During the broadcast of the Meadowlands simulcast show last night, Wendy Ross interviewed Joe Bongiorno about his upcoming drives. During the interview, when asked about two horses Shobee's Place and Code Word, Bongiorno mentioned these horses were heading to the Levy next week and the owners wanted the horses driven conservatively and he has to do what the owners want. Well sometime after the interview, Bongiorno was removed from these two drives by the judges but was allowed to drive the remainder of races he was listed on. (For the record Shobee's Place finished 4th and Code Word finished 8th with their replacement drivers). More about this story in HRU.
What lesson has been learned here? Likely Mr. Bongiorno has learned what not to say in an interview. Being asked to drive conservatively doesn't mean not trying to win; it means trying to get an easy trip and if you can win great, but we want something left in the tank for the next race. While in the ideal, each horse will be driven aggressively going for the win but we know that is not the case. How many times in elimination races are horses driven conservatively to qualify for the final so there is plenty left in the tank for the lucrative final?
Quite honestly, I rather hear a driver be forthcoming and let the wagering public take those comments into consideration. What probably happened here is at least one driver (and likely others) has learned not to be too forthcoming. The horseplayer, as usual, looses out.
Time to Dump Claiming Races: Dean Towers writes a column calling for the end of claiming races in harness racing in the latest edition of Harness Racing Update. I have to agree with him. I remember the days when you saw the same horse racing at at track for years, a rarity these days as you see more of these horses ending up in the Siberia of harness racing. Rent a horse has ruined this sport. It is time to go back to the point where owners know they are going to be in it for the long hall with a specific horse.
Not Just a Tournament, But a Recruiting Effort: With the Levy series beginning next week, many of the Meadowlands reinsmen will be competing across the river at Yonkers Raceway. So what does one do? You have a promotion for drivers where they can win bonus money if they are the top driver of the week or one of the top five overall finishers at the end of the competition. In one way it works great for the current driving colony. It rewards their loyalty for staying at the Meadowlands on those Saturday evening, not only away from Yonkers but the Pennsylvania tracks opening.
But it is more than a tournament, it is a recruiting effort. Some drivers at the smaller tracks may decide to take the opportunity to travel to East Rutherford on Saturdays to fill the void left by those driving at Yonkers. Certainly, the possibility of winning bonus money will serve as an added inducement to make the trip to New Jersey. Better yet, if a driver does well during these six Saturdays, they may consider taking a shot staying at the Meadowlands on weekends or have them think about a future move to the Big M.