The r2 collective is up and running. It is a site focused on bringing the sport of racing into the present, and in some cases the future. It will speak of web marketing, general 21st century marketing principles, technology and whatever else people think of. All we have to do is read a web poll on a the Paulick Report or Standardbred Canada to see that this business dislikes change of any sort. But it does not mean that we should not talk about it, does it? The first article is up, and I know the writer well. You can read it here.
Speaking of change, the relatively minor change of whipping in Ontario had hyperbole ratcheted up to a fever pitch last night when Trevor Ritchie's trotter got placed to last for a violation. The rule reads fairly clear and the ORC has done a good job of letting people know what to expect. So far all of the major stakes, and even the US drivers who drove in all the grand circuit races, have been fine with it with no incident. It was a whole lot of nothing, until yesterday.
The most amazing thing to me? Mainly the misinformation out there about this rule. I don't know how many comments that were made from insiders saying "they should not throw out the horse to last, they should only fine the driver." Well, that was discussed when they were gathering input on the rule last year, and the fact the horse is placed back was long ago pushed by many of the stakes drivers themselves. For example, if Jody Jamieson has a horse in the two hole in the $1.5m NA Cup and Brian Sears is on the lead, it is a whole different ball game. He can hammer away because he does not race at Mohawk; the thirty days means nothing to him. Jody of course can't do the same thing. As well, if there was a $10,000 fine, Jerry Silva, or whatever person who owns the horse would pay that for him.
Think of what a joke that would have been on North America Cup night. 12,000 fans, families, kids who have been explained that there is no whipping like they are used to, and a national TV audience watching. They will see Sears whip the living crap out of the horse with no care in the world. If the braintrust did not make the penalty phase of this rule what it is, they would be braindead.
The other wild argument thrown out there is that somehow it would be well if the judges did their job better, and we would not see this rule. What a load of manure. The pilot whipping project ran in April. All drivers were told that they would be fined and watched to get ready for rules changes. What happened? I saw around 200 whipping violations on Standardbred Canada. The rules were ignored.
Rules change in all sports, and mainly they are changed for marketing reasons (the NFL and UFC are the two most geared-to-marketing sports in terms of rule changes for that reason only). There will be hyperbole, yelling and screaming and so on from the people the rules effect. Sometimes you will hear the world is going to end. From some cappers you might read "I won't place a bet on a race again" and such other knee-jerk responses. But they will not be true. The only thing that stops horseplayers from playing the races en masse is going broke - that is why takeout is the only issue in racing for massive up and down handle movements. If players have a 5-2 shot on their line who is 4-1, they are hammering; and they will hammer if the horse is driven by a guy with a feather for a whip. We like money and an edge, and whether a dude can beat a racehorse or not is not even on the radar.
And for goodness sake, like Rick a poster below said, as bettors we know with ease that if a driver does this he is pitched. If we bet him we lose, if we bet the horse that is in second we win. if we have the horse that comes 2nd and 3rd ..... we end up with the ex. You have to have the IQ of an ice cube to be confused by this rule.
Since no one can tell me that when they go to the track they hear kids say "I don't mind the track, but mommy I wish the men behind the horses would whip them harder" I am fine with it from a marketing perspective. In fact, I support it for marketing to on-track patrons.
From a betting perspective and from a horse owner perspective, I think it will be rare to see this affect too many races - maybe one in two thousand races in 2010. I as a bettor or owner can not worry about something that will happen at random, one of two thousand times; it is insane to. Regardless, the sky is not falling, no matter how many people who like the status-quo say so.
If we spend this much effort about a whip rule that might affect one race placing in Ontario out of the thousands we see, imagine if we had the same passion about a real problem which truly is tied to handle like takeout?