Managing Horse Shortages Pragmatically
Each day like many of you our trainers receive texts from tracks in Ontario (and in the U.S.) proclaiming their entry boxes are short, and that they are in search of horses to fill their upcoming cards. This has become a daily occurrence and it's become a real problem across the board in racing.
Whether this is a biproduct of COVID-19 or foreshadowing of the horse racing industry to come, it's making it difficult to do business in general these days. Race offices are left patching fields together, carrying over classes and weakening the owners' and trainers' confidence in buying horses.
I looked on Facebook recently and a prominent trainer was asking for people to enter their pacing mares in the Mohawk mares open because they cant seem to fill it consistently. Engaging our industry in such a manner is smart, as we can't afford to lose our open mares to other tracks, but I'd be surprised if even Mark Zuckerberg can help fill the mares open at Mohawk at the moment.
I was speaking to a friend and the situation and commented that Ontario should compile a list of all horses eligible to, and currently racing in this jurisdiction and use that information to build a real time condition sheet for each of our tracks.
He looked at me and said; "don't we already have one"? Doesn't almost everybody use Standardbred Canada's online entry system? I looked at him dumbfounded, because he was right, and because it was such a simple, and yet vitally important observation. Couldn't we ask all horsemen to keep the list as accurate and current as possible and build our condition sheets from that database?
Keep in mind, this information is much more important than just for forming condition sheets; it would allow our race secretaries the ability to see deficiencies in this jurisdiction's horse population and allow them to make a list of what types of horses they would need to further fill classes in Ontario.
We have a number of trainers and owners who would gladly pursue these types of horses if they knew they would race every week. I'm one of them and I have little confidence and no information to support purchasing horses for Ontario currently. Thestable.ca has bought plenty of horses this year but only because we race everywhere, and if we have to juggle them we can and will. If we knew what to look for to fill classes here at home we would buy them in an instant, and we aren't alone.
Full fields are vitally important for our product and it's in our racetracks' best interest to provide trainers the information they need to fill them, and our race secretaries the ability to card classes that will be filled.
An open mare may be a bit tough to purchase in short order, but with an idea of what we need to consistently fill all classes people would certainly find the horses to fill them.
I'm not sure if there are logistical hurdles that would make this more difficult than it seems, but regardless of the barriers we need to start being more pragmatic about the way we utilize what horses we have, and how we buy the ones for our jurisdictions. Full fields can't be a goal, it has to be a reality moving forward.
Working together we can improve our industry, attract more owners, and put out a product that challenges our current, and future gamblers.
The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.