by Garnet Barnsdale
Twitter was buzzing yesterday afternoon thanks to a wagering “pledge” drive for a Canadian fair track that was the brainchild of racing writer and handicapper/bettor Melissa Keith.
Keith, who wrote an article about the Miami Fair races in Manitoba in an earlier edition of HRU, thought it would be cool to help break the 2020 handle record at the 1/2-mile track on their closing day. Using social media to her full advantage, Keith encouraged bettors and friends from far and wide to wager, and bet they did.
Keith, a member (and past president) of the Canadian chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association issued a press release that was shared on the Standardbred Canada website and by several members of the chapter and racetrack employees on their social media accounts accompanied by the hashtag #MiamiMadness, and it seemed to work. The track handled a 2020 high of $12,849 and one need only look at the Pick 4 pool to see that the wagering pledge movement attracted plenty of new money.The handle last week was only $4,139, a number that was more than tripled yesterday.
Yesterday’s Pick 4 handled $591 which might seem like peanuts, but consider that there was a $47 carryover from the week before and you see that the closing day Pick 4 handled more than 12 times that of the previous week.
Keith explained the genesis of her #MiamiMadness idea. “I guess I just found myself wondering what it means to ‘support harness racing’ or ‘support small tracks,’ when serious horseplayers with real bankrolls avoid them like that plague, except to occasionally create minus pools, which are bad for these tracks,” she said. “Obviously, bettors want significant-sized pools, low takeout, certain exotics and not others, rebates, and the list goes on. #MiamiMadness wasn’t about competing with Mohawk or The Meadowlands. I think people get that.”
A wagering “pledge” seems like a bit of an unusual idea, though, doesn’t it? “Pledging to play #MiamiMadness was a gesture of support, not charity or fundraising, for a great little half-mile track,” Keith noted. “I wanted to put my money where my mouth was — $100, to start, on the 8-race card. I asked a few friends (like yourself) who are horseplayers if they would follow suit. Most did. Kyle Burton, track photographer at Truro Raceway, came on board with a $50 pledge, and Fraser Rawlinson, a pro handicapper who goes by “The Odds Professor” was in for $100. Others pledged to play, but didn’t state a specific amount, which I can respect. So thank you Ryan Clements, Mike Carter, Brad McCallum, Nathan Bain, Lars Johnston, anonymous public handicappers #1 and #2, and anyone else who jumped in on HPI. I mean, it’s a small miracle Miami broke its 2020 record handle going head-to-head with Woodbine on Queen’s Plate afternoon. So if you played, even $2, thank you. The end goal was break the $12,715 season’s record handle, and that was accomplished: $12,849.”
Keith said that this type of organized group wagering in support of a racetrack shouldn’t be limited to this one event. “Other grassroots tracks could try this too,” she said. “The USHWA Canada chapter has quite a few Twitter followers, so we were able to help Miami announcer and promoter Trey Colbeck with that reach. He and the Miami Fair and Manitoba Harness Racing already did a really excellent job this season, consolidating all their fair dates at one rural track to avoid having to cancel during the summer of COVID-19.”
There was also an emotional moment in race 7 when 14-year-old warhorse Bling Kaching came within a head of winning a retirement race named in his honor. The British Columbia-bred son of Lo Siento out of the Bomb Rickles mare G TS Dianna Dawn — a $1,000 yearling purchase in 2007 — climbed over the $40,000 mark in lifetime earnings. He retired with a record for 13-30-29 in 162 lifetime starts and Bling Kaching was the recipient of a warm round of applause when paraded in front of the Miami Fair stands following the race.
There was a bit of everything on this card as noted by 24-year-old track announcer Trey Colbeck who just completed his maiden voyage as a race caller at this Miami meet. “We had driver objections, inquiries, placings, long shot winners, a $680 trifecta payoff, stakes races, memorial races,” the University of Winnipeg student said. “I don’t think we could have asked for anything more. I think #MiamiMadness played a huge part into the day’s success and the day sure lived up to the “madness” hype. The English major had made a vow on Twitter to get a horseshoe tattoo if the track could reach $15,000 in handle. “Officially, we didn’t hit the mark,” he said.
The placing that Colbeck spoke of came in the 6th race and it saved a bridge jumper when third place finisher Charlies Dragon was disqualified for interfering with fifth-place finisher Tito Santanna who had $846 or the $925 show pool bet on him.
There was also an emotional moment in race 7 when 14-year-old warhorse Bling Kaching came within a head of winning the retirement race named in his honor. The British Columbia-bred son of Lo Siento out of the Bomb Rickles mare G TS Dianna Dawn — a $1,000 yearling purchase in 2007 — climbed over the $40,000 mark in lifetime earnings. He retired with a record for 13-30-29 in 162 lifetime starts and Bling Kaching was the recipient of a warm round of applause when paraded in front of the Miami Fair stands following the race.
But the day belonged to “MiamiMadness and the organizers showed what could be done to support a small track with just a little effort and coordination.