12/21/2015 12:23PM

Bergman: To tweet or not to tweet?

Trainer Ron Burke is one of many horsemen who shares information via social media.

In the wake of the urgency to disseminate Tweets by trainers prior to races at the Meadowlands, I think it may be time for some conditioners to “Take the Fifth.”

“What you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.“

Some things are predictable. Horses have past performance lines that shed some light on their achievement and offer suggestions to what they may do in the future.

Trainers may have closer ties to horses that could shed a shred of new light on those past performances or at the same time could have no more info to provide direction to those playing the horses.

The idea that all trainers can and should share information with the public was not novel and not well thought out. It provided a means of sharing theoretically more information. The thought that more is better is where the problems kick in.

As we all know sometimes saying less is the sure way not to look the fool. Our legal system has figured out that less said could lead to less cross-examination and perhaps an acquittal.

Now in real times and real life tweeting by trainers as an obligatory act cannot authenticate the horse’s likelihood of success on any given night. Take this past Friday night at the Meadowlands where Appomattox, a veteran trotter from the Ron Burke stable, was set for a return to the mile track against a field that could have been to his liking.

There were three tweets that I read in advance of the post parade. Ron Burke tweeted. Driver Yannick Gingras tweeted and The Meadowlands Racing re-tweeted Burke’s commentary.

What’s great about the Twitter universe is how quickly information can travel and those reading tweets like myself might get the impression that the words I am reading are a “current” report on the horse or horses I am about to be wagering on.

Unfortunately when Appomattox came onto the track for the post parade I saw something that wasn’t mentioned on Twitter. The horse looked rather lame.

With Meadowlands featuring trotters to a large degree on its Friday night program, I always pay special attention to post parades and score downs. Very often the presence of an infirm animal is useful in throwing out a horse the people are betting on. Such was the case when I spotted Appomattox. I quickly looked to find alternatives to a horse that the trainer had indicated would likely do well at the Meadowlands.

Mind you Burke wasn’t gushing about the horse in his tweet but at the same time he wasn’t suggesting that the horse was in fact lame either.

Fortunately for the betting public the judges spotted Appomattox as well and dutifully scratched the horse.

In this rush to make our sport more credible in the eyes of the betting public the line has been crossed from factual information to opinion. It’s a line the protected unwitting players from accepting opinions and relying on facts that they could draw their own opinions from.

In past times it might have required the blessing of Racing Commissions before any information could be posted, whether in on-track programs or through social media. The first “charters” comments appeared in racetrack official programs only after first being approved by a racing commission. In those times there was careful thought put in before allowing the public to consume the information.

The charters comments are an opinion of the activities within a specific race and whether accurate or not are more a summary of what happened.

In the tweets that have been disseminated we are getting a cross-section of trainer’s opinions of how the horse will fit in the coming race or whether the horse trained reasonably well or not.

To say none of this information is useful would not be accurate. Ron Burke had a tweet earlier in the night where he suggested that Lucky Mass might need a race coming off of two qualifiers. That proved a qualified assessment when the horse raced from off the pace and was a non-contender.

However, for those who want to parse every word and question the trainer, was it really necessary for Burke to mention this?

After all, should Lucky Mass have won the race by some miracle, wouldn’t the trainer now look as if he was misrepresenting the horse?

On the other hand, is it now suddenly fine with the betting public that the trainer can tell us in advance that he doesn’t think his horse will race well?

While in some circles this honesty would be considered a high point, there are others that would strongly disagree.

If you don’t think the horse is ready to go out and win in a particular race, then why not continue to train him until he is? Should the betting public have to risk any money at all on a horse that “needs a start?”

Granted we handicappers generally understand that a horse that has missed time and didn’t qualify exceptionally well will need a start, but that information is not coming directly from the person responsible for entering a “fit” animal.

Yannick Gingras’ tweets in my mind are exceptional and informative. Since he is not the trainer his opinion of the horse is based on his knowledge from having driven them. There is value when a driver can convey the type of horse he’s driving or the type of trip he may need in order to be successful. But Gingras is generally speaking from more of a handicapping perspective, analyzing what his path may be to get the most out of a horse and his assessment of his horse versus the rest of the field he’s up against.

Gingras is not the person responsible for the daily activities of the horse and wouldn’t know how sound a horse was until he sat behind him in the post parade.

All information is not equal and perhaps it’s time for us to reflect on that knowledge and not force-feed the public in a way that may potentially shake our credibility and not advance it.

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