Oops, it happened again (not that it will be the last time). Last night at Hazel Park in their 8th race the favorite was #2 Slip, going off at 8-5. Watching the replay of the race I noticed the two hole was empty on the starting gate. There was no mention of him at all in the race call at all. The fact is he broke well, well before the start of the race yet betting continued and those who wagered on him were left holding the bag. The chart shows him breaking before the start and being distanced the whole race, finishing in a blazing 2:12.3; a mere 78 1/4 lengths behind (that far back how do they tell the 1/4 length?). As the person who brought this to my attention noted, "I watched the race live on the computer and not once did they show him. They should be ashamed to keep the commission on this horse".
Unfortunately, they are not ashamed to keep the commission in instances like this and it is a blight on harness racing. In all of the United States, the only state which allows for a fair start rule such as in Canada is North Dakota (and they haven't raced in a few years there). Proponents of the fair start rule were recently handed a defeat when the NJRC voted down a proposal to institute a fair start pole.
Why it got defeated, who knows? Let's be naïve and say it has to do with the fact NJ would have been the only state to have a fair start rule. Maybe what needs to happen is for someone to submit the proposal to the USTA to be voted upon at their next annual meeting. In all likelihood, being how clueless tracks and horsemen are about this, the only thing such a proposal would do is bring a lot of levity to district meetings when the proposal came up for discussion.
I've said it before and I will say it again. If wagering was closed, then it would be one thing to have a ticket scorched before the word 'go' is said, but as long as wagering is continuing it is unconscionable not to have a fair start pole.
As for Hazel Park's track announcer, a word of advice. Should this happen again, at least somewhere in your race call mention something like "Slip broke well before the starting gate". At least those who bet on the horse will know what happened to the horse; being they are contributed to your bottom line, it is the least you can do for them.
We all know harness racing has a bad name, far worse than thoroughbred racing. To some extent the criticism is warranted, but it certainly doesn't help when there is a bias in the media. For example a headline in the Herald Sun from Australia blares out "Trots Trainer Charged with Race Fixing". A person just glancing at the paper is likely to remember about those cheating trots. Of course, if the person read the article, they will also learn about people charged with drenching a thoroughbred. The fact is, there are those involved in racing of all breeds who are willing to cheat to get ahead; it is human nature. I just wish the press would be more evenhanded when reporting the 'ugly' in racing.
The Paulick Report has an article where America's Best Racing Vehicle has been very successful in getting the younger generation interested in racing. Sure they show up at racetracks on big race days but they also set up shop in front of bars and other places where those in their 20s hang out. Events like Back to the Track are good, but marketing only to those who show up to the track while useful, omits a large number of the target market. You can't wait for the people to come to the track, you need to bring the track experience to them.
Reading Trot's May issue, a common complaint was learning how to read a program. On the Job Training (OJT) can be an expensive lesson for gamblers. Maybe something more logical would be to have a learner's night at the track; a night where qualifiers are conducted at a slower pace and participants learn at no cost how to read the program and get a feel for the game at no cost. Better yet, without the experienced gamblers being inconvenienced.
Perhaps have only nine races instead of twelve. Have reduced price concessions and offer wagering using mock money where at the end of the night the prizes can be gifts; not money. Basically, you are simulating a night of racing where those twenty year olds can learn all about racing at no cost, yet have a night out. Don't want to do this at the track? Bring the track to the bar using replays of races. If you want new fans, you got to go where they are; you can't expect them to just show up.