Mid-Atlantic Circuit: Possible ... or Laughable?

With Delaware Park and Monmouth Park both kicking off their live meets May 12, a question came to mind again: What is the status of a Mid-Atlantic racing circuit?

The status is on-again, off-again talks among some racetracks that are interested in creating a circuit that wouldn’t eliminate overlapping meets but at least capitalize on the strengths of each track and better utilize a still strong regional horse population.

The topic has been kicked around by bloggers over the years, with several scenarios suggested. The advent of racetrack gaming in the 1990s changed the dynamics of racing in the Mid-Atlantic region; casino revenue for purses meant protection of racing dates, and the only way a circuit can come about is if racetracks, horsemen’s groups, and state governments commit to a strategy.

The Mid-Atlantic region has lost some luster from a historical perspective but remains a strong market for horse racing. The potential is there for big things.

Change isn’t happening any time soon. But for the heck of it, here’s a plan—obviously flawed—from an interested observer.

The states in the mix are Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The following are the racetracks and their schedules in the perfect world of “At Large.”

Monmouth Park: Clearly a key meet at a top-class racetrack that has benefited from a reduction in dates. Let’s give Monmouth June, July, and August—and focus all energy on those three months. Jeff Gural at Meadowlands might be willing to let the Thoroughbreds utilize the turf course there in the fall for some additional action, hopefully more than four races a day.

Delaware Park: Not only a gem in the Mid-Atlantic, a gem nationally. It should be the only other track in the immediate area to race live when Monmouth does: June, July, and August. Give the turf course a break in September and then come back in October and November for shorter race weeks when Parx is open.

Parx Racing: Plenty of purse money from the most successful casino in Pennsylvania but too many racing days. Parx would surrender June, July, and August, and race from September through April. The track has put all of its major stakes in the six weeks after Labor Day with success, so that would be its time in the spotlight. By Parx not racing in the summer, Hollywood Casino at Penn National and Presque Isle Downs & Casino would get a boost on the Pennsylvania-bred side. Also heard work has been done on the turf course at Parx—long overdue.

Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course: Doubtful summer racing will ever return to Maryland, which makes things easier. Laurel would race September through March, and Pimlico in April and May. More dates at Timonium in August would be cool, but probably not happening.

Colonial Downs: Far enough away from Delaware and Monmouth, and with no summer racing in Maryland and nice turf course, June, July, and August work well.

Atlantic City Race Course: Nothing $25 million wouldn’t fix. A facility with arguably the best turf course in the country should be preserved. Atlantic City—complete with a new dirt track and new, smaller barn area—would race about 20 days of full cards in May when sister track Parx is closed. Greenwood could consider the investment in upgrades a gift to racing and open-space preservation in New Jersey, and maybe get much-needed political points for doing it.

Hollywood Casinos at Charles Town Races and Penn National: They probably would each do better with 10 months of racing instead of 12. Positive changes to the stakes schedules at both tracks would keep them open in the spring, summer, and fall, but one of them would take November and December off, and the other January and February. An added benefit would be more horses for Laurel and Parx.

Presque Isle and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort: Presque Isle has the right niche racing 100 days from May through September with a broad mix of horses and horsemen and perhaps the finest synthetic surface in North America. Mountaineer races 10 months a year and probably would do itself a favor trimming some days and increasing purses given impending competition from Ohio, should the racetracks survive a legal challenge and install VLTs.

Aside from scheduling, tracks and horsemen would work together to ensure enough year-round stabling. … Yes, a major stretch.

So there it is. To those who know how this industry works and the chances of such a thing happening ... I hope you had a good laugh.

6 Comments

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Bill Two

Reminds me of the Beach Boy hit, "Wouldn't It Be Nice".  Lots of good ideas here.  I think we all agree there is too much racing going on at the same time in the Mid-Atlantic.  I would be pleased if all of these tracks could at least coordinate the timing of their races so they aren't going off simultaneously.  Also, it would be nice - and this is a national issue - if two tracks weren't running stakes with identical conditions on the same day.  It drives me nuts to see Belmont and some other track both running a stakes for whatever category of horse on the same day. Doing this dilutes the pool of candidates for either race and doesn't make for attractive betting possibilities.  Just a few things that bother me....

09 May 2012 3:29 PM
chiefdave777

I think the tracks may go for some of it especially the racinos. The horsemen like 8-horse or less fields where they almost always collect a purse.

09 May 2012 7:53 PM
fuzzbert

It's sad to realize that Maryland racing is probably going, going, GONE. With Pimlico hosting only the Preakness, and Laurel having super-small fields, it's a wonder there is any racing here at all. The horsemen of Maryland had no real support when all of this started several years ago. They left and the tracks stood empty. Folks thought slots would be the deciding factor. But as usual, government got involved and so on and so on.

Purse structure and field size grew all around us and the horsemen went where the money was. I'm sure AGV and Native Dancer are spinning in their graves. Thank God for Kevin Plank bringing Sagamore back. Racing in Maryland, I believe, is coming to a close. Sad, very sad.  

09 May 2012 9:11 PM
Joltman

Some good ideas here. One weakness is the plan for Cnl. It is bloody hot in the summer down there, and shipping in compromised. An early spring meet (as soon as the turf came in, with the turf VA Derby as a headliner prep for KY Derby) would bring more local interest in the Mid-Atlantic than the lifeless Lrl and Pim meets. Keep Lrl open in winter, finish with the Gen George. Start the Pim meet with Preakness week.  

jm

11 May 2012 8:40 AM
Cris

Charles Town and Penn National should shut down in the winter. Charles Town could have the Breeders Classics in late November. and shut down till March. Penn could do the same. Colonial does not need to have a steamy meet. Late May through mid June and again from Sept through mid November. Parx and Mountaineer could race in late September, close in mid January and reopen in April and Delaware, Monmouth, Atlantic City can have the late spring and summer racing with Monmouth staying open till October.

Laurel could have mid February through the end of April and reopen in September and stay open through December. Pimlico has May through mid- August.and the two weeks for the State Fair remains the same. If it seems almost all tracks are closed in February your right; horses should not have to gallop over frozen ground.

21 May 2012 3:42 PM
Uncle Smiley

Guess I am a bit late to chime in on this blog...

Sad to see Sunday racing gone from Delaware Park.

They had one day last year, Father's Day, and none this year, 2013.

Sunday, in the day, was a fine day to attract fans.

The DelCap was a grade 1 stakes this year.

The Park is also is a kick off for great jockey prospects.

US

04 Sep 2013 8:09 PM

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