I don't think anyone would debate the point the best races should have the best horses competing in theory, but is it fair to allow a supplemental entry? Let's start with those who pay their way into the Hambletonian by paying their nominating and sustaining payments which are $2,775. How would you feel about making payments only to find a Googoo Gaagaa-type horse swooping in at the last minute and pay their supplemental entry fee to get into the race? There is a good chance you wouldn't be happy, after all, would it be much different than four poker players playing their hands the traditional way only to have a fifth player not feeding the kitty but drawing cards and deciding at the last round of betting since they have a full house, they want to pay into the particular round if they could?
Having supplemental payments may also have a less desirable side effect; some people may not make payments figuring someone is always going to swoop in the last minute and make their supplemental payments or well-heeled players may decide it is a better investment to wait until the last minute before committing to the race thanks to the supplemental payment option; remembering many of these owners have more than one horse to make payments. The result being you may find the actual purse for the Hambletonian going down in the future as yearling or two year old owners may opt not to nominate their horses.
I see four possible scenarios to balance the interests of all parties; allowing supplemental nominations, but also protecting the interests of those who nominate the regular way. In order these, preferences would be: have limited supplemental nominations; offering a late supplemental entry with a sizable payment; change the race to an early closing event; introduce a combined Triple Crown nomination and supplemental payments.
The following are the four possibilities. After the possibilities are listed, you may take the survey which follows. Results will be released in a week or so.
A - Limited supplemental nominations.
Allow supplemental nominations, but not too late so a supplemental nominee can't buy themselves a check. For example, if you miss making the initial nomination fee of $25, allow a yearling to become eligible by making a payment of $250 by November 15 of the yearling year and all future payments. Another option would be if not making your nomination and/or two year old sustaining payment of $500, allow a two year old to buy in to the Hambletonian by November 15 of their two year old year by making a payment of $2,000 and all future payments.
B - Late Supplemental Entry
If a horse is not eligible by November 15 of their two year old season and wish to compete in the Hambletonian, allow a horse to become eligible by making a payment of 10% of the advertised purse amount in addition to the $10,000 final starting fee if they advance but the supplemental entry fee is payable to those eligible prior to entry time (paid out as if a separate purse). Using this method, it would discourage people from choosing a late supplemental entry in lieu of making regular payments but still allow them to enter if they feel they might win.
C - Become an Early Closing Event
Using this strategy, the race would no longer be a traditional stakes race but an early closing event with all payments made in the 3yo season. This way, an owner will be able to evaluate their horse's two year old season and prospects as a three year old before making payments. While this would allow more educated payments to be made, the fees would be larger to make up for those nomination and 2yo sustaining fees currently acquired from a much larger base. There would be no supplemental nominations or entries allowed.
D - Combined Nominations and Sustaining Payments
Leaving which races should be a Triple Crown race event or not aside, this proposal would have one nomination fee and set of sustaining payments for all three Triple Crown events. The nomination and sustaining payments would be divided equally between all three races. Horsemen then would be required to make the required starting fee payments to whichever race(s) they wish to contest. Under this methodology, there would be no supplemental nominations or entries.
Feel free to take the survey below.