Today at Monticello Raceway, the fifth race features a 1 ¾ mile race in what is known as the Monticello Marathon. A field of six dropped in the entry box for this race. Having one distance race a year is a novelty, but truth be told, it may be the key to reviving wagering on standardbred racing.
We need to mix things up. For various reasons, a shortage of horses requiring uneven fields to be assembled, short fields; a predictable racing style has made wagering on harness racing unattractive to many gamblers. Thanks to the Internet, handicapping races has become easier as information is readily available. The end result is there are too many favorites winning on a daily basis; many of them odds on. It goes past Win wagering; many Exactas have pay-offs looking like Quiniellas with Trifectas featuring double-digit pay-offs. Small pay-offs is not the way to stir the interest of potential fans. It is clear with the sophistication of today’s horseplayers, eight horse fields on a half mile track and ten horse fields on the mile track are not sufficient.
We need to get more horses, hence more betting options, racing in each race. We should attempt to get twelve horses fields on half mile tracks with fourteen or sixteen horse fields on the mile ovals. We all know the primary arguments against two tiers; each horse should have their nose on the starting gate; it is not safe; the fields will be too bulky. Well, let’s address the safety issue. Yes, racing green two year olds could present a safety issue, but that can be addressed separately. Outside of North America two tier races are not that unusual and things seem to go well. As for fields being too bulky and not having horses with their nose on the gate? If we race just a mile this would be a valid concern, however if we lengthen the distance of our races, we can eliminate the disadvantage of racing two tiers. In fact, we would mitigate the disadvantage of racing from an outside post.
It is time to go long and mix it up. The mile race has been sacrosanct for years but at this point, it has become a handicap. By having distance races, there is more opportunity for a horse racing from the second tier to get involved in a race and more time for horses to work themselves through traffic. This will allow us to get more betting options in each race which will allow pay-offs to grow. By alternating distances, it will further make things less predictable. Distances over a 1 ¼ miles can support two tiers of horses. By racing different distances, when we step back to a shorter race, the change in distance will allow us to race single tiered yet have decent pay-offs.
As for the past performance program, all we need to do is add a column in the past performance line to show the mile rate for the particular race and instead of showing the fastest win time of the year in the summary section, show the fastest mile rate for the horse at that distance. Also add a summary line for the horse’s performance at today’s distance. This will allow the horseplayer the means to compare horses.
There should be an exception for two year olds who are less experienced at racing; they should continue to race at the mile distance. However, once you turn three, there is no reason why horses can’t vary distances. I am not suggesting horses racing excessive distances, but have each class of horse race a different distance each week to keep things mixed up and when the race gets long enough, add some horses to race from the second tier.
I know this is not the way we have done things in the past, but what we are doing now is not working. Our current racing style doesn’t accommodate two tiers of horses? It is time to change our racing style. Unless we offer a product more attractive to gamblers, the sport is at risk. The status quo is unacceptable.