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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Auckland Reactor - Moving Forward

Blatantly Good won the Open pace at Chester Downs handing Auckland Reactor his second straight North American start in 1:49.1. Western Shore was second, with Atochia third. Auckland Reactor finished fourth in the race.

Auckland Reactor gunned for the front right from the start and was pressed to a first quarter of :26.3 and then reached the half in :54.1. At the five-eighths, Blatantly Good hooked up with Auckland Reactor pushing the New Zealander to a 1:21.3 three quarters. In the stretch, Auckland Reactor was a beaten horse passed by the top three finishers.

Naysayers may say Auckland Reactor is a fraud, but this was a much different race than last week at the Meadowlands and quite honestly a race he needed. At the Meadowlands with the unreal fractions, Auckland Reactor was never a factor. This week he was given the opportunity to air it out. Against this caliber of horses, you can’t expect a horse to be at his peak form in just the second start of the year. This is not to take anything away from Blatantly Good; he ran a great race. However, if this race was to occur a few weeks from now, I suspect we may have seen a different ending. Trainer Kelvin Harrison and the Auckland Reactor team must be satisfied with this week’s effort. My suspicion is we will see Auckland Reactor at Tioga Downs for the Bettor’s Delight. Whether he is standing in the winner’s circle in his next start is not certain; as long as progress is made, that is what matters. In time, we will be seeing him in victory lane.

What about the hype Auckland Reactor came over with; is he the super horse he was made out to be? Probably not; much of the hype was national pride. Publicity is great but it is a double-edged sword; it sets up unrealistic expectations. If he came over with less fanfare, we would not be hearing from the naysayers. In the long run, everything will be all right.

Iceland Wins Elitloppet

Once again, the Elitloppet has been a disappointment for North American trotting interests.  Lucky Jim finished last in his elimination while Enough Talk and Define The World were sent packing in their elimination.  However, Swedish pride rides high with the Elitloppet being won by Iceland in a wire to wire effort, driven by Johnny Takter, in 1:53.2, defeating defending champion Torvald Palema.

As for Lucky Jim, if you watch his elimination, there is no need to be embarrassed by his performance.  Considering the horrible post position, he raced very well; seemingly being a threat at one point in the mile before finally retreating.  With a better post position, he certainly would have advanced to the final.  The winner, Ilaria Jet, won his elimination in 1:54.2.

Define The World impressed me in his elimination of the Elitloppet.  He was driven aggressively to be involved the whole mile but unfortunately, he got boxed in the stretch as he had plenty left.  With a better trip, he would have advanced, if not won his elimination.  As for Enough Talk, my suspicion is the last two races in Europe took a toll on him as he was never a factor in the race.  A little R&R is in order upon his return to North America.  The race was won by last year's champion Torvald Palema in 1:53.2.

It has been twelve years since Moni Maker's 1998 victory in the Elitloppet.  Since 1962, when the Elitloppet adopted the 1609 meter (mile) distance, there have been only five North American winners of the famed race: Elma (USA-1965); Fresh Yankee (USA-1969); Mack Lobell (USA-1988); Billyjojimbob (CAN-1992); Moni Maker (USA-1998).  Is it our North American-centric thinking which makes us think our horses are better than the European horses or are the European top trotters just better than ours?

One race in Europe and/or North America is not a true test as bad luck can eliminate any possibility of winning one particular race.  What is needed is a true championship series of three races which alternate between North America and Europe to determine who is the best.  Of course, purses would need to be large enough to make it worthwhile for owners to ship their horses.  To encourage owner participation, a bonus could be paid out to the horse with the best overall finish that competes in all legs.  Not only would a series like this provide a good marketing opportunity, but as racing becomes more global, it would encourage wagering from foreign locations.

Of course, racing has more immediate problems.  Hopefully, the time will come when such a series is possible.

Empire Breeders Classic Finals; Up and Coming Three Year Olds

The Empire Breeders Classic finals for 3yo pacers are being held today at Tioga Downs with the finals for 3yo trotters being held on Memorial Day at Vernon Downs.  Before we discuss those races, let's review some of the stakes action from Saturday. 

The Meadowlands conducted a pair of $200,000 NJSS finals for three year old pacers yesterday and the favorites did not disappoint with Put On A Show (1:50.1) and Rock N Roll Heaven (1:48.3) winning their respective races.

Put On A Show's victory was an exciting affair.  She was sixth at the quarter and then made a bold three wide move past the half to take the lead and then managed to hold off a stretch challenge from Naughytiltheend in a thrilling finish.


No doubt Put On A Show will be one of the leading three year old pacing fillies this year, but Naughtytiltheend who did not race as a two year old seems to be developing into a nice filly as well.  However, the horse that seems to have a lot of potential is the green BJ's Mayreau.  While she finished fourth in the final and did not really present a challenge to the top two finishers, she showed be a lot of ability for a green horse.  Prior to the final, BJ's Mayreau had only two pari-mutuel starts so it was not realistic to expect her to vanquish the Put On A Show and Naughtytiltheend.  However, given a few more races, I suspect she will be able to challenge the top fillies as the season moves on.

In the $200,000 NJSS final for the boys, Rock N Roll Heaven won his race convincingly in 1:48.3.  While the race line shows he got the lead after the quarter, it doesn't show he was challenged and overtaken briefly by A J Corbelli before Corbelli got rough gaited and surrendered the rail allowing Rock N Roll Heaven to take the lead once again.  While BJ's Mayreau showed a lot of ability in her race, I suspect we may have seen the best from Ideal Matters.  With the pressure Rock N Roll Heaven had to deal with in the race, I would have thought Ideal Matters would have been able to offer some type of challenge in the stretch.

Meanwhile, World of Rocknroll made the right decision to bypass the NJSS final and race in the $500,000 Hoosier Cup to come off the pace and win in 1:50.3.  World of Rocknroll came from the second tier and was able to manage through the traffic to come home in a :27.3 last quarter and win by three lengths.  For those who argue about a second tier, it whould be noted that three horses started from the second tier in this race and two of them finished 1-2.   

The Meadowlands drivers head to Tioga Downs today for the EBC finals and they promise to be exciting races.  Here is my analysis of those races plus the two EBC finals for Monday at Vernon Downs.  At the end of this entry, you will see my selections for the balance of today's Tioga and tomorrow's Vernon Downs races.

Sunday, May 30 - Tioga Downs
8th Pace - $202,200; Empire Breeders Classic - 3yo fillies
4 - Barks Like A Dog (3-1) - Winner last week should go wire to wire once again; this time with Brennan.
3 - Hula's Z Tam (2-1) - Expect her stretch kick will fall short.
2 - Galimony (4-1) - Should complete the triffecta.

9th Pace - $217,250; Empire Breeders Classic - 3yo colts and geldings
2 - Malicous (2-1) -  Should win easily as he gets ready to move into open stakes company.
5 - Jo Pa's Fod (9-2) - Once again finishes behind the top choice.
8 - OK Commander (8-1) - Post hampers possibility for a better finish.  Expect to hear more from him as season progresses.

Monday, May 31 - Vernon Downs
6th Trot - $235,900; Empire Breeders Classic - 3yo colts and geldings
1 - Big Stick Lindy  (5-2) - Will be competing stablemate for the finish.
3 - Whata Winner (7-2) - Overcame post eight last week only to get Dq'd.  No mistake this week; can challenge.
1A - Shaq is Back (5-2) - Completes powerful stable entry.
6 - Strong Hope (8-1) - Best chance for an upset shocker.

8th Trot - $234,900 - Empire Breeders Classic - 3yo fillies
3 - Impressive Kemp (7-2) - Makes his claim to be one of the better 3yos this season with this race.
4 - Southwind Samurai (5-2) - Should improve off first start last time.  Is it enough to overtake #3?
1 - To Lindy's Credit (9-2) - Ready to take advantage if top choices falter.

For those interested, here are my selections for the balance of these cards.

Tioga Downs - Sunday, May 30
1st - Yankee Gospel, Grey Ice, Victor's Story (5-9-2)
2nd - Real Houdini, P L Dragon, Chatty Kathy (2-6-1)
3rd - Happy Jackson Plus, Wygant Prince, Oh No It's Steveo (6-7-5)
4th - Capital Blue Chip, Morgan Starn, It'sabouttime, Counter Top (1-6-3-8)
5th - Kentucky Wildcat, Royal Taga, Rules Little Man (1-5-7)
6th - Scorpion Moon, Jon Win, Andover America (6-3-5)
7th - Ten Yard Penalty, Cross Creek Photo, Bridal Vail, Camelot Kosmos (2-6-5-7)
10th - Doc's All Class, Slated For Success, Heidi Falls, Sago (3-7-5-2)

Vernon Downs - Monday, May 31
1st - Munis Blue Chip, Opaline, Nothing But Moni (6-3-4)
2nd - Steamship Round, Mr Express, Bruce Kav (4-2-1)
3rd - Artistic Memory, George The Animal, Hammers Sammys Toy (4-3-9)
4th - Kommander Hawk, Fit Happens, Kingsandqueens, Sterling Rocket (3-1-7-4)
5th - Stettin Hanover, Daley Deposit Only, Bet On Roulette (2-1-4)
7th - Chianaglia, J T Arturo, Touch Of The Past, Up Front Rudy (2-4-1-9)
9th - Outlaw Blues, Hay Goodlooking, Yankee Arnie (2-5-7)
10th - Village Blizzard, Miracle Freeluck, Blue Cam Rock (5-8-3)
11th - Bucky B Skipalong, The Grey Bullet, Soldier Boy, National Artchive (8-1-7-5)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Molson Recap; Two Year Olds Too Soon?

Won The West won the Molson Pace in a blistering 1:50.2 at Western Fair last night, nailing stablemate (and half mile specialist) Foiled Again in a three way photo finish.  WTW was able to follow his stablemate Foiled Again around the track but almost got collared by Stonebridger Terror who was flying late.  My upset choice, Hypnotic Blue Chip did make a move heading towards the three quarter pole but was too far back to substain the drive and subsequently made a break before finishing fifth.   


With June approaching, it is time for the two year olds to hit the track.  While many owners will be anxious to see how their charges turn out, we would be better off if we were not racing our two year olds this early.  While I recognize the economics and desire to recoup some of the expense, we would be better served if we limited our two year olds to a short season without big money stakes.  I would suggest seeing our two year olds hit the track no sooner than July 1 and limit each of them to no more than ten starts in state-restricted races.

By limiting the two year olds to state-restricted races, our babies will have the opportunity to earn money without having to go extreme miles.  This will allow enough opportunity for owners and trainers to evaluate the stock they have but keep them fresh for the following year.  Also, by not having the big money events on their calendar, it will be easier for trainers to turn out two year olds who need additional time to mature as there won't be missing the big money events.  And yes, we would be putting the big money events where it belongs, in three year old and up races.

This weekend is the finals of the Empire Breeders Stakes at Tioga and Vernon Downs.  They will be discussed in my next post.  In the meanwhile, for those taking advantage of the lowest takeouts in North America, here are my selections for Tioga Downs tonight.

Tioga Downs, Saturday May 29
1st - Somersault, Video, Upside Blue Chip (1-3-8)
2nd - True Magic, Hose Me Down, Malachy (3-4-2)
3rd - Kash N Credit, Mrs Ice Man Ike (1-5-3)
4th - Peteantnart, Radiant Hall, Blissfull Doll, Lovely Magic (3-7-8-2)
5th - Oceans Motion, Hank's Queen, Moving Art (3-4-1)
6th - Hugs Again, Oh Pretty Leigh, Buy Art (5-2-1)
7th - Impressive Char, Princess Michi, Infinite Desire, Allamerican Celeb (9-4-3-8)
8th - Caviart Kiss, Sugarcoated, Rintintin (3-8-5)
9th - Just Listed, Carrythemail Devie, Nystateofmind (8-6-9)
10th - Silverdollar Shark, Canaco Piment, Carolina Storm, Miss Chris (7-8-3-9)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Whispers Turn into A Roar; Weekend Stakes Action

The whispers have finally turned into a roar. Harness racing columnist Andrew Cohen discusses doping allegations involving trainer Luis Pena on the Harness Link website and it is drawing varied responses.   Hopefully, these allegations are addressed quickly, one way or the other. The whispers have been going on since the meet began and it is not good when the integrity of racing at the leading tracks is under question. If there is a problem deal with it, don't drag it out. If there is no problem, then Pena deserves to have this cloud lifted.

There is stakes action this weekend on both sides of the border. Friday evening, Western Fair Raceway holds several series finals plus the Molson Pace. On Saturday evening, the Hoosier Cup will be contested at Hoosier Park. For those who wish to play Western Fair Raceway, free programs are available here.

Taking a quick look at the Hoosier Cup, my selections are Foreign Officer, Aracache Hanover, and Touch the Rock. There is a wild card in my selections. World of Rocknroll has been cross-entered in the $200,000 NJSS final at the Meadowlands as well as in the $500,000 Hoosier Cup on the same day. While the Hoosier Cup is worth $300,000 more than the NJSS final, I suspect he will be going in the NJSS where he drew post position two instead of starting from the second tier in post position twelve in the Hoosier Cup (nine across at Hoosier). My selection anticipates World of Rocknroll staying in New Jersey. Should World of Rocknroll go in the Hoosier Cup, he would be my third choice in the race.

Here are my selections for the series finals and the Molson Cup at Western Fair on Friday evening.

3rd Trot - $46,900; City of London Trotting Series Final - Fillies and Mares
1 - Rebas Song 2-1
2 - Bank of Ballykeel 6-1
5 - Oaklea Roz 7-2
6 - Hope Seelster 5-2

4th Trot - $50,200; City of London Trotting Series Final - Colts and Geldings
6 - Indigo Hall 7-2
1 - Aztec Seelster 5-2
8 - Berndt Reynolds 3-1
4 - Tymal Time 6-1

6th Pace - $52,600; City of London Pacing Series Final - Fillies and Mares
2 - Jael Seelster 2-1 (POE)
4 - Whats Your Fantasy 8-1
1 - Starting Bid 4-1
1A-Cents Of Humour 4-1
6 - J M Lastax 5-1

9th Pace - $54,400; City of London Pacing Series Final - Colts and Geldings
6 - Encore Seelster 6-1
4 - Cajon Thunder 15-1
1 - Fresh Herb 1-1
3 - Lawmen Reign 5-1

10th Pace - $312,000 - Molson Pace FFA Final
1 - Won The West (1-1) - Speed horse controls the rail. Logical choice.
2 - Lucky Man (5-2) - Made two moves to finish second against #1. Could reverse positions.
3 - Stonebridge Terror (6-1) - Won his elimination and will be a threat.
4 - Foiled Again (2-1) - Half mile expert faltered at the end in last. May be tailing off?
5 - Legal Litigator (5-1) - Coleman trainee races better from the inside.
6 - Hypnotic Blue Chip (6-1) - Scored minor upset in last after being interfered with. Could be a possible upset.
7 - Pangiorno (15-1) - Field to deep and bad post.
8 - Annieswesterncard (10-1) - Too tough a spot.
9 - Panmunjom (AE) - Also eligible could be a factor if he draws inside.
Selections: 6-1-2-3

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Auckland Reactor - Early Season Intrigue?

With the Meadowlands not carding an Invitational this week, if Auckland Reactor's connections were looking for a much easier race this week, they probably are somewhat disappointed in that Blatantly Good, Atochia, and Corky Baran decided to travel south as well for the $32,000 Open at Chester Downs this Sunday.  The complete field for this week's race is:

10th Race - Chester Downs - $32,000 Open   Est. Post 4:25pm
1-Western Shore-Brian Sears/Ron Pierce
2-Blatantly Good-Richard Silverman
3-Mystery Chase-George Napolitano Jr
4-Atochia-Yannick Gingras
5-Winbak Speed-Ron Pierce
6-Auckland Reactor N-Yannick Gingras
7-Corky Baran-David Miller
8-Chasin Racin-Montrell Teague

My early selections for this week's race at Chester Downs? Mystery Chase is my selection to win the race, with Corky Baran second and Auckland Reactor coming in third.

Originally, trainer Kelvin Harrison originally was going to take this week off before racing in next week's Bettor's Delight at Tioga Downs but he decided to race The Reactor as it was obvious he needed another race or two to get into top form.  From my perspective, it would not surprise me if Auckland Reactor did not win this week; it is more important that he shows significant improvement from his first start.  That being said, it does concern me that the designated driver, Brian Sears is not listed to drive Auckland Reactor this week; Yannick Gingras is listed to drive him (note he is also listed as the driver of Atochia).  This week Brian Sears gets first call on Western Shore, a horse that finished sixth in his last start in the Open at Chester two weeks ago; hardly a horse you would expect Sears to jump to if given the chance to drive Auckland Reactor all season.  Hence one has to wonder if despite all the reports that everyone was satisfied with the Reactor's initial performance, is it Sears no longer thinking Auckland Reactor will live up to the advance notice or did he lose the mount?

We should get some answers this weekend.  One thing for sure.  Anything worse than a third place finish and Auckland Reactor's team will have to do some serious soul searching. 

Moving too Fast with Tweeting?

When Mark McDonald started using Twitter in Ontario to describe how he planned to drive, many people thought it was innovative and a way to use social networking to reach out to horseplayers.  Grand River Raceway thought it was such a good idea that they found a way to put his tweets on their in-house racing broadcast.  Of course, this may be a moot point in New York where the NYSRWB is proposing a rule to ban the use of cell phones in the paddock and receiving barns with the exception of designated areas. 

The reason for restricting the use of cell phones may not be directly related to drivers sending tweets but clearly there are issues which need to be addressed.  Should a driver be required to tweet before each race or no races?  What happens if a driver says he is going to be aggressive and then the way the race unfolds requires the driver to drive in a different manner?  Does sending text messages give other drivers in a race help in anticipating what another driver will do?  Do tweets sent to people following a driver become inside information when there are those who don't have access to such information?

I am not saying racing should not take advantage of technological advances, but a little forethought before implementing such advances may be advisable instead of just winging it.
Trying to pick the winner of the Elitloppet is challenging for an individual who does not watch European racing that much so I won't be formally making selections for Sunday's races.  That being said, in the first elimination, Quarcio Du Chene seems to be an interesting selection.  In the second elimination, Define The World could be interesting considering his solid effort in his first European start.  That being said, it may be a moot point for some gamblers.  The Meadowlands has announced they will be offering patrons the ability to watch and wager on the Elitloppet at the Meadowlands.  As for their ADW patrons, the are out of luck.  NJAW customers will be able to wager on the Elitloppet but they will not be offering video-streaming through NJAW.  What the logic is to offer wagering but no video escapes me.

Andrew Cohen opines about the on-going David Brooks trial.  We should be thankful the national media has not been attracted to this trial. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Program Pages for Slovalla on Elitloppet Day - Shoe Drops in Michigan

A program for Sunday's Elitloppet race card may be found here.  Since this is the program intended for Swedish audiences, North Americans will likely find the program somewhat alien to them.  While there is another format used for North American audiences on regular V64 and V75 days, it is not known if that format will be availble to those fans who may watch and wager over the Internet. 

Meadowlands and NJAW customers will be able to wager on the racing program from Solvalla starting with the fifth race.

Well, the shoe dropped Friday at Hazel Park with regards to the alleged race fixing scandal in Michigan. has reported five horsemen have been expelled from Hazel Park after refusing to supply financial records, refusing to testify, and invoking their fifth ammendment rights when they appeared in front of the Michigan Gaming Control Board to answer questions believed to have been related to this affair.  The five horsemen who are reported to have been suspended are: Don Currier Jr., Don Harmon, Wally McIlmurray Jr., John Moody and Rick Ray.  Earlier, another driver and two owners wre supposedly suspended when news of the alleged conspiracy first broke.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Elitloppet Divisions and Post Positions Drawn

Post positions have been drawn for the two elimination divisions of the Elitloppet to be conducted next Sunday afternoon (morning in North America) at Solvalla Racetrack in Sweden.  Lucky Jim drew post position seven in the first division (defending champion Triton Sund drew post eight) while for the first time since arriving in Europe, Enough Talk draws well with the second post in the second division.

Elitloppet - 1st Elimination - Post Time 8:35am EDT
1  Nu Pagadi (Ger) - E Adielsson
2  Copper Beech (Ger) - C Lugauer
3  Quarcio de Chene (Swe) - B Goop
4  Lavec Kronos (Swe) - L Kolgjini
5  Illaria Jet (Ita) - J Bazire
6  Nimrod Borealis (Fra) - M Abrivard
7  Lucky Jim (USA) - A Miller
8  Triton Sund  (Swe) - O Kihlström

Elitloppet - 2nd Elimination - Post Time 9:05am EDT
1  Torvald Palema (Swe) - Å Svanstedt
2  Enough Talk (USA) - L Ouellette
3  Oyonnax (Fra) - S Ernault
4  Beanie M.M. (Swe) - T Jansson
5  Define the World (Can) - P McDonnell
6  Lisa America (Ita) - J Kontio
7  Brioni (Ger) - J Lovgren
8  Iceland (Swe) - O Kihlstrom 

 The final of the Elitloppet will be race 10 and is scheduled for 11:05am EDT.  A special V75 comprising of races 5-9 and 11-12 will be offered. 

The Reactor Falters; Final Selections for the Elitloppet

Auckland Reactor faltered in his North American debut against a field of Invitational pacers at the Meadowlands.  As they approached the final turn, the Reactor made a brieft move to contend but once it became clear he would not be able to mount a serious challenge, Sears put him away to race for another day.  The race was won by former $40,000 claimer Real Joke who won in 1:47.3 (equaling the fourth fastest mile in Meadowlands history).

While some may be ready to cry "San Simeon" already, it is too soon to jump off the Reactor bandwagon. Now, make no mistake, I am somewhat concerned he could not mount a more serious challenge to a 'weak' Invitational field; the fields will only get tougher from here, but I am willing to give him a few more starts before I am ready to call Auckland Reactor a flop.  First of all, it was Auckland Reactor's first pari-mutuel start in six months.  Up to now all we have seen were qualifiers; non-competitive events.  No matter how good horses look in qualifiers, they are no substitute for actual races.  The chances of winning off a qualifier is no better than a thoroughbred winning off a published workout.  Rarely can you simulate actual race conditions in a qualifier; it often takes one or two actual races for most horses to be able to race at their best.

We need to keep in mind harness racing is very different in Australasia.  The trotter, Lyell Creek N was known as Creek the Freak down under and when he arrived in North America; his arrival was also greatly anticipated.  In 2001, he made six starts in the North America and won no races.  A flop yes?  Not really, in 2002-03 he won eighteen starts and over $700,000 in earnings.  Sometimes, it takes time to acclimate to a different style of racing.  My guess is in another start or two we should begin to see what Auckland Reactor is actually capable of .

I must confess, while I had not completely bought into the hype, it did influence my selecting Auckland Reactor to win the race.  As a rule, I do not pick horses coming off a qualifier to win at first asking.  I certainly would not have picked Auckland Reactor if the A list pacers were racing in the Invitational, but being this field was relatively weak, I allowed myself to be influenced by the legend enough to violate one of my cardinal rules

Current plans are for Auckland Reactor to take the week off before racing at Tioga Downs on June 13 in the $200,000 Bettor's Delight.  We will see if Auckland Reactor's team sticks with their plans.

Elsewhere, Fred and Ginger wired the field to set a new 1:49.4 stakes record at Pocono Downs in the 2010 edition of the $300,000 Max Hempt Memorial Pace.


The final invitations have been sent out for the Elitloppet with Itaria Jet (Italy) and Lavec Kronos (Sweden) being added to the roster.  Here is the final list of the sixteen starters for the Elitloppet next Sunday.

1. Lucky Jim (USA)

2. Define the World (Canada)
3. Enough Talk (USA)
4. Torvald Palema (Sweden)
5. Beanie M.M. (Sweden)
6. Nu Pagadi (Germany)
7. Quarcio du Chene (Sweden)
8. Brioni (Germany
9. Cooper Beech (Germany)
10. Iceland (Sweden)
11. Lisa America (Italy)
12. Nimrod Borealis (France)
13. Oyonnax (France)
14. Triton Sund (Sweden)
15. Itaria Jet (Italy)
16. Lavec Kronos (Sweden)

This field of sixteen will be divided into two elimination heats with the top four from each elimination returning for the decisive second heat.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Empire Breeders Classic - Part 2, Metro 6 Shooter Introduced

The pacing divisions of the Empire Breeders Classic will be contested Sunday afternoon at Tioga Downs. Like the trotting divisions, some of these pacers will be scene racing in the marquee races this year. For example, Woodrow Wilson winner Windfall Blue Chip will be competing in the fifth race along with stable mate I’m Gorgeous in addition to Malicious and OK Commander. Well regarded Dr Dreamy heads the field for the afternoon’s sixth race.

Here is my review of the Empire Breeders Classic tilts.

Sunday, May 23
Tioga Downs
1st Pace - $12,500; 1st Elimination – Empire Breeders Classic – three year old fillies
1 – Lady Major (7-2) – Has beaten older foes in prior starts. Lands share.
2 – Love And Honor (5-1) – Has had marginal success against these. Pass.
3 – Hula’s Z Tam (2-1) – Winner of six out of seven versus NYSS stock last year. Making first start of year. Your move.
4 – Galimony (3-1) – Just missed in Simpson Memorial in first start. Should improve off of that.
5 – Shaky Hanover (5-2) – Was sharp in her debut last week. One to beat.
Selections: 5-4-1

3rd Pace - $12,500; 2nd Elimination – Empire Breeders Classic – three year old fillies
1 – Lady Bones (5-1) – Should find this field more to her liking. Pick in highly competitive field.
2 – Rough Sketch (3-1) – Could not capitalize on weaker field last week. Tab for later.
3 – Barks Like A Dog (5-2) – Decent effort in season debut. Can take it all.
4 – Max’s Leading Lady (7-2) – Won last. Another who wouldn’t surprise.
5 – Tia Maria Hanover (6-1) – No factor in last. Pass.
6 – Truly A Treasure (4-1) – May need another start.
Selections: 1-3-4

5th Pace – $12,500; 1st Elimination – Empire Breeders Classic – three year old colts
 1 – Windfall Blue Chip (7-2) – Wilson winner last year needed last start. Should improve.
1A – I’m Gorgeous (7-2) – Winner of last race completes strong entry.
 2 – Jo Pa’s Fod (4-1) – Has returned improved over two year campaign. Tested for class.
 3 – He’s Gorgeous (3-1) – Raced well in top class here. Can compete.
 4 – Malicious (5-2) – Makes seasonal debut. Pass here.
 5 – OK Commander (5-1) – 2009 AmNat winner should improve off last start.
 6 – TGIF (6-1) – Big step up from non-winners of one race. Pass
Selections: 1-1A-3-5

6th Pace - $12,500; 2nd Elimination – Empire Breeders Classic – three year old colts
1 – Dr Dreamy (2-1) – Should improve off of first start. Pick here.
2 – Art Two D Two (7-2) – Taking on better makes this horse a pass.
3 – Major Work Of Art (5-1) – Winner of last two may land part.
4 – Freddy Day Hanover (10-1) – Seems to have overcome breaking issues but this may too tough.
5 – S N P Bluechip (8-1) – Canadian shipper may be main challenger to top choice.
6 – Flexjet (4-1) – Had no chance in last. Lacks early speed to get involved.
Selections: 1-5-3

Besides the EBC, there are two late closing finals on Sunday’s card in addition to the start of two new late closing series making this a stronger card. With the Meadowlands not racing, some of the Meadowlands drivers will be making an appearance. For those interested in the entire Tioga card, here are my selections for the balance of the Sunday afternoon card.

2nd – Definietly Maime, Comical Dream, Unefoisdansmavie (7-4-1)
4th – Rules Little Man, Wygant Prince, Kentucky Wildcat, Royal Taga (10-9-5-4)
7th – Sahara Hall, Opan Heart, Anvilanunoit N, Drive All Night (5-7-6-1)
8th – Upto, Harmony Oaks Rengo(POE), Gentleman Friend(POE) (6-1-2)
9th – Ambershaylilkelly, Homerun Hitter, Manzzuto (4-7-8)
10th – The Big Ticket, Matties Gem, Yokozuna Bo (7-1-5)
11th – Virtual Escape, Gotta Go Moe, Cee Pee Bush (3-4-1)
12th – Park Lane Midnight, Presidential Skam, Dangerous Truth (2-1-7)
13th- Savanah Scion, Artful Sky, Reasontocelebrate, Mud Bog (6-4-3-1)

Meadowlands Schedule Changes: This coming week, due to concerts at the sports complex, Thursday and Saturday's race cards will start at 1:10pm instead of the normal 7:00pm post time.

Meadowlands/Yonkers Introduces the Metro 6 Shooter:  Starting on Saturday, June 5, the Meadowlands and Yonkers  Raceway will be hosting a pick 6 wager starting with the fourth race at the Meadowlands each Saturday night.  The pool will be seeded with $30,000 and has a 20% takeout rate.  There will be carryover a carryover in the event the wager is not hit and when hit, there will be a consolation payoff. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Empire Breeders Classic Part 1 - Tioga Selections (Fri and Sat)

The Empire Breeders Classic (EBC) eliminations roll into Vernon and Tioga Downs this weekend. The EBC kicks-off the New York Sires Stakes season. While we don’t normally cover the sire stakes programs unless something unique is occurring, the EBC has been used as a stepping stone to some of the more prestigious sophomore events on the national level. For example at Vernon Downs, Impressive Kemp looks to repeat after a victory in the Simpson Memorial last week and there is a regular battle on tap for the sixth race at Vernon with Celebrity Bluechip and Shaq is Back looking to take each other on with a greatly improved Stimulus joining the fray.

Here are my selections for the Saturday’s Empire Breeders Classic races. Sunday’s EBCs will be discussed in another posting.

Vernon Downs, Saturday, May 22
3rd Trot - $12,500; 1st Elimination - Empire Breeders Classic – 3yo colts
1 – Blacktuxwhitesocks (9-2) – 2yo NYSS champion returns of two good work outs. Second best.
2 – Big Stick Lindy (2-1) – No chance in Dexter final. Horse to beat.
3 – Strong Hope (6-1) - Surprised many with second place finish in last. May be best of the rest.
4 – Carbon Footprint (3-1) – Must see over gait issues before he can be considered seriously.
5 – Came to Play (10-1) - Has not been competitive thus far. No reason to expect this to be different.
6 – Waldorf Hall (8-1) - Better than he looks when flat. That is the problem. Wait for better post.
7 – He’smyman (10-1) – Best efforts have been against cheaper. Would need to improve dramatically to contend.
Selections: 2-1-3

4th Trot - $12,500; 1st Elimination – Empire Breeders Classic – 3yo fillies
1 – Vicky Winner (12-1) – Is a maiden and will still be a maiden. Pass.
2 – To Lindy’s Credit (8-1) – Late bloomer is undefeated thus far. Tested for class here.
3 – Miss Conway (10-1) – Still looking to reclaim last year’s form.
4 – Opaline (15-1) – Nothing to recommend here.
5 – Impressive Kemp (5-2) – Winner of Simpson division is logical choice but the odds will be greatly over bet.
6 – Show Your Lindys (8-1) – Decent record last year; ignore return. Upset chance.
7 – My Winning Way K (7-2) – No chance in last with wicked fractions. Prior were credible in Pcd late closer. Not out of it.
8 – Reena (6-1) – Smedshammer filly qualified against top open company. Only one to beat.
9 – Chieftess (9-2) – Lightly raced and bad post. Tab for later.
Selections: 8-5-7-6

6th Trot - $12,500; 2nd Elimination – Empire Breeders Classic – 3yo colts
1 – Boztheman (8-1) – Tough spot to make seasonal debut.
2 – He’s So Savvy (12-1) – Seemingly overmatched.
3 – Wicked Style (10-1) – Don’t see but has top reinsman at Vernon driving.
4 – Celebrity Bluechip (6-1) – Credible third in Dexter Final. Will be in the money.
5 – Stimulus (5-2) – Has come back as a monster. Will be tested for class.
6 – Shaq is Back (9-2) – Just missed in Dexter final. Seems to be the horse to beat.
7 – Captain Sully (8-1) – Must stay flat to land minor spoils
8 – Whatta Winner (7-2) – Simpson winner at Vernon looking to once again beat the post. Can’t ignore.
Selections: 6-8-5-4

8th Trot - $12,500; 2nd Elimination – Empire Breeders Classic – 3yo fillies
 1 – Viva Las Lindy (8-1) – Likely needs another start to be considered seriously.
1A –Nothing But Moni (8-1) – Entrymate will be heard from later this year.
 2 – Sheezacredit (12-1) – Well prepped locally. Can’t be dismissed.
 3 – Nicole (10-1) – Erratic trotter meeting better.
 4 – Southwind Samurai (7-2) – Making seasonal debut. Draws the best of the contenders.
 5 – Madam Hooch (9-2) – Finished third in initial start. Should improve and compete.
 6 – Amazing Adventure (15-1) – In deep here. Pass.
 7 – Munis Blue Chip (5-2) – Just beat by Impressive Kemp in Simpson. Horse to beat but draws post eight.
 8 – Sweetspellosuccess (6-1 )- Lady Suffolk division winner draws the worse off it. Post may be too much to handle.
Selections: 4-7-8

For those who have been playing Tioga Downs, this week marks the debut of Friday night racing. For your convenience, here are my abbreviated selections for the Friday and Saturday night cards at Tioga.

Tioga Downs, Friday, May 21
 1st - Winner For Life, Classic Viking, Somersault (3-9-4)
 2nd - Counter Top, Day And Night, Raina Kash (1-6-2)
 3rd - Aruba Vacation, Star's Image, Big Z Raider (2-4-7)
 4th - Big Leag'in, Lovely Magic, Menowyoulater,Rock N Amber (7-2-6-1)
 5th - Bossy N Rich, Bella Diva, Mrs Ice Man Ike (3-6-5)
 6th - Ubetterthink Think, All Spirit, Bet The Ranch (5-6-4)
 7th - Allamerican Celeb, Diva Delight, Infinite Desire, Princess Michi (4-1-9-7)
 8th - Talkaboutjoy, Bartender Blues, Eel (9-4-8)
 9th - JK Bortn to Run, Standing Room, Keep On Dreamin (2-6-5)
10th - Malachy, Wattie N, Lookinforagrin, Elegy Hanover (5-7-4-3)

Tioga Downs, Saturday, May 22
 1st - Real Houdini, Prince Polygon, Chica Boom Boom (3-9-8)
 2nd - Buy Art, Pembroke Easy Call, Stormunn (2-4-6)
 3rd - Double D Fine, Party Lad, Amazing Hanover (4-1-5)
 4th - Ten Yard Penalty, Keystone Thomas, Court Cost, Heart of Shovey (3-9-6-7)
 5th - Lindy's Bandita, Caviart Kiss, Decided Advantage (3-5-7)
 6th -Scocorpion Moon, Baseball Express, Jon Win (4-2-3)
 7th - Cody's Honor, Upfront Cosmo, Sisyphus, Shinedupnreadytogo (1-8-2-7)
 8th - Oh Pretty Leigh, Hank's Queen, Rintintin (3-2-7)
 9th - Ebba's Yankee, Dreamannotherdream, Bacon Hill Betty (1-4-9)
10th - Fox Valley Majesty, Affaro Hanover, Diva Diva (5-3-2)
11th - Edgewood, Winters Call Girl, Yankee Gospel, Lost Weight (2-1-7-3)

The Elitloppet Field is Almost Set - NJAW at Your Own Risk

Note:  This entry has been updated as it turns out Arch Madness will not be racing in the Elitloppet despite earlier reports indicating he was invited.  Speculation is that since Arch Madness races with lasix, race organizers had second thoughts even though Arch Madness' connections understood he would have had to race without lasix.

The Elitloppet field is almost set; only two more invitations to be issued. The latest invitees are Prix d’Amerique winner Oyonnax from France and 2009 Copenhagen Cup winnerTriton Sund of Sweden.  Early reports indicated Arch Madness was going to be invited but those plans have changed; perhaps there was not enough time to get him to Sweden in time.  

With two slots remaining, here are the invitees to Elitloppet 2010:

1. Lucky Jim (USA)
2. Define the World (Canada)
3. Enough Talk (USA)
4. Torvald Palema (Sweden)
5. Beanie M.M. (Sweden)
6. Nu Pagadi (Germany)
7. Quarcio du Chene (Sweden)
8. Brioni (Germany
9. Cooper Beech (Germany)
10. Iceland (Sweden)
11. Lisa America (Italy)
12. Nimrod Borealis (France)
13. Oyonnax (France)
14. Triton Sund (Sweden)

With three North American horses entered, you might be wondering if wagering will be offered on the Elitloppet in North America. This year, the Meadowlands will be simulcasting the card from Solvalla starting at 8:30am. I imagine other outlets may carry the program as well. As for NJAW customers? NJAW have not yet released the simulcast calendar for May 30 but if you have your heart set to watch and wager on the Elitloppet, I would advise you to head to the Meadowlands instead of depending on NJAW’s ability to get the signal or wagering up in time or to provide programs for account wagering customers as they botched this year’s Prix d’Amerique program and other special harness racing events in the past.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What to Expect From the Reactor, Molson Selections

With Auckland Reactor set to make his first North American pari-mutuel start this week, the question needs to be asked what kind of horse will he be?  Will he be the second coming of Cardigan Bay or will he be another San Simeon?  The anwer is probably neither.  I truly expect Auckland Reactor to get his share of wins, but the fact is he is not going to be the vanquisher of North America's FFAllers.

Make no mistake, Auckland Reactor is a very, very good horse, but not a great horse.  For sure he is one of the best horses in Australasia but when he has raced in Australia in some of the marquee events, he had was defeated by horses like Karloo Mick and Monkey King at the mile distance.  He can be beat.  My guess and hope is that the top of the FFA class will be taking turns beating each other this year and Auckland Reactor will get his share of victories along with them.

It is important to remember why Auckland Reactor has come to our shores.  It's all about breeding.  He is on a showcase tour this year to impress breeders with his ability and speed before he retires at the end of this season and stands stud in North America.  The hope is he becomes the first pacer who breaks the 1:46 barrier.  If he breaks the all-time mark and gets his share of victories, his syndicate group will be more than satisfied.

Here is hoping the Reactor lives up to the hype.  Hopefully, Auckland Reactor can be a story which we can market to the media this year and attract interest to our FFA pacing division.

Here are my selections for Auckland Reactor's debut.Reactor's North American pari-mutuel debut.

Meadowlands 10th Pace - $32,000; Invitational
1 - Corky Baran (10-1) - Drops out of the graduate but may still find himself overmatched.
2 - Pilgrims Toner (3-1) - Reality has begun to set in for this pacer.  Expect him to be caught in the stretch.
3 - Auckland Reactor N (5-2)  - Finds a relatively weak field for his debut.  Look for him to ride behind Pilgrims Toner to the stretch.
4 - Blatantly Good (4-1)  - Nice start at Chester.  Expect him to be second best.
5 - Real Joke (6-1) - Filling out the field.  Outclassed.
6 - Share The Delight (5-1) - If he stays flat he could be an upset possibility. 
7 - Vintage Master (8-1) - Making seasonal debut.  Not tonight.
Selections: 3-4-6-2

As discussed previously, Friday night presents the elimnations for the Molson Pace at Western Fair Raceway.  Here are my selections for the three eliminations.

Western Fair 8th Pace - $20,000; Molson Pace Elims - FFA
1 - Legal Litigator (2-1) - Draws the rail and shows he can win on the smaller oval.  Only knock is three week lay-off.
2 - Stonebridge Terror (10-1) - Has shown little since his return to the racing wars.  Can't see.
3 - Primary Purpose (7-1) - British Columbia import picked up minor spoils in last at Woodbine.  Don't see here.
4 - Southwind Lynx (9-2) - Winner of Meadowlands Invitational two weeks ago shows his ability on the half.   The horse to beat.
5 - Anderlecht (6-1) - Won return against cheaper.  May be the best of the rest.
6 - Keep It Real (7-5) - Reeled off three straight at YR including most recent in Open Handicap.  However, meeting tougher.,  May complete the Supers.
7 - Bay of Sharks (20--1) - Shown good lines in Breeders Crown but appears the half mile oval is not his game.  Couple this with bad post; pass.
Selections: 4-1-5-6

Western Fair 9th Pace - $20,000; Molson Pace Elims - FFA
1 - Blueridge Western (6-1) - Shown improvement in last two starts but likely overmatched despite the rail position.
2 - Lucky Man (12-1)  - Don't see.  Pass.
3 - Panmunjom (10-1)  - Winner of last has not been able to defeat Bigtime Ball.  Minor spoils at best.
4 - Won The West (8-5) - Class of the race, but must handle Bigtime Ball.
5 - Carnivore (12-1) - Recent has been poor but has had success over this oval.
6 - Bigtime Ball (7-5) -  Doesn't draw as good as WTW but you can't ignore his three straight wins in Wdb Invitational.  Horse to beat, but will go off low odds.
7 - Mr Wiggles (8-1) - Good horse; horrible post.  Share at best.
8 - Anniesweterncard (5-1) -  Tough field and tough post means pass here.
Selections: 6-4-3-5 

Western Fair 10th Pace - $20,000; Molson Pace Elims - FFA
1 - Chasin Racin (7-1) - Can land share from the rail.
2 - Foiled Again (3-5) - Horse is a monster over the half mile oval but note horse has missed three weeks.
3 - Wholly Louy (4-1) - Failed in Levy consolation and three weeks off.  Not a good sign.
4 - Hypnotic Blue Chip (10-1) - No chance in last.  Been racing well and tight. Looking for an upset.
5 - Go Go Solano (9-2) - Been freshened and read to go.  Can land share.
6 - Pangiorno (15-1) - Missed three weeks but not totally out of it.
7 - River Shark (10-1) - Wiped out of last but draws poorly.  Pass.
Selections: 4-2-5-1

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Reactor Debuts

Well, after all the hype and anticipation, it is showtime.  Auckland Reactor N makes his North American pari-mutuel debut Saturday evening at the Meadowlands in the 10th race Invitational, drawing post position three.

Here is the field for the big race plus the early driver assignments (note Corky Baran and Vintage Master both have Daniel Dube listed).

10th Race - Pace - $32,000 Invitational
1  Corky Baran (Dube)
2  Pilgrims Toner (Gingras)
3  Auckland Reactor (Sears)
4  Blatantly Good (Silverman)
5  Real Joke (Brennan)
6  Share The Delight (Gingras)
7  Vintage Master (Dube)

This is a good week for Auckland Reactor to make his debut.  With the eliminations for the Molson Pace on Friday evening, some of top North American FFA pacers such as Annieswesterncard and Southwind Lynx will be racing at Western Fair instead of competing at the Meadowlands so the race will be an easier spot for a debut.  Even with the shorter field, this race does not appear to be cake walk  It promises to be an exciting night in East Rutherford.     

Speaking of the Molson Pace, here are the fields for the three eliminations which will determine the field for the $225,000(added) final next week:

8th Race - $20,000; 1st Elimination - Molson Pace FFA
1  Legal Litigator(Macdonald) 2-1
2  Stonebridge Terror(D.Miller)  10-1
3  Primary Purpose(Forward)  7-1
4  Southwind Lynx(Callahan)  9-2
5  Anderlecth (S.Zeron)  6-1
6  Keep It Real(Mcnair)  7-5
7  Bay Of Sharks(Jamieson)  20-1

9th Race - $20,000; 2nd Elimination - Molson Pace FFA
1  Blueridge Western(Jamieson)  6-1
2  Lucky Man(Macdonald)  12-1
3  Panmunjom(Forward)  10-1
4  Won The West(D.Miller)  8-5
5  Carnivore(Ouellette)  12-1
6  Bigtime Ball(Mayotte)  7-5
7  Mr Wiggles(Callahan)  8-1
8  Annieswesterncard(B.Miller)  5-1

10th Race - $20,000; 3rd Elimination - Molson Pace FFA
1  Chasin Racin(Callahan)  7-1
2  Foiled Again(D.Miller)  3-5
3  Wholly Louy(Macdonald)  4-1
4  Hypnotic Blue Chip(Jamieson)  10-1 
5  Go Go Solano(B.Miller)  9-2 
6  Pangiorno(Mcnair)  15-1
7  River Shark(Ouellette)  10-1 

Later in the week we will discuss these eliminations further.

Managing Conflicting Interests

Pull The Pocket discusses an interesting situation relating to a situation regarding Ideal Matters’ fourth place finish in a $26,000 preliminary leg of the New Jersey Sires Stakes at the Meadowlands this past Saturday night. In this particular situation Ideal Matters stayed back in the early part of the race which allowed soft fractions to be reeled off making it impossible for him to close to win the race. In fact, the fractions went so slow that he was unable to get in the money. No big deal is it? Well, to some people it is, especially when the horse is 2-5.

Coming into this race, Ideal Matters had taken three weeks off from racing. As a result, it is reasonable to assume he was not at 100% coming into the race. I certainly would not have expected him to be driven aggressively in a situation like this; it was more likely he would be driven conservatively, hoping to work out a trip to win the race. It didn’t happen. That’s racing and the while the owners of Ideal Matters may not have been thrilled with the outcome, they were probably accepting of the results.

Unfortunately, a large group of bettors have a different idea. They expect an odds-on favorite to be driven aggressively in every race. When this doesn’t happen, they feel cheated when a horse is driven conservatively and comes up short; especially when it finishes out of the money.

Here lies the biggest problem horse racing has; conflicting interests. A horseplayer wants the horse(s) they are wagering on to be driven to their fullest each start in an effort to obtain the best finish possible while the owner is looking to maximize the earning capabilities of their horse. Horses are not machines; they are living, breathing animals which are not always at 100%. There are times a horse can be raced aggressively and there are times you need to drive conservatively, looking for a trip and if it doesn’t work out; well there is next week. It certainly beats gutting a horse at 80% and taking a chance your $200,000+ investment will be spending stakes season recuperating on a farm.

Until the day comes when racetracks purchase horses and hires trainers and drivers as employees, racing will have to deal with this and manage it to the best of their ability.

One place these conflicting interests can be eliminated is when it comes to elimination races where the owner’s interest is focused on making sure they get a seat at the big dance. If you are going to have elimination races, they should be non-wagering events. Otherwise, what we should be done is mandate our major events restrict fields to the highest money earners (such as the Battle of the Brandywine) and our minor events should be raced in divisions instead of using eliminations to determine the field for the final.

As for a situation like Ideal Matter's race; perhaps what should be done is change the rules with regards to qualifiers  Instead of our current rules requiring a horse to qualify if it has not raced in thirty days, we should require horses to qualify if it has not raced in fifteen days.  This way, it reduces the liklihood that a horse needs to be raced into shape when bettors have their money on the line.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Billy Parker Jr For the Hall of Fame

Let me be the first to say it.  Billy Parker Jr. belongs in the of Fame.  With Monday afternoon's victory, "Zeke" became the ninth driver in history to win more than 10,000 races in his thirty-three year driving career with earnings of almost $27 million (he's not too shabby a trainer either with almost 1,200 training victories and $3 million dollars earned training since 1991).  With his 10,000 victory, Billy Parker Jr. joins Herve Fillion, Cat Manzi, Dave Palone, Tony Morgan, Dave Magee, Walter Case Jr., and John Campbell, and Mike Lachance in the 10,000 win club.

Granted, Zeke Parker may not have driven a horse of the year, nor has he won one of the classics, but for anyone to be this productive in their career, it says a lot about him.  For whatever reason, he has chosen not to race at the marquee tracks but it should not eliminate him from being enshrined in Goshen.  When you win 10,000 races, you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, plain and simple.

Hopefully, it will not take too long for the honor to be bestowed upon him.

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

On Monday, May 10, the eighth race at Northfield Park was won by Redzilla at 56-1. The second place finisher was Laser Bay at 17-1 with Air Louie third at 11-1. Extravagant Manner (8-5), Scoremania (3-1), and Chip Chip Tabu (2-1) all finished out of the money. The2- 8 Exacta paid $586.80 with the 2-8-7 Trifecta paying $956.80. You can see the complete chart here.

While the Exacta payoff seems to be normal, there is no doubt the Trifecta, with a pool reported to be in excess of $46,000, payoff was too low; so low that regulars were suspecting chicanery at work. Was the fix in? Perhaps it was a case of expert handicapping? It was neither.

The favorite, Extravagant Manner broke at the top of the stretch before the race started. After watching the replay, I noticed there were ten seconds between the break and the time the race went off. During those ten seconds, gate callers moved in. It is reported at Harrington Raceway, gate callers purchased three $10 wagers boxing the field in the triple and at Philadelphia Park, three $1 boxes of the field were purchased during this period. Supposedly, similar tickets were purchased at other sites. Hence, in light of this information, the pay-off seems to be legitimate.

Of course, this information may have come too late for some gamblers. Some horseplayers may have already sworn off Northfield Park, if not harness racing all together, when they saw a pay-off which seemed suspicious. They may never hear about the gate crashers taking advantage of an early break well before the start of the race. As far as they are concerned, if they were lucky to have that Trifecta selected, they were screwed. In fact, most of those playing Northfield Park, with the exception of the gate crashers were likely shaking their head in disgust.

It is bad enough we don’t refund wagers on a horse which breaks ten seconds before a race starts, but we are shooting ourselves in the foot by letting people continue to wager when in effect, the race is already underway (if you can’t get a refund on a horse which breaks before the start, the race has, in fact, begun). While these situations occur infrequently, these are the races gamblers remember.

I know a lot of the big gamblers bet in the last minutes and they are the ones which fuel the handle but rest assured, they are not happy with unusually low payoffs either. We can’t have two sets of rules; either the race has begun or not. Harness racing needs to once and for all come up with a set point when wagering stops, and until wagering stops, people should be getting refunds on horses which break stride beforehand.. If we are not going to do that, we are telling the casual player that there are two sets of rules for playing the horses and they may as well stay home for the rules they play by are for pigeons.

And we wonder why we can’t attract new players?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heading into Elitloppet 2010

It was a bad weekend all around for American Elitloppet entrants.  Last night at the Meadowlands, Lucky Jim found the wrong time to come up with a seemingly dull performance in the Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands finishing second, five lengths behind, to Arch Madness who won the race in 1:51.  While Lucky Jim was parked out the entire mile, he seemed to never be in serious contention.

Of course things were no better for Enough Talk who has been prepping in Europe for the Elitloppet.  In Sunday's Oslo Grand Prix, Enough Talk finished last in a race won by Italy's representative Lisa America (mile rate of 1:55.7 for the 2100 meter distance) who defeated Swedish sensation Maharajah.  While Enough Talk finished last, he actually raced very good, all things considered, as Enough Talk started from the second tier and raced most of the 1 5/16 mile contest on the outside.  As they approached the final turn, Enough Talk actually made a three wide brush.  Once it became apparent he was not going to be able to get to the top, Luc Ouellette basically packed it away, allowing others to pass him.  After defeating Maharajah, Lisa America was given an invite to the Elitloppet.


While American interests may not be feeling as confident, our Canadian friends must be feeling pretty good heading into the Elitloppet.  We we would be wrong to ignore Define The World's chances in the big race.  This Canadian trotter, driven by Paul McDonnell, finished a credible third in the Oslo Grand Prix, making him a legitimate contender on the last Sunday in May.  When you further consider it was his first European start, a third place finish behind Lisa American and Maharajah is even more impressive.

So while the connections of Define The World must be feeling confident that their charge has a good chance to make a good account of himself on the last Sunday in May, Enough Talk's connections must be praying for a good post position in their elimination and thankful for the week off to give him a rest.   No word from the Lucky Jim camp yet, but after suffering his second defeat of the season, they are likely feeling a little less confident of his chances. 

As of today, here are the invitees to this edition of the Elitloppet:  There are four more invitations forthcoming.

1. Lucky Jim (USA)
2. Define the World (Canada)
3. Enough Talk (USA)
4. Torvald Palema (Sweden)
5. Beanie M.M. (Sweden)
6. Nu Pagadi (Germany)
7. Quarcio du Chene (Sweden)
8. Brioni (Germany)
9. Copper Beech (Germany)
10. Iceland (Sweden)
11. Lisa America (Italy)
12. Nimrod Borealis (Frankrike)

Remember, the Elitloppet will have eliminations to see who advances to the second heat later in the day.  
It promises to be an exciting Elitloppt on May 30.

Opposition to a Racing Czar

As you may be aware, there have been calls for a racing czar to be appointed for harness racing.  Here is an unsigned piece in opposition to the concept of a czar.  It is worth a read.

In some ways I agree with the author, in some ways I disagree. I certainly do not believe in the concept of an all powerful czar who singlehandedly is the arbiter of all issues which arise, but to be honest, I don't think (I hope so) there is anyone who really feels there should be one all-mighty person who decides all issues on their own without input. In the NFL, a common example cited as having a czar, does the commissioner decide everything on his own? Of course, not; there are committees which establish rules, negotiate marketing agreements, television rights, and other items; he merely is the person who enforces the wishes of the league. True, the commissioner may make hold disciplinary hearings and make decisions, but even these rulings are made based on rules set in contract negotiations between the league and players.

Despite what this particular author may think, there is too much racing going on when looking at it from a national perspective. Any economics student in college can tell you this. Consolidation is unavoidable. It can be controlled and managed to minimize the consolidation, or we can wait for an inevitable implosion.

There is an article in the May issue of Hoof Beats talking about the success of harness racing in Europe. Part of the success in Europe is due to the European view that gambling is a legitimate activity versus the American attitude, but a good part of their success is due to a single entity controlling racing in these individual countries versus the hodge-podge approach we have in North America.

Make no mistake, racing can not only think of cutting race dates; it must also work furiously at developing new markets and reinvigorating market share. While these individual groups should be applauded for working to market racing, we would have greater success if these efforts were coordinated within a centralized organization; an organization where tracks, breeders, and horsemen are dedicated on working for a common good instead of being concerned with protecting their own turf. If these groups worry solely about their own turf, there will not be a turf left to protect. All parties must agree if a decision is made based on the input of these various committees’ rules and guidelines, they can't just take the ball and go home if they disagree.

Whether the USTA remains a breed registry or becomes our ‘league’ remains to be decided. However, a big part of our problem is the number of directors involved in making changes. You won’t find one successful company in North America where there are more than fifty directors on their board. Why do we insist on having these many members? It is a lean and limber organization which succeeds. One weighted down with too much bureaucracy is destined to bog down.  Should the USTA turn out to be the centralized authority, it is necessary to reduce the number of directors.

The Record had a story in today's paper describing life in the backstretch at the Meadowlands.  Admittedly, it is a superficial story, but it is worth a quick perusal.  Racing usually doesn't any stories in the newspapers anymore so we need to be supportive when they do show up.

Disclosure About Handicapping Selections

While not required, I feel it appropriate to provide the following information. 

General Information: This is not a handicapping/gambling blog. There are times I will handicap certain races (and accompanying race cards) I feel are of importance. At times, other race cards may be handicapped in an effort to show support for a particular track (usually because they are making an effort to reach out to race fans) or just because I feel like providing selections, but the main purpose of this blog is to discuss issues facing the standardbred industry from the view of a race fan. One should not have an expectation of this site providing handicapping selections on a regular basis. If you are looking for handicapping selections on a regular basis, there are plenty of other sites to obtain them.

About my Selections: While I consider myself a good handicapper (a subjective opinion), my selections are not guaranteed. My selections are often made a couple of days before the actual day of the race and reflect my opinion as to who will win a particular race; it does not account for late changes. Do not confuse handicapping with gambling. A good handicapper does not mean a person is a successful gambler. Gambling involves money management and a good gambler does not wager on every race and at times will not wager on the best horse in a race in an effort to get value for their wager. I have not and will not call myself a good gambler.

Just because I have posted my selections does not mean I will wager on them. I enjoy handicapping and sometimes it is just enough to see how my selections would have done if I played them. Sometimes, I will wager on a different horse (late changes, odds to high or low, etc.). That being said, I put a good faith effort when I make my selections.  I handicap the races as if I was going to be putting my own money down on my picks; I will never deliberately pick a horse to win, knowing I will bet on another one.

Errors can be made when I post my selections. I cannot accept responsibility for errors in my postings.

Selections are for Entertainment Purposes Only (Disclaimer): My selections are for entertainment purposes only. You may wish to compare my selections with your selections or to get a different perspective. Selections are not warranted and no responsibility is taken for selections posted. Posting of selections should not be construed as an inducement to wager.

Please remember if you decide to wager, you should wager on your own selections and only through legal channels. Consult local laws in your jurisdiction before wagering. Underage gambling is illegal and is not encouraged. If you have a gambling problem, do not gamble; there are resources to help you in the event you do have a gambling problem. Remember, you can eat your gambling money but never gamble your eating money.

Statistics: Since my selections are for entertainment purposes, no statistics are kept regarding the success or failure of selections provided.

Compensation: I do not receive any compensation for posting my handicapping selections. At times, a racetrack may provide me with copies of their program page(s) at no charge in order for me to make my selections; other times I purchase my programs in order to make my selections. Since I will not be indicating whether or not I was provided program pages for free, you should realize I may have been provided the program at no charge.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

FFAllers Take Center Stage; Government for Sale?

This is a big weekend for standardbred racing.  Starting off with the FFAllers, Saturday evening brings us the Cutler Memorial for FFA trotters while the Graduate highlights the FFA pacers at the Meadowlands.  In addition to those races, three year olds take to the stage in the Simpson Memorial for 3yo trotters at Vernon Downs (selections here) with the 3yo pacers strutting their stuff  in the Simpson Memorial tilts Sunday at Tioga Downs.

The Cutler Memorial brings us Lucky Jim as he make his final start before shipping over to Sweden for the Elitloppt.  Lucky Jim is the likely winner here with Arch Madness looking to upset the gelding.  In Focus is my selection to pick up the third spot.

In the Graduate, I am counting on Won The West to finally be at his peak to nose out Shark Gesture at the wire to win the Graduate.  Share The Delight needed the last race and despite the bad post, is my selection to pick up the show honors.

Turning to the Sunday card at Tioga Downs, 3yo pacers take the stage in the Simpson Memorial.  Here are my selections for the two 3yo filly divisions and the once colt and gelding division.

2nd Pace - $30,143; 1st Division - Simpson Memorial - 3yo fillies
2 - Dancinwithhestarz (8-5) - Filly victorious in PASS at the Meadows.  Filly has definite class edge over these.
6 - Shaky Hanover (5-2) - Filly knocked off two nice qualifiers at Chester.  May be need another race before being able to handle the top pick.
5 - O Lucky Me (3-1) - Has no luck drawing in with the top two choices but has been racing well of all year.  Definite chance to complete the triple.

5th Pace - $30,143; 2nd Division - Simpson Memorial - 3yo fillies
4 - Galimony (2-1) - Missed end of last year due to illness.  Sharp qualifier says she's ready for her return.
1 - Feeling You (1-1) - Swept Pocono late closing series.  Only one horses to beat.
3 - Thesantafe Express (10-1) - Best of rest.

8th Pace - $42,277 - Simpson Memorial - 3yo colts and geldings
4 - Golden Time (9-2) - Been consistent all year.  That's enough in this suspect field.
5 - Eagle Jolt (2-1) - Ran out of steam in his last race at the Spa.  Prior at Meadowlands not bad.
7 - Hemer's Card Shark (8-1) - Race credible for the most part in the Matts Scooter.  Post hurts chances.

Looking elsewhere, the question is "If you offer the government money in order to get what you want, is it a bribe?"  In the past, Harrah's unsuccessfully offered Iowa money to permit them to end greyhound racing at their two tracks.  In the latest installment, Canterbury Downs, after having their earlier campaign to get casino gambling at their thoroughbred track turned down, has now offered the state of Minnesota a $100 million dollar 'fee' if the state approves casino gambling for the track this year.  My guess is this offer will be turned down as accepting the offer would prove to the citizens of the state that their legislature is for sale.  Now, if Canterbury Park, had the proposed legislation written to include a one time $100 million licensing fee...

Carol Hodes writes about the possibility it will be necessary to assess fees from participants in racing to help fund programs to provide for standardbreds who no longer are racing. It is only a matter of time until the industry 'must' pony up to address a problem it helped create.

For those looking to take advantage of the lower takeout rates at Tioga, here are my picks for the balance of their Sunday card.

1st Trot - $4,000; Non-winners of 1 (Mares 2) pari-mutuel race lifetime
4 - Pomeroy  5-2
5 - Guess Again  5-1
1 - Fast Mail  12-1

3rd Trot - $4,800; Non-winners of 2 (Mares 3) pari--mutuel races lifetime
1 - Asabi Hanover  7-2
7 - Iroquoindianattack  9-2
2 - Sofucius  8-1

4th Pace - $5,800; $10,000 Claiming
4 - Mattsamack  4-1
7 - Fit Happens  5-1
9 - Artful Sky  12-1
8 - Burl Hanover 3-1

6th Pace - $4,500; $7,500 Claiming
4 - Real Yankee  12-1
5 - ML's Boy  5-2
8 - Powerful Boy  3-1

7th Pace - $9,500; Class B
1 - Dream Big Ed  5-1
2 - Kashability  3-1
6 - Opan Heart  8-1
5 - Waltrip Hanover  5-1

9th Pace - $3,800; $5,000 Claiming
1 - JK Born To Run  3-1
2 - Savanah Scion  2-1
5 - Life Of Rody  20-1

10th Pace - $14,000; Class A Handicap
7 - Cactus Creek  5-2
6 - That's Justice  7-2
4 - Sheer Brilliance  8-1

11th Pace - $6,300; Class C
3 - Change Your Luck  8-1
5 - Alexanderthegreat N  3-1
1 - Coris Lucky Guy  5-1

12th Pace - $3,600; Class C-2 
8 - Daisy's Shark  5-2
7 - True Magic  9-2
5 - Cruisomatic  8-1

13th Pace - $3,400; $4,000 Claiming
2 - Mike And Jim  3-1
4 - Gaje  5-1
1 - Kritzer Hanover  7-2
3 - Conjugal Visit  9-2

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Simpson Memorial Trot; Saturday at Tioga

The Grand Circuit continues with the John F Simpson Memorial series this weekend.  Saturday night, the Simpson splits for trotters are being raced at Vernon Downs with the pacers competing Sunday at Tioga Downs.  I will be providing my selections for these races.

Like many of the Grand Circuit races, these tilts feature the second tier three year olds.  The unfortunate truth is the best horses tend to camp out at the Meadowlands until the big races are conducted there before they move on to the rest of the Grand Circuit.  Many of these horses competing this weekend either lack the ability of the marquee horses, are late bloomers not nominated to many of the big races, or are a little behind in their training.  This is not to say some of these horses will not be competing in the big races; usually a few of them will end up switching over to the premier events as the season progresses.

Here are my selections for the stakes action at Vernon on Saturdave evening.

3rd Trot - $25,844; 1st Division; John F Simpson Memorial - 3yo fillies
7 - Full Tank  9-2 - Bencal trainee won division of International Stallion Stakes at Lexington last year. Lost to Bar Slide in Meadowlands qualifier last week.  Class of field.
3 -  Jesse's Messenger 2-1 - Undefeated in two year old season battling against Ohio breds.  Makes first start against open company.
5 - True Advantage  8-1 - Not much luck against first stringers last year.  Should find this field more to her liking.

4th Trot - $53,575; John F Simpson Memorial - 3yo colts
10 - Whata Winner 10-1 - Gone well this year thus far.  Second best in here.  Looking for upset.
  4 - Wishing Stone  5-2  - Clearly the best in this field.  If fit, should romp.  Guessing he needs a start.
  5 -  Carnegie  8-1 - Fair effort in Dexter elimination.  Pick up share.
  3 -  Folk Tail  7-2 - May complete the exotics.

5th Trot - $25,344; 2nd Division; John F Simpson Memorial - 3yo fillies
3 - Impressive Kemp  8-5 - Rose to the occasion in Bluegrass in Lexington.  Tepid pick here.
1 - Munis Blue Chip  5-2 - Prepped well at the Meadowlands.  Not out of it.
6 - Libechen  5-1 - Nice qualifier.  May need a start.

For those looking to play Tioga Downs Saturday evening, here are my selections:

1st Pace - $4,000; Non-winners of 1 race lifetime
6 - Silent Hill  5-2
5 - Goldstar Vincenzo  7-2
4 - Bullville Princess  8-1

2nd Trot - $3,600; Class C-2
4 - Ebba's Yankee  7-2
7 - Swiss Star  4-1
5 - Seven Bends  5-1

3rd Pace - $4,000; Non-winners of 1 race lifetime
6 - P L Dragon  4-1
1 - Shug Shuttle  6-1
7 - TGIF  2-1

4th Pace - $5,800; Winners of 1 but not more than 3 races lifetime
6 - Leah's Prince  7-2
7 - Detail Main  5-2
2 - Sisyphus  8-1
1 - Upfront Cosmo  6-1

5th Trot - $6,300; Class C
6 - Rules Little Man  8-1
8 - Pembroke Chip  8-1
5 - Educator  5-1

6th Pace - $3,400; $4,000 Claiming
6 - Dangerous Truth  9-2
3 - Armbro Claret  7-2
1 - Benzorama A  9-2

7th Pace - $14,000; F-M Class A Handicap
5 - Ubetterthink Think  7-2
6 - Diva Delight 8-1
8 - Impressive Char  5-1
9 - Bet The Ranch  10-1

8th Trot - $9,500; Class B
1 - Lukas Rossi  8-1
5 - Keystone Thomas  4-1
6 - Court Cost  8-1

9th Pace - $9,500; F-M Class B
1 - Hugs Again  9-2
5 - Nonuknlady  8-1
4 - Penny Pincher  6-1

10th Trot - $3,800; $5,000 Claiming
7 - Jaguar  6-1
1 - Prank Player  5-2
4 - Eel  12-1

11th Trot - $4,500; Class C-1
2 - Jeff's Night Out  9-2
3 - Heidi Falls  5-2
8 - Chief Cochise  8-1

12th Pace - $4,500; F-M Class C-1
5 - Big Leag'in  4-1
3 - Lady Luck Le Ru  3-1
7 - Lovely Magic  5-1
9 - Raina Kash  8-1

Could Atlantic City Be An Option?

Note:  This blog entry is a modified version of an earlier blog entry which was removed because some people may have taken it as a 'done deal'.  It is merely one of many rumors going around.

There are many rumors being talked about with regards to the future of the Meadowlands.  The trotters could remain at the Meadowlands; they can move to Monmouth Park as mentioned in the transition team study.  What about Atlantic City Race Course as an option?  Would it be a feasible option?  Is there some logic to moving the trotters to there?   

As you know, Atlantic City Race Course is a track twelve miles outside of Atlantic City proper which runs a six day all-turf thoroughbred meet to keep their simulcasting license. For all practical purposes, the track sits unused.  At this time, I don't think ACRC is a serious option, but there could be some logic to it; it may give Atlantic City casinos cover for continuing subsidies and eliminate the possibility of having slots at the Meadowlands. 

Let’s look at some facts. Governor Christie has already indicated his desire to have racing become self-sustaining which suggests no subsidies are forthcoming from the state. The Meadowlands has already lost their thoroughbred counterparts who have left for Monmouth Park and the initial study done by his transition team has previously suggested the Meadowlands be closed with both breeds racing at Monmouth.

Atlantic City Race Course is owned by Greenwood Racing, owner of Philadelphia Park and part owners with Penn National Gaming of Freehold Raceway. At this point, with no hope for VLTs showing up at these properties, both of these companies are likely holding on to their properties, waiting for the right time to make an escape from New Jersey.

Atlantic City gaming interests don’t want to see casino gambling come to the Meadowlands and they are in no mood to extend the subsidy they currently are providing racing. Right now, if not for the determination of horsemen, there would likely be no serious campaign for VLTs at the Meadowlands. Despite all the talk, horsemen must realize unless Senate President Sweeney changes his tune, no bill authorizing a referendum on a casino at the Meadowlands will ever see the light of day in the state senate.

What could make a move to Atlantic City a win-win situation? The mission of the NJSEA could change to not only support racing, but to help make Atlantic City a true resort destination. As part of this new mission, the government conceivably have the NJSEA purchase Freehold Raceway and Atlantic City Course. Proceeds from selling most of the Meadowlands property can be used towards the purchase of these properties, in addition to the needed renovations to the ACRC plant; allowing Penn National Gaming and Greenwood to escape New Jersey and get maximum value for their properties.   Since this proposal could be sold as improving the Atlantic City market, perhaps some state assistance in bonding could be justified and secured.  The paddock of the Meadowlands could become an OTW facility.

Once renovations were completed, racing would cease at Freehold and the Meadowlands moving to ACRC. In order to kill off the campaign for slots in the Meadowlands, the casinos decide to offer a purse subsidy for horse racing, their rationale being they will be supporting industry and tourism in the Greater Atlantic City vicinity (which may make Atlantic City a better destination resort). During the transition period, the current subsidy would be extended.

Being their short thoroughbred meet has been successful, the thoroughbreds would run a two week all turf meet at ACRC as a warm up to the Monmouth Park meet. A harness meet would race at ACRC during the summer months into early fall, allowing the Hambletonian to be raced there. In a spirit of cooperation, Harrah’s will change Chester Downs’ race meet so they race during the winter and early spring so there would be less competition for horses.

But why would the standardbreds even consider a return to ACRC when it failed there before? One must remember the dynamics has greatly changed. Back in the late 1960’s and early ‘70s, live attendance and wagering is what supported a racetrack, there was no simulcasting or ADWs. Now, with the vast majority of the wagering taking place off-track, live handle and attendance is not as important. Provided the caliber of racing was similar to what is currently being raced at the Meadowlands, an ACRC signal should be in high demand by horseplayers wagering off-track.

I have my doubts regarding this rumor, but as silly as it sounds, I could not dismiss it completely because in some ways, it could make sense.  Make no mistake, a move to ACRC would remove the Meadowlands from being a top tier track, but it could keep it from becoming another Balmoral.  Were this to be any merit to this rumor, I would hope before any such decision is finalized, a trial meet be staged at ACRC to see if the product would be reasonably well-received. We know standardbred horsemen would prefer to race at the Meadowlands, but if this rumor were to turn out to be true, it may be the best ‘deal’ available.

There was a fire in a forty horse barn at Plainridge Raceway recently. Fortunately, no people and horses were seriously injured in this blaze unlike the fire at Lebanon Raceway. The difference? There were sprinklers in the barns at Plainridge Raceway. Horsemen need to demand sprinklers in racetrack barns even if they need to shoulder some of the expense.

Back to the Track

Make plans to come to the track on the weekend of August 14-15 for the first annual Back to the Track event being organizied by the USTA.  This is an effort to get fans to turn off their computers for at least one weekend and head to the track to reaquaint themselves to live race and introduce some friends to harness racing.

Many of us got our start with harness racing by visiting the track.  Why not introduce some of your friends or relatives to the beauty of the sport?  Let's face it, while the computer makes it easy to play the races, it is a very sterile environment; it is hard to get people interested in a sport without experiencing the sights, sounds, and even the smells which accompany racing when you attend the races in person.  By attending the races with non-racing fans, you give them the chance to experience racing, and perhaps help develop new fans for life.

Tracks will be hosting various promotions during this weekend, so it should be a fun to attend the races.  I am certain tracks will be putting their best foot forward for the event.  So why not make plans to come to the track the weekend of August 14-15 and not only introduce new people to harness racing, but to remember why you feel in love with harness racing in the first place?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

A small controversy has broken out regarding disqualifications made at Tioga Downs which occurred over the past two Sundays involving driver Jim Marohn Jr. On May 2, Marohn was disqualified for what is being reported as a slow quarter. In reality, the alleged infraction was likely slowing up too quickly which resulted in confusion amongst the trailing horses. On May 9, Marohn once again was disqualified, this time allegedly for causing interference with the horse behind him.

Were the calls correct or not? I will leave it to other forums to discuss this. What is clear to me is when making a disqualification which impacts the pari-mutuel payoffs, the evidence of an infraction better be clear cut; otherwise the judges should deal with the alleged infraction in a hearing room. People are wagering their hard earned dollars on our races so before the judges make a decision which results in people throwing what they thought were winning tickets away, the infraction needs to be obvious to all reasonable people in attendance; beyond a reasonable doubt.

Secondly, should there be a disqualification; the head judge needs to be on the public address system explaining why a placing is taking place. The explanation needs to accompany a video replay of the infraction with the judges being able to highlight the alleged infraction on the monitor for all to see. Is this too much to ask for our wagering customers? Also, while it is nice to make video replays available, it should be mandatory that the replay be appended with video showing the disqualification; don’t leave it to the viewer to guess what happened.  Having a track announcer explain what the disqualification is not fair to anyone. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Novel Way to Get the Younger Crowd

In Pennsylvania, there is a cross-breed effort to present the racetrack as a fun place to go for younger adults; all part of their TrackPack initiative which includes a website and social networking.  TrackPackPA recently released a commercial which is certain to get people's attention.  Purists may hate it, buy it is innovative.  After all, our traditional commericals are not doing the trick.

Personally, I love this commercial. No, it doesn't directly mention racing, but sometimes when you advertise you don't necessarily advertise your product; you need to get them to talk about your commerical in order to build brand awareness.  The intention of this commercial is to draw traffic to TrackPackPA's website where visitors will be encouraged to sign up to learn what is going on at their local racetrack.  The key is to make going to the races a hip thing to do. 

Time will tell if this commercial pays off.  Hopefully, it does.   

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Great First Step; Sunday Tioga Picks

The United States Trotting Association (USTA) have announced a new program to help standardbreds who have been neglected by their owners. As you probably are aware, animal welfare agents such as your local SPCAs will at times seize animals being neglected by their owners. Like many groups, some of these organizations are hurting for funds in this economic climate; to the point they are unwilling to seize horses due to the expense of maintaining a horse before it is re-homed. To help eliminate this problem, the USTA's new program, Support Our Standardbreds (SOS), will provide funds to animal control groups to feed and provide veterinary care to standardbred horses seized. By offering this program, the hope is no standardbred which is suffering from "criminal" neglect by their owners will have to suffer.

The USTA is to be applauded for the launching of this program. Not only is this doing a great service to these standardbreds in peril, it helps show the industry is trying to take care of its former athletes, not turning their back on them. This is a great first start. Unfortunately, the problem of unwanted standardbreds remains. The time has come for the USTA to develop a program which minimizes the chances of standardbreds finding themselves at risk of slaughter. I am confident as time passes, the problem will be addressed by the USTA. It is not a question of should they; they must.

Tioga Downs now has a page on their website with handicapping information, including the selections for the "Pen vs. Micro-Chip Challenge".   In addition, they also list their simulcasting partners.  As more sites are added to their simulcast network, the list will be updated.  Check it out.

While I am not participating in the challenge, here are my selections for Sunday afternoon at Tioga.  Hopefully, this week will make a better accounting of myself than I did last week.  If you are looking for Saturday's selections you may go here. 

1st Trot - Non-winners of 1 (Mares 2) pari-mutuel races lifetime
3  Incentive Hall  5-1
9  Classic Viking  3-1
4  Iroquoindianattack  8-1

2nd Pace - Class C
5  Rock N Amber  12-1
7  Counter Top  9-2
3  Bond Blue Chip  5-2

3rd Trot - Tioga Country Club Trot, LC #2
9  Study Hall  12-1
2  Definitely Mamie  5-2
3  Comical Dream  6-1

4th Pace - Class B
3  Smarty Merit  8-1
7  Jove's Success  7-2
4  Opan Heart  9-2k2  Burl Hanover  4-1

5th Trot - Tioga Country Club Trot, LC #2
2  Video  2-1
3  Sheezacredit  3-1
8  CC Dancer  4-1

6th Pace - Class A Fillies and Mares
1  Spectacular Cam  3-1
6  Miss Walker  9-2
4  Goldstar Rosie  5-2

7th Pace - Class C
6  Marty Tyme  5-1
8  Nothingcanshakeme  5-1
1  Sun Beau Slick  8-1
5  T B A  8-1

8th Pace - Class B Fillies and Mares
3  Menowyoulater  6-1
6  Shiva Master  9-2
8  Jamacianme Wild  5-1

9th Pace - $10-15,000 Claiming Handicap
4  Tempest Anvil N  12-1
6  Raytheking  5-1
5  Thomas John N  3-1

10th Pace - Class A Handicap
6  That's Justice  5-1
4  Sheer Brilliance  7-2
7  The Awful Truth  5-2

11th Pace - Class C-1
1  Uncommon Hanovoer  3-1
5  Real Houdini  12-1
7  Ludi Christy  4-1

12th Pace - Class C-1 Fillies and Mares
2  Day And Night  3-1
3  Allamerican Quiver  5-1
8  Seek The Dream  12-1

13th Pace - $4,000 Claiming
6  Sweetest Bunny  9-2
3  Zeesfasthands  8-1
2  Family Fortune  6-1
1  Savannah Scion  5-2