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Monday, August 5, 2013

Hambletonian Day Recap

Hambletonian Day 2013 is in the books and it was an artistic success.  Unlike previous years where there was an 'it' horse racing in the Hambletonian, while a good crop of three year olds were competing, there was no standout who could help produce a buzz about the event

For a review of the day's races, I'll direct you to this page and this one for the Hambletonian; no sense re-creating the same work,.

Unlike the rest of the year's meet, the handle seems to be down from last year when $7.6 million was wagered compared to this year's  $6.9 million, a decrease of roughly 9.3%.  What possibly caused the decrease?  The choice of races; removing certain stakes races from the card and adding the Miss New Jersey and New Jersey Classic races as well as the reintroduction of heat racing may be a factor.  While the weather cleared up in time for the big race, the early part of the day was showery possibly keep attendance and wagering down.  I am sure the Hambletonian Society and Meadowlands will be going over statistics to ascertain the cause of the decrease.

The CBS Sports Network broadcast of the Hambletonian was enjoyable with Gary Siebel, Dave Brower, and Justin Horowitz forming the broadcast team.  The program went along at a good pace with little down time.  A couple of criticisms about the broadcast was the broadcast team itself.  Not that the team was bad but it would have been better to add the feminine touch to the broadcast team by having a woman such as Heather Vitale, Ellie Sarama, or even Wendy Ross to the team (Wendy Ross could have handled reporting on horseback, gotten drivers responses as they returned to the paddock).

With the broadcast itself, the only criticism would be it seemed like the broadcast was geared to a local audience and not a national market.  Talking about the last day of racing in the old grandstand was something someone in the NYC market may be interested in, but I tend to doubt the person watching the Hambletonian in Peoria could care less.  I am not saying it couldn't be mentioned, but mention it once.

That being said, if you were going to talk about the old grandstand, it may have been a good idea to show a video montage of the great races which were contested in front of the old grandstand.  Same thing with the new grandstand; if you were going to talk about it, show a few sketches to let people know how state of the art it was going to be.

Other than one horse refusing to come to the gait, this year's Hambletonian Day Monté race was a success.   Yes, there was one horse who refused to come to the gate and another who raced off the gate, but when the race started, it was a competitive race.

Some may say the horses were spread out.  We are used to horses racing with sulkies so we forget how horses look when ridden instead being driven.  Take a look at a midweek overnight thoroughbred races and see how the runners spread out.

As more RUS races are conducted and riders gain experience as well as more horses are tried under saddle, it will be possible to classify horses in proper conditions and make races more competitive.  In other words, RUS is a work in progress.


Marv S. said...

I had every intention of going to see the last races in the old grandstand, but it was pouring rain at the time I would need to leave -- in contradiction to the weather report. The Hambo is an outdoor event. I'm sure others like me decided to stay home instead.

Anonymous said...

The Hambo final handled half of what it did last year, no doubt because of the horrible idea to have heat racing. In a simulcast world, it's just too difficult to get out vital wagering info under these circumstances. It was ironic to hear Mr. Gural correctly point out the realities of the simulcast age we live in, but then try to promote the decision to switch to heats -- even though it was almost certain to be simulcast "unfriendly". I guess they'll have to reconsider things for next year.

I'm glad you enjoyed the Monte race, but I'm sure it only served to confirm to many that RUS racing has no place in the pari-mutuel world. I know you disagree, and that's fine.

Pacingguy said...

For the record, it was the Hambletonian Society which decided to return to heat racing.

I am curious, is it the concept of monté racing you have a problem with or is it that it is not ready for prime time?

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with RUS events that are put on as an EXHIBITION. If people find them fun to watch and participants find them fun to be in then so be it. But they will NEVER, I repeat NEVER, have any place as actual wagering events. Trying to "create" demand for a product never works - and there's no way that players will ever have any interest in events consisting of million dollar earners vs. slugs, with "riders" that have no strategy and generally limited ability - leading to endless scattered fields and embarrassing events.

Pacingguy said...

Well, marketing firms are in business to create demand for a product. Remember the Pet Rock? Granted that was a fad.

Fromw what you wrote, it seems you don't have a problem with RUS events, if they were put on correctly. They are putting on these exhibitions with what racing stock is made available; the number of horses is limited, hence the million dollar earners vs. the 'slugs'. This problem will be resolved once trainers see enough races and money available to train their horses for racing under saddle; then you will see enough horses to put on races based on conditions (though it should be pointed out success in sulky does not guarantee success under saddle and failure in sulky does not preclude success under saddle.

As for the riders, they know they have a long way to go; they need to learn and the more they race the more they will get the hang of it. Some study races from abroad.

If possible (and with an unlimited budget) , I would try to get some European monté trainers and riders to get out of the cold of Scandanavia and winter in Florida so trainers and riders can get some 'classroom' experience in training and riding to speed up the learning curve.