For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breeders Crown Eliminations

For the Breeders Crown, I will break my own rule about handicapping elimination races.  That being said, there is a real problem when elimination races are $25,000 when considering what these horses will be racing for next week.  With winners selecting thier post positions next week, people will be trying to win the race, but with the disparity of the purse money when compared to next week, no one is going to gut their horse this week.  If the race doesn't go their way, most likely they will be looking to qualify for next week's finals.  

Here are my selections for the Breeders Crown Eliminations::

Friday, October 1
1st Trot - Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings - 1st Elimination
1 - Buffalino Hanover (Schadel, 8-1)
5 - Broad Bahn (Moiseyev, 3-1)
6 - Not Nice (Johansson, 5-2)

2nd Pace - Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings - 1st Elimination
3 - Foreclosure N (Tetrick, 3-1)
6 - Great Vintage (Campbell, 5-2)
2 - Westwardho Hanover (B Miller, 7-2)

3rd Trot - Breeders Crown - 2yo Fillies - 1st Elimination
4 - Seducedbychocolate (D Miller, 2-1)
5 - Global Desire (Pierce, 7-2)
1 - As Ya'll Like eIt (Campbell, 10-1)

5th Trot - Breeders Crown - 2yo Fillies - 2nd Elimination
6 - Fitness Girl (Tetrick, 9-2)
4 - Bold And Fresh (Campbell, 6-1)
5 - Creme De Cocoa (Ackerman, 2-1)

6th Pace - Breeders Crown - 2yo Fillies - 1st Elimination
3 - See You At Peelers (Morrill, 5-2)
6 - Pretty Katherine (MacDonald, 3-1)
7 - Show And Tell (Palone, 10-1)

7th Trot - Breeders Crown - 2yo Fillies - 3rd Elimination
1 - Sweet Love (D Miller, 9-2)
3 - Andover The Top (Palone, 5-2)
4 - Pilgroms Truffles (Meittinis, 7-2)

9th Trot - Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings - 2nd Elimination
  2 - Live Jazz (Campbell, 7-2)
  7 - Dejarmbro (Gregory, 3-1)
1A- Johnny B Kemp (D Miller, 5-2)
Coupled: Leader Of The Gang and Johnny B Kemp

10th Pace - Breeders Crown - 2yo Fillies - 2nd Elimination
5 - Strike An Attitude (Palone, 3-1)
4 - Myluvmylife (Brennan, 10-1)
7 - Cold Mist (B Miller, 6-1)

11th Trot - Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings - 3rd Elimination
2 - Manofmanymissions (A Miller, 3-1)
5 - Pastor Stephen (Gingras, 2-1)
1 - Neal (Sears, 4-1)

12th Pace - Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings - 2nd Elimination
3 - Fashion Delight (D Miller, 5-2)
2 - Big Bad John (Palone, 3-1)
6 - Vincent Fra (B Miller, 8-1)
Coupled: Line Officer and High Noon

13th Pace - Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings - 3rd Elimination
  3 - Big Jim (Hudon, 5-2)
1A- Shadyshark Hanover (Morrill, 9-2)
  1 - Rollwithitharry (Gingras, 9-2)
  4 - Wink N Atcha (Sears, 2-1)
Coupled: Rollwithitharry and Shadyshark Hanover

Saturday, October 2
1st Trot - Breeders Crown - 3yo Fillies - 1st Elimination
2 - Bramalea Hanover (D Miller, 3-1)
3 - Ultimate Cameron (Brennan, 2-1)
5 - Fortunes Dream (Gingras, 7-2)

2nd Pace - Breeders Crown - 3yo Colts and Geldings - 1st Elimination
3 - One More Laugh (Tetrick, 2-1)
6 - Kyle Major (MacDonald, 7-2)
1 - Valentino (Brennan, 9-2)

3rd Pace - Breeders Crown - 3yo and Older Mares Elimination
4 - On The Glass (Gingras, 3-1)
3 - Chancey Lady (A Miller, 7-2)
1 - Tug River Princess (Campbell, 8-5)
Coupled: Tug River Princess, Ginger And Fred, and Southwind Tempo; Not Enough and Showherthemoney

5th Pace - Breeders Crown - 3yo Colts and Geldings - 2nd Elimination
1 - Rock N Roll Heaven (Dube, 8-5)
2 - Shoobe's Place (D Miller, 8-1)
6 - He's Gorgeous (Morrill, 3-1)

6th Pace - Breeders Crown - 3yo Fillies - 1st Elimination
2 - Higher And Higher (Morrill, 5-1)
4 - Put On A Show (Tetrick, 9-5)
6 - Dancin Barefoot (Dube, 8-1)

7th Pace - Breeders Crown - 3yo Fillies - 1st Elimination
1 - Panagler (Palone, 8-1)
2 - Cannae Cammie (Morrill, 3-1)
6 - Western Silk (MacDonald, 8-5)

9th Trot - Breeders Crown - 3yo Fillies - 2nd Elimination
1 - Spicy Wings (Campbell, 9-2)
6 - Costa Rica (Pierce, 3-1)
2 - Up Front Juansteen (Tetrick, 8-1)

11th Trot - Breeders Crown - 3yo Fillies - 3rd Elimination
7 - Christiana Hanover (Rekila, 5-1)
1 - Behindclosedoors (Palone, 3-1)
4 - Merger Blue Chip (D. Miller, 12-1)

Eye on Harness Racing discusses the Breeders Crown, the Gaming Summit at Monmouth Park, and looks back at the recently concluded Delaware meet.

Gaming Summit - The Good and the Bad

The final session of the New Jersey Gaming Summit was held at Monmouth Park yesterday and for the most part, the conversation was favorable for horse racing.  While the legislators did not pummel
Jon Hanson, it was clear by the end of his testimony the analysis performed for the Hanson Report was simplistic; working off one view and not looking at alternatives.  When legislation is proposed by the Democratic members of the summit committee, racing can expect legislation sympathetic to its cause.

One concept which appeared to be well received was the idea of a bridge supplement.  One that might start with $50 million (for both breeds) and decrease each  year as other revenue streams such as a built out OTW network, exchange wagering, Internet wagering come on line.  Here are some of the ideas which were floated and seemed to get a warm reception.
  • Open up NJAW.  Right now, it is only available to New Jersey residents in New Jersey.  If possible, the legislators would like to open it up so a New Jersey resident traveling out of New Jersey would still be able to use it.  There may be a possibility that NJAW would be opened up to non-residents.
  • Build out the OTW network with the horsemen groups purchasing equity positions in the NJSEA OTWs.  The NJSEA would own 60%, with standardbred and thoroughbred interests each owning 20%.  They still need to address the home rule issue which allows towns to veto the building of an OTW in their town for no reason at all.  Perhaps being able to offer a small percentage of the revenue to hosting towns may suddenly make an OTW desirable where previously rejected.
  • Christie's idea to allow the NJSEA operate OTWs without operating a race meet is a non-starter.  The legislators are committed to OTWs supporting live racing.
  • Offer Internet gaming to New Jersey residents.  Games such as poker could be played with a percentage of the revenue going to the racetracks. 
There is only one problem, a big problem.  The need to get Republicans and Governor Christie on board.  While the Democrats can pass legislation, they will need Republican support to override any veto by Governor Christie.  So far in the current legislative session, the Republicans have been united in supporting the Governor's position and there is no reason to believe they will break ranks now.  While the Governor has stated he is willing to listen to plans to save racing, there are signs he is still looking to get the state out of racing.

During Hanson's testimony in front of the committee, he indicated he has been looking in Bergen County for a site for a smaller racetrack to be built and operated by a private group to replace the Meadowlands.  It was latter learned that the site he was talking about is a former garbage dump southwest of the current track location known as Encap, the site of a failed development plan; an area with poor access and away from the current Meadowlands Sports Complex (click here for a map) where slot machines will end up within five to ten years.  As Tom Luchento (President of the SBOANJ) said, the site is no good as it puts a racetrack in the 'boondocks' and possibly away from the site of a potential revenue source.

Yes, Hanson is a real estate developer, but I find it hard to believe he would actively be looking for another site for racing without the blessing of Governor Christie.  This would suggest Christie is still looking to close the Meadowlands Racetrack and get the state out of the racing business.    

This suggests the possibility of a battle between the Governor and the State Legislature.  While there will be racing at the Meadowlands next year, money to subsidize purses may not be forthcoming; at least initially.  The future of horse racing in New Jersey may come down to a battle of wills. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Removing Home Rule

Horsemen in New Jersey are finally getting down to business.  While racing interests are still talking about the need for slots, the reality is there will be no slot machines at New Jersey tracks, nor will there be any hush money from Atlantic City.  The reason I call it hush money instead of a subsidy, is it is more accurate.  The $30 million racing has received the last three years was a payment to the racing industry to be quiet and not seek slot machines for the tracks; Atlantic City paying the tracks for slot exclusivity.  So Standardbred and Thoroughbred interests are getting together to work on a business plan for racing to be submitted to Governor Christie. 

No doubt the plan will call for a reduction in race dates in New Jersey for both breeds and offering purses that will exceed those being offered by neighboring states in an effort to secure the best horses, but without an influx of revenue, those plans will fall flat.  A key piece of the revenue pie will be OTW sites.  The few OTWs operating in New Jersey have been very successful.  But the legislation authorizing OTWs had a serious flaw by giving municipalities the right to reject an OTW simply because they didn't want one, even if the proposed site meet zoning requirements.  This 'home rule' power needs to be taken away.  Legislation needs to be introduced to either take away the municipalities right to reject an OTW just because they don't want a gambling site in town, or in typical New Jersey style, offer a percentage of the profits to towns hosting an OTW as an incentive and watch the objections to OTWs disappear (In addition, there has been talk that the horsemen groups will buy a 40% equity stake in the OTWs, providing the capital to build out the network and ensure a significant part of the profits will be reinvested in racing.). 

Other revenue sources which likely will be included in the equation is expect exchange wagering and possibly internet gambling to be part of the package. as there currently are bills in the legislature to authorize both of these gaming options.  The internet gambling proposal would allow New Jersey residents to play casino games online at home with gaming servers being located in Atlantic City to meet constitutional requirements.  I suspect the internet gaming option will face court challenges for violating the state constitution.

Any business plan must include Freehold Raceway and to a lesser degree, Atlantic City Race Course.  While both of these racetracks are not state owned, racing dates at these tracks will and must figure in the long term viability of the state racing and breeding industries.  A hundred days at the Meadowlands will not be sufficient to support standardbred breeding; they need the additional racing dates for New Jersey bred horses Freehold will provide.

Today's final session of the New Jersey Gaming Summit at Monmouth Park should provide some interesting fireworks as Jon Hanson, the chair of the commission which authored the much maligned Hanson Report will find himself in the hot seat trying to defend the report which, if adopted, would have resulted in the virtual destruction of the standardbred industry in New Jersey.  I expect by the end of his testimony, his report will be totally discredited.       

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Scandal's Cost

Windsor Raceway opened up their 2010-11 racing season Sunday evening; the first night of racing after fines and lengthy suspensions were handed down to Brad Forward, Gene Piroski, and Kevin Wallis for their alleged involvement in race-fixing at Windsor.  No doubt, people were expecting the handle to take a hit as a result of the scandal, but the question was how bad it would be.

It was very bad.  Wagering Sunday evening was down 33% from opening night last year ($177,067 last night versus $262,467 in 2009).  Obviously many racing fans voted with their wallets by staying away.  Once again, the honest horsemen who toil daily in this industry are paying for the alleged sins of cheaters.  Every time there is a racing scandal, the industry suffers a crippling blow to its integrity.  Regardless of what kind of gambling it is, integrity is number one.  When you lose the trust of your customers, you have nothing to offer the gambler; especially when there are alternate gaming options available.  Not just at Windsor, but at WEG tracks, Michigan, and anywhere else harness racing is conducted; scandal paints the whole industry with a broad brush. 

Everyone is outraged and quick to condemn when a race-fixing scandal breaks out and the entire industry is painted as 'fixed'.  Of course, not everyone is dishonest; there are many honest hardworking horsemen in the industry trying to make ends meet, doing what they love.  Yet, the same people outraged when a major scandal errupts keep quiet while trainers violate medication rules, say nothing when they know a suspended trainer is using a beard.  Nothing is said when drivers get away with very cheap fractions and no one is willing to prompt an honest pace.  It is an unspoken rule that no one talks badly (at least publicly) about their fellow horsemen. 

The problem is the betting public notices when a mediocre pacer all of a sudden looks like the second coming of Niatross one week and  returns to mediocrity shortly afterwards.  Experienced horseplayers  notice when a driver doesn't close up a hole and lets a buddy drop in or a horse gets away with cheap fractions with no one trying to force a honest pace.  They notice when a horse races off the pace in elimination races and qualify for the final where they suddenly wake up and race aggressively when the big money is on the line.  While the races are not be fixed, they feel they are not getting a fair shake and they walk away.  No, the handle doesn't drop 33%, but the handle slowly but surely decreases.
Horsemen need to realize these 'little' things are harming the sport.  No, you don't get that immediate handle drop all at once, but make no mistake about it, the handle drops and interest in racing shrinks.  The time has come for horsemen to get outraged about these little things and tell their follow horsemen that business as usual is no longer acceptable. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Proposed Rule Changes; Breeders Crown on Television

This year, the USTA will be considering twelve rule changes which will be voted upon at next year's annual meeting in March.  In the meanwhile, the proposals will be discussed at the various district meetings.  Some of these rule changes are minor, dealing more with housekeeping issues than actual racing.  Here is a preview of some of the more substantive proposals (in plain English) along with how I would vote on them were I to have a vote.

Of course, individual state rules override the USTA regulations.  However, many states use the USTA rules as a guideline for their rules and when their rules are silent regarding a particular issue, the USTA rule tend to take precedence. 

Proposals 1 and 2 basically updates the rules for the 21st century; allowing electronic signatures and permitting cell phones and PDAs to be used in the paddock (in addition to a regular phone).

Proposal 3 is a proposal to require racetracks to post multi-race pay-off possibilities at the denomination in which a wager can be made.  If this proposal were to be approved, pay-offs would need to be posted at the base amount of the wager.  For example, if your local track offered a $.50 Pick-6 wager, they would be required to show the potential pay-off based on the $.50 denomination instead of an arbitrary (typically $1 or $2) amount. 

Approve - This proposal makes sense; we can call it a truth in gambling proposal.  Report the pay-offs in the amounts many gamblers wager in.  Hopefully this will get tracks to report pay-offs accordingly.  Nothing worse than having a track report a pay-off based on a $2 wager when in reality it was hit on a dime wager.

Proposal 4 deals with a safety issue regarding horse's equipment.

Proposal 5 will give the judges the ability to stop a race in the event of an unforeseen incident or accident.  A race for wagering purposes would be declared a "non-contest" and the purse money would be divided equally between unoffending (in the case of an accident) horses.  If approved, the judges would be able to stop a race in the case of a severe accident, a horse running the wrong way on the track, or a power failure plunging the track into darkness. 
Approve - It is about time that a rule permitting judges to stop an accident-marred race as safety for all participants (human and equine) is paramount.

Proposal 6 is a proposal requiring the clerk of course to provide a standardized comment code for each horse in a race.  A standardized comment code would permit a comment (i.e., parked with cover, parked no cover, etc.) to be provided for each race line in a past performance program.

Approve - This is a rule long overdue.  If every other pari-mutuel sport (greyhound, quarter horse, thoroughbred) can provide a race comment, why can't harness racing?  At the present time, only a few tracks, including Balmoral and Maywood provide comments.  It is amazing that the Meadowlands discontinued providing race comments several years ago.

Proposal 7 would require programs to provide information regarding a driver's choice to drive in a race; to indicate if the driver of a horse today was the result of; a driver's personal choice, a driver's commitment to a particular horse; a pre-emptive change by the trainer (seeing a driver has multiple choices, the trainer decided to select another driver believing his first choice will pick someone else); or the driver selection was determined by racetrack management (i.e., driving challenge, etc.).     

Reject -  No doubt some people use the driver's selection as a handicapping tool, but there are times a driver choses the wrong horse.  Furthermore, what good will knowing a driver chose one horse over another (or several) unless you knew which horses the driver was originally named to?  Putting this information in a program would be unwieldly and make reading the program even more complex for novices.  A more workable solution would be for tracks to post on their websites the early driver changes as well as providing graphics before each race of this information for those who wish to handicap using this information.

Proposal 8 provides for the awarding of purse money earned by an offending horse to be given to the unoffending horse(s) with which the horse interfered with.

Proposal 9 would result in a horse being listed as being distanced if they go inside the pylons designated as being on the turn but no penalty will be given for going inside a pylon designated as being on the straight-away.    This change deals with the section of the rules which deals with disqualifying a horse for going inside the pylons. 

Reject - The intent of this proposal is to remove the discretion the judges currently have with regards to disqualifying of horses.  Presently, the rule calls for a disqualification if in the opinion of the judges, the action gave the horse an unfair advantage over the other horses in the race.  It would become a black and white decision.  While I like the idea of removing the judge's discretion regarding the placement of a horse, the problem with this proposal is the lack of penalty for a horse going inside the pylons on the straight-away.  If this rule was approved 'as is', a horse could conceivably squeeze through along the inside where clearance does not exist if a horse was not allowed to go inside of the straight-away with no penalty.

Proposal 10 - Would change the timing of races from fifths of a second to one hundredths of a second.

Conditional Reject - This proposal was made last year.  Timing in hundreths of a second is overkill.  However, timings should be changed to tenths of a second as it would make American standardbred racing consistent with other countries (except Canada) where timing are currently done in tenths.

Proposal 11 - Would require each horse to be individually timed in a race instead of the current calculation of a horse's finishing time by using one length as being equal to one fifth of a second.

Conditional Reject - Another proposal from last year returns.  No doubt, horseplayers and purchasers of horses deserve accurate information.  For handicapping purposes, a gambler would be better served with an accurate time instead of a guesstimate.  Same thing goes for purchasors of horses; a person told a horse was race-timed in a certain time should be able to depend on the accuracy of this information.  The problem comes with the cost of updating the equipment at each track.  While the cost may not be prohibitive to tracks which host extended pari-mutuel meets, it is a different issue for country fairs.  The approval of this rule may result in various county fairs deciding to cancel their racing programs instead of upgrading their equipment.  Being there is a lot more fair racing in harness racing than with thoroughbreds, we can''t have a mix of actual versus estimated times.  If funding could be provided to these fair associations to upgrade their equipment, I would have suggested approval of the proposal.

Proposal 12 is a proposal to track the percentage ownership of each owner and breeder per horse.

It has been announced that the 2010 Breeders Crown races will feature a two hour live show on MAVTV on October 9, starting at 9pm EDT in addition to a Road to the Breeders Crown show and will be hosted by the PA Harness Week team and presented in HD.  MAVTV is available on many cable systems, FIOS as well as Direct TV.  You will need to check with your cable provider to see if they offer MAVTV (usually offered as part of a premium package).  While not a high exposure cable channel like ESPN, at least the Breeders Crown will be getting televised to race fans and the public; a rarity in our industry. 

News Item: The Windsor Trio appeal their suspensionsWith Windsor Raceway getting ready to resume racing, drivers Gene Piroski, Brad Forward, and Kevin Wallis have appealed the lengthy suspensions the Ontario Racing Commission handed down to the the trio for their participation in alleged race-fixing at Windsor Raceway in addition to their alleged involvement in the Michigan race-fixing scandal.  Whether the three of them are actually seeking reinstatement or modification of their penalties remains to be seen.  WIth their appeal, their legal team will gain access to the information used by the ORC to make their decision.  However, the problems these three drivers have in Ontario may be the least of their problems as criminal charges regarding alleged criminal activity are expected to be announced shortly in Michigan. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wrapping Things Up

Another Jug week has come to an end and it was as usual a great week for racing.  Granted, some races didn't have full fields, but the racing was first class.  What I enjoy about Jug week is not only the opportunity to see some of North America's best horses competing over the Delaware oval, it is seeing horses competing on the fair cicuit getting the opportunity to race in the big time.

As for the simulcast broadcast?  What's there to say?  It's the best simulcast show around.  There is no dead air in their broadcast and keeps the audience engaged.  If we had more simulcast broadcasts like the Delaware County Fair's, harness racing would be in a far better shape.  Unfortunately, I doubt there are many tracks who could afford to produce a show like theirs.  Eliie Sarama, Sam McKee, Roger Huston, and Dave Bianconi are truly a dream team.  These four not only bring smarts to the broadcast, they make it entertaining.  It would behoove the industry to have these four people present the simulcast at events like the Breeders Crown, Lexington's Grand Circuity meet and other key events.  

By now, you have read articles regarding the Jug, so I will forgo the review of the races. Rock N Roll Heaven, by his victory in the Little Brown Jug, has stamped himself the head of the three year old pacing division.  I must admit, I was not on his bandwagon, as his early season exploits left me questioning his ability to consistently beat the top horses in his division.  Cassis, what can you say?  No, he may not be the top three year old colt trottter, but dare I say there is no three year old who can beat him on a half mile track.  His performance yesterday was text book; get to the front and catch me if I can.  On Wednesday, Costa Rica once again won and I think she is finally showing the ability her connections knew she had consistently. 

Buck I St Pat?  This mare has become an enigma to me.  She will show one week a brilliant race and the following week a clunker.  Not just yesterday when she finished a non-threatening third in the Ms Versatility Final, but other races this year.  It is interesting to note that Buck I St Pat did not win any of the preliminary legs of the Ms Versatility; at the Meadowlands or Vernon Downs which are bigger ovals, so her defeat yesterday can not be blamed solely on the half mile track.  We will see if she is able to put it together for the Breeders Crown and Lexington.  Right now I am not sure.

Speaking of wrapping things up, this weekend brings us the finals of the Kindergarten Classic at Vernon Downs tonight and the New York Sires Stakes Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday evening.  Since I have been following in my blog these events, it is only fitting that we cover the finals.

Vernon Downs presents another all-trotting card tonight so trotting fans will be in for a treat.  In addition to the Kindergarten Classics, there are some New York Sires Stakes late closing events on the card.  Today we will only analyze the Kindergarten Classics. 

Vernon Downs 9th Trot - $134,000; Kindergarten Classic 2yo Filly Final
5 - Seducedbychocolate (D Miller, 7-2) - Just missed in last.  Won two of three prelims.  Legitimate shot.
6 - Beatgoeson Hanover (Pierce, 5-2) - Finished third in a nightmare trip last week.  Despite moving in, have to wonder if last week took a toll. 
1 - Centrifical Force (Jones, 10-1) - Made two moves in no chance race.  May spice up the trifecta.

Vernon Downs 10th Trot - $162,500; Kindergarten Classic 2yo Colts
1A - Swan In A Million (Sears, 2-1) - Winner of three straight tops a solid entry.  The one to beat.
  2 - Whit (Whittemore, 3-1) - On paper the weaker of the two in the entry but he is better than he has shown.
  7 - Carthage Hanover (Smedshammer, 10-1) - Draws the worst of it but has the ability to grab the show position with a trip.
Coupled: Manofmanymissions and Swan In A Million; White and Evil Urges

In the New York Sires Stakes, See You At Peelers is looking to run the table and go eleven for eleven in her freshman season in the 2yo filly pace event.  I expect her to win and can't see going against her despite the fact she is odds on.  Another filly looking to run the table in the 2yo filly trot is Jezzy who has been ten for ten as well.  She may very well go off at 1-9 as part of a three horse entry.  

Saturday, September 25
Yonkers - 3rd Pace - $200,000; NYSS 2yo Filly Final
4 - See You At Peelers (Morrill, 4-5) - Perfect ten for ten.  Clearly the best of this division.
2 - My Girl's A Star (Schnittker, 3-1) - Would have looked for her to upset the top choice except for the lackluster effort at Monticello.
8 - Asteria Blue Cho (Dube, 20-1) - May be able to grab third despite the poor post.
1 - Eagle Kelly (Brennan, 8-1) - Uncharacteristic jump in last, with rail should be able to complete the exotics.

Yonkers - 4th Trot - $200,000; NYSS 2yo Filly Final
1A - Jezzy (Schnittker, 3-5) - Another one looking to run the table.  Look at her next year in the Hambo Oaks.
  3 - Conwayslassie (Manzi, 4-1) - Will be following the top choice around the track to complete a chalky exacta.
 4 - Sweet Possession (Gregory, 12-1) - Solid second place finish in last against second choice.  Just a question of staying flat.
Coupled: Some Girls, Jezzy, and Carme Blue Chip

Yonkers - 5th Trot - $200,0000; NYSS 3yo Filly Final
2 - Frost Flirt (Gregory, 8-5) - Logical choice to win, but odds may be too low to play.
8 - Munis Blue Chip (Schnittker,6-1) - Key to the race.  Involved in speed duel or follow the leader?  That is the question.
3 - Tuesdays With Mom (Brennan, 3-1) - Winner of four straight can take the top spot if top two picks go into a speed duel.
6 - Sweetspellosuccess (Smedshammer, 12-1) - Consistent sort may grab minor spoils with a trip.

Yonkers - 6th Pace - $200,000; NYSS 2yo Colt and Gelding Final
  3 -Roadside Delight (Manzi, 3-1) - Gets the post position needed to score the minor upset.
  1 - Flipper J (Bartlett, 9-5) - Beat the top choice last week, but loses the post advantage. 
2A -Sir Ziggy's Z Tam (LaChance, 8-5) - Any type of trip gets him in the money.
Coupled: Flipper J and Thomas J; Sir Jonathan Z Tam and Sir Ziggy's Z Tam

Yonkers - 7th Pace - $200,000; NYSS 3yo Filly Final
1 - Enduring Delight (Manzi, 10-1) - Second choice picks up Manzi. May be the evening's upset.
4 - Galimony (Morrill, 8-5) - Obvious choice will look to go wire to wire.  The one to beat.
7 - Anndrovette (Bartlett, 9-5) - Never better but the post may be her undoing.
8 - Hula's Z Tam (Lachance, 3-1) - May be able to track the seven to get into the exotics.

Yonkers - 8th Trot - $200,000; NYSS 2yo Colt and Gelding Final 
2 - Surface Tension (Daley, 3-1) - Tremendous effort in last and draws the rail. 
3 -  Whitewater Rapids (Schnittker, 12-1) - Followed the top choice in last and couldn't pass.  May get second and add value to exacta.
1 - Dejarmbro (Gregort, 8-5) - Tremendous effort in last as well and winner of two straight.  Draws outside my top choice.
Coupled: Dejarmbro and I'm The Answer

Yonkers - 9th Trot - $200,000; NYSS; 3yo Colt and Gelding Final
2 - Whata Winner (Doherty, 9-5) - Inside post should make the difference here.
4 - Blacktuxwhitesocks (Gregory, 8-5) - Must get control of the race early.  Will be a duel down the stretch.
1 - Shaq is Back (Schnittker, 12-1) - Don't ignore.  May be able to pick up the pieces if a duel develops early.

Yonkers - 10th Pace -$200,000 NYSS 3yo Colt and Gelding Final
4 - Joey The Czar (Bartlett, 5-1) - Toss last.  Legitimate shot to win with a smarter drive..
5 - Jimmie Hanover (Brennan, 6-1) - Expect a late brush to get into the exotics.
3 - He's Gorgeous (Morrill, 6-5) - Draws better.  Legitimate favorite is beatable.
2 - Erichs Best (Paquet, 12-1) - Finished second to third pick.  May spice the super.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pulling in the Welcome Sign

It took a while, but as we first reported about this back in November, the NYSRWB has approved a rule change allowing the harness tracks in New York to write races restricted to horses who have made a majority of their recent starts in New York provided the identical race condition is offered without the start restriction that racing day or the following program. 

The rationale for implementing this rule change is to reward horsemen who have supported racing in New York all year over those horsemen who race elsewhere for higher purses and then decide to ship into New York state once tracks with better purses close for the season and why not?  Why should horsemen who race a $10,000 claimer for $8,500 at Pocono Downs be able to waltz into Monticello, keeping the horsemen who have been racing the same class of horse for $5,000 all season in the barn instead of on the track?  It gives the local horsemen an incentive to keep their horses in state to ensure enough racing stock is available to maintain a racing program.  This is not protectionism, the horses who have been racing out of state still get to race in New York, just not as often as those who support New York racing all year.

Then there is Delaware, where protectionism reigns to benefit the Delaware owned and bred horses to the point of excluding horses owned by out of state horsemen unless they were bred in Delaware.  Have a $7,500, $10,000 or $12,500 claimer and you are a Maryland, New Jersey or Pennsylvania resident?  You can't race at Harrington (similar rules apply at Dover Downs), even if the horse is stabled with a Delaware trainer; these classes are the exclusive domain of Delaware owned or bred horses.  Furthermore, horses racing in the lowest "non-winners of" class or $15,000 claimers must meet a higher performance standard to get in to a race if owned by an out of state resident than a horse owned by an in-state resident. 

When slots first came to Delaware, protectionism was called for to reward those horsemen who kept Delaware harness racing alive racing for $800 purses to keep the out of state horsemen from coming in and taking all the purse money away with superior racing stock, giving Delaware residents time to improve their racing stock.  That made sense for the first few years, but fifteen years have passed since slots came to Delaware in 1995.  It is time for horsemen to compete on equal terms.  

This is emblematic of the problem we have in this industry.  For the industry to prosper, exclusionary barriers based on domicile of the owners need to be eliminated; especially when the state's racing situation has stabilized for several years.  There is nothing wrong with a state offering races restricted to state breds and owned provided a similar racing opportunities are offered to all comers.  Instead of pulling in the welcome sign, it is time Delaware puts out the welcome sign.

The Little Brown Jug Society has instituted a rule change eliminating the race-off for the Jugette starting next year.  This means starting in 2011, the winner of the second heat will be the winner of the Jugette.  I expect it won't be much longer until the same rule is adopted for the Little Brown Jug  as it is a reasonable accomodation for horses that almost never race more than one heat in a day.

Have You Sent Your Letter?

Previously, I had written about a proposed rule change up for public comment in New Jersey.  This proposed rule change would institute a fair start rule in New Jersey, requiring horses who are 200ft (2/3rds of a football field) behind at the start of a race to be scratched from the mutuel pools and refund those wagers.  This rule would mirror the fair start rules in effect at Woodbine and Mohawk as well as the other harness tracks in Canada.

Have you sent in your comments to protect your own interests?  The current rule in New Jersey does not protect the gambler and is encouraging gamblers to give up harness racing.  How can a horse lose before a race actually starts?  Yet this is what is happening when wagering continues as the starting gate moves.  Under the current rule, a horse can be 200ft (2/3rds of a football field) behind at the start and be considered a legitimate starter.  How can this be?  After all, under the old recall rules that same horse would have been scratched as uncompetitive.  What now makes this horse competitive?  Nothing.

To ensure this rule gets implemented, people need to make their thoughts known in support of the proposed rule change.  If you don't have time to write your own letter, you can copy the following and fill in your name and address and mail it in (e-mails not accepted).  The important thing is to get your comments in before the public comment period ends on November 6.  Not a resident of New Jersey?  With simulcasting, it doesn't matter.  If you play the Meadowlands through simulcasting you have an interest in this rule as well.

You don't often get a chance to stand up for your rights in horse racing.  Here is your chance.  Don't let the opportunity go by. 

The sample letter follows:

[Your Name]
[Your Address]

Frank Zanzuccki, Executive Director
New Jersey Racing Commission
P.O. Box 088
140 E. Front Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Re: PRN 2010-185
Mr. Zanuccki,

I am writing today in support of the proposed amendment to N.J.A.C. 13:71-17.1, regarding the implementation of a fair start rule in the State of New Jersey for harness racing.  The implementation of a fair start rule would be a net positive to the standardbred racing industry as it would reinstate protection for horseplayers wagering on New Jersey standardbred races which was lost when the recall rule was previously revised. 

Under the original recall rule, if a horse was deemed uncompetitive before the recall pole, a recall was ordered.  If a horse caused two recalls, the horse was scratched and wagers involving the offending horse were refunded.  When the recall rule was revised, an error was made by failing to introduce a fair start rule at the time; leaving the horseplayer’s interests unprotected.

If wagering ceased when the gate begins to move, a legitimate argument could be made not to refund wagers on uncompetitive horses as it could be argued the race has begun.  However, allowing wagering to continue during the roughly thirty plus seconds it takes for the field to reach the starting point indicates the race has not begun.  To not refund wagers in the situation described in the proposed rule change would be like not refunding wagers on a thoroughbred who can’t be loaded into the starting gate; a situation which would never be allowed.

I understand a refund in wagers would result in tracks and horsemen not earning commission on the refunded bets, but this is short sighted.  For an industry seeking to retain and obtain new gamblers, how does the industry benefit by losing horseplayers who consider it unfair to lose a wager this way and decide to no longer wager on harness racing?  The current rule encourages the exodus of gamblers from racing.

For the reasons above, I encourage the adoption of the proposed rule change.


[Your Name]        

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Delaware Selections - Thursday (Little Brown Jug)

As is typically the case, the best have been saved for last on the final day of racing at Delaware this year.  The highlight of the day is of course the Little Brown Jug but there are several other races of interest.

In the afternoon card (there is a morning card as well; more about that later), Flex The Muscle does battle against Chimon in the first division of the Old Oaken Bucket.  In the second division of the Old Oaken Bucket, the Pride of Ohio, Sing Jesse Sing does battle against half mile specialist Cassis which promises to be a pretty even race.  In the Ms Versatility Final, Buck I St Pat, fresh off her second place finish against Lucky Jim in the Credit Winner takes on a solid field of pacing mares.  While one would think Buck I St Pat would be the obvious choice, she has had a tendancy to through in an occasional clunker where it seemed she should have rolled over the field.  On paper, it would appear that Annieswesterncard should roll over the field in the Winbak Pace which is somewhat depleted due to a scheduling conflict with the Quillen Memorial this past Monday at Harrington. 

And then, there is the Little Brown Jug.  This is one of the strongest fields assembled recently for this September classic, though the potential for controversy exists with One More Laugh.  Trainer Ray Schnittker has already stated that One More Laugh will not race three heats.  Hence, it would appear if One More Laugh doesn't win the first two legs, he will be scratched out of the final.  If he loses the first leg, knowing he can't win the Jug if he sticks to his promise, Schnittker may even scratch out after the first heat.

I have mixed feelings if Schnittker needs to follow through on his threat.  By all means, as a trainer he needs to watch out for his horse and one can't find fault with that.  However, by entering the Jug, a trainer knows it is necessary to win two heats to be declared the winner; perhaps it would have been best if he bypassed the Jug if he is that strongly against the multiple heats?  Of course, I am not saying a horse should be scratched if they are exhausted after a race, but there is something wrong when that decision is made before the first race is conducted.  Perhaps there needs to be a financial penalty when a horse doesn't race all the heats they are eligible to unless the state vet scratches the horse.

For a detailed analysis of my Jug selections, please click here.

Following are my selections for Delaware's Thursday card.  Note the first race is scheduled to go off at 10:50am, not the previously announced 11:00am post.  Since there are too many races scheduled, the racing card is being divided into two separate cards as the tote equipment can't handle potentially twenty-six races.  The morning card consists of six races and the afternoon card consists of twenty races.  This is why you will see two sets of races one through six.

Delaware County Fair
Thursday, September 23, 2010
First Post 10:50am

Morning 1st Pace - $2,000; FM Non-winners $2,000 in Last 4 Starts
2 - Jellyfish Joy (B Miller, 5-2)
3 - Action Big Towner (Sears, 3-1)
5 - Yankee Mystique (Campbell, 8-1)

Morning 2nd Pace - $4,000; New Century Series - 3yo Colts and Geldings (1st Div)
5 - C'mon Twist'nshout (Wengerd, 8-1)
6 - CJ's Cruiser Same (B Miller, 5-2)
3 - Lima Jag (Pierce, 9-2)

Morning 3rd Pace - $2,600; HG Non-winners $2,000 in Last 4 Starts
3 - Pcspecial (D Miller, 8-1)
6 - S F Midas (Palone, 3-1)
5 - Little Gary Perry (Brennan, 6-1)

Morning 4th Pace - $4,000; New Century Series - 3yo Colts and Geldinds (2nd Div)
2 - Crusinfullthrottle (Sears, 2-1)
3 - Hez Automatic (Tetrick, 8-1)
6 - Theetownlittleguy (Page, 3-1)

Morning 5th Pace - $2,800; FM Non-winners $15,000 Lifetime
2 - Lima Adore (D Miller,  12-1)
6 - Wildfire Princess (Sears, 1-1)
1 - Knob Hill Sadie (Tetrick, 12-1)

Morning 6th Trot - $36,000; The Standardbred Stake - 2yo Colts and Geldings
4 - Live Jazz (Campbell, 9-5)
6 - Captain George (D Miller, 4-1)
5 - Bloomington (Bolon, 8-1)

Afternoon (Aft) 1st Pace - $2,100; Non-winners of $10,000 in 2010 (AE: Non-winners of $25,000 Lifetime)
6  -Fiftytwoflat (Tetrick, 4-1)
5 - Tricky Kid (D Miller, 3-1)
3 - Race Track Cruiser (Grismore, 6-1)

Aft 2nd Trot - $36,000; The Standardbred Stake - 2yo Colts and Geldings (2nd Div)
2 - Cash On Delivery (Campbell, 8-1)
3 - Soulful Delight (Pierce, 2-1)
4 - Victory USA (Smith, 3-1)

Aft 3rd Pace - $2,100; Non-winners of $10,000 in 2010 (AE: Non-winners of $25,000 Lifetime)
7 - E Cagee Kid (Tetrick, 8-1)
1 - Im A Ruslter Too (D Miller, 5-2)
3 - Rapid Pursuit (McNair, 3-1)

Aft 4th Trot - $73,500; Old Oaken Bucket - 3yo Colts and Geldings (1st Div)
4 - Flex The Muscle (D Miller, 2-1)
2 - Chimon (Grismore, 4-1)
3 - Great Emancipator (Kramer, 5-2)

Aft 5th Pace - $2,600; HG Non-winenrs $2,000 in Last 4 Starts
9 - Mypanmar (Sears, 2-1)
8 - Blindsided (B Miller, 4-1)
3 - Wow Power (McNair, 3-1)
4 - Scooch Over (Page, 8-1)

Aft 6th Trot - $73,500; Old Oaken Bucket - 3yo Colts and Geldings (2nd Div)
4 - Cassis (Schnittker, 2-1)
3 - Sing Jesse Sing (Palone, 5-2)
6 - Thro Time (Kramer, 8-1)

Aft 7th Pace - $5,000; Signature Series Final
4 - Carmel Dumpling (Burns, 7-2)
7 - Forever Friendly (Smith, 3-1)
2 - Standing Pretty (Winters, 8-1)
Coupled: Key Western and Saucy Brown

Aft 8th Trot - $93,500; Ms Versatility Final - Mares Open
6 - Buck I St Pat (Tetrick, 5-2)
2 - Southwind Wasabi (Gingras, 6-1)
1 - Autumn Escapade (D Miller, 3-1)

Aft 9th Pace - $20,386; Ohio Breeders Championship - 3yo Colts and Geldings (1st Div)
1 - B N Brad (Wilder, 6-1)
4 - Sand Summerfield (Sears, 5-2)
5 - EJ's Pocket Rocket (Smith, 12-1)

Aft 10th Pace - $46,250; Winbak Pace - Aged Colts and Geldings
3 - Annieswesterncard (Pierce, 2-1)
1 - Lucky Man (MacDonald, 5-2)
5 - Booze Cruzin (Tetrick, 8-1)

Aft 11th Pace - $20,386; Ohio Breeders Championship -  3yo Colts and Geldings (2nd Div)
  2 - Trick Man (Paver, 5-2)
  5 - Ohso What (Tetrick, 8-1)
1A - Kid Cruiser (Wilder, 7-2)
Coupled: Standing Tough and Kid Cruiser

Aft 12th Pace - $55,000; The Standardbred - 2yo Fillies
2 - Nutmegs Yankee (Palone, 3-1)
1 - Hello Camie (Gingras, 5-2)
4 - Latin Lyric (B Miller, 4-1)

Aft 13th Pace - $64,437; Little Brown Jug Heat 1 - 3yo Colts and Geldings (1st Div)
2 - Rock N Roll Heaven (Dube, 2-1)
8 - Aracache Hanover (McNair, 8-1)
1 - Kyle Major (MacDonald, 7-2) 
7 - We Will See (B Miller, 4-1)

Aft 14th Pace - $64,437; Little Brown Jug Heat 1 - 3yo Colts and Geldings (2nd Div)
2 - Classic Rock Nroll (Campbell, 7-1)
3 - Piece Of The Rock (Macdonell, 5-1)
1 - Delmarvalous (Sears, 3-2)
6 - Versado (Palone, 7-2)

Aft 15th Pace - $64,437; Little Brown Jug Heat 1 - 3yo Colts and Geldings (3rd Div)
6 - Rockin Image (Gingras, 7-2)
7 - One More Laugh (Tetrick, 2-1)
1 - Valentino (Brennan, 6-1)
3 - I'm Gorgeous (A Miller, 4-1)

Aft 16th Pace - $65,300; The Standardbred - 2yo Colts and Geldings
5 - Powerful Mist (Tetrick, 2-1)
8 - Something For Doc (B Miller, 8-1)
4 - Big Bad John (D Miller, 3-1)
6 - Magnus Deo (Brennan, 6-1)

Aft 17th Pace - $35,872; Ohio Breeders Championship - 3yo Fillies
1A - Rub Thing (Palone, 4-1)
  2 - Lullaby Til Dawn (Brennan, 3-1)
  3 - Up Front Cruiser (Noble, 5-2)
  8 - Shez Good Osborne (Stahl, 6-1)
Coupled: Southwind Rah Rah, Rub Thing, and Hawk's Cry Ekectra

Aft 18th Pace - $289,969; Little Brown Jug Heat 2 - 3yo Colts and Geldings
The first three finishers from the three eliminations (races 13-15) return for the second heat.

Aft 19th Pace - $2,000; FM Non-winenrs $2,000 in Last 4 Starts
2 - Fantastic Fran (Charlino, 7-2)
3 - Daves Chilly Filly (B Miller, 10-1)
7 - Our Cheap Date (Fitzwater, 12-1)
8 - Action Jenna (Sears, 6-1)

Aft 20th Pace - $120,820; Little Brown Jug Race-off (If needed) - 3yo Colts and Geldings
If no horse has won two heats, the heat winners return for this race.

Delaware Selections - Wednesday (Jugette Day)

Once again, I am providing my selections for Wednesday's card at Delaware.  The drivers from the East finally make their appearance.  If you want a detailed analysis of the Jugette, click here.

Besides for racing for smaller purses (the overnights) and racing at any number of fair tracks, there are other challenges to handicapping the races at fairs.  For example, on Tuesday, the horse The FF Squire was in to go in the eleventh race making his first lifetime start.  The problem is it really is his first lifetime start as he shows no qualifier or a start at any fair track; nothing.  Clearly tote board watching is the order of the day.

Then, remember the 30 (45) day rule at your local racetrack; the rule which says if a horse has not shown a satisfactory charted line within the 30 (45) days, they needed to qualify before they race?  Well at Delaware, we get horses like Special D in the fourth race on Wednesday; hist last charted line shows a race almost six months ago back on March 29 at Yonkers Raceway.  Special D makes his return to the racing war in the fourth race without the benefit of a qualifier and he is 4-1.  While he appears to overlay this field, you assume the horse is ready, but do we really know?  We will find out.

You will also see fairs with FFAs and Open races.  With the few racing conditions fair tracks tend to have, an Open or FFA is more of a catch-all condition versus than an indication of a high quality horse.  All challenges to the fan not intimately familiar with the fair circuit.  Also, you see a greater number of horses who come back to race quick.  For example, in the fifth race on Wednesday,  Sunny Victory returns from a Sunday afternoon race at Delaware in the Ohio Breeders Championships and I Look Dynamic was scheduled to race Monday evening at Ashland (Midnight Foray was scratched  from his Delaware race on Monday).

However, this is what makes handicapping the races challenging.  If you love harness racing, you can't help but give it go.

Delaware County Fair
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1st Trot - $3,000; New Century Series - 3yo Fillies (1st Div)
6 - Miss Ohio Spur (Wengerd, 5-2)
3 - Sierra's Jessie (Holton, 7-2)
4 - Count On Kate (K Sugg, 8-1)

2nd Pace - $2,800; FM Winners Over $20,000 Lifetime (AE: NW $1,000 in 2010)
5 - Don't Blame Her (B Miller, 5-2)
6 - Tomorrowpan (Sears, 2-1)
3 - Mattress Dancing (Wengerd, 4-1)

3rd Trot - $3,000; New Century Series - 3yo Fillies (2nd Div)
1 - Peach Me (K Sugg, 10-1)
6 - Fried By Five (Winters, 7-2)
2 - Sublime Begonia (Greeno, 6-1)

4th Pace - $2,800; HG Winners Over $20,000 Lifetime
6 - Eagle Flight (B Miller, 6-1)
7 - Miers Hanover (Page, 3-1)
3 - Special D (D Miller, 4-1)

5th Trot - $3,000; New Century Series - 3yo Fillies (3rd Div)
4 - Medoland Jesse (Wengerd, 7-2)
3 - Sunny Victory (Steck, 8-1)
1 - Midnight Foray (Noble, 12-1)

6th Trot - $16,691; Ohio Breeders Championship; 3yo Colts and Geldings (1st Div)
6 - Jailhouse Scorpion (D Miller, 4-1)
4 - Hezahumer (Campbell, 6-1)
3 - Buckeye Man (Noble, 2-1)

7th Trot - $16,691; Ohio Breeders Championship; 3yo Colts and Geldings (2nd Div)
4 - Oh No It's Steveo (Stillings, 3-1)
3 - Lima Apollo (B Miller, 8-1)
5 - Bookem (D Miller, 4-1)

8th Trot - $31,550; The Standardbred - 2yo Fillies (1st Div)
1 - Jogging Home (D Miller, 5-2)
6 - Finaltab Hanover (Ouellette, 4-1)
2 - Lyrical Lady (Hammer, 3-1)

9th Trot - $4,000; New Century Series - 3yo Colts and Geldings (1st Div)
3 - Lima Ghost (J Sugg, 6-1)
4 - Senator Sam (Pfister, 4-1)
2 - Tough Touch (Myers, 8-1)

10th Trot - $31,550; The Standardbred - 2yo Fillies (2nd Div)
4 - Cheetah Hall (B Miller, 3-1)
2 - Swing Anna Cash (Mc Kirgan, 6-1)
1 - Hall-N-Flori (Gingras, 2-1)

11th Pace - $21,886; Ohio Breeders Championship - 2yo Colts and Geldings (1st Div)
2 - Dancin Yankee (Ater, 2-1)
3 - Glenn's Countryboy (Dube, 10-1)
4 - Lima Thunder (D Miller, 6-1)

12th Trot - $98,025; The Buckette - 3yo Fillies
  6 - Costa Rica (Pierce, 3-1)
10 - Bramalea Hanover (D Miller, 4-1)
  2 - Up Front Juansteen (Campbell, 8-1)
  7 - Secret Magic (Gingras, 10-1)

13th Trot - $4,000; New Century Series - 3yo Colts and Geldings
5 - Count Dracula (B Miller, 3-1)
4 - Win Master (Short, 10-1)
3 - Chip's Shadow (K Sugg, 8-1)
8 - Triple G (Campbell, 6-1)

14th Pace - $56,544; The Jugette - 3yo Fillies - 1st Heat (1st Elim)
6 - Dancinwiththestarz (Sears, 2-1)
4 - Rock N Soul (Gingras, 4-1)
5 - A and Gs Princess (7-2)
7 - Seriously (Jamieson, 6-1)

15th Pace - $56,544; The Jugette - 3yo Fillies - 1st Heat (2nd Elim)
6 - Panagler (Palone, 4-1)
1 - Dancin Barefoot (Dube, 7-2)
2 - Native Doll (B Miller, 9-2)
7 - Full Picture (Pierce, 8-1)

16th Pace - $21,886; Ohio Breeders Championship - 2yo Colts and Geldings (2nd Div) 
2 - Hare Craft (Page, 4-1)
6 - Magical New Day (D Miller, 2-1)
4 - Cruise Thru (Stahl, 6-1)

17th Trot - $16,691; Ohio Breeders Championship - 3yo Colts and Geldings (3rd Div)
7 - Just Like Jessee (Palone, 3-1)
1 - Count Till Dawn (Charlino, 4-1)
3 - Too Good Too Pass (Sears, 5-2)

18th Pace - $169,632; The Jugette - 3yo Fillies - 2nd Heat
Top four finishers from races fourteen and fifteen return for this race.

19th Trot - $4,000; New Century Series - 3yo Colts and Geldings (3rd Div) 
7 - Jess Coy (Myers, 6-1)
3 - Helpmerhon (D Miller, 3-1)
4 - Victory's Message (Page, 9-2)
6 - Jailhouse Rockie (Beatty, 4-1)

20th Pace - $70,680; The Jugette - 3yo Fillies - Race-off (If needed)
If no horse has won two heats, the winners of the races fourteen, fifteen, and eighteen return for this race.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Delaware Selections - Tuesday

Tuesday kicks off the simulcasting at Delaware so for those interested in wagering on the Delaware card, I am providing my selections for the day's racing. 

Handicapping the races at Delaware are a challenge, especially for those not overly familiar with the Ohio fair circuit.  There are some fair circuits which are stronger than other; tracks that are faster (much faster) than other fairs.  You will find horses that have raced at the pari-mutuel tracks coming to Delaware, some in poor form.  The challenge here is determining whether a horse was just over their head at the pari-mutuel tracks or are they truly that bad.  Of course, there are going to be a lot of favorites, but due to all the variables, there will be those long shots worth taking a chance on; they do come in occasionaly.  The key to playing Delaware is if you are not intimately familiar with the Ohio fair circuit, avoid wagering serious money.   

To provide you some guidance, I am providing my picks.

1st Trot - $1,950; FM Non-winners of $10,000 in 2010
5 - Mocha Jo (Noble, 5-2)
2 - Baked Azalea (Turner, 8-1)
6 - La'sent (Wengerd, 6-1)

2nd Trot - $4,250; New Century Series - 2yo Fillies (1st Div)
7 - TT's Honey Bun (McKirgan, 7-2)
6 - Lima Silk (Stahl, 2-1)
3 - One Hot Spur (Myers, 9-2)

3rd Trot - $1,950; FM Non-winners of $10,000 in 2010
1 - Mapley (Bateson, 8-1)
6 - She's Not Red (Noble, 6-5)
4 - Northmedo Esther (Wengerd, 6-1)

4th Pace - $2,400; 2yoCG Non-winners $5,000 Lifetime
6 - MKG (Ater, 7-2)
1 - Munster Buster (Wengerd, 3-1)
2 - Northern Companion (Page, 6-1)

5th Trot - $4,250; New Century Series - 2yo Fillies (2nd Div)
6 - Tory (Larrabee, 6-1)
1 - Aunt Alice (Smith, 5-2)
7 - Jessie Anne (Noble, 3-1)

6th Trot - $1,650; HG Non-winners $1,000 in Last 4 Starts
3 - Distant Memories (Thompson, 4-1)
5 - HJ Super Legend (Noble, 12-1)
8 - Chewey (Dailey, 3-1)
2 - Sunset Snip (Irvine, 10-1)

7th Pace - $4,300; New Century Series - 3yo Fillies (1st Div)
4 - Bridge The Magic (Noble, 6-1)
1 - Clara G (Smith, 2-1)
5 - She'safirecracker (Ater, 10-1)

8th Trot - $1,650; HG Non-winners $1,000 in Last 4 Starts
4 - Free Am I (Wulf, 3-1)
2 - One Sharp Spur (Greeno Jr, 2-1)
7 - Maxine's Boy Can (Nooble, 6-1
6 - Just Walter (Thompson, 4-1)

9th Pace - $4,300; New Century Series - 3yo Fillies (2nd Div)
7 - Dirty Girl (J Merriman, 5-2)
8 - Cruisin N Surfkin (J Sugg, 3-1)
3 - Shortin Sasse (Noble, 4-1)
5 - Tuesday (Burns, 10-1)

10th Trot - $2,600; HG Non-winners $2,000 in Last 4 Starts
1A - Chips Of Troy (K Sugg, 12-1)   
   2 - Like A Gator (Smith, 5-2)
   8 - Not To Be Denied (Noble, 8-1)
   6 - Willie N Blaze (Wengerd, 3-1)
Coupled: One Tough Night and Chips of Troy

11th Pace - $7,500; New Century Series - 2yo Colts and Geldings
  7 - Franchise Attack (Nisonger, 6-1)
  2 - Bristle Ridge Bob (Dailey, 3-1)
  3 - Kel Forcever (Smith, 7-2)
1A - Cruznwithdabigdog (Bateson, 4-1)
Coupled: K R's Cruiser and Cruznwithdabigdog; Bristle Ridge Bob and Victor L

12th Trot - $1,650; HG Non-winners $1000 in Last 4 Starts
6 - Tencentmillionaire (Wengerd, 3-1)
5 - Kernel Corn (Noble, 7-2)
7 - Orage D'avril (Page, 4-1)
3 - Double A (Stahl, 5-2)

13th Trot - $5,000; Signature Series Final
5 - Brother Gus (Tinch, 7-2)
4 - This Sands Hot (Konesky III, 5-2)
1 - S T's Hooray (Dailey, 4-1)
2 - Strike Till Dawn (Wengerd, 8-1)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quillen Memorial, Jugette, and Jug Preview

The center of standardbred racing is in Southern Ohio this week at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.  However, with the lack of simulcasting on Sunday and Monday, let's take an advance look at some major races this week.  I will be providing my analysis for the $354,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway on Monday, and then we'll take a look at the elimination races for the Jugette and Little Brown Jug which will be contested at Delaware on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. 

The Quillen Memorial features a highly competitive field of older pacers looking to take down the $177,000 winner's share.  Won The West is seeking to win this race for the second year in a row, but faces the half mile specialist Foiled Again.  In addition, Hypnotic Blue Chip and Blueridge Western make up a strong entry.

Harrington Raceway (9/20) 10th Pace - $354,000; Bobby Quillen Memorial Pace
  2 - Foiled Again (pp 2, Gingras, 2-1) - Wired his elimination of the Quillen and figures to attempt the same this week.
  1 - Blueridge Western (pp 1, Duebe, 3-1) - Will most likely attempt to sit on the rail and make a late move.
  3 - Clear Vision (pp 3, Pierce, 4-1) - Hasn't thrown a bad race from an inside post for a long time.  Don't expect anything different this week.
1A - Hypnotic Blue Chip (pp 7, Jamieson, 3-1) - Stronger half of the entry draws poorly.  Dangerous if he gets the trip.
  5 - Won The West (pp 5, D. Miller, 7-2) - Last year winner's had rail last week and finished second.  May better rating with an aggressive drive.
  6 - Pangiorno (pp 6, Sears, 8-1) - Meeting much better here and doesn't figure at all.
  4 - Solano (pp 4, Callahan, 6-1) -  Having his best year but this field seems a bit deep for him.
  7 - Mr Wiggles (pp 8, A. Miller, 10-1) - Has disappointed as a four year old.  Needs more seasoning.

The fields for the Jugette and Little Brown Jug have been drawn.  Sixteen fillies face the starter in two divisions on Wednesday in the Jugette while twenty-three colts and geldings make up three eliminations in the Little Brown Jug on Thursday.  The Jugette has a solid field of fillies competing while the Jug has perhaps the strongest group of A listers competing in several years.  Maybe it is the fact the three year olds are pretty evenly matched this year, but all the top colts currently racing are making an appearance at Delaware this year; not avoiding the half mile oval.  With the deep field of colts competing, it is quite possible the eventual winner of the Jug will not be a heat winner.

Here is my early review of the Jug and Jugette.

Dela (9/22) - Pace; $56,544; The Jugette - 3yo Fillies - Heat 1 Div 1 (Top 4 Finishers Return for Final)
6 - Dancingwiththestarz (Sears) - Finished second to Put On A Show in the last.  One to beat.
4 - Rock N Soul (Gingras) - Winner of Shady Daisy at Fhld show he has the ability for this oval.
5 - A And Gs Princess (Brennan) - Last two have been disappointing. Expect improvement this week.
7 - Seriously (Jamieson) - Hasn't raced badly considering the trips.  May sneak into exotics with a better trip.
2 - Holiday Shopper (D. Miller) - Raced well on the Ontario B circuit.  Will need to improve.
3 - Western Royalty (Charlino) - Attempted to wire in last and came up short at the wire. Did finish second in Adioo Volo.
1 - Berschet (C. Noble) - Four race win streak crushed in last.  Will need to rebound.
8 - Artcam (Gingras) - Failed at Freehold.  Don't see how he will handle this track.

Dela (9/22) - Pace; $56,544; The Jugette - 3yo Fillies - Heat 1 Div 2 (Top 4 Finishers Return for Final)   
6 - Panagler (Palone) - Has raced well against division's best.  Should break through today.
1 - Dancin Barefoot (Dube) - Solid contender.  Only concern is best efforts appear when not starting from the inside.
2 - Native Doll (D. Miller) - Finished second in high class conditioned pace at Chester.  Note filly still looking for first win of the season.
7 - Full Picture (Pierce) - Has been racing well but draws poorly.  Will be looking to advance.
4 - Western Silk (MacDonald) - Clearly the best on paper.  Only concern is two week layoff off a scratched sick.
3 - Dance Until Dawn (Mcnair) - Good against cheaper.  Will need to step it up here.
5 - Sand Windsor (B. Miller) - Recent has been poor.  Note seasonal mark set on a half miler.
8 - Queen Me (Jamieson) - Seems overmatched and draws poorly.  Pass.

Dela (9/23) - Pace; $64,437; Little Brown Jug - 3yo Open - Heat 1 Div 1 (Top Three Finishers Return for Final)
2 - Rock N Roll Heaven (Dube, 2-1) - Is the horse to beat but will pass on him if odds on.
8 - Aracache Hanover (Mcnair, 8-1) - Was my pick before the post draw.  Will be gunning from the start.  Question if he clears or not.
1 - Kyle Major (MacDonald, 7-2) - Simcoe winner draws the rail but may be used hard to protect the rail.
7 - We Will See (B. Miller, 4-1) - Needs a trip from out here.  May not be able to race his race.
3 - Fred And Ginger (Palone, 6-1) - Tightened up in Mea qua in 1:50.4.  Suspected he may be far back when field settles down.
4 - Dreamlands Art (Brennan, 12-1) - Will be flying late if speed duel late.  Question is will duel develop?  I say no.
6 - Foreign Officer (Pierce, 10-1) - Cooked in NJSS
5 - Razzle Dazzle (Campbell, 15-1) - Seems to be out of his element.

Dela (9/23) - Pace; $64,437; Little Brown Jug - 3yo Open - Heat 1 Div 2 (Top Three Finishers Return Final)
2 - Classic Rock Nroll (Campbell, 7-1) - Finished an overland second to Kyle Major in last and has experience over the half.  Looking for upset. 
3 - Piece Of The Rock (Macdonell, 5-1) - Showed life in Simcoe finishing third to the major. Won over the Fhld oval. 
1 - Delmarvalous (Sears, 3-2) - Class of the field.  May win, but at 3-2 will toss.
6 - Versado (Palone, 7-2) - Best of the rest and figures in the super.
4 - Doc's Yankee (D. Noble, 10-1) - Mastered the Ohio breds.  Tries his luck against open company.
5 - Fool's Gold (T. Tetrick, 20-1) - Break in last shows he may not be able to be driven aggressively over the half.
8 - Urgent Action (D. Miller, 15-1) - No factor in Cane.  Post takes care of him here.
7 - Just Crowned (TBA, 25-1) - No driver named yet should tell you something.  Pass.

Dela (9/23) - Pace; $64,437; Little Brown Jug - 3yo Open - Heat 1 Div 3 (Top Three Finishers Return for Final)
6 - Rockin Image (Gingras, 7-2) - May benefit from potential front end battle to get there at the end.
7 - One More Laugh (Tetrick, 2-1) - The one to beat, but risks getting pushed once he gets to the front.
1 - Valentino (Brennan, 6-1) - Great effort from the early brake at Freehold.  Expect he will attempt to wire the field.  May not be able to sustain.
3 - I'm Gorgeous (A. Miller, 4-1) - Came up flat in Cane final.  May be able to bounce back.
4 - Allthatgltrsisgold (Magee, 10-1) - Racing against older.  If looking for that shocker, he may be the one.
2 - Four Starz Trace (Ouellette, 8-1) - Last couple not good but may wake up on this track. May get in supers with a trip.
5 - Malicious (D. Miller, 12-1) - Belongs with NYSS stock.  Appears overmatched.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Trotting on Display, Illinios Super Night

Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack features the finals of three trotting events; the Peaceful Way (2yoF), William Wellwood Memorial (2yos), and of course, the Canadian Trotting Classic (3yos).

The Canadian Trotting Class sets up as a re-match between Hambo winner Muscle Massive and second place fiisher Lucky Chucky but I think there is a chance Temple Of Doom may finally get his moment to shine.  He led the field to the three quarters before finishing a well beaten third but I suspect it was a question of his connections saving him for the big pay day; after all, why go all out for a $40,000 race when there is a million dollars on the line the following week?  If you look at his split of the Zweig Memorial at Tioga back on August 29, he came home a fifth of second faster in winning his split when compared to Lucky Chucky.  At 10-1, Temple of Doom is a live long shot and a value play.

Here is my analysis of the big three races at Mohawk:

Mohawk - 4th Trot - $466,000; Peaceful Way Stakes - 2yo Fillies
7 - Lukes Sophie (Jamieson, 6-1) - Good effort off a break.  Prior effort finished a close second to the favorite.  May score a minor upset.
4 - Crys Dream (Ouellette, 5-2) - Winner of 4 of 5 is the horse to beat.  Willing to accept the odds offered?
5 - Intense America (Tetrick, 5-1) - Will be flying late.  Could sneak into exacta.
9 - Hey Mister (Sears, 7-1) - A trip may get him in the supers. 

Mohawk - 7th Trot - $1,000,000; Canadian Trotting Classic - 3yo Open
   1 - Lucky Chucky (Campbell, 8-5) - The horse to beat coming into this race with a bye.  Has been shart in all his races after his seasonal debut.
   2 - Temple Of Doom (Miller, 10-1) - Has been just a step below all season.  Coming into this race well.  A live longshot.
   3 - Coco Lindy (Tetrick, 30-1) - Gets a break with the post but doesn't seem to belong at this level.  Toss.
   4 - Break The Bank K (Sears, 8-1) - Elim winner parked entire way from post ten.  A step below but with racing luck could shock.
   5 - Muscle Massive (Pierce, 7-5) - Looking to complete Hambo-CTC double.  Is beatable, especially at 7-5.
   6 - Hard Livin (Gingras, 30-1) - Clearly racing for minor spoils.  Pass.
   7 - Text Me (Waples, 15-1) - Followed winner last week and came up empty.  Best to stick with Ontario breds.
   8 - Pilgrims Taj (Lachance, 15-1) - Continues with a disappointing season.  Pass.
   9 - Take My Picture (A. Miller, 15-1) - Finished second to elim winner.  Could get in superfecta.
 10 - Hes A Demon (Jamieson, 15-1) - Talented colt not up to this class.  Long night from post ten.
 AE - Arriba Amigo (Ritchie, AE) -  Soooo out of his league.  Pass if he draws in.
Selections: 2-1-5-9

Mohawk 9th Trot - $500,000; William Wellwood Memorial - 2yos
  4 - Broad Bahn (Moiseyev, 9-2) - Elimination winner needs to mind manners to win.
  3 - Leader Of The Gang (Pierce, 7-2) - Another elimination winner who looks to go six for eight.
11 - Blue Porsche (Ritchie, AE) - Also eligible can get in exotics with a clean trip at a price if he draws in.
10 - Neal (Sears, 8-1) - A contender who draws the worst of it.  Looking for a share.
  9 - Whisky Tax (Tetrick, 15-1) - Another contender who draws poorly.  Can get in the super with racing luck.

Illinois showcases their Illinois Conceived and Foaled (ICF) horses with Super Night at Balmoral Park.  For those who are looking for action late in the evening, here are my selections for the PT Langley and Orange & Blue Paces:

Balmoral 13th - $173,000; PT Langley - 3yo Colts and Geldings ICF
7 - Iam Bonasera (Magee, 3-1)
1 - Power Of A Moment (Miller, 5-2)
3 - Delco Willobee (DeLong, 9-2)
8 - JHS (Buter, 12-1)

Balmoral 14th - $265,000; Orange & Blue - 2yo Colts and Geldings ICF
  6 - Dutch Richman (Miller, 3-1)
  7 - Fox ValleY Mercury (Magee, 4-1)
10 - Playin For Keeps (Buter, 8-1)
  4 - Mr Bedrock (Tayler, 6-1)

Trotting Royalty Decends Upon Vernon - Speed Explosion Explained?

Another Friday, another treat for trotting fans at Vernon Downs as tonight, Vernon Downs presents a twelve race - all trot program which features four divisions of the New York Sires Stakes for 3yo trotting fillies, four divisions of the final preliminary leg of the Kindergarten Classic for 2yo trotters which culminates in next week's $150,000 final, and headlines the $195,000 Credit Winner open trot which features an all-star field of aged trotters including Buck I St Pat, Lucky Jim, Enough Talk, and Slave Dream.

The Credit Winner at Vernon Downs tonight has the makings for an interesting betting proposition.  Buck I St Pat, Lucky Jim, and Enough Talk, the three marquee horses each have their question marks coming into this race.  Buck I St Pat, who made a rare break last week in the Conway Hall at Vernon is somewhat of an enigma.  While the mare shows some excellent victories, she has come up empty in some races one would think she would have had no problem with.  Is it she is not the mare she has been in the past or are those defeats due to, shall we say more conservative drives when the money was not on the line?

 As for Lucky Jim, he returns to make his first pari-mutuel start in two months coming into the race with a sharp 1:54 qualifier at Chester Downs.  Is he read to fire this week or against this caliber will he need a race under his belt? 

Then there is Enough Talk.  After a disastrous effort at Scarborough Downs, he returned after a month off to finish second against a strong Scorpion Moon in the top overnight trot at Vernon.  One would think he will be ready for a top effort this week but while all the other trotters are coming in with their regular drivers, Enough Talk will be driven by his trainer Peter Kleinhans so one must wonder is Kleinhans driving because Enough Talk may not be sharp enough to entice another top driver to Vernon this evening to drive?  I will be looking past the top three, looking for value this evening.

Here are my selections for the Vernon Card:

1st Trot - $37,354; NYSS - 3yo Fillies
2 - Impressive Kemp (Vanderkemp, 2-1)
1 - Madam Hooch (Mattison, 5-1)
5 - Reena (A. Miller, 8-1)

2nd Trot - $10,000; Kindergarten Classic - 2yo Colts
1A - Manofmanymissions (A. Miller, 8-5)
  3  - Hig Pan Tolerance (Tetrick, 5-2)
  4  - Pembroke Big Bo (D. Miller, 3-1)
Coupled: Mr Jim Dandy and Manofmanymissions

3rd Trot - $37,354; NYSS - 3yo Fillies
3 - Tuesdays With Mom (Huckabone, 7-5)
5 - Sweetspellosuccess (Smedshammer,  5-1)
2 - Little Spot (Berry, 10-1)

4th Trot - $10,000; Kindergarten Classic - 2yo Fillies
5 - Taya's Photo (A. Miller, 20-1)
7 - Sacred Saint (Smedshammer, 3-1)
6 - Go Go Dancer (Mattison, 6-1)
3 - Shacklesonmyfeet (Johnson, 8-1)

5th Trot - $37,354; NYSS - 3yo Fillies
3 - Viva Las Lindy (Tetrick, 3-1)
5 - Miss Conway (Daley, 4-1)
2 - Sparkle Hall (D. Miller, 5-1)

6th Trot - $37,354; NYSS - 3yo Fillies
3 - Frosty Flirt (D. Miller, 7-2)
7 - Munis Blue Chip (Tetrick, 5-2)
5 - Free Wheeling (Goodblood, 8-1)

7th Trot - $3,600; Non-winners 2 Pari-Mutuel Races Lifetime
5 - Classic Son (A. Miller, 5-2)
6 - Naughty Broadway (Lopez, 3-1)
3 - Master Montauk (Huckabone, 6-1)
9 - Candlelight (Okusko, 15-1)

8th Trot - $195,000; The Credit Winner - Open
3 - Amrbro Chronicle (Saftic, 8-1) - Defeated Slave Dream back on July 6.  Draws inside of him this week.  A legitimate play at 8-1.
7 - Slave Dream (Filion, 3-1) - Has been on a tear but draws outside.  Will need to be at best to win here.
4 - Buck I St Pat (Tetrick, 9-2) - Takes on the boys.  If she's going to beat them, this is the week.
5 - Lucky Jim (A. Miller, 5-2) - Best on paper.  May be too deep a field to fire off of one qualifier.
6 - Enough Talk (Kleinhans, 7-2) - Must show he has returned to top form.
1 - Define The World (Macdonell, 8-1) - Field so deep this one is not out of it.  Finished two lengths behind San Pail on Monday.
6 - Enough Talk (Kleinhans, 7-2) - Must show he has returned to top form. 
2 - Hot Shot Blue Chip (D. Miller, 8-1) - If this horse ever overcame his breaking issues he will be a monster.

9th Trot - $2,900; Non-winners of 1 Pari-Mutuel Race Lifetime 
5 - Vision of Broadway (Marks, 2-1)
2 - Madoffwiththemoni (Tetrick, 3-1)
3 - CJ's Ice Breaker (Connor, 4-1)

10th Trot - $10,000; Kindergarten Classic - 2yo Colts
1 - Swan In A Million (A. Miller, 7-5)
2 - Carthage Hanover (Smedshammer, 4-1)
3 - Whit (Hochstetler, 5-1)

11th Trot - $10,000; Kindergarten Classic - 2yo Fillies
   9 - Beatgoeson Hanover (Macdonell, 2-1)
   8 - Centrifical Force (Jones, 12-1)
1A - Sizzling Volo (Johnson, 6-1)
Coupled: Southwind Rosita and Sizzling Volo

12th Trot - $2,900; Non-winners of 1 Pari-Mutuel Races Lifetime
6 - Sweet Licks (Cornell, 8-1)
8 - Coming Out (Daley, 3-1)
3 - Belle Of The Brawl (Huckabone, 4-1)
4 - Pistacious (Okuso, 12-1)

Have you been amazed by the success of certain trainers and the seemingly unexplained speed explosion we have been seeing this year with horses knocking seconds of their lifetime marks and breaking track records left and right?  It is possible the cause may have been uncovered.  In his final regularly scheduled column for Harnesslink, Andrew Cohen discusses the emergence of a new blood doping drug, called ITTP.  ITTP permits the blood to release more oxygen allowing horses to perform better.  As of now, there is no reliable test to uncover the drug so it is suspected unscrupulous trainers of all breeds are using this medication like EPO was used before.  One can't help but wonder once a test has been discovered, if we will be seeing these horses who have been putting on amazing performances slowing down; at least until the next super drug is discovered.  Unfortunately, until racing implements harsh enough penalities to make these cheaters pause, we will be dealing with super drugs for a long time.   

With Sunday being the kick-off of Jug Week at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, the USTA provides a preview to the Little Brown Jug as well as discusses some changes in the conditions for future years.  In addition, there is a review of the second session of the New Jersey Gaming Summit held at the Meadowlands last week

The USTA has put up a Little Brown Jug website which features stories about Jug week in addition to free programs for the racing action.  Remember, there is no simulcasting of Sunday and Monday's racing program.

For those who say there is no hope for harness racing, I suggest they look at the Little Brown Jug where typically 45-50,000 people attend the race; this at a county fair track in Southern Ohio on a Thursday afternoon.  If marketed right, there will always be a demand for harness racing; we just need to get past parochial interests to offer a product worthy of our customer's needs.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tioga Down's Final Figures, Brooks Convicted, Delaware Simulcasting

With the reduced takeout at Tioga Downs, on-track wagering increased by 4.1% and wagering from simulcast locations increased 8.7 over the previous year.  Clearly reducing the takeout rate permitted Tioga to show an improvement to it's wagering numbers when most if not all harness tracks have exhibited a decline in wagering handle. 

David Brooks, founder of Bulletproof Enterprises was convicted yesterday of all charges in his criminal trial in Nassau County, New York.  In a press release from the Department of Justice announcing the convictions, harness racing once again is reminded how marginal we have become in the public consciousness as the press release talked about how the jury found that Brooks diverted funds " support the former CEO’s thoroughbred horse-racing business".  We can't even get attention with bad news. 

In other news, Grand Circuit racing at the Delaware County Fairgrounds begins this Sunday.  For those who enjoy playing Delaware's races via simulcasting, please be aware there will be no simulcasting on Sunday and Monday.   

Afterthoughts - Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not the Answer

After completing the question and answer session with Anouk Busch, I could not help to think about her answers. 

Yes, I knew Anouk was involved with horse rescue and I have been a champion for making sure our equine athletes were treated fairly after their racing career was over, but I must admit I was severely disappointed when Anouk responded to the question asking whether or not owners take steps to make sure their horses are retired when their racing career is over.  Her response,  "Sadly, most don’t care what happens with them or they care more about getting a few hundred dollars for slaughter or Amish them. Also, many owners/breeders I contact when I save their former horses don’t care." not only disappointed me, it saddened me.  I knew there were people who owned horses, not only racehorses, who treated horses like a piece of property, free to do what they wanted to do; but I was hoping to hear her say a lot of owners are responsible.  To hear her say most could care less was a kick in the gut. 

Certainly there are people in our industry who do what they can to save race horses.  From Russell Williams who purchases horses at auctions to keep them away from the hands of kill brokers; groups like the Starfish group and others like Anouk who purchase horses at grade auctions to keep them from slaughter; breeders like Perretti Farms who will never send a broodmare to a grade auction; people like Meg Jewitt Leavitt who had the courage (some would say audacity) for speaking up at the Night of Champions award dinner back in January of 2008 about the problem of horse slaughter after receiving the USHWA President's Award; former owners and breeders who purchase a horse they previously owned or bred once they find out they are in jeopardy, but apparently they are the minority.  The USTA offers a program to provide funds to groups that rescue standardbreds confiscated in abuse cases; a program which can't be discounted, but only addresses a very small portion of the problem.

Unfortunately, there are far too many others who feel no such obligation to their equine athletes.  With the exception of Bangor Raceway and Raceway Park which are owned by Penn National Gaming, no harness track has a policy regarding trainers and owners who permit their horses to be sent to slaughter.  No harness track has implemented a program to save at risk horses; other tracks permit the Amish access to the backstretch on qualifying days to purchase horses that don't make the cut, sometimes using horses as farm or carriage horses; other times acting as a middleman to send horses to the grade auctions.  We have breeders continuing to breed more horses, some of dubious quality, than the racing industry needs.  It is our own "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

The industry needs to reduce the books of future stallions to ensure we don't over-breed.  By reducing future books, breeders will be more selective as to which mares get covered and by producing less mares, will increase the value of those yearlings that are bred.  The industry needs to tell its owners that responsible ownership of horses is not only expected but demanded and sending horses to slaughter is not an option.  If an owner is unwilling to be responsible, then we don't need them to be part of standardbred racing. 

I recognize there are more unwanted horses than welcoming homes for our equine athletes and the world is not fair.  That being said, for those horses where there will be no home available for them, there is a far better, humane method to end their lives instead of slaughter; it is called euthanasia.  Owners, have no problem spending hundreds of dollars for vet bills to keep their horses racing, but are unwilling to pay one last bill to euthanize their horse if so unsound for a post-racing career?      

Not talking about or addressing the problem is not an option.  If racing is unwilling to put its own house in order, other groups are more than willing to step in and take care of the problem in their own manner, by eliminating standardbred racing.  Hopefully, racing will step up and take ownership of this problem with regards to standardbreds.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Q&A With Anouk Busch

People who follow harness racing are familiar with the big name trainers and drivers, but the industry wouldn’t function without the smaller training operations. These trainers are not only the proving grounds for the future stars of the sport; they help fill the overnight races at our tracks. In effect, they are the heart and soul of harness racing; they are our future. In what I hope will be an occasional feature of this blog, I am happy to profile one of the unsung individuals in harness racing, trainer Anouk Busch, who is currently stabled in New Jersey and races primarily at the Meadowlands, Chester Downs and Freehold.

Anouk Busch with Kaline
The 35 year old Anouk Busch was born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and began her equine career in show jumping with Olympic aspirations. It was while involved with show jumping she became introduced to harness racing as a result of a trainer who opened his doors for a thirteen year old girl who wanted to see a horse whose picture was in the newspaper. Once out of high school, Anouk began working with trotters in the Netherlands and after a visit to the United States in 1997, returned the following year to begin her career in the United States where she worked for trainers such as Trond Smedshammer, Chuck Sylvester, Chris Ryder, Jim Campbell, and others. In 2004, Anouk took out her trainer’s license and opened her own public stable.

Since opening her public stable, Anouk has compiled a lifetime UTR of .281 with career earnings of $303,962 with 209 lifetime starts (almost $1,500 per start) which is good showing for a trainer racing a few horses primarily in the lower overnight ranks. Two of her highest profile horses to date are the trotters Kaline ($570,733) the now eleven year old who set his lifetime mark of 1:54.1 in 2008 at Chester as a nine year old, and the four year old Paisley ($62,464) whose lifetime mark of 1:54.1 was set last year at the Meadowlands last year and has been very competitive, winning at the Meadowlands and Chester this year. In addition to training standardbreds, Anouk is very active in the horse rescue movement starting the organization Horse Rescue United earlier this year (currently in the process of becoming a 501(c)3). She has some definite thoughts regarding the treatment of our horses, from whipping to post racing careers. Some people may not appreciate the frankness of her comments, but Anouk speaks her mind. One thing for sure, while a trainer of a small stable now, Anouk will be seen and heard from both on and off the track for a long time.

Here is the interview. I hope you enjoy it.

PG: Anouk, you lived outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. How did you get involved in harness racing?

AB: I originally started riding ponies when I was five years old and got my own pony when I was six. I did show jumping competitions on a 1.30-1.35m (4.25-4.5 ft) level later on. Trotters were a hobby. I remember reading the horse magazines and I kept the pictures from the jumpers and the trotters. When I was 13, my horse was stabled near a standardbred stable and one of their horses had their picture in the newspaper so I knocked on the door to ask if I could see him. I always joked they made a mistake when they said “the door is always open, come by anytime”. That’s all it took. When I graduated high school at 17, I started working with the trotters since I had retired my show jumper. My jumper, Black Minx, who was so talented I had Olympic dreams had physical health problems and couldn’t keep up. I was not able to afford another horse of her caliber so I gave up competing. Since the stable I visited had a job opening when I graduated high school, it was a natural switch. While I do miss jumping, I love standardbred racing as much.

PG: What made you come to the United States to work?

AB: The standardbreds are the best here. Why wouldn’t you want to work with the best?

PG: Before you went out on your own as a trainer, who did you work for and what were you doing?

AB: In Holland, I worked for Andries Van Der Blonk, Ad Sukerbuyk and Tommie Jooiyman Jr. In Holland, you did it all, you groomed and helped training. I did race for Ad and Tom, but it was limited. When I graduated from the Equestrian College Nederlandse Hippisch Beroepsopleidingen (Dutch Equestrian Center), I came to the United States in 1998 and worked for Trond Smedshammer, Jim Campbell, Chris Ryder, and Chuck Sylvester among others.

PG: When did you go out on your own?

AB: I started my public stable in 2004.

PG: Do you also have a driver’s license? Do you have a desire to drive in pari-mutuel races?

AB: I only have a Q license here since I hadn’t raced in many years when I asked to transfer my Dutch license to here. I would like to have a full license here for the occasional horse that I would like to school and race, but the regular catch drivers are far better here. That being said, I am happy being a trainer.

PG: What is the difference between Dutch racing and American racing? What about their sires?

AB: It’s been twelve years since I have been home so I really don’t know who the hot sires are. As for the racing, it is very different. Here everyone follows in one line and it is a non-stop sprint. In Holland, they have much longer distances and they also race under saddle which I enjoyed riding. They use a starting gate in most races but also have turning starts in the elastics like Vincennes does (like the Prix d’ Amerique). Horse line up in two tiers more often in Holland and the middle parts of the race are slower to give the horses a breather. Unfortunately, racing is struggling to survive in Holland and many horsemen have moved elsewhere in Europe to try to make a living.

PG: Do you know why racing in the Netherlands is in decline?

AB: The same reason as everywhere. The public is not going to the races and when they do go, they complain about whip use.

Anouk Busch training Paisley
PG: Do you use any European training method? What are they?

AB: I like to train a fit horse over a longer distance (about 1 5/8 mile) in a slower time than you would work in a mile. I like to think they stay sounder that way and keep their weight on better. I also will ride a horse under saddle if I think it will benefit the horse; something you see more off in Holland than here.

PG: What year did you get your first win as a trainer in the United States and what was the name of the horse?

AB: Cool Cookie (3,1:56.3m, $18,480). She was my favorite horse. I had been suffering from depression and Jimmy Petruccelli gave me the filly to train to keep me busy. Nobody thought she would make it to the races as she was sore and cranky as a two year old. Yet, I was able to get her to the races and she won twice as a three year old before she became a broodmare. I was stabled in Chuck Sylvester’s barn at the time and Cool Cookie (I called her CC) was inseparable from one of Chuck’s horses, Olympics.

PG: Who is the best horse you ever trained?

AB: In the United States, it would have to be Kaline who has made over a half million dollars. While in Holland, while I didn’t train the horse, on race days, I used to take care of a horse named Yellowa for trainer Ton Blok who I would paddock and get to walk and jog a little as a warm up before the trainer took him for his final warm up trip before the race. I also got to ride the horse at his stable. Yellowa was the best trotter Holland ever had with earnings of 1.1 million guilders. I was very grateful for all the people like Ton Blok who took me seriously and made me love the sport even more. I mean, who would let a young teenage girl mess with the county’s best horse for the fun of it?

PG: I know you train trotters. Do you have any pacers?

AB: I have trained a few pacers but my owners prefer trotters. I like both just as much.

PG: Is there a horse you a particularly proud of getting to the races because it had to overcome problems?

AB: There was a horse called Photo Thunder who couldn’t even jog because he was so lame. He had a history of running seven times in a qualifier. He would then qualify and then break in his next start. Once I got him it took a long time but I got him back to the races, even getting a win with him. Unfortunately, I didn’t have him long. I had just made a shoe change after he ran on a muddy track at Pocono and he trained so well I was thinking of him racing at the Meadowlands. However, the owner changed barns. He got another win after he left my barn with the new shoeing but then he regressed to old habits of running. I then lost track of him.


PG: How many horses do you have in your stable and where are you stabled?

AB: Currently, I am stabled at Winners Training Center in Chesterfield, New Jersey. Right now I have Kaline, Paisley, and Tangier in training. In addition, I have three yearlings and a two year old coming in this winter in addition to a three year old coming back to me. It looks like I will have a busy winter. The most horses I had at one time was seven or nine horses when I used to start some yearlings for the Remmens.

PG: What challenges do you encounter specifically because you have a small stable?

AB: Getting a driver to choose your horse when equal to another one in the race when the other horse is trained by a larger stable the driver does business with.

PG: Do you have help in the barn?

AB: Mr. Petruccelli, who owns many of the horses I train, will help out. Before, it was just me.

PG: Which tracks do you currently race at and which is your favorite track?

AB: I race at Freehold, the Meadowlands, Chester, and sometimes at Pocono. Of course, I am willing to race at other tracks. Right now, my favorite track is Chester; the paddock is great to work out of. However, my favorite to race at is the Meadowlands; it is still the best track in my opinion.

PG: It seems women trainers are being accepted these days in harness racing. Do you find this the case?

AB: If you deliver results, owners will come to you, but if you have a very small stable it is hard to get in the limelight.

PG: What trainer (of any gender) do you admire in particular? Is there a woman trainer you admire?

AB: I would say the trainers I admire the most are Chris Ryder, Larry and Ray Remmen, and Chuck Sylvester. Of the women trainers, the one I admire the most is Jacqueline Ingrassia.

PG: Is there anything which should be done to make it easier for a trainer to attract additional owners?

AB: Well, if the cheaters are banned, the trainers who don’t cheat and the smaller trainers will get a better chance to attract new owners. That being said, the easiest way to get more owners is to have that one big horse.

PG: Why does it seem to you we don’t have many women driving? Is there something which can be done to solve this problem?

AB: I think it’s hard to have people give women a chance because you don’t see many women driving. In Holland, they are more accepting of women drivers. I think one way to get more women involved is by giving a student license like they do in Holland. Student drivers get preferred posts in races and if the student driver was a woman, the owners would be willing to give them a chance because of the better post positions, especially on half mile tracks and tracks where they race for less money (very similar to how women jockeys are given a chance in the USA because of the apprentice allowance). It gives the student driver a chance to build up their name and if you drive well, the owners are more willing to give you a chance afterwards. In Holland, after thirty wins you become a full driver.

PG: Our races tend to be all one mile dashes. Do you think we should be looking to make any changes (distance, second tier, etc.) to our races to make them more attractive?

AB: Yes, I think horses will last longer if we race different distances. Also, just like other athletes, some horses like short distances, some can go on forever

PG: What do you think needs to be done to make racing more popular?

AB: Give out free vouchers in the mail and invite local people to the track. We also need to address whipping; ban one line driving and be very strict in enforcement. The public is getting very much in tune to how we treat our horses. Each track should have a program like the Rerun program used for thoroughbreds where they retrain and adopt out ex-racers. Have horse shows at the track which show the versatility of our standardbreds after racing. Someone sells a horse to slaughter? Ban them. We also need to make sure trainers who get caught cheating with performance enhancing substances are banned for a life. It is time racing gets positive attention from the media instead of the negative press we have been getting.

PG: Since you mentioned it, is the whipping problem as bad as people think, or is it just a perception issue?

AB: I think it’s a big problem for sure. I hate it when my horses come back with blood or big marks. I tend not to use those drivers again.

PG: Are there any drivers who specifically come to mind who are light on the whip?

AB: I think Cat Manzi, John Campbell, Steve Smith, and Mark Gingras are more polite with the whip. More importantly, they know when not to whip.

PG: Have you ever ‘fired’ a driver because a horse came back with fresh welts or cuts?

AB: Yes.

PG: There are some people who say gamblers will stay away if drivers are not allowed to whip their horses freely. Is this something we should be concerned with or is there a way we can educate the gamblers?

AB: I think the gamblers will re-adjust their minds to the new rules when they see the horses will still try hard, except for the occasional very lazy horse. With the new fans we can win by being more horse friendly, the few who might leave should probably leave.

PG: Things are a little uncertain with the Meadowlands. What are your plans if the Meadowlands were to close? Any plans to return to Europe?

AB: I possibly would move to Pennsylvania. As for returning to Europe, America is my home.

PG: Turning to another subject, I understand you are involved with horse rescue. What made you get involved with it and when did you start?

AB: I got involved earlier this year by becoming aware of slaughter of American horses on Facebook Sites. I had seen many of my favorite horses go to slaughter in Holland and it broke my heart. So I started posting for Camelot (a grade auction in New Jersey) Auction Horses, who to their credit allows rescue groups to come in and take pictures of the horses on the feedlot and post them online so we can network to find homes for these horses. We only have three days to find them a new home otherwise they get shipped to Canada for slaughter.

In March, there were two old standardbred geldings from the Amish there in their twenties and they had less than 24 hours to get saved, nobody helped them yet. So I stepped in and asked if friends could help fund them. We got the money and another rescue, Bright Futures Farm stepped in to home them for me after I had bailed them out. That’s what jump started me into starting a real rescue. I established a Facebook group called Horse Recue United where I encourage others to post all rescue efforts, so I have been using that name since. I am in the process of becoming a non-profit organization now. As of now, I am still not a 501(c)3 organization, but I still gets help from friends to save some horses. I try to help the standardbreds the most since they are always overlooked, but I will help other breeds as well. I find people like them (standardbreds) a little more now after they have seen my videos evaluating rescued standardbreds; they see how cool they are.

PG: So as of now, who is involved with Horse Rescue United (HRU)?

AB: I have several administrators on Facebook: Diana Tuorto, Jackie Hackett, Martha Linnebur, and Jaclyn Esposito. Jackie and Diana will be on my board of directors when I become a tax-exempt organization. I have many more friends who help post on my group page, contribute money to rescue horses, etc.

PG: In addition to donations, do you put your own money into it?

AB: Yes, whenever I can. I also get owners who surrender horses to pay for the horse until it is homed as well, including training them under saddle. I basically charge the surrenders $500 per month which includes, board, turn out, feed, shavings, training expenses, pictures, videos, and finding the right approved home. If there are any other expenses involved, the owner has to cover it. On average it takes me around six weeks to find a home when a horse is in my care; sometimes longer, sometimes less.

PG: How much time do you spend a week on horse rescue? Where do you find the time for it?

AB: Pretty much all my free time is spent working on horse rescue. I keep the horses at Winners Training Center after they finish quarantine so I work with them when I am done training my stable. I have some volunteers helping me at times too. Most of the time is spent posting online the horses, downloading pictures and videos. I don’t have a social life right now, but I don’t mind; it is really rewarding when these horses go on to new homes.

PG: How do you decide which horses to save?

AB: I try to save the standardbreds first. On occasions, I have taken a few others from Camelot. Trolley (a quarter horse) I helped because all the other rescues were full and I seemed to be the best option to take her in. I couldn’t leave here at Camelot with a bashed in skull. Also, with my horse experience, I felt I was prepared to deal with her.

PG: Since you have rescued horses from various breeds, which is the most adoptable to a second career and why?

AB: Standardbreds. They are the most mellow horses and hence the most adaptable to a new career.

Anouk with Camelot's Lady who came from the Camelot Auction
PG: What is the first thing you do when a rescue comes to you?

AB: I let them relax one day if they didn’t come from that far. The next day I evaluate them under saddle if possible. The sooner I can evaluate them, the sooner I can find the right home for them, saving money for another rescue. On the first day I take pictures and/or videos and post them online right away.

PG: How many rescues have you saved from the feed lot in the past year?

AB: I have helped some rescues by raising funds for their efforts, but I have pulled about thirteen horses from the feed lot including, Enhance the Beauty, You Win Ma, Ivory Tower, Daylon Dreamer, Minnie Driver, Krisacia, Camelot’s Lady, and Trolley. I have also had nine owner surrenders. We do have a few horses still looking for homes, I encourage people to check out our Facebook page to see who is available and check back often, there are always horses available.

PG: Who is the most famous standardbred horse you have taken in to your rescue?

AB: Well, there were five famous for the wrong reason. These broodmares came from a New Jersey standardbred farm which got a lot of publicity. As for the best racehorse, I would say it was Daylon Dreamer. She made over $200,000 and her foals made over $300,000, if I remember correctly.

PG: Can you tell us about one of your most famous saves, Trolley? What made her so special?

Anouk Busch with Trolley after her first surgery
AB: I found Trolley, a quarter horse, at Camelot on June 30th with a sock superglued to her skull. She had a gaping hole underneath from a bashed in skull. What amazed me is how calm she still was with what happened to her in the past (I wish I knew for sure what happened). I kept coming back to her. So did Daniel Dube who was there that night since he was recuperating from an accident. When the other local rescues were unable to take her in and they talked about possibly having to put her down, I made some calls and decided to take her myself. I named her Trolley since I got a group of friends online who follow and help the horse recue and we call ourselves trolls (affectionately). So they asked me to call her Trolley. The name fits her too.

PG: Has there been any one rescue which has been particularly challenging which turned out well?

AB: That would be Trolley. I wasn’t sure if I could get all the funds needed but people responded overwhelmingly. Also Dr. Mazzarisi, Dr. Hogan, and blacksmith Mulryene have donated some of their services to her at times to keep her bills down. She had one successful surgery thus far, she may need another surgery in one or two months.

PG: How much does it cost to adopt from HRU? How do you keep track of horses afterwards to make sure they are being taken care of?

AB: There is no adoption fee. As for follow-up, I ask for records that have the vet say the horse is in good health. I ask for pictures often and recently revised the contract to allow for home checks which will be done by me or one of my many volunteers. I had recently gotten a rescue back. I already had concerns regarding the horse not being in good health and after a home check, we got her back. She is now in good hands at a new home. As much as I try to find the best homes, sometimes you get surprised. This is why the contract and home checks are important.

PG: Do you work with other horse rescue groups?

AB: Yes, there are some good groups out there and we try to help each other when we can. I know some people who try to help thoroughbreds, they know I try to help mostly standardbreds; others like to take in the draft horses.

PG: If someone wants to help HRU, how may they help or get additional information?

AB: I have a website ( but admittedly, it is not up to date. The best way to get additional information is on the Horse Rescue United group page as well as my own profile on Facebook. Or they may call me at (609) 481-8561.

PG: Let’s turn back to racing. Since you started rescuing horses, do all of the horse you train which didn’t pan out end up being adopted or retired? Have any owners objected to it or have they been receptive to the idea?

Anouk riding Bummie (Baumgartner) prior to adoption.
AB: The only horse that didn’t work out was Baumgartner and his owner was very responsive. He is now homed on a one month trial period in Flemington, NJ as a riding horse with a wonderful girl Andrea.

PG: From your own experiences and observations, are most owners willing to retire their horses?

AB: Sadly, most don’t care what happens with them or they care more about getting a few hundered dollars for slaughter or Amish them. Also, many owners/breeders I contact when I save their former horses don’t care. I am keeping my own Hall of Fame for the trainers/owners who do step up to the plate.

PG: Do you think racetracks do enough to save unwanted horses? Is there any standardbred track you think is doing a good job regarding rescue?

AB: I don’t think any track is currently doing enough at all. The Meadows Racetrack is very willing to help me when HRU becomes a 501(c)3, thanks to Kimberly Martino. I have had talks with Freehold Raceway as well as with many drivers and trainers at both tracks (Meadowlands and Freehold) and I believe I can get their support when the time is right. But in my opinion, every track and the USTA should ban any person who sends a horse to a feedlot, sells it to a killbroker, or sends it to slaughter.

PG: What do you think the industry should do to reduce the number of standardbreds ending up being sent to slaughter?

AB: Ban anyone who sells a horse for slaughter for life. We need to be more selective in breeding. Have breeders, owners, drivers, and trainers; those making a living from the horses, set aside a small amount to go towards saving horses.

PG: Thank you for your time.