I realize this is not the first time I have mentioned it but it puzzles me why the North American standardbred industry has not really embraced monte racing which is very popular in Europe.
Last night at Yonkers Raceway, a 9/16 mile contest was held for trotters under saddle, billed as the first race under saddle at Yonkers as part of their Fall Festival..
Not to take away from this specific event where the ladies who participated in last night's event were very serious, up to now most monte races in North America have not been the most competitive, but then we treat it as a novelty; take a horse for one week and get it ready to race under saddle. The drivers who are becoming the jockey's have little experience in this racing and hence do not get as close as they can for excitement and with the miniscule pool of available horses, there really is no dividing the horses into classes so the fields have not been equal.
Let me show you a couple of old monte races from Europe. Here is one I believe comes from Norway, from the Forus Racetrack,
Here is another race from Solvalla from earlier this year and see how exciting a race can really be.
Why can't we do monte racing in North America? The answer is we haven't done it yet and the few exhibition races we have had have been non-competitive, but think of the advantage we can derive with adopting monte racing. It could extend horses' racing careers; give horses that failed under sulky a chance to develop a racing career under saddle. For tracks which find themselves dealing with a perpetual shortage of race horses, it conceivably will expand the available horse population. For gamblers feeling the game has become to predictable, you add the complexity of horses switching styles of racing. For those gamblers who won't bet on our regular races because they don't understand or are frustrated by racing with a sulky, you eliminate the sulky and the race is more like a regular running race. Perhaps allow tracks to offer two meets. One for races with sulky; one for monte racing; some tracks may want to offer only one style of racing as their market calls for it; or they can mix the meets.
Once upon a time our industry had problems accepting those 'Indiana Pants' (hopples) and it finally adapted to it. Maybe it is time to overcome the resistance to racing under saddle and potentially open standardbred racing to a new markets. There may be valid objections to racing under saddle, but the one excuse which should never be accepted by this industry is 'we have never done it before'. We have never done it before with a lot of things and see where the industry is as a result.
Make no mistake, the way we are presenting racing under saddle now is not the way it would be if we took a serious look and made a significant effort to present a racing product worth wagering on. I would believe there is the potential for a huge upside with little downside to the industry if done right.