Late Track Closures and Surface Switches, slow decisions plague a fast sport

January 23, 2022

By JJ Graci

I have been in this game before most of you were born. Every day it gets harder and harder to be positive about the Sport of Kings. We all know the industry has enough problems to fill a book, let alone a short article. I’ll leave most of them alone in this rant. Today I’ll stick to what should be some low hanging fruit. In this sport however, we know better. We can’t even seem to get Stakes races off at different times.

Bettors, owners, and trainers get the shaft a lot in this game. It is tough enough for a bettor to pick a winner when they know which surface the race is going to be run over. Why wait until a multi race sequence like a pick 4, pick 5, or pick 6 starts to make a surface switch when you know well before that the switch is likely?

Protect your customers, the gamblers and give them their best shot. Don’t take it away and ram a post time favorite down their throats that they may have had, or may have wanted to bet against just because you waited to switch surfaces. Plan and think ahead. At least offer alternative selections, refunds or something better than “like it or not you get the favorite”. The only thing worse then that is making the race an “all” race.

I realize we have no control over the weather especially during the winter months.  However, management does have control when they cancel.

There are things management has to take into consideration. The safety of the horses and the jockeys are at the top of the list.  The trainers ,owners and grooms, gate crew and pony people. They are all depending on management to do the correct thing and cancel in the morning. You have horses shipping in from all over. If there is any doubt about track conditions and/or weather conditions… err on the side of caution and cancel in the morning. Not 10 minutes to post . 

It’s not fair.  The expense to van a horse is pretty hefty. I might add the owners have to swallow the vanning bill. You have to pay the van company as it’s not their fault the track canceled. Add in other expenses that could have  been eliminated by canceling the races in the morning. I realize things happen and sometimes you have to cancel late. We also can’t forget the patrons who come to the races only to have the card canceled.

This Sport has been taking on water for years. Horseracing is the can they want to kick down the road. When management is helping to kick the can down the road… it doesn’t help matters.

I understand both sides of the coin here.You’re damned if you do and damned if don’t.  It doesn’t take rocket science to know it’s best for all if they would cancel in the morning. 

Again, I have been in this business my whole life… it’s changing and not for the good. I’m not saying casinos haven’t helped the purses and horseracing.  It has big time.  But we sold our souls to the devil in so many words. The casino is always first. Horseracing is an after thought at a lot of tracks.  I hate to say that. If management was sharing in the expense of canceling; for example, paying something to help with the expenses of shipping and assistants, they would think a lot differently. Some things never change. 

Contributing Authors

JJ Graci

JJ was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  and attended Villanova University. He has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture in...

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