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Thursday, July 11, 2013

What's Wrong with the Grand Circuit - How to Fix It

This Friday night is a big evening for the Grand Circuit.  There are eight GC events on the docket, making it an important evening in racing, quite honestly up there with Hambletonian Day and the Breeders Crown in importance.  Let's look and see what divisions are represented:

Balmoral Park Meadowlands
Division Stakes Name Purse Notes Stakes Name Purse
3yoFP Hanover Stakes $26,300 two divisions Mistletoe Shalee $184,250
3yoFT Hanover Stakes $35,000
Del Miller Memorial $265,500
3yoCGP Hanover Stakes $30,000 two divisions Meadowlands Pace $635,750
3yo Open T

Stanley Dancer Memorial $294,000
FFA Pace William R. Haughton Memorial $471,800

Do you notice what is wrong?  How are we equating the Hanover Stakes with the events being competed at the Meadowlands by calling all these races Grand Circuit events as if there is no difference between them; they each count towards the championship at the end of the year equally.  This is a farce.

Actually, I have no problem with all the events being called Grand Circuit events, my problem is with treating them the same when they clearly are not.  Let's face it, a horse starting in the Del Miller Memorial would never get caught racing in the Hanover Stakes, nor would a horse competing in the Hanover Stakes be found in the Miller.  This is fine, to think groups from different financial groups would travel in the same circles is absurd.  The typical person racing in the Hanover Stakes probably doesn't have the financial ability to buy a blue chip stallion nor can afford to pay the fees required to buy into one of the major stakes and there is nothing wrong with that.  You play this game with the bank account size you have.  Yet each group should have the ability enjoy and compete on the Grand Circuit.

What we need to do is redefine what the Grand Circuit means to these diverse group of owners.  This is done by segmenting the Grand Circuit accordingly.  What we need is a Grand Circuit Gold Division, Silver Division, and possibly Bronze Division.  The Gold Division and Silver Divisions would be national circuits, similar to what NASCAR has as the Sprint Cup series and the Nationwide Series with the best competing in the gold division and the second tier racing on the silver level.  If we were to have a Bronze Division, it would be a regional circuit of races.  Owners, Drivers, and Trainers would earn points based on how they do in the particular series and at the end of the year when awards were given out they would win respective trainer, driver, owner of the year awards.

Of course, it would not be easy to set up as politics would be involved and you need people willing to decide which stakes races would be part of the Gold, Silver, and Bronze series which means egos have to be left at the door.  There is no reason why a track could not have different races in different divisions.

After the races were categorized, an end of year championship where horses qualify by points for each category would be contested.  The Gold and Sliver series would be contested at different tracks (or the same track on different nights) with some type of broadcast  agreements whereas the bronze circuit would have different regional championships.

Down the road, once the Grand Circuit was segmented, racing could look for sponsorship of the series by major corporations for the Gold and Silver series while sponsorship of the bronze level would be earned by a company with prominence in a particular geographical area.  As part of any sponsorship agreement, there would need to be a tie in for marketing purposes.

Think of the advantage.  Owners in each category will have the opportunity to compete on the Grand Circuit, but compete in the appropriate level where their horses would be competitive and they would hav the opportunity to enjoy the experience.  This would help in retaining owners and if they do well say at the silver level, perhaps be interested in trying their luck with the big boys.

The problem is not that all these races are called Grand Circuit events, it is what do we do with them to take advantage of it?  All it takes is a willingness to check egos at the door.  Are there those willing to do so?


Anonymous said...

Just grade races. It's simple.


Marv S. said...

The Grand Circuit is no longer useful. It served a purpose years ago when it wasn't easy to transport horses, there was no simulcasting and trainers had a singular home base. Sending much of your stable to Indy, Delaware and Lexington on a circuit made sense. Plus, the locals got their week in the sun with the top horses since without simulcasting, there was no other way to see the top horses. Now with easier transport, ubiquitous simulcasting, massive purses in the mid-Atlantic states and trainers with multiple bases, why is the Grand Circuit needed?

What harness racing needs to do is only bring the big horses together for big races (M-Pace, NA Cup, Crowns) and let them split up for the minor races. A Grand Circuit in essence are weekly re-matches in each class, which make for bad betting races and a disinterested audience.