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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another Voice: Seeding and Taking Back

Interesting comments from Bob Marks' (of Perretti Farms) Trotlines, which may be found on the Perretti Farms website.  While Trotlines discusses primarily issues of concern to breeders and yearling buyers issues, the column does discuss issues facing racing.  In his most recent installment of Trotlines, Bob discusses two issues of particular interest to the horseplayer, both professional and novice.  Thanks to Bob Marks for allowing me to reprint his comments here. 

So they card two divisions of the same class and lo and behold all the tough ones are in one division while the weaker horses go in the other division.

Conveniently an end result can be two evenly matched betting races. Or so it seems.

Unfortunately the end result is often two “unbettable” betting races for the following reasons.

 One is that the so-called weaker division is comprised of inferior and/or off form animals that on paper at least would be lucky to finish the mile rather than actually beat anybody.

Not a good betting scenario, unless someone knows or suspects certain horses have been waiting for class relief and are eligible for sudden wakeups.

Now the other division is comprised of the toughest and/or sharpest horses in the class, the connections of which may perceive that while they’ll be lucky to get a check in this one-they’d be first or second best in other division.

Not a good betting scenario unless one knows or suspects just which horses will be well meant and which horses might be raced easy in lieu of making the “other” division next week.

Have wondered why the purses aren’t commensurate with the levels of ability within these two class divisions.

But then that would be confirmation that the process of such a thing as seeding actually occurs.

Bob is not talking about seeding races like Saratoga Raceway's Open I and Open II classes.  While there is always a possibility someone may try to 'work' their way down to the Open II, they will be leaving money on the table as the Open II races for $3,000 less money than the Open I.  The problem comes when a racing secretary tries to take a group of conditioned or claiming pacers and puts the best ten in one division and the bottom ten in the second division.  As well intentioned as the racing secretary may be, it may be best to allow the luck of the draw determine which race a horse ends up in.  This way, there is no assurance that a poor effort this week will be rewarded by a draw into an easier division next time. 

So it was suggested to the driver that perhaps taking back would be the prudent course in this particular race seeing as how one more dominating victory might just get the horse out of the class and in this case off the grounds in that it’s current open class was as high as it could go.

We all know this never happens or at least we can’t admit that it does but given the ultimate ramifications one must wonder why it is so often sanctioned.

Generally the horse in question loses or better yet fails to win only to come right back and decimate similar rivals the very next week.

Of course those who unwittingly bet him “that night” are out of luck and who knows what “taste” they come away with.

Seasoned pros know its part of the game and while they don’t like it have unfortunately learned to live with it.

The rest of the crowd-left to their own devices, are odds on to think of all sorts of diabolical things some of which are not that far from reality.

If we didn’t need betting to drive the engine, there’d be no problem but unfortunately until we’re totally funded by artificial methods, it is a problem.

As with a horse winning out of competition at a racetrack, if we had fewer tracks racing at a given time, there would be a bigger pool of horses to draw from making it harder to win your way out.  As for others just wanting to find their way into an easier class, reading comments like this makes me wish for the good old days of classified racing, only this time with racing secretaries who are not going to let a trainer drop his horse down in class so easily.  This way, if you want to race three or four starts without earning anything to get into a lower class, go right ahead (Conversely, one win should not automatically promote a horse to a higher class).  Failing a return to classified racing, we need to come up with a way to make it economically unfeasible for a trainer to resort to such tactics. 

But for those who may employ such tactics, is there any wonder why we are racing in front of empty grandstands?  Do you care?

Andrew Cohen, writes for The Atlantic regarding the lawsuit Jeffrey Brooks recently filed against the United States Trotting Association.  Here is his take on this lawsuit and the potential ramifications to the sport. 

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