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.
• 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.
• 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.