For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Exchange Wagering Closer to Reality in the Garden State

According to HRU, exchange wagering is set to debut in New Jersey late March or early April.  The Meadowlands will be the first track exchange wagers will be accepted on with wagering limited to New Jersey gamblers.  There are talks with out of state tracks to allow for exchange wagering but quite honestly, until a trial period takes place, only a small number of tracks (basically those who have nothing to lose) will likely be willing to participate.

While the rake will be 12%, much larger than elsewhere in the world, but for now, the best deal in horse racing (minus rebate shops), expect savy youthful gamblers to make up the majority of participants.  Racing has always had a fear exchange wagering will take away dollars from the mutuel pools so they have been reluctant to adopt this form of wagering (California was the first state to adopt rules for exchange wagering, but no track is willing to take up the mantle).  The larger takeout in North America will mean a larger payment to tracks and horsemen so hopefully once people have had time to 'kick the tires', other tracks will be willing to allow their races added to the menu.  

Assuming past precedent, once a trial period is over, expect California to finally come on board with other states attempting to get this form of wagering approved.

Once exchange wagering goes live in New Jersey, I plan on kicking the tires myself and will offer my opinion of this wagering option.

Super Bowl Warm-Up: If you are looking for something to do before the Super Bowl today and want to play the trotters, you need to go to the Canadian west coast as Fraser Downs is the only track running.  First race is at 3:45 EST.  As all Canadian tracks, programs are free and in this case available for download here. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Morning Briefs

With winter finally showing up to the Northeast, it is time to look ahead to spring and beyond.  Looking for a place to race this summer?  In an effort to bolster the racing stock available to race at Tioga Downs, Tioga is offering a 15% bonus to owners and a 5% bonus to trainers on overnight earnings starting with the horse's fourth start at Tioga.  To be eligible, a horse must be stabled at Tioga or an approved local training facility.  Granted, if you have a horse eligible to race at a track like Harrah's or Yonkers, the 15% bonus may not mean anything to you but if it is a question of racing at one of the upstate tracks in the Empire State, the bonus and lack of (or greatly reduced) shipping fees is a great incentive.

At the HBPA convention this week, thoroughbred interests had a discussion about large gamblers and how they are not understood, a common theme which transfers to the standardbred industry.  The Meadowlands has been criticized last year about wagering being done by syndicates and how little they add to the purse accounts.  While they may get rebates to make their wagering more profitable, the fact is they provide liquidity to the market making it attractive enough to allow other horseplayers to tip their toes into wagering waters.

Don't get me wrong, it does seem unfair when someone who makes their wagers the old fashioned way have to go up against computer programs which seek every inefficiency to ensure they make a profit; the same way it works on the stock market.  It seemingly stinks to the retail investors but without those who arbitrage the market, investors would have a hard time finding liquid markets to buy and sell in.

One can cut out these large players with a technical advantage, as long as one doesn't mind wagering pools at the Meadowlands which rival Freehold.

A meeting regarding standardbred aftercare is scheduled for this weekend.  I am hopeful some concrete steps towards a true aftercare program will come out of this meeting.

Elsewhere, a bill to allow parimutuel wagering at the Far Hills steeplechase meet has been introduced.  The bill requires wagering to be handled by an existing permit holder, either the Meadowlands or Monmouth though I would assume Monmouth would get first crack at it.  I expect this bill to sail through the legislature as it had in the past only to be conditionally vetoed.

The only reason I bring this up is perhaps some time in the future, standardbred meets could be held on a fair circuit, perhaps allowing wagering there.  Yes, this bill is specific in only allowing it for Far Hills, but once in place and (hopefully) successfully executed, another bill could open it up at a fair(s) in the state.

In Florida, legislators are considering 'partial decoupling' apparently in an effort to thread a needle which will be acceptable to horsemen and race track interests.  Such a plan would allow the dog tracks to stop racing yet continue with their poker rooms and/or slots and allow Calder and Hialeah to cease wagering with Gulfstream Park continuing to race, presumably adding quarter horses to their menu; no word on where Pompano Park falls into this plan.  

Horsemen are not going for this threaded approach as they realize their ties to racing in Florida would be down to one or two precarious strings, Tampa Downs and Gulfstream Park.  With regards to standardbreds, the link would be even more precarious as there is only one facility offering wagering.  Depending on how the legislation is written, the standardbred industry in Florida may all be eliminated.

It's not decoupling, but racing at Dresden, Leamington, and Sarnia may be coming to an end in an effort to divert purse money from these Grassroot tracks to the Raceway at Western Fair District.  Make no mistake, it is expensive to race horses and purse hike at Western Fair would be helpful, but should it come at the expense of the smaller tracks shutting down?  It would be easier to make the case if these three tracks had access to the simulcast market to see if the demand is or isn't there, but it seem like the powers to be in the industry have made their mind up.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wagging Tongues

Looking at the Fines and Suspension list from last week, the eyes of some people opened wide when a horse of a prominent owner who has a reputation of doing good things for people within and outside the industry (as others do as well) apparently came up with two positives. "Ah ha", they said; perhaps what they were saying is "Gotcha! Another one (respected person in the industry) tore down".

I won't be mentioning names, and admittedly, the facts are not fully known.  Some interpret the fact the owner paid back the purse money without an appeal as trying to bury the issue as quickly as possible, never considering the reason why the purse money may have been paid back quickly may be respecting the blood test results and after consulting with his trainer, found out the positive was legitimate.  As someone on the outside, I don't know if it was a case of deliberately trying to sneak one past the judges or a case of messing up withdrawal times, but as far as some people were concerned, it was 'tried and convicted', likely without knowing all the facts.

What we do know is the horse in question was shipped to another state and since he was going to be there for a couple of races, was given to another trainer for those starts, then returned to original trainer once those engagements were honored.  While trained by the 'guest' trainer, the horse raced only to later test positive for those starts.  The regular trainer has no major violations against him so one may assume he didn't tell the local trainer to cheat.  So the local trainer may have decided to cheat or more likely messed up medication withdrawal times.

I'm a firm believer you get to know the character of an owner by the company he keeps, and that includes who trains for him.  This means at best, not using a trainer with a record of positives or at a minimum, firing the trainer if you get an inexcusable positive.  It gets fuzzier when you ship somewhere where you need to use a temporary trainer.  It's one thing if it is where you normally race, but when your horse is traveling to a state where you don't know the trainers and depend on who you regular trainer makes arrangements with, the onus falls on the person who made the arrangements, the trainer.  So in my book, the owner gets a pass here.

Make no mistake.  Doping of horses is a problem in all of racing which needs to be seriously attacked, this is why I favor having standardized medication rules overseen by a national organization with the ability to sanction wrong doers.  Rather than wagging their tongues at someone who does much for racing off the track inadvertently getting caught up in the net, it would be a better use of their time to contact their elected federal officials to support the US Anti-Doping Association.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2016 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge Seeks Sponsors

Plans are underway for the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge being run by HANA Harness.  As such, HANA Harness is seeking financial sponsorship from various facets of the standardbred industry to build up the prize fund which goes to standardbred rescues.  Whether a racetrack, horseman association, breeder, racing stable, or a supplier to the industry, HANA Harness welcomes your participation.

The Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge's goal is to promote the Grand Circuit as well as support standardbred rescues.  All funds pledged to the competition are donated to the standardbred rescues chosen by the handicappers.  Canadian sponsors will be given the right to donate funds to the standardbred rescues of their choice in honor of the winning handicapper.  Since the contest began, over $12,000 has been donated to standardbred rescues.

Sponsorship levels are available from $500 to as low as $100 with various benefits.  If interested in additional information, contact 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Freddie Hudson Talks SAFE Act

On yesterday's Sunday Morning Fun House, harness horseman, Freddie Hudson and a few others talked about the SAFE Act, otherwise known as the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, which bans the slaughter of horses for meat for human consumption as well as ban the transport of horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

While I am a supporter of the SAFE act, regardless of your stand on the legislation, it is worth your time to listen.