For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Friday, July 30, 2010

Down Not Out at the Meadowlands, Tioga Driving Championship

Down but not out was the theme at last night's horsemen's meeting at the Meadowlands as the SBOANJ has called for unity with the thoroughbred industry in an effort to fight the conclusion to the Hanson Report.  In the meeting, SBOANJ President Tom Luchento indicated that the "alternatives" offered by the Hanson Report would be the death knell to all horse racing in New Jersey as no one will want to buy a track without the prospects of slots.

Luchento was correct when he said the main reason for removing racing from the Meadowlands was so it could eventually be made into Atlantic City North without having to cut the horsemen in.  The position is racing at the Meadowlands and Freehold are the only feasible options with the possibility of an elite meet occurring at the Meadowlands.  You may read the complete text of Luchento's remarks here

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Governor Christie, in a meeting with legislators from Monmouth County, challenged the legislators to come up with a plan for the long-term survival of racing without state subsidies.  This would suggest the Governor is not as entrenched in his position as he indicated at his press conference announcing the results of the Hanson Commission.

One of the suggestions to make the Meadowlands thrive is the idea of a hundred night 'Elite' meet like Monmouth Park with an average purse distribution of $400,000 on a nightly basis.  It is estimated that the handle would support $200,000 a night which means the rest would have to come from a subsidy.  Quite honestly, I don't know how an 'Elite' meet could have a hundred nights of racing and where the $20 million in subsidies will be coming from.  Perhaps it is a case of asking for a whole loaf and settling for something less.

In Ontario, a petition is being circulated by Standardbred Canada asking that 5% of the slot revenue be diverted to be used for the development of racing and sustaining the sport.  Amongst the things these funds would be used for is the Canada One project (creating a satellite signal packaging numerous harness tracks in an all day program including exotic bets), development of a lottery type wager and other initiatives to stimulate interest.  While New Jersey doesn't have slots, it would have been interesting if other states with slot revenue (such as New York) had developed a similar program; perhaps the industry would be doing much better and we would not even be having to deal with the crisis in New Jersey. 

Do you support racing surviving in New Jersey?  If you wish to see horse racing continuing at ACRC, Freehold, Meadowlands and/or Monmouth Park, give Governor Christie's office a call and let him know how important it is to keep horse racing alive in New Jersey.  More details, including the phone number can be found here.

Sunday brings us the annual Driving Championship at Tioga Downs.  The drivers will be competing in six dashes out of the thirteen race card, including one dash at 1 1/4 miles.  Since there are many NYSS races on the card, not only are you seeing these drivers in additional races; other drivers of note will be competing there as well.  As always, the Driving Championship promises to be a hard fought contest with a total prize pool of $40,000 with $25,000 to the winning driver.

My selections for the entire Sunday afternoon Tioga card follows.  You will note I am only providing horses' names and not wagering numbers for Sunday's card as it was necessary for me to handicap the card prior to scratch time.  In some races, there are also eligibles listed.  If I like an also eligible, it will be denoted by being in italics; in which  case, not only will it be listed, I will select an additional horse in the event the AE does not draw in.

Races in the Driving Championship will be listed in bold and will show the drivers assigned to the top picks. 

1st - Rarely Ordinary, Quantum Incredible, Beast Of The East
2nd - Devastating A (Gingras), Here Comes Kris (Pierce), Reasontocelebrate (Bartlett)
3rd - Typical Newyorker, Sing Out, You Go Now
4th - Tarver Hanover (Bartlett), Diamond Stick Pin (Palone), Ironstone Wiz (Sears), Jove's Success (Ranger)
5th - Small Bill, Rhythmic Moves, Petraeus
6th - Saturn Blue Chip, Newsboy Moriarty, Lucid Thoughts
7th - (1 1/4 miles) - Blazing Winner (Pierce), Rally By The River (TBA), He's A Blizzard (Gingras), K M Dreamcatcher (Brennan), Betteka (Tetrick)
8th - All In Tad, Quantum Cashman, Steubenmeanmachine
9th - Jeremy's Successor (Sears), Where's Waldo (Tetrick), Sheer Brilliance (Campbell)
10th - Front Man, Dejarmbro, Daleydaydream
11th - Screenplay (Bartlett), Max Q (Gingras), Prince Juniper (Ranger)
12th - Whiskey Pete (Pierce), Power Park (Ranger), My Last Laugh (Tetrick)
13th - Alaric, Petruchio, Whitewater Rapids, Surface Tension

The Other Elims; Adioo Volo, Tioga Sat Nite

There are other important races at the Meadows and the Meadowlands on Saturday.  At the Meadows, there are three divisions of the Adioo Volvo, the filly companion race to the Adios.  At the Meadowlands, there are three eliminations to the Hambletonian Oaks for 3yo trotting fillies plus eliminations for the Mistletoe Shalee and the Lady Liberty plus the weekly pacing Invitational.  In an earlier post, I had provided selections for the Adios and the Hambletonian eliminations.  You may click on the above link to see those selections.

Here are my selections for the three division of the Adioo Volvo plus the consolation for the Adios.

7th Pace - $75,971; Adioo Volvo 1st Division - 3yo fillies
8 - Dancin Barefoot (Y. Gingras, 2-1)
6 - Full Picture (T. Tetrick, 3-1)
4 - Thesantafe Express (E. Ledford, 20-1)
5 - O Lucky Me (R. Paver, 6-1)

8th Pace - $50,000; Adios Consolation - 3yo Open
5 - Tobago Cays (B. Sears, 6-1)
1A-Fisher's Character (T. Hall, 7-2)
2 - Europan Union (A. Miller, 9-2)
Coupled: Blue Rock and Fisher's Character

9th Pace - $75,971; Adioo Volvo 2nd Division - 3yo fillies
8 - Naughtytiltheend (B. Sears, 6-1)
1 - Northwest Hanover (T. Tetrick, 2-1)
4 - It's De Lovely (D. Palone, 9-2)

10th Pace - $75,971; Adioo Volvo 3rd Division - 3yo fillies
5 - Western Royalty (D. Charlino, 5-1)
4 - Queen Me (B. Miller, 5-1)
1 - The MGM Pan (J. Morrill Jr, 12-1)

Here are my selections for the eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks, Mistletoe Shalee, and Lady Liberty finals being held next Saturday at the Meadowlands in addition to the Invitational pace on Saturday night. 

1st Trot - $35,000; Hambletonian Oaks Elimination #1 - 3yo fillies
5 - Glide Power (T. Tetrick, 2-1)
3 - Glide Power (B. Sears, 4-1)
2 - Bone A Fide (Y. Gingras, 5-1)

2nd Trot - $35,000; Hambletonian Oaks Elimination #2 - 3yo fillies  
4 - Springtime Volo (G. Brennan, 5-2)
2 - Southwind Samurai (J. Campbell, 6-1)
5 - Wingbat (T. Tetrick, 15-1)

3rd Trot - $35,000; Hambletonian Oaks Eliminatin #3 - 3yo fillies
5 - Ultimate Cameron (T. Ritchie, 3-1)
8 - Spicy Wings (J. Campbell, 5-2)
1 - Behindcloedoors (T. Tetrick, 4-1)

8th Pace - $32,000; Invitational
1 - Hypnotic Blue Chip (J. Jamieson, 3-1)
8 - Riggins (J. Morrill Jr, 5-2)
5 - Corky Baran (D. Dube, 10-1)

10th Pace - $25,000; Mistletoe Shalee Elimination #1 - 3yo fillies
3 - Put On A Show (T. Tetrick, 3-5)
4 - Dancingwiththestarz (B. Sears, 4-1)
1 - Higher And Higher (J. Morrill Jr, 5-1)
Coupled: Higher And Higher and Casino Nights

11th Pace - $40,000; Lady Liberty - FFA Mares
5 - On The Glass (Y. Gingras, 2-1)
4 - Dreamfair Eternal (Ra. Wapples, 5-2)
1A-Not Enough (J. Campbell 4-1)
Coupled: Yellow Diamond, Not Enough, Showherthemoney, and Shacked Up

12th Pace - $25,000; Mistletoe Shalee - Elimination #2 - 3yo fillies
2 - Panagler (D. Palone, 2-1)
4 - A And Gs Princess (D. Miller, 5-2)
6 - Rock N Soul
Coupled: Cannae Cammie and By Your Side

The following are selections for Saturday night at Tioga Downs.
1st - Hollys Kat Kan Do Heikki, Andover Victory (5-2-1)
2nd - Arabica, Western Albert, JK Jackpot (5-3-8)
3rd - K M Sweet Dreams, Talkabout Joy Saskia Lavictoire (1-3-6)
4th - Yankee Gospel, Lucky Hit, Woody Marvel, Lindy The Shark (7-3-6-4)
5th - Fast Mail, Bonnie And Slide Talulla Davine (4-5-2)
6th - Tia Maria Kosmos, Keystone Thomas, Diva Diva (5-6-3)
7th - Doc's All Class, Slated For Success, Dutch Hill Photo, Billboard King (7-2-3-4)
8th - Andover America, Baseball Express, Katie's Red Rose (6-5-3)
9th - Miss Rambo, Bluff Springs, Hot Potato (7-2- 6)
10th - Odds On Diamant, Bolero Electra, Malachy, Cheeriam (1-8-4-6)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weekend Doings

While the focus is on the Hambletonian and the Adios this weekend, there is other racing action to consider this weekend. At the Meadowlands, Thursday night has the eliminations for the Merrie Annabelle, while Friday evening features the eliminations for the Peter Haughton Memorial. Friday night at the Meadowlands is the first leg of the Miss Versatility.

The Miss Versatility is a race for trotting mares, 3 years old and up. What is unique about the Miss Versatility is the preliminary legs of the series are raced at three different tracks. The first leg is being conducted at the Meadowlands which is a mile track. After this leg, the series moves to Tioga Downs (5/8 mile), and Vernon Downs (7/8 mile). The highest point earners in this series will race at the Delaware County Fair, a half mile oval. The Miss Versatility is the perfect example of how tracks can work together to get the better horses to visit different tracks to drum up interest. Credit must also be given to the owners of some of the horses competing as they are giving up opportunities to race for more money on a weekly basis to compete in this series.

Saturday night in addition to the Hambletonian, there are eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks, Mistletoe Shalee, and the Lady Liberty. My selections will be posted in a subsequent posting.

Sunday, brings us Tioga Downs annual driving championship which brings the top money earning drivers to Tioga Downs to compete in a series of races to compete for $40,000 in prize money, including $25,000 for the winning driver. The drivers competing in the driving championship will be Tim Tetrick, George Brennan, Brian Sears, Jason Bartlett, Ron Pierce, Dave Palone, and Yannick Gingras. Joining these seven drivers will be John Campbell, who gets a sponsor’s exemption and Bruce Ranger, who is the leading driver at Tioga Downs this season. Will these drivers take this competition seriously? Taking home the $25,000 top prize is equal to the money a driver would earn winning the Meadowlands Pace. With driving assignments being drawn randomly, the races in the series should provide good wagering opportunities.

Here are my selections for the Merrie Annabelle, Peter Haughton Memorial eliminations and the Miss Versatility in addition to selections for Friday evening’s card at Tioga Down.

Thursday, Meadowlands - 2nd Trot - $20,000; Merrie Annabelle Elimination #1 – 2yo fillies
4 – Thatsnotmyname (J. Campbell, 5-2)
2 – Angelette Hanover (R. Pierce, 6-1)
7 – Medusa Blue Chip (J. Morrill Jr., 9-2)

Thursday, Meadowlands – 5th Trot - $20,000; Merrie Annabelle Elimination #2 – 2yo fillies
7 – Refuse To Lose (B. Sears, 8-1)
4 – Global Desire (R. Pierce, 5-2)
1 – Grace Marie (G. Brennan, 12-1)

Friday, Meadowlands – 3rd Trot - $25,000; Miss Versatility Preliminary Leg – Open Mares
1 – Buck I St Pat (T. Tetrick, 6-5)
2 – Windsong Soprano (R. Pierce, 5-1)
8 – Autumn Escapade (D. miller, 4-1)
Coupled: Buck I St Pat and Southwind Wasabi; No Show Wagering

Friday, Meadowlands – 4th Trot - $20,000; Peter Haughton Memorial – 1st Elimination – 2yo colts and geldings
7 – The Lindy Reserve (T. Tetrick, 10-1)
5 – Leader Of The Gang (R. Pierce, 2-1)
3 – Magnum Kosmos (G. Brennan, 4-1)
2 – Groom Hanover (M. Lachance, 10-1)

Friday, Meadowlands – 6th Trot - $20,000; Peter Haughton Memorial – 2nd Elimination – 2yo colts and geldings
3 – Evil Urges (D. Miller, 3-1)
6 – Charlie De Vie (M. Lachance, 9-2)
5 – Broad Bahn (R. Pierce, 5-1)

For those looking to take advantage of the takeout rates at Tioga Downs, here are my selections for Friday night’s card.

1st – Mackgun Mamie, Classic Vikin, Especially Brassy (7-9-5)
2nd – Glenna S Angel, Bond Blue chip, DVC Freewaytofame (1-5-4)
3rd – Bettor B Genuine, Sabrina B, Kahlo C C (1-2-5)
4th – Wolf's Jann, Franky Provolone, Worth Keeping, Pretty Girl (2-4-8-5)
5th –  Forever Libby, Cape Cove Daisy, Spectacular Cam (2-7-5)
6th – Harper Lee, Head Over Heels, My True Delight (2-7-4)
7th – Don't Touch This, Silverdollar Shark, Tangerine, Little Pop Queen (8-5-9-2)
8th – Lucy Lucy, All Spirit, Elusive Prey (4-6-2)
9th – My Taylor's Maid, Doc's Whisky, LA Dreamin Delight (5-7-2)
10th – Day And Niht, Splenda, Fox Valley Marissa, Huge Success N (8-2-9-5)

Just Another Horse Race

“Just another horse race” the gambler told me regarding the Adios. He was referring to the fact the Adios is no longer raced in heats. He further laments by scheduling the Adios before the Hambletonian, when the Meadowlands runs all the big stakes races, many of the top horses who used to make a visit to the Pittsburgh area oval are now MIA. For the first time in thirty years, this fan who is a serious gambler intends to skip the annual pilgrimage to The Meadows.

In many ways, the same can be said about the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks. In an effort to become more friendly to television and to make things easier for simulcast gamblers, the Hambletonian Society years ago decided to eliminate not only the need to win two races in one day, it decided to eliminate heats and go to eliminations the week before. Yes, Hambletonian Day is still special, but it has more to do with the Hambletonian and Oaks being two of nine stakes races being contested that day (the others being the Merrie Annabelle, Peter Haughton Memorial, Mistletoe Shalee, US Pacing Championship, Nat Ray, Lady Liberty, and Oliver Wendell Holmes) than the specific races themselves.

Make no mistake, for people in the industry, these races are important. For the winning owner, a lucrative pay day and if the Hambletonian winner is a colt, a lucrative syndication deal and demand in the breeding shed awaits. For the racing public it is just another stakes race with a faulty elimination system.

It is not that I am a traditionalist. I have been calling for change in the sport; calling for more horses per race, varying distances; how horses qualify for stakes races. Change is inevitable; something this industry has been hesitant to embrace. But while change is inevitable, it doesn’t mean you need to give up the soul of who you are. When we eliminated heat racing in the Adios and Hambletonian, we did just that; we lost something which we may never get back. The Adios and Hambletonian were special, something different; now just another stakes race.

The Adios and Hambletonian were races of speed, endurance, and stamina. Fans saw something different; gamblers had another variable to consider in the mix. You do a disservice to the memory of champions like Speedy Crown and Abercrombie when you equate their victories to those of modern day winners as it cheapens the victory of those legends.

The Adios and Hambletonian were once something special. Now, they are just stakes races and we are poorer for it.

Here are my selections for the Adios final and the Hambletonian eliminations.  As a reminder, the Meadows will be contesting the Adios race card Saturday afternoon.

The Meadows 11th Pace - $500,000; Delvin Miller Adios – 3yo Open
3 – Versado (D. Palone, 2-1)
4 – We Will See (B. Miller, 4-1)
9 – Rockin image (Y. Gingras, 3-1)
7 – I’m Gorgeous (A. Miller, 12-1)

Meadowlands 4th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination #1 – 3yo Open
1 - Muscle Massive (R. Pierce, 9-5)
5 – Pilgrims Chuckie (T. Tetrick, 6-1)
4 – Pilgrims Taj (M. Lachance, 3-1)
2 – Winning Fireworks (J. Campbell, 15-1)

Meadowlands 5th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination #2 – 3yo Open
5 – Lucky Chucky (J. Campbell, 7-2)
2 – Holiday Road (B. Sears, 9-5)
7 – He’s A Demon (J. Jamieson, 9-2)
3 – Coco Lindy (T. Tetrick, 10-1)

Meadowlands 6th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination #3 – 3yo Open
5 – Cassis (T. Tetrick, 3-1)
3 – Temple of Doom (D. Miller, 5-2)
4 – Pretty Boy Lindy (G. Brennan, 6-1)
2 – On The Tab (Y. Gingras, 5-1)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Claiming Championship

Every year, the Hambletonian Society sponsors the Breeders Crown which is intended to be the championship for the various divisions of harness racing. For the most part, these races are the domain of high powered owners and syndicates looking forward to a future of breeding in search of the next champion. While these races are deservedly high profile, we tend to forget the horses who race at our raceways on a nightly basis. There is no recognition for the owners who keep the raceways operating via the claiming horse.

The thoroughbred industry pays tribute to their claiming horses with the running of the Claiming Crown which was held this past weekend at Canterbury Down in Minnesota. It is time for the harness racing industry to honor our claiming stock with our own version of the Claiming Crown; let’s call it the Claiming Championships. The Claiming Championship could easily be scheduled the night before the Breeders Crown at the same location and hosting the Claiming Championship could be a condition of hosting the Breeders Crown.

One possibility would be we have four classes where horses could be nominated to. Horses that raced for a base claiming price no more than $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000 in addition to horses that race for a claiming price over $50,000 during the current year with purses of $30,000, $75,000, $150,000, and $200,000 respectively. For the three lower classes, we can have separate race for each sex and gait with the highest class being separated only by gait. Instead of eliminations, each race would be limited to a field of eight, nine or ten depending on the size of the host track. To ensure representation from around the country, the ten highest adjusted money earners will be invited to start with earnings being adjusted to account for the discrepancy between traditional and racino tracks. Horses would need to be nominated and pay a starting fee to draw into the race.

The time has come to recognize the importance of claiming races to our industry.  A Claiming Championship may be the perfect way to do it.

There is a little good news for horse racing in New Jersey. The one day summit which was scheduled for Atlantic City has now been extended to make stops in Monmouth and Bergen Counties in New Jersey; providing an opportunity for the horse industry to be heard in their backyard.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hambletonian Post Positions Drawn

Twenty-four horses entered for the Hambletonian this year necessitating three elimination divisions to be run. Here is the post position drawn for the three eliminations, plus the initial driver listed. You will see drivers with more than one drive; they will choose their drives tomorrow.

1st elimination
1-Take My Picture - Gregory
2-On The Tab – D. Miller
3-Temple Of Doom – D. Miller
4-Pretty Boy Lindy T. Tetrick
5-Cassis-T Tetrick
6-Boztheman- Sears
7-Arriba Amigo- Ritchie
8-Wishing Stone- Campbell

2nd elimination
1-Mystery Photo- A. Miller
2-Holiday Road- Sears
3-Coco Lindy-T Tetrick
4-Break The Bank K- Palone
5-Lucky Chucky- Campbell
6-Senor Glide-Dube
7-He's A Demon- Jamieson
8-Plan B In HD-Campbell

3rd elimination
1-Muscle Massive- Pierce
2-Winning Fireworks- Campbell
3-Perseverando- TBA
4-Pilgrims Taj- M. Lachance
5-Pilgrims Chuckie- M. Lachance
6-Flex The Muscle- Schnittker
7-Hard Livin- Gingras
8-RC Gallent Image- Brennan

Clearly the second elimination will be the most anticipated of the three with Holiday Road and Lucky Chucky meeting once again. Odds are one of these two will be standing in the winner’s circle on August 7 so with the elimination winner getting to chose their post position in the final, the race may be over after post positions are drawn for the final.

Once again, the Hambletonian is a perfect example of setting the stakes conditions for the owners instead of the public who keep the business going. Rather than putting on two divisions of twelve horses; something gamblers would relish and support, we find ourselves with three divisions of eight horses, praying no one scratches out and makes these races totally unplayable. Pretend these were not Hambletonian eliminations and what would we be doing? Lamenting the fact the Meadowlands has three races of short fields.

I recognize owners want to be on the gate when they pay to get in, but sooner or later, we need to learn we are putting the show for the gamblers and fans, not the owners. Hopefully they will learn this before the Hambletonian becomes a $250,000 race again.

In other news, as reported by , Bulletproof Enterprises and related entities are once again allowed to enter races in New Jersey under a settlement with the NJRC.    

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gaining Control Back of the Product; Dennis Robinson Speaks

So what does horse racing need to do to survive and prosper in the long run? There are a slew of things which need to be done which have been talked about in this blog and other sources for years, but there is one step racing needs to take or it may all be for naught.

Racing needs to take back control of its signal. While the vast majority of the wagering is being done off-track, so little of it is coming back to the sport; typically horsemen and racetracks earn half as much on a dollar wagered through an ADW or simulcast site than it makes on the elusive on-track wager. An ADW which doesn’t own a racetrack can live with a low commission rate as their costs are much lower, but most of the producers of the product, track operators and horsemen, can’t survive for any length of time on such margins. Hence, ADWs can offer bigger and more frequent rebates than a racetrack is able to.

Racetracks of all breeds need to get together and form their own ADW to compete against the existing ADWs and run it for the benefit of the racing industry. Depending on a metric to be determined, racetrack would need to contribute funds for the start up of the company. Rather than the current split of the commission, this racetrack sponsored-ADW would only retain a percentage to cover the operating expenses of the ADW with the balance of the commission being distributed to the track and horsemen producing the product.

Of course, such an ADW would have to take steps to avoid violating anti-competition laws. Current ADWs will still need to be given the option of carrying a racetrack’s signal, but when contracts are up for renewal, the terms can be renegotiated. Since more of the commission would be going to the producers of the product, they will be able to compete with the existing ADWs and offer rebates they currently are unable to offer. If a gambler stays with their current ADW, the tracks will be no worse than they are now, but every gambler who decides to switch over to the industry-owned ADW, will result in greater income for the tracks and horsemen.

Fearful of the ADWs retaliating against the tracks if this was done? Remember, the existing ADWs have to worry about anti-trust violations as well.  You might not be able to get rid of the existing ADWs, but there is no reason why the tracks can’t compete against them.

Runners returning to Hazel Park?  According to an article in the Detroit News, management at Hazel Park is considering adding a thoroughbred meet to Hazel Park for the first time since 1984.  This would not displace the standardbreds, but may be an attempt to maximize the number of racing days at the plant.  While thoroughbred purists don't care for bull ring racing, the thoroughbred horsemen know their situation at Pinnacle Race Course is tenuous at best so racing on the bull ring is better than no racing at all.  Michigan harness interests need to be somewhat concerned that one day they may be on the outside looking in.

Dennis Robinson, the CEO of the NJSEA was interviewed regarding Governor Christie's plans for the Meadowlands.  It is business as usual at the Meadowlands for the balance of 2010. 

There were some rumors going around that Freehold Raceway was going to close in February, 2011.  Freehold management has gone on record as saying Freehold will race in 2011.  During this period of uncertainty, there will be plenty of rumors flying.  My guess is there will be racing at both the Meadowlands and Freehold next year; how much racing remains to be seen. 

Sand Pail won the Maple Leaf Trot last night at Mohawk in an impressive display.  What happened to the American dynamic duo of Enough Talk and Lucky Jim?  Enough Talk jumped off the moment they came down the stretch while Lucky Jim's mystique may have worn off with his fourth place finish.  Actually, the horse that impressed me was the Eurpoean invader Reven Damour who was placed second.  Slave Dreamer, who finished second was disqualified for a lap on break would likely have finished third anyway if he stayed flat as it looked to me like he gained ground on the break.  Considering this was Reven's second start in North America, it was an excellent attempt.  Hopefully we will see Reven Damour at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Other Voices, Sunday Tioga

A prominent individual in the standardbred industry summed up what is going on in New Jersey this way:

“There's a down the road agenda which doesn't include the money drain which unfortunately the horse fraternity has contributed to by it's abandoning ship for Racino pastures.... And OBVIOUS reluctance to stop the crap and put on a better show.” 

Actually, he said something besides 'crap', but you get the drift.  Clearly this person feels the decision to close the Meadowlands was pre-determined before the Hanson Commission even met, most likely for the benefit the casino lobby.  Of course, horsemen fleeing the Meadowlands for greener pastures helped the argument to close the Meadowlands more palatable as handle and attendance declined.  As for his last comment?  I will let his comment speak for itself.

Perhaps even more damning is an editorial in The Herald News, sister publication to The Record, which serves the Meadowlands area and has been traditionally supportive of the Meadowlands Racetrack.  When you have lost the support of your local newspaper, how much success are you going to have enlisting the general public to your cause?

For those who say, live attendance doesn't matter, let this be a warning.  Maybe your biggest players are no longer coming to the track, sitting home at their laptop, but you need to put people in the seats at the track.  In some ways, the casual fan is more important than the whales  They may not bet as much as the whales, but they bet some.  They spend money in the local community before and after the races.  They make the track look alive rather than being an empty cavern.  They show people care about racing.  People see or hear about what's going on.  When you have a racetrack which looks more abandoned than alive when you are racing, it gives off the perception no one cares; making it easy to say it is time for the track to close.

Lastly, I bring you the words of Scott Rowe, the former Chairman of the Board at Georgian Downs:

"The possible demise of the once greatest harness racetrack in North America is a wake-up call to an industry that has been sleeping heavily for too long".

I think it is safe to say the industry has woken up.  The question is will the industry finally make the changes they need to do?  If the Meadowlands does close, maybe it will be the moment industry leaders get it.
For those playing Tioga Downs, here are my selections for Sunday afternoon.

1st - Don'tcomeout, Allamerican Solo, First Of Fun (3-4-5)
2nd - Power Park, Mike And Jim, Goodbye So Long (4-5-1)
3rd - Hit Away, Alexanderthegreat N, Lite The Fire (4-1-3)
4th - Slick Sylvestor N, Big Al's Delight, Reasontocelebrate, Leutenant General (7-5-2-1)
5th - Coronet Hanover, Village Blizzard, A Canuck Eh (6-3-2)
6th - Life At Midnight, Draftmania, Southwind Mario (5-7-1)
7th - Hay Goodlooking, Vertigo Hanover, Who Dey, Special Character (7-1-3-4)
8th - Big Mystery, Shinedupnreadytogo, There He Is (2-4-8)
9th - Life's Bandit, Yokozuna Bo, National Artchive (3-1-5)
10th - Bullville Powerful, winbak Dimension, Paydaze A Comin (6-2-3)
11th - Hearty Fellow, Sun Beau Slick, Whole Lotta Wow (6-1-7)
12th - My Time Hanover, Bolero Artifice, Brighton Bay One, Gota Go Bullville (2-1-9-4)

Gaming Summit Set for August 6, Tarport Hap

The New Jersey Legislature's Gaming Summit will take place on August 6 in Atlantic City.  It would've been a nice show of support for the racing industry if it would have been held at a racetrack, even if it was Atlantic City Race Course or held for two days; one day in Atlantic City and the second day at Monmouth Park or the Meadowlands.  So much for the importance of both industries.

There is a movement afoot asking horsemen to flood the Meadowlands' entry box as a sign of support for the embattled racetrack. It will be interesting to see if these horsemen who are stabled at New Jersey training centers currently supporting Chester, Pocono, and Yonkers' racing programs can sacrifice for a month to support the Meadowland's entry box.

Saturday night at the Meadowlands brings us a couple divisions of the Tarport Hap.    In the first division, (3rd race), it looks like an easy victory for Put On A Show (#9) who meets a relatively weak field of fillies.  Granted, 7-5 is not attractive, but if you can get anything greater than odds on, he is worth the bet despite the starting position.  Second best may be Dancin Barefoot (#5) who finished second behind Put On A Show in their last start.  If Put On A Show is odds-on and Dancin Barefoot stays at 5-1 or higher, Dancin Barefoot may be worth some support as she moves in while Put On A Show moves further out.  Finishing out the top three I am looking at Seriously (#4) who ships down from Mohawk after competing repectably in the Town Pro late closing series.

In the second division (7th race), it appears to be more wide open.   I am looking for a possible upset with A Pippin Hanover (#4) who finished last in her last start at Mohawk.  While she finished last, she did start from the ten hole and was parked the whole mile.  Despite being parked, she was leading to the three quarters before folding.  With a much better post position and picking up John Campbell, she may be worth support at her morning line odds of 12-1.  Feeling You (#6) who finished third to Put On A Show in her return after a brief vacation is the logical favorite who may very well take it all if A Pippin Hanover throws a clunker.  Rock N Soul (#2) and Siri Hanover (#3) can complete the exotics.

Finally, here is a video showing the great pacing mare Tarport Hap, winning the U.S. Pacing Championship at Roosevelt Raceway in 1976 in 1:57 defeating the great Rambling Willie in addition to Handle With Care, Keystone Accent, Shirleys Beau, Fly Fly Solly, Momentum, and one of my all-time favorites, Nickawampus Leroy.     

Friday, July 23, 2010

Adios Elims; Maple Leaf Trot

Now back to racing.....

While most of the stakes action takes place at Mohawk this weekend, there is some action of note at the Meadows this Saturday; the three elimination races which will determine the field for next week's Adios Stakes.  The field did lose it' marquee entry when Sportswriter's connections decided the colt had enough of the heat and humidity and sent the North America Cup winner home.  While Rock N Roll Heaven and One More Laugh are missing from the field, there are enough solid three year olds competing to make the Adios a race to watch. 

The Meadows - Saturday, July 24
9th Pace - $50,000; Delvin Miller Adios Elimination #1 - 3yo Open
1  We Will See (5-2) - Colt showed he belongs in the NA Cup.  With the rail figures to be seen at the end.
2  Bombastic (6-1) - A nice overnight horse tries his luck against better.  Reaching here.
3  Fisher's Character (5-1) - Winner in second-tier PA stakes.  Can't ignore with Palone.
4  Rockin Image (7-5) - Horse is the one to beat but offers no value.  Will try to beat.
5  Delmaralous (4-1) - Haas been racing better than it shows.  Upset pick to win it all here.
6  Europan Union (8-1) - Seems to be overmatched.  Pass.
7  Shoobee's Place (8-1) - Been a fringe player at this level.  Can't see.
Selections: 5-4-1

10th Pace - $50,000; Delvin Miller Adios Elimination #2 - 3yo Open
1  Art Professor (8-1) - Best efforts have been on the smaller ovals.  Don't ignore.
2  Outrageous Art (7-2) - Winner of 6 out of 8 takes on better. 
3  I'm Gorgeous (4-1) - Was able to pick up the pieces in the Pace.  Can improve against slightly weaker field.
4  Golden Time (6-1) - Trio of seconds in lower level stakes.  Will need to step it up here.
5  Versado (5-2) - Burke Trainee moves up in class.  Not sure a pick here at low odds..
6  TSM Ryans Dragon (8-1) - Seemingly overmatched.  Pass.
7  Nova Artist (5-1) - Would not shock me againt these if he won despite the post.
Selections:  1-3-7

11th Pace - $50,000; Delvin Miller Adios Elimination #3 - 3yo Open
1  Tobago Cays (10-1) - Has been racing empty but finally draws inside.  May land in trifecta.
2  Jonesie Hanover (8-1) - Finished second against We Will See in last.  Let 9th race be your guide.
3  Trick Man (10-1) - Seems to be a tough spot.
4  Pang Shui (6-1) - Another who raced We Will See in last with tougher trip.  Possible upset.
5  Valentino (5-2) - The class of the field was impeded and finished 3rd in Pace.  Horse to beat..
6  Blue Rock (9-2) - Comes off two wins against overnighters.  May be able to compete here for minor spoils.
7  Whackamole Hanover (8-1) - Scratched out of last.  Pass.
8  Foreign Officer (7-2) - Second tier horse would not surprise if he lands share.
Selections: 5-4-6

At Mohawk on Saturday evening, top older horses take center stage in the Maple Leaf Trot, Armbro Flight, and the Roses Are Red Stakes.  With Enough Talk and Lucky Jim renewing their rivalry, a lot of drama will be playing out in the Maple Leaf.  Every one is saying this race is a two horse race but there is a wild card in the European invader Reven Damour.

At Mohawk we see another poor way to handle eliminations.  In these races, more than ten horses entered  each; but not enough to card multiple eliminations.  In this case, the best horses were given byes with the rest having to compete to qualify.  This means horses with a bye could take the week off while the others needed to race, possibly providing them an advantage.  While these horses probably would have qualified if they needed to compete, it is not fair to the otherss.  Either you need to compete to race or draw the race based on monetary earnings. 

Mohawk Racetrack - Saturday, July 24
7th Trot - $772,000; Maple Leaf Trot - Open
  1  Enough Talk (5-2) -  A different horse from last year.  The one to beat.
  2  All Cantab (15-1) - Must improve greatly to be a factor here.
  3  Lucky Jim (3-1) - While he seems to have lost a step of late, he can't be disregarded.
  4  San Pail (3-1) - Elimination winner is 7 for 9 this year.  Now is the time to step up.
  5  Slave Dream (15-1) - Grabbed the last spot last week.  Will be lucky to pick up a check.
  6  Reven Damour (8-1) - Ignoring this horse would be a mistake.  Potential to shock.
  7  Armbro Chronicle (12-1) - Will be meeting better here.
  8  Lanson (10-1) -  Has not returned to his form from last year.  Pass.
  9  Triumphant Caviar (20-1) - Will need luck to get involved here.
10  Define The World (20-1) - Has not returned to the form he displayed in Europe.
AE Wind Surfer (NA) - No post will help him if he draws in.
Selections: 6-1-3-4

9th Trot - $351,000; Armbro Flight - Open Fillies and Mares
   1  Buck I St Pat (1-1) - Mare finally gets to race against her own gender.  May run away from these.
   2  Southwind Wasabi (10-1) - Closed sharply last week.  Maybe best of the rest.
   3  Friendly Amigo (12-1) - Racing hoping for a miracle.  Not likely.
   4  Autumn Escapade (9-2) - Elimination winner on three race win streak.  Only one with a chance to defeat the top pick.
   5  Windsong Soprano (7-1) - Has not shown she can take on the top aged mares.
   6  Yursa Hanover (12-1) - Will be a good one.  Not yet.
   7  Rose Run Keepsake (10-1) - Needs cover to get into race.  Exotic posibility.
   8  Elusive Desire (8-1) - Only wins came against Ontario breds.
   9  Diana Hall (25-1) - No chance against these.
 10  Kandor Hanover (20-1) - Was trailing badly when jumped in last.  Pass.
Selections:  1-4-2-7

10th Pace - $376,000; Roses Are Red Stakes - Open Fillies and Mares
   1  Shanghai Lil (8-1) - A step below these but could land share with best.
   2  Ginger And Fred (5-1) - Was unable to close after getting a perfect trip.  Pass.
   3  A PS Money Maker (8-1) - Seems to have tailed off.
   4  Dreamfair Eternal (2-1) -  Queen of the aged pacing ranks riding three race win streak.  The one to beat.
   5 Arts Diva (15-1) - Has finished second to top choice several times.  Don't ignore.
   6  Miss Scarlett (20-1) - Is overmatched against these.
   7  Tug River Princess (5-2) - Can take this race if Dreamfair is not at best. 
   8  Chancey Lady (8-1) - Completes superfecta on best.
   9  Up Front Kellie Jo (25-1) - No chance here.
 10  To Helen Back (15-1) - Wouldn't shock if she completes the superfecta.
 AE  Forever Ivy (NA) - Can land share if she draws inside.
Selects: 4-5-7-10

For those following Tioga Downs, here are my selections for Friday and Saturday nights.  Apologies for the late posting.

Tioga Downs, Friday, July 23
1st - Bonnie And Slide, Leah Me Alone, Talulla Davine (3-7-5)
2nd - Canaco Piment, Rising Debt, Huge Success N (7-1-6)
3rd - Go Gal Go, Belle Of The Brawl, Fast Mail (4-7-5)
4th - Ranger One, Colonial Mansion, CR's Gift, Just Listed (8-1-3-6)
5th - Radiant Hall, Little Pop Queen, Don't Touch This (1-2-7)
6th - Feel The Rush, George Is A Hit, Tuscan Lady (1-4-9)
7th - Shady Matilda, Cape Cove Daisy, Spectacular Cam, Allamerican Celeb (2-6-1-9)
8th - Eagle Way, Lucy Lucy, Elusive Prey (2-5-6)
9th - Amile To Remember, Keep On Believin, Mandolin Hanover (4-6-2)
10th - Bolero Electra, Celeriter, Odd On Diamant, RG Queensmagic (3-1-2-6)

Tioga Downs, Saturday, July 24
1st - Honey Ofacharacter, Fox Valley Primo, Western Albert (3-2-9)
2nd - Bar None, Witness Perfection, Lost Weight (4-6-8)
3rd - Kash N Credit, Ladainian, Rally By The River (2-5-4)
4th - Talkaboutjoy, Four Starz Motor, Yankee Gospel, Betteka (3-4-7-2)
5th - Cody's Honor, Brave Hearted, DVC Freewaytofame (2-6-4)
6th - The Windsurfer A, New Revenue, Baseball Express (5-3-6)
7th - All Joy, Super lotto, Summer Ran, Jeff's Night Out (7-6-1-9)
8th - Slated For Success, Southern Beauty, Zapphappy Kash (7-2-3)
9th - Gavino, Cam's Western, Ascot Cognac, Armbro Claret (2-1-6-4)

Finley Reads the Tea Leaves

Racing writer Bill Finley reads the tea leaves perfectly when it comes to the Hanson Report.  The state wants out of the horse racing business (though they are going to keep their account wagering and OTW network), and while Finley indicates that is fair enough, the treatment racing in the report is wrong.

The report is all about giving Atlantic City casino interests what they want.  No ideas on how to improve horse racing in the state; just wipe their hands clean of it.  Monmouth Park?  Sell or lease and let someone else pay the bills and if they fail and go out of business, so be it.  The Meadowlands?  We will let you lease it for three years and then you need to get out and build your own track or race at Monmouth (if the new operator will let you).    We need you out of the Meadowlands so when the great Atlantic City experiment fails (or not), we can hand over the Meadowlands to the casino interests and let them develop casinos there without cutting the racing industry in for a share.  Quite simply, its pay to play (something perfected in New Jersey) at its finest.

No doubt the government has the right not to run a racetrack.  That doesn't give them the right to just cut it loose, with all the jobs, green space, and revenue it provides the state.  After all, the vast majority of the participants in the equine-related industries in New Jersey are residents of the state; people who pay taxes.  Perhaps if they were millionaires, Christie would have had this commission treat them better.

Christie says the people in North Jersey need to stop being parochial and realize the importance of the casino industry to South Jersey.  Shame it doesn't work both ways.  South Jersey doesn't need to worry about the importance of the equine and horse racing industry in North and Central Jersey.  They have the cash. 

You can read Finley's complete article here.   

Thursday, July 22, 2010

So What Are You Going to Do About it?

With the Hanson Report public for twenty-four hours, everyone has had time to digest the contents to see what it means for harness racing in New Jersey and by extension, what it means to harness racing throughout the United States. No doubt the demise of a first-class harness meet at the Meadowlands would hurt the industry but it also won’t be the death blow either. The question is so what are you going to do about it?

The industry is at a crossroad. Some minor changes have been made over the years but in reality, the industry has not changed over the decades. Each special interest group within the industry has been unwilling to make changes and when asked to sacrifice for the common good the answer most of the time has been to have someone else make the sacrifice. Each stakeholder groups have been concerned about 'Me' instead of 'Us'. The "Age of Me" is what has brought us to this point.

One industry insider told me the Hanson Report has the potential to be the wake-up call the industry has needed for a long time. So once again, the question is ...

So, what Are You Going to Do About It?

Are you going to wallow in the misfortune and continue on as business as usual and see what you can get out of this industry; doing nothing to improve the game and be a parasite which sucks what it can out of the sport until it dies?

Or, are you going to look at this moment as a low point and decide it is time for the "Age of Us" and seriously work together and revamp the sport for the common good of all and as such, make every effort to make harness racing a self-sustaining sport once again? It may not be easy and it may require sacrifice but if harness racing dies, it won't be due to the lack of trying.

The fight for the survival of harness racing begins in earnest now. The Age of Me is dead; long live The Age of Us.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time for the Recriminations

Now that the Hanson Report has come out, we start hearing the criticism. We have legislators saying the Meadowlands should not be sold and we should get VLTs in the Meadowlands. Sounds good. One problem, even if the assembly approved the bill unanimously, the Senate President has made it known a bill will never be posted for a vote. VLTs for all practical purposes are a non-starter. The state lacks the money to provide a subsidy to racing. I fear what we have here are politicians grandstanding for their local constituents.

This is not to say these proposals will get approved intact. There is a good chance the necessary legislation may go nowhere this year and alternate proposals may be offered. But what does that mean? Even if there is a stalemate this year, who is going to pay the NJSEA’s deficit next year to keep the lights on? If the deficit for next year can be addressed (the NJSEA must provide a balanced budget for 2011 by September 30), what kind of purses will there be with no purse supplement and VLT revenue? A harness meet at the Meadowlands next year (if even held) will be a dismal meet; as earlier stated, likely a Freehold North.

One of many distressing things I have seen in the report is the possibility of stealing even more business from racing. Not only does the report refuse to consider VLTs for the Meadowland, the report suggests continuing legal analysis to see if in-state Internet Gaming operating with a hub in Atlantic City is possible; another way to benefit casino interests at the sacrifice of racing.

A positive recommendation (there is one) in the report is municipalities will no longer be given the opportunity to veto an OTW facility just because they don’t want an OTW in their municipality. The recommendation proposed calls for proposed OTW sites be treated like any other commercial development. If zoning requirements are met, cities and towns would not be able to veto an OTW facility.

The report makes the assumption that Freehold Raceway remains open. Whether this is a realistic assumption without any secondary source of revenue for purses is debatable. Basically, there are four options being presented regarding standardbred racing which up to now has been held at the Meadowlands. You may read them in the report in detail but here is a summary:

Option 1 calls for the elimination of the Meadowlands harness meet with no standardbred racing anywhere but at Freehold which would continue to hold harness racing. In order to sustain a standardbred breeding industry in the state, a fund would be created for standardbred awards for owners and breeders that win races out of state.

Option 2 calls for a seventy day standardbred meet to be held at Monmouth Park. This proposal would result in two standardbred meets being conducted in the same region; there may be a problem with assigning race dates between Freehold and Monmouth Park. This proposal would call for adding lights at Monmouth Park as well as building a front paddock for harness racing. Under this proposal, thoroughbred racing would take precedence in racing dates; meaning the standardbred meet may need to occur in the winter months.

Option 3 in all realities is a temporary solution. The standardbred horsemen will be able to lease the Meadowlands for three years at a cost of $1 per year; being responsible for all costs including payments in lieu of taxes which currently are $2.5 million a year. The state would also allow the horsemen to buy an equity percentage in the Bayonne, NJ OTW facility to help fund purses. The state would not provide any funding so the meet would likely lack quality unless the horsemen built an OTW facility at the Meadowlands; in which case they may be able to afford a fifty day championship meet. At the end of three years, the lease would be terminated and the racetrack would be used for other purposes. The unspoken assumption is this would give horsemen time to implement option four.

Option 4 calls for a private organization to convert an existing standardbred farm with a mile track into a pari-mutuel facility with a 5,000 seat grandstand. This private group would be given an option to build an OTW at the Meadowlands to capture the North Jersey market. The problem with this proposal is any suitable training center is in Monmouth County where Freehold is located. We would have to expect a dog fight when it comes to obtaining race dates.

One thing is for certain. The Gaming and Racing Summit being held soon should be interesting with fireworks flying. While local officials in Atlantic County may not be happy with the idea of the state taking over part of Atlantic City, the gaming interests will be coming to the summit thinking this report has wonderful proposals. Thoroughbred horsemen will have some concerns, but the standardbred horsemen will be arriving at the summit with the most to learn.

Dean over at Pull the Pocket claims the apparent demise of the Meadowlands meet is the final result of racing depending on VLTs. Make no mistake, VLTs in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware may have brought us to this point earlier, but attendance and wagering at the Meadowlands was declining even before the racinos popped up. The blame for the mess we now find us in can be attributed to the harness racing industry being content with the status quo. Heaven forbid we would have lowered takeout rates years ago; speed up the races; had the foresight to control their own signal by forming their own ADWs; been more sensitive to changing attitudes regarding animal welfare; found a way to raise the possibility of providing better payoffs on traditional wagers; not screamed bloody murder when assigned a position in the second tiers (I remember seeing sixteen horses in one race on the mile oval; treated gamblers fairly when the recall rule was changed; were not concerned with last minute odds changes). If each stakeholder group would have worked together, instead of worrying about their own parochial interests we may never have gotten to the point we needed to depend on VLTs.

You may be mad at the Hanson Commission; mad at Christie for what is being proposed. In reality, the industry should be mad at itself. We have met the enemy and it is us.

The Shafting of the NJ Horsemen

Note: This article has been updated as a result of additional details becoming known.

Well, the SBOANJ got their wish when they supported financially the campaign of Chris Christie; they got rid of Governor Corzine who was viewed as an enemy of harness racing. They won the election. They may have lost the war.

Harness racing has gotten the proverbial shaft in New Jersey thanks to the Hanson Report. The few standardbred breeders who remain in New Jersey are probably looking as you read this to move the stallions and broodmares they still have to other states as soon as possible and are calling real estate developers to gauge their interest in building shopping malls and housing.

The Hanson Report has been submitted and according to news reports, the Governor is to formally discuss the report’s recommendation which would send harness racing back to 1975, if not to extinction. It is expected that the SBOANJ will be offered the opportunity to lease the Meadowlands for $1 a year and if the offer is not accepted, the grandstand would be razed and the paddock would be converted to an OTW facility. Failing the SBOANJ taking over the Meadowlands, the report calls for harness racing to occur at another New Jersey racetrack such as Monmouth Park or for private investors to convert an existing training facility to a pari-mutuel facility by building a 5,000 seat grandstand. Whichever route is taken, self-sustaining is the word. No VLTs, no subsidies. Casino industry CEOs must be pinching themselves in the face to make sure they are awake; even they could not have realistically imagined a decision like this.

Of course, all this depends on what parts of the report Christie and the legislature accepts as well as what can be done by executive order and what must be done legislatively. There are sure to be battles in the legislature but in light of New Jersey’s current political atmosphere some things appear sure; no subsidies, no VLTs, and the demise of the NJSEA. Freehold, a private entity, will like end up closing as well.

The thoroughbred industry in New Jersey faces similar issues. The state is getting out of that segment of the horse racing industry as well, as they are looking to lease or sell the track, instead of lease or closing it. Of course, with the purses next year lacking a subsidy, how well their Elite Meet will be received next year and how long they can survive is up to speculation.

Let’s assume the SBOANJ decides to lease the Meadowlands. There are two choices the horsemen have. Race either a very short fifty day meet with purses somewhere in the $5,000-$20,000 range, or race a longer meet with purses probably somewhere between $2,500-$12,000; a Freehold North. Stakes program? Goodbye Grand Circuit. So long Hambletonian. A few stakes races will survive, but nothing like it is now. Of course, how long the horsemen will be able to run their own meet depends on how long the bettors will support the racing product. While the mile track remains, the driving colony will be heading to New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada as quick as they can and how intriguing $4,000 claimers will be to the heavy hitters is questionable. Not known as of now is what happens to the future of the OTWs and ADW business of the NJAW; does it get kept by the state, jointly operated by harness and thoroughbred interests, or does it get sold off to a private ADW such as TVG?

If the SBOANJ doesn’t lease the Meadowlands things get even more precarious. If harness racing moves to Monmouth or another track, the purses will still be small when compared to the current purses. Also, if Monmouth were to be sold to a private concern, what assurances would there be to ensure they continue to hold a harness meet after it has been privatized and how willing would the thoroughbred horsemen be to share the facility? It is possible the standardbreds could race at Atlantic City Race Course but it would require a major capital investment to make the facility habitable for any meet over a few days as the grandstand would need to be renovated and lights would need to be installed for evening races which may not be feasible; especially with the lack of subsidies. The horsemen can convert a training center to a pari-mutuel track, but who is going to lend the horsemen the money to build a grandstand? No matter how you look at it, the existence of harness racing in New Jersey is being threatened by this report. The purses would not be any bigger than they would be at the Meadowlands, perhaps even smaller as it is unknown how harness racing at these facilities would be received by gamblers.

What would this mean to standardbred racing nationally? While the loss of the Meadowlands would be a severe body blow, reports of the death of harness racing is premature. Make no mistake, there will be some seismic changes coming to harness racing. Granted, in the United States there may no longer be the “one” flagship track but I believe Yonkers Raceway will become the leading track once again. I know some people will say how can a half mile track become a leading track? First of all, horsemen will follow the money. Removing the Meadowlands from the equation, it leaves Chester Downs, Pocono Downs, and Yonkers as the three highest purse tracks. Horsemen will have no choice but to race at Yonkers.

In addition, as long as there is a Rooney involved in the running of Yonkers, I believe management of the track will be willing to host more stakes races. The horsemen’s group at Yonkers likely will be willing to divert purse account money to host additional stakes races as they realize the necessity of having stakes racing opportunities for the industry to survive; especially if it makes their track more prominent which leads to increased wagering. There is even a slight possibility if the Meadowlands ceases to exist, they would be willing to convert the track to a five-eighths oval if handle increases significantly.

As I previously alluded to, management at Pocono Downs is friendlier to racing than some people give it credit for. In the same way Pocono management came to bat to host the Breeders Crown this year, they will likely be willing to take on some more stakes races providing wagering on their track increases. What about the 35% takeout on Superfectas and Trifectas? Remember, Pocono Downs is launching a trial where the takeout is reduced to 25%. If it is well received, they will keep the takeout at 25% for next year, making Pocono more playable than it is now.

The big question is where is the gambling dollars going to go if the Meadowlands disappears? For sure, some of the gambling dollars will disappear, but the fact remains there are certain people who only play harness racing. That money would need to go elsewhere and it will probably be spread between the remaining tracks which offer the best racing. Who knows, maybe the handles at these tracks may increase to the point they cover the operating expenses of the racing operation?

I am not trying to trivialize what appears to be happening in New Jersey; the changes will be seismic. Some owners will leave; breeding farms will close; breeding fees will drop; syndications will occur less often and for less money. On the flip side, more of our racing stars will likely keep racing instead of heading off to the breeding shed; the owners who remain will have more opportunities to earn checks. What appears to be happening in New Jersey may force the changes the industry has needed to undertake but refused to deal with. The point is harness racing may look different, but it is not going away.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pocono Takeout Reduction; Where Does the Blame Lie?

Pocono Downs has decided to lower their takeout on Superfecta and Trifecta wagers from 35% to 25% starting August 2 through the end of the current race meet. In the press release, Dale Rapson, Vice President in charge of racing, indicated this is a temporary reduction to see how the change in the takeout reflects in their handle.

Granted, the reduction in the takeout may not have people jumping out of their seat to rush to Pocono Downs, but I certainly hope people do increase their play at Pocono. I am certainly not suggesting people flee tracks with better takeout rates, but players need to know ignoring Pocono will not only result in the takeout rate possibly being restored to extortionist rates next year; it may give other tracks thinking of reducing their takeout pause despite the success of Tioga Downs experiment. Pocono's reduction is like taking a baby taking their first steps. With encouragement they will take additional steps forward; failure will result in returning to their comfort zone; even if it is against their best interests in the long run.

The owner of the now-closed Rosecroft Raceway is suing Maryland Thoroughbred interests for anti-competitive actions and violations of federal anti-trust law claiming they orchestrated the demise of the raceway due to cutting the thoroughbred signal to Rosecroft. Did the thoroughbred interests want the trotters out of the scene? Perhaps they did, but the fact is no one put a gun to Cloverleaf Enterprise's head to sign the original agreement to pay thoroughbred interests for their signal.

The real question should be what did Maryland and national harness racing interests (management et al) do or failed to do which resulted in 95% of Rosecroft's gambling revenue coming from thoroughbred simulcasting? There is a big problem when only 5% of the money wagered on horses at a harness track comes from its own breed. Rather than suing the thoroughbred interests, Maryland harness racing interests should be looking at themselves to see what went wrong and what could have been done to avoid these problems. More importantly, harness racing interests elsewhere should be asking themselves the same question so they avoid a similar situation.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meadowlands Pace; Road vs Chucky; Adding Wagering Interests

The 2010 Meadowlands Pace is in the books and it was heartbreak city for Rock N Roll Heaven who did all the work, only to get nipped at the wire by One More Laugh in a time of 1:47.4 over the fast track.  In retrospect, Rock N Roll Heaven likely lost the race in the first quarter as he was three wide trying to get the lead in a :25.4 split and then pushed to a :53 half and 1:20 at the three-quarter pole.  As for Sportswriter, his race was over in the first turn as he tried to leave only to find two other horses right inside of him to leave with him.  At that point, he was parked the rest of the mile and finished seventh.  It is quite possible the heat once again hampered him, but then again, they all had to deal with the heat.  One thing for certain, the road to 3yo pacing honors is wide open this year.

Perhaps the best part of One More Laugh winning is the ascension of Ray Schnittker to the ranks of trainer extraordinaire (not a bad driver either).  Some people probably thought Deweycheatemnhowe was a fluke for Schnittker, but with One More Laugh winning the Meadowlands Pace, any doubtes regarding Ray's ability as a horseman should have disappeared.

There were three divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial last night in addition to the Pace and right now the Hambo looks like a two-horse battle between Holiday Road and Lucky Chucky.  Make no mistake, Holiday Road is the horse to beat in the Hambo as he took the lead past the quarter pole and won by half a length in 1:54, but don't discount Chucky yet as he was parked the entire mile (with cover) and still managed to close late to get within half a length to Holiday Road.  No, Holiday Road was never seriously threatened as he is reported to have left something in the tank, but when you consider Lucky Chucky missed one start due to illness, it is likely he will improve somewhat before the next matchup.  Of course, whether that will be good enough to overcome Holiday Road, remains to be seen.  If I had to pick a Hambo pick right now, it would still be Holiday Road.


If looking for 'the interesting' horse for the Hambo, it would be Cassis who lost by a neck in 1:53.1 in the first division of the Dancer Memorial after attempting to wire the field.  While Ray Schnittker would have been happier with the victory, considering it was Cassis' first start over the mile track against a better caliber of horse, Schnittker must be pleased.  The question is can Schnittker move Cassis up off of last night's race.  We will see on July 31 at the Hambo eliminations.

It appears Auckland Reactor is done racing in the United States.  According to a report in The Harness Edge, Auckland Reactor's connections have been negotiating to get the Reactor to stand stud down under but they have not been able to seal the deal.  Being the Reactor's connections are considering leasing him may indicate the offers for his services have been disappointing and they may be looking to maintain ownership with the hope of him becoming a superstar in the breeding shed so they can cash in latter.

For those who say we can't have more than one tier of horses in a race, I bring for your consideration the Prix du Palais De Chaillot which was held today in France.  The race had eighteen starters. 

For the record, the race was won by Laughing Stock, a six year old mare in 1:14.5 kilometer rate for the 2850 meters (approx 1 7/10 miles).  Notice the race used no starting gate and for those who feel the second tier would still be a disadvantage, note the 16 horse finished second and the 14 horse finished fourth. 

There is no reason we can't lengthen our races and add a second tier of horses other than the unwillingness of the industry to change.  While I am not suggesting we go to eighteen horses right away or getting rid of the starting gate, there is no reason our racetracks can't add some distance races and additional horses to those races to spice things up.  Not just one race; but a number of races over a period of time to gauge the reception it would receive.  With win payoffs being typically low, there is no surer way to increase payoffs than by adding additional races.

As if we need another reminder as to how poor things are in New Jersey, here is another story regarding the shaky nature of racing in New Jersey.  We should know within two weeks as to what the future holds for racing in New Jersey.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ben Franklin Final; Tompkins-Geers Conclude

Sunday concludes a very busy weekend for harness racing with the $500,000 Ben Franklin at Chester Downs and the Tompkins-Geers at Tioga Downs. The Ben Franklin will be another opportunity for Shark Gesture to show he is the top FFA pacer this year as he takes on seven other horses. Over at Tioga Downs, there is a thirteen race card featuring eleven divisions of the Tompkins-Geers; allowing two and three year olds to strut their stuff in stakes action.

At Chester, it is hard to go past Shark Gesture as he has been virtually undefeatable this year; only losing his first start of the season (finishing second). This is not to say there is no competition in the race; Vintage Master appears to have finally hit his stride against older horses and Hypnotic Blue Chip and Atochia have been racing well, under the radar. Can any of these four defeat Shark Gesture? With the defection of Won The West, It doesn’t appear they can but when FFAllers are racing for $500,000 it is hard to believe they will just hand the trophy over to Shark Gesture without a fight. Here is how I see the Ben Franklin:

Chester Downs 10th Pace - $500,000; The Ben Franklin Final – FFA
1 Vintage Master (3-1) – Finally hitting his stride and draws the rail. Will attempt to track Shark Gesture and attempt to rally in the stretch.
2 Three of Spades (20-1) – Will be lucky to land a share here.
3 Keep It Real (8-1) – Will need to lay back and make a move late. Must consider for exotics.
4 Foiled Again (4-1) – Half-mile specialist seems to be tailing off. Pass.
5 Shark Gesture (9-5) – Never better. Most likely would have to defeat himself; not likely.
6 Atochia (10-1) – This five year old has quietly been going about his business. Another to consider in your exotics.
7 Dali (12-1) – Choice last week was an also ran. Don’t expect any better with the outside post.
8 Hypnotic Blue Chip (6-1) – Needs a fast pace to get involved late in the stretch run.
Selections: 5-1-8-6

The following are my selections for Tioga Downs.

1st Pace - $32,554; Tompkins-Geers – 3yo colts and geldings
4 – Art Two D Two (5-2)
2 – Major Work Of Art (7-2)
5 – JK Kinahurra (5-1)

2nd Trot - $25,869; Tompkins-Geers – 3yo fillies
5 – Sabana Hanover (9-2)
7 – My Winning Way K (8-1)
6 – Radiant One (7-2)

3rd Pace - $25,339; Tompkins-Geers – 2yo colts and geldings
  6  – Thomas J (7-2)
1A- Feel Like A Fool (2-1)
  1 – Roll’em Up (2-1)
  3 – Creating A Dream (8-1)

4th Trot - $40,804; Tompkins-Geers – 3yo colts and geldings
9– Baximum (3-1)
3 – Aruba Vacation (4-1)
8 – Folk Tail (12-1)
2 – Greek Myth (6-1)

5th Trot - $26,369; Tompkins-Geers – 3yo fillies
3 – Quite Possible (3-1)
8 – Platinumatic (6-1)
4 – Full Tank (7-2)

6th Pace - $7,500; Non-winners $6,001 Last Five Starts
4 – Redneck Outlaw (3-1)
1 – Noble’s Grand Slam (4-1)
6 – Jove’s Success (12-1)

7th Trot - $40,804; Tompkins-Geers – 3yo colts and geldings
  5 – Jetblue Volo (5-1)
10 – Can’t Lose (6-1)
  9 – Mamas Boo Bear (8-1)
  2 – Rap‘s Legacy (4-1)

8th Pace - $15,000; Open Handicap
6 – Bullvile Powerful (7-2)
5 – Sheer Brilliance (9-2)
4 – Scott’s Rolls Royce (801(

9th Pace - $25,339; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo colts and geldings
6 – So Over (7-2)
1 – Rainbow Power (7-2)
7 – Southwind Milo (6-1)

10th Trot - $26,369; Tompkins-Geers – 3yo fillies
6 – Upside Blue Chip (7-2)
8 – Madam Hooch (7-2)
3 – Jettalady (9-2)

11th Pace - $25,339; Tompkins-Geers – 2yo colts and geldings
1A – Remus Blue Chip (3-1)
   5 – Flipper J (7-2)
   3 – Rockabout (4-1)

12th Pace - $33,054; Tompkins-Geers - 3yo colts and geldings
6 – Screenplay (8-1)
1 – Capital Blue Chip (7-2)
7 – Golden Time (3-1)

13th Pace - $25,339; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo colts and geldings
3 – China King (8-1)
2 – Wind Me Up (7-2)
8 – Upfrontscott Brown (9-2)
6 - Jo Pa’s Pe III (6-1)

The Happy Dance

Meadowlands Pace Day seems to be as good day as any to remind people of three basic rules I had to learn the hard way.

It was Hambletonian Day, August 7, 1999 and The Panderosa was racing in a division of the Oliver Wendell Holmes. The newspapers were hailing The Panderosa as the super horse and that was all you heard about. Now don’t get me wrong, The Panderosa was a very good horse but not unbeatable. Yes, he won the Meadowlands Pace in a blistering 1:49.3 (well, back then it was blistering), but I felt the hype was overblown being he was 3-1-0 out of five starts through the Meadowlands Pace.

Anyway, there was something about The Panderosa not having raced in three weeks which made me feel something may have been wrong with him (which later turned to out to be true as he went 5-1-0 for thirteen races that year), but the papers kept promoting him as the greatest thing since white bread. The seventh race came up and The Panderosa was 1-5. More importantly, the bridge jumpers were dumping on The Panderosa to show; they bought the hype. Being I felt he was beatable I decided to take a chance and bet every other horse to show and watch the race.

The race was off! Sure enough, I was right; The Panderosa broke after the quarter and immediately fell back to last. As soon as he jumped, I started the Happy Dance, which I continued to do the rest of the race; certain I was going to make a killing; I had visions of $100 show prices. Yes, I have since matured and learned that The Happy Dance is not cool and people who do this are really obnoxious; more so if you are holding a ticket on the horse that lost. I would never do the dance again.

So The Panderosa finished a distanced last and I was continuing to make a fool of myself. That was until the race became official and the prices went up. Here I had visions of huge show prices and when the prices went up, the largest show price was about $30. Boy, did I feel like an idiot. Betting $2 to show on every other horse in the race would net someone following this strategy no more than $60 profit that day.

For the return I got, I certainly felt foolish having done the Happy Dance. I felt even more foolish when it turned out that I hurt my back doing the dance; for the next two or three weeks I was taking pain medicine as a result of that stupid Happy Dance; certainly not worth it for the return I had gotten.

So as we come to the Meadowlands Pace, I wish everyone good luck with their picks. Just remember the three rules I learned that fateful night:

   1. Doing the Happy Dance is not cool but if one must do the Dance:

   2. Thou shalt not do the Happy Dance until the race is official.

   3. Thou shalt only do the Happy Dance if it is really worth it.

Later today or early tomorrow I will be giving my thoughts on the Ben Franklin Pace and the Sunday afternoon card at Tioga Downs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Meadowlands Pace; Dancer Memorial and NJSS Preview

Note: Updated to include Friday and Saturday night selections for Tioga Downs.

Saturday night is the second biggest day in the 2010 Meadowlands meet, only behind the Hambletonian and features the $1,000,000 Meadowlands Pace for three year olds. In addition to the Meadowlands Pace, the final Meadowlands prep race for the Hambletonian is being held with three splits of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. Lastly, two year old New Jersey-sired horses are on display with the finals of the New Jersey Sire Stakes. To make things easier to follow, we will discuss each race separately.  As a reminder, the Delvin Memorial divisions being raced Friday night are previewed here

Meadowlands Pace (and Consolation)

6th Pace - $100,000; Meadowlands Pace Consolation – 3yo Open
Selections: 7 Iam Bonasera (7-2); 3 Razzle Dazzle (3-1); 9 Windfall Blue Chip (15-1).

Iam Bonasera has been closing with :26.3 and :25.4 last quarters.  With the first tier in the final, any type of trip should find him in the winners circle.  Razzle Dazzle has been improving; other than Iam Bonasera, the only horse that was withing five lengths to the elimination winner.  Windfall Blue Chip had no chance in his last start being parked the whole way.  May complete the trifecta with any type of trip.

8th Pace - $1,000,000; Meadowlands Pace – 3yo Open
1    Kyle Major (15-1) – Figures to ride the rail and hope for room at the end.
2    Rockin Image (3-1) – Elimination winner on two race win streak after layoff. The fresh horse.
3    Rock N Roll Heaven (5-2) – Figures to be gunning for the lead. Possible speed duel?
4    Valentino (15-1) – Best chance may be to gun it and see how far he can go.
5    I’m Gorgeous (12-1) – Finished second off layoff. Figures to be tighter. May get in the exotics.
6    Delmarvalous (12-1) – Lucky to get in. Not lucky enough to be a serious threat.
7    Nova Artist (15-1) – Improving but still not sure this caliber.
8    One More Laugh (9-2) – Can’t ignore but runs the risk of bad racing luck.
9    Fred And Ginger (10-1) – Hasn’t been able to repeat early season success.
10  Sportswriter (6-1) – Was not 100% last week. Don’t let the ten post stop you.
Selections: 10-2-3-5

Despite the horrible post position, I like the North America Cup champion Sportswriter. Sportswriter was not 100% last week and the stable was pleased with the effort. Expect Macdonald to try to get up close anticipating a Rock N Roll Heaven and Valentino going at it. I think Rockin Image will be able to get a good trip to finish second and the fast tempo may cause Rock N Roll Heaven to fade at the end.

Stanley Dancer Memorial (three divisions)

1st Trot - $127,500; Stanley Dance Memorial – 3yo Open (1st division)
1  Oh No It’s Steveo (9-2) – Stepping up. Don’t see
2  Balcktuxwhitesocks (8-1) – Belongs with state breds.
3  Cassis (9-5) – Smashed all age record at Goshen in 1:55.4 in what turned out to be a workout. Note trainer claims horse is best on the half.
4  Senor Glide (3-1) – Horse has the class advantage. Figures to be there if #3 falters.
5  He’s A Demon (5-1) – Tries stakes company first time. Tested for class.
6  Olla Podriga (15-1) – Would be a huge upset if he wins.
7  Coco Lindy (6-1) – Starts the night off with an upset?
Selections: 7-4-3

Coco Lindy is making third start of the year and may be hitting his best stride. Looking for an upset. Senor Glide is the class of the race who should make a good show of himself, Cassis was a monster at Goshen as he knocked more than three seconds of all-age trotting record. We know he is fast but it is a question of what happens if someone looks him in the eye. As much as I love him, I can’t touch him at 9-5.

5th Trot - $130,000; Stanley Dancer Memorial – 3yo Open (2nd division)
1  Winning Fireworks (10-1) – Showed promise last year at Lex. Making second start of year. May need the race.
2  Red Light (9-2) – Winner of the Reynolds is being tested for class. Not out of it.
3  Muscle Massive (9-5) – Finished second to Holiday Road in last. May be overbet.
4  Plan B In HD (15-1) – Was flat in Reynolds. Figures to need another start.
5  Take My Picture (8-1) – Finished second in Yonkers Trot. May be the value play here.
6  Flex The Muscle (6-1) – Seems to have tailed off. Can’t recommend.
7  Temple Of Doom (4-1) – Must be respected after finishing third to Holiday Road.
8  Pilgrims Chuckie (8-1) – Dickerson start shows he doesn’t belong with these.
Selections: 5-3-7

Take My Picture finished second a half length off the winner in the Yonkers Trot despite competing against a three horse entry. At 8-1 how can you ignore? Can’t argue with Muscle Massive but he is no 9-5 shot. Temple Of Doom has been consistent for the most part. Have to look at for trifectas.

11th Trot - $130,000; Stanley Dancer Memorial – 3yo Open (3rd division)
1  Holiday Road (6-5) – Able to kick in another gear in stretch in first start. Is this good.
2  Adrion Dream (15-1) – Got beaten against cheaper. Tough spot to rebound.
3  Wishing Stone (15-1) – Ignore half mile breaks but not the spot to make first start. Pass.
4  Pilgrims Taj (4-1) – Was leading when he jumped. Can be a factor if flat.
5  Classic Viking (15-1) – Well over his head. Pass.
6  Break The Bank (5-1) – Was wiped out by Pilgrims Taj in last. Completes trifecta.
7  Mystery Photo (9-2) – Inherited the victory in last. Can figure in exotics.
8  Lucky Chucky (8-1) – Needed last. Should improve; second best.
Selections: 1-8-6

There is nothing to say here. Holiday Road is the real deal. Was collared in first start and kicked in another gear in deep stretch to win. May not be worth a wager, but exotics are worth a look; the race for second and third is that competitive. Lucky Chucky has had a late start and should be second best three year old but there is a slight chance he may need a race. Break The Bank and Mystery Photo have legitimate chances to complete the triple.

NJSS Championships

2nd Trot - $200,000; NJSS Championship; 2yo fillies
Selections:  4 Creme De Cocoa (9-2); 1 Angelette Hanover (7-2); Global Desire (3-1)

Creme De Cocoa was blocked in and practically running over horses in last week's elimination; wins with a better trip.  Angelette Hanover shows ability to win from the rail; note Pierce chose Global Deire.  Global Desire lost to Jezzy; no insult.  Post may be the thing which hurts her chance to win.

3rd Pace - $200;000; NJSS Championship - 2yo fillies
Selections: 7 Lionness Hanover (5-1); Rocklamation (6-1); 4 So Perfect (8-1)

Lionness Hanover won last elimination from the inside.  As long as he doesn't get parked she may still win from this post but a play only at 5-1 or higher.  Rocklamation finished second to Lionness Hanover in last; disregard one prior.  May be able to turn the tables on Lionness Hanover this week.  So Perfect finished third in the Debutante and given a week off to freshen; can't be ignored either.  Ace Of Pace could win but at 9-5 and post nine is worth betting against.

4th Trot - $200,000; NJSS Championship - 2yo colts and geldings
Selections: 8 Leader of The Gang (7-5); 1 VC Chocoholic (8-1); 5 Winuendo (6-1); 4 Gunga Win (6-1)

Leader Of The Gang is 2-2 with wins in NJSS elimination and the Harriman.  Despite the move outside he is the one to beat.  VC Chocoholic finished second in first pari-mutuel start.  Draws rail and gets Palone.  Winuendo won first time with hopples could have easily been two for two thus far.  If looking for an upset in this race, he may be your pick.  Gunga Win tired in last to finsih third; holds on for superfecta. 

10th Pace - $200,000; NJSS Championship - 2yo colts and geldings
Selections: 3 Lookinforadventure (7-5); Shadyshark Hanover (8-1); 7 Roll With Joe (10-1)

Lookinforadventure has been dominating in both preliminaries.  Hard to see him being beat.  Shadyshark Hanover finished second in Goshen Cup and NJSS preliminary; will likely be following Lookinforadventure to the wire.  Roll with Joe was parked for a half last week and still managed to win.  Can possibly switch places woth Shadyshark Hanvoer.

While the center of American harness racing will be in East Rutherford this weekend, action continues elsewhere.  Tioga Downs continues hosting the Tompkins-Geers on Friday night.  Due to space considerations, I will not be talking about those races specifically, but my selections for those races will be in bold.  Hence, here are my selections for Friday and Saturday night for Tioga Downs.

Tioga Downs - Friday, July 16
1st - Somersault, Yankee Rushmore, Wolf's Jann (4-3-7)
2nd - City Delight, Gold Star Glittere, See You At Peelers (5-7-3) 
3rd -Tuscan Lindy, Playa Tulum, Natural T (2-5-4)
4th - Blazing Winner, Danijill, SJ's Leo, Four Starz Motor (1-8-4-3)
5th - Drop The Ball, Crazy Luv Bug, Love You Always (1-4-2)
6th - Redneck Reindeer, Aviewtoakill, Ladainian (9-6-3)
7th - Galimony, Love And Honor, Chatty Kathy, Tia Maria (3-7-9-8)
8th -Andover America, Lolique, Batalj Launcher (4-6-5)
9th - Southwind Jazmin, Beforethedaystarts, Dreamlands Roxy (8-5-3)
10th - Eagle kelly, Read My Lips, Character Flaw (3-2-8)
11th - Winsmith Jess, Angelwithnattitude, Bullville Monarch (8-4-7)
12th - A Work In Progress, Southern Beauty, Tia Maria Kosmo, Galahad Hall (1-2-8-9)

Tioga Downs - Saturday, July 17
1st - Oh No Three O, Lake View Dale, Pretty Girl (2-3-7)
2nd - Gold Like U, Pennthouse, Savahorsrideasulky (6-7-3)
3rd - Special Eddie, Headingforaruckus, Talulla Davine (2-7-3)
4th - Art's Clown, Nell Fire, Gaje, Really Ready (4-2-5-1)
5th - Jaguar, Prank Player, Giveherthecredit (4-5-3)
6th - I'm In Luck, Up Front Danny Boy, Power Park (9-6-4)
7th - Who Dey, Vertigo Hanover, Max Q, Schemes (4-8-1-3)
8th - M A Roy, Joshadamjacob, Sisyphus (7-3-2)
9th - There He Is, JK Jack Pot, Southwind Matrix (2-4-7)
10th - Fake Denario N, First Of Fun, Armbro Claret (5-1-2)
11th - Late For Lunch, Edgewood, Jeff's Night out (1-5-3)
12th - Village Blizzard, A Canuck Eh, Gavino, I Am So Glad (5-3-6-1)

Road to the Oaks - Delvin Miller Memorial Preview

While the emphasis is on the Meadowlands Pace, the last prep races at the Meadowlands for Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks are being held this weekend. Friday night’s card features two divisions of the Delvin Miller Memorial for fillies while Saturday evening has eliminations for the Stanley Dancer Memorial for the colts and geldings plus the finals for the NJSS for two year olds.

Let’s look at the two Delvin Miller Memorial splits. These two races admittedly look good for the morning line favorites, but there are still some intriguing fillies in the race. In the first division, if someone cuts extremely fast fractions, Bone A Fide could score a minor upset. In The Mean Time is making her third start of the year and it appears she still has some upside potential.

In the second tilt, Jesse’s Messenger has developed into a nice race horse after going undefeated last year in on the Ohio Sires stakes and fair circuit. She wasn’t overly impressive but in her last start at Northfield, she won by over fourteen lengths with more left in the tank. Munis Blue Chip would be my choice from an inside post.

Here is my analysis for the two Miller Memorial splits:

3rd Trot - $146,250; The Delvin Miller Memorial (1st division) – 3yo fillies
1  IPO Blue Chip (10-1) – Still looking for first win of the year. Not the place to get it.
2  Religulous (10-1) – Has been improving at the Hilltop. Don’t ignore.
3  Springtime Volo (5-1) – Has just been missing. Expect her to be closing at the end.
4  Bone A Fide (7-2) – Very good chance if she gets speedy fractions up front. Only problem is I don’t see that happening.
5  Ultimate Cameron (9-5) – Undefeated this year. The one to beat.
6  Wingbat (12-1) – Still a maiden coming into this race. Will still be a maiden when it is over.
7  In The Mean Time (4-1) – Another lightly raced who is undefeated. Will land share.
8  Bunny Tech (15-1) – Hambo eligibles don’t lose at Gratz.
Selections: 5-7-2

5th Trot - $146,250; The Delvin Miller Memorial (2nd division) – 3yo fillies
1  Impressive Kemp (15-1) – Out of place versus non-restricted fillies.
2  Behindclosedoors (8-1) – Making third start of sophomore campaign. Must step up.
3  Crown Laurel (10-1) – Will be riding the rail hoping for a trip. Not in time.
4  Fashion Feline (5-2) – Scorched the oval last time. Will try again.
5  Bramalea Hanover (5-1) – Bad time for miscue in last. Share with a trip.
6  Glide Power (3-1) – Will be following the #4 hoping to pass in stretch. Might not catch the fave.
7  Jesse’s Messenger (9-2) – Has stepped up admirably from OSS. Don’t ignore.
8  Munis Blue Chip (8-1) – Tough post for this filly. Pass.
Selections: 4-6-7

The USTA's Eye on Harness Racing previews the Meadowlands Pace.  While we will discuss the Pace in the next entry, you can get a comments on the elimination races to help you with your handicapping.  There is some coverage regarding Sunday's Ben Franklin FFA at Chester Downs.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tomkins-Geers Preview

The Tomkins-Geers Stakes highlight a special Thursday evening race card at Tioga Downs this week.  Two year old trotters take center stage on Thursday evening.  While most two year old trotting events this time of year are races I tend to bypass, these races are somewhat intriguing; especially since these races have some top two year olds competing.. 

In the fifth race, Jezzy looks to be an easy winner after winning the Acorn at the Meadowlands and a NYSS in Buffalo.  Clearly she is one of the early season success stories for the 2yo trotting fillies.  The eighth race is a very competitive field featuring Saturn Blue Chip, Rhythmic Moves, and others including the Roger Hammer driven Linus B Worthy, who has won two starts on the PA fair circuit.  The ninth race is another competitive field with Reynolds winner Lyrical Lady (Roger Hammer) meeting Electra Blue Chip amd Decolletage.

My selections for the Tompkins-Geers races are:

2nd Trot - $23,127; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo Fillies
1  My Good Side (8-1) - Improved in second start.  Not out of it.
2  Dream Ticket  (10-1) - Never a factor in last.  Pass.
3  Some Girls (9-2) - Winner of first start.  May benefit from a fast pace.
4  Pacific Splash (2-1) - Undefeated filly seems to be well ahead of the rest of these. 
5  Dance Steps (8-1) - Jumped off in last as a favorite.  Possible contender if flat.
6  What's Your Name (6-1) - Not a factor in Meadowlands start.
7  Carme Blue Chip (4-1) - NYSS winner has to deal with outside post.
8  Tap Tap Dance (10-1) - Draws poorly.
Selections: 4-5-3

3rd Trot - $27,485; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo Colts and Geldings
1  Typical Newyorker (9-2) - Jumped off in parimutuel debut after good qualifier at Tioga.  Your guess.
2  Com'n Atcha Cash (12-1) - Beaten in debut at YR.  Had qualified well here.
3  New Zion (8-1) - Ships in from Meadowlands well-prepped.  Maybe a factor.
4  Mister Mojo (12-1) - Finished third in Goshen stakes.    Don't ignore.
5  Ooga Booga (3-1) - Meeting easier here after Reynolds start at Pocono.  Horse to beat.
6  Mystical Mikel (7-2) - Another Meadowlands shipper which closed off slow 3/4s.  Trainer scheduled to drive. 
7  Thor Blue Chip (6-1) - Jumped off at start in last.  Pass with poor post.
8  Wise Man (7-2) - Finally a clean line, needs to get to the front early.
Selections: 5-1-3

5th Trot - $23,127; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo Fillies
1  Cheetah Hall (10-1) - Finished fifth in debut before being scratched in last.  Pass.
2  Bosslady (15-1) - Seems to lack closing kick.
3  Melinda Hanover (6-1) - Seemed to be improving before wiped out in last.  Consider.
4  Movado Hall (9-2) - Finised no worst than 3rd in four starts.  Should be a threat.
5  Jezzy (8-5) - Undefeated filly winner of Acorn at NYSS races.  Likely winner will go off odds-on.
6  Pretty As My Mom (20-1) - Broke two out of three starts.  Enough said.
7  Southwind Ricola (20-1) - Not ready for prime time.
8  Imageofasweetday (3-1) - If clears early will be following Jezzy around the track.
Selections: 5-8-3

8th Trot - $27,485; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo Colts and Geldings
1  Pay The Winner (9-5) - NYSS winner at the Hilltop draws the rail for his second wagering race.  The one to beat.
2  Saturn Blue chip (4-1) - Came alive on the half mile oval.  Needs to pick up the tempo this week.
3  Linus B Worthy (8-1) - Two win came at Gratz and Meadville.  Didn't race well at Pocono.  Hard to gauge.
4  Loose Change (12-1) - No threat in debut.  Pass.
5  Steubenmeanmachine (12-1) - Finished second to #2 at Goshen.  Jumped at start in last.  If flat, will compete.
6  Lanark Hall (6-1) - Early speed inside should eliminate him.
7  Akaruc (6-1) - Will need a trip to land share.
8  Rhythmic Moves (5-1) - Tough spot here.  Pass.
Selections: 1-2-3-7

9th Trot - $23,127; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo Fillies
1  No More Credit (9-2) -  Qualified well at Chester for her debut.  Must consider in exotics.
2  Decolletage (9-2) -  Thrashed by Lyrical Lady in Reynolds, but draws inside.  Respect.
3  Mynah Hanover (8-1) - Another hard to gauge.  Filly three seconds faster than Linus B Worthy at Gratz.  See how he goes before deciding.
4  Lyrical Lady (5-2) - Seems to be much the best.  Will be odds-on by post time.
5  Electra Blue Chip (7-2) - Finished fourth in NJSS.  Can be a threat if stays flat.
6  Cashaholic (6-1) - Well prepped but draws into tough field.
7  Lady Bella (12-1) - In deep.
8  Ilia (12-1) - Must mind manners and in tough with worst draw.  Tab for later.
Selections: 4-2-3

10th Trot - $27,485; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo Colts and Geldings
1  Whitewater Rapids (12-1) -  Not ready for prime time.  Pass.
2  Surface Tension (9-2) - Was hard used when jumped at Yonkers.  Shows the ability to go fast. 
3  Tiger's Too Good (6-1) - While NYSS winner, it was slow.  Expect faster tempo.
4  Keenan (7-2) - Three lines, two breaks.  Must show he can stay flat.
5  Sing Out (5-2) - Last was a good race at Yonkers.  Can win here but may have low odds.
6  I'm The Man (8-1) - Makes first pari-mutuel start after very good Meadowlands qualifier.  Value play?
7  Ice Machine (12-1) - Must show he can carry speed.  Pass.
8  Charlie De Vie (9-2)  - Impressive baby race at Meadowlands.  Worth a shot. 
Selections: 8-7-2

11th Trot - $23,127; Tompkins-Geers - 2yo Fillies
1  Oakiedokie Hanover (8-5) - Finished third to Jezzy.  Hers to loose.
2  Appomattox Lady (6-1) - Decent effort at Bufalo in NYSS.  Consider for exotics.
3  Imperatrix Hanover (10-1) - Lost fourteen lengths after break but still won by four in baby race.  Could be a monster if he minds her manners.
4  Refuse To Lose (3-1) - Decent baby races at the Meadowlands. 
5  Leah's Ex (20-1) - In deep.  Pass.
6  Birthday Bonus (20-1) - Don't see.
7  Sweet Possession (9-2) - NYSS winner at Buffalo shows decent lines at Meadows.  Threat despite post.
8  Graciously (15-1) -  Tough spot to get into race.
Selections: 1-7-2-3

My selections for the balance of the Tioga race card are as follows:

1st - Ghostly Delight, Lima Adore, Keep On Believin (5-7-4)
4th - My Taylor's Maid, Spectacular Cam, Nikoleta, RG Queensmagic (7-2-6-3)
6th - Ubetterthink Think, My True Delight, Penny Pincher (6-4-3)
7th - Huge Success N, Shady Matilda, Beyond Perfection, Little Pop Queen (1-9-2-4)
12th - Early Morning, Trishie Mae, Dontbreakmyheart, Canaco Piment (1-5-8-7)

Okay, this is not standardbred-related but have you ever had people accuse you of treating your horse like family?  Odds are, you don't treat your horse like this...