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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Final Thoughts; The End of The Whip?

Some final thoughts regarding the need to change in harness racing and the resistance to change we are seeing.  The problem with the racing industry (it goes for all breeds), is all the individual interests have their own separate comfort zones and not only do they feel comfortable in their little boxes, they refuse to change their comfort zones because the risk they would need to take.

As an example, in my last blog entry, I raised a proposal of tracks adding races for four year olds and possibly reducing the value of stake races for two year olds and move that money into three year old and four year old events.  Now, I can't take credit for some divine inspiration as this proposal has been brought forth before and lord knows other proposals may work better, but soon after I published the last blog entry, I immediately got these comments (paraphraed):

  • "Our Owners are looking at buying yearlings with the idea of trying to his it big at two".
  • "Yearling buyers have no interest in racing four year olds, they unload their horses after their three year old campaign and buy new yearlings".
  • "Since the best three year olds will retire at the end of their three year old season, these four year old stake races will attract second class horses";
You know what, they are right.  They are right based on the current configuration of stake races.  Yearling buyers tend to be those who buy a horse for their two and three year old seasons and then get rid of them as they head off to life as an overnight horse.  They get rid of them because there is no real opportunities to make money as a four year because there are not enough lucrative stake races.  The best ones will go off to stud at four because there is no enough stake money available to offset the risk of their horse getting whooped at four and decreasing their stud's value.

They are right based on the way things currently are and they make their comments from their comfort zone.  They automatically see flaws in the idea floated (or for that fact any plan) because it will change their world and they fear change; they fear something might change in their comfort zone making things less comfortable.  

Yet the industry continues to suffer.  Instead of immediately shooting down any plan, why not talk to your customers and see what they would need to keep racing at four?  What would be the minimum amount of stake money they would need to see at two in order for the money to shift to three and four year old events?  Maybe yearling buyers would bail, others could return; we don't know.  Maybe the answer is keeping the stake races the way they are at two and just build up the value of four year old events, or develop a new proposal after speaking to your customers.. The point is breeders need to leave the comfort of their zone and investigate what life would be like with changes to stake races.  If it turns out they were right, so be it, but they may be surprised.

I am not trying to pick on breeders.  We could talk how trainers hate to enter horses into odd distance races and see why they refuse to enter.  Is it horses are bred for early speed?  Maybe a change needs to be made to how we breed, maybe it is a question of modifying the way we train them with more emphasis on stamina versus early speed?   What about the use of whips and drivers (see next story) or those who will resist RUS because they fear the 'change'?.

Everybody needs to get a less comfortable in their comfort zones and take risks, for taking those risks and stepping out of their comfort box is what is going to make racing live on in the future.


Whip Ban Coming to Australia?  A new study shows the horse's top layer of skin is as thin, if not thinner than human.  In addition, it is possible the horse has more nerve endings as well.  The result of this study suggests horses feel pain whenever they are whipped and it may result in the banning or severely restrict the use of whips in the Land of Oz.

If banned in Australia based on this study, one has to wonder how long it will be until this Australian study reaches North American shores and racing commissions reconsider the use of whips?  Rest assured the racing industry will be kicking and screaming should such an attempt be made.  After all, we have seen how quick the industry is to reject the status quo.

Bidding formally reopens for a casino in the Southern Tier of New York with Tioga Downs the only known bidder at  this time.  Of course, with only one region in play, new bidders or bidders who got rejected in the first round of bidding may decide to take a shot in the Southern tier.  Bids are due in July with a decision made in the fall.  

While everyone believes it is a formality that Tioga Downs will win the bid, I'm not as confident of that decision if others come in and develop new bids, ready to wow the site selection committee.

I hope I am wrong.

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