Harness racing returned to the Calgary area this past weekend and despite the 'flocks' of people attending the races, the handle leaves a lot to be desired.. Opening night showed a handle of $88,496 with purses amounting to $38,900 while on the second day, the handle was $60,007 with purses distributed of $57,900. Yes, purses are supplemented with casino proceeds but still management must be disappointed. Horsemen should be as well.
For a track which brought harness racing back to the area after the last meet in 2006 at Stampede Park, one would have thought the pent-up demand would have had gambler's pockets open-wide and the money flowing through the wagering machines. Maybe it was the cold, nasty weather which discouraged customers from sticking around the entire card when there was a warm casino inside waiting to greet them. Maybe it has something to do with the ongoing construction, but work needs to be done to get more interest in the racing product and more importantly, get people wagering more on the product.
On the other hand, our favorite puzzlement, Thunder Ridge Raceway is racing its final meet. I confess I don''t watch the track's handle every day since they started racing but it appears the final meet has gotten people to wager. Saturday's four race card yielded a handle of $186 for a four race card (purses of $6,400). Clearly transferring the license to Keenland for their quarter horse track being built in Corbin, Kentucky makes sense. Thunder Ridge is a track totally rejected by the local community. The shame is there are so few racing opportunities for Kentucky overnight horses, its departure will hurt.
On the plus side, harness racing seems to have a new start in the name of Hannah Miller, daughter of trainer Erv Miller. She is a force to tend with against her male counterparts. With a weekend double of winning at the Meadowlands (against French competition) and Freehold, Miller has seven wins in twenty-two starts this year along with five second place finishes, resulting in a UDR of .469. It would be interesting to see what would happen if she decided to turn professional, but she has elected to remain an amateur. For more information on Hannah, check out her website.
The first two legs of the HANA Harness 2015 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge are in the books and at this early stage, the Pine State analyst, Sally Hinckley is in the top of the standings with 48.20 points, with Gordon Waterstone and Earl Paulson within five points of the leader. This coming weekend, there are five races over two days at three tracks being contested. The contest is worth following and may be found at http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com .
Have a great Monday.