Driver and trainer transparency is modernizing the game

Public comments from racing’s participants give customers new reasons to wager and are in one small way changing an age-old betting sport

by Dean Towers

“You’re right, that website does help me,” said a friend via a text last week.

He was referring to, which, at the behest of the Jeff Gural team, lists upwards of 75 comments from participants, detailing information about their entrants for any given card at The Meadowlands.

My friend, initially skeptical of the venture, has come around. And I think there’s good reason to: Many of the comments are actionable.

When Linda Toscano tells the public her horse had two hard front-end speed missions in a row and might look for a helmet this week, it’s real. When Ron Burke and Yannick Gingras mention how great a horse qualified, it’s something to consider. When John McDermott says his horse had a cough early in the week and the public sees the horse scratched, it’s a good thing.

Even the amateur races, which are a thorn in the side of serious horseplayers, can have a plethora of comments helping customers navigate that minefield. This information can aid them to gain an edge, especially in burgeoning Pick-4 and -5 pools.

Although new to harness racing, the concept of scouring for real time information about and from participants from non-traditional sources is a staple of the 2023 sports bettor, and perhaps has never been examined harder.

Professional bettor and chief executive officer of the Hammer Betting NetworkRob Pizzola said to me via direct message:

“Betting markets are becoming more and more efficient with each passing day, meaning there are fewer edges to be found. When there is breaking injury news in any given league, this is an opportunity for bettors to react to new information that hasn’t been processed by the market yet. If you are quick to bet this news, you will end up with strong closing value; one of the best indicators of what makes a good wager.”

The days of Joe at Mulvany’s Pub in Long Island spreading rumors about Frank Gifford’s playing status because his ‘cousin knows someone’ are long gone. Local reporters, YouTube coaches’ press conferences and gumshoes in the sports betting world provide this information right on our screens now.

For harness racing, some have argued this all doesn’t matter materially — why should The Meadowlands and participants go to all this trouble — and they do make some valid points. However, something I noticed just last week might Illustrate why I think it’s important.

At Woodbine Mohawk Park on Jan. 26, patrons opened the program and saw two races in the Pick-5 with potential chalks sent out by leading trainer Richard Moreau. These weren’t regular favorites, though. Both horses were off over seven weeks, and due to the change in qualifying rules had no charted line. It was the quintessential guessing game.

I polled a few friends, curious what they were going to do about the popular Pick-5 bet that evening.

Their responses ranged from, “I assume both horses will be great, but I don’t know enough to put money on it,” to an incredulous, “Why would they do that to us?” and “I’d feel like a degenerate if I played.”

One or two trainers from Woodbine Mohawk Park post comments on Inside Harness, but it’s not pushed like it is at The Big M, and their leading trainer is not one of them. That left the customers with no out. One of my friends began searching for inside information — not unlike Joe at Mulvany’s Pub did in 1972 — but he couldn’t find out much.

If you’re wondering, both horses were well bet but didn’t hit the board, and yes, the Pick-5 pool was lower than the previous few Thursdays.

To become a better betting game (and drive more revenue for purses) I believe the sport needs to kick down the barriers between those who want to wager and those who take those wagers. It must, at every turn, find reasonable ways to encourage a customer to bet. Transparency not only builds trust; it keeps people engaged. It’s an asset not a liability.

There were people looking at The Meadowlands last Sunday (Jan. 29) wondering if a horse in the fifth who had been off for a month was ready. They’re opening Inside Harness for clues and likely finding at least some real time information to help them. That’s a very positive thing and I applaud the trainers and drivers who are participating. To those who aren’t yet, please consider it. You will be helping your sport modernize.