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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things to be Thankful For

Make no mistake, 2010 has not been one of the best years.  The future of the Meadowlands has been in question all year.  The economy, despite the experts' declarations, has been poor.  In harness racing, we have a race fixing scandal enveloping racing in Michigan and at Windsor Raceway.  That being said, there are things to be thankful for.  In no particular order, here are things we need to be thankful for.

Wild Turkeys
 I am thankful for Rock N Roll Heaven, who is still racing while horses of less ability have already headed off to stud duty.  I am also thankful for the connections of Rock N Roll Heaven; they have raced most of the dances racing on all size ovals, even the dreaded half mile oval.  Sure, RnR has been managed, but his connections are sportsmen, letting the horse race.  The Horse of the Year Award will be well deserved.

And of course, without Rocknroll Hanover, there would be no Rock N Roll Heaven.  We are thankful for Rocknroll Hanover, who is one of the most exciting sires standardbred racing has had in years.  The way his offspring have been performing, it is possible we will be talking about Rocknroll Hanovers for years. 

I am thankful for Lucky Chucky.  Yes, he came up short in the Hambletonian but a year after Troy Sylvester's passing, Lucky Chucky has made racing fun again for Chuck Sylvester.  Plus, how can we forget those early season races against Muscle Massive?.

Let's not forget See You At Peelers.  The Princess of the NYSS stepped into open company to win the Breeder's Crown at Pocono Downs and leaves us hopeful for a wondrous run at the age of three.

Truth be told, I am thankful that harness racing had Admiral's Express.  No, we will never see a son or daughter of The Grey Gladiator.  To some people, making money in syndication deals and breedings is the name of the game, but the truth is it is horses like Admiral's Express; the war horses which make racing the great game it is.  May The Gladiator rest in peace.

In a similar vain, let's give thanks to fair tracks like Historic Track where the racing is competitive and there is no wagering.  No, people won't get rich racing at the fair tracks, but they are the best source for developing the future audience for the sport.

We must be thankful for Brett Boyd, President of the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Assocation for leading the struggle to keep harness racing alive in Michigan.  While the schedule has been greatly reduced due to budget cuts at the direction of the state, business is actually up at Northville Downs this past meet.  Considering the recent race fixing scandal, this is no small success..

We should be thankful for the Micighan Gaming Control Board for its role in the alleged racing fixing investigations at Michigan and Ontario raetracks.  Of ilittle note, the examiniation of racing fixing allegations has expanded to the thoroughbred tracks

I am thankful we have legislsators like Senatar Sweeney and Whalen in New Jersey fighting for horse racing.  Sure, they won't approve slots at the Meadowlands, but where you have a Governor and a real estate developer set on throwing horse racing in the river with the fishies, these two key legislators in the Senate are actually working to develop new wagering options to throw racing a lifeline.

I am thankful harness racing has drivers like Randy Waples who has decided to make the trek to Windsor Raceway to drive in cheap races with cheap horses to benefit the Windsor Food Bank.  Racing on the powerful WEG circuit, the leading driver at Woodbine has every excuse to relax on the dark days at Woodbine but instead he gives back to the community; something more of our racing stars should be doing.

I am also thankful for Heather Moffet, the bubbly host of Post Time and PA Harnessweek.  Not only is she a good will ambassador for harness racing, she uses her celebrity to raise awareness for Autism.  And if producing PostTime and co-hosting another show is not enough, she also dedicates time to Koshy's Kids and Horse Lovers United.  Her presence every year in the Hambletonian Winners Circle is a must see event.  Did I mention she is a great mother of two and wife of trainer Billy Moffett?  Heather is harness racing's Energizer Bunny.

How can we not be thankful for people like Anouk Busch, a standardbred trainer who believes there is no excuse for a race horse to end up in a slaughterhouse?  She launched a lonely campaign to get the USTA ro revoke membership for members that knowingly send horses to slaughter, directly or indirectly and has formed a rescue group called Horse Rescue United.  People like Anouk and others looking to protect our retired equine stars are the conscious of racing.

Speaking of people with a conscience, there are other horsepeople who do their best to rescue horses in danger either individually or with others.  There is the Starfish group, and many others who will work on the side to save horses.  Groups like Standardbred Retirement Foundation and other horse rescues are often staffed by people with a direct or indirect connection to the sport.

Thanks to Dr. Patty Hogan, who continues to help horses in need.  From giving Keystone Wallis a home to live out her life and the many good deeds she done quietly, Doctor Hogan is a blessing to the horses she serves.

How can we not be thankful to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and the PHHA for hosting the Breeders Crown in the Poconos this year, bring the best racing ever to their facility?  Not only did we have a first class event, they were able to do what others have not ben able to do; get television exposure for the evening.

Thanks to the Hambletonian Society which got wagering on the Breeders Crown in Australia and New Zealand, making the Breeders Crown a true international event.  With luck, opening up Australasia to North American wagering will herald the start of global simulcasting of harness racing wherever it is contested.

Sometimes the best intentions don't work out.  Thanks to Julie Miller and Peter Kleinhans for taking Lucky Jim and Enough Talk over to Europe for the Elitlopp.  Success was not to be, but these trainers were sporting enough to give their horses a chance to race against Europe's best.

Our thanks can't be extended fully enough for drivers like John Campbell, Andy and David Miller, and Brian Sears for continuing to race at the Meaodwlands during this period of uncertainty.  Yes, they may eventually move their tack once final purse distributions are announced for 2011, but unlike other drivers who have moved on to other tracks to call home, they are here willing to stick it out until the fat lady sings.
We are thankful for Bill Finley and Andrew Cohen speaking out on racing issues.  Finley has come to the defense of racing in light of Christie's plans but he has never shied away from criticizing the industry.  As for Andrew Coehn, he has certainly ruffled feathers this year with his attacks on alleged cheaters.  No, many didn't want to hear his message but sometimes we need to hear what we don't want to hear.  In addition, Cohen is in charge of Halters for Hope; an effort to fund recognized rescues.

North of the border, we are thankful for Daryl Kaplan and Standardbred Canada for coming up with their Racing Development and Sustainability Plan; a plan to take 5% of the purses account and invest it in promoting harness racing in Ontario and Canada.  Unfortunately, it seems horsemen in Ontario are unwilling to read the tea leaves as to what the future may hold and are resistant to investing in their future.  Still, they plug along.

Where would we be without Jeff Gural and Jason Settlemoir who have brought us reduced takeouts at Tigoa Downs to improve wagering at Tigoa Dowsn.  Jason is tireless in his efforts on behalf of racing whether at Tioga Downs or as simulcast director for the Little Brown Jug. 

A list of things to be thankful for would not be complete without giving credit to the NJRC for considering a Fair Start rule in the state of New Jersey, potentially correcting a rule change made that did not protect the wagering public.  No, the proposed rule change has not yet been adopted, but the fact is the commission did the right thing when presented with a legitimate argument showing the mistakes of the previous decision.

Thanks needs to be given to Finnish Driver/trainer Riina Rekilia who has taken Canada and North America by storm in her first year of competing in North America.,  Not only does she bring good looks to the sport, she is more than capable of holding her own against the best drivers in North America.  With her ability to race her own stable along with her husband, can we be experiencing the successor to Queen Bea Farber as Rekila continues to take her foothold in North America?

A person who gets little notice, Dale Welk, the Director of Operations at the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, the group which runs the sale at Harrisburg, is a person sellers and buyers are thankful for.  Dave is the guy who somehow makes it possible for over 2,000 horses to be unloaded, stalled, sold and then departed in an orderly fashion.  Then there is Phil Sporn, the pedigree meister, who keeps pedigrees up to date with the latest changes.  Can we forget David Carr at the USTA who is responsible for the constant improvements being made to Pathways which has become so important to breeders and purchasers alike?   

I am thankful for Ray Paulick and the Paulick Report.  Yes, his website is roughly 95% thoroughbred, but he his reporting shows that thoroughbred and harness racing share many common problems from which we can learn from each other.

As for Ivan Axelrod, President of the USTA, we are thankful for his candid words regarding the leadership of the USTA and their unwillingness to take the steps necessary to keep the industry going strong.  No doubt Ivan's comments upset many in leadership, but there comes a time when one must speak candidly.  We also need to be thankful to the rank and file who works at the USTA from Mke Tanner on down who do the best they can hampered by a board of directors who feel we are still in the 1960s.

We are thankful for Nicole Kraft's contributions to the USTA.  While Nicole has left the employ of the USTA, she remains active as a free lance writer promoting harness racing whenever possible.  In the meanwhile, a future generation of journalists are learnings from the best.
I am thankful for my fellow bloggers like Dean over at Pull The Pocket who brings his personal views on racing's problems to the forefront.

And lastly, I am thankful to the readers; those who take the time to read this blog.  It is for you this blog is written.


Scott Jeffreys said...

Dear Pacingguy : Well written and Happy Thansgiving!

Sincerely, Scott

wayne haehner said...


that was "monstrous"
your passion does not go unrecognized

it was a pleasure to meet you and your lovely wife on Habo Day the last two years

we are all glad you are back to doing your thing

Happy Turkey Day to you and yours