Tuesday, March 11, 2008

To Pace or Not to Pace

I've gone back and forth with this issue for months - do we run at Running Aces for the inaugural harness meet or not? The purses are not going to be spectacular this first season, though next racing season with the card club money in, purses should be elevated enough to make a nice run through the meet with a good horse. Is it worthwhile to put together a Standardbred partnership this season?

Another decision to make is whether to pick up a trotter or a pacer. I think for breaking into the harness business, a pacer is a sounder investment. It is much more likely for a trotter to break stride in a race than a pacer. For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, a pace is a smoother gait where the horse moves the legs on each side in unison while a trot looks a bit more ungainly and the legs work with the right front and left rear moving in unison and the same with left front and right rear. A trot almost looks like the horse is clawing at the ground ahead of it when you view it head on. It's a more difficult stride and there are fewer Standardbreds that are accomplished trotters. When a horse breaks it's stride in a race, it can no longer gain ground and needs to be pulled to the side out of the way until stride is regained. Needless to say, it is almost impossible to recover and win a race once a horse goes on a break. In some trotting events featuring younger horses, the race many times goes to the horse that can stay on stride. For a group getting into this business, you have the potential for fewer ups and downs with a pacer.

So I've made a decision - if I can find a good lower level claimer ($3000 - $5000) than can consistently pace a mile in 1:57 of better, I'm in. These horses can be had in Chicagoland or even further East, but it's important to take into consideration shipping costs and then training expenses once he's here.

I alluded to the differences between the development of harness racing in America as opposed to the development of Thoroughbred racing in a previous post. Nowhere is that contrast more apparent than in my search for a trainer to take a horse I'll buy. In looking for a Thoroughbred, there are literally hundreds of public trainers that will gladly take your business. You sign them on your team and you find a horse, claim him and then whisk him away to his/her barn and away you go. In harness racing my quest has been a little different. I'm having a more difficult time in securing a trainer that operates a public stable in the same way that a Thoroughbred trainer does. Ideally, I'd like to be able to work with a trainer to claim/purchase a horse back East and then coordinate the shipping of that horse back here and into a barn for work - much in the way folks do with their Thoroughbred trainers.

Many of the horsemen that appear to be flocking to the new track are folks that own, train and in many cases drive their stock. They have raced the Fair Circuit out here for years and finally have a track and meet that they can call their own. While I think this is wonderful, right now it creates a kind of closed society that is hard to gain admission. I have touched base with some Iowa folks that may be able to help me out and another gentleman here in MN has been very helpful in trying to provide some leads. So my approach has become to make phone calls, touch base with people and see if I can set up something. I'm gauging interest out there from folks and if we can pull something together this season, we'll have a blast and try and make some money. If not, we'll focus on our Thoroughbreds and keep an eye on how things are going at Running Aces.

If you want to take a peek at what's going on up in Columbus, MN, go ahead and click on this link - http://runningacesharness.com/

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