Being a big fan of Super Crunchers where the author says "don't tell me what you know, show me what you know with evidence", I have always given stock to numbers. If a coin flips a million times and you show me half the time it lands on heads I know you have a pretty good coin. One of the most fiery debates I have read over the years has been on lasix use in racehorses. Talk to ten trainers you get ten different answers. Some of them very militant when espousing that lasix does absolutely nothing to stop bleeding in racehorses. Finally a comprehensive study has been done on the drug. It showed that yes, lasix does reduce bleeding in racehorses. For a blog opine on the study, click here.
Secondly, blog readers know that I have been a fan of trying things new, especially on half mile tracks with regards to equalizing post positions. A couple of ways I have thought out loud about included starting the speed of the speed in trailing positions to encourage movement (posts assigned) and a more staggered starting gate. Being a horse owner at a place like Western Fair always comes with a caveat - it takes two weeks often times to get in, and if you draw the seven your monthly bill has zippo chance to get paid. The post difference in chances to win on a half is polarizing. A horse from the seven can be 20-1. Give that same horse, in the same field the rail and he might be even money.
Well the Meadows recently (a five-eighths track) went to a 14 foot stagger on February 9th. The numbers are pretty startling and you can read them here. The rail used to be 16%, now it is 11%. The 8 post used to hit at a 6% clip, now it is 11%. This is not a small sample. This works.
This is not only good for horse owners, it is good for bettors. On a half mile track, or even on a 5/8's at times you can eliminate half the field. A 9 horse field becomes a 3 or 4 horse field. With a staggered gate it increases field size for all intents and purposes as the bettor has more contenders to choose from. In thoroughbred racing an increase in field size by one horse increases the handle on a race by 5%. This should be done in harness in a big way, all over the world. Chris Roberts and Chuck Keeling, as well as Hugh Mitchell at Western Fair are folks who have the guts to give this a shot. I wonder if they have considered it. Just like the lasix study, the numbers are there, and if the numbers are there, the reason not to try it is nil.