This week the Meadowlands announced they were taking yet another step to cater to the customer base.
In the comment section for each race, those horses with 21 days or more away from racing will have some explanation of the reason for the inactivity and remarks on their level of preparedness for the upcoming race, provided by the trainer. Much like an NFL 'team report' that indicates why a player missed practice or a game, this report will provide bettors with a little more information that they would not normally find in the past performances.”
This is one small step to help customers understand the readiness of a horse and allowing them to make better handicapping decisions. It also goes a long way into helping shed light that horses are not machines, and that our participants have to work through myriad issues to ensure they are ready to go.
Although this seems new, it really isn’t. In Hong Kong if a horse is off, or races poorly, on condition of entry the stewards demand a full vet report. This report is then placed on the Jockey Club website and in the racing program. If your horse was eased and lost by 30, the public knows the horse scoped with sickness. The horse is then scoped again by the vets after it’s cleared up, and reported to the stewards he’s clean. This too is reported to bettors via a website and the racing program.
Betfair in the UK was one of the first companies to hire trainers and jockeys to blog their thoughts on their charges. It’s worked fairly well, and some of the top trainers in the sport have been more than happy to oblige.
Why does it work so well? Because when it comes to their charges chances the people in this sport are for the most part completely honest. I’ll type that again, because the racing press often reports the opposite: The people in this sport are for the most part completely honest.
I, like many of you, hang around a paddock time and time again. I’ll talk to a trainer or a groom or the driver and ask them about their horse.
“He was a little sick and he might need a trip in here, but he has a shot”
“I think she should be good in here this week. He’s been kicking down the barn”
“He warmed up on one line, so I don’t know how it’s going to go. But he fits in here.”
“Not much speed in here and I think he can make front. He’s got a big shot”
Invariably all of those things are completely honest. Invariably there are six or seven sets of connections in the paddock for the exact same race who think their horse has a good chance and are trying (and hoping) for a win. If their horse races any differently as they’ve told you, they are as surprised as you and I may be.
We see this over and over again with paddock reports.
Wendy Ross was talking to Nick Surick at the Meadowlands last week. He had a horse in the last race that had a bit of a quarter crack and was off for two weeks, vet scratched.
Nick reported that problem to everyone and said (paraphrasing) “I trained him up good and I think we have a good shot in there. We’ll be charging”
The horse raced really well. Any handicapper in the world would’ve probably thought about putting a line through him, but Nick’s reporting helped. If Nick was trying to catch odds and cash a bet, he sure isn’t very smart about it.
When we are open about the above we let customers, potential horse owners, and the general fan into the sport. We go “inside baseball” and it is a tremendously interesting part of racing. The races are not pre-determined, they’re races with many variables. We should never run away from being open.
We also see much of this on twitter. One of the best drivers tweeting is none other than Yannick Gingras, the leading driver at the Meadowlands. He regularly shares his thoughts on whom he thinks is live or not live. He took tremendous pride on twitter the other day when three of his best bets all won:
Yannick also chats with trainer Ron Burke and some fans on twitter too, sharing more insight into the game. English is not even the man’s first language, but there he is. Bless him, I can barely spell “cheval”.
Of course there is a different opinion about being open, and that’s what happens when a person gives the Meadowlands, for example, false information in these reports.
I really don’t think that will happen and if it does it will likely be rectified in a hurry.
First, if someone wanted to mislead someone about something with their entry, it would’ve happened many times already. They would’ve already exposed it in a paddock interview or pre-race chat. Can you think of any time that’s happened out of the thousands upon thousands of interviews? I can’t.
Second, if a trainer really wanted to put something over on someone, and give false information, I think it’s great. Please do it. If he does it once, he’ll get a call from Gural. If he does it twice he’ll probably be exposed for what he is: Someone we don’t want around. Go race somewhere else.
This is what happens with Betfair in the UK. Recently, some less than honest participants were betting their horse to lose, just like they’ve probably done hundreds of times in the tote system. But when you do it on Betfair, there’s an electronic trail. Now they are uncovered, and kicked out. Betfair is the bait car for corrupt participants.
Regardless, trainers and drivers have been doing paddock interviews for some time now. Even if one of their horse’s races differently as they reported, the public has for the most part understood.
Having said that, the onus is on the trainers – many of you who read this publication – to do the very best regarding this new Meadowlands initiative. You’re a vital part of marketing the sport of racing.
Listening to customers and respecting the betting base are good things. With policies like the above, bettors not only get respected, they get to see the people behind this sport much more clearly and openly. When that happens, the sport can’t help but win.
This article originally appeared in Harness Racing Update. You can subscribe for free here.