11/19/2015 9:36PM

Giwner: New draw format for eliminations, preliminary races


I want to preface my comments to follow with the following statement: I’m not in favor of elimination races. With that statement out of the way, a new way to handle elimination and preliminary races recently popped into my head.

Of course, I’m writing about this due to the unaggressive drives given multiple horses in races this past weekend at the Meadowlands. But make no mistake about it, nothing new happened in those races. Horses are saved for future races all the time. The only difference this time was that action was taken in the form of a 15-day suspension for driver Brian Sears (not that it matters since he is scheduled to drive Bee A Magician Friday as the suspension is on hold until December).

The issue in the TVG preliminary races last Friday and Saturday was inactivity brought on by small fields and more importantly a $50,000 purse versus $200,000 and $400,000 purses available the following weekend. To place more incentive to win, I’m suggesting that the winning horses in each leg throughout the series (which extends from May to November) get a post position advantage in the final. The bonus is not a guarantee of post, but a better chance of drawing well.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Watch all of the Meadowlands stakes action live this weekend + real-time insights from the DRF Harness team.]

Each winner throughout the series is awarded one extra “pill” for a win. So if a horse wins three TVG races throughout the year, he would have three extra chances to draw well. Currently the system calls for one numbered pill for each horse in a race. A pill is pulled and matched with a horse. My format would have the entry sheets laid out on a table with numbers on them. Each horse would get at least one pill but could have more depending on the number of wins. As the pills are drawn, that decides the order for which post positions can be chosen by connections.

Basically it is a weighted draw. A horse could still win three legs and wind up with post 10, but it is unlikely. This system would also work nicely for the Levy Memorial series at Yonkers Raceway.

On to elimination races . . . I propose using the NBA lottery system. The draw for the final is weighted by where you finish in the elimination and then the connections of each horse get to choose their posts. If 5 horses qualify for a final out of two eliminations and you finish first, your chances of drawing well are increased dramatically. The elimination winners would have 9 and 10 chances of getting the best pick. But the best part is that you are not guaranteed a good post. You are only guaranteed a better chance to acquire a good post.  

I applied the theory to the Valley Victory final at the Meadowlands on Saturday using the site http://www.draftpicklottery.com/lineup.php and randomly selecting the winners of all tied positions (two second-place finishers, two third-place finishers, etc.). The results are interesting and I invite you to try it a few times. This system rewards horses that do well in the elimination but doesn’t guarantee them anything, thus somewhat eliminating the endless line of favorites we often see in finals, like on Breeders Crown night.

While in the old system the benefit for finishing first was greater (guaranteed post from 1-6), this system provides incentive for all horses to finish in the best position possible. In theory this would create more action in races that too often look like qualifiers.

Is the above the best solution? Maybe not, but for me it seems better than the status quo.

Below are the results of 10 weighted sample draws I tried. Obviously if the sample was larger the higher finishers would have even greater edges of the lower finishers, but you get the idea.

Horse Elim Finish  Weighted Value  Average Position to choose post
Dog Gone Luck 1st 10 4.6
Waitlifter K 1st 9 4.5
Make Or Miss 2nd 8 4.7
Milligan's School 2nd 7 3.4
Marion Marauder 3rd 6 5.8
Lagerfeld 3rd 5 5.5
Taco Tuesday 4th 4 7.0
Mavens Way 4th 3 5.2
Treasure Keys K 5th 2 7.3
Mikkeli Hanover 5th 1 7.0