Readers opine on a smattering of subjects

HRU Feedback (2019-12-08)

December 8, 2019

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Eric Cherry: let’s rebrand ourselves as “trotters”

This is in response to Chris Schick’s concern, and rightly so, that our industry will be included with the issues that the thoroughbreds are dealing with in regards to fatalities on the racetrack (full story here).

I suggest that from this point forward we refer to our industry as the “Trotting“ industry. We know the difference between trotters and pacers, but most outsiders do not. We also know that we race standardbreds, but the public does not and they confuse us with them all the time. When I explain the difference to most people they say something to the effect of “Oh, are they are the ones that pull the carts?”

It would be relatively easy, with little risk, for lawmakers to just lump us together. What strikes me is not the amount of thoroughbreds that die on the track, but that it is only double what was anticipated. We have a strong case since it is relatively rare for one of our horses to die in that manner, but we have to make it easier for them to remember that we are a totally different breed. By calling ourselves “The Trotters” it will be a step in that direction.

— Eric Cherry / Boca Raton, FL

Suggestions from a fan

At the close (in October) of the Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile, Jeff Gural and Michelle Crawford and other harness luminaries spoke glowingly about the racing and tradition of that race meet. I was there in the late ‘80s and came away with the same reaction. Yet, I was amazed at how insular the whole experience was: so many people I saw there were folks I had seen in the trade magazines or on telecasts of racing programs. Unlike the crowds at nearby Keeneland or Saratoga or Del Mar, I did not see throngs of regular race fans. One problem is takeout rates so high that it is very hard for even serious fans to show a profit. For fans today who want to follow the meet via a turf club or an ADW, there are several additional issues. I’d like to address them with some constructive suggestions. For starters, the quality of the television signal is woeful. Even Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres has an HD signal. Hey, it’s 2019! Perhaps John Campbell, who has come up with some very sound ideas in his new role, can work on this, at least for the Grand Circuit races. In the t-bred game, the Jockey Club recently came up with funds to aid some mid-tier flat tracks to go HD. The sound quality is another issue: sounds kind of scratchy. Equally annoying — in fact, bush league — is the approach to interviews. Quite often, part of the interview has to share the time with the race replay. I want to see and hear the interviews; often the visuals convey more than the discussion. During a race call, I want to hear the sound. There are reasons we have race callers; their magic helps fans to follow the action and enjoy the excitement. What’s the rush? In my last conversation with the late Sam McKee, he agreed with me that the Meadowlands races were being run a bit too fast, and that those at The Red Mile and WEG were much too fast. He also agreed with me that it is unfair for the fans and a bit disrespectful to those involved in the interviews to not broadcast both sound and picture. Sam did a great job with his race calls. Gabe Prewitt likewise for race calls and interviews. This year Dave Brower obviously had worked hard to be so well-prepared. Let’s not be disrespectful of their work.

— William Waters / Gloucester City, NJ

Heyden is a rare breed

I sat next to Bob for 12 years at the Meadowlands press box in the ‘80s. Bob took over the stats job giving it his all. Bob was the rare breed that ate and slept harness racing. Bob built a trusting relationship with the horsemen that carried over to his interviews. I am sure that it won’t be long before someone hires him. Shame on you Jeff!

— Alex Kraszewski / Wilmington, DE

Now is time to separate ourselves from the thoroughbreds

Bill Finley’s article in Friday’s HRU (full story here) got me thinking, now is time for separation. For as far back as I can remember we in harness have played the poor second cousin to the thoroughbreds. I have many friends that are in the thoroughbred game and the one thing that I always remember them saying and this was back in the early ‘70s was we in harness had a lot of chemist trainers.

Over time I have watched trainers of both breeds give the sport of horse racing one huge black eye. Now is the time for the authorities that police our harness racing to come down swift and hard on the chemists; no more second chances, no more appeals, guilty as charged from the results of urine and blood tests. We here in Canada have an opportunity to lead by appointing a single commissioner to oversee the sport and separate us from the rest of North America. The way I see it — and I have been in the game since the ‘50s — harness racing as always been regarded as that other type of racing, never getting the headlines. Now we are lumped together with the thoroughbreds and are getting all the bad press. If what Finley wrote about, California harness racing will go under the bus first and then that snowball will get rolling. The bigger that snowball gets while going downhill will eventually hit Canada, sooner than you think and it will devastate our industry like a wild fire. I know I sound like a broken record every time I post in Feedback but we have to right the ship here in Canada for our horse racing industry.

— Bob Adams / London, ON

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