With Hambletonian Day in the books, the Meadowlands Racetrack concluded its Championship Meet, which on the heels of a highly-successful Winter Meet produced excellent results.
Despite racing six fewer dates, the 2013 Championship Meet produced a total handle of $79,382,139 compared to $65,900,104 for the 2012 Championship Meet. That marks a 20 per cent handle increase. Although, removing the six additional dates that were raced in 2012, the increase jumps to 35 per cent.
The Winter Meet conducted 42 days of racing, which yielded a total handle of $119,739,613. That figure was an increase of 27 per cent, despite one less day of racing. The handle for the 2012 Winter Meet was $94,472,432.
For the year, the $199,121,752 wagered on the 2013 Season at the Meadowlands was $38,749,216 more than what was wagered on the 2012 season, an increase of 24 per cent, despite racing seven fewer days. After those seven race dates are made up in November and December, that increase will be in upwards of 35 per cent.
“The results for this 2013 season exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Jeff Gural, chairman of the New Meadowlands Racetrack. "We have a great team in place that isn’t afraid to try different things. When things don’t work, we try to find positive changes and apply them. Not everything we come up with will work, but we aren’t afraid to try. I want to thank all our horsemen for their commitment and filling our entry box all season. Last but not least, thank you to our customers who are at the very core of the success we have seen in 2013.”
Another exciting fact is the strength of the live handle in the Championship meet, which Jason Settlemoir, general manager of the New Meadowlands Racetrack attributed to a variety of factors. “We exceeded our live-handle expectations from April 1 through Hambletonian Day,” said Settlemoir. “The winter was a fight, as the weather was nowhere near as cooperative as 2012. But once the weather turned, we saw instant results.”
The results Settlemoir is referring to are live-handle-per-card increases year over year from April through Hambletonian Day. “We tried many events that we were able to put strong marketing behind, including Jerseyfest and the camel and ostrich racing. The results showed that the Meadowlands Racetrack can provide entertainment to customers who wouldn’t normally come to the races, and that is very exciting.”
Director of Racing Operations Darin Zoccali was pleased with many of the results of changes made, but also sees further changes that will help in 2014. “The change to Classified Racing was not only a success, it turned out to be an excellent move," said Zoccali. “It provided much more competitive racing and fewer short-priced favourites. We are very grateful to the SBOA and our horsemen for being on board with this change.
"In addition, the Early Pick 4 was extremely well received. Replacing the Pick 6 with this new wager resulted in over $3 million in additional handle. Moving post time back clearly helped strengthen the early part of our card, and our increased presence in California via simulcast and TVG was a big shot in the arm for us. We made a lot of positive changes to the racing schedule as well, but there were some things that, in hindsight, we could have done differently. That is very exciting, knowing there are more changes to be made and we have room to grow. We are looking very forward to putting together a 2014 racing calendar that the horsemen and our customers will embrace.”
Live standardbred racing will return to the Meadowlands on Saturday, November 23 for the grand opening of the New Meadowlands Racetrack and its brand new, state-of-the art facility. That program will include the last chance for qualifying points to be earned for the TVG Free-For-All Pacing and Trotting Championship. The highlight of the fall will be Saturday, November 30. That program will feature two $500,000 TVG Free For All Championship Finals, as well as the Fall Final Four, consisting of four championship races for two-year-old pacers and trotters, the Nadia Lobell for three-year-old filly pacers and the Moni Maker for three-year-old filly trotters. With the continued cooperation of the horsemen and having a new, modern grandstand, we believe the future looks brighter and brighter at the Meadowlands.