This past week was a good week for the horses as two racing commissions took a stand against individuals who went too far and one case, way too far.
Greg Merton has been given a one hundred and eighty two day suspension and ordered to attend an anger management class before returning to racing courtesy of the judges at Monticello Raceway for excessive whipping of the pacer Noreen in the 10th race on August 30 (Ruling #94-2010). Yes, Noreen went off-stride at the start of the race, but it doesn't give a person the right to take it out on the horse. While the NYSRWB has come down hard on Merton, one has to wonder if the judges were more diligent regarding enforcement of the whipping rules if it never would have gotten to this point.
Meanwhile, in California, trainer Christopher Lefebvre had his temporary license revoked by the California Horse Racing Board for a criminal conviction regarding animal cruelty in Maine, this after
previously being denied a license in Maine. What is really troubling in this particular case is how a person can receive a license before a search is done on their record in which case Lefebvre would have never received a temporary license in the first place. There is no reason why racing commissions can't pull an abstract on a potential licensee an individual first applies for their license.
One of the things regarding standardbred racing is you never know when an ordinary horse will pop up to win one of the bigger races in harness racing like Shiaway St Pat who rose to the top of the harness racing world one August afternoon to win the Hambletonian in 1981 before working his way down the ranks prior to being retired. A look at Sunday evening's card at The Red Mile reveals that May June Character, who won the Adios back in 2007, earning $160,000 of his $396,000 lifetime earnings in one race, is scheduled to race in tonight's third race, competing for a $4,000 claiming tag after winning three races at Thunder Ridge earlier this summer. While May June Character continues racing in relative obscurity, he was the king of harness racing for one day in 2007.
Speaking of the Red Mile, many people wonder why the Red Mile Grand Circuit meet gets little publicity in the local media. I suspect it has a lot to do with the caliber of the regular meet. When you are presenting race cards with $2,500 claimers competing for $2,200 and with Opens racing for $5,000; it is hard to attract the attention of the public; especially when your immediate competition (Keenland) runs a high caliber racing program. You can't expect people to get excited about your racing product for two weeks when you have been feeding them an inferior product all along. This is something the horsemen in New Jersey will need to keep in mind as they workout the schedule for the 2011 harness meet. Schedule too many days with weak racing, and the only people will who will be showing up for the big days are those in the industry. Every effort must be made to keep the caliber of racing the same, if not better, if there is any hope of generating any interest from the wagering public.