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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tell Me Again Why I Love Harness Racing?

A friend of mine recently asked me the above question. I laughed at him and told him that once it gets into your blood it is hard to get it out of your system. After all, it is hard to forget the trips to Goshen, the fairs you have attended, the joy you have of watching a clean gaited trotter going around the track, the sound of the sulky wheels going across the track surface, and the pageantry of the racing. My friend, chuckling to himself said, "Yeah, that's it".

Unfortunately, looking at handle, a lot of people aren't asking that question at all. They are abandoning harness racing and thoroughbred racing as well. We talk about harness racing in this column, but rest assured there are plenty of trainers in thoroughbred racing who do not qualify for sainthood status either. Despite protestations of some people, watch how many owners will come back to trainers who return from suspensions. To some degree, this has happened for a long time, but in some ways, slot fueled purses have challenged owners' principles even further; it's harder for some owners to be principled when run of the mill horses are racing for $20,000 a week or more Now, you ask no questions and say all "I want is my share of the purse money being given away".

In pre-slot days, integrity mattered more, What you raced for depended on what your handle was. Now, with handle meaningless at racinos, you don't have to please horse players; as long as the casino players are happy, that is all that matters. Go look at Harnessphere or some other bulletin boards and you will see people complain you can't make big bets at tracks because so little is bet that you would kill the odds. Do you blame people from avoiding these tracks; after all you are dealing with high takeout rates and perceived integrity issues. Many a gambler may try to take on one of these obstacles, but to take on the challenge of takeout and perceived lack of integrity together, you run people away even faster.

So why do I keep on with racing? First, it is in my blood. Secondly, I haven't given up on the sport; I still think the integrity issues can be addressed provided there is a will to do so; I am excited as to the potential the Meadowlands has under the operation of Jeff Gural; to see what can be done with owning three racetracks and to see what innovations can be developed. In some ways, these are the best of times; the worst of times. It will be interesting to see how it eventually shakes out.

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