Once again, another trainer has made it clear that their horse will go one heat and scratch in a multi-heat race, in this case the Kentucky Filly Futurity. Ray Schnittker has announced Check Me Out is going to race one heat in the Kentucky Filly Futurity and then on to the Breeders Crown. Schnittker claims racing multi-heat races is cruel to horses.
Personally, I think it's not the case, but I recognize others disagree with me. I don't understand how racing in one multi-heat race a year is going to cause a horse much trouble; the only difference is if the horse has soundness issues (I want to see what trainers are going to do when the Hambletonian goes to two heats the same day starting in 2013; for a million dollars the objections may disappear). However, it is Schnittker's horse to protect so if he thinks two heats in a day is too much, I respect his decision.
My problem is why these horses are allowed to start in these races if they intend to race only one heat. Owners and trainers know the conditions of a race and if they object to a multi-heat format, they shouldn't nominate or make sustaining payments. When you make a payment, you in effect are agreeing to the conditions of the race. But then that would be sportsmanship.
By entering a race with the intention of pulling your horse out before racing in all eligible heats, is fraudulent and such a withdrawal should be penalized. It is the judges' responsibility not to let a horse arbitrarily scratch out of subsequent heats unless a state veterinarian excuses the horse due to illness or lameness. A trainer who refuses to race an eligible horse for a subsequent heat without being scratched by the state vet should be fined and suspended severely. In addition, stakes sponsors should put a poison pill in their conditions indicating a horse who refuses to race all eligible heats without a state vet scratching the horse will be disqualified for purse purposes from the heats already contested or the conditions should double the starting fee with the provision half the starting fee will be refunded upon a horse racing in all heats they are eligible for, thus imposing a financial penalty for premature departures. In the case of the Futurity (or Oaks), it means a declaration fee of $15,000 ($7,000) with $7,500 ($3,500) being refunded upon racing in subsequent heats.
Why do I feel this way? By racing in a multi-heat race and then scratching out of subsequent heats it eliminates a horse which was willing to race two heats from competing in a second heat; the owner/trainer violates the terms of the race to which they agreed to; people may be coming to the track and even traveling expending large sums of money to see a horse race only to see him/her be scratched. Racing is a business but a certain amount of sportsmanship should be demanded. If a trainer is unwilling to agree to the rules, the horse should stay in the stall.
PTP Makes a Funny. In today's column, PTP talks about how the Breeders Crown is coming to Pocono Downs in 2013. He mentions after the only tracks who can afford the Breeders Crown after this year may be Pocono and Yonkers and horsemen won't want to race on the half mile track What's funny about that? PTP assumes the horsemen at Yonkers would be willing to open their purse account to host those races. Sometimes, he cracks me up.
The next round of the World Harness Handicapping Championship is scheduled for October 27 at the Meadowlands. Details may be found here.