Friday, July 3, 2015

Saturday Night RUS; Yonkers Going Back into the Future

For those who are able to go to Hanover Raceway or wager through your ADW, you may wish to look at the 6th race which is a RUS event.

I am putting my winning streak this year on the line with my selections.  Here they are:

Hanover 6th Trot - $3,000; RUS (Exacta Wagering Available)
#2 Cool Creek Valley (Valstad, 5-2)
#4 New Favorite (Engerran, 7-2)
#3 Thor Seelster (Elliot, 7-5)

Thor Seelster by class is the obvious choice but he broke in his last RUS event.  At 7-5 and likely going lower, it is worth looking elsewhere.

At this point, there is one obvious flaw in RUS racing in Ontario, the lack of classified racing.  By all races being open to anyone, you have horses clearly better than the rest of the field in them, leading to favorites.  Once enough horses are available, it would be in everyone's best interests to have races classified to make them more competitive and evenly matched.

I was kind of disappointed at Historic Track yesterday when the New York County Fair races were contest.  For those unfamiliar with the NYCF races, they are the bottom of barrel with respect to the sires stakes; more for the horses who would likely be eaten up on the parimutuel circuit.    The problem?  The number of two, three, or four horse races there were was sad.  Yes, the money on the parimutuel circuit is a lot better and there is always a risk a miracle could happen, but why not race at Goshen in what would amount to $3,000+ race and learn events instead or finishing 25 lengths behind in a race at Saratoga or Monticello?

I understand the two year old races coming up short this early in the season for if you are racing in this class, odds are you'd be better off waiting a bit or turning them out for the year, but there is no such excuse for three year olds.  I just don't understand why trainers don't race at Historic Track and t by their presence help the non-profit organization which maintains the national landmark out instead of racing in events where they should be betting how far behind they will finish instead of Win, Place, or Show.

For the record, Jordan Stratton put on a driving clinic going six for seven on the eight race card.

If the NYSGC approves of the request, the stretch at Yonkers Raceway will be going back in time by being moved 100 feet to the east, returning the track to a traditional half mile format.  Currently, the starting line is right on the first turn which makes for an awkward start (especially for the outside horses) and distorts the camera view of the finish.  By going back to a traditional start/finish line, not only will the start be fairer to all horses, the video from Yonkers will allow those on and off track to be able to see who won the race before the numbers are posted.  The SOA of NY approves of the move and has endorsed it.  It is thought with the finish line moved up the stretch, horsemen will be forced to make more moves in races, making the product more interesting to watch.

Yonkers will be investing in new cameras and will use technology including mirror image for photo finishes commonly used in thoroughbred racing.  So while going back to the old finish line, the equipment which will be used will be bringing the raceway into the future technology-wise.

No doubt I and many others will welcome the change.  We can only hope there will be movement in the races to make them more exciting.  While gamblers want large pools and competitive racing, nothing draws new gamblers like exciting races.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

TBT: Friendship at Joe O'Brien's Ranch

by Peter Lawrence, Contributor to VFTRG

Shafter, California on Sunday, Feb. 24, 1980.
Matinee races and barbecue at Joe O'Brien's ranch.
I ran several other photos from the day some time ago, including one of the great trotting mare Ima Lula winning that afternoon.
This was another race, for mini harness horses, and look who the winning driver on the inside was.

Peter Lawrence's photo.

If I'm not mistaken, it was, umm, me!

Peter Lawrence's photo.

Congratulating me was my life-long friend, Mitch Asher. We grew up together in Brooklyn - attended grade school and junior high together, separate high schools in NYC and separate colleges on opposite coasts - and were reunited in California when I went to work for O'Brien in 1978.
Mitch's date for the day, whose name I could never come up with now, is standing with him, and the other girl was the girlfriend of Danny Rosenblatt, who shot the picture.
Mitch, Danny and I were inseparable in our Brooklyn days, living near each other and attending the races at Roosevelt Raceway, Yonkers Raceway, and sometimes - in Mitch's case - Monticello Raceway.
Danny and I groomed at MR in 1973 and '74. I stuck with the business, but he didn't, instead throwing his life away in eventually earning a doctorate at Berkeley, aka the University of California.
(The "throwing away" isn't serious, of course. Dr. Rosenblatt is a long-time Silicon Valley chemist married to a dentist.)
Mitch, unfortunately, passed away in late 2011 in Florida.
I miss the heck out of Mitch. We had quite a 55-year run together.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Top Dogs From 2014 Seem To Be Letting Us Down

Doesn’t it seem like a disproportionate number of last year’s better horses are either missing in action or performing at a level far below that of 2014? I took a look at the top 25 on last year’s All-Horse earnings list, and wasn’t surprised at what I found: Just about every one of them is either not racing at all, for one reason or another, or they’re failing to meet expectations.

Father Patrick topped the list in 2014 with more than $1.6 million on his card. He won 12 of his 17 starts, including the Breeders Crown and the CTC, and set a 1:50.2 world record for a sophomore trotter on a 5/8 track at Pocono Downs. This year he’s one and two, having dropped his last two starts to J L Cruze in legs of the Graduate Series.

Division winner McWicked, who set a world record of 1:47.3 at Pocono and won the BC, Hempt and Adios, was second on the list, and he hasn’t started yet.

Nuncio, who won the Kentucky Futurity and Yonkers Trot, is racing in Europe.

Sweet Lou, the only pacer ever to win his division at two and five, has been retired to stud in Pennsylvania.

Trotting mare Shake It Cerry, a division winner at two and three, who took the KY Filly Futurity and the Elegantimage last year, has lost four times in 7 tries. The Armbro Flight, Meadows Maturity and Miami Valley Distaff are a few of her high profile losses. Bee A Magician, who didn’t have the sort of four-year-old season many expected, is dominating that division in a big way.

That’s the top five from last year; it’s not a pretty picture.

North America Cup winner JK Endofanera has had a problem handling late bloomers Doo Wop Hanover and Rockeyed Optimist in the Graduate Series. He’s one and two on the season.

Ron Burke’s All Bets Off, who took the Messenger, Milstein and Rooney in 2014, won the Confederation Cup and his elimination for that one, but he lost his other five starts, including the Van Rose and the Molson.

Hambletonian winner Trixton has been retired to stud.

The 2014 Horse of the Year, JK She’salady, has fallen off the earth. She kicked her season off with a win in the NYSS at Tioga, but subsequently lost her Fan Hanover elimination, and the final, as well as her Lynch elimination. She finished a washed out fifth in the latter and won’t be a part of Saturday’s final.

And number ten from last year’s money list is the venerable aged pacer, Foiled Again. In 2014 He earned $863,000 on six wins and lots of board finishes. This year Foiled has one win—the Battle of Lake Erie—in seven starts. He was shut out in the Levy, which he owned for a few years.

Obviously numbers six through ten are no better in 2015 than numbers one through five.

He’s Watching occupies slot number eleven. The diminutive son of American Ideal achieved a share of the all-age record for the fastest race mile ever on a mile track—1:46.4—in the Pace. He hasn’t started yet.

Oaks winner Lifetime Pursuit is also a no show.

The speedy Always A Virgin pacer, Always B Miki, who won the Tattersalls Pace, Bluegrass and Monument Circle, in addition to cleaning up in the ISS, had a setback and is expected back by fall.

Two-year-old division winner Artspeak won his elimination and final for the NJSS, as well as last week’s Hempt elimination. However, he finished second in his Cup elimination and fifth in the final.

Burke’s FFA mainstay Bettor’s Edge, who banked $674,000 last year, winning the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby, has one win in nine starts. He was eighth in his Franklin elimination.

Number 16 Sebastian K, who set his 1:49 world record this time last year at Pocono, opens his season there on Saturday against new kid, J L Cruze.

Harper Blue Chip?

Intimidate looks awful. Last year’s MLT and TVG final winner is 0 for 3 in the Mohawk preferred.

Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach has been no factor in the Confederation Cup and the Graduate series.

P H Supercam, the only millionaire by Million Dollar Cam, didn’t win the Levy like he did last year, but he took four preliminary legs, and is in sync with last year’s numbers.

So numbers 11 through 20 give us P H Supercam in line with what he did in 2014, while the rest either haven’t started or are disappointments.

Mission Brief, number 21, took her elimination and final in the NJSS, but has been a project in qualifiers ever since.

Market Share is 0 for 3—no factor in the Cutler or the Maxie Lee.

Clear Vision is 0 for 12, while Commander Crowe, who won the Yonkers International preview, and took the BC in his last start, has been retired.

No wonder the racing seems soft this year; one would expect that there would be a mix of horses that improve their performance, and some that stay the same and others that show a decline. Eight haven’t started at all while Nuncio is in Europe. Trixton and Sweet Lou have been retired; Miki and He’s Watching are dealing with physical issues; McWicked, Lifetime Pursuit and Harper Blue Chip are mysteries to me; Sebastian will get it on this week.

The faltering superstars from 2014, Father Patrick, JK She’salady, Mission Brief and Shake It Cerry, create the most apprehension. We need them back on track. And the old reliable types like Foiled, Bettor’s Edge and Clear Vision are making way for new blood, but where is it.

Joe FitzGerald

Holiday Weekend Racing

The Fourth of July weekend has some interesting racing on tap.  Friday night Northfield Park, debuts the Cleveland Trotting Classic.  For its initial run, the $170,000 race draws a strong field of trotters making it an interesting race.  Also on Friday, the Meadowlands hosts the $250,000 final of the Graduate Series.

On Saturday, Pocono Downs is hosting their 'Sun' Stakes, a quartet of stakes races going for a value of $1.8 million in addition to another quartet of consolation races. Once again, to protest the high rake at Pocono, I will not be reviewing the races  though you my review what HANA's handicappers have to say about it on Saturday morning.

Taking a look ahead to the Graduate Final, it should be a good day for trainer Steve Elliot as his horses should come in 1-2 with Doo Wop Hanover (2) taking top honors with Rockeyed Optimist (1) taking the second position.  Rounding out the top four, will be All Bets Off (4) and Limelight Beach (9).

Nothing goes easy for Jeff Gural these days.  One week before the deadline for submitting bids for the one Southern Tier casino license, the city of Binghamton, NY has approved a site for a casino, allowing a new group to enter the sweepstakes which up to this week was a walkover for Tioga Downs.

The vote was highly unusual as most ordinances require two readings before becoming law.  As a result of the single reading of the ordinance, the people of Binghamton didn't have a chance to voice their opinions.  But when it comes to casino licenses, governments tend to overlook normal procedures in an effort to grab the low hanging fruit, the casino license.

Regardless, now Tioga needs to compete against a group for that license.  Based on what is known as of now, I would guess Tioga would still come out ahead but with the kind of year Gural has been having, I wouldn't be betting on anything.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday Briefs

Long time West Virginia horsemen Kelly Staten, a regular on the Rosecroft circuit for many years has been in poor health of late and recently, doctors were forced to remove one of his legs.  There is a GoFundMe site dedicated to raising funds to help the family with getting the home ready for his return.  Even if you can't make a large donation, those small donations add up.  Please consider donating.

While fireworks will be bursting out all over America for the 4th of July holiday,  there will be some fireworks at Hanover Raceway as the next stop in the Canadian Racing Under Saddle series takes place.  Entries have not been taken yet but program pages for the RUS event and the entire Hanover card will be available at Hanover Raceway's website.

The first day of racing at Goshen Historic track, admittedly the weakest of the four cards has been drawn with eight New York County Fair races on the docket.  Unfortunately, there are many short fields on the card including a duo of two and three horse races.  While not the fullest of fields, it gives racing fans the opportunity to take a stroll of the backstretch and meet trainers and drivers.  The ironic thing is the cheapest purse is $2,850, a respectable purse at any B track.

Have a great Tuesday all.