Takter Against Open Draw Format

Published: June 23, 2011 07:53 am EDT

“You shouldn’t get handicapped like that if you win your elimination while a horse that finished second gets a better post. It’s not fair to the guy winning the (elim)


Those words come from Jimmy Takter, trainer of Pastor Stephen. Last season’s Dan Patch Award winner as best two-year-old male trotter and a perfect 3-for-3 in 2011, Pastor Stephen will start from post No. 8 in Saturday’s $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for three-year-old trotters at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The Beal, named in honour of the former longtime president of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, is race 14 on the card, scheduled for 10:14 p.m. post time.

Unlike some stakes races that permit the connections of elimination winners to select their posts for the final, the Beal has an open draw. Statistically at Pocono Downs this year, posts three, four and five produce the highest percentage of winners. Post eight has the lowest win rate, at 5.1 percent from 648 starters.

“We’ve got to beat them the hard way, then. It’s going to make it tougher, of course. He could be outside around three turns. How are you going to make up that? If they go in (1):52.4, he’s got to go in (1):51.4. You have to get lucky, or it’s very tough. But what are you going to do? Post position is just where you start. Hopefully he can overcome it.”

Pastor Stephen, driven by Ron Pierce, won his elimination by three lengths over Broad Bahn in 1:53.1. Big Rigs was third.

Last year, Pastor Stephen won the William Wellwood Memorial and was second in both the Breeders Crown and Valley Victory en route to $653,748 in purses. He started this season with a win in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Meadows before defeating older horses in an overnight at Pocono Downs.

“He’s just a fantastic horse,” Takter said to Harness Racing Communications. “The way he’s been racing has been unbelievable.”

Three elimination races were held last weekend at Pocono Downs, with Pastor Stephen, Im The Answer, and Dejarmbro winning their respective divisions. Im The Answer and Dejarmbro, both from the stable of trainer Trond Smedshammer, drew posts one and two, respectively, for the Beal final.

Takter’s Leader Of The Gang, who was last year’s New Jersey Sire Stakes champion at the Meadowlands and finished third in both the Peter Haughton Memorial and Wellwood, reached the Beal final with a third-place finish in his elimination. He will start from post five with driver David Miller.

Broad Bahn last year was a two-time winner on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and won an elimination race for the Breeders Crown before being sidelined by injury. He has a win and two second-place finishes this season.

Big Rigs won a Bluegrass Stakes division last year and also an elim for the Breeders Crown. He went off stride and finished ninth in the Breeders Crown final. He opened this season with a win in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes before finishing third in his Beal elim. He is one of two Beal finalists for trainer Kelly O’Donnell; Bambino Hall is the other.

Following is the field in post position order for Saturday’s $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, with listed drivers and trainers:

1. Im The Answer, Brian Sears, Trond Smedshammer
2. Dejarmbro, Smedshammer, Smedshammer
3. Big Rigs, Tim Tetrick, Kelly O’Donnell
4. Opening Night, Tyler Buter, Jim Campbell
5. Leader Of The Gang, David Miller, Jimmy Takter
6. Broad Bahn, George Brennan, Noel Daley
7. Bambino Hall, George Napolitano Jr., O’Donnell
8. Pastor Stephen, Ron Pierce, Takter
9. Buffalino Hanover, Todd Schadel, Schadel.

(with files from HRC)



Ever heard,,, Luck of the Draw... Give other horses a chance to make money.

Open draws are the only way to go, historically, and in all sports, make the elims mean something with larger purses and fines and dq's for lack of effort !
Mutuel handle needs to be built and the overwhelming favorite from the rail isn't they way to do it.

The argument from the owners of the winners is they are not rewarded for winning.I agree with that but not at the expense of giving them a good post. Solution is easy enough. if there are 3 eliminations for a purse of say $30,000. Give the winners 1/3 more of the winners portion for winning.eg winner gets $15000. plus 1/3 more for making it $20,000.to the winner instead of $15000. take the $15,000 from the final purse.If any of those horses win the final,the difference to them is negligible since they got the additional mony in advance.If there are 2 elims then give them 50 % more.

In reply to by richard young

Or they could be awarded post positions according to the best racing times in the elims. In this case, Desjarmbo had the fastest time and Pastor Stephen had the second. But then there would have been 3 horses tied for the fourth best time so would they go into a draw??? Are the 1 and 2 holes the best post positions on this track or would 3 and 4 be more advantageous? It gets all too complicated with way too much interference from humans. If it is structured to suit the best horses, what benefit is it to the bettors? If the race is set up to be a draw for the final, everyone knows it going in. You play the game and take your chances.
As Mr. Brown stated, owners and trainers would love to pick their post positions. That, in my opinion, would drive the few remaining bettors away even faster.
Pastor Stephen didn't do too badly last night picking up a handsome cheque for second.

I might as well get my licks in also.
I agree with Jimmy. From the perspective of an owner, trainer, driver I would love to pick my spot for a final.
From a fan's standpoint,no.
Just think if The Beach had raced in the Jug and won his elim and Shadow Play won his. If they drew the 6 and 7 in the final, what a race!
Getting away in post position order is usally boring but leaving from the outside with a longshot is nothing short of suicide. Just ask Mikey McNichol with Broadway Express.


Would any of these comments be here if the Takter horses had drawn 1/2 instead of 5/8...??? Everybody has a valid point for seeded draws and open draws, but if you know it's an open draw going into the final, don't complain when you draw 8. Show up and race and let the horses do the talking on the track...

With all due respect Mr.Brown, rewarding the winner with the best post positions is too punitive to the other starters. Consider the fact you have what is considered the best horse in the entire field but you draw the outside. The horse races great but finishes 2nd. Another nice horse but not your caliber wins and gets a great post again while you earn the outside again.

We have effectively said that the luck of the draw is fine for the first race but since you were unlucky in the first draw, it's tough luck again deal with it in the final, we give the winners the good posts for the final.

The folks at Chester have it right. For their big money events they have the top eight money winners go for the big money and all the notoriety attached to it. The next eight money winners go for a consolation still going for significant money. The next eight money winners go for a secondary consolation. If you have entered and don't draw into the races, then you get all your nominating and sustaining fees returned to you. There are significant advantages to this:
(1) You, at least in theory, get the best eight horses going for the most money.

(2) Virtually every competitive horse gets to race for good money.

(3) You have three reasonably evenly matched races instead of several where you have horses which obviously do not belong and just clog up things.

(4) You are only racing once instead of committing a horse(especially a star) to one venue when he could be displaying his wares elsewhere.

(5) You are doing away with eliminations and the myriad of problems associated with them.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Nothing is. The late bloomer who has lesser earnings is obviously at a disadvantage. But in my opinion the multiple positive factors outweigh the negatives. I don't expect to live long enough to see this happen. But I foresee the day when even the Little Brown Jug will adopt this format or something similar. Like it or not our breed and our sport have changed. We don't breed our horses for soundness and we certainly train them differently than we used to. Obviously Rocknroll Heaven is a huge exception, but our young horses of today are not meant to go heats. Its just a different game and to some degree a different breed.

Furthermore, it needs to be said that early season important races would need to have their money earnings skewed to the present year's racing schedule. Obviously if one were going by lifetime earnings, Up The Credit and Roll With Joe might not have qualified for the final of the NA Cup. Perhaps, this should be the standard for all important races regardless of when in the season they take place. As I said previously, this might not be a perfect solution but in my view its better than what we presently have.

In reply to by murray

All good points Mr. Brown but there is still a horse in the 8 hole which is, statistically, a disadvantage on smaller tracks. Many good horses have raced from there. Mr. Takter has exceptional horses and is an outstanding trainer which already gives him a distinct advantage. To be completely fair, he needs to take his turn out of those dreaded outside posts just like everyone else. I would think that a more balanced field would offer more opportunities to the bettors.

“He’s just a fantastic horse,” Takter said to Harness Racing Communications. “The way he’s been racing has been unbelievable.”

Pastor Stephen should have as good a chance as any other horse out there, all things considered. That's the way it should be, in my humble opinion.

In reply to by Lynne Magee

Ms Magee, Just one question - Why should a thinking trainer go all out to win a consolation when he can save his horse for the final the following week?

In reply to by murray

I guess, Mr. Brown, because that's his job. He may choose to "save" the horse for the following week but he is doing himself, the owner(s) and the bettors a disservice. In the name of "fair" racing, he owes all concerned an honest effort. Besides, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The horse may come up sick or injured before the final takes place. One never knows.
P.S. Please call me Lynne

Hey,Jimmy, with all due respect, how about we handicap all the other horses and give you a three length head-start for winning the elimination? You probably have the best horse in the race anyway.

Do you really want it that easy? You've had great horses that overcame great adversity, and that showed the stuff that they were made of, and proved that you were a great trainer.

The finals in races where winners pick their posts has become anticlimactic.This is horse racing. Where do you think the phrase "it's a horse race" comes from in politics? It's supposed to be tough.It's supposed to be close. Take your post and do the best you can with it, or pick up your horse and go home.

Let's not forget that many a horse has put a huge effort in just to get 3rd and make the final from a bad post now you want handicap them again.

Picking post for elim winners on a 7/8 mile track bad idea
Picking post for elim winners on a 1/2 beyond a terrible

Like it or not we are in pari-mutuel and patron interest business. Pre-determined, elimination driven post position selection produces pre-determined results, low favorite odds, and may chill interest in the betting product. We were pleased to observe the thoroughbred triple crown this year and it appeared that fans rallied to multiple favorites, large fields, and potentially high payoffs that followed from big fields plus the normal varying distances, tracks and surfaces. The same is true in some european countries where pari-mutuel handle is robust. Our industry must embrace a compelling pari-mutuel product. Pari-mutuel handle growth demonstrates and supports continued legislative and agriculture financing support justified by employment, payroll and property taxes, markets for ancillary services and supplies, feed, equipment and equine supplies and green space for the horses we breed, own and train. We MUST put a great product on the field in a manner that creates a game of chance.

In many cases the best horse wins. But with any sport the victor should earn it and be able and welcome to overcome the obstacles consistent with their sport.

In reply to by thicks

That's a mouthful... Wow, go Tom Hicks and His Hot Licks...Or maybe that was Dan Hicks... I saw the the Takter thing coming right away
... Can you believe Trond draws 1-2 with two non-Hambletonian eligibles. Omg...But, it is what it is!!!!

It's fair to say that this discussion is mostly about 1/2 and 5/8 track racing. So I draw the seven or eight hole in my elimination and need to race out three turns just to have a chance to make the final...please explain to me again how it is now fair for me to have no chance at drawing inside for the final? Why is an open draw ok for the elims yet not the final? I would suggest that having the good fortune of drawing inside in the eliminations is a decent bonus itself seeing as it has greatly increased my chances of qualifying for the lucrative final.

If we are going to use the rational that the winner has earned the right to select their post or they should exclusively draw for the inside posts, what has the horse coming from the 8 hole and parked the entire mile to finish second or third by two lengths...one length...a nose earned? A horse that can overcome a tough trip to the earn the victory is something we all love to celebrate and be inspired by. How many memories do we collectively have about the awe inspiring two hole trip ANY horse has overcome for victory? Would the 1993 LBJ won by Life Sign still give me goose bumps every time I watch it if he had cut the mile or sat a two hole trip? Sure he started with the two hole yet that trip more often starts from taking a chance from the outside of the gate. Champions overcome the adversities placed in front of them...I vote for letting the true Champions shine and I suggest our sport can use all of the excitement, story lines and competition it can get.

Lets also not forget that the handicappers are the people whom we ultimately answer to. It was a shame that the Fan Hanover was not a part of the Pick 4 last Saturday on Cup night because See You At Peelers was going to be 1-9 and the pool was guaranteed $100,000 by WEG. With Peelers it would not have mattered yet in some cases chalk with the outside post makes the race bettable...chalk on the rail not so much.

If the most talented horses should always be given the advantage of the best post I would suggest we use a car racing model and have a time trial day to earn your seeding on the gate...pay out the time trial purses top down and then let everyone pick their post in order of qualifying with those not fast enough trying again next race. It might even make for a decent day of "qualifying" and would add a different flavour instead of having only a couple or three elimination races.

Open draw? Count me a yes.

Darryl MacArthur

One dash for the cash would not work because what if you had a horse that lost some time over the winter due to issues such as sickness or soreness? Now that horse qualifies, has no money on his card and can't get into the race because he has no money made? As for the Shadow Play incident.....its unfortunate drawing the 8 hole but...that's horse racing. At least that's the way it has been for how many years??

You pay to enter stake races and win to get in final and say you draw a trailing position, your reward for winning elim. is you spot them at least 1 length in the final. The horses in front of you control what you can do in the race. I think John Campbell was a great advocate of winners picking their post positions. If he likes it, that's good enough for me !!!!!

When has horse racing ever been fair? Why would it start being so now? It is was it is. Mr. Takter has a horse in the 5 hole which is a pretty decent starting point. Has he ever complained when it wasn't his horse that was in the 8 hole or is it just "unfair" when he is at a disadvantage? If he truly believed in his statements, he would have spoken up long ago and before he drew badly---like the rest of us commoners often do.

Jimmy Takter is absolutely correct. Not having elimination winners derive a reward for their efforts threatens the very integrity of the racing product. It can encourage horses to not be driven to win while racing for a relatively minimal purse knowing that all they have to do is finish in the money to have the same chance of securing a good position while racing for the big money as the same horse which has been driven to its utmost to win.

I'm guessing that I'm probably older than Mr Young. He suggests that we go back to the past for open draws. I suggest we go even further back in the past before the advent of The Meadowlands when virtually ALL eliminations for stakes races were raced where the best horses earned their positions. Luck should not be the determining factor(although it sometimes can be). Ability should rule.

I agree with Mr. Takter why should some horse just doing enough to get to the final get a better position than a horse that tried and won his elimination. Better yet forget the eliminations and add that money to the final and have one dash for the cash using the highest money earners!!! As for the fans 6 and 7 horse eliminations are quite boring and unbetable!!

In reply to by c.a.r.

Yes, open draws are a joke and perception is everything in this sport. How about those elimination races where top 5,6,7,8,9, make it to the final. Seriously who would want to bet on that.

You want to make it interesting for the bettor, have the eliminations go for 50% of the total purse combined, that would remove the perception of not giving 100% till the final.

Seriously going for 25K 1 week and next 500K which one would you want to win? That is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

With all due respect to Mr Takter

Luck of the draw is what horse racing has been about since the inception of racing.
Being able to pick your post position is ridiculous.
All horse owners involved make there payments, starting fees etc. and should be awarded their posts through the luck of the draw.

This is a no-brainer and Takter is right! As long as the difference between the purse money in the eliminations and the final is tenfold you must provide incentive to win the elimination.

One of the biggest issues in the industry is one of perception. Do I as a fan or bettor perceive that all of the horses put in their best effort in every race? This is particularly important for eliminations. As long as horses are allowed into the final with a top four finish and thus comparatively little incentive is given to win the elimination, perceptions will persist.

My 2 cents.
Dave Vicary

If you have the best horse.....post position shouldn't matter. The open draw makes for a better betting product as well.

I have to agree with Mr.Young, if i owned a horse and he won the elimination of course i would be happy to get to pick my post position when the big money is on the line, who wouldn't. Although i no longer play the races but if i were playing them i would much rather the open draw. The race game has done enough over the years to kill the wager without further hurting it by having the best horse have the best post positions in the big races. All this does for the most part is create a lot of short priced winners that are basically unplayable, from a betting point of view about as exciting as watching paint dry. The race game needs to find ways to get people to play the product, especially the big players and having races on the card that are unplayable does not help matters.

In the past couple of yrs Ive been fortunate enough to have a filly win elimination races and be awarded a choice of post positions.I thought it was great.However, before that, I thought as a fan that it made the races less competitive and much less betable. The horses that won get the good posts and the ones that dont have even a tougher time.We went yrs where the luck of the draw ruled and we should return to it.What about the unlucky sole who gets the outside post with the best horse in the elimination and doesnt make the final or the guy who gets caught behind a breaker?How is that fair but drawing an outside post in the final not.For all we know the winner can draw a good post in the elim and thats the reason they won in the first place.There are approximately 3 people who like granting the winners a choice of post. The winners of the 3 elims.

In reply to by richard young

Because the unlucky best horse also make the race unbettable, why?..Instead of going all out to secure a better position for the big money, the horse simply has to draft and and hopefully pick up just enough pieces knowing as long as he finishes in the top 3 ( or ) its irrelevant.

The best example I can think of in recent times was the 2008 Confederation Cup.Shadow Play dominated his elimination and the thanks??..Post 8 in the final, that made Somebeachsomewhere an easy winner.

Had these horse raced out of the 1 and two, or pick your post, Beach still may have won..but it would have been one heck of a race!

Finally someone speaks out against the open draw!!!
One of the more non productive measures ever introduced!

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