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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Time to Close the Passing Lane

Well, if the comments from horseplayers and industry insiders are any indication, it's time to get rid of the passing lane.  Clearly the passing lane has tapped down the number of horses willing to rough it and make moves during the race, being more content to sit in the pocket.  Couple this with the slot-infused purses which make a risky move a potentially expensive risk, the game has become predictable, complete with low payoffs.

Yet, who will be the first track to eliminate the passing lane (the question posed in the other blog entry was prompted by a request of an anonymous industry group)?  More importantly, will even one passing lane be closed?  For an industry which seems to be scared to make any moves, it would be an act of courage to eliminate the passing lane.  The ironic thing, with most tracks now gaining the benefit of slots, what is the real risk of making a mistake with regards  to the passing lane?  If no track will be the first one to eliminate the passing lane, how can we expect the industry to make any significant changes?

I challenge racetracks to close the passing lane.  The physical cost to change the track initially doesn't need to be expense, just buy a bunch of construction cones and put them down along the course where the passing lane would be to close it off and if it turns out getting rid of the lane was a mistake, all which is needed is to pick up the cones; if it is a success, then a more permanent closure of the passing lane can be done.

Let's see which (if) track is not afraid of their own shadow.


Anonymous said...

"Content to sit in the pocket"?? Even before there was ever a passing lane, it was usually considered "ridiculous" to pop out of the pocket...except under unique circumstances. If you didn't want to risk getting trapped in the two hole, you retook command early on...just as drivers do NOW. And since miles were generally contested at a slower pace, first over horses generally got up to the leader, making "pulling the pocket" almost impossible, in most cases. And by the way, I'm not sure how a handful of responses to your query led you to conclude that "it's time to close the passing lane"; that's the most absurd "proof" I've seen about ANYTHING, in ages!

Pacingguy said...

I have been hearing complaints about the passing lane for years, not just in the responses to the previous post but for the record, I said if these comments were representative, it was time.

While I believe the majority of people would agree the passing lane should go away, I would hope there would be further research by those who would make such a decision, not just depending on my or any other person's column.

Anonymous said...

Try asking people who actually BET money, and bet it in serious amounts. The "opinion" of those who bet a couple of hundred bucks for the entire year (if even) is irrelevant, at least as far as making decisions that effect those who actually drive the handle. Just another all too familiar case of people with virtually no skin in the game looking to create a "solution", and then find a problem (similar to "whipping", and other non-issues)

As has been pointed out in earlier comments, the large purses are what has created the "casual" driving style seen in many of today's races (especially at the tracks with the biggest purses). Factor in the incredible speed of today's animals (made even more dominant by today's "chemical warfare), and you have the answer as to why the races seem so nonchalant (oh - you can also add in the chummy partnerships that now exist in unprecedented numbers). The passing lane is virtually irrelevant in the equation, and anybody that actually follows the game SERIOUSLY will tell you the same.

Count said...

The reason the sport is losing popularity is because they are ignoring the true fans and instead are appeasing the so-called BIG bettors who are like Wall Street investors and could care less about the actually game save for the money that they are making out of it. It is well worth any track owner's while to have 100 people in the stands each betting $100 on the night than one person betting $10,000. I'm sick and tired about hearing from these entitled "big bettors" who feel that they deserve anything more than anybody else. Get a life.

Anonymous said...

Count - while your theory adds up "mathematically", the problem is that the guy betting the $10,000 may actually exist, but the 100 folks betting $100 do not. All things "being equal", it certainly would bode better for the business to have the $10,000 in handle come from 100 players; but if the players don't exist, the argument is moot. Oh, and your final sentence not only reeks of jealousy, it's not even accurate - "big bettors" don't "expect" more than anybody else (in fact, they GET less than anybody because there's usually not enough money in the pools to make their large plays worthwhile) - but what they NEED in order to justify maintaining their level of play is a rebate large enough to prevent them from becoming "losers" each year. If and when the "big boys" decide to exit the game, it's your $100 player that will bear the brunt of it, as now HIS small wagers will return less than they used to, making HIS return shrink considerably. And that's reality, my friend.

Earl Paulson said...

My three biggest peeves with Harness Racing are the high takeout, the passing lane, and non-betting races (because you can't see the replays online). I've been a fan since 1971, but my interest is waning quickly.
Earl Paulson

Count said...

Big bettors NEED a rebate so that they don't lose and to justify their level of play??!!!?? Why thank you almighty gambler, anything else we can do for you? This is harness racing, a RECREATIONAL activity for those betting on it and enjoying it but you make it sound a lot like the rigged stock market of today! Yes entitled anonymous one (aren't they all anonymous?), I am very jealous that I don't spend the majority of my household income on a fun activity that I enjoy (or at least used to enjoy) and instead choose to invest it in my household and family. Imagine someone in 1975, when men were men, asking for a rebate when they make large wagers so that they can't lose? "Waah" - that is your reality my friend!