The story about a recent article in Ireland where the jock of a horse who faltered as chalk (i.e. was taken for a bit of a fitness trip) said,:
"I've always been a man to look after a horse. That's the way I ride them and that's not going to change."
it prompted the question to be asked "Who is more important, the connections of the horse racing for a purse (i.e. the owner and rider and trainer) or the people who supply the purses they run for (i.e the betting customer)?" This question spawned a ton of responses, most of which were like this:
"I don't care about the bettor. I care about myself and my horse. We've got slot money funding 95% of our purses. Let them whine all they want. Good riddance."
"Don't ask me to wager my money if you're planning to stiff me."
"There you go. ABSOLUTE PROOF that racing is fixed, and ludicrous horsepeople who actually want to justify it."
I think most of that is counter-productive.
Long-ago when we were a monopoly, when a bettor got mad, he came back. Just like a trainer at the tack shop if it was the only one for 500 miles, he or she had to grin and bear it, and keep buying product, regardless of the service. Today a bettor does not have to take it, because he/she has choice.
As a gambler I can hopefully tell when a horse is being taken out for a run, or when someone wants to prime their horse for an effort down the road. For me, it is not a huge issue - we can use trainer stats and much more to try and decipher intent. But to increase fan participation in racing, and increase our betting base, we need to look at more than a 25 year handicapper like me.
Today's society expects a fair shake in any game, or product. If I am playing Intel puts, I expect the company to be on the up and up, and I expect that no insiders are selling them short because the news out in three hours is good. I expect my bingo balls not to be weighted against me, or a dealer not to be dealing from the bottom of the deck. It's the way we live our lives as consumers.
If a horse pulls back to last, who leaves the gate constantly (this is more of an issue in standardbred racing than thoroughbred), it is a pox on our house - there is no denying that. If a horse was off three weeks, got $400 of vet work, was trained up solid at a farm somewhere, and bucks every trainer trend on a database and wins by seven (these horses as a rule are horrid bets in harness : about 0.45ROI), it is a problem.
Rather than yell at each other who a rider or a driver or a trainer should be racing for (I am both a bettor and an owner, so I seem to get yelled at twice), why not agree on a few things, and fix them instead?
1) Riders and trainers and drivers should be racing with one thing in mind: The welfare of the animal.
2) We need to realize that it is not 1950 any longer and we can not tell our patrons to shut up, sit down, live with the status quo and bet
So what do we do? In my opinion:
1) Educate customers on intent, as any handicapping book does
2) Open up policies where they are transparent
I have firmly believed (and I have brought this up at industry conferences, on the blog, and to racetrack execs themselves) that we need a new system where the connections of the horse, and their intent on today's race are public.
- On condition of entry, a form must be submitted on intent. Was the horse off a month with a cough? Is he fit and ready, or is it time to "trip the horse out"?
- What's the story last time? Why was the horse last by 30? A vet database is set up where after a race if a horse scoped sick, or if his white count was through the roof, or he had a bad problem during the race, customers know about it. We can make reversals of form and the endless wondering done by customers if we all cheat to set up a bet, a thing of the past
- We employ paddock personnel. The connections are all there. Can't all of them be asked a simple question: Is your horse ready? Can't it be made public via twitter, or scroll along the bottom of the screen? Horse trainers are not crooks, they love talking about their horse and his health. If one of them chose to lie, he/she would be exposed faster than a easter egg at Kate Plus Eight's house.
* Hong Kong has a vet work database and it is public. Handicappers use it all the time.
* Australia just instituted a new system where "race tactics" have to be given before the race.
* Woodbine and Grand River Raceways always chat with trainers beforehand on intent. Drivers and jocks too. It's not a stretch to expand it by adding all connections and scrolling it on TV screens, on the toteboard, or via several social media outlets.
The words "we can't" permeate racing in NA like they are some sort of a slogan. I think we can.
Some people are doing it, we need more to. We can try and solve problems, or we can continue to call each other names, as bettors leave and handle and purse revenue circles the drain. How about the former for a change where we all win?