Day At The Track

What is all this Kentucky Derby fuss about?

09:35 AM 04 May 2013 NZST
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The 2012 Kentucky Derby champion
The 2012 Kentucky Derby champion - Ill Have Another

The big guns haven't quite come out to play and as harness racing's profile takes a back seat to the infamous Kentucky Derby which will be run at at Churchill Downs this Saturday (May 4) our sport is at this time of year down on the popularity rankings. At least says so New York harness racing blogger Allan Schott.

“You know ‘Derby Time’, the period of time where talking about harness racing is right there along with curling (in the States at least), though admittedly North of the border, it may be curling is ahead of harness racing as you will get a million viewers watching the Scot Tournament of Hearts on television.

“Before I get those ugly comments regarding my commenting on curling, let me remind you as someone born south of the border, our favorite sports involving men trying to kill each other (football) or smashing cars (IRL) and fighting about it afterwards (NASCAR),” Schott said.

He believed unless it was drugs or a major scoop the major press outlets were simply not interested in harness racing.

“The fact is talking about harness racing to anyone, including most harness racing fans, is a waste of time because unless you are the New York Times getting ready to write a expose about drugs and/or breakdowns in thoroughbred racing, it seems everyone is caught up in Derby Fever.

“That is except me, for I can't even tell you of one horse competing in the Run for the Roses. I have nothing against thoroughbred racing, it's just not my thing; probably the result of seeing too many breakdowns at the track when I used to go to the Meadowlands and Monmouth for the runners (no doubt a statistical abnormality) or watching them on television (Ruffian vs. Foolish Pleasure, Barbaro, Eight Belles, Breeders Crown broadcasts, etc.).

“I intellectually know all the statistical stuff, but when you watch a race half expecting to see another breakdown, it is time to wipe that sport of your radar,” Schott said.

But he accepted how much more thoroughbred racing is known than standardbred racing.

“While most harness racing fans will know the names of the major Derby contenders by Friday, come Hambletonian Day you will be hard pressed to find a thoroughbred fan to name one horse starting in the Hambletonian.

“If you talk to a thoroughbred fan odds are they will insist Greyhound is a bus line, Dan Patch was a pirate, and Muscle Hill is the nickname of an illegal steroid being used by a professional sports player.

“Truth is we know thoroughbred racing has its own problems marketing their sport but at least they have the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup periods down pat.

“I guess this is the time of year I lament how far harness racing has fallen. Do you know at one time harness racing was more popular than thoroughbred racing?

“It will irk me that standardbred media will be talking about the Derby as well. By the end of the week somewhere some track(s) and/or publication will have a video feature asking harness drivers and trainers who they like in the Derby. I will be so ecstatic if one of them would say "Who cares?"

by Duane RANGER (editor) and Allan Schott

bajno1@optimum.net  ?????

I’ll Have Another winning last year’s Kentucky Derby:

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