A Barefoot Racehorse? Bettors Have To Know

Like other sports, horse racing must be better about keeping bettors in the loop
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Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for widespread sports betting three years ago, college and pro organizations have grappled with so-called “integrity issues” about having the most accurate information available to the public.

The NFL has been the best equipped in some respects, because their formal protocol for listing injuries — updated throughout the week — has been around for decades. But in golf, for instance, we were told by a broadcaster in the middle of last week’s Northern Trust PGA Tour event in Jersey City that reigning British Open champion Collin Morikawa had been dealing with a sore back.

By that point, Morikawa was well on his way to a rare missed cut. Furthermore, those who wagered on him to win — or even just finish in the top 20 — were out of luck, as well as not fully informed. Morikawa said he had tweaked his back on the final day of the recent Olympics in Tokyo, but tried to play through it.

The Meadowlands Racetrack has offered legal betting on its races for 45 years. But even horse racing still has to adapt to unexpected circumstances, so track officials have instituted a policy change in the wake of a recent high-profile race.

Hambo winner’s winning strategy

Captain Corey, the winner of the $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands on Aug. 7, was the 3-1 morning line favorite, so his victory hardly was a surprise.

What was a surprise was what Ake Svanstedt, the horse’s trainer and driver, said afterwards. Svanstedt noted that he pulled all four shoes from Captain Corey just before the race, adding that he felt that racing the horse barefoot played a significant role in its winning the race.

“What did not happen as successfully was the passing of that information along to our wagering customers in time for them to include it in their handicapping,” read a statement from track operators 12 days later.

“The knowledge that a horse will be racing barefoot would be information just as important to a horseplayer as a shoeing change, bridle change, or hopple lengthening,” the statement continued, referring to straps on the horse’s legs.

Change afoot at The Big M

The result of this incident is that when live racing returns on Friday, Sept. 3, the Meadowlands will require trainers to report their intent to remove a horse’s shoes to the judges or paddock judge no later than 90 minutes before post time for the first race on each card. That will allow plenty of time for the change to be reported to the public in advance of any horizontal wagers. They also will be able to analyze the possible importance of such a change.

There will be a “possible exception” to the rule based on a significant change in track condition due to weather. In that case, the trainer must report to the paddock judge that the shoes will remain on the horse. Each trainer will be responsible for keeping the track officials informed, with unspecified penalties for failure to do so.

Meadowlands soon going to the dogs

Ostriches and camels have “raced” at the Meadowlands before, including two months ago, though they’ve tended to prove uncooperative.

On Sept. 4, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, there will be eight “heats” of dachsunds racing in between the horse races, with each winner qualifying for the main event. The “Wiener Take All” prize for the winner’s owner is a $500 betting voucher, with the victor in each heat collecting $100. All canines must be currently licensed and up to date on all shots, including their rabies vaccination.

The following Saturday is the annual Craft Beer Fest. A general admission entry fee of $45 will fetch attendees pours from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with more than 30 breweries and cideries participating. A Best Burger Battle and a Chili Cookoff round out the September  Saturday schedule. Then, after three weekends off, harness racing resumes on Oct. 22 and races will be held every Friday and Saturday for the rest of the calendar year (except for Christmas weekend).

Photo: Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register

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