For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rule Changes I Would Like to See

With the deadline for proposing changes to the rules of the USTA approaching (September 1), it would be a good time to suggest rule changes I think should be proposed for consideration.  Any USTA member has a right to propose a rule change by completing the appropriate form and submit it to the USTA (see the link above).  If anyone thinks any of these ideas have merit and you are a member of the USTA, feel free to 'steal' my idea, I will even be happy to help you format the rule change proposal.  It is important to realize that state rules override the USTA rules, but having a rule change in the USTA rulebook would provide ammunition to get individual states to make changes.

Without further ado, here are the rules I would like to see:

Change the timing of races from fifths of seconds to tenth of seconds -  By changing the timing of our races to tenths of seconds, we would be in line with racing jurisdictions outside of North America.  This would be more accurate and help facilitate simulcasting ouf races to foreign countries by being consistent.  Yes, there have been proposals to time races in hundreths of seconds which would bring more accuracy to timing, but that to would make us inconsistent with foreign racing jurisdictions.  Besides, we are measuring horses crossing the finish line, not launching space shuttles.  Does it really matter to gamblers if a horse went in 1:52.14 or 1:52.1?  I think not.

Individually Time Horses - I do agree with those that racing should be able to time the finish times of each horse instead of going by the rule of one fifth of a second per length (or if the above is approved 2/10 of a second per length).  The technology is available to do individual timing, but being the cost may be beyond the means of fairs, I would suggest such a rule be limited to extended parimutuel meets.

Implement the Fair Start Rule -  Failing to implement a fair start rule is one of the most gambler unfriendly mistakes the USTA has ever committed.  Nothing like chasing gamblers away when they bet on a horse that is closer to the paddock than the starting line when a race begins.  The rule should mirror the Standardbred Canada rule.  

Microchipping Horses - Starting with foals of 2012, horses would be microchipped instead of freeze branded.  Nothing makes fans realize horsemen look at their horses as livestock than that freezebrand on the neck.  If microchipping was implemented, there would be no need to freezebrand horses and all a horse identifier would need ot do is use a scanner to read the microchip to make sure the horse racing is the proper horse.

Change the Number of Starters Allowed Per Race - The rules currently limit the number of starters per race  to ten starters on a half mile track, eleven starters on a five eighths mile track and fourteen horses on a mile track and allows ten horses for a non-extended meet.  I would propose for races at distances of 1 1/2 miles or more, the limit of starters shuld be sixteen hores on a half mile track, eighteen horses of a five eighths mile oval and twenty starters on a mile track. This would not require tracks to have those many starters  in the case of distance races were being contested but would allow them to do so if they deem it appropriate.  Once you race a distance of 1 1/2 miles or further the races would be slow enough that the additional horses should not matter.

Implement the Mile Rate for Odd Distance Races - With Yonkers Raceway racing 1 1/16 mile races and other tracks periodically scheduling odd distance races, racing programs should show mile rates in addition to the actual finish time for each horse.  In addition, in the section of the program where the year and lifetime summary, the horse's fastest win time at a mile should be reported along with the horse's fasted mile rate at the distance of the day's race.  If a horse does not have a win at the distance or at a mile, the program will designate NWTD to represent No Win Time at Distance.  This will give gamblers additional handicapping information if the horse races at an odd distane race or at the standard mile rate.  It will also facilitate additional gambling from foreign venues by providing additional information.

Require Racetracks to Provide Surrender Stalls - Provided a contract can be reached with a recognized horse rescue group, each track should allocate a certain number of stalls for horses to be surrendered without any sanctions for retirement.  If rescue group is allowed to work on the grounds of the track, they will be provided stalls rent free, excluding the cost of manure removal.  If rescue group works at their own facility, they will have five days to remove surrendered horse from the racetrack.

Banning Kill Buyers from Racetracks - The sport is sending a wrong message when kill buyers are allowed on the backstretch after qualifiers to buy horses from owners and trainers.  They shoul be excluded from the backstretch.  In addition, bonafide horse rescues should be allowed access to the backstretch to rescue horses no longer wanted.  A transfer to a horse rescue will result in the horse's registration to be marked 'not for racing'.

Auctions at Racetrack Minimums -  Any racetrack which conducts a horse auction on their facilities must have a minimum reserve price which exceeds the price kill buyers would pay for a horse.  Racetracks should not be facilitating the selling of horses for slaughter.  Since auction occurs on the racetrack ground, kill buyers will not be permitted on the grounds of the auction.   

I would be interested in hearing your comments and thoughts about thsese proposals.  Should you like to submit a proposal similar to these and need assistance, let me know.


Jim H. said...

Well done.

Try as I might, I can't figure why any of these ideas would meet with opposition--but I'm sure I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pacingguy!

Bravo to you! I agree with the majority of your rule changes, especially the micro-chipping and banning the kill buyers from racetracks. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a list of banned substances in horses being used for human consumption, and it amazes me how many of these standardbreds end up in the slaughter pipeline. Considering dewormers and Lasix are on the list - and lets not forget the myriad of other drugs being pumped into them.

The fair start pole is a big one, and I didn't realize that the USTA was so lackadaisical about it.

Adding more horses in a race though, well, I tend to get a tad squirmish about that one. Unlike thoroughbreds, we're dealing with sulkys and way more equipment (blinders, hoods, cups, burr poles, shadow rolls, etc.) Sure the driver is holding the lines, but too many horses battling for position off the gate while at the same time, racing almost "blind", tends to resemble sardines in a tin can, and an accident waiting to happen. Just my 2 cents though.


Pacingguy said...


I understand your concern about two tiers of horses. They have had Xtreme Racing in Canada where they have had 18 horses in a race and have had no accidents. I would never suggest this for a mile race or even a 1 1/4 race. I figure at a 1 1/2 or greater, they would not be firing off the starting gate as there would be a long way to go.

Anonymous said...


I see your point, and if it can be done safely then that would be an exciting race to watch AND bet on!


Anonymous said...

bad enough yonkers races 1 1/16th,now you want to change the # of horses in a race?
harness racing in n.a. IS a 1 mile affair. that's what our horses are bred to run.
you want 1 1/2, go down under or to europe.

Pacingguy said...

Tracks are schedulinglonger races. If they are going to have them, why not allow additional horses? Xtreme Horsepower in Canada has had 18 horses in distance races. Were my proposal to be approved, there would be no change in the standard mile races.

As for breeding, I am sure there are some horses who are unsuccessful who can go longer distances; as we have horses who quit at the top of the stretch consistently. It depends on the horse.

All I know is one, not the only, problem harness racing has is its monotony. Adding different distances allows for higher payoffs which people want.

Kim Lever said...

We couldn’t agree more with micro-chipping, to the point that we’ve been able to secure access to the best microchips in the industry. We thought chips would be ideal to have instant access to information about the horses needs i.e. stabling needs, feed, medical care, medications, sales, as well as for the care givers (equipped with scanners) in the many locations animals travel and reside. As well, the chip could tie into instant stats both for owners and officials on performance day, be it racing, dressage, hunter jumper.
We developed a data base for identification (of equine and related equipment) to make it simpler for individuals to keep track of all their animals requirements.
We are an all Canadian company that has worked hard at providing this service for the horse owners.
All the details of our chips can be found on

Kim Lever said...

We seem to be attracting many of the Canadian & US horse rescues to our program. There are plenty of owners that have been told by trainers/staff that their horse has found a forever home after it’s racing career, when in fact it has been shipped to auction. Chipped horses that have been found in this manner, have been returned and retired by the registered owner.