Yesterday the Big M announced changes to their stakes season. Out are the Sweetheart and the Wilson, in is a new stake for older trotters and pacers, with a chance for the top three year old to enter.
As written last week in HRU, the line has become blurred between three year olds and older. Somebeachsomewhere, Well Said, Rock n Roll Heaven, and many others could easily compete against older. Any number of 148 pacers this season in the three year old ranks could probably give them a tussle as well.
It's a little tougher for trotters, because they tend to need to find their footing, but Donato, or Dewey, or Market Share, or Intimidate would likely not be disgraced in such an event.
It's an event that allows for times to change.
It also lengthens stakes season, which might be an issue. To prep for a North America Cup, you need to be ready in mid May. It's a long year.
What of the North America Cup, Metro and other stakes north of the border?
According to a story in Harness Racing Update yesterday, it appears the Woodbine stakes season (for big events) won't look super-different next year, post slots, other than some purse cuts. Whether than means Woodbine is expecting transitional money to be there, they have enough in the til, or economically it makes sense post slots might be anyone's guess. But it appears these events will go on.
Common-sensically, if the Cup drops from $1.5M to 1.0M it won't make a lick of difference. If the Metro dropped to $750,000, it wouldn't either. If the Canadian Pacing Derby was $500,000, I don't think field quality would suffer. Especially with the strong Canadian dollar.
What Woodbine can do, in my opinion, is concentrate stakes a little better. When the Meadowlands closes in August, there is an opportunity to grow handle. I think we'll see good scheduling of events this year.
Where the transition post-slots is really being seen is in racedates.
Woodbine has asked for one day less a week this winter. Georgian is dropping their early meet Friday's. Western Fair is dropping Wednesday's. Flamboro is going from 5 nights a week to 3. This is the first step in the post-slots transition.
What I think we'll notice early on in the year is a growth in per race handle. Ontario has its share of horseplayers that like the Ontario product. Less choice should mean better handles, not overall, but per card. We'll see what happens.
Have a nice Friday everyone.
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