Harness racing offers varying classifications

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

February 7th, 2015

Thoroughbred racing fans understand that horses can venture from one circuit to another and basically remain in the same class, whether its graded stakes company or bottom-level claimers that have not won a certain amount of races in six months, a year or in their careers. Standardbred fans often have to solve a different puzzle, brought about by a revived classification system.

In the 1950's and 1960's most harness races at Yonkers Raceway and Roosevelt Raceway, which is now defunct, were held under the letter classification, the "A-B-C" method. But as was the case with Roosevelt, the letter classification soon died after the advent of the Meadowlands and its prominent conditions based on earnings. For decades most fans have become accustomed to seeing classes such as non-winners of $15,000 last six starts or non-winners of four races or $50,000 lifetime.

But while Yonkers has remained steadfast to the earnings conditions, featuring upper-level classes such as non-winners of $32,000 last six starts and non-winners of $25,000 last six starts just below its Open and Preferred ranks for trotters and pacers, the Meadowlands has actually revived the "A-B-C" system. Both systems have the pros and cons, although A-B-C method allows fewer dramatic class drops and class hikes, while putting more control in the hands of the racing secretary.

At Yonkers Raceway this evening fans will have chance to solve the ultimate puzzle. The featured sixth race, the $35,000 Open for pacers, includes a pair of horses who spent the first month of the season in the tough A-2/A-1/Free-For-All at the Meadowlands and are now trying Open company at Yonkers. Last week Doctor Butch failed as the 4-5 favorite in his first try in the Open after winning at the Meadowlands, while Dapper Dude makes his Yonkers debut off several good efforts at the Big M but has missed two weeks.

Open winners Take It Back Terry and Michaels Power, who missed last week, will leave from the outside looking to topple the Big M regulars. Take It Back Terry won the inaugural Open this winter at Yonkers, but he has been second in each of his last three starts.

Then one race later in the first half of the split, non-winners of $25,000 last six class, former Open standout and defending George Morton Levy Memorial series champ PH Supercam will seek his second straight score after being sent to the conditioned ranks last week after months in the top class. PH Supercam promptly prevailed last week as the 2-5 choice, but gets the outside draw this evening which will only enhance his price for those willing to back him again.

Just to his inside are several horses with Open potential, including Eighteen, Machs Dream Boy and Casimir Jitterbug, another former Levy participant. A glimpse at the earnings for each pacer highlights another puzzle that handicappers will need to solve. Both Eighteen and Casimir Jitterbug would have to jump a class off a win and Casimir Jitterbug would actually have to move up with a second-place effort. Both have been racing well, but their long-term success would likely be enhanced if they could stay in the current class for another start or two.