Day At The Track

The Germans beat American counterparts

09:41 PM 03 Oct 2012 NZDT
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It was disappointing in the final analysis, but the Germans beat their American counterparts pretty easily. It was, however, not an unexpected result, given the home team advantage.

It is consistent with latest New Zealand invasion on American soil, where the invaders were pushed back in challenges staged at Monticello, Yonkers and Freehold. In that competition, the Kiwis took 1 out of 5; the same number in evenly matched races Americans took against their German hosts.

It obviously takes some adjustment to conform to the odd distance races that pop up, like going from the usual 1,608 meters to 2,100 meters; going over halves, five eights then three quarter mile tracks; going the right way one day at one distance then going the wrong way the next at a different distance. Add to that the language barrier, and the different meaning to instructions that don't quite communicate the intended thought, and you can snuggle up to chaos pretty quickly and innocently.

All in all, in spite of the differences we were unaccustomed to, the experience under these different circumstances is good and hopefully serves as a tutorial. It is too bad that some of our great professional drivers whose names are as well known around the globe don't have the luxury of being able to take time off to become ambassadors for the American product through more organized competitions abroad. They would assuredly enjoy it, and at the same time be great representatives of our game. Some way to effectuate this on a regular basis would be superior to the conduct of a World Driving Championship only every so many years.

In Germany, harness racing is suffering. It keeps going, aided now in the north and west of Germany by Dutch trainers and drivers who help fill the box; by lovers of the game who build tracks, not driven by the lure of a slot machine, but their support for the game itself, as was done just a year ago by building a brand new facility in Hamburg.. Couple that with the recent investment made at the Dinslaken track but 20 minutes away from the one celebrating its 100th anniversary in the town of Gelsinkirchen and there is ample proof that hope is alive . People all over the world want to see this game thrive and are not listening to the doom and gloom prophets who have predicted its demise for over 100 years.

It was great to race with the likes of Jorgen Von Holt, the German representative in the 2008 World Cup conducted in the USA and Jorg Hafer, who ably represented his nation when the Cup was contested in Belgium. All the track operators treated us as welcome guests. Regulatory bodies accepted our USTA or State license without gouging us for licensing fees or demanding fingerprints or even requiring the filling out an application. Horsemen put their horses in for the foreigners just like the great horsemen here do when we host such events. This is testament to the strong camaraderie enjoyed by horsemen all over the world.

These trips serve another quite important purpose. They help keep the American harness horse product front and center, and in doing so keep us ahead of our French counterparts who are using their wagering power to fuel failing European countries who must rely on French betting as a means to "encourage" those countries to buy only French bred mares. Personal contact goes a long way in human and business relationships, and the American product awareness via organized amateur competitions catering to the European appetite for some greater relations with America should be cultivated, as it is good business for all of us. The amateurs in Germany make up at least two to three of the carded races per day because the purses there are so poor. The amateurs are doing their part to keep the game afloat, and some will venture over to the sales in the US to keep things going.

On the last evening with our hosts, Alicia Schwartz, event organizer extraordinaire, extended a NAADA invitation to Club President Michael Gutsche, who hosted a dinner for us at his home, and Christoph Pelllander who organized the event on behalf of the three participating tracks, for four German drivers to compete in Monticello, Yonkers and Tioga Downs in late August or early Fall of 2013. Thankfully, Jorg Hafer, who won both of the races he was in will stay home. He, like most of our great professional drivers, can't easily abandon all those good mounts he is getting in Germany's amateur ranks. Fortuitously, that will help preserve the home field advantage for us.

Joseph Faraldo, President

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