You have to read the latest blog entry from Pull The Pocket. When did this all start? It started with the opening of the Meadowlands back in 1976. That brought the Wall Street types into the game and the face of racing started to change, going from a sport, though profit was important, to a business where Wall Street types came into the sport along with their metrics. It brought the age of the specialists into the sport, those who were trainers and those who were catch drivers. John Campbell, Bill O'Donnell, William Haughton were trainer-drivers when they came upon the Meadowlands; some quit training upon their arrival; others like William Haughton took longer to give up driving or gave way as part of attrition (Haughton continued driving at other tracks until his death).
Remember when stakes events were competitive, not primarily controlled by a few stables? When no one knew what rent a horse was? Trainer/drivers worried about having a horse next week and not about using a horse as much as possible, knowing there was another horse in the stable to replaceit when the horse was burnt out? What about trainers who refuse to bother with claimers because they won't do what other trainers do? Granted, these are generalizations, there are those who play the game right and have the horse being priority number one.
Think I am wrong? Why do you think membership in the USTA has declined along with foal counts? Something has chased people out of owning horses. Sure many of these people had grown old and left the sport, but if things were so wonderful, don't you think their children, exposed to horse ownership would have picked up the parents' mantle and became owners? Odds are they were scared away.
Look, there were problems in the good ol' days. I am not trying to portray this as a "pure" sport descending into ill-repute, but no doubt abut it, the old timers wouldn't recognize the sport as it is now and if they did, they probably wouldn't want anything to do with it anymore. One thing for sure, this is not the sport I remember taking part of with my father.
Live in New York? Did you know New York has had the most extensive schedule of racing under saddle over the past three year? If you have some time this summer, why not visit your local county fair and watch not only RUS but racing at the grassroots level, where harness racing is still fun.
Speaking of RUS a full field of eight are slated to face the starter Sunday night at Ocean Downs when the horses will go under saddle for a purse of $5,000. Great job by Friends of Maryland Standardbreds in organizing the event.