In this case, it is Pastor Stephen who the racing gods have decided should race from post eight in the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot Final. This despite winning his elimination. I am sure it is annoying when the other two elimination winners draw posts one and two and you draw post eight. Unfortunately, this is the way the pills roll.
Excuse me if I don't feel any sympathy for Takter or, for that fact, any trainer who draws an outside post in a stakes final. If a horse draws post eight or nine in an elimination it may find itself racing on the outside the whole race just hoping to qualify for a lucrative final and they paid the same nominating and sustaining fees as a horse who draws post one in an elimination. Is that fair? I just don't see why it is any more or less fair to draw an outside post in an elimination as it is in a final.
If anything, the open draw is the fairest way to go in a stakes final. When an elimination winner gets to chose their post in a final, often what is happening is the race becomes a coronation. Is that fair to the horse who makes it to a final after drawing post eight in an elimination? I suggest not.
That being said, in my opinion the worst thing which ever has happened to harness racing is the establishment of elimination races as we have them. We refuse to have meaningful purses for elimination races so we have to deal with the possibility of horses racing to qualify for the final instead of trying to win. Rather than increasing the purses of the eliminations, we come up with winners getting to choose their post positions in the final in an effort to entice a legitimate performance by elimination contenders; the net result is we are stacking the deck in finals against those who don't win their elimination even though they may have given a maximum effort to qualify.
The plain and simple fact is horse racing has always included the factor of luck. Sometimes it is racing luck; sometimes it is the luck of the draw. Great horses overcome adversity and make their own luck.
There should always be an open draw for a stakes final. The question is how do we get there? Unless we are going to increase purses of eliminations significantly (each elimination race goes for at least 10% of the final purse), they need to be eliminated.. The only way low value eliminations would be fair is if we had more than one leg of eliminations for a race and then had the highest money earners in the eliminations qualify for the final which assumes if the draw is unkind one week, it will be kinder the following week. Unfortunately, it is hard to get horses to race at a specific track three or four weeks in a row.
So if we eliminate elimination races, how could we fairly handle the issue of too many horses entering for a stakes race?
- Just split the race into divisions. Instead of one $500,000 race; have two $250,000 races.
- Limit the field to the top eight, nine, or ten money earners in all races or stakes races with the other horses possibly racing in consolation races.
- Here is a new idea: The week before, have all horses compete in official workouts with the horses with the fastest workouts qualifying for the final. No purse money; just a race against the clock.
Whatever is decided, the customer needs to be kept in mind. They want to be able to bet on competitive races. There is no reason why the solution can't be fair to horsemen and the customer. So instead of keep on going with the same defective system, let's fix it.
The Final Concession: Apparently, the final concession to get the deals done for Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands is the thoroughbred horsemen will get 65% of all simulcast revenue. To be fair, it should be noted that 85% of the simulcast business is on thoroughbred racing. As I suspected, this was a compromise both sides can live with as both Morris Bailey and Jeff Gural walked away from the table during the final week of negotiations. A good compromise is one neither side is fully satisfied with.