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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Get your Programs, Hambletonian Poll, Year End Awards Criteria

Get Your Programs

Some of the smaller tracks in Canada offer nightly free programs on the Internet for their races in order to get online gamblers to wager on their product. Some of the tracks that offer this free service are Fraser Downs, Windsor Raceway, and Flamboro Downs. Kudos to them and shame on the larger tracks for not offering free programs.

Why are we not offering free programs in the United States online? I understand Equibase, under their Trackmaster banner and the racetracks which sell the programs have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo but perhaps there is a win-win situation available. First of all, I am not suggesting a full feature program that Trackmaster sells with each horse's individual race times, speed and class ratings, highlighting horses in the summary that are in today's races, etc., but the 'traditional' program that the track sells. If a gambler wishes to have the additional information, they will still need to purchase a program either online or at the track.

From what I see, there are two scenarios. First of all, the web public has accepted advertisements for free content on the Internet. Either Trackmaster can offer through racetrack websites free programs (only for the host track) and to make up for the revenue loss, they can add advertisements to the programs (perhaps on the top of each race or on pages between the races). The other option is have the tracks purchase the rights to the program pages and they can add the advertisements to the programs themselves.

The bottom line is racetracks should gain increased gambling dollars by making this move. Some online gamblers play certain tracks but there may a race elsewhere which will intrigue them. Without a program with at least the basic information, they will not wager on it. It is about time the gamblers are thrown a bone. Racetracks will benefit from it.

Hambletonian Poll Question

Muscle Hill is ranked number four in the latest Hambletonian Poll. While I expect Muscle Hill to be in the top three by the end of the year, at this point it is premature to rank him that high. For example, Yellow Diamond has five wins in seven starts this year. Why are we ranking horses on anticipation of what they will do rather than what they have done this year? Let's look at their records this year thus far:

Muscle Hill - 2 for 2; winning an elimination of the NJSS and the NJSS final. Yes, two wins in sire stakes competition in a state where the breeding industry is on the decline. His fastest win time this year is 1:53.1 and he has seasonal earnings of $127,400.

Yellow Diamond - 5 for 7; she won the James M. Lynch Memorial at Pocono Downs (open company) in 1:49.4, won her elimination of the Lynch Memorial and in her last start won an elimination of the Fan Hanover stakes at Mohwak; winner of $199,801 thus far this year.

Can someone tell me how a horse that won two races this year in state bred races is ranked higher than a horse that won five races this year setting a track record in an open company stakes race? I don't argue that Muscle Hill may finish ahead of Yellow Diamond when the year is over, but lets rank them based on their accomplishments thus far.

Year End Awards Criteria

Is it too much to ask our stars to race rather than being overly managed? For the last two years, especially on the trotting side, we have had many of our 3yo stars avoiding anything other than the mile (or 7/8th mile) tracks. In one case last year, Deweycheatemnhowe skipped the Yonkers Trot to race in a minor stakes race at the Meadowlands. Last I saw, harness racing is conducted on 1/2, 5/8th and mile (7/8th) tracks and a lot of these tracks offer great purses for stake races. Is it to much to ask for our stars to race more often on different size tracks?

We can't force owners to race their horses, but we can insist if they want to be able to say they won a year end award they need to meet certain criteria. We already do it by requiring a horse to have no drug positives during their campaign. In order for a horse to win a year end honor they should be required to have a minimum of 15 starts (8 starts for 2yos) during the campaign year and at a minimum, during their campaign they need to start at least once on a 1/2 mile, 5/8th mile and mile (or 7/8th) track either in a stakes race not limited to state breds, or an age appropriate open race not restricted to non-winners or earning limits. For 3yos, they should be required to race in at least two triple crown legs.

After all, shouldn't a champion be able to take on all comers on different size tracks? Let's reward those that can.

Kudos to the PA Horsemen: In an article from Harness Link the PHHA and MSOA have contributed money to establish a Pennyslvania Sires Stake Stallion Series for 2yos that are not quite ready for prime time. This is being done by donating a portion of their slot revenue. Through their generosity, owners will be more inclined to buy PA-sired horses knowing there is another path to try to recoup their investment. This may help alleviate the problem at Pocono Downs where they tend to make the two year olds race against older horses in overnight races which has been discussed before in this blog.

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