For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Meddling Elite

As September approaches, the focus turns towards the Little Brown Jug. Can the detractors be far behind with their usual complaints regarding the race? No new complaints, just the usual comments how a race over a half mile track shouldn’t be part of the triple crown; the race should be moved to a Saturday night and/or transferred to a big time track; the race should be changed to a single heat format with eliminations the week before; attendance doesn’t matter, it’s the handle which counts.

To which I reply, “We won’t be satisfied until we break everything that works in this sport, will we”? I imagine if these detractors had their say, they would move the Gold Cup and Saucer from Prince Edward Island to Ontario. Sometimes smaller is better. Over at the R2 Collective, there is a story regarding the particular charm Old Home Week and the Gold Cup and Saucer race projects, how this $60,000 race in a province with only 135,000 people draws more than 5,000 people and is the industry’s best kept secret. Considering the population the Gold Cup and Saucer draws from, it proportionally draws more people than the Hambletonian, Meadowlands Pace, North America Cup, and probably every other harness race in North America, with the possible exception of, you guessed it, The Little Brown Jug.

The Little Brown Jug has done quite well for itself (thank you very much) over the years, drawing more than 40,000 people each year to attend the spectacle which is Jug Day at the Delaware County Fair. People look forward to the race year after year. They don’t mind the race has two heats on the same day; heading out to the fair grounds on a Thursday morning to attend the races for the next eight hours; managing to get time off from work to attend; and they enjoy the great view they get of the action over that ‘hated’ (by our racing elites) half mile oval. No, a lot of people may not be betting hundreds of dollars on the extended Jug card, but we get something else out of it. We get a lot of people being exposed and paying attention to our sport; if only for a week. Just like the Kentucky Derby.

Sure, I imagine if somehow we were able to convince the owners of the Little Brown Jug to move the race to a track on the East Coast we could get the purse up to a million dollars or more, possibly even keeping the race on a half mile oval and it can become like most of our big races in North America, raced in front of a few thousand people live (with luck) but at what cost? Losing a race which represents the roots of harness racing?

Other than getting the purse increased greatly, did harness racing get what it wanted by moving the Hambletonian to the Meadowlands? Yes, we got the race more media attention (after, all we pay for the television broadcast with anemic ratings), but certainly attendance figures in the 25,000-27,000 range was not anticipated; we had visions of Derby-size attendance. When you think of it, the race never really caught on in the New York City metropolitan area. Clearly just having a race with a huge purse is not the answer.

Rather than trying to improve the Little Brown Jug, the powers that be would be better served taking their cues from the organizers of the Little Brown Jug and Gold Cup and Saucer. Who knows, maybe we should ask them to improve our so called ‘elite’ stakes races. It seems they have a better track record than the racing elite does. Until then, let’s leave the Jug alone, it is one of the few bright spots we have in American harness racing.

There is Life Left in Racing if We Give it a Chance

Jason Settlemoir and Tioga Downs is the topic of Bill Finley’s latest ESPN column on horse racing. In the article, Finley discusses how harness racing is resurging at Tioga Downs thanks to the efforts of Tioga Vice-President Jason Settlemoir. What makes Tioga Downs unique? It is likely the only racino investing money and effort in making harness racing popular, an equal partner to the slot machines.  The track has already broken ground in the industry by lowering their takeout rates to the lowest in North America with win bets having a takeout rate of 15%.  Is Tioga satisfied with this?  No, management realizes even with a 'low' 15% takeout rate, most bettors have a hard time making money on wagering horses.  While other tracks would be happy with the results Tioga is getting, the Tioga team wants to do better.  It is their hope a legislative change will take place which will allow them to reduce the takeout rate on win bets being pegged at 9 or 10%; equal to the takeout rate on their own slot machines; meaning their racing customers will be treated the same financially as their slot guests.

This past Sunday, Tioga Downs found their grandstand roughly half full, meaning just under 2,000 people were in attendance, wagering primarily on the horses.  Not impressed?  How many people do you see watching the races at Chester Downs or any other harness track with slot machines?  Most tracks, with or without slots would die to get the type of attendance Tioga Downs gets.  Let's put in in perspective.  Tioga County, where Tioga Downs is located has a population of roughly 50,000 people.  Bergen County, where the Meadowlands is located has roughly 895,000 people.  When you consider the Meadowlands averages less than 3,000 people a night, Tioga's attendance is downright impressive.

Of course, it is not just the gambling which makes racing attractive at Tioga Downs.  Racing there is also entertainment, it is community involvement.  In addition to the slew of contests, Tioga Downs has been asking patrons to contribute funds to help two ill children in the community.  For patrons contributing, they get to participate in a contest to win a car.  Ownership matches the donations.  Children picking up rubber ducks off the track get coupons for free ice cream.  Earlier this year they had a corn festival to celebrate the largest agricultural product in the region, giving away free corn to patrons.  There are children rides on Sundays.  Tioga Downs is not just a business in the community; it is part of the community.  When was the last time your local track took an active interest in what is happening in their community?     

Tioga Downs has shown racing is not dead yet.  All it takes is a little faith and a willingness to believe in your product.  More importantly, it shows you need to work on it.  Just opening your gates does not work.    



Monday, August 30, 2010

Why I Don't Discuss Eliminations

I was asked by someone why I discussed the American Nationals at Balmoral this past weekend instead of the Cane Pace Elimination at Freehold.  Well, the Cane Pace Elimination answered the question for me.  It also explains why I don't discuss elimination races. 

In the $100,000 Cane Pace Elimination, eight horses were entered to compete for the five remaining slots in the $300,000 Cane Pace being contested on Labor Day, September 6.  You would think with a purse of $100,000, there would be enough incentive to win the race, wouldn't you? 

Well, other than a slight attempt at the beginning for Malicious to leave fastest of all, it was 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 around the track for the first half of the race, no one wanting to make a move; to be more precise, no one wanting to make a move which may jeopardize their qualifying for the race final.  The only real movement in the race after the first eighth of a mile was Malicious dropping back through the field.  Yes, Woodstock did make a half-hearted attempt to take on I'm Gorgeous in the stretch, after he was unchallenged through the first three quarters of the mile, but the real race within the race was between Urgent Action and Foreign Officer who were fighting for fifth and a berth into the final.

The takeaway from the race?  Other than I'm Gorgeous equaling the track record, not much else.  With $300,000 on the line next week, no one is going to be able to get away unchallenged.  Rest assured the race next week will be contested far differently than the elimination.     

This is why I don't discuss eliminations.  I can't discuss every race so I rather concentrate on races where there is no looking ahead to next week.  While I understand the problems inherent in eliminations, what about those customers who are wagering on these elimination races thinking everyone is going to go all out to win the race?  Experienced gamblers know horses in an elimination race may not give their full effort and that is fine and dandy.  But the newbies, people we want to keep coming to the races, may not realize this.  Remember in your track program what they used to say about qualifying races, how they weren't competitive, but are used to show a horse can meet the qualifying standards?  There should be a warning listed about elimination races, "While elimination races are competitive, you should realize the main objective of horses in this race is to advance to the final so they may have not given their full effort in the race". 

Elimination races are bad for racing.  If we insist on relying on eliminations to determine fields for a final, it would be in the long term interest of harness racing to contest them as non-wagering events.  In the meanwhile, count on me not to cover them.

Lessons From Saratoga

Dean over at Pull the Pocket discusses Rachel Alexandra's latest loss at Saratoga and commented how she is a shadow of herself when compared to last year.  He mentions how he is glad Zenyatta didn't show up to race in the same contest as a Zenyatta victory would have brought back all the conversations of last year's thoroughbred Horse of the Year contest, in effect cheapening Rachel's efforts last year.

So how does Rachel Alexandra end up in a standardbred racing blog?  We can learn from Rachel Alexandra's less than stellar performance this year.  While we have not been hearing it this year, almost every year we have been hearing how [fill in the name] is the greatest [trotter/pacer] which ever lived.  Yes, some of the hype is puffery for the benefit of a horse's breeding career, some of it just makes for a good story.  Either way, it usually is not true.

As with two year olds, some three year olds are just far ahead of their peers at that point of their career.  Either the horse was precocious or carefully managed to get to certain  races in peak form while others were raced harder which didn't allow them to be sharp for each contest.  However, at four and up, there is no such thing as a precocious horse and the benefits of a carefully managed campaign disappears.  We are then able to judge horses at their true level of ability.

Rachel Alexandra was heads above last year's three year old thoroughbred crop.  Something happened over the winter.  The rest of the horses have caught up to her.  The great three year old filly has turned into a mere mortal.  This doesn't cheapen Rachel Alexandra; she is the greatest three year old filly that ever raced, until another three year old filly comes around and does what Rachel did and more, nothing will take it away from her.  Our Somebeachsomewheres and Muscle HIlls may have left the racing scene with their reputations intact but by not competing in the FFA ranks we will never know where they rank against the all time-best. They may be the best three year olds ever, but nothing more.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bulking Up Fields and Prices

It's no secret I love half mile track racing.  When you see that three-wide move down the backstretch, there is nothing more exciting.  However, as a gambler I realize the sport and half mile racing will not be relevant unless we offer decent payoffs.  Payoffs like Freehold yesterday will do nothing to attract any new fans; perhaps the opposite. 

Here are the payoffs from yesterday's dime superfectas: 1st - $17.07; 2nd - $9.70; 3rd - $2.65; 4th - $287.29; 5th - $26.69; 6th - $49.98; 7th - $7.18; 8th - $11.50; 9th - $7.05; 10th - $149.84; 11th - $71.48; 12th - $9.94; 13th - $36.16.  While there were several decent pay-offs, rest assured superfectas that pay $2.65, $7.05, $7.18, $9.70, $9.94, and $11.50 is not doing anything to help make harness racing more popular; quite honestly, it is doing the opposite.  Yes, I know these are payoffs on a dime wager, but many people will look at what it takes them to hit the wager, not the per wager denomination.  So, if a gambler boxes four horses to hit the superfecta, they are looking at investing $2.40 to win $2.65, $7.05, $7.18 and so on; another reason to wager on anything but harness racing.  

What can we do to avoid these insultingly small payoffs?  Several things.  First of all, in the case of the third race where there was only six horses, what was Freehold doing offering a superfecta wager?  The second thing to do is stop offering superfectas in each race.  Have five or six superfectas a day and arrange the races so the fields likely to produce ridiculously small payoffs don't end up being carded as superfecta races.  I know tracks want to get whatever handle they can from wherever, but offering wagers which results in small payoffs like this is a case of a short term gain for a long term loss. 

The other option is to add horses to the second tier.  What better way to increase payoffs (for all pools) by introducing a second tier of horses in our races?  People argue about the safety of having two tiers of horses yet there is no real proof of it being any more dangerous than a single tier; they race second tiers of horses in Europe all the time.  As for it being impossible for second tier horses to win, it no doubt will be hard to win from the back row if we race a mile distance but if we were to race longer, it is a different story.

Let's look at Georgian Downs, the site for last night's Xtreme Horsepower.  Out of the four races with a second tier of horses, two of the races were won by second tier horses and a total of six second tier horses finished in the top three spots.  As for owners who traditionally pick up checks for finishing in the top five, eleven second tier horses would have qualified for purse checks if purses were paid out only for the top five (each starter in Xtreme Horsepower received a check). 

With Georgian Downs being a 5/8 mile oval, they could add nine trailers.  Obviously on a half mile track, adding eight horses would be absurd but there is no reason why we couldn't have four or five trailers in races over the smaller oval.  By having twelve or thirteen horse fields and longer distance races, the days of seeing a dime superfecta paying under $50.00 would likely be a thing of the past.  With superfectas and all wagers paying better than they are now, people who have dismissed harness racing due to the paltry payoffs may give us a second look.   

Chicago's loss was Minnesota's gain.  Running Aces Harness Park concluded it's best meet ever thanks to the devestation which has been laid upon Balmoral and Maywood due to purse cuts.  Those horsemen with better racing stock headed east to seek greener pastures.  Those horsemen who had racing stock which couldn't cut it in the east, headed to Running Aces in search of better purses (where $2,500 claimers raced for $2,500 versus Balmoral's $1,800 purse for $4,000 claimers).  With the Illinois influx in addition to some California horsemen heading to Running Aces, there was an overflow of horses at Running Aces; so much that they needed to rent a nearby fairgrounds to house all the horses.  As a result, field sizes improved and horseplayers, local and from the simulcast world, responded.  A handle of $97,102 was wagered on the closing night's program with half being wagered on-track.  The average handle this year was $90,473 which was more than double last year's figure.  The amount of wagering from off-track sources increased more than triple when compared to last year.  Unless things improve in Illinois, expect another banner year in 2011 at Running Aces as their racing product continues to improve at the expense of the Illinois program. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Zweig Memorial Preview

On Sunday, Tioga Downs features the Zweig Memorial with divisions for three year old trotting colts and fillies in addition to New York Late Closing events for three year old pacing colts.  While the filly division of the Zweig lacks star power, the colt divisions feature some trotters of note; Temple Of Doom, Celebrity Bluechip, Pilgrims Chuckie, and Lucky Chuckie.  The following is my analysis of the Zweig divisions.

2nd Trot - $59,388; Zweig Memorial - 3yo Fillies 1st Div
1 - Impressive Kemp (Morill Jr, 4-1) - Had to requalify after three straight breaks.  Must show she is over these breaking issues.
2 - Spicy Wings (Campbell, 2-1) - Hudson Filly Trot champion prepped at Pocono with a 1:57.2 qualifier.  The one to beat. 
3 - Full Tank (D. Miller, 7-2) - Winner of Tompkins-Geer here put in nice qualifier at Vernon.  Has the ability to upend the favorite.
4 - Amazing Adventure (Schnittker, 8-1) - Unable to handle NY breds in two recent.  Not at best.
5 - Wingbat (Kakaley, 10-1) - Sharp qualifier but has failed in stakes company.  Minor share at best.
6 - Upfront OB's Janet (Gregory, 5-1) - Winner of last at Meadows is meeting better this week.  Share at best.
Selections: 3-2-5 

5th Trot - $60,388; Zweig Memorial - 3yo Fillies 2nd Div
1 - Cessna Hanover (Ranger, 8-1) - Has shown little against stakes company.  May factor with rail.
2 - Show Your Lindys (Morrill Jr, 3-1) - Has been competitve against NYSS.  This is more difficult.
3 - Miss Ridge (Kakaley, 9-2) - Winner of overnight at Pocono has shown some hints of ability.  May land share.
4 - Spectacular Bay (Schnittker, 7-2) -  Showed some ability earlier.  Must mind manners.
5 - In The Mean Time (D. Miller, 5-2) - Toss last.  Has been competing well on the grand circuit.  One to beat.
6 - Leibovitz Hanover (Gregory, 8-1) - Seems to be up against it here.
7 - Up Front Juansteen (Campbell, 8-1) - Winner of Areden at Meadows.  Jumped in last.  Which one shows up today?
Selections: 5-3-1

6th Trot - $134,965; Zweig Memorial - 3yo Colts 1st Div
1 - Winning Fireworks (Schnittker, 10-1) -Improving but meeting much better this week.
2 - Pilgrims Chuckie (Campbell, 5-2) - Winner of two straight appears to be straightened  out.  Horse to beat.
3 - Through The Night (Simons, 12-1) - Little success against state breds.  Pass.
4 - R Sam (Gregory, 5-1) - Second tier horse taking on first tier.  Never a good formula.
5 - Temple Of Doom (D. Miller, 8-1) - Runner up to Lucky Chucky.  Only challenger appears to be #2.
6 - Celebrity Bluechip (Morrill Jr, 3-1) - Greatly improvded NYSS winner can compete with these.  Minor spoils.
Selections: 2-5-6

8th Trot - $134,965; Zweig Memorial - 3yo Colts 2nd Div
1 - Waldorf Hall (Fladen, 5-1) - NYSS winner takes on open company.  Lands share.
2 - Lucky Chuck (Campbell, 8-5) - Would have to beat hinmself.  Likely odds-on.
3 - Baximum (D. Miller, 5-2) -  Second best.  Completes chalk exacta.
4 - Thors Hammer, 10-1) - Winner of last taking big step up.
5 - Crown Man (Bouchard, 12-1) - Has been showing little of late.  Pass.
6 - Oh No Three O (Paquet Jr, 3-1) - Finished second in mid-level open.  Use with the #1 in triple.
Selections: 2-3-1

Here are my selections for the rest of the Tioga card:
1st - Artistic Memory, Prince Polygon, Draftmania (6-4-2)
3rd - Murphy Delivers, Arteriffic, Mystery Island (5-6-2)
4tth - All About Justice, Crypto Man, Blazing Winner, Cool Touch (5-6-1-7)
7th - Up Front Rudy, He Means Business, Paydaze A Comin, Utah Jack (3-1-8-4)
9th - Treman, You Bet Your Glass, Sheer Brilliance (7-5-3)
10th - Major Jette, Breezefromthewest, Arabica (6-4-3)
11th - Tuscan Lindy, Bacon Hill Scott, Catamount N (1-6-8)
12th - Real Gentleman, Spartacus Jim, Mikey Wants More (3-4-7)
13th - Nell Fire, Cody's Honor, Miles Of Style, Sisyphus (2-6-4-8)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Am-Nats; Tioga Downs Weekend

The American-Nationals for three year old trotters are being contested Saturday night at Balmoral Park.  While there is no Muscle Hill competing in the Am-Nat this year, these races are still significant in American trotting as there are still some top-caliber horses competing in these events. 

In the filly event, there are a couple of interesting horses.  Several of these horses came out of the Moni Maker at Lexington which was won by Christiana Hanover who shocked the field comng off suicidal fractions.  Ultimate Cameron and Glide Power are two fillies who came out of that race and have a decent chance to win.  There is a potential upset horse in the lightly raced Action-Broadway despite the ten hole this week.  Coming off two qualifiers at Scioto Downs, this filly was earlier in the year able to hold her own against Poof Shes Gone and in her last PASS event, she finished right behind Christiana Hanover.  With the right odds, I will go with this filly.

The colt event really is a race for the also rans.  With Holiday Road in Canada and Lucky Chucky racing at Tioga on Sunday, the top colts are bypassing this race.  Mystery Photo seems to have this race his to win or lose.  The only other horse worth taking alook at is Primier Hanover who has been suffering from braking problems.  In his last two Midwest starts it seems like they finally have figured what is wrong with this one.  Saturday night may be one of  their few changes to earn a big purse so expect them to see what this one can do.

My analysis of the two Balmoral events:
Balmoral Park - 4th Trot - $131,500; American-National - 3yo fillies
 1 - Ultimeate Cameron (Tr. Tetrick, 3-1) - Faltered in the Moni Maker.  Reasonable fractions here puts this filly in the thick of it.
 2 - Glide Power (J. Johnson, 9-2) - Very impressive effort in last. Will be hoping for fast fractions this week.
 3 - Springtime Volo (D. Magee, 7-2) - No chance in last.  Will be a factor against these.
 4 - Bramalea Hanover (M. Miller, 6-1) - Tried to steal it last time.  Seems to be in tough here.
 5 - Behindclosedoors (M.Oosting, 8-1) - Has been a fringe player all year.  No reason to assume a change here.
 6-  Camtab It All (M. Johansson, 8-1) - Has been disappointing this year.  Looking for a spark this week.
 7 - Secret Magic (T. Warren, 10-1) - Decent effort in Lex overnight.  Will need to step it up.
 8 - Jesse's Messenger (R. Stahl, 12-1) - No shot from second tier last week.  Needs a lot to go her way to be a factor.
 9 -  Levi's Lady (D. Minor, 20-1) -  Meeting better from a bad post.  Hardly ever a winning formula.
10- Action-Broadway (B. Miller, 12-1) - Filly been freshened up.  Lightly raced horse has legitimate long shot potential.
Selections: 10-1-2-3

Balmoral Park - 6th Trot - $150,000; American National - 3yo colts and geldings
 1 - Big Sky Revenue  (D. Hiteman, 12-1) - Best efforts have been against cheaper.  Pass.
 2 - Thro Time (M. Oosting, 8-1) - Was beaten by #1 in his last Balmoral start.  Another pass.
 3 - Coco Lindy (F. Antonacci, 5-1) - Winner of Colonial consolation gets class relief here.  Should be competitive.
 4 - Great Emancipator (B. Kramer, 6-1) - Ackerman trainee won a stakes race earlier here.  A share of the purse is likely.
 5 - Mystery Photo (M. Miller, 3-1) - Another horse which gets needed class relief.  Just missed against Pilgrims Chuckie.  The one to beat.
 6 - Wishing Stone (D. Magee, 4-1) - Tossed in a clunkler last week at Chester.  Aberation or tailing off?
 7 - Run And Tell Pap (M. Cox, 15-1) - Miscue at Springfield eliminated any chance.  Has been solid against state bred.
 8 - Premier Hanover (B. Miller, 15-1) - Has found new life in the Midwest. Solved the problems?  We will see. 
 9 - Powerful Speed (T. Warren, 10-1) - Finished second at Springfield.  Tries open company here.  A possibility.
10 - Sailaway Dream (Tr. Tetrick, 10-1) - Showed life at Freehold but draws the worst of it.  Pass.
Selections: 5-3-4-8 

This weekend is also a big at Tioga Downs.  Friday brings the New York Sire Stakes Late Closing events for two year old pacers, Saturday brings us the NYSS events for three year old pacing colts and Sunday gives us the Zweig Memorial for fillies and colt trotters featuring Lucky Chucky.

For those unfamiliar with the New York Sire Stakes program, there are basically three levels of races for NY sired horses.  The NYSS are for the top level two and three year olds, the NY Late Closing events are for those horses that are not ready for prime time, and the NYCF races are for horses who are still early in their career trying to learn what it takes to be a good race horse.  Friday night you will see plenty of horses coming in from the county fairs trying to see if they can take the next step up.  What is particularly challenging about handicapping these races is  the county fairs do not chart their races so there is no way to really tell how they performed.  The tote board may be your best gauge of these fair horses.

A look ahead indicates there will be some good racing at Vernon Downs this coming week.  The third leg of the Miss Versatility series for older trotting mares will be raced at Vernon Downs on Thursday, September 2nd . To be eligible to the $100,000E final on Jug day at Delaware, mares must make a minimum of two starts in the series.  With only four trotters racing last weekend at Tioga Downs, there is a reasonable chance for more trotting mares shipping in to Vernon in order to be eligible for the final at the Delaware County Fair.  In addition, the Thursday night card will feature the New York Sires Stakes for 2YO colt trotters and New York Late Closer for 3YO trotting colts.

Here is my analysis of Friday and Saturday's Tioga Program.  Sunday's selections will be posted later in the weekend.

Tioga Downs, Friday evening, August 27
1st - River Of Hope, I Gotta Run, EJs Lady Di (3-8-2)
2nd - Looney Dune, Fillomay, Sakra's Mo (3-4-7)
3rd - Brooklyn, Swing Anna Cash, Birthday Bonus (5-7-4)
4th - Tempting Terror, Haze's Zure Bete, Excited Ideal, Diana Blue Chip (7-5-1-4)
5th - All About Kisses, Block Party, Sinspirational (3-1-5)
6th - Distinct Victory, KM Sweet Dreams, Ashcos Scotty (3-8-7)
7th - Forty Three, Winspirational, Ms Graywalls, Arts Beach Babe (5-8-3-7)
8th - Kendall Blue, Expensive Taste, EJs Dream Shadow (2-1-6)
9th - Keystone Rumor, Park Lane Heather, Beforethedaystarts (8-3-6)
10th - Throwdown, Kyrah Can, Artesa (2-1-4)
11th - Jaguar, Stars And Sites, Marquee T (6-9-1)
12th - JK Geronimo, Wizzard Queen, Site To See (6-9-4)
13th - Bar None, Chautauqua Jam, Saskia Lavictoire, Our Special Girl (4-8-9-5)

Tioga Downs, Saturday evening, August 28
1st - Neverhitthebrakes, Gimme A Good One, Puzzlement (2-1-4)
2nd - Day And Night, Canaco Piment, Armbro Bracken (2-3-7)
3rd - Jimmie Hanover, Jo Pa's Fod, Capital Blue Chip (4-2-5)
4th - Sin To Win, Earlivic, Feel The Rush, Two Black Clouds (3-1-2-9)
5th - Bille Bella Chick, Thea's Cam, Jovial Charm (1-2-6)
6th - He's Gorgeous, Forty Carrots, Triple Major (8-7-5)
7th - Radiant Hall, Little Pop Queen, Silverdollar Shark, Libby's Girl (2-9-7-4)
8th - Presitigiousvictory, Smarty Marty Z, Paulie Ma Guire (6-1-5)
9th - Joey The Czar, Flexjet, Erichs Best (5-1-3)
10th - Lucy Lucy, Clear Character, Semjac Legacy (5-2-6)
11th - Focus On The Rail, Four Starz Motor, Just Listed (7-1-5)
12th - Gaje, Briawood Rexx, Perfect Dreamer, Basso Hanover (4-3-5-8)

Enticing People Back; Xtreme Horse Power

Has a thoroughbred track come up with a way to get serious horseplayers back to the track?  Delaware Park in Stanton, DE will be offering a bonus to its on-track customers starting September 4 through the balance of the current thoroughbred meet.  The normal takeout rate on exactas at Delaware Park is 19%.  For those who wager on their races at the track, they will pay a 9% bonus, which results in an effective takeout rate of 10% for their customers, meaning an exacta which pays $100 to their off-track customers will pay $110 for their on-track customers.  If this bonus proves to be successful, the plans are to offer the bonus once again next year, possibly expanding it to other wagers.

While this bonus program will do nothing to attract casual fans to attend the races, it may draw interest from their local players who prefer sitting in front of their computer at home.  After all, a 10% takeout is a reasonable takeout rate which most horseplayers can accept.  Will there be a backlash from tracks and ADWs who take Delaware's signal?  Will off-track gamblers rebel against what they may perceive as a surcharge on their wagers if they find out about the bonus? Will this rebate prove to meet its intended goal by enticing the serious bettor back?  It will be interesting to see how successful this program is and what additional wagers may be included next year.   

Xtreme Horsepower returns to Georgian Downs this Saturday.  Xtreme Horsepower is an evening where races with different distances from 1/8 to 2 1/2 miles will be contested with fields consisting of nine horses for the sprints to eighteen horses for the distance events.  While I am not a fan of sprints, distance races are the future of harness racing in North America as they allow for a second tier of horses, which provides more wagering opportunities and bigger payoffs, as there is enough time for second tier horses to get safely involved in the races.  Of course, it will take more than a one night event to prove their worth to the standardbred industry; more of these races need to be carded. 

Never one to be afraid of a handicapping challenge, I have handicapped these races and am providing my selections here.  In events like these, it is very important to pay attention to the odds.  While I may be listing a favorite, rest assured if the horse goes off odds-on, I will be tossing them as you need value when you play events like this.  Want to handicap the card yourself?  Georgian Downs is providing the programs for free, just be aware in their program they do not list track sizes in their past performance lines (Georgian Downs is a 5/8 mile oval).

1st Pace - $15,000; Xtreme Rush - 3/8 mile
1 - Risky Rich  4-1
5 - Blissed Out   3-1
7 - Windsun Rachel  8-1
6 - Presidio  15-1

2nd Trot - $20,000; Xtreme Challenge - 1 5/8 mile
16 - Abigail Eden  8-1
  3 - Misstle T  3-1
10 - Maple Leaf Quix  2-1
  5 -  Full Volume  5-2

3rd Pace - $20,000; Xtreme Rewind - 1 1/4 mile (clockwise)
8 - Dimes Dividends  3-1
1 - Greystone Cash  5-2
5 - Countyline Cam  8-1
6 - Partytime  15-1

4th Trot - $20,000; Xtreme Shotgun - 1 1/4 mile (walking start)
4 - Dash Car  4-1
3 - Hall Of Wishes  3-1
6 - Americanadian  6-1
7 - Pricevalleyrevitup  6-1

5th Pace - $20,000; Xtreme Challenge - 1 5/8 mile 
  1 - Dash Away All  5-2 (POE)
15 - Ideal Match  4-1
17 - Finally Connected  8-1
  3 - JK My Way  30-1   

6th Pace - $15,000; Xtreme Sprint - 1/8 mile
8 - Red Star Volcano  4-1
5 - Awesum Best  3-1
9 - Red Star Killer  6-1
3 - Mathers Crombie 8-1

7th Trot - $25,000; Xtreme Classic - 2 1/2 miles
18 - Oblige AS  6-1
  6 - Winters Jewel  4-1
17 - Four Starz Kid  7-2
  2 - Wildcat Shoes  5-2

8th Pace - $10,000; Xtreme Battle (1st Elim) - 5/8 mile
8 - The Jay Rock  20-1
6 - Real Energy  5-2
3 - The Boss  6-1
9 - They Call Me Ted  12-1

9th Pace - $10,000; Xtreme Battle (2nd Elim) - 5/8 mile 
8 - Alikeable  20-1
1 - Rocky Bubba  5-2
6 - Orithyrie Semalu  10-1
9 - Brooklets Typhon  4-1

10th Trot - $20,000; Xtreme Rewind - 1 1/4 mile (clockwise)
2 - Unbounded River  5-2
6 - Abbey Road C  3-1
8 - Think Gold  4-1
7 - I Gopher Gold  12-1

11th Pace - $25,000; Xtreme Showdown - 1 7/8 mile
12 - J L Tiger  20-1
  3 -Pauls Pass  5-2
  6 - Inspired Art  3-1
13 - KG Kool 25-1  

12 Pace - $20,000; Xtreme Battle Final -  5/8 mile
Top four finishers plus one fifth place finisher from the 8th and 8th races return.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Scourge Known as Elimination Races

This Saturday, a Cane Pace elimination is being contested at Freehold Raceway. According to the conditions of the Cane Pace, if more than nine horses enter the race, it is necessary to conduct eliminations. However, if there are not enough horses entered to ensure a minimum of six horses in each elimination race, byes are awarded to the highest money earners. Since eleven horses entered this year's edition, three horses (BG's Folly, Delmarvalous, and One More Laugh) have been issued byes meaning the other eight horses will be competing the remaining five spots in the final.

I understand, but disagree with the rationale for awarding byes. Freehold realizes five horse races do not make particularly attractive wagering propositions. It’s a shame race tracks aren’t as concerned with offering races where every horse is seeking to win, nor giving horses an unfair advantage in the final.

Harness racing still does not get it. Eliminations for major races are a can't-win situation. Were harness racing a pure speed sport like the quarter horse racing, eliminations would make sense; the fastest individually timed horses qualify for a stakes race. Unfortunately, standardbreds don't race this way so we have use various ways to address the dilemma of an excess number of horses entering a particular race.

What is wrong with the Freehold approach to the Cane Pace? By giving three horses the option of taking a bye, these horses get the advantage of taking a week off; something their opposition is not offered. As a result, come next week, the trio of horses given the bye will be fresher than their opponents possibly making it easier for them to be victorious. In addition, the eight horses competing for the five remaining spots main goal will be to finish in the top five so they qualify for the lucrative final; winning is secondary. Hence, handicappers are left to figure out if a horse will be trying for a win or just qualify for the final.

Other races do not use byes, but rely on elimination races alone. Tracks typically offer relatively minor purses for elimination races when compared to the final’s purse. Some tracks have tacitly acknowledged connections of horses may not be trying to win a race by offering a carrot to ensure a horse’s best effort by either allowing first place finishers to choose their post position in the final or by assigning post positions based on a horse’s finish in an elimination race. But even with the carrot, some horses are still not being driven to win, but to qualify.

The only time a horse should be given a free pass to race in a stakes race is in the situation of “win it, you’re in it”; a horse that wins a specific race is given an automatic berth into a stakes race. But even then, the balance of the field should not be determined by the outcome of an elimination race.

Races such as the Battle of the Brandywine are perhaps the best way to determine the field for a stake race. The top eight money earners for the year race in the stake race with consolation races based on money earnings taking place for the others. This way, horses need to perform to their best ability leading up to the race otherwise they risk not qualifying for the stake race. Another equally acceptable method is to offer divisions of a race such as done with the Oliver Wendell Holmes which was conducted on the Hambletonian card. Either way, horses will be performing to their best ability as it is all or nothing.

We know harness racing has a perceived integrity problem. The last thing tracks should be doing is promoting these perceptions by offering a horse an incentive not to perform to their best ability. Hence there should be a standardized format for handling an overflow of entries to a stake race based on a race’s classification. Stake races should be classified as Classic, Major, or Minor with the following suggested rules in place:
  • Classic Races (races such as the Breeders Crown, Meadowlands Pace, Triple Crown, or any other race acknowledged by the industry as being significant) - Entry spots may be earned by winning a designated race(s). Any remaining spots will be awarded to horses with the highest earnings in the current year. Consolation races are optional.
  • Major races (determined by the individual track) – Entry to the race will be limited to the horses with the highest money earnings in a specific year. Consolation races will be offered to those who don’t qualify for the main event.
  • Minor races (determined by the individual track) – Races will be contested in divisions, with the purse being divided equally. A track has the right to limit the number of divisions of a race, in which case, monetary earnings will determine the entrants.
The last thing we need to do is have people wondering if a horse is trying to win or not. Tracks should not be offering races which promote this thinking. It is time to clean it up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Have a Fun Day and Help a Good Cause

Those within a reasonable driving distance of Goshen, New York have the opportunity to have a great time and support one of harness racing's treasures, Goshen Historic Track at the same time this Sunday, August 29 as Historic Track presents Dog Day Derby at Goshen Historic Track.

There will be numerous events including a dog parade, various contests and doggie games.  Of course, what would a day at Historic Track be without races; dog races in this instance?  All friendly dogs of all breeds are invited to participate or to watch the fun.  The event is open to the public with participating canine registration beginning at 10:00 a.m.  The dog parade begins at 10:30 a.m with the various competitions beginning at 11 a.m.  Admission is $5.00 for those twelve and over (children are free).  There is a $20 entry fee for competing canine athletes which entitles them to participate in all events.

So bring the family along for a great time and help maintain one of harness racing's greatest historical sites at the same time.  For further information, please visit Historic Track's website


Little Brown Jug Future Wager

The Little Brown Jug Future Wager is available starting at noon on Thursday, August 26.  A field of twenty-three three year old pacers has been assembled plus an option for selecting All Other Three Year Olds.  Past performances for the twenty-three horses is available here.

The tag of morning line favorite has been given to Rock N Roll Heaven (#17) who won the Battle of Brandywine this past weekend at Chester Downs; being assigned a 6-1 morning line.  I am going against Rock N Roll Heaven who I expect will end up with lower odds and am going with Aracache Hanover (#3) who has a morning line of 12-1.  Arachache Hanover is a winner of eight out of ten starts this year, most recently winning the Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs.  Being the Flamboro Downs is a half mile oval and he won two heats in taking down the Confederation Cup crown, he is logical choice being the Jug is contested under similar conditions.  Granted, his competition has been somewhat easier, but hopefully he will be able to step up when they convene in Delaware.

If you are looking for a horse who has raced in the major dances so far this year, I will go with Schnittker trainee One More Laugh (#14) who has been assigned an 8-1 morning line.  One More Laugh, the winner of the Meadowlands Pace, finished second to Rock N Roll Heaven at Chester Downs and shows a victory over the Yonkers Raceway oval in winning the Rooney.

Of course, making a selection and making a wager are two different things.  Not all wagering outlets will be accepting wagers on the LBJ future wager, including the Meadowlands and the NJADW.  If you know of a location accepting future wager bets, feel free to post it here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Benefits of Exchange Wagering

The Paulick Report has interviewed Stephen Burn, the President of TVG and the Global Director of Horse Racing for Betfair, regarding the possibility of Exchange Wagering being introduced to the United States.  Specifically, there is a bill in the California legislature which will permit California to the be the first state in the United States to offer the product.  As to be expected, the racetracks are up in arms over the possibility of exchange wagering coming to California despite the fact Betfair would have to come to terms with the racetracks before they could offer exchange wagering.  The interview is one everyone connected with horse racing should read.  While the complete interview may be read here, here is couple of excerpts from the interview:  

When asked what he felt the impact of exchange wagering would be on horse racing, Mr. Burn responded:

A positive impact. Exchange wagering is not a silver bullet to provide a solution to all the challenges of the industry, but it is a useful and innovative tool offering a real opportunity to attract a new type of bettor and to win back players who have moved offshore or who have left the sport. It seems as though racing has focused on assistance or subsidies from other sorts of gambling, and while that’s understandable we think it is important for racing to find new ways to draw interest to and generate revenues from its own product. Exchange wagering is one of the few successful innovations that is proven to help racing draw new interest and generate revenues from the racing product itself. 

Regarding fears that exchange wagering will kill traditional pari-mutuel wagering, Burn responds:

I understand the concerns, but the evidence we’ve seen from countries where Betfair operates suggests the concerns will not be born out. In the UK, for example, the state-owned pari-mutuel operator (Tote) has seen dramatic rises in its turnover since Betfair’s inception–52% growth. If we are ever licensed in the U.S., our intention is to sit the exchange alongside the high-margin pari-mutuel products and cross-sell those products to exchange players. Doing this has introduced numerous new bettors to tote betting in the UK who would otherwise not have engaged with the product. Earlier this month, Betfair accounted for more than 40% of all new money bet into the nationwide Tote pool on a “pick six” bet, boosting that pool to an all-time record.

Technology moves on and racing needs to finally embrace it.  The pari-mutuel system is an inefficient model for wagering in the 21st century.  Continuing to rely solely on pari-mutuels means only the continuing decline in wagering handle.  By embracing exchange wagering, standardbred racing has a realistic chance to increase not only wagering handle, but the ability to capture the interest of the younger generation.  Will racing's share per dollar be less with exchange wagering?  Certainly, but what is better, a lot of nothing, or a little of plenty?

While the California bill being discussed includes an increase in the takeout of pari-mutuel wagering, if it means introducing exchange wagering, it should be approved even if the foolish takeout increase can't be stripped from the bill.  Hopefully, New Jersey and other states will look at introducing exchange wagering as well.  The sooner the better.

The "New" Jersey Standardbred Calendar - A Recommendation

Despite all the doom and gloom encasing the New Jersey standardbred world, I believe we will be seeing racing at the Meadowlands next year; albeit a reduced schedule.  However, some people are saying they need a hundred day 'elite' meet at the Meadowlands to make it work.  The problem is a hundred day meet will likely not be able to sustain the existing purse structure.

We need to provide enough racing dates in the state of New Jersey to allow the state's breeding program to remain relevant as well as provide racing opportunities which make the product attractive for export.  This means providing enough racing dates to ensure sufficient racing dates for the New Jersey sired and bred horses of all levels, yet provide ample non-restricted racing opportunities.  This involves coordinating racing schedules at the Meadowlands and Freehold, plus re-introducing a fair circuit. 

In my vision, the New Jersey standardbred calendar would look like this:

  • Freehold Raceway - March thru May (48 days); September thru November (36 days)
  • Meadowlands - Last week of May thru first week of September (50 days), October (8 days)
  • New Jersey Fair Circuit - July thru August (more about this later)
This schedule, excluding the fair circuit, would provide for 142 standardbred dates in New Jersey between Freehold and the Meadowlands.  The Freehold dates would bookend the Meadowlands' meet with the spring meet racing four days a week while the fall meet would race three days a week.  The Meadowlands meet would race Memorial Day through Labor Day with racing typically three days a week, featuring the 'A' list horses.  In addition to the summer meet, the Meadowlands would host a two week Grand Circuit meet similar to the Red Mile's meet, racing four days a week which would be scheduled after the Red Mile and culminate with the Breeders Crown should it be awarded to the Meadowlands.  By reducing the racing calendar at Freehold and the Meadowlands, the current purse structure should be sustained, if not increased, without the help of purse subsidies and provide sufficient racing opportunities for locally owned horses as well as provide for a sufficient early and late closing program for non-state bred horses.

However, with reduced racing opportunities, something needs to be done to help encourage interest in New Jersey sired and bred horses.  This would be accomplished by replacing the New Jersey Sire Stakes (NJSS) with a new program, the New Jersey Sired and Foaled Stakes (NJSF) which would be open to horses sired by New Jersey resident stallions and horses foaled in the state.  Why should the NJSS  be replaced?  With the increased use of semen transport, many of the mares who breed to New Jersey sired horses never step foot in the state.  By opening the program to horses foaled in state, it will actually stimulate business at New Jersey standardbred farms by encouraging broodmares to make New Jersey their home.     

The NJSF would have three levels; gold, silver, and bronze with events for two and three year olds as well as aged horses.  Gold events would be held at the Meadowlands, while silver events would be conducted at Freehold Raceway.  The New Jersey fair circuit would be resurrected for the NJSF Bronze divisions.  The fair circuit races would be non-wagering events which would be conducted at training farms and at the Meadowlands and Freehold.  Why bring back a fair circuit which was eliminated due to expense?  A fair circuit would provide the means to expose harness racing to a new generation in a non-threatening manner such as done at Goshen and encourage interest in New Jersey yearlings as it would provide an opportunity for owners of not ready for prime time horses to recoup some of  their expenses.      

No, it is not the 142 days the Meadowlands and the 168 days Freehold is racing in 2010, but without a subsidy, there is no way the purse account can support these many days.  By racing a calendar similar to the one proposed here, horsemen will be racing for meaningful purses and offering a product worth wagering on, not only in New Jersey, but elsewhere. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

They Don't Stop for Anything Do They?

Updated: Corrected the name of one of the horses and drivers involved in the accident.

There was a bad spill this afternoon during the running of the third race at Monticello Raceway.  Just after the race started, the horse Stormunn fell down only to be run over by Aruba Sunset and Sweety's Finale well before the first turn.  As a result of the accident, horses were down just past the finish line and a loose horse was running the opposite direction on the track.  Yet, the race continued as if nothing happened.  Of course, the horses had to race wide going down the stretch the two times they passed the accident but other than that, it was business as usual, and that is wrong.

It is one thing if the accident occurred late in a mile when the horses would not pass the same point on the track.  It wouldn't be a problem if there was a loose horse going the same direction as the horses in the race.  But this accident was just after the start (track announcer Howard Oil was just about to make his first call in the race), and a horse was going the opposite direction on the track meaning the potential was there for a head on collision between horses twice during the race, putting the remaining horses and drivers in the race at risk. 

How come in Europe they can stop the race and restart it, yet we insist on the race continuing?  Do we value our drivers and horses so cheaply?  Is it we are afraid of having to refund the money for the horses who would not be able to answer the call to post for a restart (as if there is that much to refund)?  I would like to think it isn't those reasons; it just isn't something we have ever done before?

This time there were no consequences for continuing on, but the day may come where we won't be so lucky.  Racing needs to seriously rethink its policy towards race restarts when there is an accident before something tragic happens due to our refusal to address the issue.

As for the three horses and drivers (Rick Harp, Gregory Merton, and James Clouser Jr) involved in the accident, there have been no reports regarding their injuries.  Hopefully,the drivers and horses have come out of the mishap with nothing more than scrapes and scratches.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Racing What it Was, What it Can Be

Updated:  Walter Case is not driving. This week at Balmoral.

Part Shark went down the road last night at Chalottetown Driving Park to win the 51st edition of the Gold Cup and Saucer in a track record of 1:51.  It was a real treat to watch this race and see what harness racing can be.  However, watching this race also brings sadness as it highlights what racing has become in the United States.  One can't help but wonder what racing has done wrong which has resulted in most of our big races being run in front of barren grandstands and aprons.

Watch the replay of last night's Gold Cup and Saucer; watch it twice.  Once, watch the race for the action on the track; the second time to watch the crowd which not only filled the grandstand apron, but had people circling the entire oval and infield. 

Those in racing need to see what racing can do to recapture some of this spirit if it wishes to survive.  We can't expect racing to experience attendance like this on a daily basis, but we must increase interest if there is any chance for survival.  It is possible, if the industry is willing to change.

Earlier we reported that Walter Case Jr was scheduled to drive on Wednesday at Balmoral.  It turns out his being listed was a clerical error.  As of now, he is not racing anywhere.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gold Cup and Saucer, The Best Race You Won't Bet

Tonight is the running of the Gold Cup & Saucer at Charlottetown Driving Park.  While the purse is only $60,000 (Canadian), this is a race where the purse is secondary; adding your name to the list of winners is paramount to the connections.

Unfortunately, wagering for the Gold Cup and Saucer is limited in the United States.  The Red Mile will be handling the race (WEG will be carrying it in Canada) as will a few ADWs.  Still, a race which will have horsemen surrounding the fence around the track and fans filling the grandstand apron deserves to be covered; there are far too few of these races around.  Here is my analysis of the race:

Charlottetown Driving Park 14th Pace - $60,000; Gold Cup and Saucer
1 - PH Tornado (Barrieau, 15-1) - Had no chance in last race against Stonebridge Terror.  Best chance of the local horses.
2 - Stonebridge Terror (Coulter, 5-2) - Won in 1:52.4 in his trial by almost six lengths.  Note that was only his third win of the season.
3 - Giddy Up Delight (MacKenzie, 3-1 ) - Winner in 1:52.1, while not as dominating as #2; he has higher win percentage in Ontario.
4 - Part Shark (S. Zeron, 4-1) - Another trial winner in 1:52.1.  Most of his racing occurs on the B circuit.  May land share.
5 - Panda Bear (A. MacDonald, 8-1) - Beaten favorite is unlikely to rebound from last week. 
6 -  Royal Becquet (Allard, 10-1) - Never a threat in his trial.  A likely also ran.
7 - Priceless Edition (M. Campbell, 14-1) -Distant second to Stonebridge Terror.  Note driver selected #6 this week.
8 - Awestreos (J. MacDoanld, 12-1) - Bad post suggests his best effort was seen last week.  Pass.
9 - Proven Lover (Chappell, 8-1) - Governor's Plate winner (Summerside) does show a victory on the WEG circuit.  Needs a lot of luck to get involved. 
Selections: 3-2-4-1

Meanwhile, the best race you will not be betting on Sunday occurs at Tioga Downs in the second leg of the Miss Versatility Trot.  With only four horses dropping in the box, the race will be contested as a non-wagering event.  If you have the ability to watch the Tioga signal tomorrow, tune in to watch this race.  The approximate post time for this race is 2:20pm.

Tioga Downs Non-betting Trot - $25,000; Miss Versatility, Aged Mares
1 - Buck I St Pat (Kakaley) - Bounced back with a win in the Matchmaker.  The one to beat.
2 - Southwind Wasabi (Marohn Jr) - Has really not been competitive against these.  Pass.
3 - Yursa Hanover (Ranger) - Needs a more patient drive to be a factor. 
4 - Windsong Soprano (Ra. Waples) - Runner up to #1 last week finished ahead of top choice in the first leg.
Selections: 4-1-3-2

With the Meadowlands summer meet concluded, you may be looking for another track to wager on.  You may wish to consider Tioga Downs with their takeout the lowest in all of North America.  To assist you with your handicapping, I am happy to offer my handicapping selections for tonight's and Sunday afternoon's card.

Tioga Downs, Saturday, August 21
1st - Sinspirational, Occupant, Kahlo C C (5-6-2)
2nd - Majestic's Joy, Broadway Line, Classic Viking (3-1-4)
3rd - Ammie Finesse, Vivollo, Glenna S Angel (6-2-4)
4th - Babycakes Eden, Fast Mail, Bonnie And Slide, Nipozzano (1-3-5-7)
5th - Striking Osborne, Ebba's Yankee, Genesisjerseyspeed (6-5-8)
6th - Diva Delight, Princess Jalona, Rio Raider (4-5-2)
7th - Fox Valley Majesty, Amazing Hanover, S A Poster Boy, Maple Leaf Noble (1-6-8-4)
8th - Tuscan Lindy, Franky Provoline, A Jam Sampl (5-8-4)
9th - Sadies Place, My True Delight, Shady Matilda (6-7-3)
10th - Earlivic, Wild Goose Lodge, Bacon Hill Scott (2-3-8)
11th - What About Brian, All Joy, Galahad Hall (1-7-5)
12th - Fox Valley Michael, Briawood Rex, Allamerican Solo, Gaje (8-9-4-3)

Tioga Downs, Sunday, August 22
1st - Gold Like U, Miles Of Style, There He Is (1-3-4)
2nd - Real Mystical, Nathanial's Artist, Nell Fire (6-2-5)
3rd - Oh No Three O, Keystone Thomas, Dreamanotherdream (3-8-2)
4th - Brighton Bay One, Lookinforasign, Bettyordays R Cumin, Mike And Jim (2-7-8-5)
5th - How Forever Feels, Hearty Fellow, Keep On Dream (6-3-4)
6th - Jack's Reef, Sam's Honeybee, Super Lotto (2-7-4)
7th - Petes Elect A, Opan Heart, I'm In Luck, Anvilanunoit N (7-9-5-3)
8th - Pappy, First Of Fun, Reasontocelebrate (4-5-8)
9th - Colorful Dreams, Arabica, Sisyphus (3-7-8)
10th -All About Justice, Baseball Express, Andover America (5-6-7)
11th - Whole Lotta Wow, Winbak Dimensions, Stettin Hanover (4-5-3)
12th - Mike Wants More, Fox Valley Quantum, I'mkindofabigdeal, Prettyasapageant (2-7-3-8)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chester Super Stakes, Listening to Your Gut

Sometimes, you just got to listen to your gut instinct.  In yesterday's blog, I discussed The Moni Maker Trot at The Red Mile.  In the race review yesterday, I made the following comment about Christiana Hanover:

Outsider has drawn poorly but it may be a mistake to exclude from exotics.

In my selections for the race I had her listed fourth, 5-1-8-9.  What, made her intriguing?  First of all, Christiana Hanover won a PASS race two starts ago (at 42-1 as it was) and has been competitive against this caliber of horse.  Secondly, the driver Riina Rekila was spotting a .414 UDR average.  Rekila, who was featured in the July edition of Trot drives and trains her own horses only.  With 48 driving starts coming in to this race, the .414 UDR was something not to be dismissed.  Plus, being her first start in Kentucky, and one of only a few American starts, it was inevitable bettors would say Riina who?   So it was safe to assume she would be dismissed, especially against this field.

Truth be told, I had no intention on betting her to win.  Clearly, while a nice horse, Christiana Hanvoer appeared to be a step below this level of competition.  At her morning line of 15-1, and post position nine in a twelve horse race, I couldn't see playing her, even at 25-1.  But once her odds went north of 40-1, there was no way I was going to dismiss a driver with a .414 UDR at those odds. 

Did I really expect her to win?  Admittedly, no.  But there was no way I was going to let a horse I liked a little and a driver I liked a lot go at those odds.  The race went off and everyone learned why Rekila had a .414 UDR as she pulled off the shocker and paid $106.80. 

The point here is not to gloat.  I got lucky this time, plain and simple.  Knowing a lot about handicapping may improve your odds over the course of time, but each individual race still boils down to luck; this is why it is called gambling.  Despite all the systems and methodologies we all have towards picking horses, there are times you just got to listen to your gut instinct.

Sunday is Super Stakes Day at Chester Downs and it promises to be an excellent card of racing.  There are nine stakes races (including consolations) on the fourteen race card which  has a special post time of 2:00pm.  The big races on Sunday are the $350,000 Valley Forge, $500,000 Colonial, and the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine.  The best thing about Super Stakes Day is there are no elimination races.  The top money earners get to race in the main event, with the balance of the entrants being seeded into two consolations.  Hence, bettors are getting races where everyone is seeking to cash in today because there is no next week with regards to these events.  

Here is my analysis of the big three events on the card.     

10th Pace - $350,000; The Valley Forge - 3yo Fillies
1 - Hula's Z Tam (P. Lachance, 5-1) - Has been dominating state-breds; takes on open company.  May land share.
2 - It's De Lovely (Gregory, 8-1) - Success has been coming in second tier events.  This group is tougher.
3 - Ruffle's Kiss (Campbell, 12-1) - Solidly trounced by #6 in last meeting.  Can't recommend.
4 - Put On A Show (Tetrick, 2-1) - Killed the bridgejumpers in last start.  Tailing off or one time event?  Your call.
5 - A And Gs Princess (D. Miller, 6-1) - Only one victory this year but has been holding her own this year.  Don't ignore.
6 - Panagler (Pierce, 15-1) - Has been somewhat disappointing this year.  Can't recommend.
7 - Dancinwiththestarz (Sears, 5-2) - Upset #4 in last but has the ability to repeat despite post draw.
8 - Rock N Soul (Gingras, 8-1) - Woke up in last race.  May land shares here.
Selections: 7-1-4-8

11th Trot - $500,000; The Valley Forge - 3yo Open
1 - Pilgrims Taj (M. Lachance, 4-1) - Never had a chance last week.  Expect better performance this week.
2 - Temple Of Doom (D. Miller, 6-1) - Another one doomed last week.  Toss and you have a possible value play here.
3 - Shaq Is Back (Schnittker, 20-1) - Early season magic has gone.  Pass.
4 - Lucky Chucky (Campbell, 9-5) - Is the horse to beat but you need to decide if you want to accept less than even money.
5 - Hard Livin (Gingras, 8-1) - This one is just in need of racing luck.  Lands a share.
6 - Wishing Stone (Brennan, 5-1) - Best performance of the bad trippers in the Hambo.  Possibility.
7 - On The Tab (Johansson, 12-1) - Gets off the mile track where he has been ineffective.  Still must see more before considering.
8 - Cassis (Tetrick, 8-1) - Will be leaving.  Just a question if he gets pressured this week or not. Don't ignore.
Selections: 8-4-6-1

12th Pace - $500,000; The Battle of the Brandywine - 3yo Open
1 - We Will See (B. Miller, 8-1) - Will be positioned nicely if the speed falters at the end.  Consider.
2 - One More Laugh (Tetrick, 9-5) - Has been the hot horse and put in a crisp prep here.  One to beat.
3 - Delmarvalous (Sears, 4-1) - Turned the tables on #2 in last meet up.  Took last week off; the difference?
4 - Rock N Roll Heaven (Dube, 2-1) - Has not been coming up to the big events with his A game.  No reason to think this week will be different.
5 - BG's Folly (Pierce, 10-1) - Impressive effort in the Confederation Cup.  Can be a shocker.
6  -World of Rocknroll (Brennan, 20-1) - Nothing to recommend here.
7 - Fred and Ginger (Morrill Jr, 10-1) - Tough spot with speed.inside.
8 - Versado (Gingras, 12-1) - Keeps getting bad posts at the wrong time. Pass.
Selections: 5-1-2

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moni Maker and Meadowlands Closing (Season) Night

Updated:  Neglected to originally comment on the two trailers in the Moni Maker race.

Friday night brings the curtain down on the main portion of the 2010 Meadowlands meet and it goes out with a quartet of major races; The Sweetheart, Woodrow Wilson, Golden Girls, and the Haughton Memorial.  My analysis follows.

But first, our attention turns to The Red Mile where tonight, The Moni Maker is being contested.  The Moni Maker is a major race for three year old trotting fillies which features Hambletonian Oaks winner Bar Slide.  Bar Slide looks to be well supported at the windows, but a victory here is far from a foregone conclusion as it is a wide open race.  My support willbe going to Springtime Volo, hoping to score a minor upset.
The Red Mile - 7th Trot - $232,750; The Moni Maker - 3yo Fillies
  1 - Cantab It All (Dube, 9-2) - Broke through in the Duenna and gets the rail which fits her style.  Figures to be a factor here.
  2 - Glide Power (Sears, 3-1) - Unable to hold off #1 in last.  Same may happen again.
  3 - Behindclosedoors (Wrenn, 12-1) - Not a factor in the Oaks but picks up Wrenn.  Consider with long odds.
  4 - Ultimate Cameron (Ritchie, 7-2) - Runner up in the Oaks has been knocking on the door consistently.  Will break through soon.
  5 - Springtime Volo (Shelter, 6-1) - Oaks elimination winner had bad trip in the final.  Excellent value play.
  6 - Bramalea Hanover (Pierce, 10-1) - Seems to be overmatched here.  Pass.
  7 - Ally-Gal Ridge (Irvine Jr, 15-1) - Been competing in second tier events.  Seems to be up against it.
  8 - Bar Slide (Tetrick, 5-2) - Oaks winner can't afford any mistakes.  No value here.
  9 - Christiana Hanover (Rekila, 15-1) - Outsider has drawn poorly but it may be a mistake to exclude from exotics.
10 - Impressive Kemp (Vanderkemp, 20-1) - Has broken last four pari-mutuel starts.  Pass.
11 - Jesse's Messenger (Stahl, 20-1) - Coming off a two race win streak in the OSS.  Has raced well against open before.  Spice up exotics? .
12 - Bone A Fide (Macomber Jr, 10-1) - Will be hard pressed to get involved in the race.
Selections: 5-1-8-9 

Here is my analysis for the Meadowlands quartet of stakes closing out the meet.

The Meadowlands - 4th Pace - $402,400; Sweetheart Final - 2yo Fillies 
  1 -Rocklamation (Pierce, 6-1) - Picked up the pieces in her last; same to be expected this time.
  2 - Shyaway (Sears, 4-1) - Elimination winner must be respected but seems to be up against it with the #5.
  3 - Mothermayi Hanover (A. Miller, 15-1) - Front runner will need to be able to steal the race on the front end.  Seems to be unlikely.
  4 - Cndiana Jones (Buter, 20-1) - Appears to be overmatched.
  5 - Show And Tell (Gingras, 8-1) - Success has come against cheaper.  May be good enough to land a share.
  6 - Honky Tonk Woman (D. Miller, 15-1) - Seems to be improving but still not up to it.
  7 - Ace Of Pace (Brennan, 9-5) - What's to say?  Heads above the rest of the field.  One to beat.
  8 - Ms Malicious (Tetrick, 5-1) - Not yet competitive against stakes caliber.  Pass.
  9 - Ladystar (Campbell, 10-1) - Nice effort against open company.  Consider in exotics.
10 - Myluvmylife (Lachance, 20-1) - Post totally eliminates from consideration.
Selections: 7-2-9-5

6th Pace - $473,000; Woodrow Wilson Final - 2yo Colts and Geldings
  1 - Line Officer (Tetrick, 12-1) - Get needed class relief.  Expect colt to make the best of it.
  2 - Powerful Mist (Sears, 3-1) - Elimination winner must be respected but rail riding won't do it here.
  3 - Grams Legacy (Pierce, 4-1) - Has been plagued with breaks early in career.  Dangerous if flat.
  4 - Roll'em Up (Lachance, 15-1) - Barely qualified for final.  Pass.
  5 - Rollwithitharry (Dube, 12-1) - Had received bye but probably could have benefited with a start.
  6 - Arockin Hanover (A. Miller, 15-1) - Outsider against these.
  7 - Shark Ingested (Brennan, 5-1) - Finished second in elimination.  Prior :26 final quarter suggests we will see better this week.
  8 - On The Radar (Gingras, 8-1) - Seems up against it.
  9 - Fashion Delight (D. Miller, 7-2) - Has lethal stretch kick which may allow to overcome post.
10 - McSocks (Campbell, 15-1) - Post eliminates from contention.
Selections:  7-9-3-5

7th Pace - $257,000; Golden Girls - FFA Mares
  1 - Fox Valley Topaz (D. Miller, 15-1) - Still looking for first win of the season. Not the place to do it.
  2 - Ginger And Fred (Sears, 10-1) - Made two moves in a hopeless effort last week.  May be the upset play of the evening.
  3 - Dreamfair Eternal (Waples, 9-2) - Has been knocking it out with the divisions best.  Must respect.
  4 - Yellow Diamond (Dube, 15-1) - Doubt she is ready to compete with these.
  5 - Ramona Disomma (Brennan, 8-1) - Has not had success against this caliber.
  6 - Not Enough (Jamieson, 10-1) - Millionairess may land share with best.
  7 - On The Glass (Gingras, 5-2) -  Lady Liberty champ looks to repeat.  Have to consider.
  8 - Shacked Up (Pierce, 15-1) -  Another two mover who has chance to land share with a trip.
  9 - Tug River Princess (Campbell, 7-2) - Has been fighting it out with the best but draws poorly.
10 - Southwind Temp (Tetrick, 6-1)  - Tries better.  Has back class which must be respected despite the post.
11 - Chancey Lady (A. Miller, 12-1)  - Will need to work out the perfect trip from the second tier.
Selections: 2-7-8-10

8th Pace - $702,500; William Haughton Memorial - Final
1 - Real Joke (Tetrick, 8-1) - It would be if this one wins.  Share with best effort.
2 - Won The West (D. Miller, 7-2) - Suspect he's battling soundness issues.  Heart may land share.
3 - Bettor Sweet (Campbell, 15-1) - Good recovery in last but meeting much better.
4 - Hypnotic Blue Chip (Jamieson, 9-2) - Upset winner in US Pacing Championship.  Has ability to repeat.
5 - Oliver Cleo (Sears, 10-1) - Another one who seems to be over reaching. 
6 - Mr Wiggles (A. Miller, 20-1) - Has yet to be able to compete against the aged FFAllers.  Pass.
7 - Vintage Master (Dube, 8-1) - Appears to have peaked.  Don't see tonight.
8 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 10-1) - Post eliminates from consideration.
9 - Shark Gesture (Brennan, 9-5) - Prep winner lost to #4 from the inside in last match up.  Why like from the outside?
Selections: 4-9-2-1

For those looking for Friday night Tioga selections, it is a rare dark night thhis week with racing resuming Saturday evening.  However, Vernon Downs is hosting another leg of the Kindergarten Classic Trotting Series (the first leg was at the Meadowlands).  I took a look at those races and here are my selections:

1st Trot - $10,000; Kindergarten Classic Trotting Series - 2yo Fillies (1st division)
2 - Temple Of Heaven (9-5)
5 - Ornela Dream (3-1)
3 - Sizzling Volo (6-1)

3rd Trot - $10,000; Kindergarten Classic Trotting Series - 2yo Fillies (2nd division)
3- Sacred Saint (3-1)
1 - Iron Lady (10-1)
7 - Electra Blue Chip (2-1)

5th Trot - $10,000; Kindergarten Classic Trotting Series - 2yo Colts and Geldings
1 - VC Chocoholic (5-2, coupled with Sexy Dirty Money)
2A-Evil Urges (7-2, coupled with Whit)
7 - Charlie De Vie (9-2)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Response

We have been discussing how the standardbred industry in New Jersey has been responding to the Hanson Report and Governor Christie’s proclamations that horse racing must stand on its own. How are our thoroughbred cousins responding to the threat that Monmouth Park needs to be privatized and there be no subsidies?

Surprisingly well.

In the Paulick Report, Ray Paulick interviews trainer John Forbes, President of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association (NJTHA) to get his feelings regarding the challenges facing thoroughbred racing. The message the thoroughbred industry is presenting is much different from the standardbred camp; a message of calmness and moving forward. Granted, the thoroughbred industry is not facing the immediate closure of their racetrack like the harness industry is facing with the Meadowlands (which I doubt will happen next year), but make no mistake; they too are facing the task of going it alone and being self-sufficient. Why the difference in attitudes?

The thoroughbred industry is proactive, harness racing is reactive. There lies the problem which has been hampering harness racing for a long time. Two years ago, then President of the NJTHA, Dennis Drazin, realized the casino subsidy was drying up. They realized the casino industry wanted horse racing out of the state if they could do it. Two years ago, the NJTHA leadership was starting to make plans for the Elite Meet at Monmouth Park. As Paulick reports,

The customer had spoken and we weren’t doing what the customer wants. Dennis said customers want bigger fields and better quality, and if we don’t supply that, something’s wrong with us—not the customer.

The runners get it. Their plan is to have the same type of meet next year, hopefully finding additional funding to keep the purses higher.

What did harness racing do? The same old thing. Since VLTs came to Pennsylvania and New York, there was no way the Meadowlands could continue to run long meets and outbid the surrounding racinos purse-wise. But instead of significantly shortening the Meadowlands race meets to be able to offer purses which could compete, things continued on as normal. Freehold Raceway, with an altered schedule, continues to race too many days resulting in cheap races which no one wants to wager on. But as long as horsemen are collecting those purse checks, the status quo has been fine; empty grandstand and all. Now that their livelihood is being threatened, the industry is reacting.

The problem is not just in New Jersey, but other states as well, most notably Illinois where the desire of being able to race year round is paramount and has resulted in a $1,800 purse for the bottom classes at Balmoral and Maywood. The attitude continues being “It is not what the customer wants, it is what the horsemen want”; the ability to race in one location all year long regardless of how low the purses get. If horsemen in Illinois were willing to race a shorter meet and be willing to travel the rest of the year, we would not be in the situation where the Meadowlands is the lynch pin for which the national harness industry depends on. If horsemen finally start worrying about what the customer wants, shorter quality meets, harness racing can become stronger in all the states it exists in and possibly even expand. For those horsemen who race on slot money, they better start worrying about what their customers want as well as the day will come when the slot spigot is turned off.

For those horsemen who say it is the track’s responsibility, it is important to note the thoroughbred horsemen came to Monmouth Park management and said they were racing too many days. You can’t leave it to the tracks to solve the problems; especially in states where they make their money on alternative gaming. It is up to the horsemen to take the lead.

So what do the thoroughbred leaders in New Jersey think about the future of horse racing?

There’s still some soul in racing, and we lose some of that soul at tracks when there’s no one there. I refuse to believe there’s not a renaissance in the sport that we can hope for or nurture.

Every standardbred horsemen that feels this is not the case should step aside and let those who feel this way lead the way. Maybe then, we will become an industry which is proactive instead of reactive.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Christie Speaks; Tioga Wednesday

Governor Christie spoke yesterday about the plight of horse racing in New Jersey.  Christie explained why there will be no slots at the Meadowlands at this time.  The Governor echoes comments I have been saying for a while; the issue of slots was for all practical purposes settled before Christie even took office, a victim of politics.

The Governor denies he or even the Hanson Report is anti-racing.  The fact is the state is broke and doesn't have the luxury of subsidizing an industry even if he wanted to. Of course, he is technically correct.  The problem racing has is very few, if any, investors will invest in an industry which refuses to make the tough decisions necessary to right its own boat.  New Jersey is the first state to say 'no' to racing; it won't be the last. 

The sad truth is if racetracks got together to set up short seasonal meets as the thoroughbred industry does, there would be a number of tracks such as Balmoral who would be offering quality race meets that gamblers would be happy to wager on.  Instead, we have an industry which refuses to right-size itself offering a product so watered down that few want to wager on it; with only one track worthy of wagering in the opinion of the majority of serious gamblers.  Now that the foundation has a crack, the industry needs to decide if it wants to repair the crack or keep on doing what its doing and wait for the whole foundation to collapse.    

With Tioga Downs being dark this coming Friday, a special matinee race card is scheduled for this Wednesday, August 17 with a first post scheduled for 1:30pm.  There are a couple of races for amateur drivers on the card; the second and tenth race.  While I am not a big fan of amateur driving races being on the betting card, the second race is a very competitive field with some interesting prospects which makes the race potentially interesting for gamblers. 

1st Pace - $4,000; FM $4-$5,000 Claiming Handicap               8th Trot - $4,200; Non-winners 1 race lifetime
3 - Dragonali Outofbed (8-1)                                                        9 - Yoou'll Miss Allot (4-1)
6 - Canaco Pimne (5-2)                                                                1 - Over The Limit (10-1)
4 - The Sophinator (7-2)                                                              6 - Revferee (10-1)

2nd Pace - $5,000; Tioga Amateur Driving Club                        9th Pace - $4,000; FM Non-winners $1,501 last five starts
7 - Reasontocelebrate (4-1)                                                          1 - Debs Lady Fortune (5-2)
1 - Raging Cam (8-1)                                                                   7 - Sportabella (9-2)
3 - Shania Twain (5-1)                                                                 2 - Beyond Perfection (8-1)

3rd Trot - $3,500; Non-winners $1,001 last five starts            10th Trot - $5,000; Billings Amatuer Driving Series
4 - Four Starz Motor (4-1)                                                            5 - Slated For Success (7-2)
1 - Edgewood (9-2)                                                                      7 - Pilgrims Kassie (8-1)
3 - Latest Fashion (8-1)                                                               6 - Rally By The River (5-2)

4th Pace - $5,200; FM Non-winners $2,501 last five starts      11th Pace - $4,200; Non-winners 1 race lifetime
1 - DVC Freewaytofame (8-1)                                                       4 - Draftmania (2-1)
4 - Silverdollar Shark (5-1)                                                           2 - Iputaspellonyou (5-1)
2 - Lovely Maginc (4-1)                                                                7 - Ludi Jasper (4-1)
8 - Wrinkle Hanover (5-1)

5th Trot - $3,600; $4,000 Claiming                                           12th Pace - $3,700; Non-winners $1,300 last five starts
7 - Chautauqua Jam (9-2)                                                              8 - Harold Greene (4-1)
6 - Lost Weight (8-1)                                                                     1 - Haties Jim Bob (8-1)
5 - CR's Gift (5-2)                                                                          5 -  My Time Hanover (3-1)

6th Pace - $3,600; FM $4,000 Claiming                                      13th Pace - $4,000; $5,000 Claiming
3 - Splenda (5-2)                                                                            4 - Village Blizzard (5-2) 
8 - Talia's Character (6-1)                                                               6 - Maken Trax NZ (12-1)
7 - World Queen (7-2)                                                                     5 - Coronet Hanover (6-1)
                                                                                                     2 - National Archive (5-1)
7th Pace - $5,200; Non-winners $2,501 last five starts
1 - Gaelic Thunder (2-1)
3 - Funny Guy (10-1)
5 - Gotapikapoketortwo (20-1)
2 - Lookinforasign (4-1)

Making Horse Racing a Sport Again

The title of this blog will no doubt make some people cringe. The debate as to whether harness racing is a sport or a gaming activity has been going on for a long time. Most of our whales and serious gamblers, wagering from the comfort of their homes, consider harness racing a gambling activity and could care less about harness racing as a sport. The fans we have consider horse racing a hybrid activity; a sport with a gambling aspect. The lack of fans in the stands suggests we are not doing a good job with regards to racing as a sport.

The reason why we are not developing fans is, with the exception of county fairs and the rare event such as the Gold Cup and Saucer, harness racing has become almost exclusively a gaming activity, which has forsaken the sporting aspect of the sport. The key to the long term survival of horse racing is to make horse racing once again a true hybrid; for sure a gaming product first but a significant focus on the sporting aspect.

Some would argue why spend any resources on making horse racing a sport? After all our wagering handles continue to shrink and our gamblers are not being replaced. These people would argue any money being spent should be used exclusively to increase gaming activity.

The problem is how do you think you are going to replace the aging gamblers as they move on? Forgetting about issues such as takeout and the like, horse racing is a difficult game for a gambler to learn. Why should they invest their time and interest in horse racing when there are easier, and in some cases (slots) mindless games available for a gambler. We need to develop our future horse racing gamblers from fans, to get them excited enough in the sport so they are willing to invest their time to learn the game and its intricacies to become our future gamblers. Our lack of willingness to develop real fans is one of the reasons why racinos are full of slot players, but virtually devoid of horseplayers.

Nicole Kraft suggests in her blog some ways for racing to become more fan friendly; to gain the interest of people. She cites her experiences at Mid-Ohio Raceway as potential ways for racing to become more of a sport. Making drivers the stars so they develop a following, changing the format of our races (the constant mile dashes being boring), and cutting back on race days; the very things which can make racing fresh, exciting, and engaging will assist in developing future fans who are invested in the sport. Sure, fans may not wager initially but if they are hooked on racing as a sport, the transition to a gambler is almost inevitable. More importantly, while they may not all become heavy hitters, we will be developing a farm system of future gamblers whose emotional investment in the sport will help get people into the stands, silencing those who say horse racing has no interest amongst the public.

Make no mistake; we have plenty of issues to address in the gaming aspect of the sport which need to be dealt with now. However, if we have no farm system to get our future gamblers from, it all becomes a moot point. Being we don't have people knocking down our doors to gamble on our sport, can we afford not to develop new gamblers?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Season of Uncertainty

The next session of the New Jersey Gaming Summit will not be occurring until mid-September due to scheduling conflicts caused by summer vacations.  This in itself is bad enough because if the second session will not be occurring until mid-Septembe, the final session likely will not occur until October.  This does not bode well for the yearling sales.  Nothing is more unsettling to potential yearling buyers as uncertainty.  Will there be a Meadowlands meet next year; how long a meet; what kind of stakes program will there be?  All questions which remain outstanding look to be unresolved until late October or early November at the earliest.

Owners of existing racehorses fare no better.  What early closing or late closing events will they nominate to?  Do trainers attempt to get stall space at another track; assuming another track will be willing to give them stall space?  This does not impact only the Meadowlands trainers.  Do trainers who have filled the winter race programs at the Meadows, Monticello, Pompano Park and Yonkers suddenly find themselves lucky to get their horses raced twice a month, if at all? 

As good or as bad the news may turn out to be, the best thing which can happen is to get the New Jersey situation resolved as quickly as possible.  This means it is time to stop with the talking points and hyperbole and get down to serious negotiations with the goal being to preserve racing in New Jersey.

Let's face facts:

  • The moment Christie won the governorship, VLTs were dead.  The defeat of Corzine allowed the South Jersey political machine to stage a coup against the legislative leadership.  Senator President Sweeney has made it clear that slots in the Meadowlands is a dead issue which will never see the light of day in the Senate.  Governor Christie is against slots so there is no one able to take on Sweeney.  Slots are not happening so stop talking about it. 

  • The politicians in New Jersey don't care about racing outside of New Jersey, be it thoroughbred or standardbred.  As far as the politicians are concerned, this is a state issue.  A phone call, speech, or letter from someone who does not do business in New Jersey to the governor or a legislator is meaningless.  That being said, donations by out-of-staters to TrotPac is essential to lobby the politicians.  

  • No one cares that the state "subsidizes" the casino industry in respect to paying less to the state when compared to other states.  That is an issue for the casino industry and the government; not racing's issue.  This so called subsidy is the premium the state gave the casino industry to get them to invest in Atlantic City; the same way the state gives other industries money to relocate to New Jersey.  Besides, can't it be argued that the racing industry receives a subsidy as it is one of the few states that don't take a cut out of the takeout? 

  • Defeating Christie's proposal to permit off-track and account wagering to occur in the state without allowing live racing is paramount.  If possible, see if legislation can pass which will require the operator to conduct a standardbred and thoroughbred race meet of a certain number of days; this could be the best way to ensure racing continues in the state.  Otherwise, if Christie's proposal regarding off-track and account wagering becomes law, it is almost inevitable that New Jersey will cut racing loose sooner or later.
The sooner the industry understands reality, meaningful discussions working towards a  resolution can take place.  Otherwise, the speeches and the grandstanding will continue with no resolution forthcoming.  The summer of uncertainty is about to become a fall of uncertainty.  We don't need it to extend into the winter.  This is something no one needs.

Last night was probably the worst Saturday night of racing ever at the Meadowlands to which one horseman responded: Personally, I think it's a tad hypocritical to wear those "Save The Meadowlands" T-shirts while racing elsewhere.....  Of course, he's right.  If horsemen stabled at New Jersey training tracks are abandoning the Meadowlands to race at neighboring states' tracks, why should the state care?