02/02/2017 6:43PM

Bergman: Visual positives and negatives at Meadowlands, Yonkers

Paul White
Drew Monti is making a name for himself this winter at The Meadowlands.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

A quality moving picture can replace a thousand words.

It was great to see harness racing on live television once again as The Meadowlands kicked off Thursday night racing on SNY and will continue for the next six weeks.

First, let’s look at the positives.

Justin Horowitz was an absolute star on the first hour-long program. Faced with a format that allowed for more talking heads than racing horses, Horowitz managed to fill time, not kill time, over the duration of the program. His insightful remarks gave the casual follower or the expert something to chew on. That Horowitz honed his craft working on the live Hambletonian broadcast, one could expect him to think and react on his feet clearly. However, the Live program on Thursday has horses far removed from that caliber and Horowitz didn’t miss a beat in executing his task.

We liked what Jenn Bongiorno brought to the table, an infectious exuberance for the sport itself. That Bongiorno could be seen in an interview talking in the paddock prior to the race and then in the winner’s circle after the race is impressive, yet may give the impression that she’s an insider not an independent reporter.

[DRF BETS OFFER: Get a $300 Sign-Up Bonus!]

On the down side, stretching three races of little added significance for an entire hour is asking too much of the viewer and too much of the talent forced to fill and kill time in between. There’s ample time to fit four races in an hour-long broadcast and it would certainly help the viewer witness more live action and fewer talking heads.

As a bettor, I’ve already understood that “0” minutes to post is a value that doesn’t exist in mathematics. Those watching for the first time can only become confused staring at a number that represents nothing. Why not adopt a longer countdown clock as they did on Sunday for the Prix d’Amerique, offering those interested in the event a five-minute countdown clock.

In other pictures . . .

Yonkers racing season from a purse perspective is looking up as the track announced that horses would be racing for more money, with a $50,000 open for both trotters and pacers. It’s exciting that there is that much money to race for this winter in New York. With the New Year, Yonkers unveiled new graphics that should have offered a better visual product overall from the old graphics. However, what the new “wide-screen” graphics has instead produced is a screen that is top and bottom heavy in graphics and in fact shrinks the center section. When results from a completed race are posted within the center section along with the coming odds of the current race, it’s virtually impossible to see the numbers of the payouts.

While the bottom of the Yonkers screen now offers odds and all exacta combinations on a single screen, leaving this in play while there is other vital visual material above it does not enhance what’s important, it minimizes it.

Saturday night alone the images of the on-air talent have gotten significantly smaller in between the top and bottom graphics. On ESPN and Fox Sports Network they are often faced with the same dilemma of how to show other important information (commercials) during a live event. What has become the norm on those networks is to use an “L” format around the screen and shrink the wide-view picture slightly. By doing so the important live picture remains in the same aspect ratio and the commercials are large enough for those watching to read them legibly.

Graphics are vital to gamblers. At the same time, maximizing the video image of a given race gives all bettors the opportunity to see more of the action. Minimizing the live race or the replay defeats the purpose. As we all understand by now, a small fraction of the wagering takes place before zero minutes to post, so what’s the real purpose for cluttering up a screen with so much information while the replay of the previous race is being aired?

JAYWALKING: Driver Scott Zeron has settled in to half-mile track racing at Yonkers and is looking forward to continuing. “December was a little slow but things picked up really well this month. I was doing very well until Jason (Bartlett) won seven races the other day,” said Zeron.

“I’m driving some horses that are going to be in the Matchmaker and Levy Series. I’ve never competed in those races before but I’m looking forward to this year,” said Zeron.

Drew Monti has been quite impressive in his short stay so far at The Meadowlands this meet. Monti has been aggressive when he needs to be but also seems to understand the value of saving ground and waiting for room to get the most out of his horses. This past Saturday he was hopelessly behind a wall of horses with first race mount Rock Star. Monti didn’t panic but just waited for the opportunity to slip between horses. What was impressive about this effort was that he steered for most of the stretch but had the ability to make speed when it mattered most, getting up for second from what appeared an impossible spot. The talent pool for drivers will get deeper as we get into the season but it appears as if Drew Monti will fit in wherever he goes.

Bold Eagle’s victory in the 2017 Prix d’Amerique was again a thing of beauty. Looking to be caught between horses, the French champion was able to find room when it mattered and overpowered his rivals through the long stretch drive at Vincennes. Winning the classic event is no easy task and doing it in consecutive years is a monumental achievement for the horse and those connected with him.

It’s hard to gauge what the overall quality was in the Prix d’Amerique field as the one-time powerhouse Timoko lacked the staying power late and Propulsion, a well-bred horse that never lived up to expectations in North America, finished fourth on Sunday.

Hopefully some of the best older horses in the world will compete in North America this year and offer a real challenge to the owner of Bold Eagle to compete here this fall in the International Trot.