For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, January 13, 2011

So You Have Them Racing, But....

Monticello Raceway is one of the latest tracks to institute a 14 day rule.  The 14 day rule provides if a horse draws post seven or eight and scratches without permission of the state vet, the horse is ineligible to drop in the box for 14 days.  This is the same rule Yonkers Raceway has so each race secretary has agreed to reciprocate, meaning a trainer can't just ship to the nearest track and bypass this sanction.

The tracks love it as it means less trifecta and superfecta wagering being cancelled which is lucrative to the the tracks, but does this improve things for the horseplayer if the horse merely goes through the motions and follows the field around the track?  Of course, not all trainers will have their horses go through an unofficial workout; some will make an effort, but take a look at your program of horses that race on a half mile track and see how many horses drawing post seven or eight making little more than a half-hearted effort if even that.  Yes, a good handicapper will consider the post position in their handicapping, so you can argue there is no real harm to the gambler.

There may be no immediate harm to the gambler, but you for this very reason, you find people avoiding wagering on the half mile tracks and when the majority of our raceways are half mile ovals, this is not a good thing..  After all, when you can typically eliminate two horses safely without any thinking, you are now down to handicapping a six horse race.  The next result is pathetically low payoffs; just the thing we don't need in an effort to attract new gamblers.  After all, how many people are going to be excited about cashing that $3.40 win ticket?

With the majority of raceways being half mile ovals, this is a real problem for the industry; one it better try to solve seriously.  The way I see it, half mile tracks have three options:

  1. Score six across with post positions seven and eight starting behind the one and two horse.
  2. Score six across with post positions seven and eight starting behind the one and two horse and lengthen the race to a 1 1/4 mile race to give the seven and eight horse a better chance to get involved in the race.
  3. Score eight across and race at distances of 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 miles to give the outside horses a better chance of getting involved in the race.
I do know Yonkers tried option #1 once for a short time and dropped it, but I am not sure why the experiment stopped.  Was it it made no difference or were the horsemen refusing to enter those races?  If option #1 was given a fair chance and it didn't work out, then it is time to try options 2 or 3.

After all, what's the sense of ensuring eight horses start in a race if all eight aren't going to compete?  The racing secretary is doing a disservice to the gambler as much as the trainer who has their horse from the seven or eight hole playing follow the field.


Wallyhorse said...

What a lot of the half-milers need to do is extend all races (including stakes events) to 1 1/16 Miles. When Yonkers was running 1 1/16 Miles in the past, it become much more attractive because the outside posts had a longer run to the first turn to get into position. The problem with 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 miles races with eight starters is in theory, the horses have more ground to work with, but the problem is the pace is often much slower in those races.

What may need to happen is Yonkers go to 10-12 starters on some races at 1 1/4 Miles. The additional starters I suspect would force faster paces, which in turn would allow horses with outside posts to either be more aggressive early or make one run off the pace collapsing late.

A better option would be to rebuild Yonkers if possible as a seven-eighths of a mile track, going wide enough to permit 12 starters across (and some may remember Yonkers actually was a mile track when it was Empire City). 12-horse fields to me would do a lot of good on a seven-eighths oval with a long run to the first turn and a long stretch.

Pacingguy said...

Funny you should mention 1 1/16 races. Yonkers is planning to switch all races to 1 1/16 as of February 1st as reported in Harness Racing Update.

Bob said...

But I firmly believe in NO MALICE SCRATCHING….. No horse should be on the racetrack that doesn’t want to be there…