The quote from that one gambler who gave up harness racing the day classified racing went away got me thinking. No doubt long term readers of my blog know I am a big fan of classified racing. Not only is it a way to make harness racing more accessible for those wanting to try the game, I do believe it makes races more competitive; more likely we will see horses bunched up at the wire instead of drawn out at the end.
One place I think we could all agree there should be some type of classified racing would be for two year old racing. Bad enough we race two year olds so early but other than a nw1pm win or being thrown in with three year olds, they generally get tossed into open races. As a result, many two year olds get burned out attempting to race against horses that are far ahead of them in ability or they succeed and don't come back as a three year old.
What I would propose is for two year olds, there be a form of classified/conditioned racing. We would have straight non-winners of 1, 2, and 3 parimutuel races for two year olds exclusively (no monetary conditions), and once they reach their third parimutuel victory, they would be classified as 2yo Preferred until they win their fifth start at which time they would be classified as 2yo Open. Under this proposal, other than sire stakes races, for a two year old to be eligible for the early stakes races, they would have to be listed as 2yo Preferred. Come August a horse would need to be listed as 2yo Open to compete in what we would call tier 1 stakes races and Preferred to compete in tier 2 stakes races. This way, you would hopefully have two year olds with similar experience levels competing against each other. This way they would be able to compete against horses of comparative ability. Yes, I know classifying stakes races as tier 1 or 2 is another issue we would need to address, but for illustration purposes I would suggest races like the Tompkins-Geers would be listed as a tier two race and races like the Woodrow Wilson would be tier 1.
I would still like to see classified racing for older horses, but at least by having classified racing for two year olds, we may preserve some of our juvenile horses which fall to the wayside each year.