11/05/2014 5:12PM

Giwner: Fresh ideas for elimination races

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Derick Giwner
Competition in races results in drama.

Having a rare weekend off from stakes racing this seemed like the perfect time to toss out another fresh idea. I have discussed the problems with elimination races in the past and a new thought popped into my head a couple of weeks ago—time trials.

I’m certainly no expert on the Quarter Horse racing, but it seems they present multiple races where horses qualify for a Final by time as opposed to order of finish (our current elimination method). The fastest horses qualify to race for the big pot of cash.

What if our eliminations came down to speed/time as opposed to where each horse finished? Let’s say there are two seven-horse fields vying for 10 spots on the gate in the Meadowlands Pace. Normally the top five finishers in each race would advance. In my new system, the 10 fastest horses advance. That means, in theory, you could finish last in one elimination and still make the final.

Why is this good?

Horses will no longer be able to get an “easy race” in an elimination or play the “wait until next week” game. Drivers will be forced to push their horse in the elimination because failing to do so could mean elimination. If you draw post 10 and think you can wait at the back and pass a few horses to make the final, think again. But if you draw post 10 in the tougher of two or three divisions, your chances of making the final increase as the race will likely go faster because of the quality of the field.

The bottom line is racing for final time versus finish position promotes in-race competition.

I’m sure there are holes that can be poked in this plan, but it is always worth looking at a different way of reaching the best solution.

When I caught up with trainer Jimmy Takter prior to the Little Brown Jug he tossed out an idea of his own for the pacing classic. He felt that the Jug should be limited to the top eight or nine horses with horses reversing post positions from the first and second heats.

In other words, in an eight-horse first heat, if you drew post one in the first heat, you would automatically draw post eight in the second heat; post four in heat one would change to post five in heat two.

The overall thought is that every horse that goes behind the gate gets at least one good starting post. If you are good enough to win both heats from the good (and perhaps bad) posts, you deserve to win the Jug in straight heats. If not, the two winners go heads-up in a race-off.

What’s great about this plan is that you don’t even have to limit the number of entrants. If 21 horses sign on, you have three seven-horse elims and all 21 come back with reverse post positions in heat two. Of the six heat winners, if one of the horses wins twice, he wins the Jug. If two or three horses win twice, there is a race-off. If none of the six winners win twice, all six return for the championship.

On top of that you get extra races with top horses on the track.

Think about the drama . . . the first heat elimination victor wins and now the horse and connections have to sweat out whether the other winners will be victorious and force a race-off.

Let it all sink in. Yes, it is different, but it is interesting as well. Or maybe you think I’ve simply lost my mind. Good thing I’m taking a few days off to refresh before the Breeders Crown.

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Paul Kelley More than 1 year ago
I would suggest start investing, staking and paying on the care of these great athletes before suggesting alternative ways to tearing them up for the sake of elimination races. It's a long hard season and this is not NASCAR, we don't have replaceable parts.
Steve More than 1 year ago
The hole that can be poked in the time trial plan is weather/track conditions. Even the greatest maintenance crew can only make it so equal one time to the next. What if it's overcast for 1 elim then the sun comes out for the 2nd? What if the first goes off in dry weather and there is a sudden downpour before elim 2 starts? I know it sounds like the chances of that are slim, but what if it happens? Race flow and pace are also too important a factor in harness racing. Quarter Horses don't race for trips or flow, they just sprint almost mindlessly. I would support the elims being worth more money. If the total purse is 700K, instead of having 2 elims worth 50K and a final worth 600K, you could make each elim worth 150K and a final worth 400K. Trying harder in the elims would come naturally then plus the same total is up for grabs so if you are good enough there is still plenty of opportunity to score big.