In the month since Yonkers Raceway made 1 and 1/16 mile its set overnight harness racing distance there has been much chatter, pro and con. Whenever something is proactively attempted in order to improve our product, discussion and debate is both warranted and healthy.
Still, and while admittedly the jury is still out with such a small sampling of data to analyze, preliminary results would indicate that the experiment is showing tremendous promise.
On Saturday evening (March 5), there were 4 winners out of the 12 races on the card who made it to the winner’s circle from the 8-hole (DOUBLETROUBLE, $12.40; I'M CONFIDENT, $6.80; TOBAGO CAYS, $3.90; MACRAIDER N, $62.00).
That just may be a record. While this is both noteworthy and possibly unprecedented on a half-mile oval, this follows a frequency of 7 and 8-hole horses showing up as part of winning exotic combinations during the month of February. Clearly, the word is out: outside post horses at Yonkers are no longer to be discounted as outsiders at the mutuel windows. This new competitive racing phenomenon has assuredly helped Yonkers once again approach 7-figure handle numbers unseen since the recent closure of NYC's Off Track Betting Corporation.
The SOA of NY’s board of directors proudly encouraged the experiment, and thanks need to go out to both Yonkers' management for speedily implementing the supported change, as well as to the USTA’s Mike Tanner who has helped with the transition to accommodate the new format necessary to reflect the 1 and1/16th fractions data for the aid of the wagering public nationwide.
Trying different things doesn't always work, so it's encouraging to see our labors bear fruit in the form of increased interest in the sport. After all, isn't that what its all about?
Additionally, the bettors are not the only group who have taken to Yonkers'. There have been 100 claims in the 2011 season; a span of less than two months. That’s proof positive that there is a renaissance in interest in our game by the segment of it constituted by the owners and trainers, who in less than two month period have shelled out $3 million in those claims. Activity in this area is unsurpassed anywhere else in the game right now.