Saturday, April 18, 2009

Photo Essay: New Start/Finish Lengthens The Stretch For Woodbine Harness Racing

Friday evening brought perfect weather to sit outside and enjoy a night out in the fresh air at Woodbine. The grandstand was full of punters enjoying a cold beer on the first properly warm night of the meet and there was exciting live racing with a few new twists and turns as Woodbine has decided to shift the start/finish lines for the last seven programmes of its current Standardbred racing meet.

The new configuration will see the start and finish points situated 235 feet further down the stretch from its previous spot. Despite the extended homestretch that now spans some 1,215 feet, Friday’s action saw a continuation of front-end speed dominance."Randy Waples piloted Think Gold past the new finishing pole in the first race over the new configuration but remains convinced that Woodbine is a speed track. “I haven’t really found that much of a difference, “said Waples. “You still have those two tight turns to get around. The inside horses have an advantage on the turn, the outside horses have to work a lot harder to get there. I suppose it’s a little bit different but I haven’t really sensed it yet.”

Waples Leads The Pack Into The First Turn

Westway won Friday’s second race for driver Phil Hudon. Hudon believes, “the first quarters are going to be cheaper. I think you’ll end up seeing more flow. The first turn comes a bit quicker and you can make your moves down the backside.”

Hudon Likes The Potential For Movement In The Backstretch

Hudon was one of many drivers taken in by the still marked old finish pole. “In the first race I thought I was done at the first wire and hanging on for third but ended up eighth,” said Hudon. While heading for home in the first race, Waples admitted, “I was driving for the first wire and thought I had lots of horse left and suddenly I realized it was the second wire I had to go to. It does take some getting used to.”

If You See The Finish Line, Keep Going

Trainer Benoit Baillargeon watched his four year-old trotter Saqqara Dream put up a 1:53.3 career best effort in the sixth race taking full advantage of the speedy track. Reflecting on the new track conditions, Baillargeon stated, “the first quarter is a little slower, but its still the horse that is in front that controls the race. This is a speed track for the front horses, I call it the biggest half-mile track in the world.”

According to Bruce Murray, WEG’s Vice-President of Standardbred Racing, the changes have been made to improve racing for the fans. “The ultimate goal is to improve the flow of racing at Woodbine," said Murray. While it is too early to determine the effects of the new parameters, it still does seem that horses on the lead coming into the stretch were at an advantage.

Some drivers are hoping for even further changes. Jody Jamieson stated, “I’m hoping from a driver’s standpoint that they move the post further down and get a longer stretch.” While his counterpart Waples has an idea of his own, “If I had my wish,” said Waples, “I would wake up one day and find out we get to race on the mile track here. No matter what they do, we’re still going to have to deal with two tight turns and that’s the big obstacle in front of us. If you can get to the front you can steal fractions.”

How Low Can You Go? Jody Gets Aerodynamic

WEG officials, along with the ORC, will assess the results of this trial period and consider making this configuration permanent in time for the return of harness racing this fall on October 8. The final date of the Woodbine Spring meet is Monday, April 27. Mohawk’s Summer meet begins Thursday, April 30.

Woodbine Scoreboard Spells Out The New Distance For The Fans


Anonymous said...

I agree with Randy Waples. Mile track racing is the best. Distance races that start on the turn would increase the action too.

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