Discussing harness racing from the fan's perspective.
The passing lane does neither - I've yet to meet a player that incorporates "availability of a passing lane" into their decision as to whether or not to play a certain racetrack. As far as 5/8ths tracks go, it's especially irrelevant since historically, there has never been a "major" 5/8ths track in the industry (meaning that the best handling tracks have ALWAYS been the mile, or the half; the great fallacy is that somehow 5/8ths mile racing attracts players!)
I use to like the passing lane but now really enjoy not having it as a fan/bettor. From what I have seen lately at the two new Ohio tracks, the lack of a passing lane has caused more movement in the race and more longshots being able to win.
Good riddance to the old and dangerous inner rail and I'd be happy if the passing lane also goes out of existence. It's a benefit to some horses that only seem to win from the pocket and don't have to pull. Overall at tracks I follow, racing has become speed on the front end and a lot more sitting.
I would prefer passing lanes be done away with and replaced (on all size tracks) with better banked turns. Most North American tracks are far too flat and easily lend themselves to a front end speed advantage. Banking the turns sufficiently will better serve the closers. Let's encourage early movement and give the horses a better chance from behind.
End passing lanes and instead bank the turns on all tracks more. Flat turns enable front end speed while banked turns clearly help closers get into the race. These two things are the best way to encourage early movement and far more exciting racing.
The passing lane has made the races more boring and less competitive. Hardly anyone parking others since they figure they will let a horse go, not hurt them and then have room. Without the passing lane, drivers would have many more decisions to make, leading to more movement and way less formful racing and a parade of chalk.
This is Pandy. The passing lane should be abolished. I agree with the other poster about the Ohio tracks. I've been playing Miami Valley, which has a long stretch and no passing lane. The favorites there are only winning at 32% and the races, overall, are the best I've seen on a five eighths track this year. There only problem is that posts 7 8, 9 don't win as often as they should. This could be corrected by using a slanted starting gate. But the passing lane hurts racing.
The passing lane may have been a good idea initially but since the boys have mastered the nuances, it no longer is.
The lack of movement is more a function of the HUGE purses that they race for these days. The drivers are all chummy, and rarely hurt each other, happily just taking a back seat tonight, for a free hole next week. Sometimes even "good things" have unintended consequences; nobody could have ever imagined that as a result of bigger purses, drivers would be more inclined to be LESS aggressive (and then you look at some of the tracks with small purses, and the drivers will race like there's a million dollars on the line, in a $4000 claiming event)
Very good point about huge purses leading to less competitive racing. The passing lane should not exist on any sized track, for the reasons already cited by others. Banking the turns would encourage better competition, and, I imagine, less lameness.
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