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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Does Lou Walk? I Say Yes

Let the following be disclosed up front:  I hate cheating as much as anyone and believe in the rule of law.  I have never been a participant in a hearing in front of a racing commission panel.  My total legal training was one semester of Professor Simon's Business Law 101 and if my foggy memory is correct the grade was somewhere between a B and a C.  So while I am far from a legal expert, has that ever stopped a blogger from voicing their opinion?

After reading a column in the DRF, I do think the NYSRWB overstepped its authority and may have nailed Lou Pena just because of the outcry in racing circles called for action for which the NYSRWB got caught up in the frenzy as did the NJRC.  In other words, a witch hunt.

Once again, for argument sake let's assume Lou Pena indeed violated the withdrawal rules 1,719 times.  After all, according to the article, New York State is the only state that codifies withdrawal rules.  All other states make recommendations for withdrawal as a service to trainers so they avoid a positive test.  This is why the NJRC has not acted against Pena on its own.  Nor did it act against the veterinarian involved.  They simply did not violate the rules in New Jersey.

Now, it is no secret that Pena has been suspected of cheating with illegal substances due to his eye-popping success rate.  Seeing his success coming in from California, one can't help but wonder if something was not Kosher, but wondering if something is not Kosher does not make it so; you need evidence.  For this reason, with the way racing rules are set up, you can't suspend or revoke a license of someone on suspicion, you need proof.  Racetracks can certainly use their exclusionary rules if they wish, but the racing commissions must base their decisions on evidence.

Well the NYSRWB has their evidence; veterinary evidence from New Jersey.  The question is if this evidence is admissible.  Let's go over a couple of facts and questions.

Fact #1 - If asked if Lou Pena was innocent, the NJRC would probably have said before the NY action 'He is licensed to race in the State of New Jersey and is not currently under suspension."  They may think things smell bad but legally,  he was as clean as any other participant in the state; he's in good standing.  By the way, this is why the NJSEA could never exclude him; as long as someone had a valid license, as a state agency they had to let the person participate.

Fact #2 - Lou Pena had no positives in the State of New York.  Prior to the NYSRWB looking at the vet records from New Jersey, if asked if Lou Pena was innocent, they would have said "He is licensed to race in the State of New York and is not currently under suspension".

Question #1 - If the NJRC found no violation of their racing rules, do they have the right to offer the vet records to the NYSRWB?

Question #2 - If Pena didn't test positive, does the NYSRWB have the right to ask for the records of Pena's vet if no rule was violated as per the blood tests? 

Speculation #1: There is no way the NYSRWB is going to back down completely as they will look foolish.  If a deal can't be reached with Pena, the NYSRWB is going to revoke his license and fine him some outlandish amount.

So while the NYSRWB will revoke Lou Pena's license  if a deal isn't made, when this case goes to the courts in New York, these questions are going to be answered at least by one judge.  When all is said and done, I won't be surprised if Pena ends up victorious.  I believe the witch hunt as Mr. Faraldo himself has referred to it (and this is coming from the head of a horsemen group where a significant number of members would love to see Pena gone) may have caused the two racing commissions to overreach and thus the courts will overturn the NYSRWB's ruling.

This is not a case of is he or isn't he.  In America, you get convicted on hard evidence, you also have certain protections from an overreaching government entity.  Unless it is to prevent immediate bodily harm, you don't go looking into records on a fishing expedition unless someone comes to you with evidence of a potential crime or a crime has been committed.  Someone may 'know' something is wrong, but without some type of proof, it's nothing.   If as I suspect the vet records from NJ are going to be tossed by the judge, where is the legal evidence to sanction Pena?

Of course, Lou Pena walking may be a hollow victory.  While he may avoid an actual suspension from the NYSRWB and there may be no fine, I suspect he is going to be excluded from virtually all tracks in North America.  An acquaintance of mine said he wouldn't be surprised if there is going to be a lawsuit coming against the NYSRWB when all is said and done.  I initially chuckled when he said it, now I am not so sure....
Racing is not going to look good, no matter how it plays out.  Regardless of how this case plays out, we know racing's drug testing is a sham, where states don't test for all medications due to budget concerns.  This high profile case may also bring us closer to Federal Regulation.  How will that be for irony.

Should the NYSRWB case collapse by judicial review, many people are going to be angry.  Yes, a judge may decide the evidence was improperly obtained and thus invalid, eliminating the whole crux of the NYSRWB case, but remember those constitutional protections which may reverse the NYSRWB's ruling is the same thing that protects you from an overzealous government deciding it doesn't care for you.

Which brings us to...

Speculation #2 - This blog entry will make me look like a genius or a fool, which is why I had the disclosure right up front.

Speculation #3 - Being this case may take as long as five years to come to a conclusion, there is a reasonable chance neither you or I will remember this posting.

New York Times Article: The New York Times weights in on the Pena story.

The Push to Attract More Horses to the Meadowlands

Apparently some ideas submitted to last week were worthy ones as the Meadowlands announces some new changes starting with next week's draw.  Starting June 8, the purses for non-winners or one or two races lifetime will be increased 25%, meaning NW1 will be racing for $10,625 instead of the current $8,500 (for non-NJOS races) and NW2 will be competing for $11,875 instead of $9,500 for the non-restricted class, clearly this makes racing the NW1 horses more attractive at the Meadowlands instead of at Harrah's Philadelphia due to the higher purse and with regards to the NW2 horse, Harrah's doesn't have the class, instead the next step up at the Pennsylvania track is NW3 which goes for a $125 more.  So for a $125 less, you can race against cheaper company and then go back to PA for the NW3 is you want to.

Something else which may attract trainers is the fact everyone who races earns 2% of the purse if they finish between sixth and tenth places, this additional 10% will be paid over and above the regular purse.  This may just be the thing needed to get a horse to race at the Meadowlands if the trainer is not certain where to start them.

Lastly, two new late closing series for 4yo and 5yo horses have been added to the schedule.  A pacing series for horses who have earned $50,000 but not more than $150,000 lifetime and a trotting series for horses who have earned at least $50,000 but not more than $150,000 ($200,000 for mares) lifetime.  This ensures for at least three weeks, Fridays and Saturdays will have solid races to card.  While the preliminaries are going for $20,000 each and the final for $60,000, I must confess, I am not sure how many horses are going to want to drop the $1,000 to get into these series.

I suspect the biggest bump will come within the NW1 and NW2 classes, making the Meadowlands a proving ground for the green horses.  Obviously the 2% bonus for finishing out of the money can't hurt.  Time will tell how these late closing series will be received.  Is this the ideal racing the Meadowlands wants?  No, but at least they should be able to put on full competitive races.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ontario Racing About to Get It Again?

In today's The Globe and Mail, Premier McGuinty is seeking to limit debate on the new provincial budget to a whole thirteen hours, obviously an attempt to stiffle debate on the budget bill.   The reason given is to limit debate on the tax increases in the legislation which permitted the New Democrat Party (NDP) to abstain in the initial vote, allowing the government to survive.  Whether or not this attempt to ram through the budget is enough to get the NDP to vote against the budget remains to be seen.

For racing interests, this could be a troublesome if the budget is voted upon 'as is' if it passes as it limits debate to a total of thirteen hours which means the opposition will have to decide which issues are the most important to them to discuss.  Will the transitional aid the government has talked about be discussed?

You know, the transitional aid which no one knows anything about.  Will it be purse supplements, will it be additional support to transition workers in the racing industry into new jobs?  If you are disrupting the lives of as many people ending the OLG Slots at Racetracks program, the details of this aid should be known before the budget is voted upon.  After all, this is a government, who has shown its contempt for the industry.  They should be forced at least to explain their plans for transitioning the industry and/or employees.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another Big Race on the Elitloppet Card

Commander Crowe won the Elitloppet yesterday at Solvalla defeating Arch Madness who finished second.  Instead of repeating what has already been done, Standardbred Canada has a story about it along with replays.   

Instead, let's look at another race contested at Solvalla yesterday, the $41,855 Montéeliten (1,609 metres) which was won for the third year in a row by Juliano Star who was ridden by Eric Raffin in 1'10"9 (km rate) on the trot.

As you can see, these monté races can be exciting.  I am convinced once properly exposed, the North American gambler would be willing to bet on these races.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Lynch Mob is Happy

Let me state right now, I have had doubts about Lou Pena's success since he came to the East coast.  No one is that good.  When the Meadowlands was promoting Mr. Pena, on the message boards people were warning about him and couldn't understand that the Meadowlands was highlighting him.  Of course, my suspicions were based on gut feeling and my experience in racing when I owned a horse years ago and my knowledge as a fan, after all you follow the game for almost 40 years and you can't help but learn something.  So while my heart and brain told me one thing, I have tried to stay as neutral as possible in covering Pena's rise and success on the East Coast because of the lack of evidence.

We know the NJRC was watching Pena like a fox last year, including a stable search at Gaitway Farms and taking blood samples of all his horses; nothing came up.  Apparently other people were troubled with Pena's success as he was excluded from Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs, and this year, the Meadowlands.  He was excluded temporarily from Yonkers Raceway before being allowed to return.  That's fine, the tracks are private property and the owner has the right to exclude individuals they fear may ruin their racing band.

All seemed quiet until late last week came the news that the NYSRWB, with the assistance of the NJRC went over the veterinary records of Pena which appear to show violations of the withdrawal schedule for legal medications (Disclosure, I am not an expert on medications so I can't speak about the legitimacy of all the medications).  This despite virtually no positives on blood testing.

For argument sake, let's assume the veterinarian records are accurate and Mr. Pena authorized the administration of the substances.  It would appear the NYSRWB and harness racing has gotten their man and are planning to boot him out.  Many in the industry will applaud Pena's departure from the scene and likely, will offer him up as proof that racing is serious about catching drug cheats.

If Pena is tossed from racing as a result of these charges, so be it.  People should be playing within the rules and even if the medications didn't impact the outcome of a race, it doesn't excuse such behavior.  My problem is with the way it is being done.

What we really have here is the lynching of Pena and the inadequacy of blood testing exposed.  Yes, it may be proven in the hearing that Pena is indeed guilty of having medications injected into some of his horses after the New York approved withdrawal times; an apparent violation of the rules of racing.  But how did we get here?    

For brevity sake, we know the NJRC couldn't get Pena when checking his stable and drawing blood on all of his horses.  We know horsemen where Pena competed were complaining about him to the point the racing office at Yonkers modified some classes to make it harder for Pena to keep entering the same horses without making them step up in claiming price.  Horsemen resented his success as it took money out of their pockets and cost them horses.  Basically those who couldn't compete with Pena wanted him out, somehow.

It is clear the testing of race horses is totally inadequate.  How does a person who has supposedly 1,719 violations (let's call them technical violations) involving 635 races not get detected in drug testing?  Either the testing methodology is not sufficient or states are not testing for all medications due to the monetary issues.

Yes, a precedent was set in New York to act upon veterinarian records when Carmine Fusco was banned for five years when records indicated Fusco had his horse treated with prohibited substances five times, but the records were reviewed based on a positive.  But to look at the vet records without a reason, just looking around?  It sounds like racing interests wanted to find a way to kick Pena out of racing,somehow.  To me this is very similar to the way the Feds who couldn't prove anything major against Al Capone went through his tax returns and got him for tax evasion.

So it appears Pena may get nailed on technical violations of the rules and racing will have gotten their man.  The lynch mob will be satisfied and racing will go back to normal, with the same inadequate drug testing.

What troubles me the most is the hypocrites in the lynch mob, the people who would be in trouble if the racing commissions looked at their veterinary records.  Yes, there are honest trainers, but the fact remains a number of trainers (and owners) verbally going after Pena are primarily upset Pena may have been cheating better than they have; not that cheating is occurring. 

So what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  I suggest the racing commissions start looking at the vet records whenver a horse has an eye opening performance or a trainer's record is too good to be true.  Some people claim lasix is a performance enhancer, but you won't see the standardbred horsemen call for that medicine to be restricted.  Let's see racing commissions jack up their fines and suspensions to the level the NYSRWB is threatening Mr. Pena with  I bet you the hypocrites will be the first ones complaining about the rule changes and toughened penalties. 

What do you think?  Am I wrong or do you agree?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A New Attitude at the Meadowlands

Finally, I made it to the Meadowlands for live racing last night to finally see for myself what changes are being made at the North Jersey racetrack.  If I had to sum up my impressions in three words, it would be "A New Attitude', but it would be doing a great disservice in describing what is going on.

You notice a change from the moment you walk into the track.  Admission now includes a program (which explains the $2 fee).  As you enter the grandstand, programs are distributed by department heads at the track who greet you upon arrival so you start off right away realizing this is not the same old Meadowlands.  You will also see during the night, management making their rounds through out the facility.

Let me state here, while definite changes have been made, they are somewhat hampered by the old building.  Considering the size of today's crowds, the grandstand appears cavernous and there is nothing you can really do about it.  Nothing can be really done until the new grandstand is ready.   That being said, you can tell things have definitely changed.

On the standee level, you see the new concessions in place.  They are very clean with condiments and plasticware displayed neat and orderly.  The food quality is good with prices seemingly reasonable; some items are lower priced than they were before (with friendlier service).  Cleanliness seems to be a high priority as the floors were not only clean, but waxed and the restrooms, something which has deteriorated over the years, are now well maintained with them being checked every fifteen minutes.

In the New York Times, an article about the medication of horses on race day is a timely story.  In the article, the author who is a veterinarian speaks on how lasix is a performance enhancer. 
With regards to wagering, there seemed to be fewer live tellers available but there is no problem with placing bets as banks of self service tellers having been added on both sides of the floor.  The self service machines are also being used as a marketing tool as machines not actively being used display various screens showing upcoming promotional events which was never done when the NJSEA was in charge.  In addition, to encourage the use of self service machines, there are random vouchers handed out for hot dogs, soda, and coffee for those who bet exactas on the machines.  Membership in the Big M club is encouraged by having a swipe and win contest where you can win betting vouchers just for swiping your Big M card.

As been my experience in the past, the grandstand level was pretty empty (a little bit more due to the Memorial Day Holiday), but there was a definite mood change from previous years.  In the past when you made it to the grandstand level you felt like you were in a mausoleum; not this year.   There was definitely an upbeat feeling abounding, as if people knew last year the track hit rock bottom and people knew things were on their way backup.  This is when I noticed the roving ticket sellers who walk around the facility (grandstand level, standee level, and out on the apron).  Rather than just standing or walking around, the mobile ticket seller went to individuals to explain their service and what they offered as well as letting you know they were available for you to use.  Wanting to see if the sound system was better up in the grandstand (always a problem), I noticed there was not the familiar sound of silence between races, as music was being played.  The music wouldn't distract someone from handicapping, but it helped make the night more entertaining.

Another thing learned while walking through the facility is the new operators discovered something long abandoned by the NJSEA, it's called paint.  Painting has occurred throughout the facility to spruce things up.  Remember, everything is perception and if you have a run down facility what kind of image do you think it is going to present?

Over in Paddock Park, there was some entertainment at Kahuna Wedge; activities during the night. including a visit by Eric Abbatiello to sign photos of himself and to assist in constructing a Pick 4 ticket.  Over by the track itself there were some activities, including a t-shirt toss and a contest where you buy a rubber horse (for charity) and attempt to throw it in the car for a chance to win a $100 betting voucher and any entry a drawing for a new car at the end of the meet.  Basically, they try to engage the whole family when you come to the track.

The key is going to be getting people out to the track to see the changes.  Many people, having been turned off by the old facility and a decade of neglect may not be coming out to the track so quickly.  People who show up only for the Hambletonian will no doubt be pleased with the changes, but unfortunately, that isn't until the end of the meet approaches.   If people can be induced to  come to the track, they will be impressed and hopefully become repeat customers.  It may not be until the new grandstand opens and the curious decide to check things out that attendance will improve greatly.

All I can say is for those who live close enough to the Meadowlands, you should make a visit should come out to the track.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pena Speaks; Gural Speaks to Horsemen Again

In a matter of fairness, I am providing a link to where Lou Pena proclaims his innocence, claiming he is a victim of a witch hunt.  I will let the interview talk for itself.

Gural Speaks to the Horsemen Again:  Click here to see Jeff Gural's latest letter regarding racing at the Meadowlands.  Interesting that he mentions some complaints from gamblers.

Pop Quiz Time

With the racing world abuzz over the allegations against Lou Pena, where does harness racing go from here?  Let me offer the following quiz.

1.  You are taking friends who never have been to the track with you tonight.  Your friend brings up the local newspaper's article about the indefinite suspension of Lou Pena.  Do you...

   a)  Tell your friend that while the paper said 1719 violations of the rule, it really is only 675 races?
   b)  Proudly tell your friend that in 2010, only 16 positives for medication violations were found in NJ?
   c)  Shout for joy that harness racing finally got covered in the newspaper.
   d)  Look at your friend and just shrug your shoulders.  After all, what can you say?
   e)  Actually hope your friends cancel on you?

2.  How big a scandal do you think the allegations against Pena are?

   a)  Bigger than the alleged race fixing scandal was in Michigan/
   b)  Not that big a deal, like other incidents it will blow over in a couple of weeks.
   c)  See, there is an advantage to only a few people caring about caring about harness racing.

3.  There are a few trainers you suspect of not playing on a level playing field.  What do you think they are doing now?

   a)  Having an epiphany and will now train on the straight and narrow.
   b)  They are doing nothing different.
   c)  To paraphrase a current commercial, they are 'wondering what their vet has in their records'.
   d)  Finding a vet who keeps sloppy records

4.  What do you think of current drug testing?

   a)  The drug testing we currently have is fine.
   b)  It's not great, but you can't test for everything.
   c)  It clearly needs improvement.
   d)  Bring in the feds.

5.  What do you think about the $2.5 million in purse money the state alleges will need to be returned for redistribution?

    a)  Good luck collecting all that money back.
    b)  Glad the purses will be redistributed to the other horses in the race.
    c)  Wait, what about me the horseplayer?  What do I get?

6.  Do you think your racing commission is dong enough regarding bearding?

   a)  Absolutely.
   b)  Why does the racing commission care about who is growing beards?
   c)  Stop it!  It hurts me to laugh this hard..

7.  What do you think of the idea of suspending horses who come up positive?

   a)  It is wrong, as it may keep people away from owning horses.
   b)  Why should an owner be held liable for the wrongdoing of a trainer?
   c)  A great idea, but it will never happen.
   d)  It should be implemented right away.

8. What do you think an honest trainer (and there are plenty of them) will do as a result of this scandal?

   a)  A collective feeling like they have been sucker punched.
   b)  Time to get tough on cheaters.  Out with the code of silence!
   c)  Nothing.  It is the racetrack's and the racing commission's job to catch cheaters.
   c)  What drug are you on to even think anything will change?

There is no answer key, but based on your answers, you will see if you are an optimist, a realist, or a cynic when it comes to addressing the problem of illegal medication.

USTA Responds:  The USTA has suspended Lou Pena's membership in reciprocity to the action taken by the NYSRWB.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pena Suspended Indefinitely in New York - Questions reports that trainer Lou Pena has been suspended indefinitely by the NYSRWB as a result of a joint NJRC/NYSRWB investigation reviewing the veterinary records of horses trained by Mr. Pena.  As a result, the NYSRWB has determined there were 1,719 alleged violations of medication rules in the state of New York which each offense has potential suspensions and a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation.  Not that he would be fined the maximum amount, but for those who want to know what the potential fine could be, it is $42,975,000.  Oh, and there is the matter of $2.5 million in purse money which will need to be returned, if the charges are in fact proven as being true, so the purses may be redistributed.

If you are a glutton for punishment, feel free to read the 45 page Notice of Suspension and Hearing courtesy of the NYSRWB

Clearly, this is likely the biggest alleged medication violation which I recall and possibly of all-time.  Expect this news to get out in the non-racing media as well which certainly is going to harm the image of all horse racing, but certainly give standardbred racing a black eye (to say the least).  For those who thought harness racing was getting of easy in the recent press reporting, our time has come and what can the industry say?  Sure there will be some spin which will take place, but all the spin in the world is not going to mitigate all the damage this alleged scandal will cause.

For the record, it should be noted that Lou Pena has a right to contest the charges and the NYSRWB may bring more evidence into the hearing other than disclosed in the press release.  As of now, these charges should be considered allegations.   As one person said to me, "No positive tests?  Only vet records?  Hmmm. Let's not rush to judgment folks."  

 The NYSRWB release indicated some rule changes will be forthcoming, one of them dealing with access to veterinary records.  You bet this will be one item acted upon sooner than later.  I know horsemen will not want these records made readily available, but if the scandal is as big as it has the potential to be, they will be hard pressed to defend the lack of access.  It will be interesting to see what the horsemen's response will be.     

I realize you can't test for everything, but if these allegations are true, it shows you how bad racing's testing for medications is.  For two years, no positives for these drugs came up?  It is time for racing to admit their testing for illegal medications or drugs given past withdrawal time is  a big joke.  Unless the industry has a centralized laboratory for testing, it will not be cost effective to test adequately.  Perhaps another example while federal intervention may be required.

Case Jr. Wronged by the State of Massachusetts

I got the following email from a reader of this blog named Bill and I thought I would share it with you.

Not quite sure how long Walter Case has been ruled "off",  and been away from racing,  and I obviously don't have any first hand knowledge of his character or misdeeds.  I don't for a second make light of his past activities.  However, if he has served his jail term, and paid that debt to society, it seems to me that the assorted racing commissions should make decisions that reflect that he has paid his dues.  If he has not paid his debts to society, than, he shouldn't be out and about, so to speak.   Just my two cents could use all the competitors that it can assemble, again, not making light of any past misdeeds.  I am assuming he had served his jail terms, been punished for his crimes,  and been released a free person.   Will his debts to society ever be paid...and who is making these decisions that are beyond what the courts have imposed and supervised? 

Well, Bill, I agree with you 100%.  I am not condoning what Walter Case Jr. had done either, but in a society which supposedly encourages the redemption of individuals, I find the fact Case is not driving to be somewhat arbitrary, especially in Massachusetts, where Case was given a license to drive towards the end of the Plainridge Racecourse meet when he was on parole.  About a month or so ago, we learned the same racing commission which licensed Case in 2008, declined to re-license him for 2012. Well, if was he suitable for licensure in 2008, what the heck changed especially when there was no further problems (as far as is known)?  To me, it seems to be arbitary and vindictive to deny him a license in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  

I understand Case had certainly earned quite a litany of violations when driving before he ran into legal problems, but I am going to make the assumption those problems were related to his substance abuse issues and with paying his debt to society, he realizes those actions were unacceptable and realizes he needs to come back and obey the rules.  Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting he be given his license back without any restrictions, in fact, I ould suggest Case be given a probationary license initially just in case he does return to his old ways with respect to observing racing's rules.

The fact is Case should be back in the sulky, certainly in Massachusetts.  The Bay State should be ashamed of themselves.

Molson Pace Card Analysis

Instead of Friday night spotlight races, I have handicapped the entire Friday evening card at The Raceway at Western Fair District.  In addition to the $300,000 Molson Pace, there are the four finals of the City of London Series on the racing program.  For those interested in wagering on the $15,000 guaranteed Pick 4, I am providing detailed analysis for races 9-12.  Don't forget HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge is covering the evening's races so you may want to see what those handicappers are selecting (selections will be available Friday morning).

TVG Update: Race 9 (City of London Final, Start of Pick 4) and Race 10 (The Molson Pace) will be covered live on TVG Friday night.

Here are my selections.  For those who are not familiar with racing at the Western Fair District, post eight scores from the second tier.  I will provide comments for also eligibles as they may get in if a scratch occurs before 11:00am on Friday.

1st Trot; $53,800 - City of London Series Final - Horses and Geldings
2 - Hey AJ (Henry, 3-5)
1 - Herbie Is Gone (Green, 5-2)
4 - Kilmartinliberator (Williams, 8-1)
6 - P C Firecracker (Clements, 9-2)

2nd Pace; $4,800 -$10,000 Claiming Conditioned
5 - Eataam Whosurboy (Holiday, 4-1)
8 - Kerrona (Gingras, 7-2)
3 - Kennairn Life Sign (Henry, 7-5)
4 - J Js Jet (Brewer, 7-1)
Also Eligible: (9) Power Smile - Consider if he draws inside.

3rd Trot; $57,400 - City of London Series Final - Fillies and Mares
6 - Daylon Miracle (Wall, 1-1)
2 - Real Housewife (MacKenzie, 5-2)
5 - Cut The Rug (Horner,30-1)
4 - Amber Kadabra (Young, 10-1)
Also Eligible: (9) Blazing Shot - Gait to unpredictable; (10) Just One Amigo - Will be still a maiden after race.

4th Pace; $10,000 - Fillies and Mares Preferred 2
1 - Ostinato (McNair, 6-1) 
5 - Chief Karen (Shepherd, 13-1) 
2 - Bath Beach (Campbell, 8-1) 
4 - Pathtodover (Bowins, 2-1) 

5th Trot; $18,000 - Invitation Handicap
6 - Lexis D J (Battin, 3-1) 
8 - Santo Domingo (Plante, 5-1)
7 - Indiana Hall (Henry, 5-2)
4 - Long Ago (Richardson, 4-1)

6th Pace; $58,200 - City of London Series Final - Fillies and Mares
6 - Machnazetrois (Henry, 15-1) 
7 - Phoenix Seelster (Shepherd, 10-1) 
3 - Albanian Era (McNair, 7-5) 
8 - Regal Princess (Young, 3-1)
Also Eligible: (9) Nics Regal Lass - May land share with inside post and a trip; (10) Royal Cover Up - May possibly get into the final spot of the Superfecta.

7th Pace; $12,000 - Non-winners $7,500 Last 3 Starts
1 - Leafs And Wings (McNair, 8-5) 
5 - Willies Place (Henry,7-2)
6 - Mach It Big (Gingras, 4-1) 
4 - Risky Rich (Plante, 12-1) 
Also Eligible: (9) Jackstan - Appears in tough.

8th Trot; $130,000 - Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Final - 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Il Mago (Ritchie, 8-5)
7 - Keystone Orion (Boughton, 12-1) 
5 - Cold Certified (Brewer, 2-1) 
2 - Midfield Magic (Campbell, 7-2)
Also Eligible: (9) Heres The Magic - Live if draws in; (10) Grandin Road - Can't dismiss automatically if draws in.

9th Pace; $62,200 - City of London Series Final - Horses and Geldings (Start of Pick 4)
1 - Carsons Cracker (McNair, 4-1) - Speed outside of him should cost him the front.  May grab minor spoils.
2 - Jetta Flys (Henry, 3-1) - Will get the front and play catch me if I can.  The one to beat.
3 - Special Session (Gingras, 7-1) - Could be an upset special if stays flat.
4 - Spike Hanover (Bartlett, 25-1) - Needs a perfect trip; not likely.
5 - Modern Xhibit (Lilley, 5-2) - Jogged in last.  Will try for the front but be outpased to the 1/4 pole.
6 - J F L (Campbell, 30-1) - Don't think he will be able to get involved.
7 - Regal Delight (Young, 9-2) - Perfect this year.  The outside likely to end streak.
8 - Jo Willy (Richardson, 5-1) - Lifetime mark last week.  Should overcome second tier; threat.
Also Eligible:
  9 - All About Fame (Gingras, NL) - Been impressive.  Must step up game if he draws in.
10 - Smoking Bear (Sparling, NL) - Could be interesting with a covered up trip.
Selections: 2-8-5-1  

10th Pace; $300,000 - Molson Pace Final
1 - St Elmo Hero (Haughan, 8-1) -  This field too tough.
2 - Clear Vision (Kakaley, 3-1) - Should face tougher competition tonight; can't rule out in exotics.
3 - Atochia (Batlett, 7-2) - Like the Levy Final, this one is for the marbles.  Advantage over Foiled Again.
4 - Machal Jackson (Plante, 20-1) - Would be lucky to pick up a check.
5 - Razzle Dazzle (Campbell, 4-1) - Wouldn't be shocked if this one pulls off the minor upset.
6 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 2-1) - Last year's champion appears to be hampered by the draw.  Lands share.
7 - Arachache Hanover (McNair, 9-2) - Too much speed inside of him.
8 - Stonebridge Tonic (Henry, 15-1) - Another one who seems to be overmatched.  Pass.
Also Eligible:
  9 - Valentino (Henry, NL) - Only consider if drawing the rail.
10 - Up The Credit (Jamieson, NL) - Should be tigher.  Still think would be in a little deep.
Selections: 3-5-6-2

11th Pace; $12,000 - Non-winners $7,500 Last 3 starts 
1 - Roethblissberger (McNair, 8-5) - Ships in from WEG circuit and draws the rail.  Likely overbet.
2 - Flames Cammi Boy (Lilley, 20-1) - Minor spoils with a trip.
3 - Future Million (Shepherd, 7-1) -  Toss last out.  Should make a better account of self; still not enough.
4 - Good Bad Lucky (Gingras, 2-1) - Maybe they know something I don't, but certainly not playable at 2-1.
5 - Winter Blues (Henry, 7-2) - Wired last and steps up slightly.  Can race up front or the back.  Considere.
6 - Bulldog Tenacity (Williams, 20-1) - Granted, not the best post for this one, but shouldn't be this long.
7 - Button Up (Horner) - Tough spot for this one.
8 - Fleet Sensation (Campbell, 6-1) - A question if encounters too much traffic early on.  My guess is no.
Selections: 8-6-4-5

12th Pace; $18,000 - Invitation
1 - Wild Dragon (Gingras, 4-1) - Should get away well.  Makes one move in stretch.
2 - First Rate Shark (McNair, 2-1) - Won last.  Eligible to repeat.
3 - Cactus Jack (Campbell, 8-1) - Impeded in last.  This should be tougher.
4 - Mcapulco (Shepherd, 3-1) - Question if can keep up with pace.
5 - Acceptable Risk (Henry, 6-1) - Needs a slower pace to be a threat.
6 - Stonebridge Terror (Brewer, 7-2) - Needs to be rated better.  Don't ignore.
7 - Hare Craft (Byron, 8-1) - Jumped off in last.  Not for me here.
8 - Piece Of The Rock (5-2) - WEG shipper gets class relief, but may have problems from second tier.
Selections: 1-2-6-8
Pick 4 Selections (Starts with race 9): 2,8-3,5,6-All-1,2,6     Total Cost ($.20 wager): $28.80

13th Pace ; $15,000 - Fillies and Mares Preferred Handicap
1 - Victim Of Love (Carroll, 10-1)
4 - SissyBar (Plante, 3-1)
2 - Pink Kangaroo (Wray, 7-1)

14th Pace; $6,200 - $8,000 Claiming Conditioned
2 - Outoftexas (Richardson, 3-1)
5 - Fit To Ben Tied (Lilley, 15-1)
8 - Stress Buster (Battin, 7-2)
6 - Donegal Mac (Holliday, 4-1)
Also Eligible: (9) St Lads Cable Guy - Winless this year.  Extends streak if draws in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gural Makes Appeal to the Horsemen

The following is an Open Letter from Jeff Gural to the area Horsemen:

As we move forward with the next phase of the Meadowlands project which consists of building a new grandstand at a cost of around $90,000,000, I am becoming increasingly concerned over the fact that it is becoming harder and harder to get horses to race at the Meadowlands.  It seems everybody likes to qualify their good horses but when it comes to racing they would rather go someplace else.  One wonders does it really make sense to build a new grandstand and try to fill it with customers young and old if there are not enough horses to race?  Our income is derived solely from wagering and only half as much as is bet on a seven horse race as is bet on a ten horse race.  The other option is to do what our competitors do and only allocate 10% of our available purse money to stakes races and 90% to overnights.  Personally, I think that would be a disaster for the industry especially in light of the problems we may face next year in Canada if WEG has to cut back on their stakes programs. 

In any case, if any one has any suggestions as to the type of races they would like to see us card at the Meadowlands that would help alleviate this problem please email me at and I will discuss it with the racing department. 

I appreciate that everyone is thrilled the Meadowlands is not going to close but the industry has to support the racing program and not just pick and choose the stakes races if we are going to survive.  The next few weeks will be especially difficult now that the sire stakes are ending and before the two year olds start up again so any input would be greatly appreciated.

What does Jeff Gural need to do to get horsemen to drop into the box?  This situation is typical of the dysfunctional racing industry.  Almost everyone was saying the demise of the Meadowlands would have basically killed of harness racing in the United States so people were fighting tooth and nail to save it.  Then, the second the Eastern Pennsylvania tracks open, a lot of horsemen find themselves 'getting out of Dodge' for greener pastures.  Rest assured, if and when the Meadowlands gets alternative gaming, you won't be able to drop in the entry box because it will be overflowing.

I know some will argue the Meadowlands doesn't write races for them.  Odds are it is because Peter Koch doesn't get enough interest for them.  That being said, call up the race office and tell them you want to drop horses in  but there is no class for them.    If the problem is the race doesn't fill, you need to talk to your fellow horsemen.  Horsemen need to support the Meadowlands racing program or you will see the third day of racing due to resume late June get dropped.  After all, if you can't fill two days of racing, what is the sense of offering the third day.

If I was the racing secretary, I will be telling horsemen  that next winter, when the Eastern Pennsylvania tracks are closed, some of the races will be limited to horses that made a certain number of starts at the Meadowlands after March 1 of this year.  Then watch the horsemen scream bloody murder about not being able to get their horses raced.  Remember, racing is a two way street.

What is Wrong with the Rooney?

First the good news.  Unlike last year when there were not enough horses entered in the Art Rooney Pace that the race needed to be raced as a non-wagering event, this year's Rooney will be on the wagering card on June 2.  Now, for the bad news.  Only six horses dropped in the box.  For the companion race, The Lismore, five fillies dropped in the box.

Six horses dropping in for a race which will be contested for $306,204.  Five fillies dropping in for a race to be contested for $176,484.  Can it be the half mile is so hated that no one will enter into races like this?  Make no mistake, there are some trainers who will not drop certain horses in to race at Yonkers Raceway or any other half mile oval, yet the $162,000 Cleveland Classic at Northfield Park seems to draw a full field every year.  Is it going against any other stakes race?  Well, the $300,000 Somebeachsomewhere is being contested at Mohawk so many of the top horses may head north so it may draw the top tier, but any other race of significance that day are sires stakes races.  Certainly, you should be able to get enough horses to at least get a full field, even if they are not the best horses in North America.

So what can it be?

Let's take a look at the fees to get a horse into these stakes races.  The Art Rooney and Somebeachsomewhere are being raced on the same night.  The Cleveland Classic is scheduled for December 8, 2012

Cleveland Classic +
Art Rooney Pace
Somebeachsomewhere +

2yo Sustaining

3yo Sustaining

Entrance Fee

Total Payments


+ - Raced in Divisions if Needed
* - $10,000 for elimination, $10,000 for final
** - Nominate as a 3yo 
*** - Two $300 payments as a 3yo
Estimated Purse $165,000.00 $500,000.00 $300,000
Payments to Est Ratio 2.38% 4.53% 0.80%
2011 Purse $162,200.00 $307,734.00
Initial Year

Payments to Actual Ratio


Now, if you have a 3yo horse, are you going to pay $22,625.00 to possibly draw the outside posts at Yonkers Raceway, when you need to put up 7.35% of the purse (using last year's actual purse as the race has not been well supported), especially when you can race at Mohawk and only put up .8% of the purse (if not split)?  I would suggest if you have a horse you believe can go over the half mile track you would sooner go for the Cleveland Classic, especially when you will be paying in only 2.42% of the purse.  If you go in the Cleveland Classic and draw the outside, you haven't invested as much money.  Plain and simple, the Rooney is not worth the attention of horsemen.

I realize horsemen are very protective of their purse account, especially when they think their purse money may be going to those who don't support the regular meet, but I would suggest Yonkers Raceway attempt to get more added money for their races and lower their payments if they really want to have well supported  and competitive races which may draw more first tier horses.

The Isolated World of Triple Crown Trainers

Two nights ago on CNN, the brother of trainer Doug O'Neil, Dennis O'Neil, claimed they had to Google the term 'milkshaking' to find out what it meant.  He also said they wouldn't know how to do it.

It must be a lonely, isolated world for trainers of horses who race in the Triple Crown races.

Anyone who bets horses more than a few times a year knows what the term 'milkshaking' means.  I would also suspect any trainer who races overnight horses, even those who have never had a medication violation and would never milkshake a horse knows what 'milkshaking' is.  They may not know how to milkshake a horse, but they know what it is.  After all, wouldn't a trainer want to know why they do TCO2 testing on race horses?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Molson Pace Pick 4 Comes to California

On Friday (5/25), races 9-12 from The Raceway at The Western Fair District will be simulcasted to California. the first time the $300,000 race has ever been offered in the Golden State.  As a result, not only will California racing fans be able to see some of the best aged pacers in North America compete in the Molson Pace, they will be able to wager on the $15,000 guaranteed Pick 4 being offered.

Abandoning Our Past

This past weekend I was on Twitter and mentioned Rambling Willie  and the response I received was 'Who?' and 'I never heard of him'.  What was perhaps a little unsettling is one of the individuals who never heard of him works in racetrack administration.

Granted I am a Baby Boomer, but not ready for the rocking chair either.  Perhaps I am expecting too much from hard core gamblers for them to be interested in a gelding that passed away back in 1995, but when someone who works in racetrack administration doesn't know anything about "The Horse God Loved"; a horse that retired as the all-time money earner ($4,708,470.07 when adjusted for inflation); a horse that raced mostly in the overnight classes instead of stakes races; a horse which had problems with bowed tendons and other infirmities; winner of Aged Pacer of the Year three years straight (1975-1977), there is a problem.  Primarily, harness racing has forsaken its past.

Let's not be naive, racing to the industry is about making money.  You make money with stallions available for breeding and broodmares, not deceased geldings from nondescript pedigree (Rambling Fury-Meadow Belle by Meadow Gold for the record), but when you forsake your past you give up a piece of yourself.  The industry laments the lack of interest in racing with one of the main reasons being society has lost its connection with horses.  When an industry forgets its own history, how do we blame the general public for losing touch with horses?  Celebrating the racing heroes of the past should not be restricted to the Hall of Fame of the Trotter, the industry should be making a point of celebrating racing's greats, even those who never made it to the breeding shed.

So how does racing present its history?  It really isn't that hard.  Have a late closing series or stakes race at your track named after a horse?  Invest a page in your program telling the story of the particular horse and why the series or stakes race is named after it.  A race named after a long gone track?  Same thing.  Some tracks have their own Hall or Wall of Fame.  Don't have one, start it.  Have inductions of trainers, drivers, and horses who were special to your track with the presentations occurring in the winners circle.  Show people racing is not just horses racing around a circle, but a sport with a long proud history.

The May, 2012 edition of Trot magazine is an excellent edition which almost exclusively talks about the crisis in Canada.  The magazine basically talks about what harness racing means to its participants and the economic impact it has on the economy.  With regards to the magazine, it is an excellent piece of work done in a relatively short amount of time.  One has to wonder if the industry had made its case to the non-racing public about the lifestyle and contribution to Ontario's economy earlier, if it would have kept the Liberals from even proposing eliminating the 'Slots at Tracks' program?  Unfortunately, when you react instead of controlling the debate, you may never know. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Triple Crown Winner Helping Racing - Don't Bet On It; An Inferior Product

With yesterday's Preakness win by I'll Have Another, the thoroughbred industry is salivating over the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed back in 1978.  Why?  The powers-to-be are thinking it will be good for racing and attract more fans.  Good luck with that.  Sure, NYRA will be pleased; a potential Triple Crown winner will increase interest in the Belmont Stakes as well as increase attendance on June 9 (in the old days, I would have said 'packed the place').  A victory in the Belmont will keep interest in whatever races I'll Have Another shows up for, but after that, it will be back to  normal.  While attendance and handle will increase on those days, most newbies attracted will be quickly eaten up and spit out as a result of high takeout rates. That assumes they don't witness a breakdown or read the latest story about the ugly side of the racing business.  If the racing industry really wants to see a reversal of their fortunes, they need to address the issues of concern to the gambler.  As the expression goes, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig'.

But if you think the thoroughbred industry has problems, things could be worse for them; it could be the standardbred industry.  Over in Harness Racing Update, the question was asked "Where Are the Fans?" the article going on lamenting about the lack of conversation regarding harness racing on racing forums and in the social media.

To be perfectly honest, unless you are directly involved in the industry, or a baby boomer or older who remembers the 'good ol' days', there is a real good chance you are not reading this blog, or for that fact, anything related to harness racing.  The reason why?  For the fan, modern day harness racing is a grossly inferior product.  I am not even talking about takeouts, admission, lousy facilities, etc.  I am talking primarily about the product on the track itself.  How can I say this?  Let me count the ways.

Too Much Racing = Dilution of the Product -  I am not talking about the diluting of mutuel pools (which is a real problem), we are talking about the dilution of the horse population.  We have mentioned numerous times about the sheer idiocy of having so many tracks racing at any one time.  If you ignore Freehold Raceway as it clearly is a minor league track, you had the Meadowlands, Harrah's Philadelphia, Pocono Downs, and Yonkers Raceway racing this past Saturday with Philadelphia racing on Sunday as well.  That makes a total of 69 races over the two days in the same market necessitating 622 horses if each race had full fields.  Now when you add in tracks like Freehold, Harrington, Saratoga, Tioga, and Vernon which while typically don't draw from the same horse population, will draw some horses seeking easier spots, clearly showing how the horse population is not sufficient for the amount of racing going on.  While this is good for horsemen as it means their horses will get in the box more frequently and having to beat fewer horses to earn a check, what you end up with is classes being combined to fill a race and pseudo horses (horses classified as Invitational, or Preferred just to fill a race).  The result is you get races which are not as competitive as they should be, resulting in poor paying races.  You know those boring half mile races?  If more competitive fields were available, they wouldn't be as predictable as they are now.

The logical answer would be for these tracks to race fewer days and coordinating dates which would mean there would be less demand on the horse population, meaning no more pseudo horses and more competitive races.  However, despite the higher purses which would be generated due to less days of racing, see how quick this idea would go over with horsemen in New York and Pennsylvania.

Too Much Slot Money Thrown in Overnights -  Let's face it, horsemen are rolling in the dough where they have slots and horses are racing for a lot of money; too much money to be precise.  Does anyone deep down really think $15,000 claimers should be racing for $12,000 in purse money (Yonkers)?  Why not take more of this money and throw it at stakes races?  Not just existing stakes races, but create new stakes races (more about that later).  Maybe then a horse would not have to pay $12,600 to start in an elimination and another $10,000 for the final of the upcoming $300,000 Art Rooney Memorial.  Yonkers' contribution to the final pool of the Rooney is a minimum of 20% of all the fees paid.  No wonder the best horses typically avoid the race.  Wouldn't you like to spend $22,600 to draw post seven or eight on the half mile oval?  Maybe if the total buy-in was $6,000, some other owners would be willing to take a chance.  While your at it, instead of having parity in your bottom classes on the conditioned and claiming sides, add some more money to your maiden, non-winners of 2, 3, or 4 races to encourage people to buy yearlings as they would have a better chance of earning their investment back.

Too Many Cheap Late Closing Events - How many flavors of non-winners of two races lifetime late closing events can the Meadowlands and other tracks put on in a season?  Apparently, plenty.  Yes, it keeps horses racing at your track, but what also happens is you usually get a standout in these races, making the races boring for fans.  You want to give green horses a chance at earning some good money?  Why not make these late closing events include a condition indicating the number of starts a horse has made as of a certain date; something like NW2 or $10,000 races lifetime that have made less than ten starts as of January 1, 2012?  This way, these late closing events don't draw horses that can't cut the mustard and instead of the cheaper horses racing against a horse that sweeps the series, they can race in overnights against different horses each week.

Are There Any Stakes Trainers Out there Not Named, Burke, Schnittker, or Takter? - This is not meant as a slam against these trainers and is certainly rhetorical.  People use these trainers because their stables are successful, but there has to be a way to spread the wealth of good horses to other trainers who are more than capable.  How many people get excited when you see two or three horses from the same two to four stables in a race, regardless if they are coupled or uncoupled (which presents its own problems)?  As an example, this year's final of the Molson Pace has five of the eight horses coming from the Burke and McNair stables.  It gets a little boring when these stakes races seem to become ATMs for these 'name' trainers.

Elimination Races - Why do we have these elimination races?  We have horses going for $300,000 next week racing for $40,000 in an elimination this week.  Ever notice how certain horses put on less than stellar performances in these eliminations and all of a sudden they become world beaters the following week, repeatedly?  What about those elimination races where eight of the nine horses in a race advance?  The public is not stupid.  Then we have byes for certain horses with eliminations for others.  Maybe if a horse wins a specific race or is coming over from Europe you save them a spot, but if you have elimination races, everyone should have to qualify the same way.  Better yet, instead of elimination races, seed horses based on earnings into the main even, and consolation races, adjusting the starting fee accordingly.  How about dividing stakes races instead if not a major stakes?

Handing the Trophy Over Before the Race (AKA 'Earning' Post Positions) - Isn't it real exciting for elimination winners to chose their post positions or get assigned the inside posts for the final?  I understand the concept; basically we are trying to ensure a horse does their best in an elimination by giving them an 'incentive' to win the relatively paltry pursed elimination race.  The rationale given is why should a horse that wins an elimination draw the outside post position in a final?  For the same reason a horse draws the outside post in an elimination, it's called luck.  Post positions in stakes races should always be an open draw.  Owners will claim why should they lose the race at the draw?  I ask, why should the race be won (low priced at that) at the draw?

Need More Stakes Races -  Remember when I said there was too much money being thrown in overnight events?  I said there should be more money thrown in stakes races; not only the existing ones, but newly created stakes races.  Not every stakes races should be for the best horses racing in the nation either.  Stakes races should be for horses with various levels of ability.  What we need are graded stakes races (Grade 1, 2, and 3), ranked by the industry based on the level of competition which race in these events.  This way more people get a chance to see the better horses.

Coordinate Stakes Races - Have different grades of races contested on the same day.  This way, instead of having the big trainers drop all their horses in the same stakes race, having different grade races will permit a trainer to send horses to different tracks to compete for lucrative purses.  If next week there was a $300,000 (Gr. 1), $200,000 (Gr. 2) and $100,000 (Gr. 3) race, do you think a trainer would have three horses in one race?  No, it would allow the trainer to split their starters up among the different stakes according to ability.

You've Seen One Race, You've Seen a Hundred of Them - I know this is the way it has been for years, but each race is a mile with eight, nine, or ten across the starting gate.  As far as trainers and owners are concerrned, the top two commandments are:  "The distance of a race shall be a mile, nothing more, nothing less.  Thou shalt not have trailers in a race".  You get the idea, the beauty of consistency has dragged payoffs down, especially with the diluted fields.  If we had different distance races with more horses in longer races, their form becomes less predictable, permitting the potential of higher payoffs, and the racing is less stale for the fans.  For those who argue the horse is called a standardbred for a reason, namely being able to pace or trot a mile in a certain time, may I remind you the definition doesn't say exclusively

Clearly this is not the only problems racing has, but how can the industry expect excitement about harness racing from the general public with the quality of product we put on.  I realize with slots, horsemen don't really care about the quality; they just want to be paid.  But if you don't improve the product, woe comes the day when racing needs to earn its purse levels.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Elitlopp Post Position Draw

The two elimination heats for the 2012 Elitlopp have been drawn and with the full sixteen horses starting, the top four of each race will advance to the final. 

In the first division, Arch Madness draws post position seven while the Oslo Grand Prix winner, Commander Crowe draws the coveted rail.  However, it could be worse, the one mare in the race, Sweden's Dileva Käll, draws the dreaded eight hole, this coming after a second place finish in 1:10 to Brioni in a final tune-up, reportedly putting in a strong stretch run.

In the second elimination, the racing gods were kinder to Canada's Windsong Geant, who draws the rail.  However, he has to beat Rapide Lebel and Germany's Brioni, who yesterday set his own personal record and European seasonal record of 1:09.7 (1:52.1f) in a 1609 meter prep race. 

The Elitlopp will be available for racing in the United States on Sunday morning, May 27.

Heat 1
1. Commander Crowe – Christophe Martens (Sweden)
2. Orecchietti – Örjan Kihlström (Sweden)
3. Classic Grand Cru – Björn Goop (Germany)
4. Oyonnax – Kenneth Nielsen (France)
5. Beanie M.M. – Johnny Takter (Sweden)
6. Iceland – Stefan Melander (Sweden)
7. Arch Madness – Brian Sears (U.S.A.)
8. Dileva Käll (f) – Peter G Norman (Sweden)

Heat 2
1. Windsong Geant – Rick Zeron (Canada)
2. Oracle – Erik Adielsson (Sweden)
3. Caballion – Fredrik B Larsson (Sweden)
4. Sanity – Johnny Takter (Sweden)
5. Sebastian K. – Lutfi Kolgjini (Sweden)
6. Rapide Lebel – Eric Raffin (France)
7. Brioni – Joakim Lövgren (Germany)
8. Yarrah Boko – Ulf Ohlsson (Norway)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Night Owl Pick 4

For the night owls amongst you, Cal Expo's late Pick 4 is being televised on TVG on Saturday night/Sunday morning with the last race likely to go off around 2:45AM Sunday on the East Coast.  If you are hardy enough, you may want to take a stab at the 15% takeout, $20,000 guaranteed Pick 4 which last week had a final pool of over $38,000, or you may want to take a stab at the individual races.  It is for you, these selections are being provided as a guideline.

Here is my analysis of those races.

Cal Expo, Saturday May 19, 2012

12th Pace - $3,600; $6,000 Claiming Conditioned
  1 - Phantom Dan (Kennedy, 7-2) - Tossed in a clunker last week; disregard that effort.
  2 - Afinetouchofclass (Plano, 8-1) - Been off form of late; toss. 
  3 - Lucky To Live (Svendsen, 6-1) - Challenges with a more conservative drive.
  4 - Dancing Barry (Vallandingham, 6-1) - Winless in two years.  No reason to think this week is different.
  5 - Glad To Be Here (Wiseman, 8-1) - Needs the perfect trip to threaten.
  6 - Young American (Maier, 6-1) - Post doesn't favor him here.
  7 - Arts Spice (Herrera, 12-1) - Minor spoils at best. 
  8 - Twentyone Guns (Cisco, 2-1) - Jammed in last; drops into claimers.  The one to beat?
  9 - Mobil Big John (Pacheco(P), 12-1) - Post eliminates.
10 - Dream U Fool (Wojcio, 10-1) - Post rules out.
Selections: 8-3-1-7

13th Pace - $2,900; $2,500 Claiming NW251PS 2012
1 - Arch Nemeses (Wiseman, 2-1) - Slight drop makes this one competitive.
2 - Dynamite Express (Plano, 5-1) - Lands share with smart drive.
3 - Total Up (Cisco, 6-1) - Threatens off class drop.
4 - Bolero Twister (Kennedy, 5-1) - Has not been sharp of late.  Scratched in last.
5 - Village Benjamin (Vallandingham, 12-1) - Seems to be up against it; not here.
6 - Mighty Fine Hi Ho (Maier, 5-2) - Nice efort in last race.  No reason why can't repeat.
7 - Yougotwhatyouwant (Silvestri, 12-1) - Needs trip to compete.  Don't see the trip deceloping his way.
Scratched: Komodas Fantasy (Vet)
Selections: 6-1-2-3

14th Pace - $3,000; $2,500 Claiming NW401PS 2012
1 - Power of Elizabeth (Hernandez-Arriaga(QF), 12-1) - Not with this driver on board
2 - Doit By The Clock (Kennedy, 7-2) -  Still not likely.
3 - Quick On My Feet (Svendsen, 8-1) - Minor spoils om best effort.
4 - Jessalilpeace (Lackey, 5-1) - Second half of Ruiz entry seems weaker.                                
5 - Coal Younger (Plano, 3-1) - This driver on board last time good effort.
6 - Spartan Law (Wiseman, 2-1) - Logical pick off class drop.
7 - Bullet Tooth Tony (Silvestri, 8-1) - Been live in last four; needs good trip
8 - Sterling Chris (Stidham, 8-1) - Seems in deep.
Selections: 7-5-6-3

15th Pace - $2,700;  FM $2,500 Claiming NW201PS 2012
1 - Matty Rose (Welence, 12-1) - Little to recommend.
2 -  Lil Hope (Wiseman, 8-1) - A possibility with a more conservative drive.
3 - Ravenswood Racewy (Luster, 12-1) - Nothing to recommend.
4 - Desired Result (Silvestri, 12-1) - Should be tighter.  Lands share.
5 - Brooklets Sundance (Plano, 2-1) - Back down in winning class.
6 - Gee Up (Cisco, 5-2) - Drops while competitive.  Always a good sign
7 - Amazon Dot (Vallandingham, 9-2) -  Unable to sustain drive last week.  Could be the one?
8 - You Go Shirl (Kennedy, 12-1) - Can't recommend.
9 - Groovin Hi (Svendsen, 12-1) - Shows poor form.  Out.
Selections: 6-8-

Friday, May 18, 2012

Parity for Americans at The Raceway at Western Fair District

London, Friday, May 18, 2012 -- The Raceway at The Western Fair District is pleased to announce that, beginning with tonight’s Molson Pace elimination program, it will now have the ability to offer .20 cent minimum wagers to its loyal fan base in the United States.

Canadian customers had already been able to wager on these offerings at the .20 cent increment.

“We’re very happy to be able to start offering this with tonight’s program,” said The Raceway General Manager Ian Fleming. “These are two of our most popular wagers and we’re pleased that we can now offer the same minimum to our valued American customers as well as Canadians.”

The new offering comes after significant testing between United Tote and the CPMA over the past several months.

This news comes just in time for this year’s Molson Pace program, next Friday, May 25, where a $15,000 guaranteed pool pick-4 will be offered on the card.

For more information, visit

Tonight are the eliminatons for the Molson Pace at Western Fair.  Free programs are available at

Saturday brings us the eliminations for the Upper Canada Cup.  Free program pages are available at

The finals of both of these races are part of next weekend's HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge as the contest roles into Western Fair District on Friday, Georgian Downs on Saturday, and Harrah's Philadelphia next Sunday.  Free program pages will be available at these sites next week as well.  Unfortunately, if you want a complete card program for Harrah's, you will have to pay for it.

Weekend Racing Spotlight

This weekend sees sires stakes action breaking out all over with races at Harrah's Philadelphia, Hoosier Park, Meadowlands, Pocono Downs, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs.  In addition to the sires stakes activity, the Meadowlands is carding their first $50,000 Invitational of the year, The Raceway at Western Fair District is having eliminations for the estimated $300,000 Molson Pace for North America's best FFAllers, and Georgian Downs has their eliminations for the $600,000 Upper Canada Cup which highlights the best Ontario has to offer.

Today we will take a look at the Molson eliminations tonight, Saturday's Invitational at the Meadowlands, and the Upper Canada Cup eliminations at Georgian Downs.  For those who have TVG, tomorrow we will highlight the Night Owl Special, races twelve through fifteen at Cal Expo and their $20,000 Pick 4 guarantee with a 15% takeout.

Friday, May 18, 2012

4th Lon - Pace - $20,000; Molson Pace Elimination - 1st Division (Top four to advance to final)
1 - Up The Credit (Jameson, 3-1) - Making first start of year and tackling aged horses first time.  Should advance.
2 - Clear Vision (Campbell, 2-1) - Five 3rd place finishes in a row.  Should give a good show of self today.
3 - St Elmo Hero (Haughan, 5-1) - Yet to show the form of last year.  Will be hard pressed to advance.
4 - Atochia (Gingras, 6-5) - Levy champion had tough trip last week at M1.  Toss race.  The one to beat.
5 - Stonebridge Tonic (McNair, 6-1) - Riding three week win streak moving up the classes.  Longshot chance.
Selections: 4-5-2

9th Lon - Pace - $20,000; Molson Pace Elimination - 2nd Division (Top four to advance to final)
1 - Aracache Hanover (McNair, 5-2) - Has the rail against slightly easier; second best here.
2 - Valentino (Henry, 5-1) - Yet to show belongs with this class.  May grab the show spot.
3 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 1-1) - Obviously the one to beat.  However, next week is the big payday.
4 - Machal Jackson (Plante, 8-1) - The local entrant aims high.  Will be fortunate to advance.
5 - Razzle Dazzle (Campbell, 9-5) - Has been competitive in Levy.  Completes chalky trifecta?
6 - Secret Weapon (Young, 15-1) -  Classy 10yo seems to be losing a step.  Don't see.
Selections: 3-1-2 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

6th Meadowlands - Pace - $50,000; Invitational
1 - Rockin The House (A Miller, 12-1) - Winner returns to Meadowlands; failed in Presidential series.
2 - River Shark (Sears, 8-1) - Seems to be a step below these.  Not out of it.
3 - Sapphire City (Dube, 6-1) - Set a record at Tioga last week; tested for class here.
4 - We Will See (Pierce, 5-2) - Only true invitational horse makes first start of year.  Wins at first try?
5 - Special T Rocks (Bier, 3-1) - Has been hot this year.  May challenge here.
6 - Shoobee's Place (D Miller, 15-1) - Steps up off two race win streak.  Worth a look at long odds for upset.
7 - Meirs Hanover (Gingras, 5-1) - Meets easier this week.  Don't ignore.
8 - Dial Or Nodial (Lachance, 4-1) - Occasionally steps up.  Has chance to win it all.
Uncoupled: #1 Rockin The House and #7 Meirs Hanover (Trainer: Ron Burke) 
Selections: 8-7-4

2nd Georgian Downs - Pace - $25,000; Upper Canada Cup Elim - 3yo Ontario Sired
1 - Secretoftheknight (McNair, 9-5) - Has definitive class advantage.  The one to beat.
2 - Rebel Jet (Macdonell, 4-1) - Missing against cheaper.
3 - Arthur (Ouellette, 6-1) - Scratched sick out of first start; never a good sign.
4 - Astor (Moiseyev, 5-2) - Will be knocking if better rated.
5 - Best Ears (Zeron, 3-1) - Lands share with a trip.
6 - Lyons Josephjnr (Jamieson, 7-2) - Don't see.
Selections: 1-4-5

4th Georgian Downs - Pace - $25,000; Upper Canada Cup Elim - 3yo Ontario Sired
1 - Fanelli Roal (Zeron, 4-1) - Eye opening qualifier.  Ready to advance?
2 - Mel Mara (Ouellette, 8-5) - Second in open company stakes.  Hard to go by.
3 - Huxley (Shepherd, 5-2) - Appears ready to break through.  Will it be enough?
4 - Dontmachmeman (Mackenzie, 10-1) - Don't see.  Toss.
5 - Giddy Up Blackfly (Macdonell, 7-2) - Winner against cheaper.  Share at best.
6 - Aagn A Gesture (McNair, 6-1) - Won last. Looks like a decent spot.  May spice up exotics.
7 - Machs Beach Boy (Jamieson, 8-1) - Not ready for prime time.
Selections: 2-6-1-3

6th Georgian Downs - Pace - $25,000; Upper Canada Cup Elim - 3yo Ontario Sired - No Show or Triactor wagering
1 - Michaels Power (Zeron, 4-1) - Horse undefeated on the 'B' tracks.  Share with the rail.
2 - Hard to Mach (McNair, 7-2) -  Seems primed to fire but runs up against a monster.
3 - Thunder Steeler (Ouellette, 8-1) - Maiden is overmatched here.
4 - Warrawee Needy (Jamieson, 3-5) - Clearly the best with little to beat.  Still first start with $600K race next week. 
5 - Machapelo (Moiseyev, 8-5) - Will take a chance on this one for the upset.
6 - R Gauwitz Hanvoer (Mcdonell, 9-2)  - Yet to show 2yo form.  Pass
Selections: 5-4-1

Racing columnist Andrew Cohen writes another excellent article which appears in The Atlantic, turns out the trainer of I'll Have Another One is playing run out the clock with a 180 day suspension from California for allegedly milkshaking a horse; a penalty issued back in 2010.  O'Neil has a right to appeal penalties, but here we are two years latter and no decision has come down?  Seems like another example of how harness racing and thoroughbred racing are more alike than different.