For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coming to Your Local Track: Starters Allowances?

Yes, you read the title right.  Starters Allowance.  Cal Expo opens this week on Friday and for those who will be wagering on their card, they will be greeted with a new race type for harness racing, the Starters Allowance.

You heard me right.  The Starters Allowance is coming to Cal Expo.  No, not your traditional Starters Allowance you see in thoroughbred racing, but a Starters Allowance just the same.  We can anticipate seeing these types of races for about six weeks as these races are meant to be a means for California horsemen to race their claiming horses without the fear of them being claimed.  The main condition will be written without a claiming provision, but if a trainer wants to enter the horse to be claimed, the trainer can enter the horse through the also eligible condition. 

What is the rationale for having these races?  A reward to the California Horsemen who stayed in California and trained, fed, and shod their horses over the break period when there was no harness racing in the Golden State.  By having these types of races, these horsemen and owners who invested their time and effort during the break to keep their horses in peak form can race without fear of having a horse claimed off them for these six weeks or so, giving owners and horsemen a chance to make some of the money back they spent during the down time by racing them in the proper classes instead of having to race over their head to avoid being claimed..

Unfair?  Not really.  After all, how many horsemen from outside of California are heading to Cal Expo to race and even then, there is nothing to keep them from benefiting from the same conditions.

Here are a few examples of Starters Allowance races we will see this weekend at Cal Expo:

  • Starters Allowance - (Group 1) For horses that started for $2500 or less in their last start  AE: $2500 claiming
  • FM -Starters Allowance - For horses that made their last start for a base clmg price of $2500 or less and have averaged $100 or less per start in 2011 or n/w $500 in last 5 starts. AE: FM that fit condition and can be claimed for $2500
  • Starters Allowance - For Horses that made their last start for a base clmg price of  $6,000 or less or FM NWof a race in 2011  AE: $6000 claiming (FM Draw Inside)

For this weekend, there will be conditioned races and these Starters Allowances; no straight claiming races available.  I know some of these races on the weekend's card look like conditioned claiming races, but the big difference is an owner has the option of the protecting their horse from being claimed or not while racing a horse in a class they race well in.  No loss of a horse at the claiming box unless you want to. 

I give the racing secretary and management at Cal Expo credit for trying something new to reward the local horsemen who stuck around without an opportunity to make money.  The question is does it make the races more competitive, and how will they be accepted by the wagering public?  My guess is it makes races more competitive as owners will have no need to race their horse in a higher class to make sure the horse is not claimed.  As for the wagering public, we should know their answer by the end of the six week period..   

Who knows, maybe this can be the start of a new trend in harness racing elsewhere?  The racing establishment on the East coast and Mid-west would do well to check out this experiment as it should be interesting to see how the racing goes at Cal Expo.  I am not suggesting eliminating the plain claiming race, but a Starters Allowance may be another tool in the racing secretary's tool box. 

Cal Expo Pick 4 Selections will typically be available at the top of the blog home page.  Just click on Cal-Expo Pick 4 Selections above..

If See You At Peelers is going to extend her undefeated lifetime win streak to twenty-three, she is going to have to work for it.  For this coming Monday's $200,000 Nadia Lobell at the Meadows, SYAP draws post position nine.  Of course, this field is not as deep as Sunday's race at Chester Downs was, but whenever you start from the outside, you typically depend more on a good trip to win.  Of course, we are talking about SYAP so the beauty of a horse like this is she makes her own trip; something very wrong would be necessary to beat her. 

For those who are curious about what is happening with Perretti Farms, here is an article which goes into detail. In reality, one can say they are going into hibernation, selling 400 acres and keeping another 700 acres which have a deed restriction. Perretti will be keeping its two biggest stallions, Muscles Yankee and Rock N Roll Hanover and operate as a stallion station. Should alternate gaming come to the New Jersey in the next couple of years, they will be able to reopen easily as a smaller breeding farm.   PTP has an interview with Perretti's Bob Marks, a friend of this blog.  Please give the interview a look.

Previously, we talked about how fines are not high enough to discourage cheating in racing.  Well, in Minnesota, the judges at Running Aces are issuing fines for 'Failure to Give Best Effort', meaning a horse can be allowed to pass inside needlessly or not keeping a hole closed which they should be able to.  Granted, it doesn't mean any fraud is occuring, but a fine of $50?  I realize purses at Running Aces are not like they are on the East coast but when you can allow a courtesy tuck for only $50, how aggressive can the racing be.  So far in this meet, several drivers have had multiple infractions of this rule so obviously the $50 fine is not a deterrent.  Worse yet, the fine is not being increased as the same driver commits the infraction multiple times.  Fans want aggressive driving where no one is being given a friendly tuck or allowed to move up the inside.  I would suggest officials start handing out tougher fines; then maybe drivers will stop giving friends breaks. 


The_Knight_Sky said...

That's good news on Perretti Farms. In all likelihood it looks like they are in the process of "downsizing".

As for starter allowances at Cal Expo the conditions seem to be similar to what they call "waiver claiming" races that are featured at Oaklawn Park.

Can't say for certainty this new condition will create more competive races. The regular starter allowances does not do that as there's usually one or two big fishes that surface every season. Case in point: Rapid Redux - winner of 15 in a row so far.

JLB said...

For innovative thinking, you can also mention Plainridge, whose condition sheet features a "1000-4000 claiming hcp pace", with the purse set at the discretion of the racing secretary, anywhere from
$ 1800 to $ 3000.

Pacingguy said...

JLB, From my reading off the condition sheet, it seems the condition can be split into different races based on claiming price. If enough hores enter to race for $1,000 tag; they wil race for $1800. If not enough enter and they need to combine with $4,000 claimers, then they race for $3,000.

The horsemen in this condition 'gamble' by picking their tage. If they want inside post they may enter for $1,000 hoping they get put in with $4,000 claimers but if too many enter for cheaper tages, they will rae for less.