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Tracks Discuss Possible Changes To Stakes Conditions

Published: November 17, 2008 11:28 am ET

Last Comment: November 20, 2008 11:16 am ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Executives from 12 leading harness tracks are exploring ways to keep the sport's top young stars racing at age four and beyond.

The tracks recently met to discuss amending the conditions of their marquee stakes to promote participation to horses that have been sired by stallions at least five years of age. The goal of the program is to offer fans thrilling match-ups as three-year-old champions return to race against top older horses. The proposed changes would take effect in 2012 and impact foals born 2010 and later. Provisions would be made for stallions with limited or no starts at three due to injury.

The exploratory committee includes representatives from the Meadowlands Racetrack, Chester Downs, Dover Downs, Freehold Raceway, Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs, Pocono Downs, the Meadows, Harrington Raceway, Balmoral Park, Maywood Park and Delaware County Fair (home of the Little Brown Jug). Much of what was discussed by the tracks was originally presented by racing columnist Bill Finley in an article from June 2007.

Industry leaders and racing fans have long lamented the early retirement of its standardbred stars. Fans will never forget Jennas Beach Boy's battles with Riyadh during his four-year-old campaign at the Meadowlands. Many other top sophomores have gone on to lucrative seasons at four, including Artsplace, Matts Scooter, Art Major, Real Desire and Artistic Fella. And this year Curlin proved to be a big draw in thoroughbred racing as he traveled the world to defend his Horse of the Year title.

With the challenges the industry faces -- declining attendance and handle, dwindling media coverage and decreasing horse sales -- the committee felt that it is the appropriate time to explore and implement change.

The racetracks welcome input from all facets of the industry on the proposed condition changes. The representatives will meet in early 2009 to further explore the program. Comments can be sent to the group via Jason Settlemoir at [email protected].


November 20, 2008 - 11:16 amThank you for the

john vetre SAID...

Thank you for the information. It has always been my belief that owners of thoroughbreds keep their horses racing mush longer than standardbreds. Most are wealthy and racing is part of their lives. Perhaps money or lack of is the largest contributor to making these decisions. Not an owner, I have no right to pass judgement on what someone does with their animal. My only hope to see these champions past three is to post my feelings and hope ownership reads them. Been around since Nickawampus Leroy and George Phalen.

November 19, 2008 - 2:01 pmI spoke to Norm Clements

Jeff Renton SAID...

I spoke to Norm Clements this afternoon (who, by the way, gave some very high praise for 'The Beach'). What he said was that they raced Cam Fella at four for many reasons. He said that the connections of the horse had a true passion for racing him and wanted to see him compete again at four. What was the result? Well, first off, lasting memories, a great time for all involved and a horse that transcended the game itself. Some people do not have any substantial knowledge of standardbred racing, but they've heard of Cam Fella -- what does that tell you? Stars can do wonders for this game, given the right conditions and circumstances.

November 19, 2008 - 10:47 amWhen my favorite

john vetre (not verified) SAID...

When my favorite standardbred pacer Cam Fella came on the scene, because he was a ridgeling, he was not syndicated at three and raced another year. I'd like to think ownership kept him on the track that fourth year to appease the fans. He was a marvelous champion with the heart of a lion. The reason he was allowed to compete is not important. What is important is that the public like you and me were given the opportunity to enjoy this truly outstanding athlete one more year.
In Cam Fella's era, the sport was beginning to suffer at the gate just as it is now. I realize racing is a business, but a successful business needs a drawing card. Think how attendance in baseball would be effected without the likes of A-Rod, Big Popi, or Manny. I believe harness racing fans are no different than any other sports fan, they want to see their hero's compete. What is now being discussed, albeit a long time coming, will benefit the industry and the many faithful fans. Unfortunately as in any business there are risks. Good luck on your decisions.

November 18, 2008 - 5:10 amI am in full agreement with

DON J, (not verified) SAID...

I am in full agreement with this proposal.The group who own Sombeachsomewhere in their minds are no doubt doing what they feel is right but in a year or two they are going to be wondering "what if" . This is a once in a lfetime oppertunity for them . I think they should ask the connections of Cam Fella or Niatross what would they do? I am sure Pat Crowe and Clint Galbrath would do it again in a heart beat given the chance. Sometimes the "Almighty Buck" is not everthing and I think this is one of those times.

November 17, 2008 - 8:19 pmNot only should this rule be

Former owner (not verified) SAID...

Not only should this rule be implemented immediately I also believe that two year olds should not be raced at all. There are so many career ending injuries to young horses that are not fully developed that it turns owners such as myself into former owners. There is too much cash at the two year old level and not enough incentive to race horses in their prime as 4 & 5 year olds.

November 17, 2008 - 5:32 pmIt is long overdue, we all

big bob (not verified) SAID...

It is long overdue, we all like see the best compete in whatever sport. The best is what will bring fans to the track. What I would say also is every sport needs a hero. Somebeachsomewhere has been a crowd pleaser every time he stepped on the track. I am happy to see one maritimer is going to give us something to cheer for next year, good luck to Shadow Play.

November 17, 2008 - 2:24 pmThis should be a

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

This should be a no-brainer.

Could you imagine the agents of Lebron James or Sidney Crosby forcing them to retire just as they are about to turn into the next superstars? How would that help the NBA or NHL?

Where would other professional leagues be without the prolonged exposure of their stars? Maybe where harness racing is currently.

Please, give this sport a chance to flourish.

November 17, 2008 - 1:42 pmWell said. I agree 100% this

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Well said. I agree 100% this horse has the otential to change the face of our sport. He draws huge crowds whereever he races. He has not reached his peak and probaby was not real tight at any point this year because of his limited racing. Racing is far different than training. Go back in time to the days of Indian Land and Dr. Staton and just look at the crowds that used to show up to see these horses battle it out week after week. Didn't seem to harm their racing as they got older they only got better.We need some real good rivalries to kee up the interest. How about SBSW against Mr. Big.

November 17, 2008 - 12:45 pmIt is about time that

buddy (not verified) SAID...

It is about time that somthing is being done with this situation. Harness racing is losing fans in droves and to keep this from happening we have to keep the Super Stars on the tracks longer not in the breeding sheds. Look at Somebeachsomewhere. He will go to Stud without even hitting his prime on the track. We will never know how fast he would have went and we will never know how many thousands of new people he would have drawn to the harness game. Its are darn shame.

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