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Friday, June 12, 2015

What About the Fans?

In one of the most heated debates I have seen in quite awhile, the issue of the Yonkers International being raced on the same day as the Kentucky Futurity continues to burn up keyboards around America.  There are those who claim it is a vast conspiracy of certain individuals in New York to schedule the race where they did regardless of what other race(s) may have been scheduled for the day, pointing to the fact Yonkers is racing on Saturday, October 10 during the afternoon, unheard of at Yonkers for a Saturday, instead of their usual night card.  There are those who are defending Yonkers saying anytime a $1 million race is being offered it should be applauded.  

One thing for certain, no one is thinking about the fans, a problem all too familiar in harness racing.  No one mentioned how great it is that we can offer harness racing fans not only The Kentucky Futurity (and companion Filly stake), Allerage Farms races for older horses of both gaits and sexes, The Tatersalls, and Glen Garnsey Memorial from The Red Mile PLUS the Yonkers International Trot from Yonkers Raceway all in the same day.  

Instead we hear how Yonkers is encroaching on time which should be dedicated to The Red Mile (which normally I would agree with; more about that later).  We hear how the Yonkers race will draw horses which would normally race at Lexington; how drivers may have to choose between New York and Kentucky leaving 'lesser' drivers substituting for their regular drivers; how Yonkers is impacting tradition and so on.

For the last time, let's go over a few things.

Why October 10? - To be a really successful International, not only did the racing department at Yonkers need to worry about the North American stakes calendar, it needed to consult with the UET's stakes calendar as well.  Based on both calendars and allowing for time for the horses to fly in and get acclimated, October 10 was the date chosen  Yes, there may be some impact on Lexington, but that time of year it was going to impact someone.

Why the Afternoon and why not Sunday? -   Yonkers races on Sunday only when PMU takes their races which is when there is a void in the French organization's simulcast calendar.  PMU happened to have a slot on Saturday afternoon (local time) which it could take the signal.  Based on previous experience, as much as an extra $2 million wagered on the Yonkers International and French-style races on the card  can be expected.  Find me one track in North American which wouldn't change their post time if it meant an extra $2 million dollar being wagered on their card.  Race Friday, Saturday night or Sunday, and you will be racing without European money being wagered.

Draw horses off from the Red Mile - It's a possibility.  If like the Internationals in the past, two American and one Canadian horse were invited to race in the International.  Most likely they would be half mile specialists, the type of horse which typically doesn't race well on a mile track though it can't be ruled out a horse may choose Yonkers instead of the second week of the Red Mile meet even though they would probably race during the first week.  Also, Yonkers isn't particularly known for a robust stakes schedule so there will only be the International, some French-style overnights and regular overnight races.  So at most, three, maybe four horses from all of North America may be diverted to Yonkers, some may not even be racing at the Red Mile.

Drivers defecting horses in search of the big purse - Welcome to everyday harness racing.  When there is a stakes race at a Midwest track which may be offering a nice purse but the driver has the opportunity to race in other stakes races back East, the horse often gets a local reinsman,  Quite honestly, I think this is insulting to drivers.  Are there only ten good drivers at the Red Mile Meet with everyone else being chopped liver?  No.  While most drivers at Yonkers don't race on the Grand Circuit, with their purse structure they have, they have drivers who are more than competent to drive a big horse.  It will boil down to the same old story.  Trainers will have a horse racing in Kentucky, another in New York,  They will discuss with their driver which horse they will drive.  If from different stables, one set of owners will be happy, the other not so happy.

Infringing on the Sanctity of the Red Mile - With all do respect, probably the only people who consider The Red Mile's Grand Circuit meet 'sacred' are horsemen, owners, breeders, and those who stand stallions; basically those who stand to benefit from a horses racing well in Lexington for purposes of increasing the value of their horse or stallion.  To the horseplayer, they are just other stakes races.  The handle on their card is anticipated to be about $800k, same as a typical card at Yonkers.

What About the Fan?  - Never entered the equation.  Perhaps if they focused more on this, harness racing would be in better shape.  

So instead of worrying about it's possible negative impact on The Red Mile's card, maybe it would be better if representatives from Yonkers and The Red Mile talk to see if there is a way both cards can be raced for the benefit of both tracks or at least mitigate any impact on each other.  Perhaps by some luck, the horseplayer may come out ahead

We can only hope.

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