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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Benjamin Franklin Blues

On one of groups I belong to, I came across a posting which struck me as being quite poignant.  I come from the days when the grandstand and racetrack apron were full on weekends and during the week, a respectable crowd still gathered.  I cringe at what I see today. 

My thanks and appreciation to Gill Winston for allowing me to share this post with everyone here at VFTRG. 

I was at Yonkers and then Roosevelt for the two most anticipated harness races in history - the memorable clashes between Cardigan Bay and Bret Hanover.  The tracks were packed with tens of thousands of screaming fans, some with signs, some wearing buttons extolling their favorite.  The coverage was national and blazed on the back pages of every newspaper.

How many people will trek up in to the mountains for this race?  I can promise you that of all the people gambling at Pocono Downs on Saturday night, there will be more people at the slot machines than on the apron when the race goes off.  What percentage of Americans knows or even cares about this race?

Three honest-to-goodness champions going head to head to head for a half million dollar purse.  Will you be one of the few, the proud, who actually goes to see the race live?  A few more people will watch the race at a simo venue or on their personal viewing devices.  A lot more people will be screaming for 7-7-7 or for Willie Wonka to anoint them with free spins.

Remember that old TV commercial with the Indian with tears in his eyes looking that the end product of a forest fire?  Some may be offended by referring to a Native American as an Indian, or comparing the devastation of a forest fire to a horse race -- but you get the analogy.  This is a sad day.

As for the race, all 3 champions are razor sharp. The draw is in and WIJI (post 3) gets the advantage of the draw.  He has shown superior early speed and draws inside of Always B Miki (7) and Freeky Feet Pete (6).  Will ABMs entry mate, Sunfire Blue Chip, be sent on a suicide mission to take down Wiggle It Jiggleit?

Mel Mara has the rail, and can definitely be a factor if he trips out.  However that last losing battle with ABM might have taken the fight out of him the way Rockin Ron seemed to lose his edge after his losing battle with Wiggle It Jiggleit.

 A great race anticipated, for the few of us who still care.

So happens, today Darin Zoccali's post on the DRF Harness website is about harness racing's perceived decline or untapped potential depending on how you look at things..  He acknowledges if you look at racing as a spectator sport you may be right, but if you look at it as  gambling activity, there is a lot of potential there for an upward turn. Needless to say, Zoccali is a 'gambling' activity man.

Well, I am a sport first person.  While I hope racing does take advantage of its untapped potential, I feel sorry for those who haven't spent time at the track for they have missed something.  I consider myself blessed for having had the chance to experience the crowds.


Blaine said...

The joy about the 3 elim winners going into the Franklin Final is that in their respective elims, they all raced on the engine, with ABM doing so on the rim. There's gonna have to be some early/mid-race sacrifice in order to be there at the end. Looks like ABM is gonna be the one covered up. How far back he'll be prior to the business end of the race is the unknown at this point. But, don't we all love the anticipation?

Anonymous said...

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will draw a much larger crowd than a usual Saturday night. Not the many thousands described in the article, but probably two thousand. Regulars and the occasional race fans will be there to watch "the race of the century", the "best there's ever been" or whatever you choose to call this special night.

There will also be several hundred who've heard about this night from experienced bettors who encouraged them to get out to the track. Others won't know anyone who can help them understand racing, but they'll be there because they heard it's something special. Unfortunately, plenty in these two groups will never see the big races.

They arrived at 6pm to secure seats. At 6:30pm, they wait for the first race they've ever seen in person. Then wait many more minutes as they learn post time is meaningless. Waiting, waiting, waiting as the night goes on. After three hours, no big races that drew them out of their homes. And it will be at least another hour before the biggest of the big.

The newcomers head for home after four hours, not seeing the four stakes races and not understanding why so much was made of the event. They decide harness racing isn't that exciting. Never to return to a place that doesn't start things at advertised times and offers nothing to do while they wait (unless a casino is steps away).

This is not specifically an indictment of Pocono Downs because many other tracks operate the same way. It is an indictment of an industry that does little to nothing to attract new faces and those who give racing a try get little incentive to return.