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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Something to Grow On

Last night the first pari-mutuel RUS race was conducted at Mohawk Racetrack.  A field of eight, reduced by two scratches, met the starter to compete.

Apparently the method of riding used by Belgian Phillipe Maschaelle was what was needed to get Santo Domingo home first in 1:56.4, with a four length lead.  The combined handle for the second race was $62,621, the smallest handle on the twelve race card.

The handle can be explained by a lack of education.  When the on-screen talent say they don't know anything about this type of racing you are looking at trouble.  In addition, looking at the program it was challenging to handicap as some horses showed only a single RUS line a few starts back so while the horses have competed more frequently, the information was not accessible.  Despite these issues, it is reported WEG management was pleased with the effort.

It certainly would have been more helpful if the RUS schedule had more races during the season so horses would have shown more such races in the program.  Also, the program needs to be improved to show a horse's record racing under saddle so even with few RUS lines in the program, a handicapper would have a better idea of a horse's ability.

Lastly, nothing like familiarity will give handicappers the confidence to wager more.  This can only be done by having more under saddle events at WEG tracks (this applies for all tracks).  It would also be helpful to have conditioned RUS events so the races will be more even, thus providing handicapping challenges which translate into higher payoffs.

Hence, last night's race was not an end, but only a beginning, something to build on.


Marv said...

Regarding the RUS racing, in France they don't do anything else in their programs other than note whether a past race is Monte or Attele (harness).

How I see monte racing evolving here is problematic to its long term success. In North America, it is a niche undertaking with only a few stables even attempting it. The main riders in the RUS races are not the top drivers. In France, it is mainstream. 2-3 races per card are monte and they have monte stakes races. The top drivers also ride and the top stables go both ways. Many horses flip back and forth between monte and attele races.

But most importantly, the races need to be competitive. The only way to do that is to have a lot more horses participating so classes can develop. If the top/bigger stables don't start participating in RUS, I fear that it will remain an uncompetitive niche. And that would be a shame, since monte training could help a sore or injured horse (and they're all sore in training), provide variety for the horse and public, and help to fill out race cards short of race horses. Tracks with grass courses (i.e. M1, Wdb)could also run monte races on the grass without destroying the surface. And let's change up the RUS distances (i.e. a lot more room on the track without sulkies for sprint racing). More variety ---> higher handle. That's proven.

Finally, shame on the Mohawk announcers for not doing their homework. They should have reviewed previous races at the other ON tracks (and congrats to ON for making these betting races!). There aren't that many. I never quite got the hang of handicapping monte races at Vincennes, but you can still look at form, past monte results, etc. Hopefully, Mohawk can do a better job with this next time.

Pacingguy said...

What is needed is pari-mutuel wagering on these events in the States. Without wagering, there is no source of purse funding from the purse account. Once there is wagering and a guaranteed source, I suspect you will find more trainers training horses to race under saddle.

As for the riders, the lack of racing opportunities is what keeps those participating from getting the necessary experience. Once again, with a guaranteed source of funding others will take up riding.

Unfortunately, in many states, horsemen are ambivalent (Ohio) or hostile (PA) to racing under saddle. What we need is one state to get wagering and then people will see there is a market for RUS.

Unfortunately, in some states, our beloved thoroughbred horsemen are putting up road blocks, claiming if there were to be RUS, it should be done under a thoroughbred racing license. Of course we know they would just kill it off.

Roadblocks remain. IF we can get through them there is hope. IF not, in the States RUS will become a memory.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, it SHOULD become a memory. I respect your appreciation for the sport, and admire your endless support of it...but it's never going to be more than a novelty in this country, and that's the way it should be treated. It's hard enough to get people to wager anymore on "real" races; it's even harder to justify spending time and dollars on what is no more than the pipe dream of a handful of people.

Pacingguy said...

Anon, I could see your point if RUS got a fair chance and the market rejected it (i.e., after a sufficient number of races the wagering wasn't there). What I find disturbing is the fact many in the industry who could benefit from a successful RUS program continue to do their usual thing of rejecting anything innovative due to 'tradition'. We see where tradition is getting us, nowhere.

chris coyle said...

Please remember it's harness racing not saddle racing ! Our breed is unique in that they can trot/pace pulling heavy weight at speeds of 35 mph ! It's tough enough explaining to people why trotters are allowed to wear hopples.

Pacingguy said...

Chris, actually, when meets get licensed, the states license standardbred meets. RUS uses standardbreds. I imagine in the old days you may have objected to pacers; after all they were called trotting races.