Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Radical Post Position Policy Change

Dean Hoffman wrote in this months Trot Magazine that we need to think outside the box with post positions. Some of his ideas are extremely radical. Radical is good, because our sport has hit the skids. Ray on has given us post position stats for 2008.

Flamboro Downs Post One: 46% more than expected winners

Buffalo Raceway Post One: 41% more than expected winners

Yonkers Post One: 41% more than expected winners

On half mile tracks are we a racing game with nine possible results or are we a coin flip?

This is a speed game. Horses can go like the wind and stagger the last bit and win. Further, lower class horses are more prone to this, and tracks like Flamboro with many $4500 claimers exacerbate the numbers. Draw the rail, you win (522 winners out of 2276 post ones). Single file racing, in post position order is (in many races) assured.

In addition, this is terrible for horse owners. At some B tracks it is tough to get in more than three times a month. With vet bills and inflation of owning horses out of control, getting the six post or worse two times a month is a killer. Horse owners tend to pray for a good draw, and if they don't get one, they know they are finished.

What can be done about this? What can make races on B tracks more competitive in a gambling environment that needs change and variety? What can be more fair to horse owners who truck their horse out to these tracks and are immediately 50-1 or higher if they draw outside?

A couple of things have been tried in the past. Yonkers went to a mile and a 1/16th to lengthen the run to the turn, for example.

I am fairly confused on what to do to improve this. A few random things to throw out there for half mile B tracks.

* Staggered starting gate.

* Paying a higher percentage of the purse if the 6,7 or 8 posts win. This done to encourage leaving from the outside.

* Handicap system like thoroughbreds.

* Handicapping system based on gate speed/average first quarter speed, i.e. give the fastest horses off the gate the outside.

* Starting 4 X 4. The fastest four horses start behind the slowest four horses. The first quarter and subsequent movement in the second quarter would be marvelous to watch as the speediest horses move to gain control of the top.

I am sure we can bat around a few others as those are off the top of my head.

I think the question is a good one, and one we should explore. The B track scene is virtually dead. Pools are so small. Fans are not receptive to the product. It is perfect for a radical experiment. What do we have to lose?


Race Judicata said...

Very interesting post! Harness racing starts have struck me as inside-post-biased, but I just figured it was something that I didn't understand because I wasn't as familiar with the sport. I like the 4 x 4 de facto handicapping idea.

Anonymous said...

Give the horse with the least amount of money won either lifetime or in the last 52 weeks posts 1,2, and 3.

Wind Gatherer said...

How would one stagger the start? Don't they all just run after that car?

What if they used a standing start and the gate was placed at the top of the stretch?

Anonymous said...

The B track is not that dead, I'm still there!
When they are on the network they get decent coin, Western Fair and Geo are good bets on a Tuesday.
Anyway, if you remember Grand River experimented with an inside lane for the outside posts, but it was a flop, drivers getting confused etc.
4 x 4 is a decent idea, however, it doesn't take into account tr/dr changes. Certain trainers can make speed, just as certain drivers can make speed.
For instance, just say my horse shows no speed, but has had William Bedford driving, now suddenly Kevin Wallis is in town for grassroots and he picks up the drive from the inside 4 based on prior results.
You would need a big matrix to figure all these out, however I believe it is the best option of the ones you listed.
Don't get me wrong, 6,7,8 isn't death on the B scene, if you have the best horse you still can win.
Rights Adviser comes to mind, dominated fields for weeks and drew post 8 you actually got 2-1 because of the PP, well, he still dominated.
I also don't believe horses with speed should be punished!

best regards,


Pull the Pocket said...

How would one stagger the start? Don't they all just run after that car?

A: the wings of the gate are staggered, so the outside horses start a half length or so ahead of the inside horses. Simple concept, but it was dropped at a few places in the 1990's after they tried it.

Louis, nice post. Thanks for the thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Add weight to the horses with inside post positions!

Anonymous said...

I don't think adding weight makes much difference in harness racing, although I clearly remember JC in an interview saying that ideal weight was about 140.
Applied force when pulled is different then having it on your back, especially when wheels are involved.
Perfect example is Lyle MacArthur, who is easily 50 pounds heavier then some of the top guys, and when you have exchanged drivers on some of his horses there has been no time improvement, and in some cases been slower.



Anonymous said...

At some point weight has to have an effect. So long as it would not hurt the horses, it may be worth experimenting with??

Anonymous said...

They have used the staggerd starting gate at a couple tracks in the US and it has not made any significant difference.

A for the 4X4, people are already against having trailers, now you want four trailers?

Move the starting line so there is more of a straight away before the turn. It will give the outside horses more time to get involved before the turn is hit.

Lastly, have it the conditons that a horse that started from post 7-8 will get to draw for posts 1-6 only unless a handicapped race. This way the owners don't get constantly shafted (I have seen horses start from posts 6-8 in eight straight starts and they were not handicapped races.)

Another option is to offer money for being in lead at each pole (1/4, 1/2, 3/4. This may cause all drivers to go for the lead as there is a financial incentive.

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