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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When Races Collide

by Peter Lawrence, Contributor to VFTRG

I learned about the International Trot's date ...
... Saturday, October 10, several months ago from my European sources.
Remember the storied March of Dimes FFA trot at Garden State Park, so many years ago? I learned of its very existence from the Swedish harness racing magazine *Trav Ronden* way before the event was even announced here in the U.S.; European horsemen and officials are sometimes more in the loop about our racing than we are, obviously.
Anyway, my primary source correctly pointed out that this year's return of the ex-Roosevelt International would conflict not only with the Red Mile Grand Circuit fall meet, but with the day of the Kentucky Futurity itself ... and that Yonkers would be racing the International on a Saturday AFTERNOON card!
For the sake of simulcasting the maybe-big race back to Europe, he said. The "maybe" was my own interpretation.
Unless someone convinces me otherwise, this made-up conflict on the part of Yonkers Raceway seems, in my humble opinion, to be one of the dumbest racing scheduling decisions ever.
If you're trainer Jimmy Takter, with horses like Pinkman, Whom Shall I Fear, and who knows who he'll have that's good in October, going in the Futurity - and Yannick Gingras driving for you in Kentucky - who drives a probable (as of June) Father Patrick in the International?
Maybe drivers like Brian Sears or George Brennan will skip Lexington, and they'll be available?
If it turns out that Sebastian K., the fastest trotter ever, comes back well this year, and is sharp in October, what happens if he's in the International, and, say, Centurion ATM is in the Futurity?
Where does Sebastian's (and Centurion's) trainer Ake Svanstedt drive that afternoon? He rarely uses catch-drivers on his top horses, at least he hasn't so far.
And there will be a great undercard at Lexington that day - as noted, a Saturday - same as we can guess there will be at Yonkers.
I'm not a guy who worries about catch-drivers not having every opportunity to win big purses - if Meadowlands and, say, Yonkers, ironically, have conflicting stakes the same night, drivers can pick one or the other (even though the racing offices generally manage to make it so the drivers can drive in both and double-dip) - but Oct. 10 is an instance where I do think Lexington and Yonkers should both have the best on display ... Campbell, Gingras, Tetrick, Sears, Pierce, the various Millers, Brennan, etc.
But that will be impossible, with the two tracks racing head-to-head, a thousand miles (or whatever it is) away from each other.
I'd hoped - even assumed - since last year, that the return of the International Trot would be on the same Yonkers card as the Yonkers Trot and the Messenger Stakes, which turns out to be Sept. 5.
(By the way, the YR Trot and Messenger themselves conflict with great cards at Mohawk and Pocono, a discussion for another day.)
But, like the wise man says - was it Felix Unger? - if you assume, as I did, you make an ass out of you and me.
P.S. - Probably a dumb question ... but with Yonkers having had such a good run with Sunday afternoon cards for the European betting audience, why not the International Trot on Oct. 11? Makes too much sense, I guess. My pea-sized brain probably wouldn't understand.

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