For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Friday, August 31, 2012

Animosity Strikes Again

Last week, I wrote a column about the Open Space Pace and how it would behoove thoroughbred horsemen to join in attending as this is an issue which impacts all horsemen in New Jersey. 

Afterwards, I checked with one of the organizers to ask why the thoroughbred horsemen were not asked to participate in the event formally for the same reasons.  No, I would not have expected them to come to Freehold Raceway to participate in the day's events, but perhaps a companion event at Monmouth Park to support open space in New Jersey with a stakes race named for Open Space there would have been in order.  Shame on the committee for not doing this, I thought.

Well, this morning I heard from my acquaintance only to hear thoroughbred horsemen were invited to participate in the event numerous times and they showed no interest to do so.  Shame on the thoroughbred horsemen.  Here was a chance for both industries to unite in favor of Open Space in New Jersey and to bring attention to the link between racing and open space and once again the animosity between the two breeds rears its ugly head.  Need there be an immediate catastrophe for the two breeds to work together?  Perhaps if they worked together, we could avoid these catastrophes.

Here is a video talking further about the Open Space Day at Freehold.  Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes is the concert which concludes the day's activity.  While the day is free, there is a $15 charge ($20 at the door) for the Southside Johnny concert.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stakes Night Saturday Night

Saturday night is the Canadian Pacing Derby, and in addition to the Derby, there are some other great stakes races on the card. Depending on how the Ontario situation is resolved, this may be one of the last great nights of racing at Mohawk for a long time.

Rather than trying to handicap the whole card, here are my selections for the key races on the card.

Saturday, Mohawk 3rd Pace - $100,000; A Spring of Hope - Mares Invitational
4  Swinging Beauty (McNair, 6-1)
7  Put On A Show (Jamieson, 3-1)
1  Dreamfair Eternal (Sears, 15-1)

Saturday, Mohawk 5th Trot - $246,521; Simco Stakes - 3yos
8  Knows Nothing (Jamieson, 2-1)
5  Prestidigitator (Filion, 7-2)
7  Little Brown Fox (Gingras, 5-2)
4  From Above (Tetrick, 12-1)

Saturday, Mohawk 7th Pace - $610,000; Shes A Great Lady - 2yo fillies
6  Mattie Terror Girl (Sears, 10-1)
5  Belle Boyd (McNair, 20-1)
7  Cult Status (Tetrick, 8-1)
2  L Dees Liioness (Zeron, 5-2)

Saturday, Mohawk 8th Pace - $1,000,000; Metro - 2yos
2  Odds On Equuleus (Campbell, 7-2)
3  Apprentice Hanover (Jmaieson, 3-1)
4  Captaintreachesrous (Pierce, 12-1)
1  Johnny Rock (Miller, 8-1)

Saturday, Mohawk 10th Pace - $787,000; Canadian Pacing Derby - 3yos and up
3  Alsace Hanover (Waples, 9-2)
4  Golden Receiver (Miller, 5-2)
5  Betterthancheddar (Brennan, 2-1)
2  Hypnotic Blue Chip (Jamieson, 20-1)

You Make the Call

Reading the fines and suspensions list, we see Allan Davis, a driver at Harrington Raceway called in for what the judges rules was an "Unsatisfactory Drive - Carelessness", specifically for having 'failed to drive the horse to the finish'.  Davis had a hearing a hearing was handed a $500 fine and a nine day suspension for driving for his part in the incident.

Admittedly outraged, I took a look at the video and came out wondering how Davis got away so lightly.  After all, what was the recourse for the gamblers who lost on the horse he drove?  Certainly the fine should have been more and Allan Davis should have received more days for the infraction.  

Well, I looked at the video a couple more times when the passions weren't as great and I must admit, my opinion of the situation had mellowed and I saw something I didn't see the first few times around.  Could there have been mitigating circumstances?

Watching the replay the #2 horse, Somethinginthewind was in the lead coming out of the final turn while #4 Stonebridge Comet, the 1-9 shot decided to head for the outside rail.  The driver of the heavy favorite, George Dennis, then battled with the horse which resulted in him starting to bear in significantly in the stretch.  Now, Somethinginthewind was in front when this happened but he had already given a sign of starting to tire (earlier than the slo-mo).  If Davis gave a tap or two or shaken the reins a bit, perhaps he would have won the race, however did Davis feel his charge was going to get run into by the bearing in of Stonebridge Comet so he did nothing to advance, preferring to let the 1-9 horse go by?  Without the head-on view it is hard to tell when the favorite stopped bearing in.  Yes, Davis could have gone on and if the favorite continued to bear in and interfere, Stonebridge Comet could have been disqualified.  Hardly any consolation for Davis if he ended up in the hospital with critical injuries. 

Now I was not in the judges stand when the initial decision was made nor was I in the hearing so I have no way to know if the fine and suspension were mitigated as a result of the hearing or the judges had the same train of thought I have.  What I do know is if they thought this was just a lack of effort on the driver's part a $500 fine and nine day suspension would have been an insult to every horseplayer, a total lack of regard for the gambler.

I realize making this decision 250 miles away from the track there are a lot of assumptions, correct or incorrect being made by me.   The judges clearly felt Davis made a mistake in not driving to the finish.  Do the horseplayers who wagered on Somethinginthewind have the right to be upset?  Absolutely.  Was the Davis involved in something nefarious?  I say no.  A driver has to make a snap decision on the track and let's not kid ourselves, trying to keep oneself safe tends to influence our decisions. 

What do you think?  I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Lou Pena hearing underway - Read HRU for a summary of day one of the expected three day hearing.

As a precursor to Saturday's big night at Mohawk Racetrack, trotters are on display tonight and Friday with the Champlain Stakes for 2yo trotters and the Ontario Sires Stake Gold Final for 3yo trotting fillies.  Here are my selections for theses races.

Thursday, Mohawk 3rd Trot - $120,382 Champlain Stakes - 2yo fillies (1st Division)
4  Choir Robe (Zeron, 9-2)
7  Shared Past (Gingras, 6-5)
5  Orderingin (Filion, 5-1)

Thursday, Mohawk 5th Trot - $130,000 Ontario Sires Stakes - Gold Final - 3yo fillies
4  Smarty Pants (Filion, 7-2)
9  One More Ginny (Jamieson, 8-1)
2  Miss Paris (Zeron, 6-5)
3  Sugar Wheeler (MacDonell, 5-1)

Thursday, Mohawk 9th Trot - $122,381 Champlain Stakes - 2yo fillies (2nd Division)
3  Charmed Life (MacDonell, 9-2)
4  Bee A Magician (Zeron, 1-1)
2  Lady Dynamite (Gingras, 5-1)
1  Standing My Ground (Ritchie, 8-1)

Friday, Mohawk 5th Trot - $140,914 Champlain Stakes - 2yo Trot (1st Division)
  5  Aperfectyankee (Oscarsson, 2-1) 
  2  Creampuff Macdaddy (Iamieson, 6-1)
  3  Murmur Hanover (Baillargeon, 7-2)
11  Its Payday Friday (Christoforu, 12-1)

Friday, Mohawk 8th Trot - $138,915 Champlain Stakes - 2yo Trot (2nd Division)
5  My Man Can (Miller, 5-2)
2  Crazed N Lindy (Zeron, 9-2)
1  Theatrical Session (Ritchie, 5-1)
3  Toocool Forschool (Filion, 6-1)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

...The Solution

In Monday's column, I discussed the problems harness racing and the breeding industry is suffering from as the result of people legitimately gaming the system when it comes to purchasing yearlings which results in situations like the nine horse - three wagering interests race this past Sunday at Vernon Downs as well as certain stables having an embarrassment of riches due to the same group of people owning the top horses. For racing and breeding to survive, it is necessary to change the rules to make it harder for the same group of people controlling the top stock.  You can't expect new owners to come into the yearling game if they are effectively locked out and breeders can't survive if their regally bred horses are not receiving top dollar as those regally bred horses are the ones who subsidize breeder's losses on horses below the cream of the crop.

Don't you love it when you read an article from someone else basically saying the same thing you have been discussing?  Jay Bergman from the DRF talks about the fallacy of Joe Faraldo's New York Renaissance.  And here is a letter to the Albany Times-Union from an individual who has been involved in harness racing for the past thirty-five year.  When talking about Saratoga Raceway and Casino, the write says, "...I don't believe it has helped the racing there to any extent. It is often sad to see the harness track's win pool total way under $3,000 per race and less than 100 people watching the live race".

Read more:

Before we discuss possible remedies, I would like to share a comment I received from a breeder regarding Monday’s posting.

There is nothing more frustrating than showing yearlings to people that have no intentions of competitive bidding but are shopping to see which fractional pieces may be offered later.

Make no mistake, there is no one magic bullet to solve this problem, it will take a combination of steps to solve it. I am also sure many of the big spenders see no problem with the current system, but then why should they as they are the benefiting under the current rules?

To get more people interested in purchasing yearlings, we need to raise the reward for people investing in yearlings which means more stakes races and existing stakes races offering higher purses. Increasing stakes payments is not the answer; all you are doing is lowering the rewards. What needs to happen is the shifting of funds from overnights to stakes races, reducing the incentive to purchase ready-to-made horses and increase the potential reward of stakes horses.  This can be done in racino states as horses are racing for amounts so great that the cuts needed to fund stakes races should not have a significant impact; racing will still be more than profitable if you have a decent horse.

Steps need to be taken to remove some of the incentive for diversification (in the name of purchasing many small pieces of horses instead of larger stakes in fewer horses). Stakes conditions must be changed to limit the number of starters an owner or trainer may have in a race.

To begin with, no trainer should be allowed to start more than two horses in any one stakes race, period. No allowing a trainer to start multiple horses in eliminations and then deciding which two horses advance to the final. No limit of two horses per stable in each division; no more than two horses in a stakes race per trainer period. Additional restrictions would be implemented to avoid circumvention (such as transfering a horse to a different trainer) of the trainer restriction.

The same rule applies to owners. No owner will be allowed more than two starters in a race, regardless of who is training the horse. For purposes of this rule, any owners with more than 5% ownership in a horse will be considered one and the same. As a result, only one additional horse may be entered from any one or group of these owners.

These rules would force trainers and owners to decide which horses to nominate to a stakes race and also prevent trainers from flooding the entry box, opening the race to others which, when coupled with higher purses, makes owning stakes horses more attractive. In addition, it would keep people from buying small shares of multiple horses.

Wouldn't this cause the collapse of the yearling market? Remember the first suggestion to move more money to stakes races instead of overnights? There are not enough stakes races being contested on a given day. With more money available for stakes races, tracks could coordinate their stakes calendar not to avoid competing against each other, but the opposite; competing against each other. Of course, you would not want two $500,000 races on the docket for 3yo pacers on the same day, but having two or three stakes races for 3yo pacers on the same day would give trainers and owners the option of seeding their horses to different races. Their first string may go compete in a $500,000 race, their second string compete in a $250,000 race, and their third string competing in a $100,000 race. This additional stakes racing would help fight off a decrease in yearling prices as there would be more races for horses to target according to their ability.

With horses being strategically placed, additional horses will have the opportunity to race in stakes events and earn a purse check plus the reduction of coupled or uncoupled entries makes the races better wagering events for the wagering public. 

Of course, this is not the end all. Other steps may help the problem. One thing is certain, the status quo is unacceptable. To get more people into the yearling game, we need to open up the market for other players and allow breeders to get a fair price for their horses.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Prairie State Setback

On to the veto session of the Illinois Legislature is the battle cry in the Prairie State as Governor Pat Quinn, on the last possible day, vetoed the expanded gaming legislation which would have brought slots to the racetracks.  Of course, this is no surprise; Quinn has long voiced his objections to the lack of  oversight for the proposed casino in Chicago as well as not banning political contributions from the casinos.  Quinn also objected to the failure of a portion of the revenue to be dedicated to education.

So the move to override the Governor's veto awaits the November 6 election after which a lame-duck session of the legislature meets when hopefully departing legislators who no longer need to answer to the voters will cross over and support the legislation.  The chances of the veto being overriden?  It depends on who you talk to. 

At the present time, there is no love lost between the SBOANJ and Freehold Raceway as it appears last week's track safety issue which forced qualifiers to be cancelled may have been part of the posturing between the two sides on other issues.  The raceway apparently handed out a memo to the horsemen on their own discussing the current contract issues which resulted in a response from the SBOANJ to be released.  The problems?  One part of the problem is Freehold is required to race 192 days a year unless they get the permission of the horsemen which up to now they have not done.  Obviously, racing 192 days would mean racing for purses significantly below the existing floor and the SBOANJ knows this, but Freehold can't arbitrarily impose their will on this issue; a process is in place to be followed.

Then there is no love lost over the OTW issue.  Freehold has yet to build any more OTWs since the Toms River OTW was opened.  Plans to open up an OTW in Cherry Hill, NJ has long been stalled by Penn National Gaming's Freehold partner, Greenwood racing who has deliberately dragged their feet to prevent an OTW being opened on the NJ border near the old Garden State Park, virtually across the river from their own Pennsylvania OTWs and Parx Racing.  This means three OTWs which Pennwood Racing is entitled to open remains nowhere in planning.  State law allows horsemen groups to take over permits for an OTW if no significant progress has been made by tracks towards opening an OTW.  Well, Freehold Raceway is litigating to make sure the horsemen don't get hold of one of their OTW permits which will allow horsemen to earn funds to race for at Freehold.

Right now it looks like racing will begin on August 30 as planned, but there is ominious wording on the condition sheet. "** PURSES SUBJECT TO CHANGE BASED ON FREEHOLD'S ABILITY TO EXPORT SIGNAL TO INTERSTATE WAGERING OUTLETS**", which suggests the horsemen may be considering revoking permission for Freehold to export their signal out of state.  It is probably the one weapon the horsemen have though they will suffer with slashed purses.

A meeting of horsemen is scheduled for August 30.  Perhaps we will then learn more about the next steps in this dispute.  Obviously the horsemen want to keep racing, but there comes a time when they need to stand up for their rights.   


Monday, August 27, 2012

Houston, We Have a Problem....

Yesterday at Vernon Downs there was a great horse race.  Nine horses competing for $150,000 in the Zweig Memorial Filly Trot.  Not only did we have a full field, we had the star of harness racing, Check Me Out competing.  What more could we ask for?

Make that a great race to watch, a horrible race to wager on.  Nine horses with three wagering interests; win wagering only.  Four horses from Brittany Farms made up one entry with three of them trained by Jimmy Takter.  The other entry was three horses trained by Ray Schnittker and the fourth horse in the entry trained by someone else but as a result of common ownership, also coupled into the same entry.  New York State Racing and Wagering Board rules mandated the coupling of these horses. 

It wasn't just the Zweig Memorial Filly Trot.  The consolation of the Zweig Memorial for colts also had a four horse entry due to multiple owners having shares of various horses.  All year at the Meadowlands there were races with three or four horse entries in overnight series killing wagering on otherwise bettable races.  Bill Finley in HRU discusses the problem with coupled entries and its impact on wagering, and I agree all entries should be eliminated but this is addressing the symptoms of a much bigger problem; not the cause.

Harness racing has an ownership problem which is not only impacting wagering, it is hurting breeders as well.  Some people may call it gaming the system, others may call it good business sense.  I would argue it is a combination of both, but let me be clear, the way the rules are makes it perfectly legitimate but at the same time further sends harness racing reeling.  Why do we find ourselves in this situation?

First of all, there is the image problem harness racing has; wrongly or rightly the sport has a tarnished image and if you are someone looking for an investment, are you going to invest your money, especially in the upper echelons of the sport on a horse if you feel you are going to have to deal with possible integrity issues? Then we have the exposure issue. Thoroughbred racing has exposure in many more states than harness racing. If you want to attract owners, you need exposure to your potential market. Potential investors in states like Idaho, New Mexico, or Wyoming are familiar with thoroughbred racing but likely know little if anything about harness racing.

Then we have the problem of offering too much money in overnight races (racino states).  With so much money being available in overnight races, why would someone even think of investing in a yearling and training when you can get a ready to race horse?  This also reduces the pool of potential investors.

But let's say we get past these issues.  Harness racing can talk all they want about what a great investment a standardbred is when compared to thoroughbred racing; costing less and greater earning possibilities proportionally with regards to the number of races a horse can start, yet you don't see many newcomers entering the market; especially at the yearling sales.  Why is this the case?

Talking to breeders and owners you hear a common theme.  Instead of one person or a couple of people jointly bidding on yearlings, you see individuals taking smaller portions of multiple yearlings to reduce their risk.  In the stock market, it is called diversification.  While the specific horses and percentages on an individual horse may vary, you tend to see the same people involved in partnerships deals.

In addition, we have anecdotal stories of individual agreeing not to bid against each other with the promise of being able to buy a small piece of the yearling they agree not to bid on.  The result is two-fold; as a partnership they can bid more for a horse they really want as this risk is spread further out in the case of individuals agreeing not to bid on a horse, reduces to final price a successful bidder has to pay as serious competition in bidding has been reduced or eliminated.  For the breeder, it means receiving less money for their blue chip prospects who help cover the expenses of the yearling sold at a loss.  How do you expect to get new owners into the yearling market when the system is being legitimately gamed?

Ever wonder why certain trainers seems to have an embarrassment of  riches?  When these partnerships acquire horses, the lead person or group gets their say as to who trains the horses which means their trainer of choice gets the call which results in the large training outfits have an embarrassment of riches which means multiple horses are raced in the same races, resulting often in coupled entries and purse money earned concentrated with the usual cast of participants which means we find ourselves repeating the vicious cycle.

What can be done about this?  In some ways hands are tied as the actions of these groups is perfectly legitimate.  In the next entry, I will discuss some possible ideas to to address the larger issue.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Gravy Train is Over

The Horse Racing Transition Panel in Ontario released late last week their interim report regarding the horse racing industry and to say it was an indictment of the racing industry is an understatement.  The news presented was grim to those who believes a strong industry doesn't require customers; strong purses alone is sufficient.  To those who believe racing needs to be concerned with customers, disdained by many as an annoyance, it was a vindication of sorts.  I realize there is debate regarding what the Slots at Racetracks Program was for the horsemen (subsidy vs. partnership) but the fact the government controls the funds allows them to call it what they wants to.  So if you are looking for the one phrase which describes the decision of the panel it is this; "The free ride on the public dole is over".

Racing could have fared much worse.  Instead of deciding that racing was not worth saving, the panel decided racing is worth saving in Ontario.  They also decided the government should spend more than the $50 million over three years they have been planning on spending as transitional aid, albeit delivered in a different manner.  Of course, whether the government does step up to the plate remains to be seen.  One thing is clear.  Slots at Racetracks is dead.

The report put things nicely, but for all practical purposes, the transition panel has decided the SAR program was flawed by having no preconditions, which resulted in the program being like giving money to an alcoholic.  With no preconditions or anyone to answer to, racing went on a fourteen year bender since the first slot parlor opened up in 1998.  Spending obscene money on purses had no basis in reality and did nothing to grow interest in the sport.  Fault needs to be shared with the government for their lack of requiring oversight meant no one cared how the money was spent.  As long as horses showed up to the track to race, they were rewarded.  Product development?  Nope.  Customer development?  Minimal.

Let's look at some findings from the report:

  • Breeding industry's benefit?  While more foals were born, the average price declined.
  • With slot revenue not restricted to Ontario-breds, in 2003,  A significant amount of money went into American hands, in particular the larger stables.
  • 90% of slot revenue went to purses, only 8% to breed improvement programs, the rest to horsemen groups
  • The avg purse in Ontario based on handle would have been $1,328 in 2011.  With the average purse being $10,119, it means $8,791 came from slot revenue.  86.88% of purses came from slot revenue throughout the province.
  • The industry working together to fix the situation?  Forget about it.  As the report says, "
    Ontario’s horse racing industry is fractious and has proven capable of very little collaboration for the common good. This is partly due to the flow of slots money that has enabled the industry to function without pulling together. The panel concludes that the industry currently lacks the cohesion to save itself".
  • Too much racing for the demand.

 Well, if the report recommendations are taken by the government, what we will have is in effect of racing being in rehab.  For example,
  • Money will be doled out at a significantly reduced rate and paid out to the industry with the industry having to account for the use of the money and show it is being used for the stability of the industry. In other words, the bender is over.
  • The government expects a return of any funds given to racing in the form of higher taxes.  No more racing just because we have horses available to race; racing will be done according to customer demand, not horsemen demands.
  • Perhaps allowing introduction of the V75 or sports betting to reduce the amount the province needs to invest.
  • If government funds being used to support the industry, Ontario horses will race for it.  Foreign horses and/or owners may not be welcome.
  • All tracks will be given offers of aid which they will decide to accept or reject.  The expectation is many of these tracks will fall to the wayside reducing the supply of races available for wagering.
  • The industry can't work to a joint interest, no need to.  In effect, through a new group, Horse Racing Ontario, a de facto commissioner, will tell tracks when and how many days they can race as well as develop marketing plans.   

In summary, the government which will likely decide in the fall will support horse racing but it will be under their rules and based on a common-sense approach.  In Ontari, supply side racing is dead.  This means the industry in Ontario will go through a severe contraction, doing what the industry has refused to do up to now, closing of tracks, reducing race days, and cutting purses.  It is called right-sizing.  The industry will be expected to act like almost every other company in the economy is expecte to do.   

As for American racing interests, they shouldn't rest easily.  First of all I suspect the ability to ship north of the border to take race for bigger purses is coming to an end with purses getting smaller and most of the support to be offered restricted to Ontario interests.  It will likely mean more horses at least for the short run will be taking up residence in the states to race,  Other than that, I don't expect much change in Amercan racing because the racing family is so dysfunctional it can't work for the common good.  All I can offer is this caveat:

Any state offering slot revenue can take the Ontario report, replace Ontario with the name of their state and the report would be 90% complete.  However, don't expect anyone to decide the industry is worth saving with governmental funds.   

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Operators for Cal Expo Approved; Horseplayers Win

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has conditionally licensed Watch and Wager LLC as the operator of the standardbred meet at Cal Expo, pending the completion of some routine requirements.  Watch and Wager is a company owned by European Wagering Services for the purposes of conducting racing at Cal Expo and the meet will be managed by Golden Bear Racing, LLC. 

In addition to being licensed Watch and Wager is approved for a fall meet of sixteen days with racing being conducted on Friday and Saturday nights starting November 2 through December 22.  A request for a six month meet starting in early 2013 will be forthcoming.  The average daily purse at the new harness meet will be $55,362 an increase of $9,500 over the fall meet operated by Cal Expo last year.

There is good news for horse players as well.  The new operators has requested the takeout rate on the Pick-4, Pick-5, and Pentafecta (High Five) be reduced from the existing 24.18% to a more modest 16%.  The Pick-4 continues with a 15% takeout. 

The Pick 4 will be a $1 minimum wager with the Pick-5 being a $0.50 minimum; $0.10 minimum on the Pentafecta.  The Pick-5 and Pentafecta will only pay out if hit, with a carry over of the entire pool if no one selects the exact order of finish.  The Pick 4 will have a guaranteed pool of $20,000 on Fridays; $25,000 on Saturdays.  While not yet set, there is plans to offer a guaranteee on the Pick-5.

There will be a push to get new stables to race at Cal Expo.  With plans for three nights a week racing in the winter when many tracks are closed and increased purses, it is hoped new stables will be willing to go west to race.

In other news:

Windsor Raceway surrendered their license to the ORC, effective August 31 at 11:59pm, making them the first track in Ontario to throw in the towel thanks to the uncertainty in the province due to the OLG terminating the Slots at Racetrack program.  It makes sense Windsor was the first one to cease racing activity as they refused to enter into a modified contract with the OLG to take them through March 31, 2013 once the slots were turned off, being unsatisfied with the terms offered to them.  As a result, their contract ceases at the end of August at which time the OLG has to have physically removed all the slot machines.  Of course, the question is if and who will be the next track to turn in their license?

Oops, the SBOANJ retracted an earlier statement made by their lawyer which alleged the track was unsafe for racing.  The horsemen walked the track with the track superintendent and found the track safe.  Qualifiers will take place today.  I must admit, if no one from the horsemen even inspected the track beforehand, how could someone have even alleged the track was unsafe in the first place?

The Old Switcheroo.  This Sunday, Tioga Downs will be racing in the evening and Vernon Downs will be racing a special Sunday afternoon card as part of the New York State Fair Weekend.  Usually, Tioga races in the afternoon with Vernon being dark.  This Sunday evening, the elimination race for the Cane Pace will be contested at Tioga with a first race post of 6:50pm.  Nine horses will be competing for seven positions on the gate for the final as A Rocknroll Dance and Time To Roll received byes.  I normally hate elimination races but I must admit with the elimination going for $107,572, there is enough money on the table to ensure a competitive race.

Meanwhile at Vernon Downs with the special post time of 1:15pm, there will be the $350,000 Zweig Memorial Trot and the $150,000 Zweig Memorial Filly Trot on the card plus the second half of the Vernon Downs/Meadowlands Driving Championship

See you in December?  While nothing has been cast in stone, it looks like the Meadowlands may kick off its 2013 season in 2012.  An advertisement to the industry says 'See you in December'.  Whether this is a return to the traditional post Christmas opening day or a start earlier in the month remains to be seen.

This weekend, HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge makes three stops, including a doubleheader.  The weekend's action starts Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack for eliminations of a few major stakes races, including the Canadian Pacing Derby.  Sunday is a doubleheader with the afternoon featuring the previously mentioned card at Vernon Downs and the evening card at Rideau Carleton Raceway for the $183,500 Frank Ryan Memorial Trot.   Handicapping selections will be available at

Are you a Springsteen Fan?  If so, you can bid on a set of tickets to Bruce Springsteen's August 29, 2012 concert at Vernon Downs as part of a prize package.  The package includes a two night hotel stay, daily breakfast, dinner the night of the concert, preferred parking the day of the concert, and of course two VIP tickets to the concert.  In addition, you will be helping the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.  Bidding on this package ends at noon on Sunday afternoon.  You may bid on this package here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday Miscellanery

Not a Good Way to Start a Meet - The first dispute between the SBOANJ and Freehold Raceway has broken out and resulted in the cancellation of qualifiers as they prepare for their August 30 opening.  The SBOANJ claims they told management they had concerns about the track's condition and wanted to discuss them after the day's qualifiers.  Freehold claims they received a letter from the SBOANJ's lawyer the day before questioning the safety of the track which resulted in them to cancel qualifiers and had no other advance notice.  I have no way to know which version is true, I suspect it is somewhere between to two explanations.

If there is a problem with the track, fix it.  Complaining about the surface the day before or day of qualifiers is not the time to bring up your issues.  In the meanwhile, horsemen who were looking to qualify so they could drop in the box for opening day may be out of luck.  There are few racing opportunities for New Jersey horsemen the way things are, making horsemen potentially lose the opportunity to race even one day due to a squabble like this is unacceptable.

Rule Changing Can Take Forever - Back in May of 2011, a status update on the proposed Fair Start rule for NJ was back in the hands of staff members to make revisions to the original proposal.  So far, fifteen months later, it has not yet seen its way back for public comment or consideration.  It is amazing how some rule changes get made quickly while others which benefit the public can take much longer.  Coincidence?  I think not.

In the Good Ol' Days - Racing commissions used to deny licenses to tracks whose facilities were not up to standard.  When was the last time they took a look at some of the dilapidated public areas dedicated for racing fans at a racino and threatened their license which would impact their ability to operate their slot machines?  Don't bother looking because they don't. 

Gural Honored - Jeff Gural has been elected to the LBJ Wall of Fame this year.  Odds are half of those reading this blog are not very happy about Gural's receiving this honor, but then there is a good chance you are upset he gets any honor; this is how divisive an individual he is.  In an industry which fights change it must mean he is accomplishing something.    

Pinto Anyone?  If you are heading to Delaware for the Blooded Horse Mixed Sale next week, take a look at Hip 109, Softy's Lightning a son of Softy's Smarty (T, 9 1:56.2f, $318,401) and Fancy Starlark by Lark's Crown (8 1:57.4h).  You don't get too many standardbreds listed as pinto colored in North America, but here is one.  You can see a picture of the yearling here.   The second dam is Sunny's Seyko whose breeding is not proven but according to the owner's statement, this yearling has a 'shot of paint'.   Being this horse is Ohio Eligible, it will be interesting to see what he fetches. 

Another Barn Fire - This time in Australia.  Like up here in the States, will anyone make it mandatory to install fire suppression systems (sprinklers) in racetrack or public training facilities?

Love Standardbreds?  The National Standardbred  Horse Show is scheduled for September 9 at the Horse Park of New Jersey and is sponsored by the SPHO-NJ and the SBOANJ.  If you have never attended it, you should make an effort to attend this year.  It is a great time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NJ Horsepeople Mark September 29 On Your Calendar

Regardless of breed, if you are a New Jersey horseperson, you need to mark September 29 on your calendar and head to Freehold Raceway for the first Open Space Day.  While harness racing will be featured, the event is important to all people involved in horses, be they standardbred, thoroughbred, or any other breed of horse whether the horse is a used for racing or pleasure riding.  Open Space Day celebrate the contributions the horse brings to New Jersey with respect to maintaining open space in the Garden State as well as its economic contributions. 

Not only will the day be educational, it will be entertaining as well.  A parade of horses will kick-off at 9:30am with activity moving to Freehold Raceway starting at 11:00am.  The day features, educational exhibits, displays and booths from advocacy and area non-profit organizations.  Of course, there will be racing including amateur, celebrity, and under saddle races plus the Open Space Pace as the feature race on the racing card.  Starting at 4:30pm, a concert by a nationally recognized group will be held (tickets required for the concert).

So show your support to New Jersey's  equine industry, not only by attending Open Pace Day, but by bringing others along with you to what should be an entertaining day.  Let your friends learn about the contributions horse racing brings to the state both economically and with respect to quality of life issues. 

Speaking of Freehold Raceway, the summer-fall meet begins on Thursday, August 30 with first post of 12:30pm.  Stakes races for New Jersey-sired horses is always the highlight of the summer-fall meet with the NJSS Green Acres races kicking-off on Friday along with the eliminations of the Helen Smith Trot and Lou Babic Pace. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Could Liberals Be Looking for an Exit Strategy?

There is some hope that the Liberal party in Ontario may be looking for an exit strategy out of their decision to end the Slots at Racetracks program.  From afar, it appears they realize they may have overreached in their attempt to end the program which provides horse racing in the province $345 million a year as part of a revenue sharing program, thanks to racing's refusal to just roll over and die.

Of course, 'Hope' is the operative word.  One tends to hold on to hope when things look bad as it is often the only way to continue on, hoping things get better.  Let's not kid ourselves, those who decided to end the Slots at Racetracks program are no fans of racing and consider the $345 million dollars a subsidy, money which could be spent elsewhere.  They, like the Quebec provincial government before them, feel racing is a lost cause.

Yes, I know subsidy is an objectionable term, racing calls it revenue sharing and I would concur.  However, when the government correctly or incorrectly thinks they can cut racing out of their share of the money and keep it for themselves, one can see how they call it a subsidy.

Let's assume the government realizes they bit of more than they can chew and have decided to get out of this public relations nightmare the best way they can, what mechanism may they use?

One avenue for exiting out of this fiasco is the report of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) which was delivered to the government this past Friday, but yet to be released to the public.  In a column, Murray Ezra reports on the optimism being attached to this report, possibly suggesting a recommendation somewhere between the continuation of the existing slots at tracks program to the other extreme which is the $50 million over three years in transitional aid.

If  racing is to receive a reprieve, people should be realistic and not expect things to go back to the way they were before the OLG announced the end of the slots program.  When it comes to politics, an exit strategy typically requires the ability for both parties to save face.  This means while the doomsday scenario may be averted for now there is a good chance there will still be pain.  Don't expect slots to return where they have already been removed.  Some tracks may still close, purses diminish, racing weakened but at least racing will continue.

As for the opposition parties?  While they may be aligning with racing now, don't expect them to reverse any damage done to racing by the liberals. Perhaps If a temporary solution is proposed, the opposition may extend the length of it, but don't expect much more.

Of course, this is all speculation.  After all, until the report is released, what else is there to do.

Monday, August 20, 2012

An Alternate View of the Racino Equation

Jay Bergman on wrote an excellent blog entry on how racetracks in New York have abandoned racing once they got slots and encourages the state to make sure the 'race' in racino is restored. Bergman cites a couple of examples on how racinos have abandoned racing amongst which there is:

Fast-forward to 2012 and what we see from Yonkers is public relations manager Clare Galterio in numerous advertisements during the racing simulcast. Galterio’s motivation appears to be to draw horseplayers to the lucrative rewards being given to slot players in their Empire City Casino.

So while racetracks have implied to the state that there is little synergy between the horseplayer and the slot player, they have aggressively turned to pull the horseplayer over to the slot side.

It was also in 2007 when Galterio suggested that a players reward system was being worked on to benefit horseplayers as well as slot players. More than five years later there is still no program in place for those who bet the ponies at Yonkers.


While Bergman does put most of the blame on track operators, he doesn't put all the responsibility on the backs of track operators.  Bergman states, "If racetracks are seeking the exclusive right to expand their slot operations into casinos without competition from stand-alone casinos, they should be forced to invest in the racing business along with their horsemen".  This is something I have been saying for ages, tracks have benefited from slots because they have racing so they should be required to invest in their legacy business but so should horsemen who quite honestly, have been racing for obscene amounts of money when compared to handle.  "We supply the horses" or "We put on the show" is no longer an excuse to require tracks alone to invest in making racing more popular.
I do have one issue with Bergman's column in that he issues a blanket indictment of all racetracks in New York for not trying to grow the racing side of the business.  For example, Bergman states:

 So while racetracks have implied to the state that there is little synergy between the horseplayer and the slot player, they have aggressively turned to pull the horseplayer over to the slot side. 

I have no doubt all racetracks are trying to get horseplayers to gamble on slot machines but there are at least two tracks (Tioga and Vernon Downs) which are doing whatever they can to get slot players over to the racing side as well.  To paint all the tracks in one broad stroke is unfair.

Bergman's column is a must read.  I encourage everyone to read it.

Book Review - Harness Racing in New York State

Occasional contributor to VFTRG, Joe F., offers this review of Dean Hoffman's latest book, Harness Racing in New York State.  The book is available through multiple outlets, including the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame Gift shop where a purchase will help the Museum.

Harness Racing In New York State. By Dean A. Hoffman. History Press. 124 pages. $19.99.
During the past decade we’ve seen the emergence of historical biographies that have caught fire with the general public and become wildly successful: two examples are Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and David McCullogh’s John Adams. Both books conflate the nuts and bolts of the historical record with colorful anecdotes and read like novels. Well, harness racing’s premiere present day historian, Dean Hoffman, has done the same thing, on a smaller scale, in his new book about the highs and lows of standardbred racing and breeding in New York.  From Messenger charging down a gangplank when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1788 to the regulators cracking down on Lou Pena, we get an overview of the growth of the sport in New York, as well as an anecdote laden narrative about the men and horses that made it happen.

Hoffman was an Associate/Contributing Editor at Hub Rail during the latter half of the seventies, subsequently moving on to a twenty-five year stint as Executive Editor at Hoof Beats, beginning in 1981. He published Castleton Farm: A Tradition of Standardbred Excellence in 1995 and Yankeeland: The Farm The Kellers Built in 2005. While those were niche books geared to a hard core harness racing audience, Harness Racing In New York State will have broader appeal, and it is written in a straightforward, congenial style that will satisfy the expert while not scaring away the newcomers to the sport. The same sort of engaging reminiscences that have always played a role in Hoffman’s work can be found throughout this book.
The almost seventy photographs which are synchronized with the text are superb. Digital age editing techniques have breathed new life into historical black and white images, some from the author’s personal collection.  The chapter layout works for the reader and the text is print-friendly

The book’s preface zeroes in on August 1, 1959, the night of the First Roosevelt International Trot—the seminal point for the metropolitan brand of harness racing that has dominated the latter half of the twentieth Century. And it’s only fitting that the first three words in that preface are George Morton Levy, who along with Bob Johnson—as Hoffman points out—and Bill Cane, did the dirty work with the politicians and unions that led to the meteoric rise of harness racing in metropolitan New York.
The Hambletonion, which was first raced in Syracuse and later at Bill Cain’s mile long, pear-shaped track in Goshen, remained in New York from its inception in 1926 until 1957, when it was relocated to DuQuoin, and Hoffman gives us a colorful account of the people and horses involved in the early days of that classic.

Steve Phillips, Marty Tananbaum, Allen Finkelson, Ted Zornow: all the characters are included in this book. There’s plenty of behind the scenes political intrigue, too. Hoffman goes into the long road travelled by the legislation that finally allowed for pari-mutuel betting in New York, as well the Laverne Law, which has allowed the sire stakes program to flourish. The longstanding battle between the USTA and the New York regulators is also covered.
A chapter on race-fixing in New York would obviously be out of place here, but I do take issue with Hoffman’s approach to that topic. He states: “There were always challenges to the racing industry, of course. Where money and wagering is involved, there will always be a suspicion that some things are not exactly kosher.”

No, say it isn’t so. At Yonkers, Roosevelt and Monticello? He writes about an inquiry initiated by the Brooklyn DA in August, 1966 in which Bill Haughton was subpoenaed to testify and his name appeared in the papers. Oh, well. Sholty, Insko, Chapman and Gilmour got the same subpoena, and so did Tod Gibbons, Phil Tully and John Cashaman Jr, the racing secretaries at Roosevely, Yonkers and Monticello. Sure, the authorities, State and Federal, did plenty of grandstanding back then, and there were plenty of investigations that generated lots of publicity but went nowhere, but this was not a case of the mean and nasty authorities picking on poor, innocent harness racing.
At a Congressional hearing in Washington in 1972, a proposal was made that either a national racing czar be appointed or pari-mutuel racing be eliminated. The legislators had just watched a video of the Mr Ace-- Moonstone Bay boat race at Yonkers. A $28 winner and a 9-2 place horse gave the bettors a $43 payoff. The trainer of the horse blocking for the winning combination and another trainer-driver collected more than $26,000 on the exacta, and the owner of that horse wound up dead in the trunk of a car in Brooklyn the following week. A Yonkers Raceway executive and a state-appointed track official also displayed their skill as handicappers; they collected $6,000 on that race.

The toxic cocktail of OTB, the superfecta, and inflated pools generated by the televising of those gimmick races, brought cheating to a new level. A sophisticated betting syndicate eliminated two horses in most races featuring the super and hence reduced the box price to $1,080—bingo. The Director of Monticello Raceway from 1959 to 1972 was indicted for tax fraud when he had others cash $10,000 worth of super tickets that belonged to him. Buddy Gilmour, Ben Webster and Carmine Abbatiello were three of the drivers barred from Roosevelt by George Morton Levy. It goes on and on. You can’t understate corruption when discussing harness racing in New York.
Another minor objection is that only five drivers are listed in the Empire Builders chapter at the end of the book: Carmine Abbatiello, Glen Garnsey, William Haughton, Thomas W Murphy, Harry Pownall and Cat Manzi. All are accomplished New York natives and deserving of mention, but Herve Filion deserves more than a spot in a picture of Tim Rooney. From the winter of 1967, when he was assigned a dozen stalls at Yonkers, up until his indictment in 1995, Herve was a force to be reckoned with in New York. The fact that he was born in Canada shouldn’t discount his contribution.

And while I’m at it, Goshen native Elizabeth Rorty is recognized as an Empire Builder, which makes sense, but none of the men who covered the sport for the metropolitan newspapers get much recognition—writers like Louis Effrat, Warren Pack and Clyde Hirt. The promoters like Lou Barasch, Joe Goldstein and Nick Grande also deserve high marks for creating an audience for the Roosevelt International and beyond that for keeping the ball rolling through good times and bad with their crazy promotions.
Hoffman does a wonderful job detailing the rise of the New York Sire Stakes program, from the early sixties when the ability to get around the track without falling down seemed to be the only prerequisite for stallion status, to the elevation of the program to national status via Oscar Kimelman and his Blue Chip Farm. His acquisition of Most Happy Fella in the early seventies was a game changer. The disconnect between purse money and performance started to shrink and New York bred yearlings became desirable to top owners and trainers. This chapter is loaded with information on the sire stakes races, the Old Glory Sale and the stallions that populated the various breeding operations that sprouted up around the state during the sixties and seventies.

While Roosevelt and Yonkers were clearly the driving force in New York racing, and get the most play in the book, Hoffman also details the establishment of racing at the various satellite tracks around the state. We find out when Batavia, Buffalo, Saratoga, Vernon Downs and Monticello came online and the circumstances and people behind those operations. Again, we get details and background information in a conversable format.
Trust me, this book will tell you plenty that you didn’t know about racing in New York. We haven’t seen anything like it for ages, and the way things are going we may not see anything like it again.

Meadowlands Meet - The Numbers

Many people are wondering how the Meadowlands fared the first year under new management. For those who depend on numbers and not anecdotal information,here is the information you are looking for. The numbers show:

Live Attendance - Up 6.6%
On-track Wagering - Up 8.0%
Export Handle* - Up 1.7%
Total All Sources - Up 2.5%

* - Wagering at other locations on Meadowlands races

While it is always a good thing to show improvement over the prior year's figures, it is clear things need to improve more. While on-track wagering contributes more to the bottom line than simulcast or ADW wagering, it must be troublesome to see only a 1.7% increase in handle from off-track sources.

The increase from off-track wagering was kept down due to the competition for race horses between the Meadowlands, Harrah's and Pocono Downs. It wasn't necessarily the fact the Meadowlands often lost out when it came to caliber of horses, because let's face it, the serious gamblers were not flooding the pools in Pennsylvania with their high takeout rates, the problem was horses were commuting back and forth between tracks, choosing their spots each week.

One thing harness handicappers love is form and it is hard to gauge form when a horse races one week at one track and ships to another track the following week. What many handicappers want to see is the same horses showing up each week to race at the same track. This is why the Meadowlands needs to work out an agreement with the Pennsylvania tracks to minimize conflicts in race dates so this consistency may be achieved. If no such agreement is reached, the Meadowlands would best be served by racing in the winte when the eastern Pennsylvania tracks are closed in addition to a Hambletonian-centric boutique meet.

Of course, there are two variables in the equation. The first one is Ontario. If no means can be found to support racing in Ontario, in particular Woodbine and Mohawk, expect a flood of horses heading south into the area which will eliminate the shortage of horses in the area.

The other variable is Governor Pat Quinn in Illinois as a new casino expansion bill has passed the legislature and is awaiting action from the Governor. If the bill is not vetoed by the Governor or his veto is overridden, it would take about a year for the slots to be up and running at racetracks, but some ex-pat horsemen may head back to the Prairie State early to make sure they earn any potential preferences for when the purses increased.

If you are looking for a recap of Super Sunday, you will find it here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Do Horsemen Have Constitutional Rights?

The USTA reported this past Friday that horsemen John Moody, Don Harmon, Rick Ray and Wally McIllmurray Jr. are suing the Michigan Gaming and Control Board (MGCB) and others for suspending and revoking their licenses for allegedly taking the Fifth Ammendment with regards to the alleged race fixing which supposedly transpired in Michigan.   They are seeking their licenses to be restored, expunging all records regarding the suspension in question and monetary damages.

In the suit, it is alleged the drivers took the fifth ammendment and after their suspensions were over, were told they could only get their license back if they fired their lawyers and answered questions without invoking the Fifth Ammendment (against self-incrimination).  According to the suit, the attorney representing the drivers were told they would be arrested after the hearing.

If you accept the points alleged as true, Michigan law permits the racing commission to suspend a licensee if they refuse to attend a commission meeting or refuse to testify without 'just cause'.  Well, I am no attorney, but being told you are going to be arrested after the hearing sounds like just cause to me.  My understanding is if you answer any question besides your name and address, you then give up your right to take the Fifth. Not having any transcripts, I would assume if they were told they were targets of a criminal investigation, their lawyer would have made sure they answered no questions other than identifying themselves by name and address..
Again, reading the allegations in the suit, one has to wonder how a racing commission can demand someone appear at a hearing without legal representation.  Also, how can a commission insist someone give up their right against self-incrimination, especially one hich is part of the government? 

To a layman, the answer would appear to be they can't.  But this will be up to the courts to decide.  This will be an interesting case to follow as it works its way through the Federal Court system.

Retraction:  I blew it big time and retracted an early post

Looking Back by Looking Forward

With the 2012 Meadowlands meet having concluded, it is time to look back at the meet.  In Friday's HRU, Jeff Gural opined his thoughts on the first year which you may read here. Clearly there is some disappointment being expressed, primarily due to the lack of cooperation with the horsemen. 

A couple of things have become obvious to me.  The first thing is when the new grandstand opens up at the Meadowlands, the Giants and Jets must be convinced to give up their right to have the racetrack go dark.  Parking for the new facility will be off of Route 120, away from the parking the stadium uses.  As long as post time and the last race's off time may be altered so not to conflict with the kick-off or end time of football played at the stadium, there is no real reason why the football teams should object.

While the final attendance and wagering figures have yet to be released, it is clear until 2014 when the new grandstand opens up, the chance to expose the New Meadowlands product to the general public will be hard to accomplish.  No doubt those who do attend are reacting favorably to the new attitude being displayed, but the new building is going to be the impetus to attract the general public and reach out to those disaffected gamblers to come back. 

The stakes program needs to be reduced.  As much as I hate eliminations, I am not happy seeing them eliminated because not enough entries are being dropped into the box.  Spending all that money on races without sufficient demand is foolish.  That money is better spent on overnight races to get more horses entered.  Which stakes need to be cut?  I'll leave that to the experts. 

In addition to these two ideas, I would offer the following suggestions:

As for the overnight series, I would suggest a unique approach.  Charge an entrance fee which gets refunded if a horse starts in all preliminary legs, or if not entered into all preliminary legs, did not race at any other track during the preliminary legs.  Too many times horses raced in the first leg only to disappear and race elsewhere for various reasons.  By offering a refund of fees for competing in all possible legs, it may be easier to hold on to horses at the track.

I would suggest a new condition to be added to overnight races this coming winter, something to the effect of 'Horses that made X number of starts at the Meadowlands in 2012 between April 1 and August 17 preferred", thus rewarding those horsemen who supported the Meadowlands this past year.  This condition offered during the winter when Pocono Downs and Harrah's Philadelphia is closed and plenty of horses will be looking for places to race would be comeuppance to those who decided not to support the Meadowlands when they were needed (i.e., one hand washes the other). 

It is clear there needs to be coordination of racing dates between  the Meadowlands, Pocono Downs and Harrah's.  Ideally, coordination of racing dates with Yonkers would be ideal but with the strained relationship between Gural and the leadership of the SOA of NY, I don't see the horsemen at Yonkers doing anything to accommodate the Meadowlands.  Assuming a deal can't be worked out, I would suggest the Meadowlands hold two meets in 2013.  A five wek meeting starting with the last week of June and concluding with the Hambletonian; a meet similar to the Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile where the bulk of races would be stakes racing and yet allow NJSS races to be contested on the big oval.  Other than this specialty meet, I would race the bulk of dates in the winter where there is less competition for horses; race where your strength is.  

Eighteen Wins the Gold Cup and Saucer

Eighteen (Tyler Moore) went wire to wire last night to win the Sobey's Gold Cup and Saucer in 1:51, tying the track record for aged pacers.  Tyler Moore took advantage of the rail position and fired out, allowing him to make each point of call a winning one with fractions of :26.4, :54.2, 1:22.1, and 1:51 at the wire, holding off a fast closing Mystician.  Amazon Art finished third.

After watching the races last night from Charlottetown Driving Park, I was longing for the old style of racing I remember from the past when the racing was much more exciting for the fan to watch.  In the following two replays, you will see three and four wide drives in the backstretch the second time around, two tiers of horses of horses racing, and movement throughout the entire mile.  Something quite different from today's typical races.  Heck, half mile track racing which was exciting.

No, the miles were not necessarily fast when compared to other tracks but to the gambler, does it matter if a race goes in 2:01 or 1:52?  Of course not, they want to see exciting races with those wide-sweeping moves and prolonged challenges on the outside.  They rather have three or four horses at the wire in 2:01 instead of seeing horses romping in 1:49.  Track and world records mean something to breeders and their owners, but track records doesn't impress the gambler; they want to cash tickets.  If we are going to have people wait fifteen minutes between races, we may as well give them two minutes of excitement instead of a yawn-fest.

For at least one night, I got to enjoy what made me fall into love with harness racing in the first place.  Unfortunatley, it may be another year until I get to see it again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Weekend Handicapping Selections

I have posted over the past few days handicapping selections for a few race tracks.  To make it easier, here are links to the three cards handicapped:

Friday - Meadowlands Closing Night - Incl. William Haughton Memorial, Golden Girls, Moni Maker

Saturday - Charlottetown Driving Park - Gold Cup and Saucer Night

Sunday - Harrah's Philadelphia - Super Sunday Card featuring Battle of the Brandywine.

All three race cards are part of HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge

Super Sunday Selections

 Here are my selections for Super Sunday at Harrah's Philadelphia.  As with my other selections this weekend, this card is part of HANA Harness' contest so you may find the selections for these races at the same link on Sunday morning. 

1st Pace - $75,000; PHHA 2yo Open (Post Time 1:30pm)
2 - Dovuto Hanover (D Miller, 7-2)
8 - Our Dragon King (Pierce, 5-2)
4 - Fraternity (Dube, 6-1)
5 - Nassau County (Gingras, 8-1)

2nd Pace - $75,000; Valley Forge Consolation II - 3yo Fillies
4 - Mikeleh (Campbell, 7-2)
3 - Air Guitar Hanover (Tetrick, 5-1)
1 - Persistent (D Miller, 9-2)
2 - Rockaround Sue (A Miller, 5-2)

3rd Trot - $100,000; Colonial Consolation II - 3yo Open
7 - Appomattox (Tetrick, 5-2)
3 - Go Tapaigh (Hall, 6-1)
4 - Lindys Jersey Boys (Sears, 9-2)
6 - No Frosting (Pierce, 12-1)

4th Pace - $100,000; Battle of the Brandywine Consolation II - 3yo Open
3 - Simply Business (Pierce, 7-5)
6 - Racking Rocky (Teague, 12-1)
5 - Friday At Five (Brennan, 8-1)
8 - Verdad (Gingras, 6-1)

5th Pace - $150,000; Valley Forge Consolation I - 3yo Fillies
3 - Kiss Don't Bite (Sears, 5-2)
1 - Marty Party (D Miller, 4-1)
5 - Moonlit Dragon (Carlson, 3-1)
7 - Mcsauna (Tetrick, 10-1)

6th Trot - $200,000; Colonial Consolation I - 3yo Open
3 - Upfront Billy (Sears, 12-1)
5 - Gym Tan Laundry (Brennan, 3-1)
1 - Top Billing (Palone, 4-1)
7 - Banker Volo (D Miller, 9-2)

7th Pace - $75,000; PHHA 3yo Open
3 - Ideal Champ (D Miller, 8-5)
6 - Live On (A Miller, 5-1)
2 - All Week (Callahan, 8-1)
5 - Papa Ray (Campbell, 8-1)

8th Pace - $200,000; Battle of the Brandywine Consolation I - 3yo Open
5 - One Through Ten (Palone, 5-1)
3 - Bettor's Edge (D Miller, 5-2)
4 - Easy Again (Teague, 9-2)
2 - I Like Dreamin (Napolitano, 4-1)

9th Trot - $150,000; Maxi Lee Memorial - Invitational
8 - Chapter Seven (Tetrick, 8-5)
3 - Andres Bluestone (Napolitano, 4-1)
1 - Sevruga (A Miller, 5-1)
4 - Looking Hanover (Gingras, 10-1)

10th Pace - $350,000; Valley Forge - 3yo Fillies
1 - Big Mcdeal (Jamieson, 8-1)
7 - Economy Terror (Sears, 4-1)
2 - American Jewel (Tetrick, 5-2)
8 - Handsoffmycookie (D Miller, 12-1)

11th Trot - $500,000; Colonial - 3yo Open
1A - Little Brown Fox (Gingras, 2-1)
   1 - Guccio (Takter, 2-1)
   3 -  Googoo Gaagaa (Callahan, 3-1)
   2 -  Market Share (Tetrick, 8-5)
   5 -  Frost Bites K (D Miller, 12-1)
Coupled - #1 Guccio, #1A - Little Brown Fox, and #1B Uncle Peter

12th Pace - $500,000; Battle of the Brandywine - 3yo Open
6 - Pet Rock (Sears, 5-1)
4 - A Rocknroll Dance (Gingras, 2-1)
8 - Sweet Lou (Palone, 6-1)
7 -  Shady Breeze (Tetrick ,15-1)

13th Pace - $150,000; PHHA Invitational
5 - Malak Uswaad N (Tetrick, 4-1)
8 - Fred And Ginger (Gingras, 9-2)
3 - Dial Or Nodial (D Miller, 5-1)
2 - Special T Rocks (Napolitano, 3-1)

14th Trot - $75,000; PHHA 3yo Open
3 - Possess The WIll (Campbell, 2-1)
8 - Modern Family (Lachance, 8-1)
2 - Quit Smoking Now (A Miller, 6-1)
4 -  Wing Tips (Palone, 4-1)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gold Cup and Saucer Card Selections

I must confess, there are certain days race cards I look forward to on the racing calendar.  Of course, there is the Hambletonian card, Super Sunday featuring The Battle of  the Brandywine, Little Brown Jug, virtually any day card at Lexington, the Breeders Crown, and then there is Gold Cup and Saucer Day at Charlottetown Driving Park (formally known as Red Shores Charlottetown).  If my Canadian friends will excuse me, perhaps it is the fact while it is a Canadian event, there are elements of Americana involved; basically a small town racetrack with a whole lot of people there to enjoy harness racing. 

Could you find better quality horses racing elsewhere?  Sure you can, but how many tracks do you know which will be packed at midnight?  Do you think you could get away and contest the feature race as the last race of the card?  It is highly unlikely.  The people of Prince Edward Island love their harness racing, and they show it.  While I may be watching it from afar, I can't help but get caught up in the atmosphere.

Admittedly, it may not be easy finding an outlet in the States which will carry the Charlottetown card, though there are several ADWs which will handle the race card.  For those who don't have a track or ADW taking the signal (here is a list of sources offering wagering), you can still watch the card from Red Shore's website.

If you want to review the trials for the Gold Cup and Saucer, you will find them all conveniently located in this posting.

I have handicapped the entire Gold Cup and Saucer race card and provide my selections below.  The Gold Cup and Saucer is part of HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge so you may see the selections of the eight handicappers here starting Saturday morning.

Free programs for the Gold Cup and Saucer card may be located at this website.  Please note the program will include past performance pages for the afternoon and evening card.  Make sure you are looking at the correct set of races.  

A few notes before we get to my selections.  Superfecta wagering on the entire card.  A $10,000 guaranteed pool for the Pick 4 is being offered on the last four races (12-15).  The Gold Cup and Saucer is the evening program (they also have an afternoon card) and for those of us not used to wagering on races from the Maritimes need to know they are in the ADT time zone, so their 6:45 post time for the first race is actually 5:45pm EDT, 4:45 CDT, 3:45 MDT, and 2:45 PDT.

Here are my selections for the fifteen race card.  Please note these selections were made prior to Thursday's races being completed as some horses are scheduled to race on Thursday as well on Saturday.  I will list under each race which horses are scheduled to race on Thursday. 

1st Pace - $1,250; 5yo and Under - Winners of 3 but not More than 5 pm Races Lifetime (Post Time 6:45pm ADT)
3 - Classic John (Ryan, 3-1)
6 - Stonebridge Art (Hughes, 6-1)
2 - C J Bluefin (McGuigan, 4-1)
5 - Navarro Seelster (Chappell, 7-2)
Line To Be Announced: #4 Mystic Maier

2nd Pace - $800; Horse and Geldings - NW $451 Last 5 Starts
7 - Wave Board (Jo Macdonald, 7-2)
1 - Tanks Alot (Macphee, 5-2)
6 - Shinydes A (Doyle, 12-1)
2 - Allamerican Wow (Rogers, 6-1)
Line to Be Announced: #1 Tanks Alot, #2 Allamerican Wow, #5 Shinydes A, #7 Wave Board, #8 Western Traveler

3rd Pace - $1,100; NW $675 Last 5 Starts
5 - Extreme Measure (M Campbell, 5-2)
8 - Neigh Monster (Barrieau, 6-1)
1 - Rivervue Jameen (Shepherd, 3-1)
4 - Access Key (MacKay, 10-1)
Line to be Announced: #8 Neigh Monster

4th Pace -$900; Horses and Geldings - NW $451 Last 5 Starts
5 - Pictonian Walton (Bernard, 5-2)
4 - Rymar Jet (Murphy,  6-1)
2 - Athletic Putnam (Bradley, 3-1)
9 - The Tominator (Poulton, 12-1)
Line to be Announced: #3 FGL Fantastic, #8 Bossy Bubba, #9 The Tominator

5th Trot - $10,000; Erwin Andrews Memorial Mares Trot
6 - Julaire (Campbell, 7-2)
3 - Warrawee Jade (Andrew, 5-2)
8 - Ginternal Revenue (Stevenson, 6-1)
2 - Diana Car (Arsenault, 8-1)

6th Pace - $1,300; NW $851 Last 5 Starts
2 - Lucky In Love (M Campbell, 5-2)
6 - Matt Trapper (Andrew, 6-1)
4 - Electric Syl (Rennison, 4-1)
8 - Hueys Boy (Macpherson, 7-2)
Line to be Announced: #4 Electric Syl, #5 Major Venue, #7 Skippy

7th Pace - $5,100; Alpine $3,000 Claiming Series Final - Fillies and Mares
4 - Edgewter Shadofax (Stevenson, 5-2)
2 - There Paid For (Ga Macdonald, 8-1)
5 - Ultimate Faith (M Campbell, 3-1)
9 - Amile To Remember (Mackenzie, 10-1)
Also Eligible: #10 Cashmere Lady

8th Pace - $2,500; Normal Macphail Memorial Pace
7 - Macnamarra (An Macdonald, 5-2)
4 - C L Eighty (Ryan, 3-1)
5 - Lils Destiny (Ja Macdonald, 7-2)
6 - Pembroker Fella (Macphee, 6-1)
Line to be Announced: #7 Macnamarra

9th Pace - $6,200; Alpine $3,000 Claiming Series Final - Horses and Geldings
1 - Cam Cool (Cheverie, 5-2)
6 - Pilgrims Burner (Ryan, 8-1)
3 - Huronexpress (Jo Macdonald, 10-1)
2 - Dontlooknow (Bradley, 7-2)
Also Eligible: #10 Skole

10th Pace - $1,500; NW $1,051 Last 5 Starts
5 - P L Betterway (Jo Macdonald, 3-1)
8 - Maddie G (MacKay, 4-1)
3 - Truth Or Date (R Campbell, 5-2)
7 - Rymar Chieff (Murphy, 7-2)
Line to be Announced: #6 Hilo

11th Pace - $3,000; The Papermaker Pace
3 - Aled Hanover (Sobey, 3-1)
2 - War Cry Ranger (Andrew, 4-1)
1 - Maritimer (MC Macdonald, 7-2)
7 - Firethorn (Jo Macdonald, 10-1)
Line to be Announced: #2 War Cry Ranger, #5 Oakmont

12th Pace - $18,000; Joe O'Brien Memorial (Gold) - 3yo Coltss
6 - Touch of Lightning (Smith, 5-2)
2 - Mr Thompson (Stevenson, 3-1)
3 - Kingdom Come (Bradley, 7-2)
4 - Astronomical Union (Campbell, 8-1)

13th Pace - $1,700; NW $1,251 Last 5 Starts
6 - Le Fugueur (Jo Macdonald, 5-2 )
8 - Camcun (Ryan, 4-1)
3 - Art I Special (Doucet, 7-2)
9 - Brief Bliss (Quinn, 8-1)
Line to be Announced: #1 All The Weapons

14th Pace - $9,000; The Spud Island Classic Final
8 - Private Joke (Holmes, 4-1)
7 - Kaylas Sophia (Barrieau, 6-1)
4 - Skylark Hanover (Mackenzie, 3-1)
9 - General Luckypercy (Shepherd, 5-2)
Also Eligible: E F Fantasia

15th Pace - $60,000; Sobey's Gold Cup and Saucer
1 - Eightenn (Moore, 3-1)
3 - Pontiac Luck (Coulter, 6-1)
9 - Stonebridge Terror (An Macdonald, 5-2)
6 - Mcapulco (Shepherd, 8-1)

I Want My Gold Cup and Saucer!

So after all this talk about the Gold Cup and Saucer, you probably are wondering, "Am I able to wager on the Gold Cup and Saucer card from Red Shores Charlottetown? "

Well, here is your answer.  The following ADWs and Simulcast locations will be accepting wagers on all or part of the Gold Cup and Saucer card on Saturday (8/18):

All tracks in Canada
HPI and all of the Woodbine Teletheatre Market
Rideau and all their Teletheatres

United States and Elsewhere
Catskill OTB
Day at the track
Euro Off Track
Freehold Raceway
Harrington Raceway
Rosecroft Raceway
The Meadows
Los Alamitos Race Course
Monticello Raceway
Northfield Park
Northville Downs
Player Management Group
Premier Turf Club
Velocity racing
Yonkers Raceway

* - Not offered at Meadowlands (football)

So Tell Me Something We Didn't Know

Time for another edition of debunking the theory 'Slots is Making Horse Racing Stronger'.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced the findings of an audit which indicates despite the advent of video lottery terminals, handle and attendance at horse races are not rebounding at racino facilities

Wow, we didn't see that coming did we?

What happened to the argument that greater purses would allow tracks to increase the quality of racing which would increase handle and attendance at race tracks?  It is a great lie told in order to get slots into the racetracks to bulk up the purses and the amount of money horsemen and owners are earning; doing little for breeders, gamblers, and racetracks (other than allowing them to operate slots).  At best, the argument can be made slots gave horse racing a lifeline, keeping it from going out of existence.

Let's compare handle and purses in New York state between the years 2011 and 2006, the year slots started at Yonkers on October 11 and see how well things are doing at the harness racing tracks in the Empire State

                       Handle    Change      Purses    Change              Foals  Change        
2006 $369,723,831 $56,981,956 1070
2011 $251,926,378 $122,461,228 1017
Difference -$117,797,453 -31.86% $65,479,272 114.91% -53 -5.00%

Someone explain to me once more how slots makes for a stronger racing industry?  If you are talking about drivers, trainers, and owners, I guess you can make the argument they as a group are making more money.  For the breeders, it is less clear.  If business was doing so well for the breeders, wouldn't the number of foals born be higher at the end of this period than it was before?  The number of foals born would suggest the breeders are not doing all that well; better than they would be doing if there were no slots, but I dare suspect they are not living the life of luxury.

No matter how you look at it, if you consider the success of a business by increasing demand of your product, it is obvious that slots are not delivering the benefits to harness racing which were foretold.  I doubt the New York Legislature would have passed casino gambling if the idea was to support a product which continues to have a declining share of the gaming market; casino gambling was approved in order to increase revenue derived from the horseplayer, something which has failed..  

Part of the blame falls on the legislature themselves for not demanding certain proceeds to stimulate wagering and attendance or setting up metrics which should have been needed to track to ensure slot revenue was well spent.  Now would be a good time for the industry to go back to the states and demand such changes be made now (with contributions coming from both ends of the business to stimulate racing.  After all, better a little less now than nothing later.