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Stars To Race At Four Soon?

Published: November 28, 2008 10:13 am ET

Last Comment: December 1, 2008 8:49 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

There has been plenty of discussion as of late about the sport's brightest equine stars retiring to the breeding shed after three-year-old campaigns. In an excellent piece in The New York Times, Bill Finley talks to Jeff Gural, Brent MacGrath, Ray Schnittker and Dennis Dowd about the issue.

“The biggest difference between racing and every other spectator sport is the fact that our best horses, the ones the public identifies with, are all retired at the age of three," said Jeff Gural. "How do you get people to come to the track and develop fan interest when this keeps happening?"

Representative from 12 tracks met earlier this month to discuss ideas to keep the stars of the industry on track for four-year-old campaigns.

“No one wants to be out there alone on this, but I think it’s going to happen.” said Dowd, the Meadowlands’ senior vice president of Racing. “I think we can get enough tracks to do this, and if we do, breeders are going to have to say we need to take a look at racing this horse another year.”

Also, MacGrath and Schnittker had some very interesting things to say on the topic.

Click here to read Finley's article in The New York Times.

(With files from The New York Times)

December 1, 2008 - 8:49 amWhile the respected

Bob Marks (not verified) SAID...

While the respected Mr.Finley makes some excellent points it might have been better had he included some breeders amongst raceway dominated panel of commentators.

While it certainly is better for all to keep the stars active longer the mere cost of manufacturing what turns out to be everyday raceway performers has gotten so prohibitive the tracks may discover a shortage of supply down the road as it is no longer economically feasible to produce just those horses needed to fill out a weekday racing card.

December 1, 2008 - 1:17 amDecisions about a colts

RYAN (not verified) SAID...

Decisions about a colts career should ONLY be taken by his owners,they have paid the bills,what if a top 3yo gets seriously injured ?
A decision like this will hurt yearling prices

November 30, 2008 - 10:31 pmWell I do see by these

DAVID (not verified) SAID...

Well I do see by these comments that my feelings are not alone.I have been watching Harness Racing being on the decline for way too long.The idea of more money for aged horse is a good start.The horses don't need names any more as they are just numbers in a stall.We the people are so far removed from our rural routes that the people that come to the slots have never seen or touched a horse.My father rode a horse to school, my children never wanted to work with them.We surely can get the people interested if they could associate with a horse more than two years.Somewhere along the way all horse men and women must put the animal first or get out of the business.Design the future racetracks that the people can get close(MOHAWK) to the animals and promote the sport way more.Bye bye BEACH wish you could be in harness next year, money is more important though.

November 29, 2008 - 4:59 pmAll that has to be done to

leith waite (not verified) SAID...

All that has to be done to right this problem is simple. Do what they did 25 years ago. Have less two-year-old stakes and put stake payments into a four-year-old stake program. Here we are Dec 1st still racing babies ,which should have been shut down in Oct. We have a better crop of aged horses to watch rather than a broken down vet craving horse.

November 29, 2008 - 11:05 amI absolutely agree. Too many

Gwen McGillivray (not verified) SAID...

I absolutely agree. Too many two-year-old racehorses are not seeing three because of how they are managed. Unfortunately, a lot of people could care less about where these youngsters end up. Many of the "babies" are wrung out like dish rags when they're two and then shipped and wrapped in a box before their third birthday. I believe this "sickness" will continue as long as the industry continues to provide huge financial incentives for racing at two. Unfortunately, for the horse, there are few and far between types of horsemen that let them grow and train them properly. Its a race from the minute they're born to "get them to the track" without so much as a passing thought or concern about the damage along the way. These so-called horsemen believe that just because a two-year-old can pace/trot like they're on fire, that they should. Knowing all the while that kind of perpetual stress on their growing bodies will show itself usually with a career ending injury at the ripe old age of three (if they even get that far). But of course, no worries, there is always another horse to fill the stall when the last one has been destroyed.

November 28, 2008 - 8:34 pmMaybe it's time those that

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Maybe it's time those that don't really care about their horses got out of the game. If you're only in it for the money buy a Tim Horton's franchise it will most likely give you a better return.

November 28, 2008 - 8:31 pmI agree 100% with the last

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

I agree 100% with the last person that posted.
We just purchased a yearling at the sales and are presently teaching him to be a race horse but we have absolutely no plans in racing him as a two-year-old. And I might state we are far from rich, we are just struggling to get by but we don't see the sense in rushing a horse to the track to chase the almighty dollar. We care too much about our horse and want to give him the best opportunity possible to make it. There's lots of money can be made without chasing two-year-old dollars. Check out most of the two-year-olds they have the life ripped out of them and make virtually nothing. Just needlessly wasted animals is all they become. We believe our horse will be that much better for not racing at two and will more than compensate us for our patience. Afterall doesn't being a good horseman have something to do with patience??

November 28, 2008 - 7:25 pmI think it is a good idea to

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

I think it is a good idea to increase purses for four-year-olds. Better yet, how about putting more money into purses for aged horses (five, six, seven and beyond)? Then there might be some incentive for people to keep these horses around longer and not use them up at two and three.
If the breeders were getting a cut of that money as well, it would keep them happy and encourage them to breed for a longer-lasting horse. It costs a lot of money to breed and to keep a racehorse. If there's a chance to make money with an older horse, people may be more willing.
It would be much better for the horses, and take some of the pressure off the trainers (which would make it better for the horses) if owners aren't pushing for the animals to get into the handful of two and three-year-old races where most of the money is concentrated.
Standardbreds are known for their toughness, or at least they used to be. I think the toughness is being bred out of them because it is no longer required for a horse to race past three - they're all retired or disposed of by then because why keep a horse that can't make you any money or at least pay some of its bills (they are EXPENSIVE)! If they race well at two or three, then break down on the track, it's off to the breeding shed with them! While it's true that some of them have been pushed too hard as young horses, is it really a good idea to breed a horse that breaks down? Are you not just making more horses that are going to break down too?
It looks better on the sport as a whole if horses can continue to race into their teens (shock! I know - but it has happened before, historically). It shows others outside the racing industry that the horses are being taken care of by competent horsemen, who know something about how to maintain a horse for many years, not just two short seasons. It reduces suspicion that trainers are just pounding drugs into the animals. The horse racing industry has a horrible reputation for overbreeding and discarding so many unwanted horses every year and if they want to gain fans instead of turn people away from racing, this reputation needs to change.

November 28, 2008 - 4:35 pmThe problem with harness

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

The problem with harness racing in the last couple of decades is that you never get to ynow a horse. Just when you start to get to know them..poof..they're gone! Up the purses for aged horses and decrease the purses for 2 year olds. Far too many good horses are destroyed before they even get off the ground.

November 28, 2008 - 1:08 pmAs a fan, I really don't

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

As a fan, I really don't want to see Dewey or the Beach retired. But I understand where the owners and trainers are coming from -- if they can make more money in studding why race the horse or why allow for the possibility of the horse being injured. I will be truly sad to see them both retire on Saturday night but I will continue to go to the racetrack and watch the races on TV. Just because 2 great horses are retiring does not mean that I will stop watching the races.

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