With Meadowlands set to close its barn area with the conclusion of its meet on November 18, thus eliminating winter racetrack stabling for New Jersey-based outfits, and Delaware Park about to conclude its 148-day season, the racing office at Philadelphia Park has been inundated with stall applications, of which it can only accommodate a small fraction.
"We've got room for 1,500 on the grounds, and I've gotten applications for over 2,200 horses," said Ed Vomacka, Philadelphia's racing secretary, who said that in addition to New Jersey and Delaware horsemen, he's had applications from Ohio and Canadian outfits, many of which return to Philadelphia each winter. "I basically cut back the horses currently on the grounds to 1200, so I've got room for about 300 horses."
Vomacka said that the culling process for horses currently based at Philadelphia was based on how many starts the horse had made and, in the case of an unraced 2-year-old, if it had a series of recent works and a gate card, indicating it would soon start. He also said N. J. horsemen were trying to get into Philadelphia because its track surface was better maintained through the winter months than those on local farms and training centers. Garden State Park, which had traditionally absorbed the N. J. horse population in the winter, has announced it will only present a short, six-day thoroughbred meet in 2001 and thus will not open its backstretch.
In other Philadelphia Park news, a change in the way riders are named on the overnight was instituted with the card of November 4. Previously, a rider had been allowed to be named on multiple horses and horses were allowed to be "open," or without a rider, on the overnight.
Now, trainers must name a rider at the time of draw and prior to the publication of the overnight, and riders cannot be named on more than two horses in a race. If a rider is named on 2 horses, he must designate his first and second call, and the numbers "1" and "2" now appear on the overnight next to his name, which is unique in the Mid-Atlantic area. If a trainer does not name a rider, the stewards will select one by lot.
"There were several reasons we decided to do this," said Vomacka. "First, we wanted jockeys and their agents to conduct their business in a little better manner, and second, we wanted to help the public in handicapping the races. Before, we'd have riders named on three, four horses and have a bunch of 'open' horses on the overnight."