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In Harness, Culture Changes Are Hard

As most of you who follow the blog know, we've spoken about lack of efforts by harness drivers with odds-on horses since its inception. For Thoroughbred friends, this is an issue because harness horses do not have running styles; try or no try is in the hands of the driver.

It's a real issue for a few reasons:

i) A billion or so dollars is bet each year on the sport, and bettors need to know they are given a fair shake.

ii) The judges have been reticent to do anything to participants when it occurs

iii) It makes the sport look insider based, and insiders feel they can do whatever they want, with impunity.

Yesterday's drive on Bee a Magician at the Meadowlands finally resulted in some action. Driver Brian Sears was given a 15 day penalty. This is not 15 days of course, he is not a regular. What it is, is a suspension for next week's stakes card.

Already, insiders have begun griping about it. That's what happens when a culture change begins - denial, anger..... "this is our game, how dare they!" Some are so dumbfounded they think it must be some sort of joke.

It's not "their" game, of course, it's the public's game - through their betting dollars and slot machines.

There's a simple lesson to be learned from all this: If you have an odds on horse, you have to make an effort for the public. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars are bet on a race and those dollars are bet based on form. That form must be raced to.

It will take time, because like with whipping, or kicking, or late for lasix, you are asking people to do something different. As well, the judges have to be consistent and levy fines when warranted. But when you think about it, it's really not very complicated. It should've been addressed long ago, and that the only person to address it is a man with a racetrack - not judges or commissions - shows just how far gone this sport really is.

Comments

JLB said…
Two questions: Would Yonkers honor the suspension ? I doubt it. Second, what is the good of the requirement for a trainer to provide for the race program comments on how the horse fared during the week. Since print time is 72 hours out, an awful lot can happen between that time and post time. This does not seem to be useful.

I would appreciate tracks making more effort if they provide a summary of charted comments in the performance line. How many times have I seen a breaking horse's effort summarized as "costly break", when in at least 99 % of the time, that comment is self-evident.