The Meadowlands out-of-competition testing program has ensnared trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. for the use of EPO, a performance enhancement drug. As a result of this positive which was returned by a Hong Kong lab, Bresnahan finds himself excluded from participating at the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs while horses currently trained by him are excluded from participation for 60 days. Bresnahan has the right to have the split sample tested but being the lab has never had a false positive, the odds of a split coming up negative is extremely remote.
Meanwhile on the other side of the country, trainer Marissa Tyler finds herself temporarily suspended pending a final hearing as a result of out-of-competition and post-race testing for cobalt at Cal Expo. In the meanwhile, 21 horses there find themselves on the vet list pending evidence cobalt levels have returned to normal.
While post-racing testing is a needed weapon in the tool against cheating, the most significant infractions are the ones which occur on the farm where trainers may feel more emboldened to 'treat' a horse with a medication that has no therapeutic use. While drugging to get an unfair advantage is plain wrong, to the public which is concerned with animal welfare issues such as whipping and post-racing treatment, the use of drugs which have little benefit and likely are detrimental to the horse is unacceptable. Hence, if looking at the long term welfare of racing, out of competition testing needs to be expanded.
Dean Towers discusses in Harness Racing Update talks about the hard changes made Down Under and how officials need to make similar changes up here. Of course, getting them to move is another story.
As you may be aware, the Prix d'Amerique is being or depending on when you read this, has been contested today. You may wonder why few if any sources had wagering on this race in North America. Lack of interest by the wagering public would be the chief reason. The last time the Meadowlands carried wagering on the race, it handled in the neighborhood of $200, certainly not a reason to open early or go through the expense of setting up the satellite feed, etc. Certainly, the uniqueness of the race, a walk-up start is daunting to the North American gambler who is used to vanilla one-mile contests behind a starting gate, but the biggest problem is the lack of available information. When the information presented seems to be in tongues, it is hard to find anyone other than the most rabid fan looking to make a small wager.
The various trotting countries are trying to come up with a uniform data collection method which will allow gamblers in their respective countries to see information they are familiar with Such a process can't come soon enough. With racing becoming a volume business, it becomes increasingly obvious tracks need to operate as long as possible each day sending and receiving race signals so bettors can get all the action they need.
For the record, my selection for the Prix is Timoko.
Does quality translate to handle? The racing this weekend at the Meadowlands would suggest otherwise as they ended up with a pair of $3 million handles this weekend. Looking at the program, a couple of $5,000 purses for $10,000 claimers and a slew of non-winners of $5,000 and $7,500 in the last five starts races would not make one think of huge handles but I suggest competitive racing is a bigger factor. No doubt, the way conditions are being written helps make the racing competitive. For those who are not following the Meadowlands, the conditions often eliminate horses which won in the same class from racing at the same level in the next start and doesn't allow for horses to drop more than one class to compete in an easier class.
Obviously, all things being consistent, class wins out, but competitive fields wins out when it comes to the bettor's preference.
On the subject of pricing (aka takeout), it puzzles me why tracks need to have blended takeouts when they can have a single takeout rate. A more specific peeve of mine is the higher takeouts for most exotic bets when compared to straight wagers. Of course the reasoning behind this is when you have higher payoffs, who is going to notice more of their profits being scraped away by the rake? After all, does it matter to a horseplayer that they receive a $1,850 payoff instead of $1,900? Perhaps in the old days it didn't matter, but when you look at the more sophisticated gambler of the modern era, they understand their payoff is being cut by the higher rake, which can be significant if the holder of the winning ticket has $20 invested on it instead of $2.
It costs just as much to process a trifecta ticket as does a win wager. While I won't pretend to know what the ideal rate should be, a standard 'oneprice fits all' policy would attract gamblers as they know the lower rake will return more to the horseplayer and keep them playing longer.