Friday night's second race is the elimination for the Peter Haughton Memorial and a field of ten trotters will be going to post. Three byes were handed out meaning seven of the ten contesting the tilt will advance. Okay, you may not like byes, but it sure beats six and seven horse fields which make elimination races unattractive to gamblers.
Of course, this ten horse field will be pretty unattractive wagering-wise. For while ten horses are scheduled to contest the race, there will be only five betting interests as Jimmy Takter and Brittany Fams sends four horses coupled into the race while Ake Svandstedt and Courant AB sends out a three horse entry, meaning only three horses will race solo.
Yes, the fact owners are forming partnerships to manage risk has reduced the number of separate ownership units and fewer trainers get quality horses, resulting in these mega-entries. As a result, these eliminations have become problematic. While people are aware of the problems these entries cause wagering-wise, no one seems to want to take the initiative to do anything about it.
First let me address the issues of byes. While it would be best if every horse entered to race in a contest went the elimination route and not get a free pass, I understand the logic; to avoid having six and seven horse fields competing (though having the three highest earning 2yos in July is kind of ridiculous). Being the industry has such an aversion with a second tier, if only 13 horses enter and betting will take place, they the bye process makes sense. Not that the bye process is without risk. A horse who wins their elimination typically gets to pick their post in the final. Availing yourself of a bye opens you up to the open draw meaning you may be starting from the dreaded 10 hole.
With eliminations, assuming the state allows it, you may have all the horses race uncoupled but that leave us open to the possibility of an assist being given to a stable/entrymate. Does the industry really want to endorse a method which may present an invitation to suspicion?
Perhaps the best way to handle this situation would be to card these eliminations as non-wagering events to be presented during the evening race card.would be the best way to go. No need for byes; the 13 horses would race in two elimination races presented between the regular races. Everyone starts, no one gets a bye. These races would go during the regular wagering card and those astute gamblers will watch these as any other race while those less interested will look ahead to the next wagering race. Yes, purse money would be spent on these non-wagering events, but don't tracks already put those races they find 'below standards' on their non-wagering card? This assumes the racetrack may replace the elimination with another race, something which may be hard to do at those tracks lower on the feeding chain.
Someone needs to take this issue and own it. This person needs to organize a meeting with race secretaries and come up with a standard which best serves the interest of racetracks, horsemen, and gamblers alike.