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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When Did We Get so Courteous When Racing?

Yesterday, when I discussed the question regarding coupled entries, I made a comment regarding Brian Sears giving Arch Madness a hole to drop in during the running of the race. Specifically, I said: I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

And there may be the problem. When did we get so nice in a race that we readily give another horse a hole instead of parking the horse out, taking in the fresh air? We are not talking about the driver on the lead that lets a horse go by; that driver can retake or use the leading horse for cover hoping to be able to come out in the stretch and go right by the leader. But what is the reason for letting a horse drop in the hole in front of you when you are not on the lead? You are giving your fellow driver a break hoping next time you need a similar break, it will be reciprocated. What makes this worse is the courtesy tends to occur only when you are a ‘regular’. More often than not, if a horse ships in from another track along with its regular driver, there wouldn’t be a hole for the driver to drop into; it would be closed up.

So what is the problem? If it was your horse on the outside, wouldn’t you want a driver to let your horse tuck in? After all training bills are expensive and if you get hung on the outside, there will be a good chance your horse won’t earn a dime. By being given a break, your horse may have a better chance to pick up a check. A driver knows this very well, especially when he may have family members training or owning horses; perhaps at the same race meet.

The problem is these types of racing favors belong only in qualifying races where horses are attempting to meet the established standards in order to race at the track, not when people are wagering on your horse. When a person wagers on a horse, they should be able to expect their horse is being driven to the best of the driver’s ability, not by a driver who may give a fellow driver a break during a race.

Let me make this clear, I am not suggesting the next time you see a driver giving a fellow driver a break there is any chicanery underway, but the person in the stands or watching the race on his computer may not be so charitable in their opinion. Gamblers should be able to wager on a race knowing no one is being given a favor during the race.

The runners do it right. If you are a jockey, you are unable to train or own a horse. You make your living by riding to the best of your ability. No jockey expects another jockey to give them a break. Maybe we need to adopt a similar rule.

Of course, unlike the thoroughbreds, standardbred racing tends to be a family business. At many harness tracks, if a driver or driver’s family was not allowed to own or train horses, there wouldn’t be enough horses to conduct a race meet. So perhaps for the lower tier tracks, we don’t change the rules but require judges to make sure drivers are not giving others breaks during the contesting of a race. However, by the time a person makes it to the top tier tracks, a person should have to make a decision as to whether he/she wants to be a driver or a trainer/owner. If a person decides to drive, then he would not be allowed to own or train in the same state. If a person trains or owns, they would be barred from driving in the state. If a horse owned or trained by a relative is in a race, no driver related to the owner/trainer should be allowed to drive in the same race (exceptions may be made for stakes races).

Some may consider such a rule to be extremely harsh. However, if we want the racing public to continue to support racing and to draw in new customers, we need to remove any perception that a conflict of interest may exist.  Remember, the customer can live without racing, racing can't live without the customer.  Their rights must come first.

It is amazing what you can find on the Internet.  Here is a video of the great Dan Patch time trialing in 1906 where he set a record of 1:55.  According to reports, 93,000 people were in the stands to see this moment in history.

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