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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pulling in the Welcome Sign

It took a while, but as we first reported about this back in November, the NYSRWB has approved a rule change allowing the harness tracks in New York to write races restricted to horses who have made a majority of their recent starts in New York provided the identical race condition is offered without the start restriction that racing day or the following program. 

The rationale for implementing this rule change is to reward horsemen who have supported racing in New York all year over those horsemen who race elsewhere for higher purses and then decide to ship into New York state once tracks with better purses close for the season and why not?  Why should horsemen who race a $10,000 claimer for $8,500 at Pocono Downs be able to waltz into Monticello, keeping the horsemen who have been racing the same class of horse for $5,000 all season in the barn instead of on the track?  It gives the local horsemen an incentive to keep their horses in state to ensure enough racing stock is available to maintain a racing program.  This is not protectionism, the horses who have been racing out of state still get to race in New York, just not as often as those who support New York racing all year.

Then there is Delaware, where protectionism reigns to benefit the Delaware owned and bred horses to the point of excluding horses owned by out of state horsemen unless they were bred in Delaware.  Have a $7,500, $10,000 or $12,500 claimer and you are a Maryland, New Jersey or Pennsylvania resident?  You can't race at Harrington (similar rules apply at Dover Downs), even if the horse is stabled with a Delaware trainer; these classes are the exclusive domain of Delaware owned or bred horses.  Furthermore, horses racing in the lowest "non-winners of" class or $15,000 claimers must meet a higher performance standard to get in to a race if owned by an out of state resident than a horse owned by an in-state resident. 

When slots first came to Delaware, protectionism was called for to reward those horsemen who kept Delaware harness racing alive racing for $800 purses to keep the out of state horsemen from coming in and taking all the purse money away with superior racing stock, giving Delaware residents time to improve their racing stock.  That made sense for the first few years, but fifteen years have passed since slots came to Delaware in 1995.  It is time for horsemen to compete on equal terms.  

This is emblematic of the problem we have in this industry.  For the industry to prosper, exclusionary barriers based on domicile of the owners need to be eliminated; especially when the state's racing situation has stabilized for several years.  There is nothing wrong with a state offering races restricted to state breds and owned provided a similar racing opportunities are offered to all comers.  Instead of pulling in the welcome sign, it is time Delaware puts out the welcome sign.

The Little Brown Jug Society has instituted a rule change eliminating the race-off for the Jugette starting next year.  This means starting in 2011, the winner of the second heat will be the winner of the Jugette.  I expect it won't be much longer until the same rule is adopted for the Little Brown Jug  as it is a reasonable accomodation for horses that almost never race more than one heat in a day.

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