01/30/2015 12:11AM

Meadowlands: Koch on change back to condition racing

Derick Giwner
Condition racing based on money earned returns to the Meadowlands on February 5.

Beginning next week there will be a new face to the races at the Meadowlands. The track elected last week to abandon the ABC classified system and will begin a new era with “money” conditions in February.

“The math just doesn’t work,” said Peter Koch, the Racing Secretary from the Meadowlands.

“For some reason this winter the horse supply has been much lower than in the past. We had plenty of horses while Yonkers was closed but when they reopened with five nights of racing it cost us horses,” Koch said.

It’s no secret that in many ways horsemen were not in favor of the ABC system. “I had more calls than any time before with people lobbying for drops,” said Koch. “These were people I’d never heard from before other than to drop horses in the box.”

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The Meadowlands was also forced to drop purses by 10 percent and that may have helped contribute to the loss of horses. Koch also suggested that many of the horses racing in the middle or upper range at Yonkers would not be as competitive moving to the Meadowlands and racing for lower purses.

The new conditions will offer a base Non-winners of $5,000 class and Koch feels there could be a silver lining for the racetrack here.

“I think we may be able to fill more claiming races,” Koch said. “In the old system horses that finished second would remain in the same class. With the money conditions, some horses are going to be forced to move up even without winning. I think that could help move more of them into claimers.”

Clearly claiming races produce greater competition and could help the betting handle.

Though there will be no more ABCs in the future, Koch was happy with the number of horses that came for the C-2 Dash for Cash this week. “We seem to get a lot of horses, either new or those coming back to race here when we offer a higher purse final,” said Koch. Indeed horsemen are more than happy to race lower level conditioned horses in a back-to-back scenario with a high purse final.

“I’d like to continue to offer those races in the future I will just have to figure out how to do it with money conditions,” said Koch.

The new conditions will still afford Koch some control of movement between the classes and that’s necessary if he’s going to keep a healthy balance of races and a reasonably good betting product.

“Horses are not going to be allowed to drop more than one class at a time,” Koch said. Also in the mix, Koch has put ceilings on each individual class that essentially eliminates the ability for horsemen to ship in and drop multiple classes.

“We don’t want to have a lot of odds-on horses if we can help it,” said Koch.

The Meadowlands racing secretary does understand the elements that he is forced to work under. “With the purse structure the way it is, I don’t think there’s a silver bullet that can help to change things,” Koch said.

As long as the track’s purse structure is based on wagering on races solely, it will remain at a competitive disadvantage against other racetracks.

“In the old days horsemen would point their horses to race over the winter at the Meadowlands,” Koch said. “The racing was easier over the winter and the money was great.”

Perhaps the greatest struggle that Koch had this winter with the ABC system was his need to combine classes. “Because of the lack of horses I had to combine classes and the lower class horses were at a big disadvantage,” said Koch.

Quite often Koch was combining three classes, especially at the top level, and that wasn’t easy for the horsemen to accept.

Koch’s job of putting together enough competitive races has also been hampered by the restrictive nature of the Meadowlands when it comes to its policy on allowing trainers that meet its high standards. The racing secretary conceded that there are plenty of horses currently racing at other tracks for horsemen unwelcome at The Meadowlands.

Those are the ABCs of the horse population at the Meadowlands and hopefully a change to the condition sheet will bring about more horses and a more competitive racing product.