A bridge too far

by Trey Nosrac

This sequence of unfortunate events occurred about one decade and three Pina Coladas ago, so the facts are fuzzy but accurate. My guess is many of you will relate.

Each year, I push my resource limit beyond reason and purchase a yearling harness racehorse with a pal. Once upon a time, I owned 50 per cent of a horse that raced in Pennsylvania with semi-moderate success. Deep into the 3-year-old season with this horse, we decided to try for the large overnight purses at Yonkers, a novel experience for us that turned semi-tragic.

We had never raced out of state and understood we would need to jump through a few hoops in addition to our usual due diligence of PA fingerprints, licenses, organization memberships, stakes payments, etc. Our dance began with lengthy and costly shipping, paperwork for a trainer based in New York, and then a week or so to allow the horse to settle into his new surroundings. Perfectly understandable.

While New York and Pennsylvania share a geographical border, we were illegal immigrants in New York for racing purposes. Should you understand my computer aptitude and patience level at the time, this move across the state line for a single race was a ghastly expenditure of time, money, frozen computer screens, telephone calls, and for some weird reason, I seem to recall I needed to find a notary. Whatever, finally we were eligible to race in foreign territory: New York in the 8-hole at Yonkers. Very exciting.

Finally, the day of our first race in New York arrived. We were as pumped as you can get from post 8 on a half-mile racetrack. Then things began to go sideways. Around six o’clock, we received a text from our new trainer with the unfortunate news that the truck shipping our horse to Yonkers Racetrack became stuck in traffic on a large bridge. Accidents happen. Our horse did not reach the racetrack in time for his scheduled debut. There would be no racing for us tonight.

At this point, we learned a new rule. Something along the lines that when scratched from the 8-hole, your horse will wait at least a week and be reassigned the 8-hole in the next start. There are probably excellent reasons for this rule. We were racing immigrants and were not whiners, so we sighed and sat back to wait.

During this hiatus, we decided that racing our horse in nearby New Jersey was a good idea. Ergo, a third license was required to allow us to enter our horse at Freehold Racetrack. More rigmarole.**

During our start at Freehold, nearing the halfway point of the race, the horse racing directly in front of our horse fell and caused a hellacious accident, injuring our horse and driver. Hey, again, accidents happen. If you are in this game, you know the fates are not always kind and good fortune marinates in misfortune. No regrets. These weeks were an adventure. No whining: well, okay, a little whining.

Our out-of-state racing and licensing experience was an out-of-body experience where we wrote checks, filled out duplicate paperwork, made phone calls, and jumped through administrative hoops.

The tangible results of leaving our home state to race in Pennsylvania was having our horse stand in a hot van idling on a bridge in New York and then having our racehorse and his driver fly into the racetrack infield and land awkwardly in New Jersey. I am very confident we could have managed those results remaining in Pennsylvania.

We limped home. This little ill-fated racing vignette has us very nervous about ever crossing state lines again. The licensing process, hassle, and expense do not help. The moral of this story is that for small fish in harness horse racing, any steps to minimize licensing expenses, costs, and hassles are a big deal. For example, I own 10 per cent of a 2-year-old trotting filly hopeful this season. Tomorrow I will drive over an hour to get a new racing license, possibly involving fingerprints, photos, and money. Mercifully, the trip will be in our state.

**“Rigmarole means complicated, bothersome nonsense. In the ١٣th century, a list of names was known as the Ragman Roll. Edward (known as Hammer of the Scots) forced sworn fealty to him by signing oaths of allegiance that were collected on parchments that together made up what came to be called the Ragman Roll (or Ragman Rolls, or Ragman’s Roll). Ragman was also a game where a scroll had strings hanging from it that pointed to various (likely bawdy) verses in the scroll. Players would choose a string to pull to find their verse and read it aloud for entertainment. Over time ragman roll, for a long roll of parchment full of “nonsense,” eventually became Rigmarole, a long, unnecessarily time-consuming hassle.”