08/22/2017 3:16PM

Giwner: Amateur restrictions need tinkering to provide fair playing ground

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Geri Schwarz
Hannah Miller is one of the top amateur drivers.

Once upon a time I was a semi-regular on the amateur racing scene. We raced for microscopic purses in mostly non-betting races with the real prize being the thrill of victory.

There were more limited opportunities back then for an amateur. The racing was seasonal (April to November) in one or two amateur clubs. Much of that changed when the GSY Series was introduced in 2011-12 and eventually became a mainstay at The Meadowlands. An amateur can now race virtually every week and those races would be on the betting program.

A few days ago the GSY club sent out a release saying that the club would be split into two divisions, one for those drivers 50 years and older and another open division for anyone that wanted to enter. The move was made to keep the group afloat since the races did not fill during the final three weeks of the Meadowlands’ meet partially due to competition from other clubs.

“I worked hard to put this club together and it was going to fall apart,” said GSY Club founder Dave Yarock, clearly passionate about keeping the GSY alive.

An equally fervent GSY driver who would be excluded from half of the series, 25-year-old Hannah Miller, was clearly upset when I reached her by phone. “I do it because I love to drive,” said Miller about why she competes in the series.

While the release seemed quite clear, Yarock maintained that the new age-excluding division was hardly set in stone and he was simply trying to find a way to live up to the club’s mission statements of providing fair and competitive racing that benefit educational development of younger people and the racetracks which host the club.

“There is an open dialogue. Nothing is set in stone,” said Yarock.

With that in mind, despite the fact that I haven’t competed in a race since 2013 and have no immediate plans to put my stellar 41-3-4-1 driving record in jeopardy of getting worse, I’ve decided to provide some ideas which could help the series prosper and give all drivers a chance to taste victory.

I’ve driven in races where I knew I had the best horse and probably couldn’t lose and it is plenty of fun, but I’ve also experienced having a lesser quality horse and watched others dominate. There is no worse feeling than driving long distances to the track knowing you have no shot to compete. With the modifications below, perhaps most of the drivers in each race can have the thrill of thinking they have a chance almost every week when they head to the track. Everyone benefits from that. The track and handicappers get a competitive field and more drivers have the opportunity to win.

-All horses in amateur races must be entered for a claiming tag. This will keep amateurs from trying to place horses in tough spots to get money off their cards so they fit an amateur race.

-All amateur races will be handicapped by the racing secretary at the participating track. This will help ensure that the fields are more competitive.

-Any horse which wins more than two legs of an amateur series is ineligible for any subsequent series’ during that calendar year.

-Any driver which wins more than five amateur races in a year is ineligible to compete in the club for the remainder of that year.

The above rules provide all drivers – regardless of age, sex or color – with an equal opportunity to participate while making clear that competitive races are a top priority.

Hopefully the GSY club will prosper for years to come because amateur driving provides the rare opportunity for anyone to actually compete in a professional arena. You don’t have to be one of the 900 best in the world to race, you just need the desire to want to try the adventure. Maybe I’ll even dust off my colors and give it a go again in the future.

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