01/28/2016 9:43AM

Bergman: Deciphering conditions is no easy task


Long before Kenny Rogers would sing about “The Gambler” he was playing a different tune.

“I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.”

That’s a line from Rogers’ first hit in the ‘60s with a verse that appears to be referring to dropping acid in the vernacular of the day.

Well today horsemen are dropping in as well to the entry box at The Meadowlands and often times one might think they are tripping-out looking at a wide range of conditions added to the original conditions.

Make note this Friday night in the sixth race there’s a base condition that reads Non-winners of $7,500 in last 5 starts. Followed by Non-winners in the last start allowed $500.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Real-time insights from the DRF Harness team this Saturday at 6:35 p.m.]

Before we go further, what that condition essentially describes is that horses with $8,000 earned in their last five starts that did not win their last race are now eligible to this class.

Moving on through the conditions, there is an item that says Winners in this class in Last Start ineligible.

What that means is that even if a horse had won at this level and still met the earnings threshold it would not be allowed to enter this class and would be forced to move to a higher class.

Add to the already confusing conditions an Optional $15,000 claimer.

But, just like those late night infomercials, “There’s more!”

Also Eligible are 4-year-olds that are non-winners of 3 extended pari-mutuel races or $40,000 lifetime.

Weeding through the conditions was hard enough, but finding a horse that entered despite winning in this class a week earlier and meeting the conditions was something else.

Magenta Man had won at this level last Friday night but unlike others was allowed to remain eligible.

We checked in with racing secretary Peter Koch with hopes of getting an explanation.

“The lifetime wins and money conditions are written after the winning horses being ineligible in the condition of the race,” Koch said with obvious emphasis on the word after.

“This is part of me having to combine classes as the non-winners of 3 has no ineligible clause attached to it.”

That was a fair enough explanation but it led to the obvious question as to why a horse that had beaten this field in its last start and still maintained earnings below $7,500 in its last 5 starts would be prohibited from re-entering. It just didn’t seem logical that the non-winners of 3 horse would have preference over any horse that met the original conditions.

“With our purse structure we have to put this (clause) in to ensure filling higher class races,” said Koch, explaining how his operation needs to work given the purse levels.

Koch was more than mindful that in allowing Magenta Man into this class once again after the horse had dominated at the same level last week at odds of even-money he might be creating another short-priced betting favorite.

“This is a much tougher race than this horse was in last week,” said Koch, referring to Magenta Man. “If he beats these we’re probably going to have to push him up to the next class.”

Koch was open in claiming that this race was tougher than last week. A closer look at the competition shows that in opening the class with an additional $500 for non-winners of their last race, Koch has found a few more seasoned and in-form horses making this race much tougher on paper than last weeks.

The racing secretary didn’t flinch when he was asked whether he seeded these races since there is more than one division of this race on Friday.

“Yes,” said Koch, admitting that there’s a lot more to a racing secretary’s job than simply opening the entry box and drawing post positions.

Combining classes has been the norm for Koch since the Meadowlands re-opened in November. The two-day per week schedule is dominated by a limited number of classes that fill naturally. This leads to the necessity to combining classes.

It is worth noting that Koch is not alone in the practice, as many other tracks offer three and four conditions per race to ensure full fields.


Dante Sindori More than 1 year ago
Hi Brooklynrichied, There is an allowance for all 4yo's and under in most jurisdictions which are assigned by the racing commissions which are not stipulated on the conditions. Horsemen know for example that their 4yo will automatically get 25% on their earnings. If you look on the WEG programs (which are available for free on their web site) there is a section on one of the pages giving you the breakdown of claiming and earnings allowances in Ontario. This chart is usually under one of the stats pages. Sometimes they forget to update the year of printing, but it has not changed in quite some time. For example,2yo's get 75% allowances, 3yo's 50% and 4yo's 25%, and fillies and mares get an additiotal 25%.
brooklynrichied More than 1 year ago
Knew of the claiming allowances for young horses and fillies and mares, as well as the races/money allowances afforded fillies and mares, but was not aware of the across the board earnings allowance offered to 2yr olds, 3 yr olds and 4 yr olds, depending upon what year they earned the money. None of the latter shows up in the conditions at the top of each race, but I do see it in the box you refer to towards the back of the program. Thank you for pointing that out. I stand corrected.
brooklynrichied More than 1 year ago
Writing three or four conditions for the same race is one thing. A sophisticated player can work through that. Allowing horses into the race that are ineligible is an entirely different matter. Witness the non-winners lifetime condition races carded at Mohawk/Woodbine. Happens with regularity...which in turn creates more prohibitive payouts...which will eventually lead to the demise of the sport.
Dante Sindori More than 1 year ago
You may not be taking allowances into consideration when calculating eligibility.
brooklynrichied More than 1 year ago
A ridiculous assertion. Of course I am. Been playing this game for nearly 50 years, going back to the late 60's/early 70's at Yonkers and Roosevelt. Have probably watched and handicapped 100,000 harness races. I understand how to read conditions. Here's an example tonight at Woodbine. Race 2, Trot. Purse $20,000. Here are the conditions: NW3 (FM 5) races or $75,000 (FM $93,750) lifetime. AE: 4 year old mares. How is Marquis Volo, eligible for this race?? He's a 4 year old gelding. Coming into this race, his record for the past two years alone was 9 wins in 14 starts. Lifetime earnings = $81,794. Make that 10 for 15 now; he just won in this class for the 3rd time in a row and paid $2.30. What a game!
Dante Sindori More than 1 year ago
Meant no disrespect. Marquis Volo easily fits this class with earnings allowances and can race one more time and win in it before moving up.
Dante Sindori More than 1 year ago
I am not one to argue, and I see where you're coming from. I do not wish to disparage a fellow horse player. I agree with you that it makes for very uneven competition when you give allowances to a 4yo who has been trouncing the class for a while. Sometimes they will write "no allowances" to keep the bearcats out, but with horse shortages, sometimes racing secretaries play softball.
brooklynrichied More than 1 year ago
Dante, My apologies for "jumping"; did not mean to. You were simply making a point. However, sticking to the question at hand, I do not see what you see with respect to an allowance for 4 year olds. Could you please explain? What I do see is this: Fillies and mares (FM) get a break in the conditions - they're allowed more lifetime wins and more money earned. The conditions also note that 4 year old MARES are also eligible (AE), but that's it. No mention of an allowance for ALL 4 year olds. In fact, that would be inconsistent with making special mention that 4 year old mares are "AE". Would appreciate it if you could point out where conditions are more lenient to 4 year olds (either for wins or money earned), or where it's stated that the race is open to ALL 4 year olds; I don't see it. Thanks and best of luck.