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A New Year’s Wish List
Changing Leads
by Paul Volponi

Since the inception of this column, many race fans have contacted me wanting to see changes in the sport. Their concerns are the basis of this wish list for the coming new year.

1. A non-betting designation for trainers who want to give their runners a race over the track, but have no intention of winning, or even being competitive. Fans wind up losing good money on horses that have no chance at all. So why not exclude one every so often at the trainer’s request.

2. Stiff penalties for jockeys who do not ride their mounts out to the wire. Too often, exactas, trifectas, and superfectas are influenced by jockeys who can’t win the race and decide to stop riding in the final few strides. Some fans believe that these riders should be made to pay for all the losing wagers. That would be a twist!

3. Hold racing stewards to a standard set of rules for disqualifications. Even at the same racetrack, horses come down one day for a particular infraction, and stay up the next day. Many fans want to see the standard for disqualifications raised to the one used for the Kentucky Derby: You have to commit a felony to have your number taken down. At least fans would know what was coming.

4. Most tracks have video replay centers at which fans can view past races. So why not put a camera on the workouts as well? This way fans can evaluate first-time starters and runners coming back from long layoffs themselves. Clockers and trainers are simply not trustworthy. They’re out to make their own scores with that first-hand knowledge. Put players on that same level when it comes to viewing workouts.

5. Too many mutuel clerks are arrogant, outright nasty or have dishonest tendencies. Unions do great things for many workers, but the customer also needs to be protected. In New York, many clerks have been fired over the past year for running various scams. But those infractions were against the government and the racetrack. What about the clerks who prey on race fans? Keep complaining to the management and keep counting your change.

6. Horseplayers need to receive comps at racetracks; much the way gamblers do at casinos. Paying for parking, programs and putting up with exorbitant food prices are just a few of the burdens horseplayers must bear. Race goers have received little over the years in return for their support of the racing industry. As a much younger crowd, used to the perks offered by other gaming outlets, replaces the older generation of players, things may slowly begin to change.

7. Racetracks need to stop treating players as if they will never go away. Few racetracks are in direct competition with other racetracks. That’s always bad for the player. For a long time race goers have been far too reliable, accepting poor treatment. One day, they will simply boycott a track to show the power that they really hold over the sport. Racing has always been slow to properly care for its fans. But other forms of gambling have put the pressure on racetracks to keep their steady customers. Things are looking up.

This story was first published in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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