05/07/2012 10:20AM

Bergman: Television time a must for Hambletonian

The Hambletonian, which has been televised since 1964, will not be broadcasted this year.

I’ve gotta be me.

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong…

I can’t help but think that the Hambletonian is the signature race for the entire sport. In an era defined by “brand” recognition one would have to think that the brand Hambletonian is synonymous with the sport of harness racing.

That’s why it seems to make no sense that with less than three months to the biggest race of the year for trotters there is no television program scheduled. It’s understandable that NBC won’t be able to televise the race with its large investment in the Summer Olympics. What’s not understandable is how the same people who cry that not enough is being done to promote the sport, appear unwilling to do the minimum in current time to support the “brand.”

Asking sacrifice of others is a noble gesture that would mean a lot more if those asking for sacrifice were doing the same. Breeders, owners, trainers and drivers have all been asked to give something up for the “future” good of the sport. It’s hard to argue with anyone who wants a future and is willing to do what’s necessary to get there. What’s impossible to accept is why anyone would wish the sport to go an entire year without a national television presence?

The cost to the sport of not having the Hambletonian televised is far greater than the actual cost to have it on.

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong…

I believe it’s time to stop the charade of uncoupled entries in select races. Case in point, the $297,000 final of the Blue Chip Matchmaker at Yonkers on April 28. Thanks to the minds of modern day moguls who believe they know what’s best for the public, Anndrovette and Chancey Lady, two mares who likely shipped in the same van to Yonkers, were uncoupled in the wagering. They went uncoupled under the guise of separate ownership as if where bills get sent has anything to do with where the team is located.

For those who didn’t get to watch the Matchmaker here’s the short version of the events of the race that should stand out to the judges and racing commissions if and when they elect to uncouple horses in the future. Chancey Lady attempted to leave the gate from post seven as odds-on favorite See You At Peelers jetted out from the rail. By the first turn Chancey’s driver Andy Miller recognized he wasn’t going to near the leader or have a chance for the lead. He briefly attempted to back his mare into a four-hole but driver Cat Manzikept it closed as he should. That left the mare on the outside. Instead of attempting another advance, Miller elected to sit on the outside compromising the chances of those behind him and offering the leader a chance to slow the pace down.

What was noticeable was that Miller made no attempt to get up not just to the leaders but to Anndrovette as well who was sitting comfortably in third. Finally, at the half Anndrovette came out and charged to the leader while Chancey Lady mired on the rim.

While it certainly could have been coincidental that Chancey Lady was unable to advance no better than fourth on the outside, it’s hard not to think that Miller was unaware that Anndrovette hailed from the same stable as his mare.

The argument for uncoupling is that it provides more betting interest and that it is good to increase handle. However, when we get races where separate entities give the appearance of teammates it corrodes the very “integrity” issues our leaders have said is vital to the business.

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong…

You just can’t complain about silly polls and then produce one yourself. The recent “revelation” that came out of a “survey” to find horsemen’s opinions regarding potential revenue from additional gaming in New York was a new low point for pollsters.
So the question was if table gaming is added to existing “racino” fare are you in favor of horsemen getting additional protected revenue?

The fact that this poll question received less than 100 percent support of New York’s USTA suggests the 27 naysayers are likely affiliated with track ownership. The other 1,000 or so were obviously in favor of protecting their share of the pie. What a surprise!

This same group balked at the results of a prior poll that at least asked the question of whether horsemen should sacrifice some slot revenue for the purpose of promoting the sport. Which again proves the point that the horsemen are united in favor of taking other peoples money (90 percent of purses are generated from slot revenue) for their support, but not in favor of providing their own funds to invest in the sport’s future.

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong…

I find it unreasonable for anyone to challenge a coach’s decision after a player gets injured. The most recent spectacle took place after Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending injury while his team led by a dozen points with about a minute left in its playoff opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“Why was he in the game,” asked more than one reporter, as if the coach should have known he was going to get hurt.
I find the subject intriguing because it is part of today’s second-guessing mentality. Unfortunately for Rose and his teammates this injury took place at a bad time. Yet anyone who watched him get injured had to recognize the same thing could have happened at anytimeand anywhere.

The same thing is most likely true in the racing game. I’ve seen some of the most lame looking horses on the racetrack manage to race well for years. I’ve also seen some of the soundest looking horses break down.
Team doctors and track veterinarians are not that different.

Sports, whether human or equine are valuable to a society. No matter how safe we attempt to make them, injuries and unfortunately deaths will occur. But, as sad as the apparent suicide of former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau was, we shouldn’t abolish football because of it. Nor should we paint an entire industry that does right by its horses, with a very few that don’t.

Steve More than 1 year ago
Harness racing - the only form of entertainment that does not advertise its product outside of trade media. How many cameras would Nokia sell if they only advertised in Popular Photography magazine? Track owners complain that attendence is down yet they continue with the same business plans that haven't worked for the last few decades. Track owners are now relying on casino revenue to prop up harness racing. As we have recently seen in PA budget proposals, when budgets are tight, casino revenues once ear marked for racing, will be diverted to other government programs that generate more votes for politicians. Unless harness racing adapts to compet with the variety of entertain options available today and uses modern technology more effectively, it will go the way of the Dodo bird.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
The solution for this year only is a simple one: Push the Hambletonian back by two weeks to August 18 (Saturday after the Olympics) with the elims the Sunday before on August 12 (Sunday instead of Saturday since it would be more likely the elims could be carried by NBC Sports Network). It might force tracks that have events those two weeks (August 11 & 18) to have to move those up, but doing so would allow the Hambo to be on NBC.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
Didn't realize when I said that the annual Jets-Giants pre-season game is that Saturday, though the Hambletonian has been contested in the daytime with a Giants pre-season game that night in the past (I was at The Meadowlands for the 2000 Hambo when that was the case in fact). If that is an issue, the Hambo could be contested a day later on Sunday, August 19, with that being the final day of the Meadowlands season with the Haughton and other events showcasing it. It might inconvenience other tracks that would have to scramble to change their stakes schedules, but if it gets the Hambo on NBC (possibly even ahead of Sunday Night Football if NBC agreed to air it at 7:00 PM ET that night as I believe there is no pre-game show before pre-season games). The Hambletonian Society may not like having to break tradition and run the race on a Sunday, but it may have to this time for television purposes if it gets it on NBC.
Derick More than 1 year ago
Hambo gets lost on TVG because of Saratoga and a bunch of other Thoroughbred coverage. I'd be okay with MavTV but it is far from NBC or another network. Maybe once once you leave network tv the positives of boradcasting the race diminish.
Rich El More than 1 year ago
Is TVG or MAV TV a reasonable option for televising the Hambo?