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Dean Hoffman's Blog


Bravo for WEG!

Published: November 24, 2008 2:14 pm ET

Last Comment: December 1, 2008 7:47 pm ET | 6 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

I heartily applaud WEG’s decision to try some 7/8-mile events to improve the flow during the middle of the races.

I know that some people will think it’s not needed and it’s a terrible idea because we have this conviction in harness racing that no new idea is a good idea. There are those who feel that horses have been bred to go a mile for more than a century, and why should we change that? (Words from a Canadian friend.)

I’ve always said that if racing were sailing along smoothly and betting and attendance were up 15-20 percent each year, then maybe---just maybe---racing could rest on its laurels. But please let me know when you find a track that has those kinds of numbers today.

I’ve long believed that races fall into a pattern that is both predictable and often boring. You have the same number of horses in each race competing at the same distance over the same track. And often driven by the same corps of catch-drivers. A pattern is inevitable.

You could probably chart some of the races in advance. Two horses will be out at the quarter and the rest at the rail. You may not know who the parked horses will be, but there will likely be a couple. There might be three out at the half as drivers look to catch cover.

You know the drill: same/old, same/old.

By varying the distance, you will likely vary the pattern of the races. Actually, I would like to see some longer races, too, perhaps with more horses in each race. After all, North America is the only place in the world where 99 percent of the races are contested at one mile.

Innovation! That’s the key to survival for racing today. No, I don’t think we should ditch all the old ways, but we certainly should keep an open mind to new ideas and be willing to try new ideas. That’s what WEG has done, and I applaud its action.

December 1, 2008 - 7:47 pmshorter races will reduce

shorter races will reduce the competitivness just like especially a short stretch
At Meadowlands, for instance, the best horse usually wins, note that I did not say the favorite-the favorite is always the best horse.
If you reduce the distance on a track which already favors horses with front running style, you will have low payoffs, is the plan to give big betters more confidence? another scheme like the passing lane which has cheapen our sport?

November 26, 2008 - 10:58 amHey Dean, During

wilderness (not verified) SAID...

Hey Dean,
During the 1940's & 1950's (at many US tracks) the race cards (amount of races per card) were regulated by a variety of formats, one of which was multiple heats.

The 1st heat went 9/16's and the 2nd heat one-mile.
Other times there were 1st heats of one-mile and second heats of 1-1/16 or longer.

In the old days at Dufferin Park there were 3-in-5 heats and it was not uncommon to see five-, six- and even seven-heat events that carried over to the next day.
Dufferin raced primarily during the winter months and over very difficult off-track surfaces, which I'm sure created both traffic problems and footing issues, as well as endurance.
Dufferin even held races on what were know as "ice days", which took place over the frozen track. (unheard of in 2008).

Personally, I enjoyed the racing on the off-track surfaces and the reversals of form and the difficulty in determining form when a horse was returning to a fast track.

I'm sure we'll never again (at least with consistentcy) see the MUDDY, SLOW, HEAVY and FROZEN track surfaces, however one may surely long for those olden days.


November 25, 2008 - 4:51 pmNorthfield Park raced some

Anne (not verified) SAID...

Northfield Park raced some of their cheaper claimers ½ and 9/16 mile dashes back in the late 70's. They were popular with many trainers and owners...not so sure they went over well with the fans. I don't believe they carded them more than a season or two.

November 25, 2008 - 3:48 amNot a smart idea, IMHO. On a

Anne (not verified) SAID...

Not a smart idea, IMHO. On a track with a notable front end bias, they are SHORTENING THE RACES????? That will make it even tougher for a horse to come from behind. They would have been better off going with the old Yonkers idea of 1 1/16 being the standard distance for overnight races. They could also change the track surface to help negate the front end bias and improve the flow in the race.

November 24, 2008 - 6:52 pmI WAS RAISED WATCHING RACING

Anonymous SAID...

I WAS RAISED WATCHING RACING ON THE 1/2 MILETRACKS. so in the overnite races 6-7-8 posts had a tough journey to get into the races as they hit the turn right after go. sending your horse from the start usually got you a tired steed to cool out and not a ''big'' purse check. they tried 1 1/16th races to even the playing field, they tried extra $$ if you won from the tough posts. i dont think the winning post % numbers changed much. longer races 1 1/4 would help all the starters , but would have them race in file before the stretch ralley. i am not against the variation of distance, i just cant see it stimulating the fans all that much.gate speed becomes king as the races shorten up, / j

November 24, 2008 - 4:53 pmI do agree that innovation

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

I do agree that innovation is one key to survival in this business. Changing up distances is always fun, I think Extreme Horse Power is the only day Georgian Downs has people there to actually watch the races. It also gives some horses who can't finish a mile very well a chance to make some money. I am still a little old school and like the traditional mile and think it should be the standard. In saying that, I think some of the smaller tracks should also play with this idea with the cheaper classes. In my mind each race should be 5/8 of mile minimum though, I have seen half mile dashes and they can be pretty brutal on a horse. Write the classes the way they are and change up the distances every now and again. This is a great idea, it might even level the playing field a little. Most horses can go 7/8 of a mile on pure talent and don't need ....... write your own ending here to finish the statement. Maybe they could also look at the horses speeds. What I mean is use the speed as part of the condition for a race ie; all horses who pace around 52 to 53 all race together no matter the money they made. I know this can be tricky, but if we can change conditions somehow to make the races tighter at the finish, this would help also. This may help in the cheaper claimers as they can be pretty strung out at times. Yes you are correct, now is the time for innovation, race distances and looking at changing conditions instead of the same old same old should help us all out. Some conditions read the same as they did in eighties.

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