In Garnet Barnsdale's latest blog he discusses Jeff Gural's plans for the Hambletonian and also his "out of the box" thinking.
"The Meadowlands will also be carding The Hambletonian Maturity starting in 2014, which will offer a $400,000 purse to eligible 4-year-old trotters. A possible field of 16 horses will race 1 1/8 miles in the Maturity with all entrants earning part of the purse. It’s a novel concept to promote interest in a sport where variety has never been encouraged or embraced."
While I agree that Gural is an out of the box thinker and a refreshing change to the status quo that has killed the industry for decades, I would argue that he could do way better than this. How about this concept?:
A Hambletonian Maturity, but only for those who are kept eligible for the Hambo as 3 year olds, as in those that make the first or second payments that year. Then, to further make it palatable, how about giving the winner, if he wins both the 3 year old Hambo and the Maturity a 5 Million dollar bonus. Don't you think that is a bit of an incentive to keep a legit champion trotter racing as a 4yo?
And if he wins it as a 5yo too, make it an additional 10 million.
You only have to look at the final leg of the thouroughbred triple crown to see how much interest there is when the really big bonus is on the line.