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Is Global Warming and harness racing on the same track? – Harnesslink

Global warming has been in the headlines for years now with predictions through the year 2050 warning us of dire consequences due to warming temperatures, melting glaciers, troublesome emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful substances.

Riverbeds are drying up leaving once rich sources of water parched and cracked.

Fires are raging destroying acreage the size of some small cities…along with homes that are in the way!

There are those that are quite concerned…but the majority just don’t seem to care as they live their lives day-to-day.

Although I am an eternal optimist, I have the same concerns about our grand sport that we all cherish.

Gone are the days, just to name a few that quickly come to mind, of Billy and Stanley and J. C. And Billy O. and Cat…and, going back a bit further…Herve and Farrington and Buddy and Carmine and Loosh, you know, guys that carried a stopwatch looking to put something over on their foes to reach the winner’s circle.

But the game has changed and its breakneck speed from the get-go to the wire.

Yes, the talent is incredible these days, no doubt about it, with Timmy and Yannick and The Down Under Wonder Dexter and The White Knight and The Minister of Speed and Aaron Merriman and Palone and Tony Morgan and Wally and Trace and Andrew and Todd and at least 500 others…

They all have that magic touch, and I don’t know how they get that much out of their horses for an entire mile.

But, like global warming, I see some problems in the future, subtle as they may be.

This isn’t a new problem.

Global warming for harness racing actually started back in the 1970’s when Washington Park burned to the ground, killing that grand historic track forever.

Of course, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Sportsman’s Park and, eventually, Balmoral Park and Maywood Park would follow with their demise. Quad City Downs long gone, too.

Garden State Park is gone…Hazel Park is gone…Pompano…gone…Scarborough Downs…closed.

Add Suffolk Downs, The Rock, Bay Meadows, Jackson Harness and Saginaw Valley and one can see that these tracks have all melted away—just like the glacial ice in the age of global warming.

“Houston, we have a problem,” as the saying goes….and it’s a huge one.

The horse population is shrinking and will continue to be a victim of harness racing’s global warming problem.

Yes, as the speed continues to “heat up,” the horse population will continue to melt as this extreme speed, while exciting to many of us, takes its toll in terms of, one, the anatomy of the horse just not able to withstand the stress and strain of that speed forever and, two, the early retirement of those record setting performers in an effort to continue to improve the breed one-fifth of a second at a time.

As the predictions for global warming loom boldly 30 years from now—2052—the same holds true for our sport and the question that looms boldly for harness racing is…who is going to replace the great talent that is on our racetracks today?

After all, Dave Palone will be 90 in that year…George Brennan will be 94, Dave Miller 88, George Brennan 85, Ake will be 94, Yannick 73, Timmy a young 71 and Aaron 74.

Will it be 19-year-old James Gould, who just won his first pari-mutuel race at Running Aces recently?

Nobody knows but global warming in harness racing is affecting this segment, too.

There are, roughly, 3,490 licensed drivers in the United States and, again roughly, only around 10% are 30 years of age or younger…and more than half of those drivers haven’t won more than five races.

Only eight or so have won 1,000 races with Louis-Philippe Roy, Tyler Smith, Joe Bongiorno, Austin Siegelman, Drew Monti, Hunter Myers, Brett MacDonald and Dan Deslandes in that select list.

Brady Brown and Mitch Cushing are getting close but, still, that leaves the unanswered question on who will be the next Dave Palone or Tony Morgan or David Miller.

I have barely met many youngsters whose ambitions are to become involved in our industry in any way.

And what about those old school newspaper journalists who kept our sport in the limelight? Mike Paradise, Ray Brienza, Clyde Hirt, Alan Prince, Jack Kiser, Murray Janoff, Ed Binneweg, Mike Lee, Leonard Cohen, Izzy Katzman, Jack Ginetti, to name a few, were among the elite and they are a forgotten breed today as the global warming in the form of the internet have virtually melted that segment away for good…or bad.

Although wonderful, the Clyde Hirt Workshop at The Meadowlands won’t begin to dent that global warming problem in harness racing journalism and publicity.

Wendy Ross and Heather Vitale can’t do it by themselves.

Nicholas Barnsdale, Edison Hatter, Jessica Hallett, Nathan Bain and Ryan Huff—all in their 20’s—are a start but it will take a thousand more like them to dent the global warming problem.

Harness racing needs a concrete plan in all of these areas—NOW—before global warming destroys us well before we hit the wire.

by John Berry, for Harnesslink

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