For many harness horsemen, it is hard to get into a race at Delaware harness race tracks. This is because many of the races, especially in the lower classes, are written for "Delaware Owned or Bred". The end result is out of state horsemen that have horses which would be competitive in Delaware are on the outside looking in, screaming protectionism.
What may be considered protectionism in other states is being viewed in Delaware as rewarding the faithful. Where were all those out of state horsemen when $900 purses and $2,500 claimers were regularly featured on a Saturday night card at Dover Downs or when Brandywine Raceway closed? They left Delaware for dead and were off racing at more lucrative tracks such as the Meadowlands while the Delaware faithful kept harness racing going on life support until the VLTs arrived. Don't the faithful get to be rewarded and reap the fruits of their efforts? Look what happened in New York. When Yonkers Raceway reopened, they did not restrict races so horsemen that supported racing during the dark days at Yonkers were having a hard time drawing into races because the entry box was overflowing. Was this fair to those that supported the track during the dark times?
Of course, there is a limit to how many races should be restricted. Horsemen from out of state need to have a place to race horses that either win themselves out or are unable to compete at their local raceway. How do we balance the needs of the local horsemen with those who would like to ship in? The answer may be coming from New York.
Last year, Yonkers horsemen found they could only get some horses raced every three weeks due to an influx of horses coming from out of state tracks that closed. To fight this problem, horsemen wanted Yonkers to card races restricted to horses that raced at Yonkers. The NYSRWB brokered a compromise that benefited all horsemen in New York (many upstate tracks close during the winter as well) yet provided out of state horsemen with an opportunity to race. As a result of the compromise, New York harness tracks will be permitted to write races which are restricted to horses that raced six of their last eight starts in New York provided they card the same race without the New York restriction. This should allow more NY trainers to get their horses raced more often yet not close the track to out of state horses. Once Chester and Pocono close for the season and this condition begins to find its way onto the condition sheet, we will see how it works out. I expect this to be the fairest solution possible to all parties, balancing the needs of all horsemen.
Another person weighs in on Daryl Kaplan's column in Trot Magazine. Take a look at Jack Darling's blog and get his take on this issue.