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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Race Makeover

The Charles I Smith Trot, once one of the most prestigious races for juvenile state-sired trotters will be contested once again at Freehold Raceway.  The response from horsemen dropping horses in for the eliminations was underwhelming to say the least.  There is no need for eliminations as only three horses had their names dropped in the box.

Three trotters.  This is the state of New Jersey breeding.  As such, this trio will race in a non-wagering event for a relatively generous purse of $38,500.  Now granted, in its prime, the Smith was typically contested just after Labor Day.  To be scheduled during the Delaware-Red Mile meet period ensured the defection of virtually every talented freshman whose trainers wanted to try their luck over the speedy Red Mile surface to set a lifetime mark.  Still, it says something about the New Jersey breeding industry when you can't find eight trotters to race in a stakes race.

If the SBOANJ, sponsors of the race want to highlight New Jersey trotters, the race needs a severe makeover.  The first thing which needs to be done is to change the scheduling of the race.  During the Freehold spring-summer meet it is obviously too early to contest and to be honest, scheduling the race before the Red Mile meet concludes is foolish.  The best thing for this race is for it to be contested after Lexington, although many horsemen will turn their non-Breeders Crown horses out for the season by then.  If scheduled soon enough after Lexington, it is possible horsemen may be willing to delay the turn outs.  To compress the time frame for contesting the race, one may want to limit the field to the eight highest money earners that enter so eliminations can be bypassed, shaving another week off the schedule.

Of course, racing over the half mile oval is another issue.  I know the SBOANJ contests the race at Freehold to give the track some semblance of a stakes season, but if the SBOANJ is looking to showcase NJ's juvenile trotters, it may worth considering moving the race to the Meadowlands to be contested late in the Championship meet as an option for those horses which don't pass muster for the marquee two year old trotting races,

Another option could be to change the race to a three year old race for NJ-sired trotters.  Then it can be raced at Freehold, perhaps as a prep for the Dexter Cup; possibly give NJ-sired horses an advantage as they move into the Dexter Cup.

Lastly, to increase the horse population eligible, the conditions may need to be changed to include NJ-bred horses as well.

Many things can be done for the Charles Smith but one thing is clear, something needs to be done.


Anonymous said...

Times change and the race has become irrelevant. Sometimes things are a lot simpler than we make them out to be!

Pacingguy said...

I believe it is irrelevant primarily because the breeding industry is in such dire straits. This race would be a perfect stake race for second tier horses, providing them an opportunity to win back their cost. Unfortunately, the breeding industry is so sad, you can't breed enough horses to get a field together.