Rooney Lacks in Show–and Place

by John Furgele

On Saturday, the Art Rooney Pace was contested at Yonkers Raceway.  The overwhelming favorite in the field of eight was Downbytheseaside, set off at odds of 1/9 or in some places 1/20.  As expected, he won easily over a charging Summer Side and Funknwaffles, stopping the clock in 1:52.

The thing that I found peculiar about the race was that there was no place and show wagering.  Sure, Downbytheseaside was only going to pay the minimum 10 cents across the board, but what about the other horses and other betting options?  Clearly, Yonkers didn’t want to pay out more than they took in, but if somebody wants to bet $200 across the board on the favorite to win back $30, is that wrong? And, in a field of eight, they was strategy to determine the second and third place finisher, wasn’t there?

We see this quite a bit in harness racing.  Usually, it’s show wagering that isn’t allowed; this was the first time in recent memory that I saw a track eliminate place wagering in a race that had a full-field.  It’s one of the reasons I don’t bet very often on harness races.  If you wanted to make money at Yonkers in the Rooney, you had to beat the favorite or hope that two longshots emerged in the exacta and trifecta. To me, Yonkers did the wrong thing here by not allowing place and show wagering.  It gives fodder to those who question harness racing’s validity.  In fact, Hippodrome 3R in Quebec doesn’t allow show wagering at all for its 2017 meet, a puzzling move, to me.

In other Yonkers news, the meet will now take a break until Friday, June 16 and during the hiatus, will move its finish line back about 30 yards.  The current finish line is right near the first turn, which makes it very hard, if not impossible, for an outside horse to get in good position at the start of the race.  The goal of the new finish line is to get more horses to leave early, setting up better and more exciting finishes.

Western Fair Raceway concluded its 16-17 season with the $150,000 Molson Pace before an energized and enthusiastic crowd.  Track handle was $571,282 for 12 races and the pace was one by the favorite, Bit of a Legend, who roared home in 1:51.3 over the fast half-mile track.  Not only was the race solid, kudos must be given to the raceway for its effort in marketing the event.  I wasn’t there of course, but the video I watched showed crowds that were four deep along the rail and a full grandstand.  In addition, there was plenty of pre-race hype on the websites which is always needed.  It’s hard to hire and pay writers in this day of age, but because nearly everything is consumed online, there are fewer restrictions on content.  Years ago, Western Fair would have to beg to get print coverage; now, all they have to do is send it to the various websites for publishing.  But, sometimes, you wonder.  Why doesn’t the Westchester Journal News cover a race like the Rooney?  I have to believe that the track sends announcements, media credentials, and any information that they can to the newspaper in the hopes that someone from the paper will cover the event.  The other thing the paper could do is to take the copy written by the track’s PR person and print that, but even that doesn’t happen.  Most news today is planted; it is often the result of PR firms and PR people calling in to suggest stories.  If I were a PR person at a harness track, I’d be pounding the local paper with story after story.  But, if the paper never prints the story, than I guess frustration could be the result.

The New York newspapers for the most part have given up on covering horse racing, let alone harness racing.  The Daily News, Post and Times no longer cover the Saratoga thoroughbred meet, so why would they cover the Rooney?  The least they could do is to print a blurb about the it in the paper; a blurb furnished to them by the track itself.  And, the Albany Times Union doesn’t even publish entries and results from Saratoga Hotel Casino anymore.  Of course, they will overindulge when the thoroughbred meet convenes in July even though statistics show that the local area doesn’t go nuts over Saratoga thoroughbred coverage.  It’s not like the Times Union or the Schenectady Daily Gazette, Saratogian and Troy Record see a huge increase in newspaper sales over the 40-day meet.

The $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie takes place this Saturday at Northfield Park in Ohio, attracting a very good field of eight.  The field:

1-Guantanamo Bay-Vincent Ginsburg-Daniel Renaud-9-2
2-Soto-Art Stafford Jr.-Eric Ell-6-1
3-Luck Be Withyou-Aaron Merriman-Chris Oakes-3-1
4-All Bets Off-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-5-2
5-Mr Wiggle Pants-Aaron Merriman-Scott McEneny-5-1
6-Night Pro-Ronnie Wrenn Jr.-Dale Decker-12-1
7-Rockin Ron-Aaron Merriman-Ron Burke-8-1
8-Sunfire Blue Chip-Mark MacDonald-Jimmy Takter-10-1

It’s a half-mile track, so the start and early positioning will be vital for success.

It’s just a little more than two weeks from the $1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup, which takes place on Saturday, June 17 at Mohawk Racetrack in Southern Ontario.  This Saturday, there are two divisions of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes.

As we know, this is when harness racing heats up.  More tracks are open, more stakes races are being contested and before we know it, the Hambletonian and the Breeders Crown will be here.  It’s dizzying to keep up with everything, but I will do my best to see it through.

See you at the races.






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