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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New South Wales Strikes One for Integrity

How many times have you seen a front running horse taken back at the start of the race, content on sitting there despite the fact his prior efforts off the pace having been disastrous?  Your usual response is typically, "What the Heck" (or something worse).  Usually it turns out you are right and your wager goes down the drain due to a questionable change of tactics.  Drivers and/or trainers are entitled to change their tactics, depending on how a race goes but typically, out of character drives are typically a sign that the horse is not ready, being tightened up for a future race or worse.

Well, if you were racing in Australia's New South Wales, those types of drives would be a thing of the past.  A new rule has been implemented there regarding trainers changing tactics.  Specifically, the rule specifies a trainer planning on changing tactics in a race, must notify the stewards at least 45 minutes before the start of a race and get their approval to do so.  Not only that, once the change of tactics is approved, the change will be announced and posted on Harness Racing NSW's website in their integrity section.  There is a reason why the approval would be listed in the integrity section.  A trainer of a horse that is a monster on the front end decides he wants to race off the pace so he goes to the judges and tells them of the proposed change of tactics (COT).  If the horse shows some good efforts racing off the pace the judges will approve the COT; the horse shows absolutely horrible efforts in the past racing off the pace, the judges will deny the COT.  Change tactics that are not approved, expect a hearing in front of the judges with the prospects of a  fine and/or suspension.

While this is a foreign concept here in North America, consider the impacts of such a rule here.  Horses coming off a layoff will be less likely to be racing into shape as they will be required to race their "A" game; no more just taking a trip around the track.  The chances of a horse just racing to qualify for a final in an elimination will be reduced as horses who race one way front end horses will no longer be change tactics and make one move at the end just to qualify.  More consistent racing as there will be less inexplicable changes in a horse's tactics in races.  As for payoffs there really shouldn't be any significant change in payoffs.  While it is true it will be easier for all handicappers to figure out what each horse will do in a race, it should be more than offset by the fact no horses will be taking a jog around the track; all horses will be driven in a style that gives them a chance to win.  On top of everything, gamblers will feel like they had a fair chance with their wager.   

Implementing a rule like this in North America would require a huge change in culture in racing, but it may be worth the effort.

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