At this time of the year, it is traditional to take a moment to reflect on the things you are thankful for. It may be a day early, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some of the things I am thankful for which are related to harness racing.
I am thankful for Greg Peck. Not for Muscle Hill himself, but for being such a class guy and an eloquent spokesman for harness racing. Be it at the Hambletonian post draw press conference, winner circle presentation or elsewhere, Mr. Peck took the opportunity to make his case for the sport of harness racing.
I am thankful for the fine people at the United States Trotting Association (the same can be said for Standardbred Canada) for their dedication and endless support of harness racing. The USTA is an easy target for the naysayers who criticize the USTA but they forget what the USTA mission is and more importantly what it is not. Considering the budget the USTA has to work with, it is amazing as to what they are able to accomplish. Can they do more? Sure. However, it takes money to do more and I dare say many of those who argue for a more active USTA will be the first ones to complain if their dues were raised to finance such efforts.
I am thankful for Eric Cherry, Andrew Cohen, Jeff Gural, Jason Settlemoir, and others who are raising the alarm and offering proposals to help restore racing to its former luster. Yes, they may ruffle the feathers of some and I may not necessarily agree with everything they say, but rather than accept the status quo, they challenge the industry to rise from its slumber so it will still be relevant years from now. More importantly, they not only speak out but are willing to roll up their sleeves. Too many people are content to accept the status quo and just let things happen.
I am thankful for the participants of the June summit at the Meadowlands and other conclaves who took time out of their busy schedules and at their own expense traveled to these meetings to discuss some of the issues facing harness racing. Some may criticize these types of conclaves since they feel nothing is accomplished, but they are not a waste of time. Racings problems didn’t happen overnight; all the solutions aren’t going to either.
I am thankful for racinos like Tioga Downs and Yonkers that are truly dedicated to the continuation of harness racing. Yes, without slot machines there would be no harness racing at these locations, but rather than treating harness racing as a necessary evil, they continue to promote harness racing. If you haven’t seen some of the Yonkers Raceway commercials, you have to see them (Quick Time format).
I am thankful for the Delaware Standardbred Owners Association for sponsoring the Post Time Show shown on television stations in the Delmarva area (as well as on the Internet). This is not your typical harness racing recap show. It promotes, educates and entertains at the same time. Let’s not forget the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association for sponsoring PA Harness Week, which highlights races at Chester and Pocono Downs as well as some of the major races elsewhere in North America.
I am thankful for the countless individuals and groups working on to give our standardbred athletes a new lease on life and second careers once they leave the raceways. Make no mistake about it, the unwanted race horse issue will become one of the big issues racing needs to address. Through these individuals and groups, the initial steps have been taken.
I am thankful for the horsemen and track operators who toil at our smaller ovals. These horsemen, drivers, trainers, grooms and owners, attempting to earn a living racing for small purses and race tracks which operate without the benefit of slot machines are not only the roots of harness racing, they are our future. Find me one driver or trainer that did not get their start racing in the obscurity of one of these raceways.
Lastly, I am thankful for those of you who read this labor of love. Whether you comment or not, just knowing you are there reading this blog and hopefully getting something out of it means a lot.