Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who's Protecting the Horses from Those Charged with Protecting Them?

An alleged case of horse abuse made the television news as part of an investigation by a Philadelphia news station.  Unfortunately, the alleged perpetrator is a harness racing participant.  

Not being a trainer or a person who has raised horses, I can't offer any comment on what or why the alleged abuse occurred over what is written in the article.  What I will say is anyone found guilty of the abuse of any race horse has no business being allowed to remain in the industry.

What has happened is shame but perhaps even more shameful is how the case was handled.  Obviously, someone was so disgusted with the pace the case was taking that they felt it necessary to go to the press in an effort to light a fire under the NJSPCA.  According to the news story, here is the timeline once concern about the horses' treatment was raised.

Following such allegations of abuse, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture investigated and sent inspectors to the barn in June of 2013. A department spokesperson says inspectors found the conditions inside the barn met the department’s definition of a “severe violation.”

The Department of Agriculture says investigators handed their report over to NJSPCA (New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), which has the enforcement authority.

A NJSPCA spokesperson says the agency was made aware of situation in August of 2013.  [Since then, it has been stipulated that three horses died]

NJSPCA would not talk on camera about why it has taken a year and a half to act on the Department of Agriculture’s findings but in a statement said the case is “difficult and complex” and they are working to conclude it “as quick as possible.”

If I was the NJSPCA, I wouldn't talk to the camera either.  My question to them is how 'difficult and complex' is this case and how many more horses potentially need to die before the NJSPCA decides whether or not abuse occurred and if so, seize the horses?  After all these are the people charged with protecting theses horses and a year and a half is far too long to take action.  Either abuse occurred and the horses should have been seized or if they weren't sure it was abuse, they could have counseled the individual on the proper way on caring for the horses (though one would have thought this person knew how).

What hope does any abused horses have in New Jersey when those charged with protecting them seemingly can't do their job? 

It's a disgrace.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winners and Losers during Breeders Crown Weekend


Winner: Jimmy Takter won three Breeders Crown races and is already an amazing $5.4 million ahead of last year’s $7.8 million earning’s figure. Shake It Cerry was already assured of a division win, while Father Patrick and Pinkman probably won their divisions last night.

Loser: Always A Virgin came into the BC poised to have two winners and, if that happened, two division titles. This would have given the ten-year-old stallion, and the Indiana program he spearheads, a huge boost. Unfortunately, Always B Miki scratched out of the sophomore colt pace and his filly counterpart, Color’s A Virgin, was too far back in her race and finished fourth.

Winner: McWicked stepped up and seized control of a floundering division with his BC victory. Neither the Adios nor the Hempt would rate grade one status in today’s environment, so McWicked needed a top shelf win to bolster his resume. That combined with his earning’s lead should give him a solid shot at division supremacy. Casie Coleman said he may have one more start in him. That would no doubt be the Progress Pace, which he can supplement to for $25,000. A win in the Progress should secure division honors.

Loser: Joe Holloway had a clear path to a division title and a start in the lucrative TVG with Always B Miki, but that one was a late scratch when he injured a leg in his stall just prior to post time. Beyond that, Holloway came into the season positioned to dominate the aged pacing mares with four-year-old hotshots Shebestingin and Somwherovrarainbow. However, Rainbow finished tenth in the BC while the world record holder, Shebestingin, has only started three times since the end of July—all losing efforts.

Winner: Yannick Gingras added $1.5 million to his earning’s pile over the past week. He has now handily eclipsed Tim Tetrick’s $16.1 million winning total from last year and Gingras is already $2.2 million up on what he earned in all of 2013. He won four BC races, and no doubt would have had five if he maintained his relationship with JK She’salady.

Loser: Tony Alagna, the third leading trainer last year and currently ranked seventh, didn’t have any starters in the dozen BC finals. Captaintreacherous has been retired and Artspeak was shut down for the season. It’s unusual for a trainer like Alagna, who specialized in high-end stock, to be a bystander come BC weekend. Last year he won with Captain T and was second to Nitelife with Authorize. Erv Miller, who is the third ranked trainer on the earning’s list, also had no starters, but that’s not really his field of play.

Winner: John Campbell’s off the pace wins with 4-1 Thinking Out Loud and 10-1 Shelliscape give him a record 47 Breeders Crown wins.

Winner: Father Patrick has won 22 of his 28 lifetime starts and earned $1.6 million this year—$235,000 more than any other NA trotter or pacer. Yet, as was the case with Captaintreacherous during his sophomore season, Patrick seems to take a lot of heat. Going into last night’s race it was understood that a win by Nuncio would give him the division as well as serious Horse of the Year consideration. But now Patrick owns the division for good and will be given an opportunity to further his redemption for losses in the Hambletonion, Matron and Erskine when and if he takes on his elders in the TVG.

Winner: JK She’salady probably secured Horse of the Year honors with her BC win in track and stakes record time. She completed a perfect 12 win season. The daughter of Art Major would  be the first freshman filly ever to win that award.

Loser: Jeff Gural had to be pleased that the weather cooperated and business was good over Breeders Crown weekend. However, BC wins by Traceur Hanover, trained by the indefinitely suspended Corey Johnson, and the PJ Fraley trainee Shelliscape, had to leave him with a sour stomach. Fraley, along with Rene Allard, whose Yagonnakissmeornot finished fifth as the favorite in the aged mare pace, were both deemed persona non grata by Gural last year. Legal precedent and BC staking rules left him with no choice but to allow the trio to compete. After Traceur won the freshman pace Johnson, who towered over everyone else in the winner’s circle, drew all eyes. The fact that good guy Andy Miller drove Traceur and handled the post-race interview offered some relief for Meadowlands and Breeders Crown execs.

Winner: Hanover Shoe Farms had a very good weekend. Nineteen-year-old Western Ideal, who had grown out of favor with the buyers as his New Jersey eligibility lingered on, has turned that around of late. His son Always A Virgin has generated plenty of publicity this year and now Hanover has Traceur Hanover to join Artspeak at the vanguard of the freshman pacing ranks. The latter was a winner because In The Arsenal, who finished second behind Traceur Hanover, did not wrestle the division away from him. Also, Pinkman, winner of the two-year-old colt trot, gives the young stallion Explosive Matter the potential star performer he’s been searching for. Hanover also got wins from Father Patrick, a son of their premier trotting stallion Cantab Hall, and Donato’s daughter Shake It Cerry.

Winner: With Thinking Out Loud, who is not a viable candidate for division honors, winning the BC open pace, Sweet Lou, who was second, set himself up nicely for division honors.

Winner: Marginal pacing stallions stepped to the fore over the weekend. McArdle is trying to establish himself in slots rich Ohio and having McWicked, his number two son after One More Laugh, win the BC and in so doing pave the way for a division title, helps immeasurably in that regard. And ten-year-old Tell All has failed to light it up thus far in the stallion ranks, but that win by supplemental entry, Sayitall BB, certainly helps. Bob McIntosh would probably scoff at the notion that Ponder is a marginal stallion, but the volume has been so thin that it sometimes seems like they all belong to him. Diamond Creek is currently addressing that issue in Pennsylvania. Adding a BC trophy to Thinking Out Loud’s hardware collection will give the effort a boost. And while Artiscape’s great daughter Rainbow Blue has a BC trophy on the mantle; paternal sister Shelliscape now has two of them.

Joe FitzGerald


A Needed Change to the TVG Series

For some reason, some people thought by winning the Breeders Crown Open Trot, Commander Crowe would be invited to participate in the TVG Final.  Where such a rumor began is unknown, perhaps people thinking if Commander Crowe was invited to participate in the Breeders Crown, certainly there must be some mechanism to get invited to the TVG Final.

Anyway, Commander Crowe heads home arriving as a conqueror Monday after his win over North America's best.  Quite honestly, his return home is a loss for the TVG series.  No complaints here; after all rules are rules and the TVG series is a late closing series which requires horses to earn points to compete in the final.

What would be good for racing is if European (and I imagine in a matter of fairness, Australasian) horses could nominate to the TVG series with certain overseas stakes races designated as TVG series-eligible races where horses could earn points to make them eligible for the final; either they would have to earn their way in by having more points than participating North American trotters or by offering invitations for up to two foreign horses based on the total number of points earned by them.

This would benefit North American racing by bringing more focus on the TVG series trotting races (and pacing when considering Australasia) as local horses could be facing their counterparts come November; maybe making the races desirable for simulcasting.

Any opportunity to widen the global reach of North American harness racing should be encouraged.

On to the Appeals Court; A Champion is Crowned

I should have been a lawyer.  As I surmised when New Jersey first attempted to change the law regarding sports gambling to comply with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Shipp ruled NJ's latest attempt to skirt around PASPA was for naught.  As you recall, NJ repealed the laws banning sports gaming only for racetracks and casinos in an attempt to meet the 3rd Circuit's original ruling.  Judge Shipp indicated to meet the standard the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal set, NJ would have had to repeal the law prohibiting sports gaming for everyone, including Joe the corner bookie; it is a case of everyone gets banned or everyone get the right to offer sports gaming.  Failure to do all or none, is in effect, state regulation.

Of course NJ will appeal this ruling to the Appeals court where they may find the same response from the three judge panel before the obligatory appeal to the US Supreme Court which will refuse to hear the case once again.  To get the US Supreme Court to take the case, it will require a ruling by the 3rd Circuit in favor of New Jersey, something unlikely to happen at this time.

Now on to what most of you want to read.....

Last nights' Breeders Crown events has paved the path to HOY for 2yo pacing filly JK She'salady who took her tilt in 1:50.2 on a cold night.  At the top of the stretch, it looked like the filly may have been going down to defeat to Sassa Hanover, but like the champion, JK She'salady came back and opened up to win comfortably.  With Takter's horses taking turns beating each other in the 3yo trotting male division and the seemingly invincible Sebastian K becoming beatable, it opened up the path for the filly, especially as those who need to win to stay in the conversation went down to defeat.

There was no storybook cold weather return to form by Foiled Again in the Open Pace last night as victory went to Thinking Out Loud who nailed Sweet Lou at the wire in 1:48.3.  In some ways this was the most entertaining race as horses were challenging the whole mile, not just riding the rail or being out one wide.  This was an all out battle with the eventual race winner coming from 7th place by exploding late in the deep stretch.

It will be interesting to see if Foiled Again returns or heads to the paddock full time in 2015.  My vote (which means nothing in this respect) is to allow him a lifetime of happiness in the field.

In a win most rather not have seen, Traceur Hanover was victorious in the 2yo colt and gelding pace, winning in 1:51 with the Orange Crush Andy Miller in the bike for embattled trainer Corey Johnson.

Earlier in the year, many assumed an European trotter would be standing in the winner's circle for the Breeders Crown for aged trotters but most would have picked Sebastian K to be the victor.   Of course, we know what happened but it still was a European Trotter as Commander Crowe was the victor in a speedy1:51 mile which showed the Commander driven aggressively in the race early, getting to the top before the :54.4 half.  Maven made a valiant attempt to get to Commander Crowe in the stretch but a late blast from the French trotter opened up just enough of a lead to hold off the talented mare.

It turns out we may have seen the last start of Le Grand Blonde because his owners are considering retiring their 11 year old champion.  There is reportedly a slight chance he may return to the races next yet but I believe common sense will dictate year is the finale.

One has to wonder how we can give the Breeders Crown a more international flavor as it is clear the appearance of Commander Crowe spiced up the Open Trot.  Granted there are only trotters in Europe so unless the Australians were to send pacers here, half  the card would be a North American affair.  Perhaps expanding the conditions for more foreign horses to be invited would be helpful.

In addition, with the win by Traceur Hanover, it is clear the Breeders Crown needs a condition dealing with horses trained by those under suspension so we never have a situation like last night repeat itself.  The Breeders Cup has taken care of this issue, there's no reason why we can't borrow their restriction.

Another interesting note is out of the 81 horses declared into the Breeders Crown on Friday night, 33 horses were trained by Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter; almost 41% of the starters.  Something to think about.

Business at the windows was good with a total handle of $4,088,391 (all sources) passed through the windows Saturday night  with Friday night's handle, roughly $7 million was wagered for the two cards combined.

I can't help but wonder if the Breeders Crown would have done better at the windows if it was raced earlier in the month.  Let's face it, the weekend before Thanksgiving is not the time to get the interest of the public.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Saturday Breeders Crown Analysis

Continuing on yesterday's theme, here are my selections for Saturday's Breeders Crown events.

4th - $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown 2yo Colts and Geldings
1 - French Laundry -  Draws well off elim victory.  However, not top Takter entrant.
2 - Walter White - Hasn't raced well in top stakes.  May be in deep.
3 - Habitat - Burke trainee has been going well of late.  Lands share.
4 - Suit And Tie - Colt gets minor spoils with best effort.
5 - Pinkman - The one to beat. Multi-faceted colt appears hard to beat.
6 - Muscle Diamond - Needs trip to be a factor.
7 - Guess Whos Back - Not this guy this week.
8 - Uncle Lasse - Will need to revert to earlier form to be a contender.
9 - Piercewave Hanover - Will be racing off cover.  Needs suicide fractions to contend.
10 - The Bank - Good qualifier of layoff.  ComplLate betes Takter quintet.
Selection 5-1-3-6

5th - $500,000 Pace - Breeders Crown 2yo Fillies
1 - Southwind Roulette - Rail will help but still appears in deep.
2 - Divine Caroline - Holloway trainee was freshened and qualified well.  Could land share.
3 - JK She'salady - Possible HOY with victory.  Seems to lay over these.
4 - Heart Major - Late bloomer can squeeze way on ticket.
5 - Bettor Be Steppin - Don't think he can control front end.
6 - Well Hello There - Toss last.  Can't disregard completely but better choices exist.
7 - Bettor N Better - Draws poorly.  Not sure can get into race.
8 - Heavenly Bride - One to toss.
9 - Sassa Hanover - Gingras chose this one over the favorite.  Better than she looks?  Consider.
10 - Ideal Nuggets -Bad post but possible Super selection.
Selection: 3-9-6-10

6th - $400,000 Pace - Breeders Crown Open
1 - Bettor's Edge - Gets post relief.  Will try to maximize opportunity.
2 - Modern Legend - Horse loves this track.  Contender.
3 - State Treasurer - Will likely try to make a move at the end.
4 - Thinking Out Loud - Needs a trip for any chance.
5 - Foiled Again - Think the best is in the past.
6 - Clear Vision - Tough field to compete against.
7 - Sweet Lou - A victory here would finish a career year.
Selection 1-2-7-3

7th - $500,000 Pace - Breeders Crown 2yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Cooperstown - Last better than he looks.  Upset chance.
2 - Traceuer Hanover - Won off a trip last week.  Don't expect him to work a trip.
3 - Lyons Levi Lewis - Will need a more aggressive drive today.
4 - Franzo - Outsider will be looking in today.
5 - Go Daddy Go - Has shown ability to race up front or from behind.  Like chances.
6 - Sicily - Hard to see here.
7 - Tomy Terror - Seems up against it.
8 - Soto - Another apparently out matched.
9 - Lost For Words -  Post hurts
10 - In The Arsenal -  Post compromises.  Should land share.
Selection 5-10-2-1

8th - $281,250 Pace - Breeders Crown Open Mares
1 - Camille - Inner draw is a plus.  That's bet which can be said.
2 - Charisma Hanover - Mare must race off the pace.  Possibility.
3 - Voelz Hanover - Not likely to repeat here.
4 -  Somwheroverarainbow - Expect a good effort here.
5 - Yagonnakissmeornot - Looks to complete a career year on top.
6 - Shelliscape - Lucky to land share.
7 - Krispy Apple -  Wins are rare and tonight is not the night
8 - Anndrovette - Figures to land share, but victory not likely.
9 -Rocklamation - Tough position.
10 - Regil Elektra -Don't see from here.
11 - Venus Delight - Good miles of late.  Should like the big track.
Selection 5-11-4-8

9th - $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 -Datsyuk - Nice horse lucky to land share.
2 - Hillustrious - Good enough to consider for exotic tickets.
3 - Nuncio - Horse has come into his own.  One to beat.
4 - Don Dorado -  Occasionally shows a decent effort.  Will this be one of those days?
5 - Il Sogno Dream -  Seems up against it.
6 - Father Patrick -Can he get it together here?  Possibility.
7 - Odds On Amethyst - Win over the track a plus.  Tough spot just the same.
8 - Sumatra - These are a different class of horse.
9 - Harper Blue Chip - Draws poorly.
10 - EL Titan - Horrible post but freshest of lot.  If looking for an upset play, he is it.
Selection 3-6-2-10

10th $531,240 Pace - Breeders Crown 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Let's Drink On It - Should improve from the rail.
2 - Somesizesomestyle - Will need to step it up.
3 - Mcwicked - Horse appears to have peaked.  Toss.
4 - Always B Miki - Has been on a tear; when does the ride end?  Tonight
5 - Limelight Beach - Favorable post position.  Good chance to here.
6 - JK Endofanera - Has peaked.  Can he recover lost step?
7 - Doo Wop Hanover - Don't see it.
8 - Somestarsomewhere - Seems overmatched.
9 - Luck Be Withyou - Hard to get in from the outside.
10 - Capital Account - Passing here.
Selection 5-4-1-6

11th  $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown Open
1 - Your So Vain - Minor spoils at best.
2 - Market Share - Has had bad luck this year at the wrong times.
3 - Arch Madness - Gelding has seen his best days in the past.
4 - Maven - Took overland route to victory in last.  Should be better.
5 - Flanagan Memory - Can't recommend.
6 - Archangel - A step blow the best.
7 - Creatine - Was hot before layoff.  Freshened.
8 - Wishing Stone - Minor spoils at best
9 - Commander Crowe - Looking for big effort in Meadowland debut.
10 - Intimidate - Can figure in exotics.
Selection 9-4-2-10