View Full Version : The Hambletonian

Aug. 9, 2009, 09:55 AM
In looking up "horse racing" in a hurry yesterday morning on the way out as I set my DVR, I apparently picked the Hambletonian to record instead of the Arlington Million. Just finished watching the broadcast, and from somebody pretty ignorant about harness racing beyond Born to Trot, a couple of questions/comments:

First off, what AWESOME racing! :cool: The Oaks photo finish reminded me of the dead heat in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Not quite a dead heat, but seriously, even on freeze frame, I had trouble splitting that photo. That deserves a tighter term than a "nose." More like a "whisker." Then the Hambletonian itself, totally different race, just as cool. Muscle Hill looked as dominant as anything I've seen this year in the TBs. In control every single step of the race, entered another level in the stretch. Tied the world record, obviously without being pushed - I only saw the driver tap him once at the head of the stretch, and that wasn't a real hit, just looked like an informational "okay, you can go now." Great racing, great horse.

Second, per those great and I'm sure accurate reference books :winkgrin: Born to Trot and the Black Stallion's Sulky Colt, harness racing uses "heats." Did they change this system along the way for better crowd viewing/TV purpose and more one-dash excitement? They were mentioning "eliminations."

Third, there is no inner rail?

Fourth, must say that I loved seeing the racers standing quietly on cross ties in the paddock beforehand. Quite a contrast to TBs and their pre-race energy. Loved the long manes whipping in the wind, too.

Fifth, this was hard to tell on TV, as it never really gave me a good closeup and I didn't understand half of that equipment on the horses anyway, but it looked on several of them like they were slightly turned to the left, head maybe a bit shorter reined that way. The harness itself, not just the driver's rein pressure. Is this something they do to make them hold the turns better? Of course, I could just be seeing it wrong.

Sixth, about a horse "breaking." Happened in both races, and while the camera left them pretty quickly, it looked like the drivers just pulled them way outside and in effect left the competition. So is that elimination if your horse breaks? Can you get them back on stride and get back into it?

Seventh, harness racing at least to my noninitiate ears seemed to have TV commentators who actually had either studied or had a bit of background in what they were talking about. Nice change from Triple Crown idiocy at times.

Aug. 9, 2009, 10:32 AM
The Oaks was super - was really hoping Raising Rachel got it, but she didn't, beaten by a nostril. Feel bad for Kopas but getting a horse to that level is a great thing anyway. Would have just been nice to see a Canadian take it, particularly one that started in the West.

Eliminations - divisions of a stakes race where there are more horses qualified to go via earnings, and they run off extra races to get to the final field. Some years there are a whack of elims, some years there are none. Some races even run elims and the stakes race on the same day with the top horses sometimes going 3 dashes on that day

Hub rails are dangerous - seen legs (human) broke and worse by hitting the hub rail. A few years ago, a man hit the rail in Edmonton, and bounced off it like a rag doll. Broken ribs, jaw, legs, serious internal injuries....he did make it though, and the next year, won the Western Canada Pacing Derby, and made 600 wins last week.

They dont ALL stand that quiet, trust me, and they dont all have long manes

I noticed a LOT of trainers are now using headpoles on the inside, and I don't know why. That said, some horses DO have a tendency to turn their heads one way or another and bear in or out so a headpole is a good thing in that case. So what you were seeing was the headpole - it attaches to the rings of the head halter and to a strap that is attached to a turret ring and slips over the water hook. You can clearly see the rings on the head halter on that good shot of Muscle Hill in the paddock.

Breaking - the driver must take back and lose ground where clearance exists. In both cases, these two jumped it off the gate and the filly in the Oaks never did recover. There were more than those two that run though if I remember right - seems one was drove off its feet, meaning they went faster than the horse could trot

Warkington is good, he does know what he is talking about, the other two learned by osmosis.Of course, that stuff is all researched for them too by the Hambletonian Society - it wouldn't do to have the wrong horse listed for the wrong year, or to mess up race lines.

Las Olas
Aug. 9, 2009, 11:47 AM
I watched it also. Muscle Hill was very impressive.

Aug. 9, 2009, 01:05 PM
He certainly was - kinda run away and hid on the rest of the field, was opening lengths at the wire. I figure if he had been challenged, he would have gone in 49 and change setting a new trotting record

Aug. 9, 2009, 06:35 PM
but have been watching some harness racing on TVG. I also read those tomes of accuracy, Born to Trot, and The Blood Bay Colt. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the old movie April love with a very young Pat Boone playing a deliquent[!] ;) There was a bad wreck in that one. I have noticed the no rail at the Meadowlands, and assumed they have done it for safety. It also looks like maybe the bike wheels are more solid, so an errant leg, horse or driver, won't go into them. It seems, that on the run in, they are allowed to come inside, where they wouldn''t be able to if there was a rail. [pardon the mangled syntax] my favorite thing I have heard though, is that these good horses all run on and on and on. Sound forever. Most of the stats I hear on TVG, horses have run 70-80 times, and are still sound!

Aug. 9, 2009, 07:30 PM
Wheels are actually more airy if you get to the high end ones although there are still a lot of bicycle spoke style around. What looks solid is the wheel disks which go a long way toward preventing a foot through a wheel but they still break.

WHile one may pass on the inside down the lane, one had better not go inside the pylons because that carries a hefty fine and/or disqualification. If the course is left and the offending horse and driver did not win or earn a check, there can be fines up to 500.00 and probably beyond and if a check is picked up, the fine is still there and the horse will most likely be set back. Once saw one wise old horse decide to take a shortcut across the infield and while he timed his re-entry to the track and beat the field, he was disqualified. WHen that old boy left the main track, his driver was screwed, he couldnt do a danged thing but hang on - there was no stopping him, or even slowing him until he hit the wire.

The books, while accurate at the time of writing, are no longer relevant as things have changed drastically. About the only relevant thing left is nothing shall protrude beyond the horse's nose. Harness has changed, bikes have undergone huge changes, rules have changed and most certainly speed has changed. Some basic rules still apply such as taking back and losing ground on a break, not impeding progress, no shutting down a quarter or half.

As to starts, well look at some of the aged horses and they are upwards of 100 starts. It doesnt take long with 30-40 starts a year to add up to 100+. Have seen 14yo retirement races with participants, and sound ones, with over 300 starts.

Aug. 10, 2009, 09:49 AM
I thought NBC's coverage was horrible. You will never see the Microphone not working during a winners circle presentation during the Kentucky Derby. The racing was wonderful!!! The Oaks was very exciting and I do like that they finally put a camera on the back of the starting car so you can see them upclose going to the gate. I wish I could of made it up there this year as this is the first year in the last 5 that I have missed. Oh well maybe I'll make it to the Jug this year since I missed the Hambo.