A Touch of Class for Buffalo Raceway

Class system back for 2020

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

Buffalo Raceway kicks of its 79th season on Wed. Jan 29 and I hope I’m not the only one excited for the 66-day meet that will run through July 18.

Until April 3, the track will race on Wednesdays and Saturdays and then Fridays will be added and like last year, the class system will be used. Races will be classified as Open and Class A, B, C or D, This worked well for the track last year and racing secretary Tom Agosti sees no reason to alter it for 2020.

The condition sheet for opening night is posted on the Buffalo Raceway website and while this is not official, it’s almost a certainty.

There are 12 races on tap for the 29th; the open paces and trots have purses of $13,000 and there are two scheduled—an open pace for fillies and mares and an open trot.

Purses are subject to change but for now, they will race as follows:

Class AA: $11,000

Class A: $10,000

Class B: $8,400

Class C: $6,400

Class D: $4,400

Opens: $13,000

The premise is simple—do well, move up; struggle move down. As always discretion lies with the racing secretary, but the goal is to cash as many checks as possible. Winning is always important, but sometimes, moving up, placing and showing in a higher class might be more lucrative. In simple math, a second place in a Class A race earns $2,500, while winning a Class D race grosses $2,200. That said, the odds of a Class D horse making it to Class A is few and far between, but that’s the stuff of dreams, right?

Some racing secretaries don’t like the Class concept and there are more that dislike the Speed Rating index, which many say takes all creativity away from those who write races.

At Buffalo last year, if a horse won a Class C race, they were moved up a level for their next race. If a horse can’t crack the top three in three consecutive races, they are allowed to move down one class.

Think about that—if your horse goes fourth, fourth and fourth in three consecutive $8,400 Class B races, they’ll earn $2,016, but will be afforded the opportunity to drop to Class C, where the races are run for $6,400. It does create some angst, but that’s what actuarial science is for.

There are two Western New York harness tracks—Buffalo and Batavia—and each writes races differently. The same horses compete at both tracks, but Batavia will have opens and the old NW750L5 (non-winners of $750 over last 5 races) style while Buffalo uses the Class A-D system.

Many class races will be claiming; for example on the Sat, Feb 1 card, there is a AA claiming race with the claiming price being $25,000. If you’re looking to claim a horse, you might want to begin with those racing in Class D; they can be claimed for just $4,000. Class B horses can be claimed for $12,500, with the price for Class C set at $7,500.

Most races–but not all–will use the Class system. On that Saturday card, there is a race that reads like this.

Winners of 3 but no more than 5 (F&M 6) PM races LT AE NW $25,000, purse $6,000

What does that really mean? Well, it took me a while, but now, I understand about 94 percent of it. This is a race for horses/geldings that have won three, four or five times with fillies being allowed to have six wins. The PM stands for pari-mutuel, which means that these are races that allow betting. The LT AE simply means that if a horse has never won $25,000 in their lifetime, they can enter. In that case, you may have a horse with more than five or six wins, but not more than $25,000 in career earnings.

Now—and I’m being serious—which system do you like better? There are pros and cons to each and Buffalo seems to be leaning towards Class over earnings as they move forward.

At the end of the day, the bettor doesn’t really worry about it. They will read the form, study past performances and do their handicapping and wagering. After a few weeks, they’ll know which horses, drivers and trainers are hot and which are not.  It’s that easy—study the form, make your bets and bring home the bacon.

At Buffalo, the bacon starts sizzling this Wednesday.

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