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Blanchard On Changing Race Distances And Field Sizes

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Published: November 24, 2010 10:13 am ET

Last Comment: December 1, 2010 5:08 am ET | 22 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

"I think certainly the people that were here on-track the days we had them and the people that were watching in really enjoyed what they saw...overall, they were well received."

On today's Trot Radio, Western Fair Raceway's Assistant Racing Manager and Announcer Greg Blanchard debates the merits of changing field sizes and distances with Norm Borg. Blanchard and Western Fair hosted legs of the recently-concluded Xtreme Racing Series. Blanchard quickly points out the argument presented by racing purists with respect to harness racing and the one-mile distance.

"My response to that is that they race standardbreds in Europe at different distances and they seem to be able to do it. I understand what people are saying, it's been a bit of a dilemma over the years. I've watched added distance races and I've had sort of mixed views on them, but at the end of the day when you compare the two breeds - standardbred and thoroughbred - the added dynamics you have in handicapping thoroughbreds are one of strengths they have over us with the different distances, different surfaces etc."

Blanchard goes on to further illustrate the need to present these distances with regularity.

"I think if you're going to have different distance races you have to have some consistency to them, I think you have to do them over a period of time where you have some form to go on these horses and then you can start to really handicap them seriously if you're going to do this long-term and proceed with them down the road."

The full discussion is available below.

Episode 163 – Greg Blanchard
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

December 1, 2010 - 5:08 ami like the 1 mile races

joe dawson SAID...

i like the 1 mile races myself but who knows what other people like ? i guess im old school everyone has a opinion ask the horsemen what they think

November 28, 2010 - 1:48 pmMaybe we should start a new

norm borg SAID...

Maybe we should start a new campaign. Judging by some of these pages it's a radical idea but what the heck let's give this a try: SAVE PUNCTUATION!!!

November 27, 2010 - 11:04 amIf I had a dollar for very

If I had a dollar for very time a past or present supporter of Harness Racing said what Mr. Fitzgerald wrote, I could susidize Harness Racing for a lifetime!!

November 26, 2010 - 9:47 pmDarcy MacDonald Varying the

Darcy MacDonald

Varying the distance of races is not going to make people want to bet harness racing. I totally agree with Eldee Love's comment that what makes standardbred racing an attractive option for a handicapper is the consistency of the distance and surface. I've never understood what turns bettors on about a 3/4 mile sprint by a group of 5 or 6 thoroughbreds anyway. It's over before you know it. Sure, just for fun, card a mile and a half trot or a mile and a sixteenth pace, once or twice a week for some variety, but that's it. Enough with the "Extreme" racing. Harness racing is not the WWE or the X-Games.
Standardbred racing needs to stop whining about gambling competition and develop the mindset that it will compete and fight for it's future. The first step toward doing that is to at least try to get some of the gamblers back by reducing takeout. What do the tracks have to lose? Compete with poker and the slots, don't just pray they'll be allowed at your racing facility. One stroke of the pen by the Ontario government and that jurisdiction could start down the path that New Jersey is now on.

November 26, 2010 - 11:59 amEldee Love's letter should

Eldee Love's letter should be required reading for every race secretary and race track manager in Ontario, specifically paragraphs 3 and 4. When I see "condition claimer" at the top of the program, I quickly glance and flip the page. I don't bet 1% of these type of races, they are a joke. Also, if you wanted to increase handle by $100,000 wouldn't it be easier to attract 100 knowledgable bettors like Mr. Love, rather than 50,000 people nationwide to bet $2.00 on a national Pick-7 with virtually no chance of winning? Of course, you would need good competitve races, more claimers/more barn changes/more action, quality reasonably priced food and beverage, and to drop the takeout to 10%.

As far as distance racing, I don't mind trying it, but I too think it is just a gimmick that tracks are usimg to stickhandle around the truth about horse racing,... it is not competitive with other forms of gambling.

November 26, 2010 - 11:24 amI like It Fair!!!! lol

I like It Fair!!!! lol

November 26, 2010 - 10:22 amI totally agree with Love's

Karl Holub SAID...

I totally agree with Love's comment to forget about the distance variations. I witnessed the Georgian Downs farce of 18 starters, and only risked $2 per race-and that was Quick-Picks, for obvious reasons. From a spectator's perspective it may seem amusing to watch, but from a wagering customer like many of us, it would be a handicapper's nightmare. One other aspect to address is the safety of the horses and drivers in what looks like a ridiculously bulky field. It is tough enough to handicap a race with 7 to 10 entries, therefore the idea of finding a winner in a field of 18 horses going 2.5 miles would equate to locating an albino boll weavel in a cotton field. Great comments out there by the way!
Karl

November 25, 2010 - 7:33 pmGreg's point that Western

Adam Mauntah SAID...

Greg's point that Western Fair's ability to try different distances is limited to the configurations of its track is well-taken. However, there is still a lot that you can do with a half-mile track. Half-mile and 1 1/2-mile races are obvious options, but Hippodrome D'Aylmer, which was also a half-mile oval, regularly carded races at 13/16 of a mile, 1 1/16 miles and even 1 5/16 miles on occasion. These races were fun to watch, and generated some added strategy. Horses from outside posts would have that extra sixteenth of a mile before reaching the first turn, and in the case of 1 1/16 races, the challenge was to see if a horse could hold on not just for a normal mile, but for that extra 1/16 as well.

I wrote a blog expressing my support for "Extreme" events last year, and I hope that we see more events of this sort on a consistent basis. If they are carded as an complement to the regular menu of one-mile races, and carded sparingly, it should be an enjoyable challenge both for horse people and horseplayers.

November 25, 2010 - 5:28 pmIn regards to mr. long's

carlo renon SAID...

In regards to mr. long's comments first of all las Vegas has changed greatly the past 10 years gambling is not the biggest part of it now. They have changed to a more family friendly theme with amusment parks, shows, golf courses, restaurants and shopping. For you to think just staying on the same course will change the direction racing is heading is insane.What happens when the slot revenue declines which it will for several reasons, first with governments having huge deficits it would be easy for them to reduce the slot money as the majority of society would care less, secondly once the OLG gets online gaming up and running which is far more cost effective for them to do, how many racetrack slots customers will be lost thus reducing the revenue for racing from the slots. Unless there is change it will be a long and painful death to racing. one question as an owner can you race your horse a Windsor raceway for those purses and have a chance to make money at the end of the year? Most likely not, so why would i want to own a horse with no chance of a return on my investment!

November 25, 2010 - 7:36 amRemember that all the

Eldee Love SAID...

Remember that all the wringing of hands is about the precipitous drop in the betting handle. One of the advantages for the standardbred handicapper is the consistency of distance and surface. If you start mucking around with 5/8 dashes and 1/12 mile routes or larger fields, you may attract a few more spectators who will come to see the stunt racing but the betting handle will not improve.

Ten years ago, I used to bet $300.00 to win on BETTABLE races. I would not even touch races that I deemed unbettable. The unbettables included trotting races, NW 1, NW 2, FFA, JFFA and whacko conditioned races for horses that should be in the claiming ranks. I also used to avoid the lowest claiming class. Claiming races were my meat. Today, on any given night on the WEG circuit, there might be one or two bettable races by my standards. So, I don't bet. I no longer push the $1,500 to $1,800 through the wickets on a night of racing.

Standardbred racing has become an insider sport. The higher, slot-driven purses have removed the need for a betting crowd. Those purses inspire owners to pay more for horses. The owners will not risk losing such expensive horses in claiming races. Racing secretaries must accommodate by creating ridiculous conditions for poor, unpredictable horses.

Gone are the bettors who come to the track with a thousand bucks and hope to grind out $150 for the night. Now you have the lottery players who come with 150 bucks, play tris and supers all night and hope to win a grand. Do the math on the track handle.

It's pretty obvious where the industry ends up without public (betting) interest. Observe Quebec, B.C., Alberta, New Jersey. Observe the drop in price for New Jersey bred yearlings at Harrisburg this year. The industry in Ontario survives only because of government regulations concerning slot revenue. As a "sport" appreciated by the public the industry is finished.

Forget the extreme racing. It's another waste of time.

November 24, 2010 - 10:45 pmhow about a mile and a half

how about a mile and a half over the grass at woodbine

November 24, 2010 - 9:50 pmhey greg how bout a passing

ALAN FAIR SAID...

hey greg how bout a passing lane for a little more excitement and a more fair finish

November 24, 2010 - 9:29 pmi think that verying

scott martin SAID...

i think that verying distances is a good idea, however, i thnk that we should have a good hard look at what sprint racing has done to the thoroughbred breeding program. big money sprint races have created a breed that can no longer stay a distance. my personal opinion is that the veriation hsould only be OVER a mile., and also i think geoff maltby may be on the right track, it shouldn't be sprints for pacers, and distance for trotters, both gaits should be offeres the same options

November 24, 2010 - 8:35 pmwhat are we North american

what are we North american or European???? Racing on Turf??? Polytrack?????? longer Races what are we trying to do preserve our horses or break em down that much fast I can tell you right now that if they decided to change The distance it puts some people out of this business are we trying to Save or kill it give your heads a shake nothing against the European way of racing but here in North America it just Doesn't work For instance it is hard to keep a turf track from pitting up over years of abuse therefore leading to more Injuries and more horses going down therefore putting our drivers At risk and another thing is who wants to Watch a Bunch of trotters under Saddle??? you might as well put Kick me our Business' Back and Say we are a bunch or T-bred wanna bes in my honest Opinion its not only harness racing that is hurting therefore its not in need of a change Las Vegas isn't changing their ways they are just giving more people a chances to Get involved in Gambling you want to draw A Crowd start hosting handicaping contests through out the country with the top three finishers from Each province having a single night Bet off to determine a winner for a cash prize or a free all inclusive stay at a resort or something there is lots of them in Canada like come on People!!!

November 24, 2010 - 5:34 pmTo race longer distances on

sam taylor SAID...

To race longer distances on north american speed tracks (just listen to the pounding at WFR) is just a good way to lame up a horse. Especially with the agressive type of drivers we have at this time. I wonder where we are going to find enough turf tracks to race on. New Zealand has many different distance races starting at 1609 metres to 2400,2600,2700,3200,but they go middle 400(quarters) in 35 seconds,and middle 800(halfs) in 110 seconds on tracks that are soft and forgiving on the horses,with turf racing also available at just about every town in the country.The most common complaint I here from trainers is How can you train a horse to race all these different distances. The best way to help our sport? is to follow the example of Grand River Raceway, and do the same thing. Hard work and enthusiasm helps. Sam Taylor ( Been there done that)

November 24, 2010 - 4:31 pmChanging distances would

carlo renon SAID...

Changing distances would allow a greater number of horses to be profitable to the owners as we all know some horses just can not finish a mile but would be hard to beat at a half mile and some horses can run all day but lack a quick turn of foot.

If any of you think Billions of dollars are being bet on harness racing off shore you are sadly mistaken. Even if we got the off shore wagers bet locally it would still not be enough to change the sad state of racing.

Another way to improve racing is exactly what they did with the N.J T-bred meet this summer less races bigger purses. This equated to better competition and greater handle and attendance. However the greed in this game will devour itself. The trainers will not be able to bill the owners $1,000 four times a month for taking the horse to race. Horses will race less last longer and require less vet work. The tracks over head will be reduced, thus now the owner and the track both have a chance to make and the chance to rebuild this sport, more people would own horses if they thought they could get a decent return on their investment, and shouldn't they ?

November 24, 2010 - 3:19 pmChange or die. Attendance

David Cowl SAID...

Change or die.

Attendance is dismal at most tracks. Wagering is down.

Why not make it interesting and more of a challenge for the betting public. Races on turf, polytrack and traditional hard pack at various distances ranging from a mile to two miles. Toss in a few trotting races under saddle for good measure.

November 24, 2010 - 2:15 pmi am not in favor of this at

Basil Kealey SAID...

i am not in favor of this at this time. We need to work on enticing the new young person to come to the track and eventually catch "the bug" of a great sport. Nothing wrong with the present set-up of 1 mile racing only in Harness Racing.

November 24, 2010 - 2:13 pmDown the road distance might

brian hancox SAID...

Down the road distance might vary, especially in the cheaper classes....

What would Lee Iacocca do if Chrysler was not selling as many K Cars as they had budgeted for? Would he continue to make more K Cars or would he reduce the amount of K Car's he was producing?

This should be the first thing done.

The other thing that needs to be done and needs the help of every standarbred license holder in Canada is to collectively petition the Federal Government to allow the same types of gambling in Canada at our Racetracks as the offshore gambling locations are currently offering around the world. Why should Canada continue to allow billions and billions of dollars to be spent on offshore gambling locations without one nickel going toward our horse racing industry, our healthcare, our education, as well as other priorities. This is insane. Every politician in Canada should be asked to support this change immediately. Just a few years ago in Las Vegas at a racing conference it was reported that wagering for Thoroughbred Racing had exceeded three billions dollars. A short time after this was announced there was a further announcement stating that illegal gambling had exceeded five billion dollars for that same year. Imagine?

This to me, is far more important than significantly reducing purse pools by offering increased purses for standardbred horses to race sprints and routes.

November 24, 2010 - 1:50 pmOne of the reasons the sport

Norm Brunet SAID...

One of the reasons the sport is in the difficulty it is today is because it has not adapted to a changing world. These longer distance races would only do good to the industry and the breed we now have. Right now the only criteria to our breeding is speed, going longer distances would force the industry to start thing about endurance. If you are bored with front end racing then this is the answer to more entertaining races. Watching a horse race which is over by the 1/4 pole is not all that exciting but lead changes and horses coming from behind is a whole different story.

November 24, 2010 - 12:04 pmI am going to have to

Georg Leber SAID...

I am going to have to disagree. What attracts me to harness racing is the consistency of the distance. Fewer variables makes it easier to handicap. I still have problems when horses come from other tracks, especially when the length of the track is a variant.
Thoroughbred racing is a lottery to me and if I try to handicap that breed I might as well just go play the slots (I don't do that either).

In my opinion you want to attract new bettors, making it more complicated is not the way to do it. More complicated gives more advantage to professionals and those with inside information. Isn't that already enough of a problem?

We should promote Harness Racing as easier to handicap (never seen this done).

In addition I have now become the owner of several standardbred racehorses and I can tell you if there were different distances I would not remain an owner. It would be too confusing trying to decide what horses to buy given that I am not sure what classes would be written.

Even further how do you tell breeders who invest millions that now the breeding game has changed so that we are looking for sprinting horses or long distance horses not the traditional milers. Suddenly a horse that can run a fast half mile can become a Stallion.

The real danger of introducing this is that you may have horses training for 1 mile distances and the next thing you know that horse is trying to run twice that distance and gets injured.

Changing race distances may well become a fad such as orange and blue streaks behind a hockey puck.

Standardbred racing has lots of challenges and can improve on many things but this is not one of them.

November 24, 2010 - 10:45 amI personally would love to

Geoff Maltby SAID...

I personally would love to see more distance varied races, but why do the tracks always write the pacers at short distances and trotters at long distances. Why not vary it for both?? But let's congratulate everyone for trying to do some new things!!


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