Monmouth Park's experimental 2010 race meeting of shorter weeks, bigger fields and higher purses got off to a rousing start this weekend, with substantial increases in on-track attendance and overall handle for both the Saturday and Sunday programs. After a record-breaking opening day on Saturday, pari-mutuel wagering on Sunday jumped 126% from 2009 levels. The meeting begins with two days of racing a week and then adds Fridays for three-day a week racing for a 50-day meeting that will offer $50 million in purses.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Hollywood Park canceled its Wednesday program, the first of a scheduled six-day week culminating with Memorial Day, due to a short of entries. It's not that there aren't enough horses, just not enough owners to pay the bills during challenging economic days and an extremely volatile time for California's racing industry. If California experiences any more weeks like the last two they've endured–when Santa Anita's new owner, MI Developments, voided its lease with the non-profit Oak Tree Racing Association (and probably ending all hope of landing the Breeders' Cup in 2011 or being named permanent host site) and Santa Anita's popular and respected track president Ron Charles resigned–there's not much incentive for new owners to get in the game.
Monmouth Park's shorter, bigger and better meeting is being called a game changer by some folks in the business. What will it take for California racing to have a game changer?
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