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Friday, June 5, 2009

Revisiting Classified Racing

Years ago, in the days before The Meadowlands, classified racing was the rage instead of conditioned racing. For those not familiar with classified racing, the racing secretary would assess the horses ability and the horse would be classified as FFA, JFA, A-1, A-2, A-3, ..., C-3. Depending on how a horse performed, the horse would move up, stay the same or drop in class. The idea is the racing secretary, after evaluating the horse population available to him/her, would be able to create races that were competetive. If a racing secretary did not have enough horses to fill a race, a handicap race with the lower class horses drawing inside would be carded.

When the Meadowlands opened and adopted conditioned racing, the was the nail in the coffin for classified racing. Trainers hated classified racing as they felt it gave the racing secretary too much control in placing their horses in races and at times, trainers felt that a racing secretary who did not like them were delibertely classifying their horses incorrectly thus hurting the horses chances.

Well, that was then. This is now. I suggest we relook at the viability of returning to the classified system. Like then, I am sure trainers still hate the classified system but back in the late seventies when classified racing was scrapped, racing was the only game in town so the public had no choice. The customer has a choice. We need to produce a product the public wants to bet on.

Why is there little crossover from the slot player in the racinos? Lack of familiarity with harness racing is one reason; the other reason is the game is hard to learn.

Here is a condition from the Meadowlands condition sheet:

N/W $8,500 in Last 6 Starts (F&M $10,500) AE: N/W 40,000 (F&M $50,000) Lifetime or 3
Extended PM Races (F&M 4) WO $120,000 in 2008/2009 Ineligible With Less Than 9 Starts in 2009 (9 or More Starts No Cap
). With these conditions on top, the customer will see entries like nw8500cd; nw2pm; nw500psl6 in the past performances of the horses.

Lets say instead of the above condition, the slot player saw in the program: Class C-1 and in the past performance lines they saw entries like C-1, B-3, C1-2 hdcp.

Which of the two examples above will be easier for a slot player to understand and make them more willing to try the game? Most likely, classified racing will make it easier for a newcomer to try the sport. Case in point; Running Aces Harness Park cards primarily claiming and classified races on their card with a couple of conditioned races for their greener horses. Why do they do this? It is because the sport is new to the area and to make it easier for the public to learn the game, classified racing is the way to go.

Remember, even in established areas, there are newcomers to attract and it is necessary to make it easy for them to learn the game.

Do you think classified racing turns off experienced players? If not, what do we have to lose? After all, aren't we supposed to cater our business to the customer?

At a minimum, if we must stay with conditioned racing, there should be something in the program to differentiate the same class entry if higher class horses are used to fill a condition. It may be something as simple as nw4pm I or nw4pm II.

What do you think?

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