Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sticker Shock Coming to the Delaware County Fair?

Still catching up on things, a press release indicates the new fines and suspension guidelines to go along with the new whipping rules in Ohio.  According to the Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC), the new guidelines are:

1) Cutting a horse with the whip or visibly injuring a horse (3768-17-17- (L))
a) $500 fine and a three-day driving suspension for first offense in Ohio
b) $1,000 fine, a five-day suspension, and referral to OSRC for second offense within 365 days in Ohio

2) Excessive/Indiscriminate, abusive whipping, whipping after the finish, whipping out of contention, illegal whip (3769-17-17 (B), (C), (D), (E), (F), (G), (I), (J), (K), (L))
a) $300 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine, a three-day driving suspension for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a five-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio

3) Failure to keep a line in each hand (3769-17-17 (A))
a) $300 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine and a three-day driving suspension for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a five-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio

4) Kicking (3769-17-16 (C))
a) $300 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine and a three-day suspension for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a five-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio

5) Leaning back excessively in the sulky (3769-17-16 (D))
a) $200 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a three-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio.

The actual rule regarding whipping may be seen here.

In the past, new rules Ohio has approved caused issues with certain out-of-state drivers who bailed out of Delaware quickly after getting nailed with a penalty.  It will be interesting to see if any out-of-state drivers bolt the Delaware County Fair as a result of the new rules.  Admittedly for some of the Grand Circuit drivers, the fines won't be that much of an issue, but to others it will.  The real problem will come if the judges strictly enforce the rule (which they should) which may result in cases going to Columbus when referred to the OSRC.

A bill has been forwarded from a Senate committee in the NJ legislature which will allow wagering from mobile devices at racetracks and in the case over at the forever soon to come American Dream shopping complex.  While you can currently do this using your ADW, presumably, it will allow  you to wager as if you are on track, giving them a little more revenue.  It's not exactly a game changer, but in NJ, every dollar helps.  

Some Weekend Observations

PA Harnessweek has aired its last episode and people are not happy.  The reason why the popular show is being cancelled after 8 years is unknown but it is likely financial support for the show had been withdrawn by one or more of the sponsors.  There is talk of the show returning as a web-only series but I have a better idea

The USTA is looking at having its own harness racing channel.  If this comes to fruition, why not have the team of Steve Ross and Heather Vitale go national with them featured covering races across of America instead of a Pennsylvania broadcast?  The show could be shown in the early mornings  or the late night when live racing isn't available.

So the question being asked by those organizing Team USA nticipation of the Yonkers International Trot is who should be invited to participate as an American Representative?  Should it be Creatine, JL Cruze, Natural Herbie, Obrigado, Resolve, or Shake It Cerry?  You can vote for your pick here but save your time on voting for JL Cruze as his trainer has indicated they won't be coming.  So far, Bee A Magician, Magic Tonight and now Timoko have confirmed their participation to the International.

With big races at Yonkers and Mohawk, you may have missed the best race of the weekend at Georgian Downs where the Honorble Earle Rowe Memorial Trot was contested,

When the dust settled, 25-1 Rockin With Dewey upset the field which featured Intimidate, Daylon Magician, and E L Titan.

A RUS event was contested as well as Georgian Downs with Tragically Shipp scoring a $16.80 upset with Natalie Elliot in the saddle.  The handle for the race was $14,540 after a refund of monies due to a horse being declared a non-starter due to the Fair Start rule.   It is evident that given a chance, RUS can become a regular contributor to any standardbred program.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review of Meadow Skipper "The Untold Story"

Meadow Skipper “The Untold Story” by Victoria M. Howard and Bob Marks is presented as an unofficial autobiography—as told to the two authors. That’s right: Skipper himself gives us his first person perspective on the highs and lows of being an excellent pacer and the most influential sire in the modern era. The authors have steered clear of the traditional narrative style employed by Don Evans in Big Bum, Nevele Pride Speed N Spirit and Super Bird; and Marie Hill in her biography of Adios and Ron Bisman in his chronicle of the life and exploits of Cardigan Bay. All of these books were published forty or more years ago: Marks and Howard chose to add an anthropomorphic twist.

The breadth of information imparted on Skipper’s racing and breeding career, as well as the contributions, or lack thereof, of all of his prominent heirs is leaps and bounds ahead of what has been given in other equine biographies, yet, the literary devices employed throughout the book make all that data very easy to digest. There’s all the inside baseball the seasoned fan would want, but the sport’s arcane lexicon, that might leave general readers flummoxed, is either avoided entirely or explained away.

Skipper is presented throughout as a kind of Rocky Balboa figure. He was an awkward, lazy colt who came very close to being gelded. A confirmed mama’s boy, he didn’t take kindly to being separated from Countess Vivian. Nor was he pleased about being rigged and asked for speed. He spends a good part of the book trying to rationalize away his reputation as a sulker.

The iconic stallion played second fiddle to the great Overtrick on the racetrack, and it took breeders several years to realize Skipper was a sire worthy of quality mares, or, any mares at all, for that matter. It was a long, arduous journey to the top of the heap.

Meadow Skipper dedicates the book to three men: Joe Lighthill, who first used his whip to wake him out of his race day lethargy; Norman Woolworth, who showed $150,000 worth of faith in the unproven colt; and Earle Avery, who never saw a ground saving rail trip he liked.

The first thirteen chapters detail Skipper’s racing career; the next five examine his sixteen year stint at stud, as well as the contributions of his offspring; and the final chapter is a flashback on his life, delivered as he crosses over to the other side, after suffering a heart attack in his paddock at Stoner Creek Stud. The authors state at the outset that the book is a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Magic realism marries harness racing. The first thing that came to mind was Marks’ Race of the Decade series that was published in Hub Rail during the 1970’s.

Skipper’s primary rival throughout the racing chapters is Overtrick, who fell to our hero in the Cane, but beat Skipper more often than not, including in the Messenger and Jug. Marks was present for many of these races and is able to provide a grounded firsthand account, buttressed by the omnipresent wry commentary of Meadow Skipper himself. Walter R Brooks, who created Mister Ed and other talking animals in a series of short stories he penned seventy-five years ago, has nothing on Howard and Marks: That Skipper is a funny fella.

Skipper’s “love interest” throughout is Laughing Girl, the dam of his near clone and premier siring son, Most Happy Fella. She passed after a pasture accident at age nine, and our boy is devastated when he gets the word.

Marks knows the sons and daughters of Meadow Skipper better than anyone; he knows which ones were producers, and to what level, and which ones failed to live up to their lineage and race records. These chapters are crack for pedigree junkies, as sons, grandsons and great grandsons are examined and graded one at a time, in detail. From modern day progenitors like No Nukes and Cam Fella to the wildly successful Albatross, who failed to extend, to abject failures like Ralph Hanover, Computer, Genghis Khan and Jade Prince; it’s all there.

The same sort of care goes into examining Meadow Skipper’s impact on the breed from a bottom line perspective. Marks views Matt’s Scooter and Call For Rain as Skipper’s finest credits as a broodmare sire. The former is characterized as a successful, though not great, sire, while the double Breeders Crown winner by Storm Damage is labeled an abject failure at stud.

Detailed accounts of the influence of Meadow Skipper on the pedigrees of present day stars the likes of  McWicked, Artspeak, Colors A Virgin, JK She’saldy, Sweet Lou, Anndrovette and Foiled Again follows.

We learn that Meadow Skipper is the only Standardbred ever embalmed in Kentucky, and that Skipper rests between Count Fleet, Crown Champ and the headstone of Rodney. The physical Skipper, that is. His spirit is frolicking on the other side with Laughing Girl.

Howard knows plenty about harness racing and Marks is a skilled writer, who has always lived outside the box with his annual yearling prognostications and the like. It’s impossible to figure out just who is responsible for what in Meadow Skipper “The Untold Story,” but it’s the best book about the sport I’ve ever read.

Joe FitzGerald

Friday, August 28, 2015

More Friday Notes

The four-year-old Swan For All mare, Bags For All, who was claimed for a whopping $75,000 by Bradley Grant August 17 at Mohawk, and followed that up with a stellar romp in 1:52 against NW27 for Trevor Henry, will start in tomorrow’s $100,000 Earl Rowe Memorial at Georgian Downs. The mare, who is the fastest offspring of the nine-year-old Andover Hall stallion, has earned $128,000 on 25 starts this year. She is second choice in the morning line from the two post. Her uncle Swan In A Million won the Rowe last year.

Intimidate, who hasn’t made the board in seven starts this year, and who was terrible in the Crawford and Cashman in his last two, has the rail in the Rowe with Yves Filion driving. Last year’s Maple Leaf and TVG winner has fallen off the earth.

EL Titan, who won the inaugural edition of the Sebastian K at Pocono last week at 9/1, is the morning line favorite from the eight. It’s a precipitous drop from Tim Tetrick to trainer Riina Rekila, but Titan may lay over this field to the point where it doesn’t matter.

Speaking of Tetrick, poor Wakizashi Hanover starts from the eight in his $61,000 split of the Tarport Effrat at The Meadows tonight. That makes five out of his last six starts where he drew the 7, 8 or 9 post—and in the other he drew the six. Still, he has won six of twelve, with eleven board finishes. Brian Brown’s Well Said colt, Lost For Words, who was second in the Milstein, starts just inside of him.

Ron Burke always sets himself up to get a piece of the action in the second and third tier sire stakes programs. In the case of Kentucky, which offers eight $175,000 finals Sunday night at The Red Mile, he spends freely on the offspring of the Western Hanover stallion Third Straight. He has two fillies and a sophomore gelding by that sire competing for the big dough in Lexington. Five of the seven starters in the 2 YO pacing filly final are by Third Straight. Seven of the nine sophomore colts are sons of his. 58% of the pacers in the finals are by Third Straight. Lakeisha Hall, a two-year-old filly who has won three of four and who took her prelim by six lengths, is a standout for Burke and Dave Palone.

Joe FitzGerald

Friday Notes

Yannick Gingras will drive Pinkman and Habitat in the two Yonkers Trot eliminations tomorrow night, followed by Bill Popfinger’s Muscle Hill filly, Marion Millionair, in the Hudson Filly and the Well Said filly, Repeat Please, in the Lady Maud. He was originally listed on several horses in the later races at Mohawk, but it now appears that they won’t be beaming him up and sending him to Ontario.

As a result Matt Kakaley will drive Foiled Again for the first time since the Battle Of Lake Erie in mid-June. That was eight races ago and the last time Foiled won. The 11-year-old legend has performed very well in the Canadian Pacing Derby of late: He won the race in 2012 at odds of 14/1; he was third in 1013; and he finished second last year at 6/1, behind upset winner Modern Legend, who crossed first at 65/1.

Ron Pierce, the third place finisher on last year’s money list, thanks to the likes of Sweet Lou and Shake It Cerry, will apparently go under the knife again. His absence leaves a gaping hole, particularly at interview time.

Jeremes Jet, who wore out his welcome in Ontario after standing there for six years, is leading the money and OSS points list for three-year-old colt pacers right now, thanks to the likes of JJ’s Delivery, Drachan Hanover and Robert Hill. All this from his penultimate Ontario crop of 16 registered foals—seven of them colts. His first small offering of Indiana yearlings hit the sales in 2016.

Four-year-old JL Cruze, who has been the top older trotter this year, has really raised the profile of his ten-year-old sire, Crazed. Last year Burke’s Gural Hanover was dominant in the NYSS and this year it’s his Crazy Wow who is turning heads. The latter, who faces Pinkman in a short elimination field for the Yonkers Trot tomorrow night, has an opportunity to be the son of Credit Winner’s first big deal as a colt in the open ranks. His upset win in the Colonial was a game changer. Tetrick drives him again tomorrow night.

Joe FitzGerald