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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wouldn't It Be Nice...

If there was a North American standard for horses that scratch out of a race 'sick' or for any other reason who drew a bad post position?  I am not talking about a horse that is a legitimate scratched sick from by a state veterinarian at the track, but the one that is allegedly sick without any documentation from a vet.

My apologies if it is a legitimate scratch, but you have to wonder how sick St Elmo Hero, the horse who has a twenty-four race win streak was when he scratched out of this weekend's Cam Fella elimination at Woodbine after drawing post ten in the elimination.  Again, it is possible that St Elmo Hero is a legitimate scratch, but I can't help but be cynical; after all how many times do we see horses scratch sick when they draw the extreme outside posts?  We just don't take note of it when it happens in cheap overnight events.  What is ironic about this particular scratch is that it came in the Cam Fella, named for a horse once known as the pacing machine who raced all over the United States and Canada taking on all comers.

The problem is so bad on half mile tracks that Monticello and Yonkers Raceways have instituted the 15 day rule for when a horse scratches sick when they draw posts seven and eight unless they are scratched by the state vet at the track.  At these tracks, if you scratch sick, not only is the horses preference date updated as if they raced, the horse is not eligible to race at those two tracks for fifteen days, meaning they lose at least two weeks of racing  (Kudos to the Meadowlands which discourages horses from shipping in to avoid the fifteen day penalty by requiring overnight horses to qualify if they scratched out of their last race if out of state).  These tracks implemented this rule in an effort to provide full fields for their gamblers so they don't have to cancel lucrative exotic wagers.  Of course, the problem is you now have horses going throught the motions racing from the outside posts so not to be penalized from the fifteeen day rule which is unfair to the gambler, especially the less experienced gambler.

What is needed is a North American standard observed by all tracks to discourage these types of scratches to prevent horses moving on to a track that doesn't obseve another track's penalty, but also strong enough so horses will have no choice but to try to make the best from the outside post.  All tracks should have a fifteen day rule for those who scratch out after drawing the outside posts but if the judges deem a horse just took 'a jog' around the track when racing, it should be put on the stewards list for fifteen days.  This will ensure not only that horses will race, but they won't go through the motions of racing as they may lose up to a month of racing opportunities,. 

A respected friend of mine takes a different view of the situation.  For the bettor's sake, we should adopt the thoroughbred rule that if a horse doesn't like the race they draw into, they should be allowed to scratch out without penalty.  Under this scenario a trainer that draws a post position they don't like could simply scratch out of the race and enter again hoping they draw better.  In theory, I agree with him; after all who wants a horse in a race that isn't going to try?  The problem is on  a half mile track if we had such a rule, six horse fields on the half mile will become the norm as will eight horses on the mile track; then we will be dealing with the problem of short fields.  Do we become like the runners and draw also eligibles for each race where if there is a scratch as late as the morning of a race everyone moves in and the also eligble draws the outside (unless a handicap race where the horse will draw to the outside of those with the same claiming price) where at most tracks, unless a stakes race, the AEs are released when final driving assignments are made, two days out).  Or do we risk having fields of four or five horses?  Let me know what you think.

Another trend of late is the mixed qualifying standards.  The standard used to be is if you don't show a satisfactory line in the last thirty days you need to qualify.  However, some tracks have changed the rule for stakes caliber horses, allowing them to show a satisfactory line in the past forty-five days.  This is a bad trend.  All horses should be forced to observe the same rule.  If thirty days was enforced for all horses, maybe we would see our star horses race more often.  This coddling of stakes horses needs to stop.   


JLB said...

RE: mixed qualifying standards, it appears that in at least one instance, the Meadowlands completely ignored the qualifying rule in order to have a fuller field. In February, a horse trained by a prominent trainer had not competed in well over a year. He qualified, then broke on a fast track. This would seem to require another qua, as there was no interference nor equipment break. The horse was permitted to race on February 25 (7th race) without qualifying, drew the rail, went off, inexplicably, at 9-2, and broke before the start.

jiggyjiggyjog said...

I'm as skeptical as you, Pacingguy.It certainly looks like the connections of this horse are extremely sensitive to keep this horse's streak alive. Looking at the field, it looks like the biggest challenge to him yet, and it would have been great to see him prove his mettle. This horse still has to prove himself.

On the other hand, it would be a shame to see him get beat and his connections coming up with the old "wasn't himself" excuse.I will give him the benefit of the doubt this time.I hope the scratch is legit, otherwise my respect for everyone involved with this horse will be greatly diminished (as if anyone cares).

Pacingguy said...

The horse you mentioned, Sam Hill, trained by Erv Miller last raced on July 18, 2009 in a 3yoC Open where he went off stride. The horse qualified on February 4 and February 11 cleanly and was thus eligible to race.

On February 18 the horse shows a break in the stretch finishing 9th, 32 lengths off the winner. Then, as you indicated on February 25, Sam Hill broke at the start and the half, finsihing 10th being distanced.

I did check the NJRC regulations regarding this 13:71-16.4(3) and it states: A horse that has not started at a charted meeting for a period of 30 days must go a qualifying race as set forth in paragraph 1 of this subsection. Any horse that fails to race within 30 days after having started in a current year shall start in a qualifying race and meet the standards of the meeting before being allowed to start in a race with pari-mutuel wagering.

I believe you are talking about the rule that many tracks have where a horse that breaks of a qualifying start must requalify. At least in the State of NJ, any such rule is a track rule, up to the individual track. The Meadowlands rule states: 8. Horses making a break coming off a qualifying race must qualify with the exception of those that were not required to qualify. Horses making a break but finishing first or second may be exempt. The judges may require a horse to qualify at their discretion.

My guess is since the horse qualified two times in a row successfully, it was not required to requalify before making his second start though I must admit it is a little vague. My suggestion is you contact the Racing Secretary to see why the horse was not required to requalify before making his second start. That being said, I would believe the judges are responsible for enforcing the track rules and would have ordered a scratch.