01/08/2015 5:09PM

Giwner: Does myth triumph over truth?

Lisa Photo
Golden Receiver, who has been retired, is one of many topics on Giwner's mind this week.

Last night I walked into my local Italian Restaurant/Pizzeria and the man behind the counter noticed my hoodie displaying the North American Amateur Drivers logo. After telling him I worked for DRF covering harness racing, he immediately uttered, “You can’t bet that it is all fixed.”

He continued on to tell me a story about when he was younger, back in the 1980s, saying this guy used to come into his work and tell him who would win the XX race at the Meadowlands. “Whoever he told us would win was always right.”

Try as we might (and I have personally tried to quell the suspicion on many occasions), it seems that the public perception is stuck in neutral. We simply can’t get out of the 1970s and 80s in terms of how the general public thinks of standardbred racing, or “the trotters” as it is often referred.

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The United States Trotting Association has spent a good deal of money working with the Harness Racing Fan Zone in an effort to market the sport, specifically on a more personal level when it comes to horsemen. Has it worked? I’m sure the numbers say it has. While we are mainly reaching those active in social media, that may be a good thing.

Whether by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever, social media provides us the potential to reach people with no preformed biases against the sport, especially a younger audience. And I’m not talking about young people betting, per se. How about them just getting excited by the racing through pictures, video and eventually a visit to the track? Then perhaps that leads to being involved via ownership or as an amateur driver?

How do we reach and convince the 40 or 50-something man working at my local pizzeria that the sport is on the “up and up”? Honestly, I’m not sure the task is possible. People are very set in their ways. While I may have wasted my time explaining that harness racing in 2015 is much different than 1980, I can’t help but optimistically hope that some of the words I said seeped into his head.

There is plenty of good and bad in harness racing just like every other facet of sports and life. While some would believe we should only emphasize the positive, I’d rather we focus on the truth (good and bad) while tossing aside the complete myths.

Quick Thoughts . . .

While everyone focuses on the new kicking rule at the Meadowlands, why is the second part of the same rule ignored? “The brutal use of a whip or blunt spur, kicking a horse with a foot, striking a horse with the whip under the seat of the sulky or indiscriminate use of a whip may be considered a violation.”

I’m not going to get into the kicking or nudging issue, but if the same rule says you can’t place the whip between a horses legs, why is that okay? It happens all the time. Just sayin’.

It is nice to see seven 10-horse plus fields at Yonkers Raceway this Sunday morning going the added distance of 1 1/4 miles. I’d like to see more of it . . . not just on the France simulcast races. Change is good!

You may have noticed that PJ Fraley is no longer listed as trainer for the horses owned by the Bamond stable. That group includes Anndrovette, four-time Older Pacing Mare of the Year award winner. Owner Jeffrey Bamond has enlisted his son, Jeffrey Bamond, Jr. to handle training duties.

“My son has taken over as trainer,” said Bamond. “This was a planned move for sometime as he has been working in the barn for years. He also has been managing the stable for a long time now.”

Make sure to pay attention to those horses racing at the Meadowlands which are scheduled to be sold in the January 19 Meadowlands Select Mixed Sale. Last year quite a few of them won in the weeks leading up to being sold. You can view the horses up for sale here: http://www.tattersallsredmile.com/cgi/tatt_janmix_sort_2015.php

Happy retirement to Golden Receiver. I can’t say he was my favorite horse, but he made many a winter month more enjoyable. It was always fun watching him storm down the road at the Meadowlands.

According to the USTA and Standardbred Canada websites, total combined handle on races contested in North America was just over $1.9 billion. Despite negative thoughts from some thinking the sport is on life support, that figure gives me hope.

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wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
how about launching an investigation into the ADWs/tracks about allowing bets to be made after the gate leaves? Why does every laggard/breaker go up? Why does every leaver get pounded? It is no coincidence, and the public sees it. Unless you are a rebate bettor-you must bet before the race--and that gives the gate-punchers a huge advantage. Their hands are in your pockets even if you make a winning bet. Racing's dirty little secret-the public is getting fleeced every race.
Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
What bothers people about harness racing is watching the 8th at Yonkers on Friday where "Clem" a $25,000 claimer goes to the half on the lead completely unchallenged in :59:4??? Are you kidding? Then just past the half, Brennan sitting 4th with Rockavellian, who has early speed by the way. decides to step off the rail and make a half-hearted challenge.. Guess what George; as you well know, the damage was already done.
Derick More than 1 year ago
There are many ways to change the flow of the race but either drivers have to be more aggressive, tracks need to make changes (passing lane), or commissions need to put in new rules to make it happen.
Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
Myth over truth is like perception over reality. The perception that is out there, true or untrue, is that harness racing is fixed. Maybe not so much drivers & trainers working in unison but trainers doing something illegal to give their horses an unfair advantage in a race. Anyway it all plays a part in any race handicapping that I do.
Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
Derick. Thanks for the info regarding Baymond Racing. Was looking over the pp this morning and noticed the changes at Yonkers to Fraley's horses. I was also bemoaning the fact that it would probably take me weeks to find out what was up. Thanks to your column, the problem is resolved. Didn't know if Baymond was an associate of Fraley's or independent. It makes a difference.
tom More than 1 year ago
Derick, I've been to maybe 15 harness tracks up and down the east coast the past 10 years and have asked many racing officials at those tracks one important thing I've noticed and continued to notice race after race, why are so many of your drivers staring at the odds boards repeatedly while warming up their horse? Not every driver but easily 3 or 4 drivers every race would strangely "warm" up their horses and stare at the board for 5 seconds, then slowly turn around and "warm" them back up the other way while staring at the odds, all the way up to post time. One racing official at Harrah's Philly said it was "because the drivers wanted to see who their competition was so they could adjust their race tactics" huh? since when did the public wagering dictate how a driver would drive a race? i would love to know your thoughts on this. Why do so many drivers care about the odds unless there is some sort of, not race fixing so much, but maybe a bigger effort to win to make more money by signaling their partners to bet on the race ? Also, i was with a group of 20 or so people talking to Tim Tetrick 3 or 4 years about his mounts on the day at Harrah's Philly, in the 9th race he was on the 8 horse, he says "this horse has no speed, i'm going to sit back and make one big run at the end and hope to get a piece" well the race came and off the gate there is Tetrick swinging and whipping and rushing his horse to the lead by all means, horse tired and finished 6th but why did Tim feel he had to lie to people? Just one more reason why drivers don't help the myth of harness racing being fixed.
Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
There's a million reasons why Tetrick could have taken that horse to the front with #1 being the trainer told him to just before the race.
Dante Sindori More than 1 year ago
The very fact that Tetrick did the opposite of what he said should tell you that it is an honest race. Drivers often change strategies as the gate unfolds in order to give their charge the best chance to win. Since his horse does not leave well, he has to rush him out as best he can to try to get a trip. Perhaps a hole didn't open for him, or the horse left better than he thought, or some last minute instructions from the trainer who may have changed equipment...etc.etc.etc....
Derick More than 1 year ago
Tom - I do believe some drivers look at the board to get an idea of who might be "live". There are times when horses don't look great on paper and get bet heavily. Also, many drivers are not the best handicappers and the board can give them a better idea of who to watch out for. Finally, it is just human nature to wonder what the odds are. Just like you drive by an accident and may turn your head to see what is going on. On the Tetrick issue, strategy is great but you can't have one game plan and always stick to it. Maybe the trainer asked him to leave. Maybe he didn't see enough horses ready to fire off the gate and thought it was worth a shot. Maybe the horse warmed up very well. Hope that helps, DG