Views of points and pals

by Trey Nosrac

While driving to a farm in the Pennsylvania countryside to look at one of the yearlings on my Harrisburg list, he asked, “You always ask why I don’t dive into the harness racing pool; let me turn the question around, why do you get involved every year?”

I chirped, “To get rich.”

“That’s absurd. You would get rich quicker playing the accordion in a rap group. You lose money, but you keep trying. Why?”

“This sport is for dreaming. You gotta have dreams.

“To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe

To bear the unbearable sorrow

To run where the brave dare not go.”

He winced, “Who does that? What sort of person breaks into show tunes driving a car?”

“The sort of person who buys yearlings. We are a very eclectic group.”

“Seriously, you spend time and money on this hobby when you could spend on thousands of other preoccupations. Why this one? What’s the pull?”

“I can think of a couple.”

“Don’t go into a money song and dance.”

“Nah, the outside chance of making money is a carrot, but not a big enough carrot for even a person like me.” I pondered his question for a few seconds and said, “Having a partner on the same wavelength is a biggie. We talk almost every day. Trey would not be in the sport as a solo act. I can tell you that with 100 per cent certainty.”

“A cohort in foolhardiness is not a ringing endorsement.”

“A cohort, coconspirator, or co-idiot makes the game more interesting. We find that picking a very good yearling from the annual crop is a tremendous challenge. We enjoy deluding each other that we know what we are doing. We have the sales, the bidding, and the early training. In good seasons, we have the racing to enjoy. Whether the horses are good or not so good, every year is a blast when you can share the ride. Some year we will hit the jackpot.”

“Okay, I will cede that point. The RIGHT person to share a passion or hobby with can make almost anything fun.”

“Absolutely. We have someone to push back against with our sales selections and our racing decisions. Lately, we each made a top ten list of reasonably priced purchases from various yearling sales catalogs. We may or may not buy one from our possible lists, but we keep the lists until the following year. Then it is a lot of fun looking back and seeing who had the better list, and we can boast or moan about our selections.”

“That’s rather a peculiar pastime.”

“It’s fun.”

“A pal to play with, that’s one reason. Give me another.”

I thought for a second and then said, “Points.”


“Yeah, when you race a horse in a stakes program, you need to pick a level where you think your horse can race competitively. Once you choose the level, you need to race in several legs of a series where your horse attempts to accumulate points by finishing one through five in the various legs. The goal is to accumulate enough points to get into a final or a consolation race. No matter what level, from Sires Stakes to the Fair Circuit, I can’t tell you how much we enjoy plotting the course of a horse.”

“I don’t get this. You enter your horse at a certain level and show up to race four times?”

I shook my index finger, “NO, it is so much more. Owners and trainers target these stakes races. You might change levels because you might find a consolation race a better target than the finals. Call me crazy, but I love the intrigue.”

“You are crazy, but intrigue is good.”

“This dynamic of having a series of races with a final makes owners focus on more than their horse. Suddenly, all the other horses, and all their performances, MEAN something. For me, this sort of competition opens the sport. It’s kind of like a pennant race. Sure, your team needs to win, but the results of the others in your league are also important. It’s sort of hard to explain until you have participated, but this part of racing is fascinating to us, especially when we have a pretty nice racehorse.”

He nodded. “And each year is a new crop of competing horses.”

“Yeah, and although I don’t do overnight racing, when I notice the racetracks run a miniseries for aged horses, or a claiming derby with legs and a final, this sometimes shakes me out of my winter wagering hibernation. I wager money during the series because my approach is slightly different than a single race. Don’t ask me why, but it is.”

He said, “Points and pals, did not expect those reasons for your participation.”

“I’m unpredictable, and by the way, my partner and I are still gonna get rich.”