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Thursday, February 5, 2015

What About Interest in Our Three Year Olds and Lax Regulation

I bet many of you know who the contenders are for the Kentucky Derby but can't name more than two potential starters for the Meadowlands Pace.  After all, talk about the Derby begun the day after the Breeders Cup and has continued to this day.  There has been already one future wager on the Derby with the second future wager being conducted this weekend.

With regards to the Meadowlands Pace or any three year old stakes event this year, the conversation has been virtually nill.  Sure, after key races last year, horses have been proclaimed front runners for the classic races but since then, you would be hard pressed to find any coverage.  Some of it is no doubt due to the fact many of these contenders have yet to hit the track this year and won't be returning to the races until May whereas the runners are already racing on the road to the Triple Crown.  

Why is this a problem?  Jeff Gural talks about the need to keep our best horses on the track, yet no one talks about the dearth of action by the top three year olds during the early part of the season, leaving harness racing fans to fawn over winter-level Open horses.  Now it isn't feasible to move major stakes earlier in the year as our top horses tend to race a limited number of starts so these races would likely be filled with 'not ready for prime time' horses if they fill at all, so what can be done to draw interest in our new three year olds?

Proposition wagers.  There is no reason we can't have future wagers on races like the Meadowlands Pace, North America Cup, Hambletonian and the like.   In addition, wagers on the horse which finishes the best overall in the triple crown series could be offered (if rules for those not starting in all legs can be adopted).  The problem with these type of wagers has been the limited number of wagering interests.  My proposal would be listing the top twenty-two horses at the time of wagering with two additional entries; all other horse which made a start at age two and those horses which didn't make a start as a freshman; offering more value to 'field' horses.  

Of course, there would be a need for the racing press to spend more time covering the promising three year olds instead of just covering the winter late closing series with stories on a website dedicated to the classic races; perhaps part of Grand Circuit coverage or the Harness Racing Fan Zone.  Yes, in the past future wagering in harness racing has not been so successful but with addition press and the fan zone initiative, it may be time to give it another go.

No, the Kentucky Derby will be king, but at least offering proposition wagers and additional media coverage could at least get our races on to the court.

There has to be a better way -  The Paulick Report discusses how the jockey accused of using a buzzer on a horse in a stakes race was allowed to race in Texas on a suspended license due to an unpaid fine in New Mexico.  The excuse given by the THRC?  “While staff checks the (Texas) Commission’s own database for suspensions of jockeys, trainers and owners before every performance, the agency does not have the time or resources to also check the RCI database before every performance".  Really?   This is a problem which also occurs in harness racing but while I admit manually checking the suspension list each day is labor intensive, I find it hard to believe no one has created a program to automate the checking.  In harness racing, trainers could be checked against the database when entries are entered before drawing while drivers can be checked against the database when named to drive.  Being RCI maintains the database, they should create the program and make it available to all  tracks whose racing commissions are members.  

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