In following both the thoroughbred and harness game I find there are differences. There are the obvious of course, riders and drivers and running and pacing, however there is a rather unique difference in horseman groups.
The problems with OHHA in Ontario are well documented - resignations and so on. In the past the organization has focused on race dates in large part. If you want to cut them, no matter how much sense it might make, there will probably be a fight. Recently Hugh Mitchell CEO of Western Fair wanted to change some Saturday cards to Monday cards for example - no change in racedates, but Monday cards brought in better handles, so it makes sense, right? It was fought.
Contrarily, I have been following similar issues in the thoroughbreds. Today it was announced that Churchill Downs was cutting racedates because handle was down. This is the response from Rick Hiles, a horseman rep:
Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said horsemen's representatives have been discussing the proposed change with track management and are not in opposition.
"We've talked with management, and if we don't agree to cut the days, they'd have to cut purses about 20 percent anyway," said Hiles. "You can't expect people to keep coming out and supporting your business if all you're giving them is four- and five-horse fields. You've got to do what you've got to do."
Is the situation ideal? Of course not, but it is reality, and horseman want to work with the track to soften the blow.
I am not saying the tracks are always right and need to be cowtowed to, but to make the game better the stakeholders have to work together. I wish we would see more of this in harness racing, and maybe with a fresh start here in Ontario we can.
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