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Friday, October 31, 2014

Meadowlands Takes a Stand For the Bettors

The Meadowlands is taking a stand for the bettors and it is sure to upset some owners and trainers (mainly the large ones).  Effective with the early and late closing series for the 2014-15 meet, the Meadowlands is adding a condition to limit the number of horses a trainer may enter into a final.  

Specifically, the condition being added is:

"No trainer may race more than two horses in this race. This does not apply to any horses raced in a trainer's stable from the first charted race of the horse’s career. Any trainer change that applies to the spirit of this condition must be made a minimum of 30 days in advance of the race date to be considered valid for the purpose of this race."

This means, with the exception of horses which have been in a trainer's stable from day 1 of its racing career, a trainer may only have two horses in a race whether or not it is coupled or not.  A trainer may still enter as many horses as they wish in the preliminary legs, but they will have to pick and choose which two they will race in the final.  There will be no selling of a horse or trainer change during the series for the horse must have been transferred to a bona fide new trainer before the series starts to count as a horse coming from a different trainer.

It will be interesting to see how this works out come nomination and sustaining payment time.  There is a possibility of fewer horses being nominated to a series as a trainer with a large stable may only nominate one or two instead of five as in the past but on the other hand, trainers who hadn't entered because they figured with certain trainers starting multiple horses they would never get into the final or fear there was no chance of earning purse money which may stimulate entries.

Some trainers should be happy as more of them should be getting some good horses instead of all the good horses going to two or three trainers. The gamblers will be happy because with less horses coming from one or two trainers, the chance (or perception) of team driving is reduced.

How bad were some gamblers feeling about this?  It turns out we had this discussion in a racing group I belong to yesterday and the following came from Gil Winston who graciously has permitted me to use the following:

The Burke Olympics

The Burke "mastery" of harness racing is one of the growing problems adding to the downfall of the sport.  In tomorrow's $211k Hoosier Park Pacing Derby AND in the $275k The Monument Circle, Burke has 5 horses in each race.  In the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby he is an owner on all 5 entries while in The Monument Circle he is listed as owner on 3 of the entries. 

Are there "coupled entries" in either race due to same ownership?   No. No more coupled entries for Burke-owned horses. The 'bonafide separate ownership' line that used to excuse entries from the same barn is his-to-ree.  Now it just says, "No coupled entries."  As Burke sw allows up other trainers and owners, the number of betting entries would diminish to miniscule numbers if his horses were to occupy one betting interest.  Soon we may see races solely between Burke and Takter.  Other horsemen can play with their cheap claimers and leave the 'real' horsemen to handle all the money ('real' meaning stables like Burke and Takter, no suggestion of underhanded training methods intended)

Note:  Either Burke or Takter or both have multiple entries in each of the 6 stakes races.

One thing is for sure.  Rightly or wrongly, losing bettors will blame their losses on the Burkes for controlling the race whatever the result may be. Now one can get on one's high horse (so to speak) and PROVE that these IDIOTS would not know a horse race from a cockroach race.  But these IDIOTS are customers who surely will become more of the ex-customers who leave the track vowing to never return. As opposed to the old days, when gamblers had no other place to go to gamble, they sure do now.

Certain trainers who won't get as many top level horses won't like it, but in the long run, a rule like this may be the best thing which can happen for racing, though I expect to hear a lot of kicking and screaming from some industry participants.

As to my own personal feeling as a fan and recreational gambler?  It irks me when you have a trainer that dominates as much as Ron Burke, Jimmy Takter, and others do in the big races.  I realize these horsemen have worked hard and know what they are doing but while they are being successful, other trainers who are more than competent are being shut out because these partnerships gravitate to these trainers.  

It's not good for the industry on a whole to have a few trainers control the vast majority of horses who race in these big events.  Again, these trainers have done nothing wrong but could you imagine what it would be like if at a track like Santa Anita, if stake races were overflowing with three horses from Jerry Hollendorfer and Bob Baffert seemingly in every stake?  As Gil indicated above, the public doesn't like it..

A big part of the problem is how so many of the top horses are seemingly controlled by the same group of owners in one flavor or another (basically the partnerships are similar with one or two players substituted in and out) but the problem also is due to the dearth of stake races available.  When you have one high value stake race for three year old pacers at one track, of course the trainers are going to fire all their bullets in the one race.  If we had more than one high value stake race on the same day, the trainer may spread his horses out to race at the tracks instead of all at one.  No one is saying they all have to be 'Group 1' races; there could be a Group 1 and Group 2 event on the same weekend, but with sufficient purses, trainers may go gunning for both races.

The Cane Pace and the Shady Daisy are on the move once again, leaving Tioga Downs for the Meadowlands where they will be raced on Hambletonian Day this coming August.  In addition to these stakes, the Meadowlands will debut a sister race to the John Cashman Memorial, again racing on the first Saturday in August.  This will make Hambleotnian Day an even bigger event; truly a Super Bowl of harness racing.  One interesting thing with the move of these races is their conditions are being changed to eliminate elimination races; they will be a single race for the cash.  While not yet announced, I suspect the top 10 money earning horses will get into the race with consolation races being contested, possibly on a different day.

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