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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Are Harness Racing Fans Creatures of Habit?

You have to wonder what is going on at Yonkers Raceway with its decision to revert to the mile distance abandoning the 1 1/16 mile they were racing last year.  There is some speculation that Yonkers wants to see if handle increases with the return to the mile distance, yet according to many drivers, the 1 1/16 distance give horses from posts 5-8 a chance to get involved in the race.  Some feel that handicappers didn't know how to compare hores that raced an extra 1/16 of a mile to those who raced a mile?  If it is the later decision, it is why I think mile rates needed to be used in programs instead of just showing the extra 1/16 mile in the final quarter and final time.

I would hate to think the same customers who complain about the small payoffs are unwilling to adjust their handicapping to facilitate the extra 1/16 mile.  If that is the case, then we have a situation where as much as our customers want things to change, they don't want things to change for them.  Are we that fickled?  Tracks can't make changes unless the gambler is willing to make changes as well.  You can't have it both ways; you can't have your cake and eat it to.  If gamblers want higher payoffs something has to give.

It is no secret that harness racing has a big problem when it comes to trainers, in particular when it comes to preventing beards.  When it comes to driving, you know who is driving a horse, there is no hidden driver behind the scenes.  You can't be certain of that when it comes to trainers. There is a real problem when stables are transferred to another trainer; especially one that hasn't trained in several years.  For example, prior to this past December, PJ Fraley was last listed as a trainer in 2007 having one training start and in 2006, having three training starts, so in two years he had four starts and one win.  Last year in December, 2011 he once again became a trainer and had a record of 55-12-3-6 in just one month racing primarily at Yonkers.  Now how does a person with a total of four training starts four years earlier get those many horses to make fifty-five starts?  After the first two days of the current Meadowlands meet, he has a record of 9-3-2-1, winning three races last night.  It is obvious these owners didn't go into the yellow pages and pick Fraley out of the phone book.  Odds are Mark Kesmodel either recommended or turned his stable over to Fraley when he got suspended in New York.

Now let me make it clear, I am not suggesting PJ Fraley has done anything wrong.  I assume he has been a second trainer of Kesmodel and has learned how to be a good trainer.  With luck, this break he has been handed due to Kesmodel's suspension is the break he needs to become established as an independent trainer himself.  If anyone is at fault here it is the judges at YR who permitted the transfer and the NYSRWB for not investigating how this mass transfer was arranged. 

My question is why are the judges at Yonkers Raceway allowing a transfer of horses from Kesmodel to a trainer who hasn't had a listed training start since 2007?  If it is a case of Fraley being a second trainer for Kesmodel, what are they doing allowing a transfer of a suspended trainer's horses to an employee of his?  Isn't the idea of a suspension supposed to be to punish a trainer?  Such a punishment should include losing the horses he was training and having to re-establish his stable once his suspension is over.  Maybe some horses will come back, maybe some won't; that's the trainer's problem.



Anonymous said...

Anyone who is a "regular" at either Yonkers, Meadowlands or Chester knows that Fraley has taken over the Kesmodel stable.
To suggest that Yonkers judges are the culprits in allowing this sham to take place is totally missing the point. Harness history over the last 100 years has allowed suspended trainers to "move" their horses to underlings freely and without punishment.
Acknowledging how these Fraley horses were bet is legitimate proof that most people who pay attention to the game and know one stable from the next, are fully aware of these "changes" in the program and bet accordingly.
As per your comments regarding the 1 1/16 miles vs 1 mile distance at Yonkers, I think a year of racing proved to the powers that be that the additional distance DID NOT necessarily alter the post breakdown in the results.
Given the loss of NYC OTB and the obvious loss in handle from 2010 to 2011 at Yonkers, it's impossible to accurately assess whether betting improved or fell because of the distance of each race. But it is reasonable to look at the post position finishes and recognize not much difference because of distance.

Pacingguy said...

I am not arguing that Fraley has taken over Kesmodel's stable. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt in that he is a competent trainer in his own right.

Yes, it is an industry problem about allowing underlings take over stables, but in talking about this case, it is specificially the Yonkers Judges and the NYSRWB to blame.

As for the 1 1/16 distance, in HRU, certain drivers came out in favor as it gave them a fighting chance vs no change.