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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Final Thoughts

Some Final thoughts on this week's USTA meeting....

The poll regarding the USTA meeting I have been conducting through this blog really doesn't have enough votes to be statistically significant, and didn't ask what a respondent's relationship to harness racing is, but so far, the vote shows most people are not happy with the results of the meeting.  At this point, two thirds of the respondents have indicated they were not satisfied to some degree with the outcome of the meetings; only eleven percent were satisfied to some degree.  The poll is still open, so if you haven't voted there is still time to do so.

Now, I will admit, some of these voters may have been influenced by what I have been saying on the blog, but I've seen some other comments.  One person was very succinct in their comment, saying "Why should we care anymore"?  Derick Giwner, from the DRF who was there on the second day of the meeting attended the communications meeting so he was in the room to hear the banter claims, "I heard way too often the acceptance that our industry should rely just on the VLT/Slot money....even if the day never comes when gaming and the tracks are surgically removed at the hip by politicians, there is no harm pursuing avenues to change the sometimes negative perception of our sport and do what we can to increase handle and attendance through marketing and capital improvements."  This goes in line with what I have been saying.  Having directors who have given up on trying to make changes to improve the sport need to go.  Let the ones who still have hope lead the way.

Here is a marketing idea which really doesn't cost the sport anything.  Women being attracted to this sport as gamblers is a real problem; you see it every racetrack.  Now, I am not suggesting the following will get us a 50-50 mix at the track, but it should improve interest in the sport, the same way Chantal Sutherland gets the attention of women in thoroughbred racing.  We need more women drivers.  At the current time, when compared to thoroughbred racing, the presence of women in the sulky is poor.  The only way you see a woman in the bike is typically if they own and train their own horse.  Perhaps the best example of this was last year at the Delaware County Fair when Devan Miller, who was driving a horse owned by her father all summer at the Ohio county fairs, was yanked off the horse to be driven by none other than her own father in a minor stakes race.  Women just don't get a fair chance.

We need to do something to get women in the race bike more frequently but in a way which makes them earn their way, giving them no special treatment over men.  It is time to revamp the provisional driver license and give provisional drivers an allowance in overnight events, similar to what is done in Australia which I discussed this past December.  I am not suggesting it be as complicated as the Australian rule; it can be simplified such as this:

  • Still require twelve satisfactory drives in a year or fifteen satisfactory drives in two years in qualifying races before being granted a provisional license.
  • Still require a probationary period for the first fifteen pari-mutuel starts where the provisional driver may be required to repeat a certain number of qualifying drives.
  • When racing with a provisional license, horses will be given an allowance of one class in overnights below the Preferred class.  No allowance will be given in the Preferred class or higher in overnights as well as in early and late closing events and stake races.  In these races, a provisional driver may compete provided they have at least twenty-five pari-mutuel wins but no allowance shall be granted.
  • The one class allowance in
    • a race conditioned by races is one win (i.e., a horse that is nw3lt is eligible to race with nw2lt) 
    • a race conditioned by earnings is one earnings class as designated by the classes defined by the racing secretary (i.e., a horse eligible for nw6000cd is eligible to compete in nw4000cd)
    • a claiming race is one claiming price (i.e.,  a $5,000 claimer eligible to compete in a $4,000 claiming race for a $5,000 claiming tag excluding allowances)
    • a claiming handicap race is the ability to draw inside as if entered for the lower claiming price as specified in the conditions, excluding allowances(i.e, a $10-$15,000 claiming handicap, a $12,500 claimer may draw with the $10,000 claimers)
  • Major tracks may require a driver to have at least fifteen wins at a minor track before a driver is allowed to compete.
  • The term of a provisional license will be 100 wins or two years, whichever comes first
  • If named on a horse prior to the end of the driver's provisional period due to wins, the allowance may still be claimed for races previously programmed for.
Owners and trainers wanting to take advantage of the class allowance will use the provisional drivers.  Since many of these provisional drivers will come from people working for trainers, a lot of them will be women but will include men.  This will allow provisional drivers the opportunity to get experience and build up their reputation, hopefully allowing them an opportunity to make a name for themselves and not be hindered by sex.

So that concludes my talking about the Directors meeting.  Now back to racing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Horses getting an advantage for carrying a P driver is worth trying. Trainers would weigh the inexperience of the driver against the possible better finish.

As for the USTA directors, I saw a lot of gray hair and no hair at the meetings. Mike Tanner, Jason Settlemoir and Jordan Stratton were exceptions, otherwise they looked to be the social security set. Not very receptive to change. A pessimist could conclude they are measuring the future of harness racing in years, not decades. Expecting it to be around while they're still on earth, not caring much about beyond that.