The first leg of the 2010 Inter Dominion was held Friday night at Harold Park in Australia with the running of four divisions. Details on how each division was won may be seen at the official Inter Dominion website or you may click on the following links for a recap of Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, or Division 4. For replays of the four divisions, you may go to Harness Racing Australia's website to see the charts and replays. The four divisions of the Inter Dominion were races 4-7. In the top right hand corner of each race, there is a link to click on to see the replays of the respective race.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Inter Dominion, the Inter Dominion Pacing Championship are the races of the year in Australasia. The series rotates between the harness racing states in Australia and New Zealand. This year, the races are being hosted by New South Wales. The conditions call for the top forty ranked horses to compete in the first two rounds of championship using the mobile starting gate. Since the first round, contested at 2,100 meters, on February 19 was held at Harold Park, the race had seven starters in the first row and three horses drawing the second tier (take note North American racing interests). The second round to be held at New Castle on February 27 and the $1.5 million (AUS) final will be contested at Menangle on March 7 which will have been narrowed down to the top ten point earners competing in the preliminary heats. A consolation race will also be held. Like North American races, there are nominations, sustaining and entry fees required with supplemental entries allowed. If come the first round a horse does not fall into the top forty contenders and qualify, all fees except the nomination fees are refunded to the nominators.
So the question needs to be asked, why can't we have a series like the Inter Dominion in North America for both gaits as a means to encourage older horses to race longer? The answer is there is no reason it can’t be done except for the lack of will. Here is a proposal on how we can have a similar event.
We will call our series the Can-Am Pacing/Trotting Championships. Horses will represent Canada and America based on who owns the horses, not where a horse is sired or foaled. If a horse is owned by both American and Canadian owners, the horse will compete under the banner of the country where majority ownership resides. Like the Inter Dominion, horses that compete overseas may be invited to compete.
The Can-Am will be raced in different regions of the United States and Canada each year with pari-mutuel wagering. The events will be raced at different tracks within the region. There is no size limitations with regards to which track can participate. Since there will be ten horses in each race, there will be a need for two tiers on a half mile oval. However, since races will be at different distances, between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 miles, being in a second tier should not matter as much (though an attempt to schedule the final on a mile track should be attempted, if possible).
Modify the Grand Circuit. While not necessary, attempt to add additional Canadian tracks to the Grand Circuit. Require each Grand Circuit stop with pari-mutuel racing to offer a Grand Circuit event for Open Trotters and Pacers (Horses and Mares compete together) with a purse of at least $100,000 each (to avoid eliminations, a track may permit entries based on earnings) for each gait. If this rule was in place for 2010, it would mean fifteen races for older horses in each gait making at least $1.5 million in purse money available for our older horses; that before you even consider the Can-Am Championships. Points are awarded at each grand circuit race with the highest point earner being the grand circuit champion.
Like the Inter Dominion, winners of the previous year Can-Am, current year Grand Circuit champions for the Open division get automatically invited to the championship series. If there is a worthy foreign horse to be invited, they get invited. After that, the balance of the forty horse field gets determined with points being awarded to winners of grand circuit races and by inviting horses that may not have won a grand circuit start but have represented themselves well in grand circuit races with particularly tough fields. Like the Inter Dominion, the two weeks of preliminary races will have horses seeded to offer equally competitive fields with post positions being an open draw (there will be an attempt to have horses compete against different horses in the second week). Each preliminary will have a purse of $100,000. The top ten point earners in the preliminaries advance to an open draw final with a purse of $1.5 million.
Think of the advantage of having a Can-Am championship. First of all, there will be an incentive for older horses to keep on racing. With the Grand Circuit older races become in effect become a combination of the NCAA's March Madness and NACAR's Chase to qualify for the Can-Am Championship, the best horses will compete at more tracks which will help draw interest to races at the local tracks and may draw increased media attention. By allowing different regions to host the event each year, you allow each region to have the opportunity to showcase their standardbred product. By having a competition between Canada and the United States, you draw the interest of people from both country, cheering on their favorites to defend their country's honor; a natural media event.
Should we have an event like the Can-Am Championships? Can we afford not to?
As a side note, you may be aware of new whipping rules in effect in Australia. News reports indicate a driver filed a claim of foul against another driver in a race for the opposing driver using his whip fourteen times. The steward indicated it was "it probably the worst breach" of the rules and it was "easy to uphold" the protest. Regardless of what you think of the whipping rules, if it was the worst breach of the rules, how did the judges misss the offense in the first place? Apparently stewards make mistakes down under as well.