Meadowlands Pace, still arguably the most prestigious of three year old events, is now one of several stakes opportunities for the top sophomores so there is less urgency to nominate and remain eligible to the race. Affirming what Koch stated, one breeder suggests, “The costs of training and racing young horses is prohibitive and we have less and less buyers and/or players,” meaning nominating costs are being watched in addition to there being a declining pool of horses to draw from.
While the drop in the value of the Meadowlands Pace was most notable due to the lack of ability to artificially prop up the purse, the root of the problem is an industry-wide phenomenon. Unless the situation in Ontario is resolved favorably, the impact on non-restricted stakes, at least the major ones, may continue to deepen across American harness tracks
By Allan Schott