A sad ending after 45 years
I have lost interest in harness racing and here’s why: I consider myself a die-hard life-long harness racing fan for over 45 years. My dad owned a few horses and I owned a fraction of one. I’ve been in the winner’s circle. I know how it works. I’m not really into betting but just loved following the sport. I saw Albatross, Niatross, Super Bowl, Mr Muscleman and Somebeachsomewhere, etc. in person. These horses were like superstar athletes. I loved following the records and the breeding and I loved going to the fairs to see it on the ground level. I’ve made weekend trips to Canada and the Hambletonian. I was really into it. There are so many things that have turned me off though. Here’s a few of them.
- I feel owners, trainers and drivers treat horses like property instead of the living beings they are (with feelings). Horses are discarded like garbage when they can’t race anymore with many going to the kill pens after they have raced hard for their owners and trainers over the course of years. They have made them money and or enjoyment. Do they deserve being sent on overcrowded trucks without any food or water hundreds of miles away to Canada or Mexico to get slaughtered? What a grisly sight that must be, just horrifying. I don’t see any trainers, drivers or race track owners doing anything to find homes or raise funds for these older horses who can’t race anymore. Pure greed. Sure there’s the Standardbred Retirement Foundation but how many horses can they handle? Why is there not a percentage of all purses going to retired horses and finding them new homes? Their well-being after racing is TOTALLY ignored by all in the sport. Sure there are a few good people who care about them but way too many who don’t. Greed I guess.
- This sport just doesn’t get it. Every time there is a new superstar horse that people recognize and adore, they retire them for breeding at the end of age 3. Gee, the horses are not even fully grown at 3. We as fans are missing so much by not seeing these superstars at age 4. (Muscle Hill, Donato Hanover, Somebeachsomewhere, etc., etc. the list is endless and virtually the who’s who of racing stars retired after their 3-year-old campaign). The public can’t relate to a new crop of stars every year. Look at Greyhound and Dan Patch and the buzz they created by racing for a much longer period. Even Niatross raced at 4.
- I owned a share of a nice trotter a few years ago and he just won in 1:56. 1 at Saratoga’s half-mile track. Not too bad right? What did that get him? Some jerk in Maine bought him two weeks later to watch him at the fairs once a year and when he didn’t win after a few starts he sold him to the Amish. He’s now pulling a buggy in PA. Sickening. Why would I like a sport who does that?
- Now the freeze brands are not required. All that means is those horses can go to the kill auctions and not be known who they are and what they did. Some really bad decisions were made without the horses well-being in mind and the non-caring USTA. It’s all greed. There’s no compassion for horses there. Why support a sport who doesn’t care about their voiceless stars?
- I found out the horse that I owned was involved with a trainer who got busted using illegal substances in horses a few years back. Why would I like the sport? Even when my dad owned horses, he found out the drivers were taking turns winning with their horses and not trying 100 per cent all the time. Yet, they were taking his money for training bills each month. This is nothing new.
- It’s like the tracks are trying not to have fans since much of the racing occurs when people work. Post times are in the afternoon, dinner hour, etc. when its physically impossible to get there for the working class. Oh I know you can bet online but that won’t get you new fans, unless people can go look at the horses in person. If you only want retirees to see the races, then keep it the way it is and when they are gone there are no fans left.
Harness racing is just a shell of what it was (see Pompano Park) and it’s really sad it has come to this. I’m not sure it can be fixed.
Bob Piazza / Hilton, NY
I get annoyed with how silly some of the arguments on Twitter are every single day. Some argue that the takeout percentages are too high on most bets at their favorite track. On the other hand, they don’t seem to care what is happening on the Pick 6 handle. In addition to the 12 per cent or more take out, most days 30 per cent of the pool is carried over to the jackpot. Doesn’t that mean the average player is financing the syndicates who normally take down the mandatory payout days? I know there are many people hoping to find the “pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.” But this is only false hope. It’s a shame that so many people who hit a Pick 6 on any given day are not receiving fair value. Pompano Park has been right not to have that jackpot system on the Pick 6.
Al Gatto / Roselle Park, NJ
Horsepeople should build track in Florida
I was wondering why the horsemen of Florida can’t build a track of their own? Why does a casino need to be involved when we were here first? I could be wrong but most these casinos got in because of the horses, not the other way around.
A Plainridge-type track near Orlando would be lovely. Nothing fancy. Near the southern homes of some of the best training facilities in North America. Trainers could hold onto their older horses when they come down to train babies. Sorry if this comes off as a rant, I get fired up about mismanagement of opportunities in this business. Thank you for your wonderful updates and let’s hope for the best.
Jim de la Rosa / Oakland, NJ