You know how the modern harness race goes. Speed out of the gate to get the lead and once you get past the first pole, hit the brakes and sleepwalk through the second and possibly third quarter only to let loose for the final stanza. Yes, there are those exceptions when you have someone going on a take no prisoner challenge which may keep the fractions 'honest' but for the most part, this is the blueprint for the typical race.
How boring. How consistent. How many favorites winning.
What can be done about it? While I have written about it before, DRF's Derick Giwner is spot on with regards to the reason which races tend to crawl during the middle part of the race, purses are too good. Why make a challenge when you can earn a pretty penny with slot-fueled purses finishing fourth or fifth? There is too much money at stake finishing in the top five to take the risk of finishing lower. Drivers are more likely to take a sure third place finish than to come out and challenge the leader and risk running out of gas.
Giwner offers a solution of revamping the purse structure where first and second place make out better while third and lower get their share shaved. This would certainly get races to be contested the whole way as what was once a comfortable paycheck for finishing fourth becomes a mere pittance. Of course, good luck getting your local horsemen group accept a new purse structure. Watch horses leave a track which manages to get this purse structure implemented for another track which continues with the traditional structure. I can hear the argument now, "It costs money to keep a horse in training, we can't manage to to survive on 2% or finishing fourth. Fine, let's reduce purses and give every horse that finishes a race a flat $250, this way they get something towards their bills yet allows for a big incentive to finishing up top.
Maybe then a race will be a race the whole way.
Changes in Pennsylvania? A proposal changing the oversight of racing in Pennsylvania has been proposed. Perhaps the most notable section calls for some slot money to be used for marketing.
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