Mid-Atlantic Horsmen Scramble For Stalls

The next few weeks will be critical for many Mid-Atlantic horsemen as they seek to secure racetrack stabling for the winter. In New Jersey, The Meadowlands concludes its meet Nov. 10 and plans to close its backstretch on Nov. 22, leaving no stabling in the state, while Delaware Park ends on Nov. 4 and will close its backstretch one month later. In addition, the Maryland Jockey Club intends to close Pimlico for the winter, while Hialeah's backstretch also will be closed. That leaves few options for horsemen that don't have the stock to race in New York or at Gulfstream Park.

"I've got 1,500 stalls on the grounds, and have received more than 2,500 applications," said Sal Sinatra, Philadelphia Park's director of racing. "Basically I've given trainers already stabled here first preference, but in some cases have trimmed the number of stalls they're allotted. As an example, we're not allowing maidens that haven't hit the board 10 straight times to stay here."

Bruce Garland, vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, said that while Nov. 22 is the deadline for horsemen to vacate the Meadowlands backstretch, there could be a few exceptions.

"In cases of extreme hardship, some horses might be able to stay on the grounds for a while but they won't be able to train, as the track will be converted from a thoroughbred to standardbred surface on Nov. 10," he said.  The Meadowlands harness meet kicks off on Nov. 16.

Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said Pimlico was being closed as a cost-cutting measure, but felt that there were enough stalls at Bowie and Laurel to accommodate some New Jersey and Delaware trainers that usually relocate to Maryland for the winter.

Trainer George Gross, who was stabled at Monmouth Park and is now racing at The Meadowlands, said he's applied for 16 stalls at Philadelphia but hasn't heard whether he's been accepted yet.  Last year, Gross was stabled at Philadelphia for the winter. "I don't know what I'll do if I don't get in," he said. "I suppose I'll have to go to a farm. I put in for 16 stalls, but I'll take whatever they can give me."

In a related matter, Garland said that he's been participating on a committee that is studying the feasibility of a training center in New Jersey, which would alleviate the winter stabling crisis. Garland said that the committee, which was created through a provision in the recently passed OTB and account wagering legislation, was set to select an outside consulting firm to help with the problem.