Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Responding to the Critics of Classified Racing
While many people are happy with the reduced takeout being offered by Tioga Downs, certain individuals have complained about the introduction of the classified system at Tioga; in particular citing the perceived failure of the system in the past. Nick Salvi of Tioga responds to some of those concerns with the following comments.
With regards to the concern that trainers will not allow their horses to race to their fullest ability in order to stay or get into an easier class....
The first difference between then and now, is that very few trainers drive their own horses anymore. The catch drivers are not gonna sit on one for three or four weeks, so that is not enough of a factor to dissuade us. Then, the pools at our tracks would not support a trainer making up the difference lost in earnings by wagering. I am convinced the incidence of class management racing is no more prevalant with the ABC than it is in the NW races. And...if it is obvious that someone has raced in a fashion that he feels will keep him in a class, if the horse merits it he goes up just like the winner.
Savli then goes to on explain how classified racing makes more sense these days as race horse no longer race at one track anymore....
Next point, the racing biz is far more mobile than it used to be. So, we have horses in and out at Tioga, where the races are comprised of 70-75% ship-ins each week. Their earnings in last five starts swing with the purses offered where they have been racing. We get some of the horses that have been getting beat up at Pocono and Yonkers and are looking for relief, then we get some MR, BR & STGA shippers to go with our locals. More often than not, a horse coming from YR or PCD that's down to, say NW 2500 L5 is generally superior to a BR/MR/TD/VD horse that meets the same money class. We can now place the horses where they face their own ilk, in our opinion.
Another issue we always face is a shortage of pacing mares. To get a race filled so trainers with mares stabled on the grounds, we would have to manipulate conditions to the point that it often looked like we're writing a specific horse into a race...when it was really done just to get enough to go. Again, with the classification system we can turn out better matched races.
It is a concern that we may have a horse in a class that the trainer feels is too high, we work to be as objective as possible, and if it turns out that the horse is over classified we adjust them down. The dilemma on when to drop and exchanges is a difficult proposition. But...those same situations exist with money classes too...they always have and always will.
It's been my experience that the guys with fairly large stables and years of experience know their horse's capabilities...the horse is gonna race 30 times in a year, he's gonna win 6-7-8 races, he's gonna make $45k, he's gonna be in good spots 10X, he's gonna be in 4 or 5 great spots and he's gonna be in deep the same number. That's just how it goes...the smart ones know that.
Yeah, it puts the onus squarely on the race office, and believe me, we could certainly live without the scrutiny. But...we feel it can work better than $$$ classes and we are willing to try it and judge the results.
What Tioga is experiencing ins not unique. Take a look at the conditions written for races at many tracks and you will see conditions with multiple also eligible conditions as well as mixed races to fill race cards. No one system is perfect but one thing is sure. In the perfect world when there was a surplus of horses that raced only at one track, the case could be made for conditioned racing. Now, when there is a shortage of horses at many tracks and it is easy enough for a trainer to ship to their choice of racetracks on a weekly basis looking for the best spot, the conditioned system of racing is irrerparably broken.
Maybe for those horseplayers who felt they had a certain advantage with conditioned racing, there will be a need to adjust their handicapping method. However, with the racing molre competitive, the rewards for picking a winner should be more rewarding.
Meadowlands Shutdown this Summer? It seems the bipartisan support Governor Christie has had thus far is beginning to wane. I can't help but wonder if relations between the two parties have deteriorated to the point there is a good possibility there will be an impasse when it comes to approving a new state budget by the constitutionally mandated July 1 deadline. Should no budget be approved by July 1, horse racing once again will be forced to shut down until a new budget is in place.