Having another sleepless night, I was watching TVG late Saturday night when they were showing quarterhorse racing from Los Alamitos. They were having trials for the upcoming Governor's Cup Futurity. For those of you who are unfamiliar with quarterhorse racing, instead of having eliminations for their stake races, they have trials. There may be five or six trials for a particular race (or futurity) and instead of the top two or three finishers in each race advance to the final, the ten fastest finishers qualify for the stake race. This means you can conceivably win your trial but if your winning time is not one of the ten fastest individual times, you don't advance.
Now, I know there is a big difference between quarterhorses and harness racing. For one thing, quarterhorse races are timed in thousands of a second and for the most part, they race down a straight away where harness racing is timed in fifths of a second and race around turns thus you have a greater chance of being a victim of racing luck. But is there a way we can modify the quarterhorse trial model and incorporate it in harness racing? What would happen if we changed our timings from fifths of a second to tenths or hundreds of a second and for our stake races say the fastest eight, nine or ten horses get into a final of a stakes race?
Before you dismiss this idea as poppycock, let's consider the fact that many people consider eliminations not worthy of betting. Many, myself included, feel there are times where a horse's connections are more concerned finishing in the top five rather than winning a race. If the finalists were determined by the fastest ten finishers from all the trials (eliminations) instead of the top three, four or five finishers in each race wouldn't the complexion of each race change? Wouldn't each race become more exciting with constant movement instead of having drivers trying to back the fractions down? There would be a greater sense of urgency with these eliminations. Races would become more exciting for gamblers and fans alike. If there are consolations for a race, the ten fastest horses could qualify for the final, the second fastest ten horses qualify for the first consolation and so forth. The races would still be based on conditions like they are now; we are not looking to reintroduce time bars.
Yes, there are other things to consider, such as what do you do in the event of a disqualification (assign an individual time slower than the offended horse), but these are details which can be worked out. That being said, let's consider the possibility; perhaps try the concept with a smaller stake race.
Maybe it is or maybe it is not a good idea but we need to start thinking outside of the box to freshen the product. Who knows? Trials may be part of the solution to revive racing.