There's quite a bit going on in harness racing this week. And a few of them are things that should've been done long ago.
It looks like there is more discussion on a marketing fund for harness racing in Ontario, from purses. Over the next few years the decision the sport in Ontario makes (outside Woodbine Thoroughbreds, which will last no matter what), will likely make or break harness racing in the province. Lotteries, better bets, more customer friendly wagers, and marketing and scheduling are vital to any long-term harness success.
In HRU today, Alan Leavitt, a Kentucky based long time breeder and owner, proposed a new set of kicking rules for the sport. The fines proposed are on a graded scale, where after a certain amount of repeat violations, up to a six month suspension can be handed out. Now if the USTA could penalize judges who look the other way when it happens (and it happens a lot), the sport would be getting somewhere.
Stories like Hollywood Bob's today in HRU about four year old's - in this case Captaintreacherous - don't sit well with a lot of historians, or those of us who love great horses who've proved it on the racetrack at 4.
I loved Real Desire. He had to play second fiddle for most of his 3YO season against Bettors Delight (for thoroughbred readers, this was Sunday Silence-Easy Goer), but was a top pacer with electrifying talent. It's not that he did not do well at three, he did, winning $1.6 million. But when there is another colt so good, it's tough to run the table. The connections were forced to race at four to try and get a better stud deal and the horse was magical, winning 10 of 13 with three close seconds. He pretty much ran the table, winning every free for all event that season. No hype, no bull, 100% racehorse.
Art Major had to race Mach Three, McArdle, Red River Hanover and others at three. He was more than fine - he was excellent - winning 20 of 31 against that group, along with $1.8 million. Choosing to race at four, he proved his place in history, going 11-8-3-0, winning almost all major stakes and over $1 million. His fights with Four Starzz Shark Mini Me, Gallo Blue Chip and others, including the always underrated McArdle, were amazing races.
The list this century is not short, but long. Rainbow Blue before being injured was dominant, winning all her starts. Art Official and Shadow Play, both well less than 100% off injuries, won Open stakes and money against top multi-millionaires like Mister Big. Last year's four year old crop - probably the best we've seen in many years - were flat-out awesome. The only problem with Pet Rock or A Rocknroll Dance and Warrawee Needy and others, were that they were born in the wrong year. Market Share beat salty Euros in the Breeders Crown, and ironically, Bee a Magician has not come back well, but horses like Classic Martine have, and have pretty much dominated (in the Miss Versatility last week, 4YO's went 1,2,3).
Four year olds in history, both recent and modern can do just fine at 4, providing they're good enough. Those who are - like those listed above - should be held in high regard, and forever be remembered for what they were - solid, hard knocking, tremendously fast racehorses.
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