06/14/2017 6:59PM

Zoccali: Addition of Brower, Prewitt at The Meadowlands appeals to bettors

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James Lisa/Lisa Photo
Gabe Prewitt joined the team at The Meadowlands in early June.

The Meadowlands has long been synonymous with the most astute harness handicappers, thus its largest handle in harness racing.

In fact, on Saturday June 3, the $3 Million handled by The Meadowlands was more than the majority of Thoroughbred tracks that day, including signals like Arlington, Delaware, Golden Gate and Parx.  Naturally, The Meadowlands television broadcast would befit commentators who do a fair share of betting themselves.  Enter Dave Brower (or should I say, re-enter) and Gabe Prewitt.

Without question, Brower is one of the best handicapping minds the sport of harness racing has ever seen and his abilities as an odds-maker is second to none.  One of the few regrets I had during my time at The Meadowlands was that Dave and I didn’t get to work together as much as I would have liked.  We both shared similar roles in the television department, more analyst than host, and while we occasionally were paired together, we typically sat in the same chair opposite one of the tremendous hosts on The Meadowlands’ team.

Among the many pressures I felt during my time at The Meadowlands, especially early-on, was that I was viewed as the individual replacing Dave Brower with the morning line odds-maker being one of the many hats I was asked to wear.  While I didn’t look at it that way, as I had been working in television at The Meadowlands, with Dave, for over five years, I knew that’s how my performance would be measured.  Being compared to someone of Dave’s ability was exceedingly difficult.  The bar was incredibly high.

For all of these reasons, the decision by The Meadowlands to bring back Dave Brower was, in my opinion, one of the smartest decisions made by the racetrack during the Gural era.  Since January 2016, the racetrack had four different morning line odds-makers, one being a computer.  That is just too much turnover for a track of The Meadowlands’ stature, especially since mastering the job of odds-maker at The Meadowlands takes years and even then, you are wrong more often that you would like.  On top of all of this, Brower is passionate about the sport and applies that passion to his craft, which is evident in his performance.  Brower’s return is a welcomed one, especially with Meadowlands Pace night and the Hambletonian on the horizon.  Like Justin Horowitz, Brower is a professional broadcaster and far more polished at his craft that I admittedly ever was.  But most importantly, Brower is a bettor.  His viewpoints come across as a bettor and that is something that is very much appreciated by the viewing and wagering public.  For this exact reason, Gabe Prewitt will be praised by that same group of viewers.

Aside from spending his life involved in racing and filling a variety of roles throughout the industry, including being a track announcer and director of racing, Prewitt is also a bettor and a good one at that.  When he speaks on-air, you can hear the in-depth analytics that went into what Prewitt is describing to the betting public and much like Brower, that is something that is very much appreciated by the betting public.

This is not to say that others that filled television roles at The Meadowlands did a poor job.  It just speaks to the point that as the Number One harness track in average nightly handle and as the harness track that competes with Thoroughbred racetracks for betting dollars, the on-air talent that is talking about the product should be speaking about it from a gambler’s viewpoint.  The team of Warkentin, Heyden, Horowitz, Brower and Prewitt is an All-Star lineup that will only help The Meadowlands’ position as the premier betting signal in harness racing.

The bottom line is that The Meadowlands’ moves with its on-air product is an appeal to their customers.  It is the racetrack recognizing what their customers want and delivering on that realization, which is a very good thing.

Far too often, racing jurisdictions and those simulcasting the racing product to the viewing public either forget or ignore that first and foremost horse racing is a sport for bettors.  It is not meant to be casual visual entertainment to millennials.  Speaking as a bettor, having to sit through portions of the NBC Kentucky Derby broadcasting showcasing the “do’s and don’ts” of Kentucky Derby fashion is beyond painful.  Sure, that broadcast is unique in that it reaches out beyond the typical boundaries of horse racing viewership and there likely was a demographic watching that who enjoyed those segments.  But the Kentucky Derby is a unique event that shouldn’t be looked at as the blueprint for what racetracks should be presenting to its customers on a nightly basis.

A racetrack’s business is the selling of bets.  Its customers should be recognized and characterized properly, and the product presented to them should reflect that.  The addition of Dave Brower and Gabe Prewitt to The Meadowlands broadcast team accomplishes just that.