06/23/2017 8:32AM

Macedonio: Perform at a high level or get the boot


The last time I checked, Harness Racing was a sports competition, right? There are winners and there are losers. Purses are distributed depending on where you finish in a race, mostly because, ya know, WINNING MATTERS! So why don’t we have a bigger reward and punishment system based solely on stats? 

Sometimes, I’m told a trainer or driver is great, only to look at their stats and compared to their direct competition, they’re awful. When casual fans browse through a program and want to root for the best drivers and trainers, often others with lower rankings are more prominent on the race card.

What does that say to the customers?

Why not try something bold?

Let’s create a simple A/B System. Tracks are labeled either A or B based on purse structure, then drivers and trainers are given a similar ranking based on their performance. For the sake of this example, if you have over .270 UDRS/UTRS, you’re classified as an A driver/trainer, and under that you’re a B. Why is this important? Let’s say you’re the 7th best driver at a Class A track, with an average of .260. You’re in danger of being demoted and you don’t want that because you cleared $150,000 for that season racing at A tracks. Maybe those last few weeks of each meet that driver will actually take more chances in a race, trying to raise their average to the acceptable level. The result is more exciting racing as drivers and trainers can’t sit back and be ok with settling for smaller checks. 

There are 90 drivers and at least 150 trainers by my count over the .270 threshold, and there are maybe only eight ‘A’ tracks based on purses—Hoosier, Pocono, Yonkers, Woodbine/Mohawk, Meadows, Philly, Scioto/Miami Valley/Dayton, and Meadowlands. If you split the horsemen up, 11-12 drivers each, maybe owners will switch to new better trainers and force the other trainers to actually learn how to train. This isn't a welfare sport and we shouldn't be content with trainers having .220 averages at the top tracks.

Imagine how exciting racing would be as trainers and drivers are actually COMPETING each season to either keep their A ranking or get promoted to the A level! Right now, you can make a decent salary just finishing fifth at a Class A track, and there is no danger of horsemen losing that opportunity. If that were taken away for an entire season, drivers and trainers would run the risk of losing a lot of money. 

This system isn’t perfect. You would need more data to come up with the proper thresholds. But it rewards success and not complacency.

I want winners and I want drivers and trainers who want to win. I also want these drivers and trainers to constantly prove that they’re the best and be challenged by new driver/trainer combinations at every track.  Every year in other sports, drafts and free agency mix up the rosters of teams. So let’s mix up harness racing and watch how everyone competes under variable conditions. Is that so wrong to ask?