The breakup

When explaining harness racing to newcomers, keep it simple and less is more.

by Trey Nosrac

When Amanda Montclair entered Starbucks, customers shifted their eyes away from their double café lattes and Fear Street Frappes. The tall, striking woman in her orange and white jogging suit, with blonde hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, appeared like a multitasking Hallmark movie mother of teenagers who had just dropped them off for private tennis lessons. Not even close.

Amanda is unmarried with no children, works as a corporate bankruptcy analyst and parked her beloved Porsche turbo in front of the outdoor dining patio. She gave me a finger wave, crossed the restaurant like a movie star and planted a quick peck on my cheek. She settled in the chair across from me and reached across the tabletop to take my hands.

Amanda: “Trey, we need to talk.”

Trey: “Uh, oh.”

Amanda: “We both know this is not working.”

Trey: “True.”

Amanda: “We’ve both known it for a long time.”

Trey: “How long?”

Amanda: “It’s been a year without many sparks.”

Trey: “Don’t say: it’s not your fault.”

Amanda: “Oh, it’s your fault. It’s your hobby. I know it means a lot to you and you tried desperately to get me involved, but it’s just not happening.”

Trey: “You’re not the first to bail. You’re about the 19th. I’ve tried men, women, young, old and everything in between. Getting anyone involved in the sport is an impossible dream.”

Amanda (sweetly): “I’m not your Dulcinea.”

Trey (sighs): “If finding new harness racing fans was my job, I’d be sleeping in my car.”

Amanda: “Your sport is so, so slow.”

Trey: “Not when you get into it.”

Amanda: “Do this math for our trudging filly. The lovely Miss Match raced three times. Each race was two minutes, which worked out to six minutes of action in one year and even then, I was not quite sure what I was watching.”

Trey: “Technically, she is a ‘trotting’ filly and her three races were each about two minutes and 10 seconds, so you had action for six and a half minutes, but I get your drift.”

Amanda: “Would you like a few suggestions for your next recruitment effort?”

Trey: “Suggestions or therapy? I need help.”

Amanda: “Compression.”

Trey: “Like CPR?”

Amanda (smiles): “Compression of time and information.”

Trey: “Okay, I get the time compression. I’ve thought about that and considered bringing in a newbie just before qualifying. What’s the volume angle?”

Amanda: “Your sport has too much going on to get newbie brains around. Colt, gelding, ridgling, mare, filly, trotter, pacer, different ages, racetracks, stakes races and non-stakes races. That’s too much information for a person new to your sport.”

Trey (nodding): “Not to mention pedigrees, Grand Circuit racing, overnight racing, different-sized tracks, wagering and racing strategy.”

Amanda: “Exactly, skip that stuff. All that information is confusing. Unclutter new minds. Don’t even bother us until racing. Then, when you introduce the horse to us, silo and mask as much as possible.”

Trey: “Silo and Mask? Isn’t that a WWE tag team?”

Amanda: “Pull the young racehorse out of the stall and explain to the newbie that this is a 2-year-old girl [filly] trotting horse. She will only race against 2-year-old trotting girls [fillies]. Remove every other age, sex and gait of racehorses. They can fall off the earth as far as we are concerned.”

Trey: “A tad harsh, but… ”

Amanda: “To further declutter, text your next new prospect a list of quantified 2-year-old trotting fillies.”

Trey: “Qualified, it’s qualified.”

Amanda: “Oh, anyway, this list of horses contains the names of the only horses the person needs to care about. We owners are all in the same boat, the same small tribe, the same herd of competitors. Tell the new person that last week, we proved we are fast enough to compete with the others in our tribe who made it to the races. We want to be one of the better horses in our tribe and update the list every week.”

Trey: “Keep it simple.”

Amanda: “The simpler, the better. If you had shown me just one horse and her competitors last summer, maybe your sport would have stuck.”

Trey (excited): “If I introduced a horse that was part of a smaller sires’ stakes program, like Minnesota, Virginia, or Kentucky, the pool of competitors would be smaller. Heck, perhaps only a half dozen.”

Amanda: “An excellent idea. A small state racing program with only a handful of competitors does not feel daunting to people who know little about your little world. Maybe I could have wrapped my mind around things and caught a bit of your fever. Oh and it would help if you had been more proactive.”

Trey: “Proactive?”

Amanda: “You notified me when the horse raced and took me to a fair race. That’s insufficient. It would help if you took me to the race or at least been on a Zoom call, explaining what is happening slowly and carefully. A leader needs to lead, not just send out invitations. Compress time, mask and silo information. Be more hands-on. If you hook someone, they have forever to fill in the blanks.”

Trey: “You used the terms maybe and perhaps, so does this suggest you are open to another lap around the harness racing track?”

Amanda: “No, we’re finished. I’m seeing someone else; he’s introducing me to Bocce Ball. It’s faster, easier to understand and more economical.”

Trey: “I understand. So we are breaking up or whatever. Oh well, we will always have Paris, well not Paris, but the Dover Fairgrounds.”

Amanda (sigh): “Yeah, all two minutes and ten seconds.”