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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Well, if nothing else, the opening of the Meadowlands meet has brought attention to horses getting ready for finals.  Few think Bee A Magician or for that fact JK Endofanera will be raced the same way this week when the TVG finals take place.  Like it or not, saving a horse for a final or an upcoming race has been around likely since the days of Greyhound.  Just to be clear, 'saving a horse' doesn't necessarily mean not trying to win; it may be trying for an easier race, hoping to catch a trip instead of gunning to the front and racing bravely.

Let's first clarify something many are incorrect about.  The TVG races this past weekend were not elimination races; they were legs of a series similar to the Levy Memorial at Yonkers.  Horses who get into the final are the highest point earners in the overall series, not just horses coming out of the last race (yes, three year old Breeders Crown winners can be invited).  Horses who may have raced Saturday may have already qualified for the final so winning may be secondary to keeping tight.

As for true elimination races, some horses are racing to qualify, winning is secondary (a perfect example is a horse starting from post eight).  The industry often dangles a preferred post position in the final to coax a better effort which is unfair to the rest of the horses in the race.  For example, a horse in an elimination may be starting from post position 10 and going all out to land second or third; why shouldn't they get rewarded for their effort when someone who draws an inside post needs to expend only half the effort to win the race?

Let's face it, trainer report or no trainer report, the wagering public is always going to need to guess if a horse is going full or half throttle or merely a drive around the oval.  As much as I hate it, this is something one needs to consider in your handicapping.  The focus should be on giving handicappers the most information available to factor into their handicapping.

So where do we go from here?

In series events, it should be required to post current series standings in the racing program with horses listed in order of points earned.  In addition, if any horse has already clinched a position in the final, it should be designated..

As for eliminations, such as stakes races or early and late closing events, there should be no reward for winning an elimination.  However, eliminations should have meatier purses to make it worthwhile to win.

I've mentioned it before, rather than selecting the top position finishers in late closers to make up the race final, serious consideration should rely on the fastest finishers in eliminations.  This way, instead of just going around the track and making a last minute move to finish second or third, races would be contested all out.

Perhaps the best way in determining fields in stake races is to eliminate eliminations all together.  Some tracks have begun  determining race fields by money earned.  Some will have consolation races for those who don't qualify for the main event, some don't.

Lastly, if you insist on having elimination races the way they are currently being conducted, do the handicappers a favor, card them as non-wagering events.  For those without slots, it may be harder to do, but for racinos where handle means so little, there is no excuse not to take the races off the regular card.

One final word.  The Internet has been full of speculation as to why Brian Sears was a recipient of a 15 day suspension whereas other drivers with seemingly questionable drives appear to not have gotten similar penalties.  It is not my place to criticize or defend anyone on why or why not something happened.  The only ones who know the true stories are those directly involved.  We all know Jeff Gural is a controversial figure; controversial enough that some people have their own agenda when it comes to the Meadowlands operator and are more than happy to share their opinions as 'fact'.  Just remember this as you read these opinions.   


Blaine said...

What Sears did or did not do on Bee A Magician was clearly taken in a personal context by Jeff Gural. Let's call a spade a spade, Sears left the Meadowlands for Yonkers right after Gural's first season as the owner of the Mecca. Then they had a personal dispute last year when Gural wanted him to drive there for a couple of weeks and Sears blew him off. This is 100% personal.

Pacingguy said...

While I agree there is no love lost between the two, some sources indicate this has nothing to do with their dispute.

Anonymous said...

If nothing else, the Bee A Magician race brings "saving horses",
"conservative drives" and series pre-lims and stakes eliminations to the forefront. The mindset of those operating and regulating tracks needs to change. Owners, trainers and drivers also have to change. Bettors know horses aren't machines, but racing them in a manner below their ability isn't acceptable in a betting race.

I stopped betting these types of races for the reasons that have been discussed since Friday. I'm sure plenty of bettors have done the same. While the industry cries about declining revenue, it seems the customers (who make revenue go up or down) don't matter.

Pacingguy, you've offered potential solutions. They're worth a discussion. It would be nice if those who can make changes would be part of it.

Lord Neutrino said...

I think way too much is being made of this. As you said trainers have used races to set their horses up for more important races going all the way back to Greyhound and beyond. When a horse had to win three or four heats to take a race there were all kinds of strategies that didn't include trying to win the earliest heats.

It's up to the handicapper to use what he knows to figure out if today might be the day when the horse isn't raced hard. As long as it's not a lack of effort in order to cash bets, I see no problem with it. These are flesh and blood animals. They can't always go their best and strongest race. If your answer to that is, "don't race them", we're going to see a lot more four horse fields and 1/9 shots. Then you'll have something else to complain about.

Anonymous said...

Just because something has been a common practice since the days of Greyhound or earlier doesn't make it okay. In fact, not doing the best possible with a horse goes against the rules. It's up to the judges to enforce them.

States have the following (or something similar):

Fraudulent or unsatisfactory driving.

(a) Every heat or dash in a race shall be contested by every horse in the race and every horse shall be driven to the finish.

(b) If the judges believe that a horse is being driven, with a design to prevent his winning a heat or dash which he was evidently able to win; or is being raced so as to perpetrate or aid in a fraud, they shall consider it a violation and the driver, and anyone in concert with him, may be fined, suspended, or expelled and the matter referred to the Commission.

(c) In the event a drive is unsatisfactory due to carelessness or indifference, or is being raced in an inconsistent manner compared to an established pattern of prior performances, and the judges believe that there is no fraud, they may forthwith impose a penalty.