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My New Year's Wish for Harness Racing

by Al Cimaglia

December 28, 2017

My New Year's wish for harness racing isn't a specific rule change, or a new type of wager. My wish for harness racing is for more people to pay attention and to speak up if they see something that needs to be fixed. Much of the same old continues because there aren't enough people who care, and those with a louder voice have resigned themselves to the status quo.

Respectful criticism isn't being harsh, but rather can lead to meaningful improvements. Maybe John Campbell becoming more involved in the hierarchy of the sport will lead to better days. My guess is Campbell won't blush from criticism but rather will try to learn from it and make the sport better.

Harness racing is exciting, there can be more blanket finishes on one card than during a week of thoroughbred racing. In my view the arrow is pointed up, but too much slides by. I haven't seen any mention the judges at Woodbine missed an obvious disqualification last Saturday night in the mandatory Jackpot Hi-5 payout race. Keep in mind, the pool was over $1,000,000, and those don't come along very often in a harness race.

Blowing a disqualification, and not putting up the inquiry sign in a race with a very large pool is scary. But what's worse, is to let it happen without any criticism and so far that's been the case for the Jackpot Hi-5. I have been watching harness racing for 40 years and it is a mystery how that race goes official without at least an inquiry. The fact the winner pulled out into a horse's path, made direct contact with its front legs and was left up, is still hard to believe. Beyond the most obvious foul by the race winner, there were one or two other infractions which could have warranted a DQ as well. But nope, not even a long look and the race was quickly made official.

The way the 2017 Hambletonian disqualification was handled was also an embarrassment. That cluster took place in the highest profile harness race of the year which was televised. There was a good deal of coverage, but so far there haven't been any reports of protocol changes for inquiries at the Meadowlands. Changes are needed because the sport suffered a black eye on its biggest stage.

Harness racing will become more popular someday, and that day will come sooner if more is expected and the same old isn't embraced.

Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.