Freehold Raceway wisely cancelled racing on Saturday as a result of Friday's starting car mishap. Now, I can not say for sure what transpired to cause this accident, but yesterday morning I went somewhere while it was in the 40's and while it was raining, the asphalt still was icy. Yes. the temperature was above freezing for over 24 hours and the ground was still cold enough to support ice. Being asphalt is one of the materials which thaw first, I have to wonder if there was still spots of ice on the track just under the surface which contributed to the mishap.
This is not to assess blame on anyone; it has been years since it has gotten as cold as it did. If you don't have to deal with a situation that often you tend to forget certain things. But as a horseperson speculated to me: On tracks where horses are stabled or raced on most days of the week, the track is worked seven days a week constantly meaning a track can be dealt with as it is frozen and as it thaws. For tracks where there is no training and racing is limited to a few days a week, the track may be left alone for several days before being worked on by the crew which could result in a track thawing unevenly and leave ice patches just under the surface. (I have no way to know how the track at Freehold is handled).
However, it should be noted in colder climates such as Buffalo Raceway and in Canada, where freeze and thaw cycles occur with regularity, they don't think twice about cancelling racing when a thaw comes quickly. The takeaway is at raceways where there is not much familiarity with dealing with the thawing and freezing of tracks, it is better to error on the side of caution.
Fortunately, with regards to the drivers in the accident-marred race, they seem to be well on their way to recovery. For some it will take longer than others to return to the sulky, but return they will.
Update: Extreme Harness Racing offers their opinion and clearly assigns blame on Freehold (Facebook). Not knowing the people behind Extreme Harness Racing, take it for what it is worth.
While there is talk of bringing back the trio of races which make up Super Sunday (Battle of the Brandywine, The Colonial, and Valley Forge next year, one wonders if the MSOA was given the opportunity to host the races at the Meadows this year. The trio of races are controlled by the PHHA which represent horsemen in the Eastern part of the state. Of course, we can't say the Meadows horsemen would want to take the races on as the Battle would likely have competed with their own signature race, the Adios, but perhaps the Colonial would have fit their schedule.
As for the owners who were unhappy with the amenities at Pocono Downs during the Breeders Crown, I suggest they open they eyes and take a good look at reality. What other track was willing and able to handle the Breeders Crown last year? Also consider, how great Super Sunday would be at Harrah's where they refuse to open the clubhouse for the day. Be thankful there is a racino which takes racing seriously as their other partner would be more than happy to push you out the door.
It is reported in New South Wales, Australia that handle has moved from the traditional TAB (OTB) to other forms of gambling. For the recent Miracle Mile card, under $501,000 was bet on all the races when in the past, over $500,000 would have been bet on the Miracle Mile alone. Yet $5.6 million was bet over all on the Miracle Mile program. Where did the money go? Fans found fixed odds wagering offered by TAB attractive with 30% of all money wagered through TAB now going to fixed odds wagering instead of the regular pools. In addition fans were attracted to Exchange Wagering and bookmakers which are legal in Australia.
While bookmaking is not legal in North America, this report show gamblers all over are seeking ways to maximize the value they receive on their wagers. Racing in North America would be wise to embrace exchange wagering as soon as possible and investigate whether or not they can offer fixed wagering. Of course, racing needs to get a reasonable share of the profits to fund purses as long as it is done reasonable.