Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday Breeders Crown Analysis

In a column, which depending on your view shows courage or stupidity considering my recent record of picking winners, here is my analysis of Friday's Breeders Crown events.

7th $250,000; Trot - Breeders Crown Open Mares
1 - Intense America - Has a powerful closing kick if the tempo is fast.  Seems a little overmatched.
2 - Classic Martine - Seems to be well placed with good post and can rough itt.  Without Maven, seems race is hers to take.
3 - Bee A Magician - What a difference a year makes.  Can land share but will need to show something specal to win.
4 - Handover Belle - Moves outside of main contender.  Land major share.
5 - Ma Chere Hall - Self destructed last week.  Will need to improve to contend.
6 - Charmed Life - Been going well.  Threat with a trip.
7 - D'Orsay - Has not been the same horse as in the past
8 - Mistery Woman - Will look for a triop.  If gets it, a threat.
Selection 2-4-8-6

8th $500,000; Trot - Breeders Crown 2yo Fillies
1 - Love Me Madly - Late developing filly.  See a factor for next year.
2 - Wild Honey - On a Tear; Logical choice with littel value.  Will try to beat.
3 - Danielle Hall - Always a contender if flat.  Possibility.
4 - Wiclet Hanover - Win came in NW1.  Pass here.
5 - Mission Brief - Burke trainee is another who defeats self.
6 - Stubborn Belle - Appears to have trailed off.
7 - Lilu Hanover - Can never count out a Takter trainee but will dismiss anyway.
8 - Hot Start - Just don't see.
9 - Livinthefastlane - 2nd in first week back.  Consider at proper odds.
10 - Smexi - Draws the worst of it  Does show a win over Mission Brief.
Selection 5-3-10-2

9th $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown 3yo Fillies
1 - Market Rally - Qualifies off two misfires.  It would be foolish to disregard a Burke entry.
2 - Lifetime Pursuit - Finished second in last three starts; that winner starts right outside of her.
3 - Shake It Cerry - The logical one to beat.  Can anyone take her down?  I think not but expect low odds.
4 - Struck By Lindy - Well beaten when last raced against #3; nothing suggests anything different will happen this time.
5 - Cantabs Fortune - Seems to be stepping up.  Hard to see.
6 - Heaven's Door - No shot in last but nothing suggests a good result here.
7 - Vanity Matters - Only one victory this year but well prepped.  May be second best.
8 - Riveting Rosie - Has been racing well but steps up.  Minor spoils at best.
9 - Cee Bee Yes - The one who gets no respect.  Has already blown up the tote board.  Don't ignore.
Selection 3-7-9-1

10th $593,750 Pace - Breeders Crown 3yo Fillies
1 - Major Dancer - Been knocking on the door.  Wouldn't shock.
2 - Beach Gal - Best efforts are racing covered up. Share with trip.
3 - Gettingreadytoroll - Gets post relief.  Should improve off of that.  Will be on ticket.
4 - Gallie Bythe Beach - Second best.  Don't think he can top the favorite.
5 - Color's A Virgin - Clearly the best.  Don't see getting beat.
6 - Uffizi Hanover - Another one who needs a trip.  Not sure will get it today.
7 - Beach Story - Seems up against it.  Pass today.
8 - Allstar Rating - Steady check earner.  Will be pressed to earn one this week.
9 - Sayitall BB - Don't see against open company.
10- Precocious Beauty - Saddled with the worst of it.  Just don't see.
Selection 5-4-3-2

The Corey Johnson Affair

As many of you know, trainer Corey Johnson was suspended indefinitely by the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) and his horses were ordered scratched this past Monday and Thursday at Woodbine.

Harnesslink.com was pondering whether or not New Jersey would order his horses Volez Hanover and Traceur Hanover out of Saturday night's Breeders Crown finals since New Jersey typically reciprocates on rulings by the ORC.

Over at some message boards, there were people taking shots at Jeff Gural for not ordering Johnson's horses scratched out of the crown.  Hypocritical was perhaps the kindest thing being said by those critics regarding the two horses being allowed to race (it should be noted nothing indicated these two horses were involved in the TCO2 violations).

Well, perhaps the reason Gural didn't order the horses scratched is because he couldn't.  In an interview with harnessracing.com it is learned that as a result of a suit in 2011by the connections of Crys Dream, the NJRC is unable to suspend Johnson until he is offered due process in the form of a hearing in Ontario.  Only after a hearing is held and Ontario reaffirms their ruling can New Jersey suspend the trainer.  In the meanwhile, even if Jeff Gural wanted to use his powers of exclusion to ban Johnson, once the entries were accepted the horses must be allowed to race as the NJRC or its judges are the only ones who could scratch them; an exclusion only impacts future entries.

Even Jeff Gural obeys the rule of law.  Nothing he has ever done suggests he has disregarded the rule of law.

That being said, should Traceur Hanover or Volez Hanover win their races, the winner's circle presentation should be kept to a minimum with no interview with the trainer in the winner's circle.  If the NJRC wanted to send a message of protecting the interests of the horseplayer and the integrity of the wagering game, they would bar the two horses in wagering.  Of course, I don't see them doing it.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Round Two of the French Connection

The second week of 'French' racing at Yonkers Raceway was an improvement over the first week as approximately $1.8 million was wagered on the five races simulcast to Europe.  Clearly, Europeans are willing to wager on races over the half mile oval.

Domestically, the handle was $446,368 for the entire 12 race card; much less than the Tuesday card it replaced (when less tracks are racing) and about $50,000 less than last Thursday's card; the weakest card handle-wise of the week.  To make any definitive comparisons of handle with the American public's reception of European-style racing would be dangerous as there is no Sunday with traditional racing to compare against.  When you consider you are racing against one of the busiest days for thoroughbred racing, especially when competing against NYRA which is the preferred signal for locals, and football, I tend to doubt any racing card at Yonkers would do better than this card did.

I do think it is safe to say there was no wholesale repudiation of European-style racing.  My belief has and continues to be harness racing fans are adaptable to new styles of racing if you deliver it to them consistently and commitment; not one week, it didn't work, stop.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note the Meadowlands once again is attempting to try to race one event on each race card at 1 1/8 miles with twelve starters.  Purses will be increased a modest 10% and those finishing out of the money will be paid $150.  Let's see how these races are received this go around.  To be perfectly honest, I think to get these races accepted you would need at least two races each card contested at this extended distance.  Hopefully, horsemen in New Jersey look at the New York results and are more receptive this time.


Best wishes to Sydney Seelster and Sydney Weaver as the former was scratched sick last night at Flamboro Downs as the horse didn't warm up right.  What the exact problem is remains to be seen.  Hopefully, 'Pinky' will be back soon giving harness racing's #1 spokeswoman in Canada some more joy.


While Dave Palone will likely re-take the title of World's All-time Winningnest Driver this afternoon, no tears should be shed for former champion Heinz Wewering who is quite an accomplished trainer in his own right.  How good a trainer?  He's the world champion all-time winningest trainer with 19,300 victories.  He is the complete horsemen.  The MSBOA has run some interesting promotions of late.  They should invite Wewering to compete against Palone at the Meadows for a head-to-head competition.


Some horsemen are upset with vet at Cal-Expo for scratching horses from races for soundness issues despite the fact the owners and their vets can't find any problems.  One horse has an unusual hitch in his gait and has always had it.  He had been racing this way for quite a while and then the vet decides to scratch the horse despite looking the same as he always has.  With only two days of racing a week it is hard to get into race as is, but now having to re-qualify means losing more racing opportunities.  How the trainer is going to fix a sound horse with an unusual gait is the question of the moment.  If it was one owner, it would be one thing but there is another owner who had their horse scratched despite looking the same way he did when he won several times in a row.  We are not advocating unsound horses being able to race but someone needs to remind the vet in question if the horse had a perfect gait, odd are they would be racing back east and not at Cal Expo racing for paltry purses.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pricing is the Threat to Racing

An opinion piece in Oklahoma talks about how the General Manager of Remington Park has no idea about what is the biggest hurdle to increasing revenue at racetracks.  The General Manager, blames illegal sports wagering and gambling machines for the problems racing has with declining revenues.

According to the author of the piece, the problem racing has is the high cost of betting.  If we assume racing has a blended takeout of 20%, it is over priced when compared to casinos.  It just costs too much to bet on the horses.  The writer, wants to know with many tracks subsidized by slot revenue, why can't they cut the takeout rate to make it less expensive to play the horses?

A very good question indeed.  Why won't many tracks cut takeouts, especially when there is so little handle to begin with?  Does it really matter if you cut the takeout rate to a blended rate of 10%  Probably not.  Of course, it isn't that simple.  Cutting takeout too much and you will find ADWs no longer carrying your signal which puts you at a competitive disadvantage,  How many ADWs would drop the Meadowlands, perhaps the most popular signal in harness racing, if they cut their takeout to a maximum of 10%?

If tracks can't cut the traditional wagers' takeout rates, what can be done to get around the ADWs?  Since Exchange wagering is market-driven, all which is needed is a small commission which permits volume wagering.  Yet states like California which have approved exchange wagering (though there is resistance to it from the thoroughbred owners) and New Jersey, which authorized exchange wagering, has yet to approve rules for it.  The time has come for these states and others to permit exchange wagering so we can see handle increase.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Palone on Top of the World

Congratulations to Driver Dave Palone for breaking the world record for the number of driving wins which was perviously held by German Driver Heinz Werwering who now concentrates on training and drives a limited number of races.  The new record is 16,754 and counting as Palone remains active at the Meadows and Grand Circuit.  It is possible the lead may go between the two for a brief period but with Palone continuing his full-time schedule, in the long run the record will remain his.


Here is a video clip put together to commemorate the auspicious moment.



My only fault with this commemoration is the picture of the tarmac which showed about six people outside to see the moment of history.  Granted it was cold at the Meadows last night but in the old days you certainly would have had more than six people or so on the tarmac.  I would have left that shot out of the final product before posting it.

That said, let's not have an editing decision take away from the moment.  Congratulations to Dave Palone, world champion driver.


The Meadowlands opened last night and admittedly, the handle was disappointing with a little over $2 million wagered for the evening.  I suspect part of it is due to the cold weather finally reaching the East Coast and the opening night card featuring Breeders Crown eliminations.  It is always tough to start a meet with horses shipping in from all over and with some layoffs, but when you have short fields of 8 horses, it doesn't make for compelling wagering events.

On the racing front, JK She'salady continues on her march to solidify her credentials as prospective horse of the year candidate with her victor last night in her Breeders Crown elimination, winning in 1:55.1,

Interesting qualifier this morning at the Meadowlands as in the fourth race, Creatine is in against Commander Crowe.  It is only a qualifier, but the race should still be spirited.  Meanwhile, in the second qualifier, Father Patrick is looking to regain some of his magic today preparing for the Breeders Crown.