01/28/2016 10:43AM

Bergman: Deciphering conditions is no easy task

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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.