Rapide Lebel made his 2012 debut on the closing day of the meet at Vincennes in Paris in the 3,000 meter Prix De L'Union Europeenne, and while he may not have been racing against the cream of European trotting, he was very impressive as he just blew away the competition from start to finish in a kilometer rate of 1:12.8.
The race was such a blow out for Rapide Lebel, the race could be considered a glorified official workout. Yes, it was only a Grade II race, but considering it was his first start of the season, you have to wonder how good he will be this year. I think it will be safe to say we may have a rematch between San Pail and Rapide Lebel coming up in October.
The quality of European trotting makes you wish for the days of the International Trots. It is a shame with all the slot money being earned, Yonkers Raceway can't revive the International Trot in the United States and Woodbine is unable to take over the Trot Mondiale which was raced at the Hippodrome de Montreal. A meaningful series of international trotting in North America not only would allow North American trotting to compete against the best in the rest of the world on even terms, it would provide harness racing a rare opportunity for publicity in the non-racing media.
Added distance racing was the subject of Dean Tower's column in HRU. I happen to believe harness racing's future lies in becoming more like harness racing in the rest of the world. Sadly, those who feel "This is the way we always did it." stand in the way. To those who are fighting distance racing tooth and nail, I ask this question, how successful would thoroughbred racing be if every race was at six furlongs? Others would argue that the North American standardbred is now bred for speed. That may certainly be the case, but if there were more distance races, breeding would return to an emphisis on stamina and endurance.
I know right now the emphasis on added distance racing is to have these races for the cheaper classes of horses but to gain legitimacy of distance racing, these races need to start being written for the better classes of horses. For those who say the better horses will never drop in the box for these events; nothing like a substantial purse increase to stimulate interest.