For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fight the Urge, Bet Standardbred

Unless you live on a different planet, you know Saturday is Kentucky Derby Day.  Like most Americans, even if you are a dedicated standardbred fan, you are going to be playing the race.  Face it.  Most tracks have already announced their special Derby Day festivities and in the next two days you will be hearing personalities from your local harness track telling you who they like in the Derby even though they spend more than 95% of their time, living and breathing standardbreds.

Let's face it, serious handicappers are going to be playing the Derby card; how does one avoid these deep handles?  But if you aren't a heavy hitter, you can fight the urge as the following tracks areoffering you a standardbred product to wager on while you await the Kentucky Derby:

  • Saratoga Raceway and The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono are both having doubleheaders with Pocono's first card starting at 11am while Saratoga's matinee beginning at 12:15pm.
  • Harrah's Philadelphia which typically is dark on Saturdays will be racing an afternoon card starting at 12:40pm.
  • Northville Downs begins racing at 2:00pm 
  • Scarborough Downs starts at 2:00pm

North of the border, there are these tracks with afternoon racing (all times local):
  • Century Downs Racetrack and Casino out in Alberta, Canada begins their program at 1:10pm 
  • The Raceway at Western Fair District begins their card at 1:15pm.

Of course, most tracks are racing their normal evening cards, perhaps starting a little earlier, hoping to entice some of those who came for the Derby to hang around.

Fight the urge.  Bet Standardbred.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Horsemen - Enter Heather's Harness Racing Next Gen Contest

I hope you take the time to enter Heather's Harness Racing Next Gen Contest!

What is Heather's Harness Racing Next Gen Contest??? Glad you asked!

Hockey team visiting the track.  Michael Lisa Photo

Yannick Gingras visiting a French class to talk about harness racing.

Simon Allard visiting daughter's pre-school class.
There are so many ways to expose the sport to our youth. Yannick Gingras is known for doing things like talking to high school French classes or taking his kid's hockey team to the races. Simon Allard recently visited his daughter's school to talk about the sport. I've done everything from having my son Wyatt's Boy Scouts group to the farm to speaking in local classrooms. 

A visit to the farmtrack by the Boy Scouts.

Now, it's your turn! Here are the details for the contest!

To Enter: Email me a picture to of how you educated a group of at least five kids (Ages 18 & under) about harness racing.

Please be aware that the picture you email to me will be posted on Facebook.

Give me the details of the picture...which school or track or farm? when? what group?

What if you've never presented to a group of kids before!?

Hey! That's OK because you've got two more weeks to visit a local school or Scouts group or 4-H, etc and present to them or invite them to your farm or track!

The contest ends at midnight on May 18!  (Note:  If you can't organize a program in the next two weeks, you can still hold a program.  It is important the racing community holds these types of outreaches all year long.)

AND THAT'S NOT ALL! If you need resources to hand out to the kids, the great peeps at Harness Horse Youth Foundation said that all you have to do is contact them with two weeks notice (with ages of kids and how many) and they can sent out a care package with cool handouts and resources and all you do is pay for shipping the box! Basically, that means you have to contact them them today! 

(I'm hoping that having cool stuff to hand out will also give incentive for some of you who have already presented to kids...will do it AGAIN!)

ONE entry (aka post picture on this page with details) per person and the winner will be drawn at random.

Prize: In addition to feeling like you're changing the world and getting a huge pat on the back from me, grin emoticon you could win a great harness racing fan goodie package of hats, shirts, etc including a FOILED AGAIN BREYER MODEL!

If you have questions, please email me at

Have fun!!!

Hugs, Heather 

Time to Acknowledge it's Time to Subsidize Horse Ownership

The Auckland Trotting Club has announced a new incentive plan to help promote harness racing starting with the 2016/17 season which begins August 1.  Under this plan, owners will receive a minimum $250 per starter while trainers will receive $150.

At first blush many would argue a plan like this would never work.  However, taking a step back, would something like this help attract and/or keep owners in the sport?

Now, let's state up front, not every purse account will be able to support combined payments of $400 for each starter.  However, what if the payment was $75 per owner and $50 per trainer at Scarborough Downs, leaving the full payment for major raceways.  Whatever can be directed to owners and trainers would help immensely in keeping them (in particular owners) in the sport as it would help them with the monthly bills.  Being trainers are hired by the owners, I would envision the $150 incentive being factored into the training bill.

Yes, there is the fear owners and trainers may race horses who should be staying in the stall in order to get their incentive, but this can be policed by stewards fining trainers for presenting horses unfit for racing as well as putting horses on the vet list when appropriate.  Imagine what these payments would mean to owners and trainers; the difference between showing a profit or loss which may determine whether or not they remain in the game; possibly a reduction in medication abuse because everyone knows they will be getting something at the end of the day.

The problem is it is time for racing to acknowledge the cost for horse ownership is moving beyond the means of the ordinary person which has been the backbone of the industry in the past.  For the industry to attract and retain new ownership, the truth is the sport is going to need to subsidize the cost of horse ownership.  Consider the $250 per starter fee an owner would get.  Assume a horse makes 32 starts; a subsidy of $8,000 a year is not going to make ownership profitable on its own, but it tilts the scale towards profitability yet leaves a large portion of horse ownership with the owner.

The way things are structured, these payments will need to come from purse accounts if only for the fact casino operators are not going to wish to increase their expenses.  Yes, purses would have to decrease to cover these costs which some may complain about but owners and trainers need to remember these payments will help when the inevitable dry patch hits; it benefits all.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Not Showing Love to Illinois Racing; A New Frontier in the Announcer Booth

Horsemen are hopping made out in Illinois.  A press release on behalf of the IHHA condemns the fact state legislators are looking to legalize fantasy sports gambling which produces no jobs in the Prairie state instead of working on fixing horse racing which employees 14,000 in the state (all breeds).

Granted, it is a lot easier to legalize daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests than it will to fix horse racing.  The fact the state will no doubt tax (charge fees to) companies offering DFS gives them the incentive to do so as well.  Also making it easier for passing a DFS bill is the fact no slot machines are attached to the legislation though no doubt the casinos in Illinois would love to have sports gaming but that will likely depend on what happens with the New Jersey lawsuit.

Still, horse racing has been on life support for a long time.  A bill allowing slots at racetracks in Illinois passed in 2012 only to be vetoed by then Governor Quinn. Since then, no other racino bill has been able to get support, leaving harness racing dependent on one extended meet track (Hawthorne) and thoroughbred racing in similarly dire straights.

External factors have caused Maywood to shutter though if not for the scandal the track may have still closed.  Balmoral is now shuttered, given no dates this year, with an auction of its assets put on hold because someone came out in the last moment offering to buy the track; exactly for what purpose is not known.  Thoroughbreds are split between Arlington and Hawthorne with a summer meet at Fairmount Park; none of these tracks are exactly thriving.  Arlington just settled a dispute with their horsemen which arose when among other things they attempted to change the way they card races, to put on the least expensive racing possible.

Yes, it is hard work to pass a racing bill in Illinois, having to fight the casino industry always is.  But not to even try to get a racing bill through is inexcusable.

A new frontier has been broken through as Golden Gate Fields has hired the first full time female race caller in North America.  Angela Hermann, the on-air personality and substitute track announcer at Canterbury Park has been given the nod and will be in the booth.  No doubt this will be quite a change for race goers and it will be interesting to see how she will be received.  As far as I am concerned, it may be a bit strange initially but as long as the calls are accurate, that is all which matters.  It will be interesting to see how long it will be until there is a full time distaff announcer in the booth at one of harness racing's raceways.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Blue Moon Stride: A Filly To Keep An Eye On

Blue Moon Stride first caught the eye of Bob Marks, the former general manager of Perretti Farms, soon after she was born, in May of 2013. The daughter of Rocknroll Hanover, who passed almost two months to the day prior to her birth, and Classic Star, a full sister to Bettor’s Delight and Roll With Joe, and a half to Triple Crown winner No Pan Intended, was pacing around the foaling stall soon after standing and nursing. This was not typical behavior on the part of a newborn, so he started referring to her as his little “pip.”

Pip’s granddam, Classic Wish, who was foaled in Ontario, made it to the Hall of Fame as a broodmare on the basis of her three millionaires, two other $250,000 winners, and two Little Brown Jug winners. However, she was also no slouch on the track. The daughter of Canadian Hall of Fame stalwart Armbro Emerson raced six seasons, making 144 starts and earning $436,000. Classic Wish took her 1:52 lifetime mark at The Red Mile as a three-year-old. She passed in March, 2011 at age 21.

Pip’s dam, Classic Star, was no match for her brothers: she started 17 times at two and three, winning three overnights for Steve Elliott and Tony O’Sullivan and earning about $44,000.

Her first foal, Classic Rock, was on the small side. She sold for $40,000 as a yearling and only started 20 times, earning less than $10,000.

Next came Snyderman, who succumbed to colic as a weanling. Then Hollyrock, who was better than Classic Rock, but not much. This mare won four of 24 starts and $58,000.

Pip, who was foaled in 2013, was named Snyderwoman, partly because her dam was purchased from Jeff Snyder, who bought her Hall of Fame sire for $190,000 at Harrisburg in 2003, and partly because Marks thought the name might induce Snyder to bid on her when she entered the sales ring as a yearling. As things turned out, she sold as a weanling, as part of the Perretti Farms final dispersal, and Snyder doesn’t buy weanlings.

Marks suggested to Mark Harder that he buy her for his Sydney, Australia based client Emilio Rosati, who had struck out with top-dollar purchases like Well Said Stride ($380,000) and Rockstar Stride ($300,000). Pip would be a bargain compared to that pair. He took Bob’s advice and purchased her for $27,000 at the Harrisburg Mixed Sale, renaming her Blue Moon Stride.

The filly chased home freshman champ Pure Country in her second qualifier at The Meadowlands for David Miller in mid-June.  And after being second again in her first NJSS tilt in early July, she broke her maiden with a handy wire to wire win from the eight in a $25,000 split of the NJSS at The Meadowlands the following week for Andrew McCarthy. She has an abundance of gate speed and plenty of courage, two qualities that served her well throughout the season.

 Blue Moon Stride then won the $100,000 NJSS final as the 3/5 choice, again for McCarthy. She held off a fast closing Show Time Hill and prevailed by a neck in 1:53.1.

She hit the road in August, beating Ron Burke’s heavily favored Lyons River Pride comfortably off a pocket trip in a division of the Mary Lib Miller Arden Downs Stake on Adios Day at The Meadows.  She also took the $57,000 Geers Stake at Tioga, again for McCarthy and Harder. Then it was on to Canada, where the daughter of Rocknroll finished second to the talented Vintage Master filly Thatsoveryverynice in an $84,000 split of the Eternal Camnation for Jody Jamieson. She had four wins and a pair of seconds in her first six starts, against top tier competition.

Blue Moon Stride failed to make the board in the elimination and final of the Great Lady, which was dominated by O’Brien winner L A Delight. And this was followed by a pair of seconds in the Bluegrass and International Stallion Stake to Tipton Teez and Darlinonthebeach, respectively. She was picked up at the wire in heavy rain in the former, and got locked in to the point where she had to stand on her head to shake loose for second in the latter.

Things didn’t go her way in the Breeders Crown; McCarthy brushed her to the top to the half in her elimination, but she got swallowed up late. And she was shuffled back to tenth in the final.

The speedy filly closed out the season with a November 20 second place finish to Yankee Moonshine in the $385,000 Three Diamonds at The Meadowlands. As was the case in most of her starts, she had no problem making the top at the start.

Blue Moon Stride had four wins and five seconds in 13 starts and earned more than $289,000, fifth most in her division, behind only Pure Country, L A Delight, Yankee Moonshine and Sheezarealdeal.

Bob Marks watched her qualify last week and noticed that she was a lot bigger and stronger than she was last year. Mark Harder told him, “She’ll win a big one this year for sure.” He continued, “She trained down great with a couple of fast colts that wanted no part of her.”

When originally pitching the weanling filly to Harder, Marks told him that if worse came to worst and she wasn’t very good, she would still be one of the best bred fillies to ever hit the Southern Hemisphere and an outstanding broodmare prospect. He’s very happy that this fallback scenario is not the case, and that Emilio Rosati has acquired the best horse he ever bought in America at a bargain price.

Among other stakes, Blue Moon Stride is eligible to the Breeders Crown, Shady Daisy, Glen Garnsey and Mistletoe Shalee, as well as the New Jersey Sire Stakes, which kick off in three weeks. She cut most of the mile in yesterday’s qualifier and finished a couple of lengths back, in third, in 1:53.1.

Joe FitzGerald