The track must hire an experienced clocker, a designated Official Timer, a person indicated as such in the official track program.
I made my handicapping bones in New York where there always has been an official timer, and I made an assumption that this is the way it’s done everywhere.
Well, you know what they say about people who assume things.
With industry employment opportunities limited, this person need not be paid a fortune to assume this vital role. But an Official Timer should not be partly funded by, say, a horsemen’s group, nor should the task be the responsibility of Equibase chart callers.
Chart callers already shoulder a heavy burden of responsibility for making accurate calls and race descriptions; footnoted observations in service to the horse-playing public.
On its face, the timing process might appear to be routinely mundane, especially considering today’s ever-increasing reliance on enhanced technology. But that would be a superficial assessment; a trained eye is a valuable asset.
Video should exist as an enhancement to the initial critical thinking that begins at the outset of the chart-creation procedure. Result charts is the place where serious handicapping research begins.
Solving the timing issue is not a difficult fix. In the past, Gulfstream management has been responsive to suggestions that have a win-win component.
Anyone who disagrees that the track has not been receptive in the past is welcome to explain what disqualifies Gulfstream management from consideration of one of the country’s most approachable management teams. I wouldn't know where to begin arguing with overarching trend-busting success.
Interminable post-dragging notwithstanding, of course.
This past Saturday, several of the races were extremely troublesome: I saw a five-furlong turf race won by Spellker with splits of [rounded] 25-change and 48-change, with a final time of 59 and change.
On Saturday’s course those fractions would have been virtually impossible, especially with respect to the opening 1/4-mile. Routinely, a horse that runs an opening quarter of 25+ in a five-furlong Gulfstream turf sprint would be fifth by 10 at that point of call.
When I checked the chart for the Saturday allowances won by Spellker, the Equibase recorded times in the result chart were N/A, N/A and 56.65, which would have been impossible given the Trakus fractions we saw, hence the fractions were “unavailable.”
Turf times in general, because of movable rails and disparate run-up gate placements, have always been the subject of a great deal of skepticism and lack of confidence in the accuracy of reported race times.
In another race, the Trakus Chiclets--an innovation we have loved since its inception because it provides an instant picture of where every horse is racing, particularly useful when trying to identify hidden, between-rivals runners--went completely off the rails.
It showed two horses--one on the far outside, the other inside—moving erratically, forward and back four or five positions in the twinkling of an eye for a major portion of the backstretch run. Clearly, there was a malfunction in that instance.
I have heard a suggestion that if Trakus were to remain Gulfstream’s official timing company, perhaps only the Chiclets should remain while the races themselves are timed from another source. Whatever the fix, two things need to happen.
Trakus should send the best technicians available to fix the problem once and for all, however long that takes. It could save them money in the long haul if one day it could be proven legally that timing errors were badly damaging the track’s brand.
If bettors lose confidence because running times--the game’s only absolute truth--are proving inaccurate, that could result in a loss of business. The track doesn’t want that and neither should the serious player or racing fan.
The best solution would be an Official Timer solely in the employ of Gulfstream, verifying that the times posted are accurate, at least within 20/100s of a second. In qualified hands that would not be a problem.
With so many bettors relying on speed figures in the modern era of handicapping and wagering, nothing is more important to the entire interrelated process than accuracy. This game is hard enough.
Gulfstream Park needs to step up here and hire an Official Timer so that the buck stops with them. An Official Timer must put a stopwatch on every race. Time has run out on patchwork fixes that simply haven’t worked.
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, February 28, 2017