As the sport changes in Ontario, one must wonder what will happen to harness racing's record books.
On Saturday night, Luc Ouellette won his 8,500th race, near the twilight of his career. He told Standardbred Canada that his goal was always 10,000 wins, but he now considers that a bit of a longshot.
He's probably right.
During slotsville there were about 1,500 racedates a year, with say, 10 races per card. That's a lot of opportunity. Now we may see dates fewer than 500 - a whole lot less.
Add the fact that harness racing is an interesting sport, one where the driver does not matter as much as most think. If Dale Romans rode Dullahan in the Pacific Classic, he might have trouble beating Roger Bannister. In harness, trainers like Ray Schnittker can win in 151.3 with Check Me Out, and the next race the star catch driver will do about the same. In Ontario, with purses falling so rapidly, that 5% given up currently by some trainers to catch-drivers will be needed to pay stall rent and they probably won't be as eager to hand over the reins.
People like Luc - and many others - will struggle to get mounts, let alone win races.
It illustrates where we are at as a sport, when extraneous outside factors can write and re-write record books. With thousands upon thousands of dates the past fifteen years in slotsville, both here in Canada and elsewhere, drivers and trainers can put up some big numbers. Those days look to be over. There is no way - not a snowballs chance - that some of these yearly records will ever be touched.
I guess it's like if football went to a 35 game season for 15 years. Some no-name QB would pass for more TD's in a year than any current or past star who played 14 or 16 games a year. The books would be pretty weird.
That wouldn't happen because football is a pure sport, built on foundational revenue. Harness racing - and horse racing in general - is built as a sport reliant on gaming and government. With it, these things happen.
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