For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Friday, December 31, 2010

Let's Race Like it's 1969

We can't end the year without some controversy can we?

Apparently, there is some dissension out there regarding a Jeff Gural-led rescue of the Meadowlands.  There are some people who want the SBOANJ to go it alone in rescuing the Meadowlands.  How big a group this is I don't know but some of the problems the dissent has with a Gural plan is the feeling it is unattainable.  For one thing, who would build a $40 million facility for a five year lease?  Jeff Gural is not some college graduate just out of school.  While he may get a $1 lease for five years on the Meadowlands, rest assured before he commits $40 million to build a new grandstand, he would negotiate a longer lease for the property, no doubt years six and on for more than $1.  I am not saying it is a certainty that Gural will be successful, but he is smart enough to feel there is a reasonable chance of success to enter the sweepstakes for the Meadowlands.  May I remind you if the Gural did not enter the competition, the Meadowlands would already have been closed, save for six days in August.

The opposition feels horsemen can run the Meadowlands and the $1 a year lease; obviously disregarding the additional fees that it will cost to keep the old outdated grandstand open; one that reminds me of the grandstand at Atlantic City Race Course; that's enough to get people to want to come out to the races.    This person fails to realize that no horsemen group in recent years has successfully run a racetrack; as smart as we like to think the SBOANJ leadership may be, what is to make anyone think they would be successful?  My guess is if the SBOANJ attempted to run the Meadowlands alone, they may be bankrupt before the year is over.  According to some, part of the solution, is to defer payments to pension plans, one of the leading things which has brought NJ to the brink of financial disaster.

Another suggestion is to ask breeders to make sacrifices to help save money to run the Meadowlands.  Are these the same breeders that just took a drubbing this year at Harrisburg and are bordering on insolvency?  They have already shipped most commercially viable stallions out of state.  No doubt dropping breeders awards is the way to go; then we can cancel the NJSS as there will no longer be any Jersey-sired horses.

To me, the real crux appears to be the reduction of racing days.  The claim being made is a Gural-led Meadowlands would probably race 80 days a year while some would prefer to maintain a 141 day racing calendar.  This sounds like something that would come from East of the Hudson but in New York, they have racinos.  Sure, a racetrack with slots can race 141 days; who cares about handle (for now)?  But for a non-racino track racing 141 days a year, even like the Meadowlands; that's fine if you want to become Balmoral East. 

To paraphrase the old Prince song.  Let's race like it's 1969.    

Dan Patch Awards Need Changing?

If you are looking for this week's "B' Track Tour selections, you may find them by clicking here.

Well, with the exception of the Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year, and Horse of the Year, we know all the winners of this year's Dan Patch awards.  I agree with the selections, but I have a problem with one award winner, Buck I St Pat, who won the Older Trotting Mare award.

First of all, let me make this clear this is not meant to be an attack on Buck I St Pat.  Clearly Buck I St Pat was the best older trotting mare this season.  After all, didn't Buck I St Pat win the Armbro Flight and the Breeders Crown?  It is not that she won less than half of her starts.  If she raced only against the mares, then not winning half her starts would have been an issue but she also raced against the boys which excuses the sub .500 record.  My problem is when the big money was on the line, Buck I St Pat was typically there, but when it came to elimination races, it was a different story.  Immediately after winning the $340,470 Armbro Flight, there was a fourth place finish in a $25,000 leg of the Ms Versatility at the Meadowlands.  Buck I then came back to win the $100,000 Matchmaker.  The following start at Tioga Downs in another $25,000 leg of the Ms Versatility; one that draws a field so short that it goes as a non-wagering event, she finishes third.  It just bothers me that the start before and after the Matchmaker, we saw a totally different Buck I St Pat. If I had a vote, I would have voted for Buck I St Pat, but I just found some of her lackluster performances disturbing.  Now granted, not being connected to the horse, perhaps there was a valid excuse for these sub-par performances, but just from looking at the races, I have some concerns.

The point I am trying make is why does there need to be a winner in each division each year?  What I would like to see is voting continue as it does now, but if the top vote getter does not win at least 66% of the starts for their particular division (in Buck I St Pat's case, races against open company would not count against her), no award be given in that division that year.  Of  course, the big money events should influence the voting, but a champion should be winning elimination and overnight events too.

The first condition sheet for the Meadowlands has been released and it is a welcome sight when compared to the fall meet.  We have invitational horses back as well as high priced claimers, and purse levels back to last winter's level.  With  the Eastern Pennsylvania tracks being closed for the season, we should be seeing full fields and name drivers return.  The question comes once Yonkers re-opens from their three week hiatus, do some of the drivers head back to the Hilltop and how many of the horses head back as well?  Once Yonkers reopens the Meadowlands should be able to put on strong cards, though some of the classes may need to be abandoned or merged with others. Bottom line, for the next three months, while Jeff Gural negotiates a new lease, it should seem like the good old days.    

"B' Track Tour Stop - Northfield Park

Due to circumstances beyond my control (coupled with a few admittedly horrible weeks of selections), VFTRG friend Daryl has volunteered to make the selections for this week's installment of the "B" Track Tour which stops at Northfield Park. 

With the New Year, horses age a year and I would like to provide you with certain rules I use when handicapping races.  This is not to say our guest handicapper did or didn't use these rules.  Read these rules as if you were reading this on New Years Day:

  • Today's three year old is yesterday's two year old.  Hence, until May at the earliest, I don't bet three year olds when they are competing against older horses.
  • Today's four year old is yesterday's three year old.  When it comes to most overnight races, that four year old better be darn good to play against older.   When it comes to Opens of FFA races, that four year old better be Niatross.  Come June, with the exception of FFA races, it is handicapping as normal.

Here are Daryl's selections.  Good luck and Happy New Year.

Northfield Park, Saturday, January 1, 2011 - First Post 7:00pm
Betting Menu: Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta - All races
Daily Double - 1st and 2nd, 12th and 13th
Superfecta - 4th, 7th, 10th and 13th
$1.00 Pick Five (3-4-5-6-7)
Pick Three (6-7-8), (9-10-11)
Pick Four (8-9-10-11)

1st Trot - $3,200; NON WINNERS $375 PER START IN 2010. AE: N/W $2000 IN LAST 5 STARTS THAT ARE N/W $30,000 IN 2010. AE: N/W 5 PM RACES
9 - Garland's Brat (Charlino, 7-2)
5 - Conrad Maid (Mapes, 3-1)
1 - Son Ofa Spur (Miller, 4-1)

2 - The Libberteriann (AMerriman, 4-1)
3 - Lil Miss Morgan (Charlino, 3-1)
5 - Leroy Mot (Noble, 7-2)

7 - Howyadoinpal (AMerriman, 7-2)
6 - Tidewater Teddy (Charlino, 5-2)
4 - Launch Angle (JDWengerd, 8-1)

1 - Blue Time Overdue (Irvine, 7-2)
4 - Dance With Dan (Sugg, 5-2)
8 - Lislea Moran (AMerriman, 9-2)
7 - B T Attack (Deaton, 6-1)

5th Pace - $3,200; NON WINNERS $375 PER START IN 2010. AE: N/W $2000 IN LAST 5 STARTS THAT ARE N/W $30,000 IN 2010. AE: N/W $20,000 LIFETIME. AE: CLAIMING $6000 (WITH ALLOWANCES).
1 - Meritage Hanover (JDWengerd, 9-2)
6 - Moreland Flash (AMerriman, 3-1)
8 - Wow Power (Deaton, 12-1)

6th Trot - $6,000; OPEN
4 - Youdontwantnunofthis (Charlino, 5-1)
7 - Katie's Wild Rose (Deaton, 5-2)
1 - Anastasia Willie (Conger, 7-2)

7th Pace - $2,800; CLAIMING $5000 (WITH ALLOWANCES).
3 - Jenna's Dream (Charlino, 7-2)
8 - Big George H (AMerriman 6-1)
2 - Samcin (Sugg, 5-2)
7 - Im A Rustler Too (Irvine, 5-1)

8th Trot - $3,800; NON WINNERS $450 PER START IN 2010. AE: N/W $3000 IN LAST 5 STARTS. AE: N/W 6 PM RACES. AE: N/W $2000 IN LAST 4 OR $3200 IN LAST 5 STARTS (DRAW OUTSIDE)
2 - Muscle Sprouts (AMerriman, 2-1)
6 - Double A (Miller,15-1)
9 - Awsome Andrea (Koch, 7-2)

9th Pace - $3,200; NON WINNERS $375 PER START IN 2010. AE: N/W $2000 IN LAST 5 STARTS THAT ARE N/W $30,000 IN 2010. AE: N/W $20,500 LIFETIME. AE: CLAIMING $6000 (WITH ALLOWANCES).
4 - Sharp Shuttle (Sugg, 5-2)
1 - Monkey Off My Back (Miller, 7-2)
5 - Kinnick (Charlino, 5-1)

10th Pace - $3,800; NON WINNERS $450 PER START IN 2010. AE: N/W $3000 IN LAST 5 STARTS. AE: N/W $30,000 LIFETIME
3 - Fantasy Character (AMerriman, 7-2)
4 - Misty's Dignity (Deaton, 3-1)
6 - Blue My Mind (JDWengerd, 10-1)
9 - Forever Nugget (Charlino, 6-1)

11th Pace - $2,800; NON WINNERS $300 PER START IN 2010. AE: N/W $1500 IN LAST 5 STARTS THAT ARE N/W $25,000 IN 2010. AE: N/W 4 PM RACES OR $15,000 LIFETIME
4 - Left'em Standing (Charlino, 3-1)
3 - Awesome Abe (Schillaci, 7-2)
7 - Perfect Door (Koch, 8-1)

12th Pace - $2,400; NON WINNERS $250 PER START IN 2010. AE: N/W $1250 IN LAST 5 STARTS THAT ARE N/W $17,500 IN 2010.
4 - Here's Hooter (Charlino, 2-1)
9 - Elephants Can Fly (Koch, 6-1)
5 - Bahama Bomber (Deaton, 12-1)

13th Pace - $2,400; CLAIMING $4000 (WITH ALLOWANCES).
2 - Country Creek (Miller, 7-2)
6 - Elm Grove Gerson (AMerriman, 12-1)
4 - Cunning Design (Koch, 6-1)
9 - Magnificent Gift (Charlino, 5-1)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Industry Recognizing HANA; Boycotting California

Jason Settlemoir, president of the United States Harness Writers Association, has announced that HANA, the Horseplayers Association of North America, and driver Yannick Gingras will receive President’s Awards at USHWA’s “Night Of Stars,” the annual awards banquet, on Sunday, Feb. 27, at the Marriott North in Fort Lauderdale.

Today’s release will look at HANA.; a release tomorrow will focus on Gingras.

Horseplayers, both Standardbred and Thoroughbred, have long been the lifeblood of the equine racing sports, but they and their concerns/suggestions have usually received short shrift from the sports’ organizations and racing officials. The self-formed HANA is trying to change that: “HANA is committed to giving horseplayers a voice” reads the very first sentence of its mission statement.

Among the areas where HANA thinks that racing could present a more attractive product to potential customers/bettors are: universal signal availability to all outlets at all times, without exception; the long-awaited and long-debated lowering of takeout rates – HANA’s ideal figure would be in the 10 percent range, a number not far off from “optimilization of handle” studies by university economists; a severe hard-line stand against drug misusage in racehorses; “pool integrity,” which they define as a secure tote system which displays correct and final odds as soon as the gate springs; and large, competitive race fields.

The horseplayers association, headquartered in Virginia, has Jeff Platt as its president, while its secretary has been Dean Towers, known to many harness racing participants. Towers owns the notable pacer Anderlecht and wrote his university thesis on off-track betting. The group’s website is

Those involved with HANA will receive their award on February 27 at the Florida banquet. (USHWA)

Tioga Downs worked with HANA to successfully roll out the lowest takeout rates in America (at that time) this past summer by reducing their rates to the lowest permitted by the State of New York.  They have periodically had conversations with the Meadowlands and other harness tracks about takeouts and other concerns.

True, HANA has historically been a thoroughbred oriented organization, but they have made a move into the standardbred world and hope to continue expanding their efforts in that sphere of the gambling universe.  When HANA recently joined forces to take part in a boycott of California quarterhorse and thoroughbred racing, they made it clear that Cal-Expo was not part of the boycott. If you have still not become a member of HANA, you may do so (membership is free) by going to their website.
Since you are reading this blog, you may not be familiar with the boycott of California quarterhorse and thoroughbred racing HANA and others have undertaken.  In an attempt to get larger fields, the CHRB which is strongly influenced by the Thoroughbred Owners of California agreed to allow tracks in California to raise their takeouts with the additional money going directly to purses; this despite the studies showing the way to increase wagering is to lower takeout; this despite the disastrous trial of a takeout increase earlier this at Los Alamitos which required them to cut racing days and the number of races  they held  each racing day.  Their rationale for an increase on exotic wagers?  Their rates are lower than some other states and they have a superior product.  Well, with all do respect, if you are selling a widget that people are resisting at one price, rebelling at another price, what is the sense of raising your price in beetween the two existing prices?
You will note while we don't cover quarterhorse and thoroughbred racing, VFTRG joins HANA in supporting their boycott.  To the left of this blog entry you will see a message encouraging people to boycott California quarterhorse and thoroughbred racing while supporting California standardbred racing.  Why support the standardbred racing at Cal-Expo?  Not only are they not raising their takeout rates, they are making efforts to reduce the takeout rate where possible.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Follies

You know we had a blizzard on the East Coast this weekend and the horses were cooped up until the storm passed.  But once they get the chance to get outside, all heck breaks loose.

Here is a video courtesy of Anouk Busch of Horse Rescue United (also a standardbred trainer) trying to lead her own nine year old retired standardbred CC to the paddock for some exercise.  Well, shall we say CC led her?

Anyway, watch the video and enjoy it.  It is certain to bring a smile to your face for the entire four minutes.

If you are interested in adopting a horse from HRU (not CC), visit the HRU page on Facebook for more information.

Don't Forget About Freehold

Is it a case of if we have to offer racing, we may as well get try to make a go of it?  Pompano Park (Isle of Capri)  has recently updated their website to not only show live races, but also shows replays of races (since the start of the current meet).  In addition, you can get race pages for the upcoming racing program.  These are basic program pages, not the race pages you can get from Trackmaster, but they are something.  

The votes are in.  In our unscientific poll, when asked who is harming hanress racing (Joe Farldo vs Jeff Gural; 80% of the voters (41 votes) blamed Joe Faraldo for harness racing problems.  7% (4 votes) blamed Jeff Gural and 11% (6 votes) hold both of them blameless for nay harm in racing's problems. 

In all the talk about New Jersey racing, all the conversation has been Meadowlands, Meadowlands, Meadowlands.  While granted the survival of the Meadowlands is important to the industry nationwide, Freehold is important to the New Jersey industry.  How many times do you see a horse which appears to be good breeding yet they are racing in the bottom classes or the second tier races?  Owners and trainers need somewhere to race.those second tier horses.  Now there is no doubt Freehold will be operating this year but with minimal, if any, subsidy coming their way, what kind of purse structure and racing classes will be available? 

I know a trainer who is considering to move.  They currently are in New Jersey and need to decide to whether to remain in New Jersey or to shift their operations to Pennsylvania even if the Meadowlands keeps racing; remembering even if survived, there will be no racing at the Meadowlands in April, a good part of May, and from mid-August to December..  The person is a strong fan of Jeff Gural but if the conditions and number of days of racing will not allow their horses to get in, some trainers are going to need to look at other options.  For circumstances beyond their control, upgrading their stock is not an option.  Freehold is one of those options for those trainers.  If there is no real racing opportunities between the two tracks, they may need to move to another states to make sure their horses get raced.  So while everyone is talking Meadowlands, Meadowlands, New Jersey harness racing is a two track issue.  Once the status of the Meadowlands is resolved, is it possible that the consortium Jeff Gural is putting together turns its eyes to Freehold?

Don't laugh about the possibility.  The best thing for the overall health of harness racing in the state is the coordination of racing at the two tracks.  What better way would that be accomplished other than having the same owner for both tracks?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ten YouTube Harness Racing Videos

Well, the snow arrived a day late, but did it come.  A long running blizzard bringing two feet of snow and four+ feet drifts.  It means only one thing, time to scan YouTube for some interesting harness racing videos from around the world..  Now, this is not the same as the Top Races video sold by the Harness Racing Museum each year, but they are horse-related.

Number Ten - Let go to Evergreen Park?  Odds are if you are not from Alberta, you have no idea there was a track called Evergreen Park.  Well, here is a commercial from this past meet:

Number Nine - Announcer Loses His Voice.  Rest assured, this race will never become part of his portfolio if applying for a new job.

Number Eight - ATG commercial l from 2009.  First time I saw it so it is worth considering.  Gives a whole new meaning to following the horses...

Number Seven - And We Complain About a Second Tier?  Note this race from Germany.  A minor race called the German Derby with at least three horses in the second tier.  It is a 1900m race but watch them at the end.

Number Six - Stakes Races for Older Horses Can Happen and What is More Exciting.  Here is a video from 2009 of the Breeders Crown for five year olds in Germany.    Also, I can't help but this type of racing is more exciting than the single file racing we tend to favor (the race is over after the 3:40 point; the rest is post race ceremonies).  We need to make sure Jeff Gural sees this one.

Number Five - They Still Race in Argentina?  Granted,  the track  may be a bit spartan, but they still race there.  This race was held on December 19, 2010.

Number Four - Debuting Riina Rekilia.  Some would say it is sexist, and to a degree it may be.  But could you imagine what the attendance for harness racing would be if we had commercials with an attractive woman driver or trainer in it.  The sad truth is sex sells.  For those who may want to say it is all about physical looks, Ms. Rekilia has been quite impressive this year racing in Canada and the United States and she is quite intelligent.  Might even be able to get some women to show up as well. 

Number Three - Riina Redux.  Okay, a little bragging here.  Christiana Hanover driven by Riina Rekilia won the $221,000 Moni Maker Trot at the Red Mile at 52-1.  Why the bragging?  I mentioned this horse wins at big odds and with a driver with a high UDR,  she had to be played at long odds.  Were they long enough for you?  They were for me.

Number Two - Prix de Finlandia (Monte Racing) - Always wondered why we have not been able to get monte racing (racing under saddle) going in North America.  First of all, like the designated hitter in baseball, racing under saddle extends or gives a racing career to a horse that doesn't handle the sulky correctly.  Secondly, it may help attract those gamblers who have a problem with sulky racing (integrity issues).   I guess, like everything else, it is people in the industry refusing to change.

Number 1 - Rock N Roll Heaven wins the Little Brown Jug.  Had to show the 2010 Horse of the Year winning the Little Brown Jug.  Not only did he race the Jug, he raced other races on the half mile oval.  Other trainers should take note.  Not racing on the half mile oval is an excuse.  Also, have to point out this ownership team deserved this horse.  They shared him with the public.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wish List for 2011

As typical, I am early.  But with 2010 winding down, I would like to put forth my wish list for the upcoming 2011 year.

  1. Jeff Gural obtains the lease of the Meadowlands and racing is saved there.  Whether there will be enough days there to allow NJ breeding interests to survive, remains in doubt, but one thing for certain, without the Meadowlands surviving, there is no New Jersey breeding industry to speak off.
  2. The restoration of Freehold Raceway to a sold "B" track, a vast improvement over where it has been the past two years.  In the past, a Saturday race card could have raced at any track during the week, of late, a Saturday card would have been unable to compete anywhere.
  3. The implementation of the fair start rule in New Jersey it is up to the commission now) and it's spread to other states in the United States.  A fair start rule is not only one of the most customer friendly actions which could be taken; it rectifies a great injustice.
  4. Merging horsemen and gamblers interests together.  Offer starting fees but award purse money along with the gambler's payoffs.  Why should horsemen collect if gamblers don't? 
  5. A Saturday Night Show called "The A List"' which will feature racing from WEG, the Meadowlands and perhaps Yonkers Raceway or a track with a stakes laden card.  Feature racing the best racing with wagering action occurring every ten minutes with special wagers.
  6. The lesser tracks learning there is so much money out there for wagering and develop Standardbred Racing Across America where they get together to offer day long simulcasting from different tracks on one simulcast channel.
  7. Judges resetting fines and suspensions based on a driver or trainers success.  A $100 fine to a driver who earns $10,000 last year racing is a lot different than a $100 fine to a driver who earned $500,00 last year.  For the first driver the fine is a deterrent; the second driver a cost of doing business.  It's about time both types of trainers and drivers feel stung when the judges hand down their rulings.
  8. Tioga Downs continuing to lower takeout rates and to become a serious option for handicappers on Sunday afternoons and in the evenings.
  9. In the year of the World Trotting Conference in the United States, much success including the establishment of some reporting standardization so gamblers around the world can wager on races from different countries.
  10. Realization to the horsemen at Vernon Downs that the game has changed and if they don't accept some of Gural's suggestions, it is a matter of time until they close down.
  11. While a couple of years away, the restoration of racing at the New York State Fairgrounds at Syracuse.
  12. Aaron Merriman returning to where he was before the accident earlier this year.
  13. The elevation of Corey Callahan into the ranks of top drivers.
  14. The debut of Exchange Wagering (thank you New Jersey)
  15. Heather Moffett joining Sam McKee, Roger Huston, Dan Bianconi,and Ellie Sarama at the Little Brown Jug to add color to harness racing's greatest simulcast show.  While we are at it, the return of simulcasting for the first two days of the Delaware meet..
  16. Bonuses paid to horses leading at each quarter of a race to keep the action moving.  Fining drivers who race half in or half out.  Either you are moving out to make a move or you are sitting; none of this nonsense.
  17. Get rid of elimination races, they cause only problems.
  18. Judges who will have no problem to watch each race like a hawk and hand down fines and suspensions with regularity when needed.
  19. More women trainers and drivers getting into the upper leagues of racing.
  20. Each harness track partner with rescue organizations to save horses.  Is it too much trouble to save two or three stalls in the backstretch for no-question surrenders? 
  21. Drivers, trainers, and owners realizing who the customers are and start worrying about them.  This means races with two tiers and added distances being added with regularity.
  22. The Success of Harness Racing Update as well as Harness Racing Weekend Update.
  23. The Election of Lucien Fontaine and Billy Parker Jr. to the Hall of Fame of the Trotter.
  24. The realization that champion horses can race safely over the half mile oval.
  25. Reduced takeouts elsewhere and the introduction of wagers which smaller horseplayer can be attracted to such as the Double Quiniella. 
  26. The establishment of an American V75 and V64. 
  27. A probationary license for Walter Case Jr.
  28. The return of a chastised Jim Morrill Jr.
  29. More money for the USTA.  If they received the funding Standardbred Canada received, they would be able to do a lot more as well.
  30. The ability for more Americans to experience the Gold Cup and Saucer.  To be able to experience what harness racing once was would be something even the most jaded can appreciate.  More ADWs and simulcast signals should take CDP's signal during this time; even if just those races.
  31. The return of harness racing to Ocean Downs and the state of Maryland.  The casino starts operating January 4, and parimutuel racing returnins this summer at least for 40 days; possibly 60 days.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas (Plug Your Ears)

Courtesy of Grand River Raceway and Standardbred Canada is their version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. 

BTW, when I said "Plug Your Ears", I was referring to the off-key singing.  It is still cute.  I loved it.

Have a Merry Christmas!

"B" Track Tour - Sports Creek Raceway

A slow weekend in harness racing for sure.  For the first time in ages, Monticello Raceway is not racing their traditional Christmas Eve card; probably due to the fact there is no NYCOTB to take their signal.  Most of their money has come from NYCOTB so to race today would probably be a money loser.  So there is no harness racing today and tomorrow (Christmas) but three tracks take to the stage on Sunday; Balmoral Park, Northfield Park, and Sports Creek Raceway. 

For those who have not yet seen my annual Naughty and Nice List, you may find it here along with the response from Mike Tanner of the USTA.

Here are my selections for Sunday afternoon's race card at Sports Creek Raceway.  For those celebrating Christmas, let me wish you a very Merry Christmas and for all others, have a healthy and safe holiday.

Sports Creek Raceway, Sunday, December 26, 2010 - First Post 1:30pm
Betting  Menu:     Win, Place, Show, Perfecta, Trifecta  - All races
                           Daily Double - 1st and 2nd, 14th and 15th
                           Superfecta - 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 16th

1st Trot - $1,800; NW2000L5  AE: $3,000 Claimers
7 - Lost Weight (Dobson, 6-1)
1 - Rova Rose (Lake, 4-1)
3 - Smashing Revue (Moen (P), 7-2)

2nd Pace - $1,400; $2,000-$3,000 Claiming Handicap
3 - Jay Dean Dew (Short, 4-1)
6 - Electric Gladiator (Wright, 9-2)
2 - King Kronos (Lake, 3-1)

3rd Trot - $1,300; NW1000L5  AE: $2,000 Claimers
1 - Popsicle (Driver, 3-1)
9 - Caballo Diablo (Sweeney, 7-2)
3 - Proudtowintogether (Wright, 4-10
5 - Drean It Anway (Johnson (P), 10-1)

4th Pace - $1,400; NW2PM or $3,000 LT
8- Sports Empress (Seekman (P), 6-1)
2 - JJ's Fast Guy (Short, 3-1)
5 - Cin Possible (Lake, 4-1)

5th Trot - $2,000; NW3-5PM or $15,000LT
3 - Redrover (Peden, 10-1)
6 - Annabelle Rocks (Putnam, 3-1)
7 - Noble Key  (Lake, 8-1)

6th Pace - $1,200; NW500L5
4 - Country Zack (Seekman (P), 3-1)
6 - Wild Wild Westy (Dobson, 7-2)
8 - O B Won (Detgen, 9-2)
1 - Danny Noonan (Casagranda, 5-1)

7th Trot - $2,700; WO4000L5
5 - Quanda (Tomlinson, 3-1)
4 - Carless Love (Crawfirdm 4-1)
7 - Mach Ten (Driver, 2-1)

8th Pace - $1,300; FM NW1000L5
7 - Ellaraider (Crawford, 9-2)
3 - Gracies't Toy (Masey,6-10
5- Briar Key (Jarvis, 4-1)

9th Pace - $1,200; NW1PMLT
2 -Monica The Lawyer (Lake, 3-1)
4 - My Lil Flirt (Moyer (P), 5-1)
8 - Cheyenne Patti (Otten, 7-2)
1 - Lil's Princess (Dobson, 6-1)

10th Pace - $2,600; NW4000L5  AE: NW7PM or $15,000LT
1 - Butn Your Shirt Ed (Massey, 6-1)
2 - Mega Chps (Mapes, 5-1)
3 - Shockby Electric (Lake, 9-2)

11th Pace - $2,600; FM NWN2000-3500L5
2 - Envy (Dobson, 6-1)
5 - Yourkindainmyway (Short, 9-2)
8 - Admirals Lady Di (Lake, 3-1)

12th Trot - $2,400; NW4000L5  AE: NW7PM LT; AE: OPT CLM $7,500
7 - LF Sharp Score (Quick, 8-1)
1 - Casino Showgirl (Lake, 6-1)
4 - Hoosier Disco (Dobson, 3-1)
9 - SF Cifro (Altizer, 5-1)

13th Pace - $2,600; NW4000L5 AE: NW7PM or $15,000LT
6- Tek's Raider (Dobson, 5-1)
3 - Boogitydoc Boogity (Massey (P), 8-1)
1 -Artitistic Jonathon (Sweeney, 301)

14th Pace - $1,600; $4,000-$5,000 Claiming Handicap
6 - Sunset Celebration (Lake, 3-1)
1 - Two Socks Bye (Crawford, 5-1)
9 -  Jimenys Star (Seekman, 8-1)

15th Pace - $1,600; NW1500L5
1 - Karbonator (Wright, 7-2)
4 - Macho Quattro (Lake, 4-1)
6 - SF Terrific Kisser (Driver, 3-1)
5 - Starcrazy (Moen (P), 9-2)

16th Pace - $1,300; NW1000L5
7 - Always Ready (Mapes, 8-1)
2 - Rising Artist (Dobson, 7-2)
1 - Matou Rose (Rathka, 3-1)
5 - Jack's Jet (Moen (P), 10-1)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Results - NJSS at Showplace Farms on Sunday, June 3, 1984

No, this post will not be for everyone.  Let's call it a history posting.  You will never see the results of  these races posted anywhere else.  New Jersey used to have a NJSS fair division which raced at diffferent training facilities.  Here are the results of the sixteen races those days.  Maybe some of the names will remind you off horses and people.  If so, feel free to share.  For those who don't know Showplace Farms is a 5/8th mile track and there was no wagering.

Look a the breeding of the winners.  Many long gone, but this was the start of the rise of NJSS. 

1st Pace  - $3,000; NJSS 3YO Fillies  :31.4   1:02.4  1:33.1   2:04.3 Good
4 - JM Beret (James Dancer)
6 - JM Reenie (Rick Charlino - Q)
8 - Clairich Dana (Herve Filion)
Winner by Adios Ronnie - Pepper Grinder by Overtrick (Trainer - James Dancer)

2nd Trot - $3,000; NJSS 4YO Open  :30.4  1:01.4  1:32  2:02 Good
3 - Delicate Balance (Carmine Abbatiello)
2 - Dr Bones (Ken Barlow)
1 - Blue Star Peter (David Bulk)
Winner by Speedy Somolli - Cynthia Lobell by Noble Victory (Trainer - Vincent Aurigemma)

3rd Pace - $3,000; NJSS 3YO FILLIES  :29.4  1:02.1  1:32.1  2:04 Good
3 - Choice Model G Y (Herve Filion)
7 - United First Lady (Chris Warrington)
4 - Royal Caper (Maxie Lee)
Scratched - Abbe Escort
Winner by Escape Artist - Miss Max Ann by Max Hanover (Trainer - Eugene Startt)

4th Pace - $3,000; NJSS 3YO FILLIES  :30.3  1:02.1  1:31.3  2:02 Good
7 - Sea Fire (Joe MacDonald)
8 - Kellys Image (Marvin Maker)
3 - Cat Burglar OB (Teresa Powers)
Scractched: Lily Of The Valley
Winner by Oil Burner - Zuni by Adios Butler (Trainer- Joesph MacDonald)

5th Pace - $3,000: NJSS 3YO Colts and Geldings  :29.3  1:00  1:30  1:59.1 Good
6 - Feature Story (Keith Torro)
3 - D A Pump (Jack Moiseyev)
5 - Tally Ho Haonver (Robert Larente - P)
Winner by Ricci Reenie Time - Fou by Albatross (Trainer - Keith Torro)

6th Pace - $3,000; NJSS 3YO Colts and Geldings  :29.1  :59  1:28.2  1:59 Good
3 - Oilfield (F.W. Smith)
8 - Royal Command C (Mark Lancaster)
7 - Ida's Baron (Herve Filion)
Winner by Oil Burner - Hawksworth by Meadow Skipper (Trainer - Paul Schell)

7th Pace - $3,000; NJSS 3YO Filles  :30.3  1:01  1:31  2:03 Fast
7 - Littlmis Big Bucks (Ben Webster)
6 - Dutch's Girl (Jeff Camerson)
4 - H H Lady (Dan Smith)
Winner by Shirleys Beau - Shiaway Rill by Leader Pick (Trainer - Bernard Narzony)

8th Trot - $3,000; 4YO Open  :30  1:02  1:31.2  2:01.4 Fast
5 - Final Step (R. (Tom Mecouch, III)
3 - Lovey Dovey (Herve Filion)
6 - Newport Flash (Chris Birch)
Winner by Yankee Bambino - Step Beyond by Walter McKylo (Trainer - Ralph Mecouch)

9th Pace - $3,000; 3YO Filles  :29.2  1:01  1:30.3  2:02 Fast
3 - String Queen (Jim Marshall,III)
2 - Cooper Penny Mc Bur (Joe MacDonald)
1 - Bold Samantha (William Bresnahan)
Winner by Happy Motoring - String Music by Columbia George (Trainer - James Marshall, III)

10th Pace - $3,000;  3YO Colts and Geldings  :29.3  :59  1:28.2  1:59 Fast
3 - We Do BG (Catello Manzi)
4 - Donald R D (Major Roane)
7 - Departure (Gail Coppersmith)
Winner by B.G.'s Bunny - Freight Time by Torpid  (Trainer - A. Tete, Stable - F Tete)

11th Pace - $3,000; 3YO Colts and Geldings  :29.1  :59.4  1:29.1  2:01 Fast
8 - Howard G Mcbur (Joe MacDonald)
6 - Shamrock Abbee (Robert Uebel)
4 - Bret's Bruin (Flo Browne - P)
Winner by B.G.'s Bunny - Wild Irish Rose by Bye Bye Byrd (Trainer - Gregory MacDonald)

12th Trot - $3,000; 4YO Open  :31  1:01.4  1:32  2:03 Fast
1 - Stonegate Harem (Ed Lohmeyer)
7 - Skoshi Tiger (Joseph Peruso)
4 - Screening Room (George Christensen, III)
Winner by Yanke Bambion- Desert's Delight by Speedster (Trainer - Ed Lohmeyer)

13th Pace - $3,000; 3YO Fillies  :29.2  :59.1  1:29.1  2:00.3 Fast
2 - ATA DS Dessert (E. (Bucky) Angle, Jr)
3 - Stonegate Hoppity (Ed Lohmeyer)
6 - Tomi Lee (Richard Gant)
Winner by Escape Artist - Native Dessert by Adios Vic (Trainer - Michele Carlton)

14th Pace - $3,000; 3YO Colts and Geldings  :28.4  1:00  1:30  1:59.2 Fast
1 - Mickey Rabbit (Charles Connor, Jr)
5 - Great Romance (Mark Schwartz)
4 - Assuming (Ralph Lubosco)
Scratched:  Dom Hanover
Winner by B.G.s Bunny - Fulla Tricks by Fulla Napoleon (Trainer: Charlest Conner, Jr)

15th Pace - $3,000; 3YO Fillies  :29.4  :59.1  1:29.3  2:01 Fast
2 - A A Bombina (Carl Vocaturo)
7 - Meta Escape (Samuel Landy - P)
3 - Kermit;s Beau (James Langley)
Winner by Escape Artist - Vicar's Mighty by Vicar Hanover (Trainer - Russell Vocaturo)

16th Pace - $3,000; 3YO Colts and Geldings  :29  1:00 1:30  2:00.3 Fast
6 - Swift Dream (Herve Filion)
7 - Monthly Bonus (Larry MacDonald)
3  - Valco Dan (William Bresnahan)
Scratched: Echo Bernie
Winner by Escort - Afton Matchmaker by Diamond Hal (Trainer - Pierre Brosseau)

Gural Challenges Industry to Save Iteself from Itself

Bill Finley wrote in the latest edition of Harness Racing Update that for the Meadowlands to make it, the industry must come together.  That is putting it nicely.  The ultimate question is can the industry save itself from themselves?

Gural needs the Meadowlands to have the best drivers racing there.  He is not talking about a driver going elsewhere for a stakes race; he is talking about night in and night out the driver being out there on the limestone at the Meadowlands.  This is a change of course as many of these drivers have headed south to Chester Downs, east to Yonkers, or simply gone on vacation.  Will these drivers go against their natural tendency to look at the short term and race for the most money or look at the long horizon and race at the Meadowlands?

Will trainers stabled at New Jersey training facilities resist the temptation to enter their horses at Chester, Pocono, or Yonkers for a couple thousand more to race at the Meadowlands and explain to the owners why it is in their best interest to do so?

Will the owners seeking to maximize their profit instruct their trainers to race their horses at the Meadowlands, provided a class is available for $10,000 instead of racing Chester for $12,000?  Owners tend to look at each horse as a balance sheet and at the end of the year they want to show the greatest profit.  However, if the Meadowlands depends on $7,500 claimers to fill the race cards, the Meadowlands may not be there and the whole industry may collapse.  Will these owners leave a little skin on the table for the assurance there will be an industry to participate in in a few years?

Knowing Gural believes our horses need to remain on the track through at least their four year old career, will breeders allow horses to come back and race at age four or will they continue to head to the breeding shed after three based on any type of claim they can come up with?  This will be important because stakes at the Meadowlands will require stallions standing through their four year old career; otherwise the stakes will be few and light on entries.

Will horsemen realize they need to treat the customers fairly; and the customers are not the ones who pay the training bills?  The customers are the one in the stands, at the simulcast locations, and in front of the computers.  Horse racing, where there is no racino is truly trickle-down economics; trickling down from the customers to the purse account, from the purse account to the owner, trainer, and driver.  This  requirement  applies to horsemen at the Meadowlands and elsewhere.  While at present, the customer means less at racino tracks, when the inevitable occurs, those customers will matter.  Are we going to continue to chase away our customers so they don't exist when they need them or will horsemen embrace them as if they are the only source of funding?  After all, in the age of the Internet, shenanigans at a small track in Michigan will resonate with those who wager at the Meadowlands.

Unfortunately, the answers are not so certain.  In hindsight, negotiating with the NJSEA and the State of New Jersey may be the easy part.  Negotiating with the industry may be the hard part.

Return of Racing to Syracuse? reports that Jeff Gural is looking to return racing to the New York State Fairgrounds with the establsihment of Syracuse Raceway.


Monday, December 20, 2010

A Letter from Jeff Gural on the Meadowlands Situation

The Following is a letter released by Jeff Gural today and may be found on the Tioga Downs Blog.  We can see how close we were to the end of the Meadowlands and how a lease is no certainty.

A Message from Jeffrey Gural on the Meadowlands Situation

I think by now, everyone knows that the Governor has given me, in conjunction with the SBOANJ, until March 31st to negotiate a long term lease for the Meadowlands. What most people don’t know is how close we came to having the plug pulled and the 2011 Meadowlands meet cancelled.

I, like most of you, just assumed that the Meadowlands would open in January as our whole industry in New Jersey, and to a lesser extent, the East Coast and Canada, would have been severely harmed if we had no Meadowlands. When I learned that a good friend and business partner was a close friend of Governor Christie’s, I called Tom Luchento last week to see if I could help in any way. Tommy asked me to call Craig Domalewski at the Governor’s office, who politely explained that in order for the Meadowlands to race in 2011, the Governor was insisting on a letter of credit or a security bond for eight million dollars to cover the anticipated operating losses for the year.

He said he needed this by the end of the day Wednesday, which was obviously impossible. Subsequently, the deadline was extended until Friday, but at the last minute on a conference call with the Governor’s office Thursday, we were told that unless we were prepared to put up a significant amount of money, it was a waste of time to come down to Trenton on Friday.

Fortunately, Tommy has some friends in the legislature who persuaded the Governor’s staff to keep the meeting in an effort to find a solution that would allow the Meadowlands to open in January. With input from Leo McNamara, Mike Gulotta, and Anthony Perretti, we were able to come up with a temporary solution that gives us until March 31st to come up with a plan to lease the facility.

In discussions directly with the Governor, he made it perfectly clear that he would veto any legislation that has a purse subsidy or allows slots at the Meadowlands. It is still possible that we will get a purse subsidy as the Democrats are pushing hard to include that in legislation to help Atlantic City.

At the present, we have to assume no purse subsidy. So, the question is, can a new facility be built on the opposite side of the track and be paid for and can purses be high enough to keep the Meadowlands product worth wagering on without slots income or a purse subsidy?

The reason I share this with all of you in the industry is simply because if the Meadowlands is to survive, it will take all of us in the industry working together to make it happen. Obviously, down the road, it is possible a casino will be built, but we can’t count on it and even if it did happen, who knows if Governor Christie would allow money to go to supplement purses as other states currently allow.

I, along with Mike Gulotta, who will be working closely with me and Tommy Luchento, will be reaching out to all of you for help in making the changes that I believe are necessary to keep our existing customers while attracting new and younger customers the way we have been able to do at Tioga.

Clearly, in order to succeed, we will have to improve our product, reduce race dates and tackle the integrity issues that plague our sport.

I think if we all pull together, we can make this happen, but if we don’t, I think it is a virtual certainty the Meadowlands will close for good in April 2011.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Tommy Luchento, Leo McNamara, Mike Gulotta and Anthony Perretti, who have been working overtime to avoid closure. But, the reality is the Governor is not going to subsidize harness racing and we have to accept that.

I look forward to discussing the issues with many of you and hopefully we will come up with a long-term solution.

As the holidays approach, let me wish everyone in the industry a happy holiday and let’s hope 2011 is the beginning of a new era at the Meadowlands as we are given an opportunity to control our own destiny.

A Response from the USTA

I recently received a response from Mike Tanner, Executive Vice President of the USTA, regarding the USTA's inclusion on the naughty list from my recent Naughty and Nice list. 

Specifically, there was an objection with regards to the following: "To the USTA, for not implementing penalities to horsemen who sell horses into slaughter. Santa will kindly explain to the USTA that membership in the USTA is not a right so you can ban owners who will sell their horse for $200 to slaughter instead of doing the right thing by the horses.'"

Being it is from the USTA, I felt it deserved its own separate listing.  Hence, here is the response I received.  I will not be commenting on this particular comment.

...I hope you will look closely at the process by which a horse may end up at a foreign slaughter plant and consider the viability of tracking that horse's path to such an end. Rarely does a USTA member make the decision to drive a horse to a plant and send them to their end there. More often, the horse is bought by a dealer, perhaps at public auction, whose goal is to sell the horse at a profit for any purpose - as a buggy horse, riding horse and some are sold to rescue groups or individuals.

The slaughter plant is the dealer's default position, offering them the smallest possible profit on their investment. The dealer makes the decision about that horse's demise after other, more profitable options are exhausted, and they are not USTA members.

Like you, I would like to see every non-commercial Standardbred have a secure, productive career and a dignified end. And in pursuit of that, I believe we’ve taken direct action.

The USTA has long supported a variety of activities to build awareness of their versatility as a pleasure horse at considerable expense. Just this fall, we sent a demo team of multi talented horses to the world's largest gathering of equestrians - the World Equestrian Games in Lexington.

This year we inaugurated, funded, and implemented the Support Our Standardbreds (SOS) program, which has helped Standardbred horses seized, surrendered or abandoned to legal authorities. We have also recently had a "soft" launch of the Full Circle program, adapted from a similar program initiated by the American Quarter Horse Association. Hundreds of horses have been enrolled and it has been well received by our members. You will be reading more about Full Circle in coming months.

The USTA is a charter member of the Unwanted Horse Coalition, which provided leadership to create "Operation Gelding," which has castrated hundreds of horses, no doubt preventing thousands of unwanted horses. We also provide free transfer of ownership to any 501c(3) group. We'll soon give our members the option to convert their horses' registration to "Pleasure," which we think will encourage them to sell or give away those horses for non commercial use.

Long before any other registry, we provided free tattoo lookup to those trying to identify Standardbreds and at times, have even sent our ID techs to try to identify a particularly difficult tattoo.

I believe the USTA has done vastly more for our "inconvenient" horses than any other equine registry of comparable size and perhaps any other registry of any size. It’s my opinion the USTA is doing pretty much all that our budget and manpower will allow. I hope that you would advise your readers of those initiatives that we have undertaken...

The Faraldo-Gural Feud

As you have no doubt seen, Joe Faraldo has already made some what can be construed as anti-Gural comments regarding the potential lease of the Meadowlands.  Knowing how much love there is between the two of them, it was just a question of when; not if the exchange would begin.

No doubt Joe Faraldo does some good for harness racing in New York.  He represents his horsemen at Yonkers exceptionally when dealing with management there.  He also has gotten involved with battles with management elsewhere, most notably Vernon Downs; no doubt at the invitation of the horsemen's group there.

There have been some battles elsewhere between Jeff Gural  and Joe Faraldo elsewhere with regards to harness racing in New York, most recently with regards to the proposed NYCOTB Bankruptcy case.  Now, Faraldo has made his views known regarding the possibility of Gural leasing the Meadowlands.

In this writer's opinion, Joe Faraldo reprsents the old time horsemen attitude that track management is a necessary evil and is responsible for promoting harness racing; with horsemen basically showing up to race and get as much of the purse money as possible. His worry has basically been what is good for New York horsemen and nothing else. In the heyday of harness racing, this approach was fine; these day's it is dangerous and has the potential to kill harness racing as it is now requires massive changes in a team effort to promote the sport.

As for Mr. Gural, he represents the new time owner of racetracks.  The old ways don't work and the sport must change.  Unlike many track operators, he feels harness racing can survive.  No doubt he feels that horsemen must make concessions to permit the sport to survive.  An example would be the reduction of the takeout at Tioga Downs where horsemen shared in the cut; something the horsemen at Vernon, advised by Faraldo have refused to do so up to now. 

Why Faraldo has gotten involved in the Meadowlands's survival is unknown to me. He certainly was not going to be part of the solution.  Why Gural got involved is clear, he thinks there is a solution for the Meadowlands; without slot machines.  This may be the last chance to keep harness racing in the public's consciousness and the last thing we need is these two going at each other.

It should be noted that Joe Faraldo is a director of the USTA.  If you recall, Ivan Axelrod recently mentioned in a recent edition of Hoof Beats that some directors are part of the problem of harness racing.  Whether or not Axelrod was thinking of Faraldo when he made this comment I can't say.

From my perspective, the future of harness racing lies with people like Jeff Gural.  No doubt there is going to be a lot of pain involved, but sometimes strong medicine involves pain.  This is not to say horsemen don't need strong leadership; they have interests to protect.  However, to protect those interests to the point of ensuring your own demise makes no sense.

Being this is a blog, you are welcome to comment.  There is a poll on the blog where you can vote; you may respond here as well.  However, as always, comments must be respectful.  Any disrespectful comments will not be edited or printed.

Racing Needs To Do It On Its Own

First of all, I was hoping not to write this soon after creating my naughty and nice list so if you haven't seen it yet, please read it here.

Last night Governor Christie and others were on 60 Minutes.  What Christie and others have said is available below (if you can deal with the pharmaceutical commercial).

If we thought the situation in New Jersey is unique, we are certainly wrong.  If you watch this video, you will see why it took almost a year for the 2009 World Trotting Derby purse winners to receive their purse money and while it was cancelled this year.  You will understand why racing was decimated in Michigan and Rockingham Park cancelled their meet this year.  We are also seeing why casinos are popping up all over. We don't hear about thoroughbred problems that much because we cover harness racing, but rest assured they are hurting.. 

Being unable to raise funds, states are financially broke and pulling in their spending wherever possible.  Unfortunately, when you have police and teachers to pay, hospitals to fund, and all that massive debt you have acquired over the years from both Republican and Democrat administrations; there is little money to spend on horse racing.  While not meant to be a political commentary, our problem is America is a society which wants programs but doesn't want to raise taxes to pay for them.  In the United States, we lack the political courage to raise taxes to pay for our programs so governments (from the federal all the way down to local towns) borrow money.  After all, it is easy to spend other people's money.  In the boon days, with raising tax revenues (income, corporate, sales) it was easy to borrow.  But when the band stops playing (the economy tanks, it is a different story).

And then the band stopped playing.  Welcome to the great recession (I still say history will look at this as a depression when all is said and done).  Tax revenue is down and with the refusal of raising taxes (and now may not be the time to do it), the band wants to be paid.  So it started with tracks getting racinos and then the states moved on to casinos.  Nothing better than a voluntary tax, where people hand their money over to the government. 

True confession time, with the exception of refusing to allow a casino in the Meadowlands to regain revenue we  are losing to Pennsylvania and New York, I understood what Chris Christie was doing (of course my living is not dependant on horse racing).  Yes, Christie favored Atlantic City over horse racing.  Do I think Atlantic City can be saved?  Heck no.  But there is one difference, Atlantic City is going to fund their own attempted revitalization.  Horse racing was going to require the state to provide funding; something it didn't have.  Hence, until three days before the deadline when Jeff Gural came to the bargaining table, Meadowlands racing was about to join Jimmy Hoffa in the Meadowlands.  Jeff Gural and his partners are proposing to fix the problem on their own, without government money.  If a lease can be worked out, what we will have is Gural and his partners fixing racing their own.

Those horsemen depending on supplements are in for a rude shock.   I don't care about what state law allowed racinos to be built, but it is a matter of time until most states reduce or cut subsidies to horse racing.  It may not be 2011, 2012, or even 2013, but the time is coming.  And horsemen sit still doing nothing.

For racing to survive, it will be up to racing to do it on its own; expect no government assistance..  Remember Canada One?  Where is USA One, where there is a simulcast channel which allows racing to start on the East Coast at 11:00am and works its way through different tracks until the action ends at Cal Expo?  Two tracks at a time.  Each track gets their revenue with some exotic wagers spanning tracks being split between the tracks.  By being the only harness tracks racing at a given time, the simulcast dollars are not being divied between twenty harness tracks.  The action is relatively constant to keep people's attention.  Those who attend one track, notice no difference.    Lower the takeouts to draw additional bettors.

Think of a possible schedule of USA One:

11AM:  Freehold and Monticello Raceway (alternating races)
2PM:  The Meadown and Chester Downs (alternating races)
5PM:  Yonkers Raceway and Tioga Downs (alternation races)
8PM:  Meadowlands and Balmoral (alternating races)
11pm:  Cal-Expo and TBA (alternating races)

Different days different tracks get slotted in on alternating basis.  Customers want more wagering choices so we are going to be forced to race with a second tier and more than a mile at times.

The days of government bailing out racing are over.  ":Racing, Fix Yourself".  Make your physical plants entertainment centers.  American's love to shop, add malls to your property.  There is a reason Gural is looking to tear down the old Meadowland grandstand and build a new one.  The old grandstand is obsolete.  If obsolete at the Meadowlands, it is obsolete elsewhere.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Santa's Naughty and Nice List

What would a blog be without a list of Naughty and Nice before Christmas? Well, no exception here. The only difference is Santa Claus couldn’t believe what was going on in harness racing so he consulted with William Haughton and Stanley Dancer on who should be considered naughty or nice.  They were last seen taking in the warm weather at Cal-Expo while working on the list.  With a little calmness occuring, they feel confident releasing their list a week early trusting no one is going to do anything to change their rankings.

When I was young I was always asked do I want the good news or the bad news first. I always wanted the bad news first figuring you had nowhere to go but up. So if you indulge me, we will start with the naughty and move on the the nice list.

Naughty List

•  Jon Hanson, public enemy number one to horse racing, gets a special trip from Santa. Instead of his reindeer sled, Santa is breaking out his flying coal tender to drop coal into Hanson’s residence. Despite the request of some people, Santa is refusing to drop a load of asbestos.

•  Sharon Crumb and others who have allegedly established false charities under the guise of saving horses. Not only did they divert funds from legitimate horse charities; they have made those who would normally donate funds to legitimate rescue charities second guess their decisions and doubt legitimate rescues. Santa wants to remind you if you suspect fraud, you should report your suspicisions to your state's attorney general office.   In the meanwhile, here is a good list of questions to ask rescues you may be considering assisting:

•  Leo Banks and Joseph Hall for allegedly being responsible for the death of Miller Please by incorrectly jugging the horse who was entered to race at Lebanon Raceway. Santa himself will appear in front of the OSRC to make sure their one year suspension becomes permanent.

•  To the leaders of Ontario Harness Horsemen's Assocation (OHHA) and Central Ohio Standardbred Association (COSA) and others for objecting to Standardbred Canada’s Racing Development and Sustainability Program, Santa is going to make sure each leader of these groups get French lessons so they can race on the Quebec fair circuit when the Province of Ontario decides to cutt of slot revenues like what was done in Quebec.

•  Talented driver Jimmy Morrill Jr. who was suspended for driving drunk at the Red Mile. May Santa help you bounce back from this problem. As for The Red Mile which didn’t have a breathalyzer on the grounds which let Morrill race early, a really stiff fine by the KHRC.

•  To the judges at Northville Downs who had to declare a race a non-contest on October 8 as the winning horse started from the wrong post which was not caught until pictures were taken in the winners circle.  Santa has new glasses for you and the drivers involved.  Does anyone watch anymore?

•  Jeers to horsemen who manipulate races to take advantage of slot revenue. Whether the driver who races half-hearted or the trainer who improves a horse over a few days, we are racing for money the customers have helped provide. The customer deserves a legitimate contest for their gambling dollars. Santa promises greater drug testing and more ambitious district attorneys to watch over what is happening..

•  Santa will be holding remedial lessons to those drivers who just don’t seem to get the handle of the new whipping rules. This way these drivers will no longer be able to use the excuse they forgot about the different rules.

•  Santa is delivering coal to racing commissions who refuse to treat drug violating trainers as the cheats they are. Honest mistakes do happen, but when clearly improper medications are being used, why are the commissions being so easy on these thugs who are killing the golden goose?

•  New Jersey horsemen who abandoned New Jersey for a few dollars more in purses. A hope that NJ becomes somewhat a closed racing environment where horsemen who left the state prematurely find it harder to get into NJ to race.

•  A hearty boo to Atlantic City for refusing to allow slots at the Meadowlands. Not because racing isn’t benefiting from slots, but for allowing a gusher of gaming money head to Yonkers and Pennsylvania; money lost to New Jersey taxpayers.

•   A kick in the butt to all racing commissions for refusing to index fines depending on how successful a driver or trainer is.  Do you think a $200 fine given to a driver who earns over $500,000 a year is going to mean anything?  Is there any wonder why some Meadowlands caliber drivers will come to your state or province and violate the whipping rules?  For a $200 fine they would have to be stupind not to.  Now make that a $2,000 fine and see if they do the same thing.

•  To the USTA, for not implementing penalities to horsemen who sell horses into slaughter.  Santa will kindly explain to the USTA that membership in the USTA is not a right so you can ban owners who will sell their horse for $200 to slaughter instead of doing the right thing by the horses.

•  To New York attorney and head of the SOANY who can not say anything kind abouf Jeff Gural.  For example as reported in the Asbury Park Press: An adversary of Gural in New York, Joseph Faraldo, said Gural ""is positioning himself to cash a big ticket in New Jersey.''  Faraldo, an attorney who represents horsemen at the Gural tracks in New York, said, ""All the years we had racing in New York unsupported by slot machines, Gural was not a player in the market. I don't think his Meadowlands interest is motivated solely by his interest in horse racing. I think he is there to capitalize in some way, shape or form on expanded gambling at some point.''  Santa respectively asks Mr. Faraldo sticks with his battles in New York and leave the fate of harness racing at the Meadowlands to others; expecially when Mr Gural seems to be the last hope. (In a side note to my associates in the industry:  did I call it or not?)

•  To all the harness tracks that have not yet instituted programs to save horses whose racing days are numbered (virtually all of them).  Instead of coal, Santa will try to deliver you a concience.

Nice List

•  Santa has promised peace to the family of the late Richie Ingrassia who passed away much too early this past year. Richie was not only an important person to the Monticello horsemen but to his family. The industry went out of their way to do the best they could for Richie and his family. What finer tribute could there be?

•  Santa is going to ask Mike Tanner over at the USTA for Here They Come, the USTA bi-weekly off season (last week weekly) podcast featuring Kate Lockhart and Paul Ramlow to become a weekly feature all year long.  Unlike Eye on Harness, which deals with the feature events during the racing season, Here They Come is a commentary program where two intelligent USTA employees discuss issues facing the harness racing industry.  If it is a question of funding, let's find the funding for putting out an informative podcast for all USTA members and when the racing season begins in earnest, bring back Eye On Harness as well..

Here They Come podcast 1 12-07-10 from USTA on Vimeo.

•  State Senators Sweeney and Whalen get on the Nice list. The fact is despite being big supporters of Atlantic City and their refusal to offer VLTs to the Meadowlands, they have passed legislation to give racing a chance; something they didn’t have to do with Governor Chris Christie seemingly having the knife ready to plunge into racing’s back. While representing their interests, they had not abandoned racing. Santa is going to give them the honor of presenting the Hambletonian Trophy in 2011 to the winning connections.

•  The Metro Six Shooter between Yonkers and the Meadowlands. It didn’t last long, but at least they tried something; something few are willing to do. Santa will encourage another run of this wager; now that they know what went wrong.

•  Tioga Downs for lowering the takeout on their wagers, giving the bettors what they want. Santa plans on increasing revenue despite the cut in the takeout. Plus he plans sending more Meadowlands type horses to race there this year in addition to the Historic Series races.  Santa promises to try to work on the horsemen at Vernon Downs, but as he points out; even he is not a miracle man.

•   Tioga Downs and even Vernon Downs for offering the stakes program they do at each track.  Other racino tracks (hear that Monticello) should offer stakes programs like theirs.  I know their handle wouldn't support it, but if any track deserves to take the mantle of number one track in America, Tioga Downs would be it.  Is there any management team that works this hard to make racing a big deal?

•   The Breeders Crown at Pocono Downs this past year. No, it was not at a major metropolitan track but they put on a great show. Pocono will be rewarded by being given another chance to host the event again.  Santa promises great things for Pocono Downs provided they continue to cut their takeout rates.

•   For the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemens Association (PHHA) who helped finance the Breeders Crown, more interest in the Pennsylvania racing programs.

•   For the Meadowls Standardbred Owners Asociation (MSOA) who helps sponsor races at the Meadows.  A renaissance in interest in their racing corresponding with a reduction in the takeout rate and returning the Adios to a race of great importance  .

•   Horsemen groups in Pennsylvania and Delaware who are investing in their customers instead of pocketing ever nickel they get from the slots. May their efforts be rewarded.

•   Kudos to HANA, a gamblers advocacy group which is making an effort to promote harness racing when racing interests take positive steps for the customers.

•  Walter Case Jr. to get a return to driving with a provisional license. Not to excuse his earlier problems, but for a man who has been staying straight for a while now, a chance to come back and recapture his career is appropriate. Other people commit serious offenses and are forgiven much quicker than Walter.

•  Santa will work on getting Herve Filion to race in NY and NJ during his farewell tour in 2011. As a reminder, for those who object, Herve is not without sin, but he never was convicted of racing fixing and if his career is ending, let him finish career where it started.

•  Cheers to people like standardbred trainer Anouk Busch who in her free time has started Horse Rescue United as well the others who are operating legitimate horse rescue groups like the SRF. Santa promises to help publicize these groups existence.

•  Speaking of Standardbred Retirement Foundation, they have asked Santa to be particularly generous to Hanover Shoe and Perretti farms for their effort on behalf of retired race horses. Hanover Shoe Farms had Rich N Elegant paint a masterpiece as Perretti Farms offered a portrait done by Rocknroll Hanover. Both portraits were purchased by Hanover Shoe Farms at Harrisburg which represented in a $10,000 donation to SRF.

•  Thanks to John Campbell who always donates used whips signed by different drivers to be sold on behalf of the SRF. Santa promises Campbell more years of racing unless Uncle Scrooge Christie forces John into retirement.

•  Cheers to Moira Fanning for winning another award. The Hambletonian Society should appreciate what a special person they have.  While we are at it, Santa also applauds the rank and file of the USTA starting with Mike Tanner and sends out vibes that 2011 is the year Lucien Fontaine gets elected to the Hall of Fame.

•  To Lindy Farms for trying something to get new owners into the business. For offering small shares in three horses, Santa wishes this trio a lot of success and owners willing to take a bigger stake in horses.

•  Santa says "Thank You" to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for not allowing Prairie Meadows to pull the plug on harness racing; yet.  The Iowa horsemen better do something before the IRGC's patience runs out
•  Santa also applauds Ivan Axelrod for honesty concerning the status of the industry.  You can't fix what you don't acknowledge (hopefully some directors are paying attention).

•  Joanne Young from the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame does a wonderful job working on raising funds for this fine institution and giving the industry her daughter M Kelly Young who continues to work on behalf of the harness racing.. Santa said he is going to remind horsemen it is their responsibility to contribute to their own museum. After all, without a hall of fame, where will their statue get put?

•  Daryl Kaplan who spends 24 hours a day on harness racing for Standardbred Canada. Santa wants to negotiate a raise for Daryl.

•  Western Fair for hiring Greg Blanchard. For Blanchard it is about growing the sport. He deserves a race named after him..

•  Santa hasn’t forgotten Freehold Raceway; the only track which has a formal remembrance service for 9/11.

•  Andrew Cohen for his writing which sometimes gets him in hot water.  Santa promises to keep his latest gig with Harness Racing Update going.

•  Cheers to future driving start Corey Callahan. Every race Corey puts in his best effort and he does much for the sport. Corey also has a retired horse who he wants to send to Horse Rescue United instead of losing track of him. Ask Corey for a favor, he doesn’t ask what it is, he says ‘Yes’. Some things you many not know what Corey did this year was helpimg buy by a jug cart that someone was able to raffle off to help pay for someone's funeral; donates money to the SPCA and sponsors a team for Harrington Raceway’s Rickshaw Rumble. Corey and his girlfriend Johanna have welcomed their first baby this past November. Santa wishes Corey and Johanna gets some sleep.

•  Maryland horsemen Kenny Wood who not only races, but goes to Ghana to drill for fresh water for citizens who never had clean water. Santa wishes Kenny continued good health.

•  Caretaker Sarah Murphy and others who do their jobs admirably. Sarah was the caretaker to Won the West and Ginger and Fred. Like many grooms, it is all about their charges.  Santa promises Sarah another champion.

•  The connections of Rock N Roll Heaven who raced their horse all over; even over the dreaded half mile oval. Santa is promising the 3yo Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year award.

•  Santa wants to wish Lucky Chucky a happy retirement, for a horse that brought so much joy to Chuck Sylvester, it is fitting.

•  Driver William Parker Jr. who toils away in near anonymity at Monticello Raceway.  His life story is an inspiration. While a longshot, Santa has promised to try to get Billy in the Hall of Fame.

•  SBOANJ President Tom Luchento for fighting the battle needed. Others would have folded, but Luchento keep on the fight. Time will tell if it works out.

•  The horseplayers. We can’t take them for granted. Santa promises to attempt to get them  further takeouts.

•   Dean Towers, for his effort in blogging and on behalf of HANA.  Santa will try to get people to finally listen to Dean.

•  Anthony Perretti, not only is he involved in the saving of horse racing, he does plenty to support retired standardbreds, unlike certain other breeders in New Jersey.

•  Santa promises Heather Moffett a new racing show next year.  Turns out Santa found out our good will ambasador still has one hour a day free.  Perhaps a week in Delaware, Ohio is the thing for Heather.

•  Santa wishes good will to all my fans who read this blog.   Without you there is no reason to continue.

•   A big sale at Harrisburg for Murray Brown.  When Murray feels I am wrong, he will let me know.  I appreciate the difference in opinion: I never said I had all the answers. 

• A hearty thanks to the never stopping Jason Settlemoir.  Let's see, heavily involved with Tioga and Vernon Downs, President of the USHWA, Simulcast Director for the Little Brown Jug.  Santa promises him a little better luck when it comes to traveling and weather. 

•  Jeff Gural for being willing to consider leasing the Meadowlands and possibly saving the sport from a deep period of retraction.  We know it is not a guaranteed deal but if anyone can do this, he can.  If for some reason, he decides not to go forward he gets a free pass; as we will know the numbers don't work.  For Jeff, Santa will try to deliver a year of piece from the Vernon Horsemen as well as Joe Faraldo.

Coin Toss List

• Governor Chris Christie . I must admit he got pulled from the Naughty List on Friday, but he can't yet be put on the Nice List.  We understand the pickle the state has been in, yet we don't believe he fully appreciated what standardbred racing did for the state on the trickle down side.  What happens March 1 will determine which list he ultimately gets placed on.

I wish everyone a safe, healthy holiday season and many winners in 2011.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

So What Happened and Why?

What happened over the past three days which brought the Meadowlands from the verge of death to possible renewal? Up to yesterday morning, I and many others were convinced it was all over for the Meadowlands but after a four hour session between Jeff Gural and Governor Christie, that all changed.  So what happened:

No VLTs.  Mr. Gural came to the meeting telling Christie that he is not looking for VLTs  or any subsidy to keep the Meadowlands going.  He felt the Meadowlands could keep profitable by just with the Meadowlands brand alive.  Every other proposal up to now has been demanding of some type of subsidy.  Here was something fresh, a person who felt standardbred racing can stand on its own.

Cynics, will say, sure.  But aren't Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs racinos?  What makes Gural think the Meadowlands could be supported without extended gaming?  Once again, the Meadowlands brand.  There is no handle at Tioga Downs or Vernon Downs to speak of; there is at the Meadowlands.  Get rid of that big ugly grandstand (which I thought lacked character day one) which was probably the biggest overhead item and the number of employees needed to support that building and you are well on the way to solvency.  If you had a Freehold-sized grandstand and a Meadowlands-type handle, what kind of money do you think the Pennwood group would be rolling in?

Gural attends to make racing fun again.  I am sure the Governor saw some type of a video presentation of a Sunday afternoon of racing at Tioga Downs.  Quite honestly, a day of racing at Tioga is entertainment for those who attend; it reminds me of a day at a minor league baseball game.   Well, when was the last time racing was fun; entertainment?  With the Tioga philosophy coming to the Meadowlands, people who have long abandoned the Meadowlands will be drawn back to the track, and it will be a valid entertainment destination for young families with children.  Will these people be providing a $100 per capita in wagering?  Absolutely not, but they will make racing fun again and wagering will increase and in all likelihood, when added to the simulcast total, it will make a decent contribution to the bottom line.  When some of these fans become serious gamblers, they will join their fellow heavy hitters in front of their computers to wager, only to be replaced with the next generation of young families and those looking for entertainment.

If a lease can be established, I predict we will be seeing the model of harness racing in the United States in particular and perhaps North America.  For those who have VLT revenue great, just remember those days will be coming to an end.  Sooner or later those slot subsidies will be coming to an end and racing will have to make it on its own.  By starting at the Meadowlands, the new model can be developed and then trickle-down to smaller racing facilities.  I have no doubt there will be those with parochial interests who will hope Gural and his group fails but they better change their tune.  Retrenchment in harness racing is coming.  If Gural succeeds it will be a resizing of the industry.  If Gural walks away or fails, the retrenchment will be more like a plague.

As for Tioga Downs fans, there is a lot to be excited here.  Don't be surprised assuming a lease is achieved that the quality of your racing improves with more Meadowlands horses and drivers taking up residence at the Nichols facility.  I believe it is only a matter of time before a strong racing program between the two ovals is developed making it enticing for Meadowlands-caliber horses to make the trip north after the Meadowlands closes it's winter meet. 

Why did it take so long for Gural to get involved; reports indicate it was not before Wednesday before he got involved.  Up to that time, the SBOANJ kept talking about the economic contribution horse racing brought the state downstream.  They finally realized the Governor was not interested in that, but just the state budget.  Also, the SBOANJ may have been hesitant until the last minute to bring Mr. Grual in as it will result in harness racing going back to the days prior to year round racing at one track; no longer being able to set up home from January through August or all year at one place and have regular lives like everyone else.  With Mr. Gural's proposal of winter racing, one can assume after January-March, horsemen will have to hit the road, unless they will be racing at Freehold.  Sure, there will be a yet undefined Championship meet at the Meadowlands, but that will be for the highest quality of horses and is not yet defined as in length.   Will it be a two month meeting or will it be like the three week fall meet at Keenland?  Involving Gural and his team also meant giving up on the dream of obtaining VLT revenue down the road.  Harness racing will have to live on what it will produce betting-wise, another likelihood of reduced racing days.

Let's hope the numbers work.  Harness racing may be on the edge of a brave new world.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Details of the Agreement:Updated

Jeff Gural talked to The Horseman and Fair World and went over the specifics of the Meadowlands plan negotiated with Governor Christie:

Jeff Gural has an exclusiive right to negotiate a lease for the Meadowlands.  The NJSEA will work with him on doing due dilligence.  The good thing of being able to due dilligence would be being able to see if any other expenses are being charged to horse racing.

It appears other groups would be joining in as a consortium with Jeff Gural being the lead partner.

The NJSEA will have a winter meet from January 7 through March 31.  If no lease is concluded by then, the Meadowlands will be shut down, no if and or buts.

A lease will be similar to the lease of the New Meadowlands Stadium.  The NJSEA will own the land but Jeff Gural and his syndicate would own the racetrack.

As part of the deal, if a lease is concluded, his group will be allowed to open four OTWs but has no claim on the Woodbridge OTW, having to pay the state 10% of net earnngs.

Anticipation is it would cost $40 to $50 million to build a new grandstand in the backstretch at which time the old one will be razed. 

The Tioga Downs model of a short racing meet would be used.  A winter meet and a Summer Championship meet (lengths of these meets are unknown).  My guess is the summer meet would be shorter than the most recent Championship Meets held.

The roughly $1.2 million earned in simulcast dollars during the winter meet would be held in escrow; to be reiumbursed to the state to help cover any loses they have during the winter meet.

A Reprieve for NJ Racing

According to multiple reports, the State of New Jersey will extend loans to the standardbred industry until April to give Jeff Gural time to negotiate a lease to take over the running of the Meadowlands.  Of course, the assumption is if no lease is signed by April 1, the Meadowlands will shut down.

At this point, this is the best proposal standardbred interests could hope for.  I would assume Jeff Gural has demonstrated not only he has the financial resources to do what is needed, but he has a successful background launching racetracks.  The three months will allow Gural sufficient time to do a complete study on the likelihood of the Meadowlands being able to be profitable.

While this takes pressure off for the immediate future, racing interests should not rest easily.  As we have seen before, three months goes pretty fast.  And there is no guarantees that a lease will be signed.  But for now at least, we can concentrate on racing.  Opening night at the Meadowlands will apparently be January 7.

Closing Night at the Meadowlands (For the Season)

Here are my selections for closingnight of the 2010 harness meet at the Meadowlands.  The 'B' track tour will resume next week.
Whatever the reason, closing night is going out with a bang.  First of all we have thirteen races on the card with most of the races having full fields.

1st Pace - $9,325; Claiming $10,000 (NJSO)
  1 - Kings Road (Berry, 7-2)
  4 - Lifes Tricks (D Miller, 9-2)
  9 - Mattifioso (Marohn, 12-1)

2nd Pace - $12,500; 2-4YOS NW2PM or $20,000LT (NJSO)
4 - There He Is (Grismore, 8-1)
6- Bruce Kennedy(Rucker, 15-1)
5 - John Carroll (Campbell, 9-2)

3rd Pace - $15,625; 3YO Fillies NW3PM or $50,000LT (NJSO)
6 - Court Stenographer (Campbell, 7-2)
2 - Whistle A Tune (Berry, 8-1)
7 - Mojarra Hanover (Miller, 3-1)

4th Pace - $11,500; Claiming $15,000 (NJSO) 
1 - Racsan Matt (Devaux, 12-1)
3 - Basilio Blue Chip (Berry, 3-1)
9 - Haverford Hanover (Tetrick, 7-2)
6 - Pegasus Osborne (Stalbaum, 9-2)

5th Pace - $21,000; NW $12,850 in Last 4 Starts AE: NW $80,000 in 2010 or 3YOS 
2 - Ponda River (Berry, 8-1)
4 - Bugatti Hanover (Tetrick, 3-1)
5 - Rick's Crossroads (Campbell, 15-1)

6th Pace - $20,000; FM NW $11,500 in Last 5 Starts  Optional Claiming $30,000 (NJSO)
1 - Ladycino (Simpson, 8-1)
9  -Mcflirty (Campbell, 9-2)
2 - Shayna Baby (Harder, 15-1)
7th Pace - $14,625; Claiming $20,000 (NJSO)
6 - Just Being A Boy (Grismore, 3-1)
9 - Boiler Bob The QB (Page, 8-1)
2 - JJ's Foxyexpress (Miller, 10-1)
3 - McMelody (Baggitt, 10-1)
8th Pace - $21,000; NW $12,850 in Last 4 Starts AE: NW $80,000 in 2010 or 3YOS
1 - Tarver Hanover (Campbell, 4-1)
4 - Corky Baran (Meittinis, 3-1)
5 - Lets Getit Started (Kakaley, 6-1)

9th Pace - $13,125; 3YOS Claiming $20,000 (NJSO)
2 - Big Bambu (Beckwith, 15-1)
3 - Lucky Lucky Leo (Grismore, 5-1)
6 - Terror Time (Tetrick, 9-2)
1 - So Be It (Berry, 8-1)
10th Pace - $14,625; Claiming $20,000 (NJSO)
9 - Four Stazzz King (Miller, 9-2)
4 - Last Conquest (Campbell, 7-2)
5 - O Narutac Pat (Beckwith, 15-1)
11th Pace - $14, 625; NW $8,000 in Last 5 Starts WO $95,000 in 2010 Ineligible (NJSO)
5 - Buckeye In Charge (Campbell, 9-2)
6 - Freddy Day Hanover (Marohn, 8-1)
9 - Cheyenne Barry (AMiller, 7-2)

12th Pace - $11,500; NW $6000 in Last 5 Starts W) $70,000 in 2010 Ineligible (NJSO)
  2 - Allnewsurvivorgold (Staulbaum, 15-1)
10 - Michael's Marvel (Kakaley, 12-1)
  5 - Big Rock Star (Tetrick, 6-1)

13th Pace - $9,325; Claiming $10,000 (NJSO)
5 - Whjataorse (Berry, 3-1)
8 - Blow Em Away (Meittinnis, 10-1)
7 - Must Be The Bunny (Kakaley, 6-1)
6 - Broadway Jacke (Miller, 7-2)

Racing is tentatively due to resume on January 7, 2011.