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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Of Drones and Blind Men

On Friday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario conducted a trial using drones to watch what the drivers were doing during qualifiers at Western Fair Raceway.  The purpose of the experiment was to see if using drones would aid in judging races.  While there was a problem with data transmission, the test shows promise.  Further tests will be done with the thoroughbreds and quarter horses before a decision will be made as to whether or not to use drones on wagering events.

If used on a regular basis, would drones improve the judging of races for gamblers and owners alike?  It is questionable.  Make no mistake, having an above view would give judges unprecedented access which would show more clearly whether or not a horse interfered with another horse as well as other infractions but what good is all using drones if the judges don't know or won't enforce the rules as written?  Until judges are enforcing the rules as expected, drones would be like putting an expensive pair of glasses on a blind person; it won't help.

Maybe a drone would haive been helpful Friday afternoon at Freehold in the 6th race where the judges disqualified #6 Brickyard Classic from first to third for interference to #4 Schoolhouse Rock.  The judges claimed Brickyard Classic struck the wheel of Schoolhouse Rock near the half.  I must confess, I don't see it but then who knows what the judges saw, after all gamblers were spent watching six minutes of dead air before an announcement was made.  Wouldn't it have made sense to have the customers see what the judge were looking at?  Did the judges make the right call?  I would be interested in hearing your opinions of the decision.

By now, you have read or heard of Rob Key's appeal to reorganize the USTA in Harness Racing Update.  It is no secret I feel the USTA does a good job, all things considered.  True, they are going past their mandate of being the breed registry with little funding for all they do, but then who else is going to do what needs to be done?  After all, if members are complaining how much they are paying the USTA for its services and programs, how forthcoming are they going to be to pay for programs managed by other groups?

Sixty directors are too many, especially with their individual parochial interests; wouldn't it be better if the tracks, breeders, and horsemen each selected two or three of their brethren to represent their interests on a reconstituted board?  Shouldn't the board have owner representatives (it should have gambler representatives as well, but who are we kidding)?  Even if the board was streamlined, unless they are willing to acknowledge the sport depends on horseplayers as much as it does slot revenues, they will not enact steps which are customer friendly.

I will be the first one to acknowledge there is a need for fresh blood on the board as directors seem to be appointed for life, which means new ideas fail to get the proper airing, if aired at all.  However, I learned at a recent at a USTA district meeting the problem is not the fact 'old timers' don't want to relinquish their positions; it's they are forced to remain a director because none of the younger members want to become directors.  This is not a problem unique to harness racing, Gen Xers and Millenials seem not to want to volunteer their time, perhaps because they feel too pressed for time.  Until younger members are willing to step up, it will be hard to get new ideas addressed.

This doesn't mean one throws their hands up and say 'Why bother?'.  Things worth having are worth fighting for so it is important to keep on plugging.  Maybe things have to get worse before people are willing to change, hopefully not.  One thing is for certain, there needs to be someone special to come forth either from within or outside the industry who has the gravitas to get the various interests to see the need to make changes, otherwise things will continue on its current course and continued decline.

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