10/21/2016 2:55PM

Giwner: Revamping the Breeders Crown elimination system

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When the Breeders Crown rolls around each year it is an exciting time for owners, trainers, drivers, bettors and fans. While I can’t wait for the Finals on October 28 & 29 at The Meadowlands, I can’t help but to be turned off by the 18 eliminations taking place the previous weekend.

It began to sink in when I typed out all of the elimination field sizes to post on Twitter. In every elimination at least half of the field will make the final. In 13 of the 18 elims, over 60% of the starters will get a spot on the gate for the Finals.

Before we move forward, let’s paint a visual picture by taking a look at the make-up of the elimination fields for Friday and Saturday.

Division Total Horses Field sizes # Horses advancing Purse
2YO Filly Trot 15 8 & 7 5 in each $20,000 each
2YO Colt Pace 17 9 & 8 5 in each $20,000 each
2YO Filly Pace 16 8 & 8 5 in each $20,000 each
2YO Colt Trot 20 10 & 10 5 in each $20,000 each
3YO Colt Pace 16 8 & 8 5 in each $25,000 each
3YO Filly Pace 14 7 & 7 5 in each $25,000 each
3YO Colt Trot 16 8 & 8 5 in each $25,000 each
3YO Filly Trot 19 10 & 9 5 in each $25,000 each
Mare Pace 14 7 & 7 5 in each $25,000 each

The problem with elimination races is that the benefits of “racing hard” are nearly non-existent. This leads to bettors getting frustrated when they play a horse that races conservatively and closes well late to “make the final.” Great result for the connections of the horses but not so much for the bettors.

Of course, there is a benefit to winning, guaranteeing a post position from one to five in the final, but with many divisions having clear standouts like Pure Country and Darlinonthebeach, Betting Line, Ariana G, and Huntsville, aren’t we simply handing the best horses a good post and ultimately making races less appealing to handicappers?

[MEADOWLANDS: Watch & Wager on all 18 Breeders Crown elimination races this weekend.]

Rather than simply complain, I’ve come up with a reasonable solution which includes many positives. This solution would need to be delayed since you can’t change the rules for races where stakes payments have already been submitted, but it could be in place a few years down the road.

The plan basically gives preference to the top horses during the year while allowing the opportunity for a late bloomer to join the final as well. For simplicity, I’ve broken down the idea below while separating what it would look like on a mile track where 10 horses can go behind the gate versus a five-eighths like Pocono where only nine can lineup evenly. At The Meadowlands, when eliminations are necessary, the top eight money-winners in the current year automatically advance to the final. At Pocono (or another track where only nine horses can line up on the gate, like Hoosier, host of the 2017 Breeders Crown), the top seven entered horses based on earnings would get an instant ticket to the final.

# of Horses Entered 10 horses on gate (Top 8 earners in Final) 9 horses on gate (Top 7 earners in Final)
9 or less No Elims No Elims
10 No Elims No Elims (*one trailer in final)
11 No Elims (*one trailer in Final)  No Elims (*two trailers in Final)
12 No Elims (*two trailers in Final) 5-horse elim—Top two make Final
13 5-horse elim—Top two make Final 6-horse elim—Top two make Final
14 6-horse elim—Top two make Final 7-horse elim—Top two make Final
15 7-horse elim—Top two make Final 8-horse elim—Top two make Final
16 8-horse elim—Top two make Final 9-horse elim—Top two make Final
17 9-horse elim—Top two make Final Two elims (5/5)—Winners make Final
18 10-horse elim—Top two make Final  Two elims (6/5)—Winners make Final
19 11-horse elim—Top two make Final Two elims (6/6)—Winners make Final
20 Two elims (6/6)—Winners make Final Two elims (7/6)—Winners make Final
21 Two elims (7/6)—Winners make Final Two elims (7/7)—Winners make Final
22 Two elims (7/7)—Winners make Final Two elims (8/7)—Winners make Final
23 Two elims (8/7)—Winners make Final Two elims (8/8)—Winners make Final
24** Two elims (8/8)—Winners make Final Two elims (9/8)—Winners make Final

* Horses that are not in the top 10 earners at The Meadowlands or top 9 at a smaller track will start from the second tier.

**If more than 25 horses enter the amount of eliminations would follow the same pattern.

The best part of the above plan is that horses that want to make the final must race well on elimination night to advance. Would you rather bet two 8-horse elims where the top five in each make the final or one where only the top two advance? Every horse has to put forth their best effort in the second options in order to make the Final. But there are so many more benefits.

My system for determining finalists encourages more participation throughout the stakes season. The more a horse races, the more he can earn, and the more likely they are to make the Final via earnings rather than an elimination crapshoot. There is also a savings in terms of purse money. My plan eliminates many eliminations. For example, instead of paying out $410,000 in elimination purses using the current system in 2016, this method would require only $205,000 in elimination purses. That’s $205,000 that a track can save or that can be funneled into the purses of the Finals.

Using our original chart, let’s look at how the make-up of the races would change with my plan:

Division Horses Field sizes # of Horses advancing New System
2YO Filly Trot 15 8 & 7 5 in each 7-horse elim—Top 2 advance
2YO Colt Pace 17 9 & 8 5 in each 9-horse elim—Top 2 advance
2YO Filly Pace 16 8 & 8 5 in each 8-horse elim—Top 2 advance
2YO Colt Trot 20 10 & 10 5 in each Two 6-horse elims—Winners advance
3YO Colt Pace 16 8 & 8 5 in each 8-horse elim—Top 2 advance
3YO Filly Pace 14 7 & 7 5 in each 6-horse elim—Top 2 advance
3YO Colt Trot 16 8 & 8 5 in each 8-horse elim—Top 2 advance
3YO Filly Trot 19 10 & 9 5 in each 11-horse elim—Top 2 advance
Mare Pace 14 7 & 7 5 in each 6-horse elim—Top 2 advance

The only negative I see in my plan is the lack of any “star” horses racing on elimination night, but I could argue that is a good thing since we’ll have more evenly-matched groupings in each division and fewer favorites.

Is the above system perfect? No. It is simply a different idea designed to put forth a better betting product while allowing all of the horses who want to compete in the Breeders Crown an opportunity to lineup for our Championship races.