HRU Feedback (2020-02-23)

Promote the heck out of harness racing

After watching the possible debacle in Pennsylvania, here is my suggestion: Harness racing better join with all other breeds to organize. Show them the impact racing has. Show the jobs. But better yet, quit sitting around and doing nothing. Start promoting the heck out of harness racing. Make it fun. Offer giveaways and show gamblers you are happy they came. Make it a nice experience.

— Shari Hazlett / Hillsdale, NY

Revive the Sweepstakes

I’m pushing 80 years of age and have followed and participated in the sport since I was 10 years old. Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s before casino and lotteries became the normal, if a person who had big dreams about being rich had to resort to trying to find someone who had a connection to distribute tickets on the IRISH SWEEPSTAKES . As I recall it was illegal in Canada to sell them. I never did buy one but I remember that the Irish had a very complicated solution to get a winner. Possibly we could use and modify their procedure and revive the “SWEEPSTAKES.” Problem is now finding someone who could explain how it worked. Just a thought.

— Ted Steele / Blackacre Stable and participant with the LandMark group

What is wrong with the AGCO?

The past week there was an incident of a trainer harming one of his horses which the penalty took way too long to come out. Then we find out this same trainer has entries under his name during the suspension date. The AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) needs a total restructuring. The current regime cannot do the job properly. First off, the AGCO is funded through taxes and I don’t believe that most of the people of Ontario realize this. I strongly feel that they should make public in layman terms the severity of all penalties and not just on the Standardbred Canada site that only horsemen know about. Every newspaper should publish fines and suspensions open to the public for viewing and this should be mandated by the government and paid for by AGCO which again is the public. Take this one instance, if this was made public knowledge I am sure that some animal rights group would see it and demand action and there’s the rub. As it is now, it is not public, nothing if anything has happened and who is taking care of the horse and its health and safety? AGCO is totally out of touch or think that they are untouchable in the way they carry out their affairs and every honest horseman should demand to their government representatives that AGCO is held accountable for their rulings especially where multiple rules offenders are not banished from racing for good.

— Bob Adams / London, ON

Hats off to Tim Finley

Hats off to Tim Finley for penning his thoughts on saving harness racing. Mr. Finley observed he’s a futurist, made smart, forward-thinking investments; and warned of and offered to respond with assistance to harness racing’s ultimate demise decades ago. In short, Mr. Finley offers to use his knowledge and skills to guide a group of Floridians to formulate a transferable success model, using PPK as an incubator. All of this while observing, “At one time, cowboy movies had the attention of almost every American.”Ironically, neither Festus, nor Marshall Dillon or Ms. Kitty is coming back, and one has to ask whether harness racing ever will.In further irony, PPK may soon go as did Roosevelt Raceway, Freestate and Sportsman’s Park.PPK, like Gulfstream Park, could have been the winter racing capital of the world. Disparate track ownership groups functioning through different corporate boards and values make a unified approach to harness racing near impossible. Any budding owner or bettor would much rather bond with Burke or Tetrick, than we must agree a midlevel trainer or driver. A concept Mr. Finley dismisses. True. Everyone can’t be Takter, Gingras and here lately blue collar Surick. But thinking otherwise would be like asking potential investors to buy stock in Charlotte and bypass the Lakers and Heat. (As Mr. Finley surmised, would you rather be in Milwaukee or Miami? The fractional ownership concept has potential, but I don’t see transparency in fixed costs and expenses without which most astute investors will never touch it. If Tony ever published an independent audit I would be on board, as I’m sure deep pocketed investors would follow suit, for investment is the key word on top of the fun of it. One writer proposes fixed odds. Certain bettors would have a field day. Go back and research Vegas bookmakers who dropped a dime on certain harness gamblers years ago. Then, the hardworking trainer toiling with overnight stock, troubled by vet bills, rising feed costs, the blacksmith, and owners needing at least a show finish to stay in the business. These folks fight the grind and keep the entry box full. They delegate to others to think and act on their behalf, without benefit of data or concern for it.

So then, how does the industry respond to Mr. Finley’s offer of help? I, like he, believe in the power of data gathering and analysis. However, I’m afraid such effort would be useless without power brokers who own, manage and operate tracks at the table. Ultimately, they’re the decision makers.

— Vincent Lee