For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Monday, October 31, 2011

Something's Gotta Move

This past weekend, an exciting Breeders Crown event was held at Woodbine Racetrack.  Unfortunately, the Breeders Crown was lost in all the talk about the Breeders Cup being held this weekend.  For the past two weeks, I was bombarded by e-mails talking about the Breeders Cup contestants having workouts, being shipped to the destination.

Quite honestly, if you were not a harness racing fan, you would never have know the Breeders Crown was taking place.  For those who don't follow harness racing that deeply, they probably though the Breeders Crown was the Breeders Cup.

Somehow, someway, we need to get the Breeders Cup out from the shadow of the Breeders Crown.  Perhaps the first step would be to change the name of the event; eliminate 'Breeders' from the title to help avoid the confusion between the two racing series.  Perhaps if we get more European invaders to participate, we can change the name of the Breeders Crown, to the "Word Harness Racing Championships", Secondly we need to get our series rescheduled; perhaps the week after Lexington or late November.  The fact is the Breeders Cup will always get first call so the first week of November will be the thoroughbred territory.

The Battle for Rosecroft

Rosecroft has been racing live for two weeks and is currently in a battle for its survival.  Despite voters in Prince George county voting for casino gambling in the last referendum, the county legislature is looking to ban Prince George County from offering casino gambling, which would likely make Rosecroft's revival last no more than two years. 

Obviously, Rosecroft Raceway, via Penn National Gaming, has launched a campaign to kill county bill 49 which if approved, would zone the county to prohibit the installation of any slot machines; making any state referendum allowing a casino in Prince George County an exercise in futility.  Penn National Gaming has launched a website in favor of slots at Rosecroft.

Let's be honest, slots or alternate gaming of some kind is essential for the long term survival of Rosecroft Raceway.  Unless Penn National Gaming is willing to move the track to a more hospitable county, the banning of slots will likely end racing at Rosecroft after next year; after all PNG is a publicly-traded company and must answer to their shareholders and operating a money losing operation is not going to make many people who one PNG stock happy.

But this is more than a racetrack survival bill.  The county's attempt to ban slot machines is a moral issue more than anything else; an issue which should not be decided by the politicians directly.  If you really want to consider banning slots, the issue should go to a public referendum where the people of Prince George County can be heard and make the decision; not politicians with special interests and lobbyists' money.

Let me tell you a story about where I live.  I live in what I call a subrural community; a little bit suburban and a lot rural; the majority of the township is county and state parks.  You want to do major shopping, you need to travel 10+ miles to get to a store.  It is not uncommon to see coyote, deer, bears, wild turkey and other animals where I live.  A developer wanted to come in and build a mega shopping center in the community.  Despite the community's protests, the council decided to change the zoning to allow for this development.  The township's people were still outraged as the development will change the character of the town, and being it is an election year, the politicians decided to revert the zoning back to what it was and have a non-binding referendum to see what the township's people actually feel about the development in an effort to change their jogs.  Unfortunately, a day before they could revert the zoning, the developer submitted his plan which technically means it can not be stopped because as long as the application is ruled complete and the planning board approves the development as it is the zoning in effect when the application is submitted which matters.  While the referendum will take place, it may be a moot point at best and at worst, it may cost the town a lot of money in legal fees to beat this developer.  Needless to say, there is an expectation that many of these politicians will pay for their ignoring the community this election day.

Why is there a rush to ban casinos when there is a state referendum required?  If the politicians of Prince George County feel casinos will change their community's identity, wouldn't it be better to let the county's residents make the decision instead of a few politicians?  After, all maybe the community as a whole would not have a problem with a casino; maybe they would welcome the jobs such a development would bring.  The fact is if the county officials feel so strongly about not having a casino, have faith in the people and let the people decide to confirm or repudiate their feelings.   After all, isn't it the American way?

Trick and Treat?

Charles Stile from The Record, gives racino supporters a little bit of hope in the upcoming New Jersey elections.  While Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) is expected to easily win his election, one of his allies, Senator Jim Whelan (D) who represents the second legislative district which represents Atlantic City is reported to be in trouble.  Supposedly Sweeney and his benefactor party-boss George Norcross can't afford to lose this seat, so there has been speculation that they would do anything to keep Whelan in office.

While there was some talk they would take campaign funds from a North Jersey Democratic candidate who is in a tough campain fight, such talk has been downplayed as a defeat of the North Jersey candidate would re-ignite the North-South rift in the Democratic Caucus.  However, what may be interesting is what happens if Whelan and Bob Gordon, the candidate up north both loose; it may cause such an uproar in the Democratic caucus which may unseat Senator Sweeney from the Senate President position, perhaps removing a person who has sworn not to allow any North Jersey casino bill to ever come up for a vote.  So if things go wrong for the Democrats, the possibility of a North Jersey casino may get a boost.

Of course, if the Republicans get control of the Senate and/or the House, things may not go  racing's way as a state legislature controlled by allies of Governor Christie may become a rubber stamp for Governor Christie.

Still, there is hope, how small it may be that a civil war in the Democratic legislature may work in racing's way.  Yes, it is eight days after Halloween, but racing supporters may be getting a late holiday treat if the cards play out right.  One thing for certain, for a racino to become a reality in the relatively near future, a change in the state Senate leadership is essential.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

All Hail San Pail (and Rapide Lebel and Commander Crowe)

All hail the King San Pail, Aged Trotter of the Year, Trotter of the Year, and Horse of the Year for his fantastic victory in the Breeders Crown Open Trot last night at Woodbine.  As I suspected, it was going to be the best race of the night and it did not disappoint.

As much as San Pail was the best and deserves all the accolades, one must wonder if Rapide Lebel and Commander Crowe arrived earlier than Thursday and had more time to acclimate, if the race would have had a different finish.  However, with quarantine rules, the trainers of the two European superstars made the decision to arrive just two days ahead of time to race.  Was it a good decision, or did the quarantine rules have a hand in the outcome?  It really doesn't matter.  You play the hand you were dealt and all three top finishers have nothing to be ashamed of.

This is the harness racing I had fallen in love with when I first started; not the watered down product we pass off as quality horses and racing.  This is not to say we don't have great horses, but there are too few for the number of tracks racing at any given time.  Dare I say many of the top horses that race at some tracks couldn't wipe the hooves of Nickawampus Leroy.

What a race like this shows us is several things:
  1. There is nothing like international racing.  That being said, we need to have more than one big money race to make it worthwhile for the horses to come from Europe, Down Under, and even South America to race.  Why can't some of our racinos set up a series as they are flush with money?
  2. The Breeders Crown needs to get more horses from abroad in our races; not just the older horses.  How about some win and you are in slots for foreign horses that win big races abroad (win and you are in for North American races would not be a bad idea either, with the highest money earners eligible to the open slots)?
  3. Once  again, it shows North America's preoccupation with two and three year old races is foolish.  Breeders and horse owners may not like it, but cut the purses for two and three year old races and use that money for stakes races for older horses; they can still get the money they get from their sires stakes programs.  Pull the Pocket can illustrate this with San Pail.
  4. I bet you if we had more races like this, there would be more people paying attention to harness racing; they are exciting, not like those single file dashes.
  5. People appreciate good trotting races.  On the boards I visit, most of the conversation when it comes to specific races centers around our open trotters.

New Jersey Then and Now

Remember when New Jersey was the capital of harness racing?  Thanks to Philly.Com, we have some statistics to look at.

  • New Jersey Sires Stakes Money: $7.5 million in 2007; $6.2 million in 2011
  • Pennsylvania Sire Stakes: $4.1 million to $12.7 million
  • New York Sire Stakes: $15.1 million to $19.5 million
  • Horses registered for the NJSS: 1,023 in 2003; 774 in 2010
  • Horses registered for the NYSS: 672 to 1064
  • Horses registered for the PASS: 1,250 to 1,700
  • Breeding Stallions in NJ: 115 in 1996; 5 in 2011
  • Mares bred in NJ: Approx 3,000 (year not known); less than 700
To give you an idea of how bad things have gotten in New Jersey, Maryland has seven stallions registered.  Thankfully, the stallions remaining in NJ are Grand Circuit quality; otherwise New Jersey sired horses may be on the level of the horses in North Dakota or Minnesota.

Yes, some of the problem is the fault of the horsemen, but a major part of the problem is the state milking the New Jersey horse industry dry, including using the NJSEA as a cash machine for pet projects of the state politicians.

Racino Teasing?

If things progress as they seem to be, racing of standardbreds and thoroughbreds may be returning to Rockingham Park as they are seen as a heavy favorite for winning one of the two gaming licenses in New Hampshire.  A bill authorizing casino gaming has passed a House committee, the first time ever. 

Why did this House Committee feel the need to move this legislation forward?  Pay attention Governor Christie: The passage of expanded gambling earlier this fall in neighboring Massachusetts is seen as the impetus behind the current action in the Granite State because it would keep revenue from crossing the border.

Unfortunately for racing interests in New Hampshire, their own governor may need to learn the same lesson.  Up to now, Democratic Governor John Lynch still has serious concerns and remains opposed to the expansion of gambling.  I guess stupidity is a bi-partisan trait.

Breeders Crown Review (Not Here)

I would love to provide you with a review of last night's Breeders Crown.  Unfortunately, I was one of the millions that lost power due to the Octoberfest snowstorm which dropped 8" of wet snow on the trees which still had leaves.  I wish I could have bet on it, but sure enough around 4pm, the power went out; only to go on this afternoon by 3pm.  Hence, no wagering on the Breeders Crown; but worst, no viewing of the races live.

Anyway for those who wish for a summary of the Breeders Crown, Standardbred Canada has a race-by-race review including videos of each race.  You may access their coverage here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Your Veterinarian Knows Can Hurt You

In today's law and order blog, we discuss the case of Carmine Fusco versus the NYSRWB.  Now, being not a lawyer, I recommend you read the case, but for those who want the condensed version, here it is:

Back in 2006, one of Fusco's horses was found to have been treated with Clebuterol which earned Fusco a fine of $2,500 and an eighteen month suspension in October of 2007.  Fusco appealed the penalty and as a result, the NYSRWB decided to add some additional charges regarding the treating of horses with medications after the withdrawal time, despite the fact the named medications did not reach the threshold required for a positive finding in drug tests.  What was the cause for adding these charges?  The state investigator got hold of Fusco's veterinarian's records which showed these medications were administered after the withdrawal time.  While the hearing officer allowed the charges to be modified, and heard additional evidence, he disallowed the admittance of the vet's records.  As such, the hearing officer allowed only the penalty for the original violation.  

Well, the NYSRWB appealed the decision of the hearing officer and the case was sent back to a hearing officer, being told in the case of administrative hearings, hearsay evidence (the vet's records) may be considered and the charges could be modified.  The long and short of it is the hearing officer then recommended the license be revoked for five years instead of the original eighteen months;  accepting the argument that 'titrating' was used; administering the legal medication after the withdrawal time in a smaller dose hoping to avoid a positive yet get the desired benefit.  The NYSRWB then adopted the hearing officer's recommendation of the modified suspension.

Fusco then appealed the case to the Appellate division of the NY Supreme Court claiming the he could not be penalized for the other five drug charges since the drug tests came back 'negative' (not reaching the prescribed level in the test).  Fusco also claimed the NYSRWB violated their own rules by accepting additional testimony on an appeal.   

Well the appellate court had previously found in the case of administrative hearings, additional evidence may be accepted before a final decision has been rendered.  The court also claimed that hearsay evidence may be heard in an administrative hearing and considered substantive depending on the quality of the evidence.  Hence the court allowed the NYSRWB decision of a five year ban to stand.  This decision was issued on October 27, 2011; five years after the fact.

The good guys won this time.  It may have taken five years for the decision to be rendered but in the long run, it may speed things along in the future; at least in New York.   Some trainers may plead guilty instead of having their vet's records looked at as you never know what the records may say.


The DRF Speaks Breeders Crown

For those of you looking forward to the Breeders Crown, the DRF; that's right, that Daily Racing Form offers online handicapping advice on the Breeders Crown.

In addition, as you may have heard, there are contract negotiations to allow the Daily Racing Form sell harness programs; likely the ones from the Harness Eye.    For this event, the DRF is being permitted to provide online the Harness Eye past performance pages for the Breeders Crown.  They may be accessed from the Daily Racing Form website discussing the Breeders Crown.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Other Selections and Play Your Strengths

Besides my own selections for the Breeders Crown races, PTP has offered his own thoughts on the BC card.  You will see two different styles of picks.  As a rule, I try to pick the horse I think will win, only sometimes chucking my top pick for value while PTP looks for value before he makes a race.  Quite honestly, PTP probably plays the races the right way if you are a gambler; I am more of a handicapper.  Hence, if you are looking at my selections, you may very well want to consider value in your wagers; otherwise, if you are a $2 player, you could win seven of the races and still lose for the night.  I have always said I am a good handicapper, but a lousy gambler, that is why I play more for entertainment purposes than making money (though I try); otherwise, what little hair I have remaining would be gone.  Money Management is key for long term success whether it is the Breeders Crown or a night of mediocre racing at your local racetrack.

The bottom line is know your strengths, know your weaknesses and play accordingly.  The day I was at Monticello Raceway and had all three trifectas picked and didn't play any of them was the day I knew I was not in this game to make a living but to have fun.  Did I mention all three trifectas were IRS numbers?  Good thing I made a couple of hundred dollars that day, otherwise I may have run my car off the road.  Now I can laugh about it, saying if I won all three triples, I probably would have had an interview with the NYSRWB and the New York State Police, but trust me I was not laughing that Sunday. 

This is not to say I don't want to make money, but I realized what kind of horseplayer I am.  Since then, I don't bet Triples (or Superfectas); it isn't worth the aggravation.  Sure, there are times I would hit, but knowing I don't bet them, the Triples I don't play don't hurt, but more importantly, the triples I would have missed (the overwhelming majority) don't hurt me financially.  Where I am good at is in betting Exactas; there I can manage my money well.  Knowing you are going to lose more Exactas than you are going to hit, I don't bother playing Exactas that will pay less than $30.  Once I find an Exacta I like which will pay more than $30, then I will play.  I may only play a few Exactas each night, but I know I'm not going to go broke chasing exactas which pay less than $10.  Do I miss some Exactas this way?  Sure.  But these days with small pools you need to maximize your bankroll.  Is this the best way to play exactas?  Who knows?  All I know is it works for me. 

For win wagers, it is a little more straight forward for me.  The key is to know if a horse 4-5 is an overlay or underlay.  Sometimes a 4-5 shot is a gift.  You need to know when to play these horses or let them go.  There are times long shots are worth a shot and other times you leave them alone.  The key to playing win wagers is to come up with a way to evaluate your selections and don't deviate; if nothing else, your sanity remains intact.

What works for some people may not work for you.  Just remember your strengths and maximize them to your advantage.

Rosecroft Exceeding Their Expectations - Penn National Gaming is somewhat pleased with their handle so far at Rosecroft.  After the first week of racing, they are averaging $28,674 in live handle while their plan filed with the MRC anticipated a $20,000 a night live handle.  Of course that was the first weekend, but remember the second night of racing consisted of only eight races.  As for their simulcasting action on standardbreds and quarter horses at Rosecroft, they have a daily handle of $51,500 where the plan filed with the racing commission anticipated a simulcast handle of $33,000.  No, I doubt the heavy hitters are playing Rosecroft, and I am sure the numbers provided to the MRC were not overly ambitious, but considering the quality of the racing, they are doing okay.  Once they get the right to simulcast the runners, the track may be able to offer better quality racing and improve their handle.  Who knows?  There may still be a local market for harness racing in the Beltway.

Breeders Crown Press Releases

Just a reminder, many of the Breeders Crown Press Releases are available at a new site available for use by racetracks elsewhere.  If you missed some of the earlier Breeders Crown releases, you will be able to find them at this site.

It's a Good Day

Happy days are here again and it has nothing to do with the Breeders Crown (though that is a pretty good thing; something I have been waiting for all week).

No, Happy Days are here with the opening of the casino at Aqueduct Racetrack today.  New York patrons can take the subway to the casino.  How is that for convenience?  Yes, Empire City at Yonkers Raceway will get hurt somewhat, but the best thing about the Aqueduct casino opening is it will put another nail in Atlantic City's coffin.  When the eventual conversion to a full casino takes place in New York, it may be enough to throw Atlantic City's coffin into the ground.

Anything which will make New Jersey Politicians realize the folly of keeping a casino out of the Meadowlands is a good thing.  Perhaps, if the politicians get hit in the face enough with a glove they will realize the folly of their ways.  Want to try to keep Atlantic City as a destination resort, knock your socks off, but to keep convenience gambling out of the Meadowlands is pure stupidity.  Not only stupid, but expensive as New York's budget gets fattened up at the expense of the New Jersey state budget.  They are even laughing at New Jersey in Las Vegas at New Jersey's stupidity.

So yes, the opening of the Aqueduct casino today is a good thing.  May it prosper and inflict maximum damage to Atlantic City.  Maybe then, common sense will come to New Jersey.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Breeders Crown Selections

Well, as much as I was tempted to skip handicapping the Breeders Crown this year, considering handicapping WEG tracks and the Meadowlands is like pulling teeth for me, it is the Breeders Crown, so how could I not handicap the races?

The race I am looking forward to is the race for Open Trotters with the appearance of Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel. I am a sucker for European horses racing in North America as it adds excitement to the evening. If there is one thing I would love the Hambletonian Society do is change the conditions to get more foreign horses racing in the Breeders Crown. After all, if these races are being billed as the championship series, should we want the best standardbreds in the world racing in these races?

Due to the number of races involved, I will list the horses in the order I think the horses will come in. Remember, these races have been handicapped early and there may be late changes not factored into my selections. For Breeders Crown night, the races begin earlier at 6:30pm. There will also be two $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4s with Woodbine accepting $.20 minimum wagers on the Pick 4 (your local track may or may not accept that minimum).

Without further ado, here are my selections for the 2011 Breeders Crown Series. If there is an AE listed, I will give my thoughts about them if I think they are worth considering as I will list possible long shots worth considering. Unlike regular events, in the event there is an early scratch, all horses move in and the also eligible draws the outside post.

1st Trot - $301,700 - Breeders Crown - Open Mares Post Time 6:30pm
8 - Jersey AS (Brennan, 5-1)
6 - Action Broadway (M Macdonald, 7-2)
1 - Kandor Hanover (R Waples, 15-1)
7 - Friendly Amigo (A Macdonald, 15-1)
Jersey AS was stacked up three wide at Indy; figures better trip. Action Broadway had bad trip in last start but shows good lines on the bigger ovals; can't dismiss. Kandor Hanover appears to have used last start as a prep; expect better. Friendly Amigo jumped at the wire but won at Lexington; can add value to exotics.

2nd Trot - $602,340 - Breeders Crown - 2yo Fillies
5 - Win Missy B (Sears, 6-5)
4 - Check Me Out (Tetrick, 4-5)
9 - For A Dancer (Gregory, 12-1)
10 - Aunt Mel (D Miller, 10-1)
Win Missy B won stakes at Lexington and took the bye. Check Me Out riding a three race win streak and figures to be the logical favorite but suspect odds will be too low. For A Dancer is 8 for 9 primarily on the NYSS; NY sired horses have improved. Aunt Mel has been racing well despite the bad posts. May liven up the exotics. Personal Style (AE1) made an unfortunate miscue in elim. Was a winner at Lexington and can get in the exotics if she draws in

3rd Pace - $602,340 - Breeders Crown - 2yo Fillies
7 - Big McDeal (Jamieson, 7-2)
5 - Economy Terror (Sears, 6-5)
6 - Shelliscape (Waples, 8-1)
1 - Marty Party (Palone, 12-1)
Big McDeal won last start at Lexington and seems to be improving. Economy Terror took some time off but qualified well at Pocono Downs. Shelliscape is another one who has qualified well; winner of 5 of 11. Marty Party is 5 for 10 and draws rail; will try to catch a trip into exotics. Handsoffmycookie is a winner of 8 for 9, primarily on the NYSS circuit. Remember See You At Peelers ruled the NYSS last year; at 15-1 may be an incredible long shot.

4th Pace - $652, 535 - Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings (Start of $100,000 Pick 4)
5 - Hurrikane Kingcole (Ouellette, 20-1)
3 - Sweet Lou (Palone, 5-2)
7 - Sing For Me George (S Zeron, 6-1)
8 - Speed Again (Jamieson, 4-1)
Hurrikane Kingcole - Last week, in first race back was parked half of the mile and interfered forced three wide yet closed big to grab third in his elim. This week should be tighter and a less eventful trip; if anywhere nears these odds is worth a look. Sweet Lou is the obvious one to beat. Expect to be less than 2-1. Sing For Me George finished second being parked out in last; won two prior races. Speed Again interfered with in last race. Champlain winner qualified well and is 5 for 9; may improve rating.

5th Trot - $602,340; Breeders Crown - 2yo Colts and Geldings
7 - Prestidigitator (S Filion, 10-1)
4 - Possess The Will (Tetrick, 2-1)
5 - Magic Tonight (Pierce, 6-1)
2 - Little Brown Fox (Campbell, 10-1)
Prestidigitator hung the entire mile and finished third just 1 1/2 lengths of the race winner. If he minds his manners he can win; of course that is the reason his odds are high. Possess The Will winner of three straight; is the one to beat. Magic Tonight finished behind Possess The Will; figures in the money. Little Brown Fox has been hard luck but may get into the exotics and add value.

6th Pace - $301,170; Breeders Crown - Open Mares
3 - Chancey Lady (Palone, 10-1)
5 - Anndrovette (Tetrick, 7-5)
6 - On The Glass (Morrill, 12-1)
1 - Maureen Rocks (S Zeron, 5-1)
Chancey Lady's last race is a toss. Was looking good before and worth a shot at these odds. Anndrovette is the logical hose to beat but lacks value. On The Glass has been consistent and should add value to the exotics. Dreamfair Eternal can never be dismissed; must consider if she gets in off the also eligible list.

7th Trot - $602,340; Breeders Crown - Open Trot
5 - Rapide Lebel (Raffin, 5-2)
2 - San Pail (Waples, 2-1)
3 - Commander Crowe (Martens, 9-2)
4 - Arch Madness (Sears, 7-1)
Rapide Lebel is 10 for 13 racing in multi-heat races. This time only needs to race once so expect to see more. Only concern is six weeks off. San Pail is the top trotter in North America. Will have to be at his best to come out on top. Commander Crowe another well respected European invader; on six race winning streak and layoff. Arch Madness is the best of the rest. However, the question is will the European invaders be worth a play at these odds? Certainly not worth lower odds. Honestly, this may be a race to enjoy and watch.

8th Pace - $501,950; Breeders Crown - 3yo Fillies
2 - Drop The Ball (Gingras, 5-2)
3 - Rocklamation (Sears, 3-1)
6 - Monkey On My Wheel (Jamieson, 7-1)
10 - Idyllic (Miller, 12-1)
Drop The Ball was impressive in her elimination; the one to beat. Rocklamation also won her elimination but first pick won more impressive races. Monkey On My Wheel has been racing well on the Ontario circuit. Idyllic; finally giving up on her so watch what happens.

9th Trot - $612,379; Breeders Crown - 3yo Colts and Geldings (Start of $100,000 Pick 4)
8 - Daylon Magician (Moiseyev, 9-2)
4 - Chapter Seven (Tetrick, 8-5)
5 - Manofmanymissions (D Miller, 9-5)
7 - Broad Bahn (Brennan, 7-1)
Daylon Magician got nipped after a tough trip in last. Chapter Seven was able to take advantage of a good trip to beat my top pick; wouldn't surprise if the order switched. Manofmanymissions is the best of this division unfortunately, he seems to break at the worst opportune time; at 9-5 I'll hope for a miscue. Broad Bahn jumped off in last. Figures to complete the exotics.

10th Trot - $501,950; Breeders Crown - 3yo Fillies
4 - Cedar Dove (Pierce, 2-1)
1 - Lady Andover (Campbell, 8-1)
7 - Jezzy (Tetrick, 5-1)
8 - Crys Dream (Ouellette, 20-1)
With the exception of two starts ago, Cedar Dove has hit her best strides; worth low odds. Lady Andover is taking on her strongest field yet; may be up to the challenge. Jezzy has finally shown the ability to race against open company. May improve position. Crys Dream; who would ever have thought you would see a 20-1 morning line on her? May be good enough to grab a position.

11th Pace - $501,950; Breeders Crown - 3yo Colts and Geldings
4 - Betterthancheddar (Brennan, 5-1)
3 - Hugardragon (Gingras, 9-2)
5 - Alsace Hanover (S Zeron, 7-2)
9 - Big Bad John (D Miller, 6-1)
Betterthancheddar appears to have joined the top of this division and is appealing at these odds. Hugadragon chased top choice home in elimination, looking for a repeat. Alsace Hanover finished second in his division after a tough mile and has improved. Big Bad John roughed up in last start but not helped with post draw. Prodigal Seelster and Powerful Mist are also eligibles which must be considered if they draw in.

12th Pace - $501,950; Breeders Crown - Open Pace
2 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 5-2)
9 - Atochia (Sears, 8-1)
1 - We Will See (Pierce, 2-1)
7 - Dial Or Nodial (D Miller, 5-1)
Foiled Again may finally get the respect he deserves with a win here. Expect higher odds as not yet respected on the mile track. Atochia gets a bad draw but may add value to exacta. We Will See draws the rail and figures to go off the favorite. Dial Or Nodial been racing well in PA and figures to compete here.

If you want other selections for the Breeders Crown races, here is Derick Giwner's selections from the Daily Racing Form.

Has Racing's Time to Innovate Run Out?

This may be the wrong week to bring this topic up, but is it is possible that horse racing's time is finally running out?  The stagnation of racing when it comes to innovation finally catching up to the industry?  It may very well be.

We already know how Governor Quinn of Illinois is refusing to allow slots at the racetrack and has now come out against the idea of impact fees to compensate racing for the lack of slots.  Now in Florida, it appears a legislator has declared war against pari-mutuel racing; not only horse racing but dog racing and jai-lai.  Senator Dennis James has proposed legislation which will allow three destination resort licenses in the Miami-Dade-Broward county market which would be allowed full casinos without the benefit of offering any type of parimutuel racing.  If this legislation was approved, these casinos will pop up in the very counties that have Gulfstream Park, Calder Racecourse, Pompano Park, and Hialeah Park.  What does James think this legislation would do to racing?  The legislation would replace the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering with a Department of Gaming Control.

As bad as this bill would be for racing with what is listed above, it gets worse.  Racetracks would not be allowed to become full casinos, being limited to slot machines; the only restriction on these casino resorts?  The inability to offer sports wagering and pari-mutuel wagering.  In an apparent attempt to wipe out pari-mutuel facilities, these resorts would be taxed at 10% while the racetracks would continue to be taxed at a 35% take rate.  Were this bill to be passed, how long do you think racetracks would survive before they were forced out of business?

Fortunately, the chances of this bill passing in 2012 is no more than 50-50.  Opposition from other counties who want to get into the casino business may derail this bill and racing is not yet ready to roll over yet so expect their lobbyists to fight this legislation.  However, based on what we are starting to see in some racing states, the Governors and/or legislatures appear to become willing to pass legislation which will be harmful to pari-mutuel racing.  Hence, we must begin to wonder if time is starting to run out on racing.  If racing is unwilling to innovate now, they may very well be signing their own death warrants.

Competing Championships

You would think the three major breeds of horses would be able to schedule their championship series on different days.  Well, you would be wrong.  The thoroughbreds' Breeders Cup is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5.  In light of that harness racing's Breeders Crown is schedule for Saturday, October 29.  While the standardbred industry has steered clear of the thoroughbred's championship, one can argue if steered clear enough as many of the tweets and some of the emails I am getting tend to be related to final preps for the Cup, the quarter horse industry has not been as cooperating as their Bank of America Racing Challenge Championships are scheduled for this Saturday night as well at Los Alamitos Racetrack in Cypress California.  Their 12-race series begins at 7:00pm PDT.

While most of the races will have concluded before the Quarter horse championships begin, the question is why did they need to be scheduled for the same day at all?  You would think each breed would want their own breed to be showcased on separate days for maximum effect.  As a result, TVG who typically carries Woodbine's races will be splitting their time covering the Los Alamitos racing program as well.

There is no reason why this needs to happen, hopefully in the future the three breeds can coordinate dates so each breed will have their own day/night to shine.

Friday Night - Vernon Downs Kindergarten Classic

With all the rightful attention being paid to the Breeders Crown, we tend to forget about the fact some other big races are going on this weekend.  Friday night, Vernon Downs features the two finals for The Kindergarten Classic where 2yo trotters are going to be racing for some big money.  How big?  The 2yo colts will be racing for $200,500 and the 2yo fillies will be racing for $182,500.  This series started at the Meadowlands, moved to Lexington and now wraps up at Vernon Downs after a preliminary race.

While we will be handicapping the Breeders Crown, lets take a look at the Kindergarten Classic.  Horses will be listed in post position order:

5th Trot - $200,500; The Kindergarten Classic Final - 2yo Colts
   1 - Gym Tan Laundry (Sears, 3-1) - Won last week's elim from the rail.  Deserves serious attention.
   3 - Catman Dude (Lems, 10-1) - Draws better but seems in a tough spot.  Longshot at best.
   2 -  Southwind Austin (Smith, 9-5) - Gave it up in the stretch late last week.  May do the same again.
   4 -  Kingapore (Schnittker, 8-1) - Still looking for first win but don't see it here.
   5 - A Penny Earned (Morrill, 5-1) - Freshened and just missed last week.  Will be tighter.
2A - Vic Smith (A Miller, 9-5) - Has thrived in this series; why not one more night?
1A - World Cup (Antonacci, 3-1) - 0 for 8 this year.  Weak part of entry.
1B - Blazed (Tetrick, 3-1) - Seems to have trailed off from earlier series form.
   6 - Highland Yankee (Milby, 6-1) - Trip unlikely to go his way.  Pass
Selections: 2A-5-1

7th Trot - $182,500; The Kindergarten Classif Final - 2yo Fillies
1 - All In The Muscles (A Miller, 8-1) - Seems to have overcome breaking issues; will try to follow on rail.
2 - Pretend To Be Nice (Rice, 12-1) - Inside post may improve his chances.  Still will take luck to get involved.
3 - American Saint (Plano, 9-2) - Came from off the pace to win last week's preliminary.  Live threat.
4 - Can't Have My Moni (Tetrick, 7-2) - Gets favorable draw and maycatch fair odds. 
5 - Lady Andi (Sears, 6-1) - Winner of the show award (three third place finishes).  Share at best.
6 - Alderbaran Malibu (F Milby, 10-1) - Most of the time been an also run in this series.
7 - Sterling Volo (Johnson, 15-1) - Not off last couple of starts.
8 - Bridge The Way (Paal, 8-1) - Winner of last race but draws poorly.
9 - Maven (Gingras, 5-2) - Winner of last draws the worst.  Can't see him at 5-2.
Selections: 4-3-9-8

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Illinois on The Ropes

With the original gaming bill all but dead, legislators are working on new legislation which would meet the approval of the Governor. Unfortunately, this bill does not meet the approval of the standardbred or thoroughbred industry and both are opposed to the new legislation in SB747.  Under SB747, casinos at the tracks would be replaced with impact fees, basically an extension of the impact fees which currently are in place.

There are multiple problems with impact fees.  First of all, the racing industry remembers how long they had to wait for the 3% impact fees from the casinos last time as the riverboats fought the distribution of the funds all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  Secondly, the funds would have to go through the state government to make its way to the tracks.  Remember a couple of years ago it took almost a year for the state to free up the money to pay the purses for the now defunct World Trotting Derby?  It takes horsemen almost a year to get their money for SuperNight and the State Fair the way it is.  What is to keep the state from running into a financial crisis and have them owe racing the money, if not change the legislation?  Not a darn thing.  If a track had a casino, the money would already be at the track and they would remit the funds to the state.  How can horsemen be expected to support legislation which basically will produce IOUs from the state which may get paid?

Lastly, the horsemen would only get 15% of the impact fee with racetrack operators getting 85% of the fee but it also allows the tracks to implement recapture meaning some of the money intended for increasing purses may not even be seen by horsemen.  The other protections racing got under the original legislation has been removed from this legislation.  Let's face it, if horsemen don't want this legislation if they can't get a casino speaks volumes on the bill.

At this time it appears it will not get voted upon as it appears the votes are not in the Senate to approve the bill and Governor Quinn is supposedly stepping back from the bill, allegedly because he knows the votes are not there.

My fear is there will be no gaming bill passed during this veto session and the original bill will go to the Governor to make him veto it as part of the political process.  This will leave racing of all breeds in Illinois on the ropes.  This time they may not be able to get up.

It's Like Watching Grass Grow - Racing Now and Then

I admit, I love my half mile racetrack racing, though I must confess, it is not as exciting as it once was.  How could someone like half mile racing?  Take a look at this video which shows a couple of races from Roosevelt Raceway and Yonkers Raceway.

Granted these races are back from 1984, twenty-seven years ago (some of you were probably a gleam in your parent's eyes when these races were contested), but take a look at these races. Seven horses virtually across the wire at the finish; three-wide moves in the backstretch; horses challenging from the start throughout the race, no such thing as single file racing back then.

Back then, while the seven and eight holes were tough to win from, they were not out of the question due to all the action of the race.  I recall fans screaming and shouting during the entire race as the action went on throughout the race.  It was fun to go out to the races, more than just wagering on the races.  There was a reason to go to the track.

These days, with the Indian file racing, why should people go to the races?  On the half mile track, there is almost as much excitement as watching the grass grow; on the mile track, a little better as the last quarter mile or so is as if someone released all the numbers from a Pick 10 lottery machine and you wonder how the numbers will end up.  If there is any hooting and hollering, it is left for the stretch drive only.  You may as well stay home and watch the races on the Internet as the excitement of most races will put you to sleep. 

Let's not kid ourselves, Roosevelt Raceway was four years away from from its demise and handles were dropping; perhaps not as precipitous as they are now, but at least we provided an exciting product back then; we could still compete on the excitement factor.  Now, what can we offer the wagering public?  If there is not an accident in a race, you will barely get a reaction from the few people in the stands.

Don't get me wrong, the sport has a lot of changes to make with regards to takeout and such, but if the racing remains as boring and monotonous as it does now, why should people chose harness racing over a more exciting gambling product?  We need somehow to get the racing style back to where it was thirty years or so ago or all the changes we make may be for naught.

Time Passes By and Fine Wine

Is it already fourteen years since Malabar Man won the Hambletonian with amateur driver Malvern Burroughs?  Fourteen years, it seems like it was yesterday when we talked about Malabar Man and what a phenomenon he was.  How Burroughs lucked out in winning that August day as he allowed himself to get locked in and if not for racing luck, he would have been out of the money.

Well, while it seems like it was just yesterday, Malabar Man has died at the age of 17, apparently due to some type of intestinal infection.  When they went to feed Malabar Man in the morning, he was already dead. 

Where does time fly?  This is one of the reasons why I hesitate when I hear about the next great horse.  When Malabar Man retired to stud, he was supposed to be one of the great ones and while he did have success at stud, I dare say no one would call him one of the great ones today.  But this is not a criticism of Malabar Man as much as it is with modern day marketing.  It is the responsibility of the syndicates to 'sex' up the stallion prospects and the racing media is all too willing to drink the kool aid.

The truth is, we can't tell who the next great stallion will be; it is history's job to tell us which stallion was the next great thing and quite honestly, the way all the commercial breeders are trying to produce commercially viable yearlings, I don't know if we will ever have the next great stallion; it seems each year breeders are running to the next hot stallion even if they have had success with prior stallions.    For years, you used to see Albatross, Direct Scooter, Big Towner, and others in the racing programs as sires, years after they raced.  Sure, you may see an older sire listed in the program here and there after a period of time, but these days, you are lucky to see a stallion listed as a sire wholesale in a program for three or four years before they start vanishing from the program pages as sires.

But is this surprising?  Society as a whole has the attention span of a flea.  A celebrity is hot for a year or two and they then become passe, washed up and a has-been.  Is there any surprise this attitude has reached the equine industry?  In the past stallions were revered as fine wine and only a few joined them during their reigns as the best.  Now, if they are out of public's view for a couple of years, they may as well be the actor in the old age home.  Perhaps this is why there is a resentment to Jeff Gural's plan to have stakes limited to off-spring of five year olds and older; the fear being when these stallions race as a four year old, a three year old may become the next great thing and before a horse gets a chance to go to stud, they become passe.

Maybe the answer to that concern is to eliminate the lucrative stakes races for two and three year olds and shift the money to the aged horses where it belongs.  Let's face it, how many times does last year's two year old monster come back as a three year old has been?    It is only when the horses get older do they show their ability over a period of time.  Now with the breeding industry in such flux and slot money available to support earnings, this would be the time for the adjustment away from youth to older horses to take place.  Maybe with the emphasis on older horses, stallions will once again become like fine wine instead of bathtub gin.

It seemed like it was yesterday when.....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Retired, One on the Bubble

Finally recognizing reality, Buck I St Pat has been retired from racing.  While I am glad to see what is best for her finally taking place, it is probably a couple of months past due as they continued to try to race the mare, even trying to get into this weekend's Breeders Crown final.  It will be interesting to see what this daughter of super Ohio sire Jailhouse Jesse does in the breeding shed.  Speaking of trying to get into the Breeders Crown final, while I think she never should have been entered, having read the partial transcript of the hearing, I can see why Mr. Taylor was annoyed with the ORC's Rod Seiling.  His attitude did seem a bit brusque; perhaps failing to realize that an American ownership group would not be familiar with Ontario's procedures.

Unfortunately, still on the bubble is See You At Peelers.  With her last place finish in her elimination of the Breeders Crown, it was determined that her heart problems have not yet been resolved.  Trainer Jimmy Takter is planning on giving her a couple months off before making a decision on her future.  While I understand a horse like Peelers doesn't come along that often, dragging things out for Peelers seems to be delaying the inevitable.  Hopefully, Peelers gets to enjoy motherhood rather than continuing to to suffer from her heart problems which while now may be a nuisance may become a much more serious problem down the road.  She deserves that.

Just a reminder, for those who look for bargain wagers.  Cal Expo starts a 15% takeout on their Pick 4 on Thursday evenings and in November, they join the USTA's strategic wagering program on Thursdays as well.

San Pail continues as the unanimous choice in the Hambletonian/Breeders Crown top ten poll as he has for a while now.  While it all comes down to the Breeders Crown, it seems San Pail would have to implode big time for him to not only lose his top ten ranking, but his lead for the Horse of the Year. 

While I would not deny San Pail's standing, I do find that Foiled Again is not getting the respect he deserves this year; probably because people still think of him as a half mile oval horse.  I would not have him less than fourth in the poll right now and still think he has a shot at becoming the aged pacer of the year; if not the pacer of the year. 

The Future of Racetracks?

Here at VFTRG, we have argued for a long time that tracks which feature racing alone are going to have a hard time existing in the future.  With or without a casino, racetracks are going to have to become entertainment centers to draw more people to the racetrack area.

Such is the case at Ocean Downs which just had a town hall meeting for the local community in Worcester County, MD.  Plans are underway to add a bowling alley and movie cinema to the racino property.  They won't be there for the next racing season, but they are definitely in the plans. 

Of interest to racing fans was the lack of seating at the racetrack this past season.  The track is working on plans to add outdoor seating in addition to more lights and hope to have it in place for next season.  They talked about portable stands for the past season but since the asphalt outside the building is down sloping, they felt portable stands would not be safe.  The plans is to have new seating in place by next year.

Why the need for seating?  While betting was not as high as other tracks, on-track attendance at Ocean Downs was the highest in the country, even exceeding the daily attendance at the Meadowlands and Yonkers Raceway.  Of course, this is made easier by Ocean Downs being in a tourist area and while the handle didn't show it, the track had the attendance of a boutique meet racing only during the summer months. 

By having an entertainment center by your racetrack, you get more people aware of your facility and gives them another reason to stop into your racetrack after they are done with the alternative entertainment options.  By not racing all year at one track, you draw the interest of your local population that something special is occurring and there is a need to check out the action; something which is lost when a racetrack operates all year round.  This is why I say the problem is not the number of racetracks we have; but a problem of when they are all racing.  Careful scheduling of race meets to prevent an overflow of tracks operating at the same time will allow the reduced handle to be spread over fewer tracks and also allow the local tracks the opportunity to position their race meets as boutique meets.

The question is will track operators and horsemen groups ever recognize this?  Not as long as they look at their interests as if an island and not at the big picture.  Someone needs to get their focus on the big picture instead of the little picture.  Maybe somehow there could be advertising grants available for those tracks and horsemen who look at the big picture as an incentive.  All I know is something needs to be done.  We can't go on like it is now.

Meanwhile, in Bermuda, the sport of racing ponies under harness is popular and a recent meet just concluded.  For the story and video from the racing there, feel free to click on this link.   At 21 square miles of land, it is highly unlikely you will ever see a regular standardbred meet there as the space is extremely limited, but you have to wonder for those tourists who visit the pony racing, if a tie in could be made with a track in the United States (perhaps a cash voucher for visting a  track on the mainland United States). 

Monday, October 24, 2011

News From New Zealand

North America doesn't have a monopoly on big races this time of year.  Monkey King is going for his third consecutive win in the $600,000 (NZ) New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway on November 8.  What is amazing it seems to us up here that Monkey King has been racing forever and for us it would be the case as the nine year old keeps on ticking.  Granted, he is a gelding and he may not win every race, but Down Under, horses like him make the racing exciting, sort of like the Open Handicaps at Yonkers Raceway in the 1970's when those racing in the Old Hilltop's top class was a who's who of harness racing.

There is controversy in New Zealand regarding the use of standing starts versus mobile starts (starting gate).  Some owners are claiming the use of standing starts is putting harness racing in the dark ages, while Harness Racing New Zealand feels it's up to the local tracks to decide one way or the other based on the availability of horses available.  Yet some feel it is time to get rid of the standing starts; this following a prominent owner cancelling his sponsorship of future races and threatening to start racing in Australia if the standing start is not eliminated.

Of course, could the one owner who is threatening to pull his sponsorship and head over the the land of Oz really be ticked off that his horse who broke and caused interference in a recent race has now been banned from standing start events and thus the $600,000 New Zealand Cup; a standing start race?  Mad that he is no longer eligible for the event and hates to see himself banned from racing in this lucrative event?  Just wondering.

There are horses for courses and apparently there are horses for starts.  Some excel at the standing start, some excel at the use of the mobile starting gate; if you are real fortunate you have a horse that can start both ways.  Obviously, this is something for the Kiwis to work out, but a word of caution for those who cite the fact North America doesn't use standing starts and they also want to have their elimination winners choose their position on the gate in finals.  Basically they want harness racing in New Zealand to look like North American racing.  Have you seen how harness racing is prospering in North America?  If not for slots, there may be two or three harness tracks in operation in a couple of years.  Maybe if you want your racing to look like racing elsewhere, look at it somewhere else where it is successful, like France or Sweden.  I suspect they would be better role models to aspire to.

Some in New Zealand are also complaining about the longer distance races, claiming with so much North American blood now in their breed, their horses can't race those distances anymore.  First of all, who made the decision to allow North American blood into your own breed?  Secondly, I suspect it is a case of self-fulfilled prophecy.  They haven't gotten rid of all the Kiwi-blood in their breeding yet so even if they are importing North American stallions, I assume a lot of the broodmare stock is still Kiwi so some of the perceived problem may be mind over matter.  If the trainers train them to go longer distances, I suspect some horses will go at the longer distances very well. 

All I can say is don't lose your racing diversity; your distance races, your sprint races, your standing starts as well as mobile starts.  Take it from me, after awhile, white bread gets kind of boring.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Reminder About Handicapping on This Website

First of all, I would encourage everyone to read the disclosure on the top of the blog page regarding my handicapping selections.  I thought posting them there would be sufficient but apparently I need to refer people to them periodically.

That being said, let me state the obvious:

This is not a handicapping site.  The main purpose of this site is to discuss issues facing the industry from the perspective of the racing fan.  That being said, there are times I will provide my selections (a no-win job if I say myself) due the significance of the events.  As a rule I avoid eliminations because of what I feel will be the amazing reversal of forms that occur in the finals by some horses.  However, there are times such as the Breeders Crown I will go ahead and break my own rule regarding handicapping eliminations.

However, in those cases I do provide handicapping information, you should keep the following in mind:

My goal in providing selections to those who read my blog is to give them something to think about and consider as they are doing their own handicapping; a different view as it were. If you are just betting my picks straight I would suggest not playing the horses as you need to ultimately make your own decisions. If you are just following anyone's selections blindly you have no business wagering. 
You should also remember my selections are often made two or three days ahead of time.  Hence I base my selections on the morning line.  As any good bettor knows just because you pick a horse ahead of time to win, your pick may change along with the odds.  A horse who may be a good bet at 6-1 may be a disastrous wager at 4-5.
If you expect expert "can't lose" selections, I suggest you consult one of those sites that charge for their selections.  If you are paying for selections, then you have a reasonable expectation of can't lose picks.  Here you just get an opinion, something to consider while you are doing your own handicapping.  I hope you find them worthwhile reading, but remember what they are; opinions and nothing more.

I hope this clears things up. 

The NSW Mess and What it Means Here

Big changes appear to be coming to harness racing in NSW.  Due to the scandal in New South Wales where it is alleged certain stewards were letting trainers know if their horses were being 'swabbed' the next race day, the integrity of harness racing in NSW is reeling. 

The Minister of Racing in NSW has proposed merging the thoroughbred and harness racing stewards under one code, Horse Racing NSW (the thoroughbred organization) in order to restore confidence in the sport.  While Horse Racing in NSW has approved the merger, there are concerns how it will work in actuality.

Meanwhile the investigation into the NSW swabbing scandal continues as officials go through a multitude of information.  While no formal charges have been filed, two stewards have resigned over the allegations and one owner and driver have been warned off the track.  There is a possibility that up to 500 races may have been impacted by this scandal.

Now, not being familiar with racing down under the question needs to be asked "How could this happen?"  It is bad enough when we get situations of drivers and trainers being accused of wrong doing, but when those who are charged to protect the gamblers fail through malfeasance, it is beyond comprehension that gamblers can wager on these races; hence the merger of Harness Racing NSW into Horse Racing NSW is an effort to salvage an industry from imploding.

What does that have to do with us in the United States?  While we are fortunate that we have no judges implicated in any race scandals, are the racing commissions failing us when those accused of wrong doing basically go through a revolving door?  Sure they get caught and they pay their fines and serve their suspensions,but once they do their time, back they come.  Become undesirable in one state, you move on to the next state.  The only way to solve this problem in the States is if a compact between racing states is formed where one set of rules and commission is established and the commission ends the revolving door.  Not that it becomes one strike and you are out, but if someone becomes a regular to the racing commission as a result of infractions, one commission ruling the person off does a much better job of solving the problem of wrong doing.  In addition, having one regulatory commission would allow for stewards to be rotated to different tracks; not the current situation where the same judges are always at the same track; a way to prevent the coziness which appears to have been part of the problem in NSW.

Overkill you say?  Hypothetically, what would happen to the harness racing industry if we had a scandal like the one in NSW at the Meadowlands?  You could kiss harness racing as we know it goodbye.

What is happening in NSW is a tragedy.  We should not just dismiss it as something happening in Australia, but look at it as a warning as what could happen here and take steps to prevent it.

Fair Start Rule - The Opposing View

Readers of this blog know my position on the Fair Start Rule; the lack of it is unfair and a deterrent to growing the business of harness racing.  After all, how much fun is it if your horse is closer to the paddock than the starting line when the race goes off and you get to throw your ticket away?

That being said, there is the opposing view, and one reader of Hoof Beats submitted their objection to the Fair Start Rule in the November edition of Hoof Beats.  For one thing, the person feels the Fair Start Rule is arbitrary.  In Canada, the rule states a horse needs to be 200 ft or further back at the start to be considered a scratched due to the Fair Start Rule and he is right; if the horse is 190 ft back, he is considered to have had a fair start but 201 ft he is considered not to have a fair start?  Why isn't 150 ft considered not having a fair start?

The writer further argues what if a gambler left a favorite out of the trifecta and that is the horse ruled not to have a fair start?  As he put it, he may be looking at a $1,000 payoff but now may receive only a $400 payoff due the refunding of money; is that fair?  According to this writer, the only fair way is not to have a fair start; once the gate moves a horse be considered a starter for better or worse.

The writer has some valid points, the mark of what constitutes a fair start is totally judgemental.  And while I feel a gambler would be saved by a fair start far more often than being burnt by it, the fact is payoffs are likely to be smaller as a result of a Fair Start scratch.  However, there is one point the writer can't explain away and there in my opinion lies the flaw of his argument.  Wagering is still continuing.  If we closed the betting windows before the starting gate moved, I would have no problem with there being no fair start rule; the race is underway the moment the starting gate moves. 

But we don't stop wagering when the starting gate moves, we keep accepting wagers and for those who position themselves at the right point by wagering machines, they can cancel their tickets.  Those at the track who are sitting at their seats are screwed.  If you wager at an ADW, some ADWs already close their wagering so you have no opportunity to cancel your ticket while others are still able to do so.  As a gambler,we would never condone wagering after the race got underway so how could we accept it in this situation? 

Racing needs to decide when the race begins and shut wagering accordingly.  This is one situation where you shouldn't be able to have your cake and eat it too.  If a race begins when the field reaches the starting pole, then a fair start pole is needed, as arbitrary as the distance may be.  If a race begins when the starting gate moves, then shut wagering down at that point.  You can't have it both ways.

Of course, there is another option.  We could restore the old recall rule and try to start the field again

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Buck I St Pat Dispute

As you know, Buck I St Pat has been denied entry into the Breeders Crown and the ORC has fined the connections $1,500 for filing a frivilous appeal.  Howard Taylor, attorney and member of the ownership group, has indicated they are willing spend $10,000 to fight the $1,500 fine, claiming the ORC chair was very rude.

The argument made by Buck I St Pat's ownership team is the ORC has some discretion in letting the horse race, whereas I previously had shown the rules indicated otherwise.  They argue this is not some cheap claimer; this is a two-time Breeders Crown Champion.

Well, I disagree.  Yes, Buck I St Pat may be a two-time BC champion, but in her recent form she certainly does not present herself as being a champion, but more like an unsound $20,000 claimer.  How much should past performance count for entry into a prestigious race?

Would you have let Hambletonian winner Shiaway St Pat race towards the end of his career in the BC, because he was a Hambletonian winner?  Granted, this is an extreme example as at the end he was racing in $2,500 claimers. But the point remains the same, he was a shadow of his former self as it appears to be the case with Buck I St Pat.

The qualifying rules are mean to protect the wagering public from horses that are unable to remain on stride.  If you cover the name of the horse up and look at the program lines for Buck I St Pat, does that look like a horse who can reliably be expected to remain on stride?  No.  Yes, it may be a case of protecting the wagering public from themselves, but any racing commission has a responsibility to make sure a horse being offered as a wagering proposition has a reasonable chance of remaining flat.

Buck I St Pat's owners indicated this was likely going to be her last race; an attempt to dip into the well one last time.  There is a good chance Buck I St Pat has raced her last race and is heading into retirement.  Rather than trying to race her this last time, it would have been more fitting for Buck I St Pat's connections to have retired the horse and let her lead this year's BC field in the post parade as part of a formal retirement ceremony.  That would have been a more fitting end of her career.  The last thing this great mare needed was for her career to end in a commission hearing room.

The Gambler is the Pawn... Again.

The USTA is currently in negotiations with Trackmaster and the Daily Racing Form for both to offer standardbred racing programs.  Of course, not being privy to the negotiations, I am not aware of any of the specifics of the negotiations.  However, my guess is it is basically a means to get a wider distribution of harness past performance information to the gambling public.  After all, both the DRF and Trackmaster are both owned by Equibase so Equibase companies would still be the sole distributor of the product.  The only thing is if the DRF was able to sell programs, thoroughbred fans would have one site to get both harness and thoroughbred information and for those still buying the DRF in print, the possibility of certain harness tracks being included in the traditional DRF would exist.  Of course, the format of the program information may differ between the two sources.

Just the same, this proposed deal should not be minimized.  The DRF has recently increased its harness racing coverage and if giving them the right to offer programs further increases their coverage of harness racing, it is a good deal.

Hopefully, what is being included in the negotiations is the right for racetracks to license the program information and be able to offer their programs free online as is done in Canada.  This way, if any racetrack wishes to attract more wagering, they can put their programs online in an effort to stimulate interest in their racing product. 

We will learn more about this once negotiations come to a conclusion.

Meanwhile, while binding arbitration is underway in Maryland over the thoroughbred simulcast dispute which at present keeps Rosecroft from showing thoroughbred races, Rosecroft has felt the need to strike back.  Rosecroft Raceway has informed MRC that they have withdrawn permission for the MJC to take wagers on out of state standardbred signals.  As a result, the Maryland Jockey Club is unable to take wagers through their ADWs and OTB system.  I understand the rationale for that.  If there are gamblers who want to wager on standardbred racing, let them head over to Rosecroft instead of wagering at a MJC facility; let's call it a tit for a tat, after all fair is far.  My answer is with binding arbitration underway, why now take this step?  Yes, the MJC may profit by taking wagers on standardbred races, but why tick standardbred customers off?  For example, TVG has informed MD residents that at present, they can not wager on standardbred races.  I know this is a game being played in the board room, but once again the gambler is the pawn.

Saturday Breeders Crown Analysis

The Breeders Crown Eliminations continue on Saturday evening at Woodbine Racetrack and as we discussed yesterday, I am going to provide my analysis for the eliminations being held.  As we know by now+, the appeal by Buck I St Pat's connections was denied and considered frivolous as the connections are being assessed a fine for the expense involved with the hearing.  Since Buck I St Pat did not get in, all eleven horses automatically advance to the Breeders Crown Final for Open Mares.

Without further ado, here is my analysis of the remaining eliminations:

1st Trot - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Fillies - At the start of this year, you would have thought Crys Dream had this race locked up.  Ever since the drug positive came up in Ontario, Crys Dream has become mortal.  Yes, I know class tends to come alive in these races, but I will pass on her here.  #1 Bold and Fresh lost to Cedar Grove in the KY Filly Oaks, but she returned to race once more at Lexington to win in that stakes, where as Cedar Grove broke stride.  I have to think Bold and Fresh has the advantage.  #4 Cedar Dove won the Futurity Oaks but bombed in her last start; being it was her first break, we will give her the benefit of the doubt and line up an easy exacta.  #6 Lady Andover has been on a tear, winning the Buckette at Lexington.  She did finish third at Lexington, but she may step up here.  #8 Jezzy has been a monster of the NYSS but has failed against open company; the 1:58.3 at Stga may not look big but when that track gets wet it slows down big time; maybe worth a chance to spike up the trifecta.
2nd Trot - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo C&G - #3 Chapter Seven is my longshot play in this race.  He was lackluster in the Canadian Trotting Derby but he romped in his Red Mile Start.  At 8-1, how do you go past him?  #6 Dejarmbro has been the second best horse in this division after Manofmanymissions; with Manofmanymissions not in here, it seems to be a pretty easy effort for Dejarmbro.  #7 Daylon Magician has been quietly racking up the victories this year winning 11 out of 14; at even money offers little value.

3rd Trot - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo C&G - #1 Broad Bahn is the class of this race and figures to win.  #8 Big Rigs was the winner of a stakes races at The Red Mile and raced well in KY Futurity; expect a better effort.  #2 Manofmanymissions has been the hot horse of late.  KY Futurity winner is his own worse enemy.  If he stays flat he is gold, if he jumps, it's over.  #4 Can Anyone Explain may be primed for a big effort and needs to be included in exotics. 

4th Trot - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Fillies -  Another longshot play.  #7 E L Glamour is a lightly raced trotter out of the Rekila stable.  Winner of 3 of 5 gets Moiseyev who has had a resurgent year of sorts in the sulky.  #2 Iron Lady won last race and is logical favorite in this race.  #1 Hey Mister has been racing well and worth consideration in your triples.

6th Pace - $40,652; Breeders Crown Eliminations - Open Mares - #1 Western Silk has been unstoppable at YR.  Rreturns to Mohawk where she shows a win.  May find the shorter distance favorable.  #8 Dreamfair Eternal  has been somewhat disappointing but has class going her way.  #2 Chancey Lady just missed in the Allerage.  #3 On The Glass won the Allerage and at 12-1 is an attractive play.

7th Pace - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination -3yo Fillies - #1 Idyllic has been sinking me this year; will stick with till the end.  #3 Drop The Ball seems to have rounded into form.  #7 Swinging Beauty has been coming home in :26 and change final quarters; just needs to be close to be there at the end.

9th Pace - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Fillies - To the surprise of many, See You At Peelers was entered and is listed at 5-2.  Takter indicates she is not at 100% and her goal is to advance to qualify for the final.  #1 Krispy Apple has been chasing SYAP a good part of the season.  If she is going to beat the champion, it is this week.  #2 See You At Peelers may not be 100%, but there is not much else to beat here; may be strong enough to grab second.  #3 Tea Party Princess shows good lines on the NYSS including a second place finish to SYAP.  If looking for a price, move Tea Party Princess up one position.

10th Pace - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo C&G - Wide open race.  #8 Roll With Joe has the best credentials but is saddled with the worst posts.  #7 Alscae Hanover appears to be second best.  #5 Powerful Mist smoked them in a qualifier at Harrington Raceway.  Has shown competitive lines against the top ones.  Could be an upset play.

11th Pace - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo C&G - #3 Hugadragon pulls off two 1:50 miles at Lexington.  While not the best horse; has never been better.  #5 Betterthancheddar #7 Big Bad John is the horse to beat but gets a bad post.  May win it all, but will take my chances.

Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation - The Races and the Charity

In honor of The Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation Amateur Series kick-off, I am going to be daring and attempt to select the winners of the four divisions of the race. Not only are Cal-Expo races somewhat challenging, you are dealing with Amateur drivers, many who have few starts at the track. Most of the drivers have not driven these horses in the past so it makes for a challenging situation.

Just in case you are wondering what The Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation is, you may check out their website. The Foundation was established at the University of California at Davis by the Sordi family and the foundation is part of Department of Neurological Surgery. Since the foundation is part of the University of California, all donations are used for research; none of the funds are used for administrative fees. You may donate to the program by visiting their donation page for information.

One thing I have learned is you don't try to select favorites as there are so many variables, especially with drivers. Some amateur drivers are good, but with the exception of Trackmaster President David Siegel, many of these drivers have fewer than ten starts this year. So as much as you want to consider the driver, the best thing to do is select the horse and hope the driver doesn't make any mistakes.

Anyway, whether it is courageous or stupidity, here are my selections for these four races.

Saturday, Cal-Expo - A (P) after a driver's name indicates a provisional driver.

8th Pace - $3,000; The Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation Amateur Series - $3,000 claiming C&G
3 - My Real Love (Obert (P), 8-1)
1 - Rude Awakening (Siegel, 2-1)
2 - Hanover D G N (Boyce, 5-2)
5 - Devlish Donnie (Rios (P), 9-2)

10h Pace - $3,000; The Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation Amateur Series - $3,000 claiming F&M
3 - Taxi Dancer (Fraser (P), 5-2)
2 - Ogs Si Bon (Siegel, 7-2)
8 - Just Plum Lucky (Rios (P), 6-1)
1 - Pip's Jenny G (Boyce, 9-2)

12th Pace - $3,000; The Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation Amateur Series - $3,000 claiming F&M
5 - Cherry Tree Blue (Dunneback, 6-1)
7 - Incredible Gambler (Fraser (P), 3-1)
2 - Tutiming Gal (Siegel, 2-1)
4 - Barona Hickory (Stephen (P), 7-2)

13th Pace - $3,000; The Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation Amateur Series - $3,000 claiming C&G
8 - Quick On My Feet (Isbell (P), 6-1)
5 - Serious Art (Siegel, 5-2)
2 - Wrangler Reward (Fraser (P), 9-2)
6 - Komoda's Fantasy (Boyce, 8-5)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Highway Robbery at Freehold Raceway

Bettors were, for lack of a better word, screwed last Friday according to an article by Derick Giwner.  Was the fix in?  Did drivers shaft the gamblers?  Did the track hose the gamblers?  No, the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC) did the honors.

Last Friday, the Pick 4 had a large play at Freehold and after the first leg of  the Pick 4, the heavens opened up.  Opened up is probably not a fair word to use as the rain was so heavy that the second leg in the Pick 4 was delayed by one hour.  Okay, an act of nature; you can't help that as things happen.

What happened next is totally inexcusable.  Manzi begged off the rest of his drives as he had to go to Yonkers Raceway to get there for the first race and a couple other drivers begged off as well; apparently they had an aversion to a wet track.  As a result, there was a need to replace the drivers.

In any other state, the basic rule is if there is a late driver change, the replacement driver has to be of similar ability.  For example, if  Dave Miller had to come off his mount, you would try to replace him perhaps with a Brian Sears or John Campbell.  It makes sense and probably would happen that way at the Meadowlands.  If nothing else, management would insist on it.

But this was Freehold Raceway and apparently the judges were more interested in getting the card done as quick as possible so they were more liberal with the driver changes they allowed.  The article lists the specific driver changes but being the replacement drivers were innocent pawns, we'll skip naming names.  The judges basically allowed anyone with a license to be used as a driver.  Manzi was replaced by a provisional driver with 55 career wins and the other driver change in a later leg of the Pick 4 was another provisional driver with one drive this year up to then.

What the #$@%?

Now these provisional drivers may one day become accomplished reinsmen in their own right, but they are not there now.  How the heck do you replace one of the leading drivers at a track with someone who has one start this year?  More importantly, what the heck were the judges thinking?  Now we know Freehold Raceway is no longer the track it once was so the number of quality drivers has decreased, but you can't tell me a more qualified driver couldn't be found?  Yes, there were only ten races on the card so some of the drivers had left for the day but still racing in the later races were Eric Abbatiello and Jacqueline Ingrassia who could have driven in the eighth race.   Harry Landy and Steve Smith could have driven in the ninth race.  If not equal to the drivers who begged off their mounts, at least they are experienced reinsmen.

Look, gamblers betting multi-leg races already have a disadvantage in their horse could be scratched and they can get stuck with the post time favorite instead of their second choice.  There are times they get a different driver than they figured (such as in an accident), but they should at least be able to get a driver close to the ability of the driver they had.

Years ago, I was at the Meadowlands during the thoroughbred meet and there was a jockey change in the last race and I had no idea who the jockey was.  I was told he was the house jockey; a jockey the track pays to be around in the event a late jockey change was needed.  I am not suggesting tracks need to have house drivers, but there should be a system in place where certain drivers of different abilities are paid to hang around in the event they are needed in late races.  It doesn't have to be the same drivers everyday but there can be a schedule established.

In the meanwhile, the NJRC owes the bettors they shafted a hearing where the Freehold judges are made to explain why the driver changes they approved were made.  They also need to find out why those drivers with no racing obligations elsewhere were allowed to leave and what kind of penalty was assessed against them for not honoring their commitments. 

We have enough gamblers leaving the sport already, we don't need the regulators help push them out of the door.   

Monmouth Park Lease Dispute Resolved - According to local press reports, the lease dispute between the NJSEA and Morris Bailey has been resolved.  The dispute now comes back to the Meadowlands with the teller's union.

Friday Breeders Crown Elimination Analysis

My opinions on eliminations is well known but being these are Breeders Crown eliminations, I will be analyzing these races occurring at Woodbine Racetrack Friday and Saturday evening. First up are Friday's races.

Woodbine, Friday September 21
1st Trot - $24,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2YO C&G - #4 Possess The Will is a winner of two stakes at Lexington and seems to be the horse to beat.  #6 Magic Tonight is another two time winner at Lexington but seems to be a step below these.  #5 Power Play looked like he was going to have his first victory until he jumped off in the stretch in last; may be developing.  #7 From Above won two at Lexington and is a winner of 4 out of 5; must deal with bad post for the first time.

2nd Trot - $24,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo C&G #4 Big Chocolate appears to be he best in this field.  #3  Uncle Peter won a minor late closing series at Lexington and is either good or very bad; hopefully good this week, #7 Appomattox still looking for first win here; will be looking to advance to next week.  #1 Archangel has been racing well against NY state breds; tries open company.   

3rd Trot - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo Fillies - #4 Check Me Out is the obvious choice but will be 4-5 or lower.  #3 Miss Paris has been successful in OSS and tries open company.  #5 Lima Playmate has been big in NYSS and is 9 for 12 in her career.  #9 Aunt Mel draws poorly but will try to advance.

4th Pace - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo Fillies -  # 4 A Rocknroll Dance is winner of last three once again short odds at 9-5.  #5 D Terminator seems to have improved in Lexington and worth a look.  #8 Speed Again winner of five was freshened.

6th Pace - $25,407; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo C&G - #1 Sweet Lout has the rail and is a winner of 8 out of 10; pick here.  #4 Ezpass Hanover cooled off a little at Lexington but still should show make a good appearance here.  #7 Shakerattlenrock has eight wins but draws poorly.  #3 Escape The News won last race at Lexington and takes third lifetime win.

There is other racing action on Friday evening.  Rosecroft Raceway opens up their 2011 meet with the last race each night having a guaranteed $2,500 Superfecta pools on the last race.  At Vernon Downs, the 2yo Kindergarten Classic kicks off.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Return of Walter Case Jr Approaching?

Harnesslink did a profile today on Luanne Kroniger Case, wife of Walter Case Jr.  I thought it was a very flattering article about Ms. Case and it gives us a glimpse as to what Walter Case has been doing of late; training horses off the track.  According to the article, Walter's parole is over on October 27 and based on the article, it would appear someone will be ready to license Walter after his probation is completed. 

From what I know of Walter's wife, is she is very supportive of her husband and wants what is best for him.  Some people will hold Case's criminal conviction against him, but it seems his family for the most part has been able to get past it, so there is no reason the racing community shouldn't. 

This is not to say Case should be allowed to start out at the major tracks.  But it seems Case has finally achieved the maturity he lacked in his earlier days and has finally conquered his demons.  The one hurdle Walter will have to deal with is the new emphasis on Animal Rights.  Forget about what he did before that was not approved of by the judges; it is the tightning up of the rules regarding kicking and whipping which may be a challenge.  However, I am confident with Luanne in Walter's corner, he will do fine. 

The question is who will be the first racing commission to let him in?  Not to allow Walter back  would be an injustice and goes against America's willingness to give a person the opportunity to prove their redemption.  Walter deserves a chance to prove himself.  Now is the time to let him.

Racing Under Saddle - Get In On The Ground Floor

After the exhibition at Yonkers Raceway, it appears there is much support to establish a racing under saddle circuit as a legitimate racing experience in the United States.  Helene Gregory, wife of driver Jeff Gregory is working with the USTA  to establish a list of individuals who want to participate in racing under saddle events.

If you are a driver/rider (female or male) who wish to participate in racing under saddle events; a trainer or owner who is willing to participate and offer horses to these events; or an individual/corporation who is willing be a sponsor, Helene wants to here from you.  The intention is to get a good number of riders and competitive horses to start a circuit of racing under saddle events and if all goes to plan, possibly get these races on the pari-mutuel card.  For those who wish to ride, there will be a separate test required for licensing as a jockey.

If you are interested in participating in racing under saddle, you may contact Helene Gregory and provide her with your name, email address and phone number so a mailing list can be established.  You may contact Helene directly, or if you prefer, you may leave your information here, and I will forward your information to Helene directly.

New Feature Added to View From the Racetrack Grandstand

I am pleased to announce a new website, Standardbred Press which is connected to this blog.  Standardbred Press will be the source for press releases submitted to me from racetracks which you may not be able to see elsewhere; often intended for the local press which may or may not get into the papers and the Internet.

This site is not meant to compete with the USTA or Standardbred Canada websites as many of these press release will never make it to the their websites.

Why the new blog site?  Press releases are printed 'as is'; by isolating them, I remove the conflict of interest which suggests that I endorse the activities.  It allows me to remain independent; I can publish the press release and yet comment on what is going on without any conflict.

Racetracks and other standardbred organizations are welcome to submit press releases for inclusion to Standardbred Press.  For small racetracks, it may be the only way they get notice on a national level.

Feel free to pass along any comments you have about this new website.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Maryland Ailing - The Running Story; The Maine Shell Game

Maryland racing is in trouble.  You probably are thinking about the standardbred industry, but this time we are talking about the runners.  There is a big difference between track operators and horsemen when it comes to racing dates for the 2012 season.  Thoroughbred horsemen want to race the same 146 day schedule next year as they did this year.  Unfortunately, Frank Stonarch wants to race a total of 40 days at Pimlico surrounding the Preakness and is generously offering to let the horsemen lease and operate Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center and let them race the additional days if they want.  Well, I can't speak personally about thoroughbred horsemen running race meets, but based on standardbred horsemen running meets, I would be heading to the hills if I was the thoroughbred horsemen.  As a rule, horsemen running race meets is a sure way to head to the bankruptcy court.

If the Maryland Jockey Club does not run a 146 day meet next year, the deal which would allow them to redirect slot revenue towards operating costs goes out the window.  This means, expect to see our thoroughbred brethren wondering if the Triple Crown becomes the Double Hat next year as the Preakness once again is in doubt.

There is some good news for the Thoroughbred horsemen.  Delaware Park has expressed interest in creating a circuit with the Maryland horsemen.  Anytime you can get horsemen of different states coordinating race dates, it is a good thing.  This is something standardbred horsemen don't seem to get.

On the standardbred side, live racing returns to Rosecroft Raceway this weekend with the opening card being contested Friday evening.  I understand the racing quality will not be there this year but if you live in the area, come on out and show your support and if you use an ADW which will be handling Rosecroft this season, wagering a few dollars on their races would be more than appreciated. 

We would be remiss if we didn't talk about Maine harness racing.  This election day, a referendum legalizing two new racinos in the state is on the state-wide ballot.  If approved, Scarborough Downs would close and move to Bifford, ME where local residents have already approved the idea of a racino.  It sounds like a winning strategy doesn't it?  For horsemen perhaps, but for the sport itself, racinos apparently do nothing.  Since 2003, (the first racino opened in Maine at Bangor Raceway in 2008), live wagering on harness racing has decreased 43% in the Pine State and off-track wagering has dropped by 50%.  Let's not kid ourselves, adding slots to the wagering menu at many states only puts money in the pockets of the existing horsemen as very little is done to introduce horse racing to new bettors.  As I have said many times, racinos is welfare for racing.  If racing would use the welfare to get their act together and strengthen their business it would be one thing, but basically, they are using slots as a way to fund a failing business.  Were I to write legislation legalizing slot machines or casinos at tracks, I would tie in the revenue from the alternate gaming to performance levels on the races.  Meet your levels and get your full allocation; fall short on your goals, and the amount of money you receive from slots gets reduced.  Then maybe a serious effort would be undertaken to grow the business.   

This year, all the press stories indicated that the Lexington Sales showed an increase this year (well, except for NJ-sired horses).  Well, that is true on the surface.  We now find out three of the most powerful consignors had horses in the sale this year but not last year.  As a result of Hanover Shoe Farms, Blue Chip Farms, and Walnut Hall Ltd consigning to this year's sale and not the 2010 sale, what appeared to be a successful sale may not have been as successful as people think as the results may have been skewed.  Some people are saying if those consignors skipped this year's Lexington sale as they did in 2010, the actual sales figures likely would have shown a decrease. 

Breeders Crown eliminations have been drawn.  Excuse me if I don't get overly excited about them.  Other than seeing how See You At Peelers does, I will wait until next week to get excited.  That being said, I know some of you are really interested in the eliminations and I will attempt to give you my selections for the eliminations later this week.