HRU Feedback (2017-11-11)

November 11, 2017

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Let them eat cake… in Harrisburg

It is difficult to not think of those infamous words popularly attributed Marie-Antoinette, Let Them Eat Cake, as we see the smiling faces of buyers and sellers at this year’s Harrisburg yearling sale. Whether or not she actually uttered those words is up for debate. But its usage in popular culture is to address those who understand little about the plight of the poor and care even less. On the same day we see jaunty yearling sales prices, we can go to the USTA website and see that handle is down yet another five per cent this year while racing days are down over two per cent. Freehold Raceway just removed Thursday racing from its calendar because there are not enough horses to fill only three cards a week. The Meadowlands isn’t even trying to race three or even two days a week. They only race once a week. Seeing a handle of only $2 million for a Saturday opening night for a 13-race card was simply terrifying for an industry reeling on the brink of extinction.

But look at all of those smiling faces in Harrisburg. Buyers know that because of the shrinking competition base, they have a higher percentage chance at the increasing big stake money due to the temporary influx of casino cash. (These days it is commonplace to see trainers have multiple horses in the biggest races). Sellers and sales organizations are making more money for less product. Oh, happy day.

Am I writing anything that is not known by the villains in this story? Of course not. We can surmise that they have given up on the future of harness racing like everyone else, but since the end is inevitable, ‘let’s make as much money now before the final curtain falls.’

And if I am wrong, please tell me of the efforts taken by these profiteers to reach outside the industry to increase the possibility of survival. (The very few that do are heroes. But as for the rest who could do something…) All we ever see as an effort by harness racing royalty is to defame those who state the obvious, or preach to the choir — the continuously shrinking choir — about supporting harness racing.

We have witnessed some from harness racing’s elite clearly define the problems. However, words without actions by those who have the resources to do something about it, quite frankly, are as useless as tits on a tomcat. We honor those who fight for the sport we all love. They will be remembered after harness racing becomes little more than fantastic stories to tell the grandkids.

— Gil Winston / Manalapan, NJ

Blood boiling over questionable race at Pocono

I have been wagering on the ponies over 50 years. I have watched many races, and when I see a race that, in my opinion, seems a little questionable, my blood boils! Whether I have an interest in the race, via ownership, or via a wager, it angers me much more than if I win or lose.

Let someone with any authority view race number 1, Sunday (Nov. 5), at Pocono Downs. Watch the race carefully, and numerous times, as I have.

We have at field of nine decent trotters, vying for a $16,000 purse. The number 4 horse is 4-5, the 3 horse is 3-1. From the outside, the 9 horse, 25-1, and the 8 horse, at 32-1 were the only leavers. The 6 was offstride from the outset so he is not involved in any way, shape, or form. The number 3, quarter moves and assumes command. The 4 horse (4-5), comes a sluggish first over, and at no time was really a threatening presence. As they come off the final turn, of course the 4 horse was gasping and the 3 horse (the leader), as well was out of gas. So, up the inside passing lane comes the 9, and the 8. The were the only ones to leave, and lo and behold, here they are, the only ones going forward in the stretch.

The winner, the 9 horse was off at $25.70 to a dollar, and the place horse, the 8, was off at $32.70 to a dollar. The 8 and the 9 were two of the 3 rank outsiders in the race, and this exacta, which probably should have paid in the $600 to $700 dollar range, pays a ridiculous $170.20! Hmmmm…. gives one certainly food for thought doesn’t it?

In my opinion, and ONLY my opinion, the 2 chalks were in the tank, as NOT ONE HORSE other than the top four finishers were ever involved at any part of the mile, and NOBODY was going to pass the 2 chalks that “battled” from the 5/8 to mid-stretch.

In these days when there is so many options from so many outlets for the gaming dollar, a race such as this, chases fans away from the track and to the slots!

This is not a case of sour grapes, as I had no financial interest in this race whatsoever.

— name withheld at writer’s request for fear of reprisals

Who is fooling who

Until racing moves to a constant biological passport of red blood cell monitoring it will be next to impossible for anyone to be caught blood doping. The technology today is just too sophisticated and too far ahead of the labs. Add to this every state or province — though in Canada the provinces fall under federal jurisdiction and have their own testing and guidelines — finding a needle in a haystack would probably be easier.

EPO has been in use since the ‘80s and it wasn’t until the year 2000 when the labs came up with a human test that resulted in Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France medals and titles. Horse racing developed their test in and around 2011 and let’s just say this 11-12 year head start was just the cushion that these unethical veterinarians and trainers needed to beat the system.

This 11-12 year head start has allowed for micro dosing and a window of 15 days plus for administration and allowing only a matter of hours of detection time after administration, so that when that window closes there is nothing left of evidence, or administration. Out of competition testing has no chance of catching the cheaters in blood doping because of what is the known facts as described above. With most tracks in harness racing, the backstretch where stalls were provided became a thing of the past years ago so all horses are now shipped in to race, and this and a under manned and underfunded regulatory force leads me at least to believe it a waste of funds.

— Bob Adams / London, ON

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