For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The USTA Rule Change Proposals - Part 2

Continuing on with the proposals for rule changes, we will look at the last six proposals. For those who missed my discussion of the first set of rule change proposals, you may read them here.

5. A proposal to amend Rule 17, Section 5, Subsection (c) to read as follows: "Be at least 16 years of age for an (M) license."

Approve. We know where this proposal comes from. Many of you remember the twelve year old who was taken off of his unraced two year old in a matinee race at Goshen's Historic Track. Yes, there may be a talented twelve year old out there who can handle a horse but the fact is they are not as physically strong as they are when they are sixteen years old. Driving horses is dangerous. If nothing else, you can be a driver with golden hands but even if you are great with your horse, you need to react to what someone else may be doing with their horse. If you want to race horses bad enough, you will wait until you are sixteen.

6. Amend Rule 24, Section 1, to change the timing of races from “fifths of seconds” to “one hundredths of a second.”

Approve with revisions preferred. Well, this rule change makes its annual appearance and thanks to a change this time, I can agree with its approval. In the past, the rule called for each horse to be individually timed but this time it is with regards to the race winner only. I do think timing to a hundredths of a second is much overkill, but if the powers to be agree, so be it. I think this proposal would be better if timing of races went from fifths of seconds to tenths of seconds, the standard used outside of North America.

7. A proposal to amend Rule 26, Section 2(h) by changing to first sentence to read as follows: “the status of a previously registered Standardbred may be changes to Pleasure Horse upon application by the owner and surrender of the Registration Certificate to the USTA."

Approve. There has been some confusion about what needs to be done to get a Pleasure Horse registration designation. Anything which cleans up the confusion is a good thing.

8. A proposal to add new section to Rule 20 – STANDARD OF CONDUCT to read as follows: “Any person who shall represent themselves to be the registered owner of a horse knowing said horse to be owned wholly or in part by a person or persons barred or otherwise disqualified from participating in racing shall be suspended from membership in this Association for a minimum of 1 year.”

Approve (with reservations). Quite honestly, a one year suspension for claiming to own a horse which actually is owned by someone who is not eligible to race is not sufficient. That being said, one year is better than nothing. Yes, I know one year is a minimum, but often the minimum penalty is what is given.

9. A proposal to amend the Bylaws to provide that any appeal from the denial, revocation or suspension of membership under the provisions of Article 3, Section 4 must be heard by the Full Board of Directors.

Approve. The Full Board of Directors refers to the District Boards, not the board of the entire USTA. A person who is denied membership or has had their membership suspended or revoked is entitled to having their case heard behind the entire district board of review, not just who makes the effort to attend a hearing.

10. A proposal to amend Article 1, section 3, (m) to read as follows: “Forthwith, any person who been the subject of a final order in a prosecution under any state animal welfare statute shall be disqualified from membership in this Association for a minimum period of one year with the length of disqualification beyond one year to be determined by the gravity of the offense.”

Approve. Approval of this proposal is important for several reasons. First of all, as the explanation with the proposal suggests, certain states include horses in other animal welfare law. Secondly, a person can avoid conviction by agreeing to pre-trial intervention which unless this proposal is adopted, would allow them to escape discipline from the USTA.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Indiana Premier Yearling Sale Review

Frequent guest blogger and VFTRG's Sale Analyst provides his review on the recently concluded Indiana Premier Yearling Sale:

There was an average price drop of 31% at the Indiana Premier Yearling Sale, which was held Thursday and Friday, with the average price falling from $10,147 to $7,730, and the median price going from $7,500 to $5,000.
In light of those figures, it’s encouraging to see the favorable response the eight-year-old Western Ideal stallion, Always A Virgin, got. The winner of the Cane, Messenger, Holmes, Battle Of Brandywine, as well as heats of the Jug and Pace, stands at Victory Hill Farm for a modest fee of $3,500. In his first season at the farm—2009—his book was full and closed, something unheard of in modern day Indiana. In light of the success his offspring have experienced this year one could have expected a more pronounced boost than the one he got, but I imagine most breeders will be thrilled if they can maintain position this year.

Comparing the results of this same sale in 2011 and 2012, last year AAV had 18 colts and 13 fillies sell for an average of $9,300. The colts averaged more than $9,700, while the fillies came in at $8,800. The top colt brought $20,000, and the top filly $30,000. (He did have a colt sell for $50,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale.)
This year the number sold dropped from 31 to 24. The overall average was almost $12,000, with the nine colts bringing an average of almost $17,750 and the fifteen fillies an average of $8,500. Notice that the offering was top heavy with colts last year and the reverse was the case on Thursday and Friday. This year the top colt sold for $35,000 and the top filly for $22,000. Five of the nine colts went for $15,000 or more.

This year’s freshmen represent Always A Virgin’s first crop to race and they cleaned up on the Indiana SS program. Always About Katey, a half-sister to Radar Contact, won the $200,000 Gold Final as well as the $54,000 Hanover at Balmoral. She earned almost $175,000 and won in :53.4. And the gelding, Right Touch, who earned $155,000 on the season, won the $200,000 C&G Gold Final, with another AAV gelding, Mister Virgin, second. Raise The Gin, another gelding, who earned $71,000 this year, was also in the final. (Why are all of the Always A Virgin colts incomplete? Does it have anything to do with daddy’s name?)
In July it was announced that Always A Virgin will take up shuttle duty at Pepper Tree Farm in Australia.

Considering the way stallions have been hammered in the early sales, it’s nice to see one overcome this challenging environment and show some gains.

A Must Read Column

Click here to read a column people in the industry MUST read.  

The USTA Rule Change Proposals - Part 1

The USTA has published their list of rule change proposals for consideration at the district board meetings which will then be reviewed and voted on at the 2013 USTA Board of Director meeting.  As I do annually, here is my take on the proposals.  I will cover all the proposlas over two posts.

1. A proposal to clarify “Bonus Earnings” relative to Conditioned Races by adding the following language to under Rule 4, Section 6(a): “All money earned shall be credited to the horse’s winnings at the same time as advertised purse earnings and shall include any “bonus” earnings or other supplemental payments paid to the horse’s owner.”
Oppose.  While well intentioned, I think it actually does more harm than good.  In fact, if I had my druthers I would change the rule to not include bonus earnings already included.  For example, let's say you are racing in a NW2CD class where the regular purse goes for $4,000 but in your state there is a 25% bonus for a race restricted to state-sired or owned, resulting in a purse of $5,000.  While it is true a horse winning such a race earns an extra $500, it puts the horse at a disadvantage when they race against open company or at another track.  Races like this should be raced for a purse of $4,000 plus a $1,000 state-sired and owned bonus and the base purse alone should be considered in conditions. 
In addition, let's say you race at a track where all starters earn 1% of the purse just for finishing the race and the race goes for $10,000; a horse that finishes in eighth place should be credited with $100 in earnings?  Set starting fees should not be included in purse earnings as once again, it puts the horse at an unfair disadvantage.  Same thing for a horse that gets a bonus for sweeping a series of races, any such bonus is not race specific and should not be included for the same reason.
2. Add New Subsection (29) to Rule 9, to read as follows:

Race Numbering Race numbers will be sequential starting at “1” (one) and nonduplicated for each group of races with a common “race type” as defined by the USTA for any given calendar day. “Race Types” (and corresponding race codes) include the following: 1-Qualifier, 2-Time Trial, 3-Baby Race, 4-Official Workout, 5- Afternoon PM, 6- Evening PM, 7-Matinee, 8-Afternoon Fair, 9-Evening Fair.
Approve.  This is a cosmetic change which will help when programs are produced to make sure races are reported correctly.  For example, under the current system, if you raced in the first race on the first card at the Delaware County Fair on Jug Day, your race would be confused with a horse that started in the first race on the second card at the Delaware County Fair.  By agreeing to this change, it allows for programs to be clearer.
3. A proposal to amend Rule 14, Section 1 (b) to prohibit a horse to enter and race in more than one county fair on any given day.
Approve with changes  -  Let's not kid ourselves, a horse racing at one track is not going to be racing at another track the same day (I think Hot Hitter is the last horse to race twice in one day at two different tracks).  The person who suggested this rule claims people will pick and choose the race to go into based on the competition each race draws. 
Fairs as well as racetracks are struggling to fill races.  If a horse is entered in a race, the expectation that the horse is going to race should be maintained.  If the horse didn't enter the horse, the race may not have filled and not used but now if a horse scratches, there is a race on the card which never would have been used.
The change I would make is to apply this change to all racetracks, be it a county fair or an extended parimutuel race.  If a declaration is made, the owner and trainer should have to honor it, not be able to cancel to pick their spot.
4. A proposal to amend to Amend Rule 17, Section 4(d), by changing the name and requirements for “P” Provisional drivers to be in effect junior drivers and allowed to claim concessions.  It would give more opportunity for men and women to show what they are able to do, instead of them having a hard time getting drives.

Approve.  No doubt this will be a controversial proposal.  Adopting this rule will be similar to what is being done in Australia.  It is hard for individuals to get their full license because of an unwillingness to give provisional drivers drives; especially women.  By establishing in effect an apprentince driver where horses driven by them get a concession to race in one class lower than they are eligible to, owners and trainers will be more inclined to use these drivers, hopefully getting more women in the sulky, allowing racing to increase its appeal to women gamblers.  In addition, it will also allow trainers and owners to see what these people can do so the goods ones may flourish once their apprenticeship is over.  Also, being an apprentince driver, any advantage they receive for being in a lower class may be partially offset by the driver's lack of experience, keeping races competitive for wagering.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Big Brass Ones at Monticello

I will say one thing about the horsemen at Monticello, they got big ones.  Back in April in Harnesslink, there was an article where they talked about the kill buyers having free reign on the backstretch of the track, buying horses who no longer were competitive.  As a result of that, management evicted these horse dealers from the backstretch and declared there is a zero tolerance policy in place.  Problem solved right?

Not really, those who really wanted to get rid of unproductive horses still found a way to get rid of them, but I guess it has been too inconvenient for the horsemen, taking time out of their busy day to unload these horses.  So, in a case of ultimate chutzpa, the local horsemen's association is petitioning racetrack management and the NYSRWB seeking to get the very same unlicensed people back on the backstretch so horsemen can get rid of those horses no longer suitable for racing more easily.

These horsemen have no shame do they?

RUS on Tap; Friday Miscellanery

Racing Under Saddle fans are in for a doubleheader of racing activity this weekend.  On Saturday, Freehold Raceway has a $5,000 RUS Exhibition race on tap which will be contested after the day's regular racing program has concluded as part of Open Space Day.  Post time for the race is anticipated to be at 4:15pm.  You may wonder why the race is happening after the racing program?  There is a concert by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes taking place afterwards so there will be plenty of people around to see the race.

On Sunday, a $20,000 RUS event occuring after the fifth race, anticipated post time of 2:30pm, will be contested at The Red Mile.  This field will feature twelve horses answering the starter's call to provide the largest field thus far competing in a RUS event in North America; all twelve being on the starting gate.

While The Red Mile race was supposed to be the season's finale, Indiana Downs will be scheduling a RUS event on October 6 for an estimated purse of $10,000.  It is a good sign that additional tracks have expressed an interest in hosting RUS events, extending the season.

Harness racing in New Brunswick, Canada may be getting a shot in the arm as a result of a joint project between the New Brunswick First Nation Economic Development Corporation and Horse Racing New Brunswick.  The two organizations are proposing to build a new racetrack/entertainment center along with an Indian Cultural Center.  This new center would be located near St. Johns, and replace the existing Exhibition Park in St. Johns.

Yes, there will be VLTs at the new facility, but there are VLTs at the existing facility at present.  The problem is Exhibition Park's grandstand was in such bad shape it was torn down, allowing for less than 40 of the 100 slot machines allocated to it to be deployed.  With First Nation getting involved, a new facility will allow more machines to be installed, making up for the direct aid the provincial governemnt had provided in the past but will no longer give; in effect, a win-win situation without introducing additional gaming to the province.

The Illinois Harness Horsemen Association (IHHA) is coming to the rescue of owners who earned purse money this summer at DuQuion and Springfield.  Once again, the state government is slow in paying out the purse money owed to the the horsemen who earned purse checks, despite the fact a lot of that money came from the horsemen themselves in the form of stakes payments.  The IHHA is paying the purses out of their own reserves, to be reimbursed later by the state.  Ah, the beauty of being the government; they can be slow paying money owed but you be late with your taxes and see what they do.

You may be wondering where my selections are for The Red Mile meet.  The short answer is there are none.  Why?  Because quite honestly, I have been stinking up the place of late (one reader had another term for it, changing the middle letters of 'stink').  While the other term may be too severe, I have not been happy with my recent performance.  Until I work my way out of my slump, I am going to spare you by not providing my picks.

Disaster Averted at Hoosier Park - Updated

Update:  One horse did suffer non-fatal injuries in the mishap.  Here is a video of the race in question.

A disaster was barely averted last night at Hoosier Park (TB) during the running of the eighth race when the tractor and back up tractor which pull the starting gate away after a race begins broke down, leaving the starting gate on the track.  What made it more frightening is the race was a route tilt with the starting gate positioned near the top of the stretch.

What happened was a case of divine providence.  The track announcer never warned the jockeys of the mishap so the jockeys were going full speed when they saw the starting gate looming right in front of them.  Fortunately, no one got seriously hurt though two jockeys were tossed from their mounts when they pulled their mounts up sharply. 

My question is if there is a way to warn jockeys of a problem and if so, why weren't they warned ahead of time of the problem?  If there was no way to warn the jockeys, is it going to take a fatality or two before some type of contingency plan is implemented?  While there are flashing lights around the track because harness racing takes place at Hoosier, other tracks run during the day so it may not be feasible to use warning lights, if they are even installed. 

At thoroughbred tracks, sirens should be installed so if a similar situation occurs in the future, the sirens can warn the jockeys to pull up their horses as soon as safely possible and the race stopped.  The decision point as to whether or not to sound the siren should be when the starting gate is not physically moving when there is a half mile remaining in the race.  No one likes a no contest in racing, but I think protecting the lives of jockeys and horses dictates it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Another One Heat and Out

Once again, another trainer has made it clear that their horse will go one heat and scratch in a multi-heat race, in this case the Kentucky Filly Futurity.  Ray Schnittker has announced Check Me Out is going to race one heat in the Kentucky Filly Futurity and then on to the Breeders Crown.  Schnittker claims racing multi-heat races is cruel to horses.

Personally, I think it's not the case, but I recognize others disagree with me.  I don't understand how racing in one multi-heat race a year is going to cause a horse much trouble; the only difference is if the horse has soundness issues (I want to see what trainers are going to do when the Hambletonian goes to two heats the same day starting in 2013; for a million dollars the objections may disappear).  However, it is Schnittker's horse to protect so if he thinks two heats in a day is too much, I respect his decision.

My problem is why these horses are allowed to start in these races if they intend to race only one heat.  Owners and trainers know the conditions of a race and if they object to a multi-heat format, they shouldn't nominate or make sustaining payments.  When you make a payment, you in effect are agreeing to the conditions of the race.  But then that would be sportsmanship.

By entering a race with the intention of pulling your horse out before racing in all eligible heats, is fraudulent and such a withdrawal should be penalized.  It is the judges' responsibility not to let a horse arbitrarily scratch out of subsequent heats unless a state veterinarian excuses the horse due to illness or lameness.  A trainer who refuses to race an eligible horse for a subsequent heat without being scratched by the state vet should be fined and suspended severely.  In addition, stakes sponsors should put a poison pill in their conditions indicating a horse who refuses to race all eligible heats without a state vet scratching the horse will be disqualified for purse purposes from the heats already contested or the conditions should double the starting fee with the provision half the starting fee will be refunded upon a horse racing in all heats they are eligible for, thus imposing a financial penalty for premature departures.  In the case of the Futurity (or Oaks), it means a declaration fee of $15,000 ($7,000) with $7,500 ($3,500) being refunded upon racing in subsequent heats.

Why do I feel this way?  By racing in a multi-heat race and then scratching out of subsequent heats it eliminates a horse which was willing to race two heats from competing in a second heat; the owner/trainer violates the terms of the race to which they agreed to; people may be coming to the track and even traveling expending large sums of money to see a horse race only to see him/her be scratched.  Racing is a business but a certain amount of sportsmanship should be demanded.  If a trainer is unwilling to agree to the rules, the horse should stay in the stall.

PTP Makes a Funny.  In today's column, PTP talks about how the Breeders Crown is coming to Pocono Downs in 2013.  He mentions after the only tracks who can afford the Breeders Crown after this year may be Pocono and Yonkers and horsemen won't want to race on the half mile track  What's funny about that?  PTP assumes the horsemen at Yonkers would be willing to open their purse account to host those races.  Sometimes, he cracks me up.

The next round of the World Harness Handicapping Championship is scheduled for October 27 at the Meadowlands.  Details may be found here.

Pick (n) Blues; Breeder's Crown Returns to the Poconos in 2013

Recently, a reader of this blog let me know of a frustrating situation involving Pick-3s and 4s and dead heats.  In particular, he wants to know why if there is a dead heat, there is a single payout and the pool isn't split as in the case of Daily Doubles.  Specifically, he wrote:

Here's the problem, instead of paying separate payoffs for the deadheat, they combine the two amounts wagered and split the pot????  Are you kidding me?  If you play favorites, you're rewarded.  If you play longshots, you're penalized?  Can any explain how this is fair?  They pay different amounts for the other gimmicks, why not P3-4's???

Why do I care?  Last Saturday [September 15] at Mohawk, they had a deadheat between the 4 and 5.  I had 6 $0.20  tickets on the combination using the (13-1) 5 horse Jepson Hanover and none using the (4-1) 4 horse, Whippet Good.  I had a DD that paid $150 with the 5.  The DD with the 4 only paid $50....makes sense so far.  Expecting a similar ratio in the P3 payoffs, to my amazement, both P3's came back at $98 for a buck.  Are you kidding me?  This is criminal.  What the hell is going on around here?  This should blow every horseplayer's mind, even if they don't play Picks.

Well, I did some checking on this and it turns out WEG is simply following the ARCI model rules concerning Pick (n) wagers.

The following is from the ARCI model rules which explains a dead heat in Pick (n) pools:
(3)        If there is a dead heat for first in any of the Pick (n) contests involving:
        (a)        contestants representing the same betting interest, the Pick (n) pool shall be distributed as if no dead heat occurred.
        (b)        contestants representing two or more betting interests, the Pick (n) pool shall be distributed as a single price pool with each winning wager receiving an equal share of the profit.

However, ARCI model rules do allow for Win 3 wagers to have the type of pool distribution the writer is saying should be followed.  In the event of a dead heat, the model rules for Win 3 wager do allow for what they call "profit split"; where the pool is split and then paid proportionally to the number of tickets sold on each winning combination.   So why isn't WEG following these rules?  It is because WEG doesn't allow for consolation Pick 3s which are provided for in the Win 3 rules; they use the post time favorite in the place of a scractched horse.  As a result, WEG has to adhere to the model Pick (n) rules for their Pick 3.

Ignoring for a moment the fact WEG uses the Pick (n) rules for their Pick 3 instead of the Win 3 rules, the question remains is it fair that bettors holding a winning Pick 4 ticket with a 13-1 horse instead of the 4-1 horse in a leg with a dead-heat are paid the same?  I would say no.  Perhaps when you are looking at wagers like a Pick 5 or greater as a jackpot wager it does, but Pick 4s are not jackpot wagers.  The ARCI needs to adopt separate rules for Win 4 wagers instead of lumping it with the rest of the Pick (n) wagers and state racing commissions need to adopt the new rule..

What this situation should telll you is horseplayers need to remember when you make a wager, you are entering into a contract with the racing association.  A person never (well, shouldn't) enters a contract without knowing the terms of it so why are horseplayers blindly making wagers?  A horseplayer should never buy a ticket without knowing the rules which apply to the wager.  The rules of all wagers should be printed in all racing programs and for the benefit of simulcast and ADW customers, posted on association websites so a gambler may check the rules which apply to a wager.

The 2013 Breeders Crown returns to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs after two years at Woodbine Racetrack.  The 2013  finals are scheduled for October 19 with eliminations the weekend before.  Even if not for the case that Woodbine Entertainment is in no position to host the Crown next year with so much uncertainty, Pocono Downs is a good choice as the 2010 event was a success from all accounts.  Thanks for agreeing to host the 2013 Crown belongs to Mohegan Sun and the PHHA as it requires a huge financial commitment from all parties to pull this off.

In a unique twist, the PHHA is offering a $1 million bonus for the three year old trotter that sweeps the Earl Beal Jr Memorial, Colonial Trot, and Breeders Crown final which means the top three year old trotters will have Pennsylvania on their mind next year.

Did you know that Northfield Park offers their Pick-3, Pick-4, and Pick-5 with a 14% takeout rate?

Did you know there was harness racing in Malta?  Visit their website.

NFL Officials Return

A brief word about the NFL replacement officials who have officiated their last NFL game now that the regular officials are returning.  Yes, they blew a call in the Green Bay game this past weekend in dramatic fashion, but the regular referees never made an incorrect ruling which impacted the outcome of a game?  The only difference is people were waiting for the replacement officials to blow a call where the regular referees are given the presumption of being near infallible. 

Before anyone goes blaming the replacement referees, the question that needs to be asked who was to be blamed for this debacle?  Is it the replacement referees who were clearly not ready for prime time or t is the NFL and owners who decided to lockout the regular referees and put them on the field.  If they didn't lock the regular officials out, the replacements wouldn't have been out there. 

Besides, what do you expect when you get referees who work Division III college football games working NFL games?  Put a bunch of M(atinee) drivers behind unraced two year olds making their first start at a parimutuel track as a result of a driver boycott and see what happens.  Remember the times when the jockeys went on strike and NYRA management put exercise riders in the saddle for the races (us oldsters would remember)?  Who would have been to blame if an exercise rider caused an accident?  Yes, the exercise rider would have been blamed but the ultimate question would have been who put the rider in the saddle?

I rather think if not for the replacement officials, there would not have been a football season up to this point.  I thank them for their efforts in a no-win situation and blame management for letting things get to the point they did.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Musings

Cal Expo has inked a multi-year deal with TVG to televise their races on the racing channel.  This is a no-brainer as last year when Cal Expo televised their Saturday night Pick 4 races over the network, their handle went up dramatically for those races.  If your races get visibility you get customers, hide as one of the signals out on the Internet, and you are a blur.  Why some tracks still refuse to go the route Cal Expo is undertaking puzzles me.  Racetracks who refuse to accept the fact you need to pay to get visibility will continue having horseplayers pass them by.

You may be wondering why I was so upset about horsemen being able to use fine money for social activities?  Well here is one reason.  While the grooms at Cal Expo currently have it bad due to years of neglect by Cal Expo (the landlord, not the operator), this problem is not restricted to Cal Expo.  You can go to any racetrack with a backstretch and see grooms living in tack rooms despite the fact they are not designed for people to live in.  Grooms are woefully underpaid and often live paycheck to paycheck, many without healthcare.  If fine money should be spent for the benefit of anyone in racing, it should be spent on the grooms for providing medical services and other necessities, not for tickets to an amusement park. 

On the thoroughbred side of the ledger it looks like New York will be ending NYRA's franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga racetracks and then seek a private company to operate the tracks, similar to the way Jeff Gural is operating the Meadowlands.  This can only be viewed as a positive.  NYRA a non-profit organization was charged with operating the trio of tracks but without having to answer to shareholders ran the organization as their own club.  By getting a private company to run the facilities, the track will be run like a business with a focus on the bottom line..

In Ontario, a member of the Horse Racing Transition Committee is optimistic regarding the future of racing.  Big changes but racing should survive on a smaller scale.  While this is true, what is going on now is a mad rush to somewhere where no one knows what racing will look like in 2013, especially after March.  To try to get all the ducks in order in time will be near impossible.  For example there is a good chance racing dates will be assigned before a plan has been flushed out.  A more logical approach would have been for OLG to say the Slots at Racetracks program was going to end on January 1, 2014 which would have allowed a plan to continue racing without slot revenue to be developed without all the disruption which is occurring.
Leigh Fitch, 67, is in serious condition in a medically-induced coma following his falling out of the sulky prior to a race at the Cumberland County Fair after suffering from what is being called a medical emergency.  We wish him a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stop the Farce

Herve Filion will be driving this Sunday at Rideau Carleton Raceway.  Now, let me go on record and say I respect Herve and his driving achievements but enough is enough.  His racing at Rideau is a farce.  How active is Herve in the sulky these days?  He drove in eleven races in 2010, one race in 2011, and one race thus far in 2012.  Will the people wagering at Rideau know how infrequently he has been driving?

There is certainly no problem in honoring Herve by having a day in his honor at Rideau Carleton and have him sign autographs and have a meet and greet.  But to have him racing as if time hasn't passed him by (being his last year of 'active' driving was 2009 where Filion drove in one hundred and fifteen drives), is perpetuating a fraud on the public.  We tell people driving horses is a very atheltic thing to do and how they should be treated like athletes and here we have someone who hasn't been driving for all practical purposes three years getting behind a horse and driving like nothing has changed?  If they want to have Herve driving, then either have a non-wagering event or bar his horse(s) from wagering.

But this brings us to another point, what do we do about rusty drivers of any age?  I would suggest any driver that hasn't raced in at least twenty-five pari-mutuel starts each year should be required to race in a minimum of ten qualifiers before racing for the year; just to get the drive up to speed and to make sure the driver doesn't present himself as a danger to himself or others.

Tioga Downs announced their seasonal results.  Their on-track handle increased 2.5% while their export handle increased 3%.  When you show positive results it is always a good thing.  However, if the local market can't get handles generated enough to interest most heavy hitters, it may be necessary to cut the takeout rate one more time to get the simulcast gamblers to open their pockets fuller.

Construction of the New Meadowlands grandstand is underway.  The first photos may be found here.  Opening night for the 2013 meet, the final one in the old building is scheduled for the weekend of December 28-29, pending NJRC approval.
HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge is covering the entire Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile.  You can get the selections at this website.

Meet the new organization responsible for RUS (monté) racing in the United States, its working name is Monte America and they have a new website which is still being worked on but it is available for viewing purposes.

Speaking of monté racing, twelve horses will answer the starter on Sunday afternoon at The Red Mile for a $20,000 Open RUS race.  The race will be non-wagering and will go off between the fifth and sixth races.

The Poll NJ Racing Didn't Want to See

According to John Brennan of The Record, a recent FDU poll shows by a margain of 56%-36%, New Jersey residents are actually opposed to the expansion of casino gaming in the Garden State outside of Atlantic City.  In some ways this is surprising but in other ways not. 

Why should NJ residents want more casinos?  After all someone in Bergen or Passaic County can just head over to  Yonkers Raceway to play the slots and someone out in the western counties can head over to Mount Airy or Bethlehem and get their casino fix.  Looking simply at the availability of casino gaming, why would someone want more casinos?

Of course, there will be conflicting polls.  I suggest if a poll question (albeit it leading but accurate), "Millions of dollars in tax revenue are flowing across state borders by New Jersey residents playing casino games in surrounding states.  Should casino gambling be expanded in the state of New Jersey to bring those millions of dollars in revenue back into the Garden State?" was asked, the numbers could easily be reversed. 

I still feel it is a matter of time for casino gaming to come at a minimum to the Meadowlands but rest assured Atlantic City supporters will be quoting this FDU poll for as long as possible, the same way racing interests will be trying to minimize its importance.

Assuming Mitt Romney doesn't win the presidency and offer Governor Christie a cabinet post which he accepts, pro-gaming supporters will have a tough tango to play next year.  The key to getting gaming in the Meadowlands is by getting a change in the statehouse leadership as well as a change in the Governor's manision and this is where it gets dicey.  The Governor has shown through his bashing of the teacher's union that he is capable of political payback.  Oppose the Governor and expect no favors from him in the next four years.  If racing interests plan on attacking the Governor, they better make sure they can get him defeated; something I am not sure is possible.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cal Expo Announces Late Closing Events

Cal Expo has released it's stakes schedule for the 2012-2013 Season.  No, these are not purses which are going to have the major stables back east head to California but for those horsemen who will otherwise be sitting in their stables with horses with nowhere to race because their local tracks are closed for the winter, it may be worth shipping out west to pick up some purse money.

The schedule is as follows:

What Happens After Sex(y)

There is nothing nicer than doing a good thing which gives you instant gratification, such as saving a horse from a kill pen.  Most of us are unable to do it ourselves so if we are so inclined, we donate to horse rescue(s) of our choice who will go to an auction and purchase a horse destined for slaughter either through bidding directly or buying from a kill buyer who is ready to load the horse into the start of the slaughter pipeline.

Like I said, it feels good being part of something 'sexy' but what happens afterwards?  Do you follow through?  After all, being part of something sexy requires a commitment on the part of all partners, otherwise the relationship withers away and it's like that special moment never happened.

It's 'sexy' to rescue a horse, but then comes the mundane.  The quarantine, the evaluation, the training, the placement attempts, medical expenses, the return of horses if an adopter can no longer keep the horse, and at times maintaining a horse which will never be placed.  Not as flashy, but important steps,  Steps where rescues need the support of their benefactors to take care of.  After all feed, veterinary, blacksmiths, and in the case of the larger rescues, employees cost money.  Discounted perhaps, but it costs money just the same.  Without financial support, these rescues will be forced to close up and the relationship comes to an end which means less horses are saved; the 'sexy' disappears, becoming a distant memory.

When you think of it, supporting horse rescues is like a marriage.  Sure the sex is good at the start but if both partners don't work together on the mundane parts of their relationship, the marriage falls apart except in this case, when a horse rescue closes, it means the horses suffer.  The horses in their care need to be moved elsewhere, the horses adopted out no longer have that safety net of someone tracking their well-being, and there is one less rescue bailing horses out of dangerous situations.

You may be saying "Why do I need to worry about horses after they retire"?  Make no mistake, those who breed and race horses have a responsibility to make sure their charges are taken care of after their racing career comes to an end but horseplayers also haves a responsibility to help with retired horses because if people didn't wager on horses there would be no horse racing, at least at the levels it presently is.

If you contribute to horse rescue efforts, thank you.  If you haven't contribured, now is a good time to start.  Volunteering, financial support, and adopting a horse are ways to help rescues thrive, but the commitment doesn't end once a horse is saved, the effort goes on long after.  So when your favorite rescue doesn't seem to be saving horses remember saving a horse is the easy part, it is the mundane part which in many ways is even more important.

You've heard people say "give till it hurts".  I am not suggesting you deprive your family of its basic needs, but it is important to give what you can to a horse rescue of your choice.  Maybe $20 a month is too much in this economy, but does $10 or $5 work for you?  Whatever you can give, be it $1 or $100 it doesn't matter, just give what you can.  If you wager on horse racing here's an idea.  If you average a wager of $10 a race, why not donate the amount you bet on one race a month to the horse rescue of your choice? 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fines? Let's Party Hearty

One of the tools racing commissions have to ensure the rules of racing are adhered to is the ability to fine those who run afoul of the rules. It has been a position of this blogger that most fines are jokes; most so insignificant so not to act as a deterent. 

What happens to the fines collected by the commissions?  One would like to think it would be used constructively.  For the gamblers, it would be nice to use this money as seed money for guaranteed pools, perhaps for marketing, or otherwise used for the benefit of growing the game with the general public.  Failing that, it would be nice if the fine money was used for the purposes of policing the sport, perhaps used for additional drug testing or development of new tests, or be used for additional funding for the racing commission, perhaps to help pay for legal fees when individuals contest their penalties; so the commissions wouldn't have to plea out as many cases to save money.

Of course, my personal favorite would be to use that money to help finance retired racehorse programs, using the funds collected for each breed of racing in the effort to retraining and maintaining their respective breed's retired athletes.  Another good use of those funds would be to use it for the welfare of grooms who often have the toughest jobs at the tracks and training centers and get the least amount of compensation; perhaps to help pay for medical and dental clinics for the grooms.

In Ohio, the fines could be considered part of racing's sunshine fund.  Consider the following expenditures approved in July by the Ohio State Racing commission: 

Request for the expenditure of fine money:

a.  Thistledown: In a communication dated June 27, 2012, requests for the expenditure of $700 for the
HBPA Independence Day picnic to be held at the racetrack on July 2; $3,365 for an HBPA Family Day at
Cedar Point on August 7; and $700 for the HBPA Labor Day picnic to be held at the racetrack on Sept 3.
Each request was approved subject to ratification by the commission. Motion by Commissioner Roach,
second by Commissioner Koester. Motion approved 4-0.

In a communication dated July 5, 2012, a request to spend $3,450 on the HBPA Horsemen’s Award
Banquet on September 25. Motion by Commissioner Munroe, second by Commissioner Koester. Motion
approved 4-0.

b.  Scioto Downs: In a communication dated June 21, 2012, a request to spend $3,000 on an outing at
Foxfire Golf Course on July 30. Motion by Commissioner Roach, second by Commissioner Munroe. Motion
approved 4-0.

c.  Northfield Park: In a communication dated July 5, 2012, a request to spend $3,145 on a summer outing
for licensees and their families at Fun & Stuff Amusements in Macedonia on August 26. Motion by
Commissioner Munroe, second by Commissioner Roach. Motion approved 4-0.

This was not the only occasion funds were used in this manner.  In May, fine money was also spent for baseball game tickets, a trip to Coney Island (an amusement park), and to provide coffee in the paddock amongst other things.  Lest you think the problem is unique to Ohio, you would be mistaken. 

At least now we know why people in racing tend to be good at golfing and have lavish awards banquets. 

It is not that horsemen groups should not have family get togethers, after all the working hours in the racing industry are terrible and for some families, it may be one of the few days the family gets to spend together.  I don't be begrudge horsemen having golf outings or nice award parties.  My problem is with using fine money which could be used for the betterment of the sport or to provide medical care to grooms being used for social niceties.  If the horsemen groups want funding for such perks, I'm all for it; take it from their respective purse accounts.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

How to Deal With Vets That Are In it for The Money

The New York Times this past week ran another story about reacing; this time concerning how Veterinarians treat racehorses differently from non-competitive horses; basically looking at a horse as a cash machine for selling and administering prescription drugs.  The article goes into how some vets allow trainers to tell them what drugs to use and how some attempt to keep medical records away from racing officials.  The story deals with thoroughbred racing but one would have to be incredibly naive to think this doesn't happen in standardbred racing.  Trainers and vets overriding the rare owner who prefers to use rest instead of drugs, owners going to the trainers who seem to be using 'the juice' is a universal problem. 

Several things should be changed.  First of all, owners should be able to set the parameters regarding what kind of treatments should or shouldn't be used for ailing horses.  Do they prefer rest to drugs when treating horses, or do they want more aggressive treatments?  Trainers and vets should have to abide by these wishes when an owner decides they rather use conservative treatments unless it is a question of a true emergency which threatens the life of a horse and then, the vet and/or trainer should have to report this to the owner within 72 hours after treatment is given.  Trainers and vets who fail to adhere to the owner's requests should be subject to penalties.  I must admit, I suspect there will be some trainers, who when told by a potential owner they want the horse's interests to come first, telling the owner to find another trainer. 

In addition, it should be a requirement vet bills itemizing treatments and the drugs being used are sent to the owner monthly even if the trainer is responsible for paying the vet bill and then recovering the expense from the owner.  Lastly, if a veterinarian is suspended or fined by the state racing commission, there should be an automatic suspension of the vet's general veterinary license.  Perhaps when faced with the prospect of earning no income, a vet may start thinking of practicing the way they are supposed to.

The harness racing community is mourning the passing of John A Cashman Jr., a member of the Hambletonian Society and the wearer of many other hats in the standardbred industry.  It was John Cashman who along with a few others, brought the Breeders Crown into existence.  A more detailed story on his contributions to the sport may be read here.

Mike Newlin is leaving the Meadowlands.  I suspect some people will try coming up with conspiracy theories as to why he is leaving, but the truth it is just a case of a better offer coming to his attention and he has decided to avail himself of it.  Sometimes it is not just financial considerations which come into play; quality of life factors in as well. 

Standardbred Rescue Foundation was profiled this weekend on the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia.  You can see the story below.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Breaking - Christie Signs Horse Slaughter Ban

Governor Chris Christie has signed a bill banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in New Jersey meaning no slaughter plants will be established in the state for such purpose.  In addition to this ban, it is also against the law to transport a horse out of state for purposes of slaughter for human consumption.  Of course, this will not stop the transport of horses through the state without stopping for slaughter, but it means no horse will be sold in New Jersey and sent to slaughter in Canada or Mexico.

Additional information may be found here.

The Foot Loose Little Brown Jug

Michael's Power won the 2012 Little Brown Jug in straight heats yesterday at the Delaware County Fair, defeating the other first heat winner Sweet Lou.  Unfortunately, what occurred in Sweet Lou's first heat - second division victory will be what some people will be talking about for a while.

In the first heat, Michael's Power sat in the pocket to win the race at the wire.  Bolt the Deur took the field to the quarter in a hard fought :26, before taking the field through a leisurely :56 half and a 1:24.3 three-quarters before Michael's Power came out from the pocket trip to nose out Bolt The Deur, tripping the teletimer in 1:52.3 in a drive which showed Scott Zeron showing incredible poise in the bike .  Escape The News finished third while Thinking Out Loud picked up the fourth and final spot to advance to the final.   As promised earlier by trainer Peter Foley, Bolt The Duer was scratched out of the second heat.

Also as promised, Sweet Lou took advantage of the rail in the second division to wire his field in a speedy 1:51 after going through fractions of :27, :55.4, and 1:22.4.  Sweet Lou was helped by the fact A Rocknroll Dance wisely took a seat through the first quarter, realizing a suicidal speed duel would have developed if Yanick Gingras kept going on his mission for the lead.   However A Rocknroll Dance came out to race on the outside in the second quarter before challenging Sweet Lou after the half through the rest of the race.  But Sweet Lou was not going to be denied as he won comfortably.  Bettor's Edge was flying late to come up a neck short finishing second with A Rocknroll Dance paying the price but holding on to finish third.  Simply Business who had no room in the stretch secured the final spot in the final, finishing fourth.

However, as much as people were talking about Sweet Lou's victory in division two, some people noticed Dave Palone's foot work through the stretch as he let his right leg swing four or five times to 'hit' Sweet Lou's  right hind leg in a successful effort to keep him going to the wire.  As one person on Twitter noted, it was "vintage Case", referring to how Walter Case Jr. used to be known for kicking the horses he drove in a race.  I am sure the judges picked it up and Dave Palone is likely to be fined for his infraction but let's face it, the fine system is so ridiculous that violating the rules was a cost of doing business for Palone and well worth it to make sure he won the heat and possibly draw the coveted rail in the second heat. 

I know many racetrack regulars will not care about the 'foot loose' incident but here on a day when a harness race draws attention, there are going to be some people remembering how a horse was kicked going down the stretch, despite how masterfully it was done, offending the same people who object to excessive whipping of horses. No doubt when the inevitable fine comes down, we will once again see how the fine system is such a joke, fines so low that fines are are a cost of business, not a deterrent.

Anyway, with a field of eight reduced to seven by Bolt The Deur's defection, the second heat of the Little Brown Jug was assembled and they met the starting gate for what turned out to be the final time of the afternoon.

Micheal's Power left along with A Rocknroll Dance early on with Michael's Power holding the lead, taking the field through a blistering :25.2 in a move which many thought would cost Zeron the race.  Sweet Lou, who seeking a two hole trip managed to sting A Rocknroll Dance by not allowing him to see the wood through the quarter.  Michael's Power took the field to the half in :54 while Bettor's Edge came up on the outside to get ready to mount a challenge which never really developed, instead clogging up the outer flow as Michael's Power hit the three-quarters in 1:22.  At that point the race was over with Michael's Power crossing the finish line with a 1:50 victory.  Sweet Lou finished second with Bettor's Edge and Thinking Out Loud finished third and fourth, respectively.

Scott Zeron became the youngest driver to win the Little Brown Jug at the age of 23 and Casie Coleman completed the all female double of Linda Toscano (Hambletonian) - Casie Coleman (LBJ).

For the record, attendance at The Jug was reported to be over 48,000.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Not Done for Today? Think Red Mile

Today is probably one of  the longest days of racing with the Little Brown Jug card at Delaware but you are still looking for more action.  Where do you look to?

You may want to look at The Red Mile.  Their Pick 4 wager tonight has a guaranteed pool of $10,000.  With the Pick 4 featuring four Kindergarten Classic races for 2yo trotters with two of the races having eleven horses lining up behind the gate, there are plenty of wagering possibilities so odds are the pool will exceed the guarantee.

The Other Graveyard of Favorites

Saratoga Racetrack has been known for years as the Graveyard of Favorites as many of thoroughbred's elite go down to defeat in the Spa in big races contested there.  Well, harness racing has its own Graveyard of Favorites as well, known as the Delaware County Fair and yesterday was a prime example of this.  In the Buckette, Maven went down to defeat, defeated by Bluff who controlled the race the entire way in a world record 1:54 over the half mile oval.  In the first division of the Jugette, the three year old pacing filly darling American Jewel finished third in a mile won by Better B Lucky who wired the field in 1:51.4 by playing hardball (Click here for the whole Jugette story). 

At times it is just a case of circumstances which causes the favorites to go down to defeat, often by the horse based in the Midwest who has been aiming for Delaware the whole season, sometimes due to a tough campaign finally catching up to them, and sometimes just a case of a horse who happens to come out of obscurity for their one day date with destiny only to return to semi-anonymity for the rest of their racing career. 

Then there are times when the track itself is a factor, a bad post being the great equalizer.  The very good horse unable to overcome the challenge of an outside post but the great horse able to rise up and meet the challenge.  All these factors for the handicapper to consider when making their wagers. 

Today may be one of those days when we will see if greatness arises in the name of A Rocknroll Dance who has yet to seal the deal as the best sophomore pacer of 2012.  A victory in the Little Brown Jug by the son of Rocnroll Hanover can move him up up from the best of an even crop of three year old pacers to one who risen far and above the rest of his classmates as he drew post postion seven in the second division of the Jug's first heat.  Who may be standing in his way?  Sweet Lou, who after all the anticipation of this year has fallen flat for while he has won six of eleven starts this year, he has failed to win in the marquee events.  After a disappointing season and drawing post position one in his elimination, the expectation is Sweet Lou is going to leave and not look back, playing a game of 'catch me if you can'.  Will A Rocknroll Dance go down to defeat or become one of the great ones?  We will know by 7:00pm this evening.  This is all part of what makes Delaware special.  Enjoy today's racing.

Other races to look at today:  In the third race, Pet Rock, who has been putting together quite a successful campaign for himself in relative anonymity leads the field in the Delaware Open Series for 3yo colts and geldings as the 1-5 favorite.  On paper he looks to be unbeatable

The Old Oaken Bucket (Race Eleven) looks like a wide-open affair.  Fusion Man is the leading contender in the race after winning the KYSS final at the Red Mile.  One In A Million has been a disappointment this year with gait issues but draws the rail.  If somehow One in A Million manages to stay on stride there is a chance for redemption.

In the first division of The Little Brown Jug (Race Thirteen), Bolt the Duer is reportedly in it for one heat.  Since winning the Adios back in July, Bolt The Duer has put on a four race win streak thanks to his domination of the KYSS this year.  Will the half mile track be his undoing and can Michael's Power, a horse who has quietly won eleven of fourteen races this year in Ontario rise to the occasion?

In the second division of The Little Brown Jug (Race fourteen), it looks to be a battle between Sweet Lou and A Rocknroll Dance.  Will Sweet Lou get his revenge, A Rocknroll Dance meet his destiny, or will some young upstart shine?    .

In the little talked about Ms Versatility (Race Sixteen) some of racing's best aged trotting mares take to the track.  Does Cedar Dove bounce back from her defeat in the Muscle Hill or was Beatgoeson Hanover's victory at Vernon Downs in the Muscle Hill the start of something remarkable? 

The Winback Pace (Race seventeen) is wide open this year with only Valentino and Aracache Hanover headlining the race.  Does one of them pick up the honors for 2012 or does another pacer punch their ticket to join the FFA ranks?

Enjoy your Jug Day and good luck.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jug Day Selections

Here are my selections for the  Little Brown Jug Day (Thursday) at the Delaware County Fair.  It needs to be noted that due to the number of races on the card, there will be a two-race program starting at 11:00am prior to the main card which has an estimated post time of 12 noon.

There are some pool guarantees on the card.  The sixth race is the start of a $30,000 guaranteed pool for the Pick 4, while the eleventh race starts a $60,000 guarnateed pool for the Pick 4.  In the thirteenth race, a $25,000 guarnateed Pick 3 is being offered.   

Delaware County Fair - Thursday, September 20, 2012

Program 1 - Post Time 11:00am

1st Pace - $2,600; Fillies and Mares NW $5,000 Last 5 Starts
6 - Arion (Brennan, 6-1)
1 - Little Santamonica (Massey, 7-2)
4 - Jena-Mac Love (Davis, 10-1)
3 - Jellyfish Joy (Tetrick, 3-1)

2nd Pace - $10,500; Delaware Open Series - 2yo Colts and Geldings (No Show Wagering)
4 - Nutmegs Maya (D Miller, 2-1)
3 - Van Gundy Hanover (Noble, 6-1)
2 - Pow Chicka Pow Pow (B Miller, 3-1)

Program 2 - Post Time 12 noon

1st Pace - $2,600; Horses and Geldings NW $15,000 in 2012 or NW of $40,000 LT
3 - Tyber Tyke (Wrenn, 3-1)
1 -  I'm In Luck (Wendgerd, 6-1)
2 - Shawanda (D Miller, 7-2)
8 - Duke Uh Brava (Brennan, 4-1)

2nd Pace - $31,875; The Standardbred - 2yo Colts and Geldings
4 - Normandy Invation (Tetrick, 2-1)
5 - Jude Hall (Pierce, 10-1)
2 - Twilight Bonfire (Campbell, 3-1)

3rd Pace - $10,000; Delaware Open Series - 2yo Colts and Geldings
5 - Pet Rock (Palone, 1-5)
6 - Lucky Lime (B Miller, 4-1)
7 - Sgt Matt (D Miller, 6-1)

4th Pace - $31,875; The Standardbred - 2yo Colts and Geldings
2 - My One Tru Desire (B Miller, 3-1)
6 - Exit Cam (Kauffman, 12-1)
4 - Beach Memories (Tetrick, 4-1)

5th Pace - $53,750; The Standardbred - 2yo Fillies
3 - Canary Island (Zeron, 5-2)
6 - Miss Madi M (D Miller, 3-1)
7 - Kiss My Yankee (Ater, 10-1)
1 - Diligent Prospect (Macdonald, 4-1)

6th Pace - $2,600; Horses and Geldings NW $15,000 in 2012 or NW $40,000 LT
4 - Turf Burner (D Miller, 3-1)
1 - I'mhappytwo (B Miller, 6-1)
8 - Big Harry Deal (Ater, 9-2)
6 - Da Vinci's Dream (Dinning, 15-1)

7th Pace - $15,032; Ohio Breeders Championship - 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Feelin Cornered (Gingras, 3-1)
4 - Q B Sam (Stahl, 6-1)
3 - Mr I Am (Dinning, 5-2)

8th Trot - $59,150; The Standardbred - 2yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Spider BLue Chip (D Miller, 3-1)
5 - Dontyouforgetit (Gingras, 1-1)
2 - Alejandro Hall (Smith, 12-1)
9 - Crosbys Clam Bake (Tetrick, 6-1)

9th Pace - $15,052; Ohio Breeders Championship - 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Jetstream Friskie (Kauffman, 9-5)
6 - Noble Trick (Merriman, 5-2)
3 - Friskies Cheapsuit (D Miller, 4-1)
2 - Man He Can Skoot (Daley, 6-1)

10th Pace - $4,000; Signature Series Final
3 - Legacy's Best (Brennan, 7-2)
7 - Look Yankee (Page, 3-1)
4 - Show Me Glory (Tetrick, 4-1)
5 - Junior Jesse (Winters Jr, 8-1)

11th Trot - $125,800; Old Oaken Bucket - 3yo Colts and Geldings
7 - Frost Bites K (B Miller, 4-1)
3 - Prayer Session (Magee, 5-2)
5 - Fusion Man (Smith, 2-1)
6 - Can Do (Paver, 10-1)

12th Pace - $12,000; Delaware Open Series - 2yo Fillies
  1 - KZ Beach Girl (Smith, 5-2)
10 - Crosswind Colleen (Noble, 8-1)
  4 - Melissa L (Daley, 10-1)
  7 - Notorius Terror (D Miller, 12-1)

13th Pace - $78,008; Little Brown Jug - 3yo Colts and Geldings - 1st Heat (Division 1)
5 - Thinking Out Loud (Waples, 7-2)
4 - Bolt The Duer (Macdonald, 5-2)
3 - Michael's Power (Zeron, 2-1)
2 - Major bombay (Morrill, 8-1)

14th Pace - $78,008; Little Brown Jug - 3yo Colts and Geldings - 1st Heat (Division 2)
2 - Bettor's Edge (D Miller, 5-1)
7 - A Rocknroll Dance (Gingras, 2-1)
3 - Simply Business (Pierce, 10-1)
1 - Sweet Lou (Palone, 3-1)

15th Pace - $27,000; Ohio Breeders Championship - 3yo Fillies
  3 - Special Lady D (Stahl, 5-2)
  8 - Standing Danette (Noble, 7-2)
10 - Buckeye Beauty (Tetrick, 4-1)
  4 - Forever Lover (Pierce, 3-1)

16th Trot - $153,000; Ms Versatility Final
7 - Frenchfrysnvinegar (Jamieson, 6-1)
4 - Action-Broadway (Brennan, 3-1)
8 - Pembroke Heat Wave (Tetrick, 10-1)
2 - Cedar Dove (Pierce, 5-2)

17th Pace -$40,200; Winbak Page - Aged Horses and Geldings
  1 - Rockingcam (Morrill, 5-2)
  5 - Something For Doc (D Miller, 4-1)
  6 - Full of Sand (Noble, 8-1)
10 - Aracache Hanover (Mcnair, 2-1)

18th Pace - $234,024; Little Brown Jug - 3yo Colts and Geldings - 2nd Heat
Top four horses in race thirteen and fourteen return for the second heat.

19th Pace - $2,600; Horses and Geldings NW $5,000 Last 5 Starts
4 - Gerries Beach (Brennan, 6-1)
6 - Rocken Camnation (Stahl, 10-1)
1 - Be Pacific (Noble, 4-1)
9 - Stand Sam (Paver, 8-1)

20th Pace - $97,510; Little Brown Jug - 3yo Colts and Geldings - 3rd Heat (if necessary) Win Wagering Only
If no horse has won two heat thus far, the heat winners of races 13, 14, and 18 return for a race-off. 

American Nationals - Jugette

With all the focus on the action at Delaware, many fans are ignoring the action at other tracks.  For example, tonight there are the American Nationals for 2yo trotters at Balmoral Park.  While there is little East Coast representation in these races, these races are still worth looking at for some of these late bloomers may be worth watching next year.. 

So who is going to come out victorious in the Am-Nats?  Let's take a look.

4th Trot - $70,000; The American National 2yo Filly Stake
   1 - Bull Spreader (Marcus Miller, 9-5) - Ships west looking for an easier spot.  Should improve.
   2 - Mary's Master (Leonard, 10-1) -  Filly may be a good horse down the road, but certainly isn't there now.
   3 - Fox Valley Vachel (Warren, 15-1) - Trainer still trying to figure this filly out.  Pass.
   4 - Saintly (Hochstetler, 6-1) - Filly shows ability in the morning.  Gait is an issue.
   5 - Pure Romance (Norris, 6-1) - Muscles Yankee filly has shown some success in second tier stakes.  Don't ignore.
1A - Trot Fudge Sundae (Magee, 9-5) - Clearly the one to beat.  Hard to go pass this one.
   6 - Fox Valley Roxy (Oosting, 9-2) - Late starting filly seems to be a good one. Likely second best.
   7 - Little Ms Chrissy (Taylor, 3-1) - Sharp qualifier but presents gait issues.  Who shows up?
Selections: 1A - 6 - 5 - 7

6th Trot - $76,500; The American National 2yo Colt and Gelding
   1 - The Art of Lindy (Oosting, 6-1) - Last couple dull but draws the rail which should help.
   2 - Longwell (Carpenter, 8-1) - Will look to get a trip.
   3 - Dreams Of Thunder (Magee, 6-1) - Has been tough.  Looks to resume winning ways here.
   4 - Powerful Poe (Warren, 4-1) - Been sharp at the fairs.  Figures to be competitive.
   5 - Show Ticket (Norris, 12-1) - Threat when flat but unfortunately that doesn't happen too often.
1A - Crazed N Lindy (Antonacci, 6-1) - Competitive in East Coast states.
   6 - Semper Fit (Hochstetler, 3-1) - Winner of elimination.  Logical favorite.
   7 - Held In Balance (Sutton, 15-1) - Will need a lot of help.
   8 - Super Classic 9Hiteman, 5-1) -  Been good in NJSS.  Seems to have tailed off.
   9 - Odds On Windy City (Miller, 10-1) - Looked poorly in first stakes race.  Pass.
Selections:  4 - 6 - 3 - 2

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't look at the Jugette this afternoon at Delaware.  American Jewel leads the field in the first division while the second division looks to be more open.  Unlike the Little Brown Jug where the winner must win two heats, the Jugette trophy goes to the horse who wins the second heat regardless of their first heat finish.

While American Jewel (7) is the logical selection in the first division (race 12), there are some intriguing competitors in the race.  Persistent (2) sports a 1:54 drill at Grand River Raceway in the morning seems to be coming into her own.  Real Touch (6) hasn't done much in stakes company but has been a winner of three straight against older horses in the FM Open at Scioto Downs.  Bettor B Lucky (3) who while unable to get to the winner's circle of late has been a consistent second in the NYSS.  I would look at a 7-6-2 finish in the race.

The second heat Economy Terror (7) looks to be the best in the wide-open second division of the Jugette, winning a PASS event at Pocono Downs in 1:49 in her last start.  Angel Scent (1) is a Canadian representative who failed in the Simcoe but has been close in recent starts.  Shelliscape (6), a winner of one start, shows some life in recent but will still be tough to challenge.  Rockaround Sue (2) looks like she will try to go down main street but likely will run out of gas by the end of the mile.  Mt picks for the second division are: 1-7-6.

The Iron Horse - Bourbon St Hanover made his fourth start in eight days, finishing 3rd in a half mile dash at Delaware.  The 4yo gelding started the stretch with a win on 9/12 at Wooster with a 2nd place finish in a FFA pace, then raced 9/16 at Delaware finishing 4th in a WO $5000 L5, racing yesterday at Delaware finishing 3rd in a NW $1,500 L5 pace before today's sprint.  For the record, he has tomorrow off.

Looking to winter in sunny, warm California? The CHHA and Cal Expo are offering an incentive to first time horses heading west for the Cal Expo harness meet opening up on November 2. Details may be found here.

Across the pond, there is a push to develop an all-weather track in West Wales. This year Tregaron’s harness racing festival was cancelled due to weather as they depend on the use of a grass track and it had a devastating impact on tourism as the meet gets a large contingent of horses from Ireland as well as tourists. As a result, the local hospitality industry suffered a loss roughly $800,000 in business. Those are two things you don't typically hear together in North America, tourism and harness racing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review of Standardbred Canada Yearling Sale

Frequent quest contributor Joe F. offers his review of the just concluded Standardbred Canada Yearling Sale held at Flamboro Downs.

The fact that this past weekend’s Canadian Yearling Sale at Flamboro Downs produced averages half of what they were last year has sent shock waves through the industry.
Winbak of Canada has six pacing stallions that stand for between $3,000 and $5,000: Allamerican Native and Armbro Deuce for $3,000, Classic Card Shark and Vintage Master for $3,500, Royal Mattjesty for $4,500 and Shadow Play for $5,000. Beyond that, Badlands Hanover is $6,000 and Bettor’s Delight $14,000. And on the trotting side, they have the Muscles stallion, Mutineer, for $3,000 and old standby, Angus Hall, for $10,000.

Zeroing in on the yearlings sold at the CYS by Winbak stallions—not necessarily by that farm—we can clearly see the devastation wrought in one season. Last year at this two-day sale, 21 Angus Hall yearlings brought $601,000, or an average of close to $29,000. One filly sold for $97,000 and a colt went for $95,000. Nine sold for $25,000 or more. Contrast that with this year, where 11 Angus Hall yearlings brought $76,400, for an average of $6,945. So Angus Hall lost $22,000 in his average in one year. He did not have a particularly good year in the OSS program, but…..
What about Badlands Hanover? We’ve been hearing plenty about him. His book has been full for three years running. This year’s freshmen are his first OSS group. Tarpon Hanover and Love Canal got our attention early in the OSS season. What about Slight Touch and No Secret. Eight Badlands yearlings sold for an average price of a shade over $5,200. What? The top price paid was $9,500 for a colt.

Well, what about new kid on the block, Shadow Play? He won the Jug, Adios and USPC. He earned a million and a half dollars. This was an anticipated debut. Nine of them brought $104,400, for an average of $11,600. A colt went for $15,500 and a filly for $2,000. Suffice it to say, no one was knocked off their feet.
Six Royal Mattjesty’s went for an average of $5,900; a pair of Armbro Deuce colts averaged $3,150; Classic Card Shark sold one for $4,200; six Mutineers went for a $2,800 average.

These are just some of the details of the disaster.
How about a stallion that has been very successful in the OSS program and also produced GC colts and fillies: Kadabra. Bee A Magician beat the vaunted To Dream On the other night in the Peaceful Way. Knows Nothing has been an important player in the OSS and open realms. Daylon Magician came back and wowed us with some fast miles. If a stallion could hold up under this sudden difficulty, it would be Kadabra. Last year at this sale, 19 Kadabras took in $530,700 for an average of almost $30,000. His high was a $115,000 filly. Eleven Kadabras sold for $25,000 or more. Over the weekend a dozen Kadabras—four colts and eight fillies—brought in $153,700, or an average of $12,800. There was no $100,000 filly this year, a colt and filly for $23,000 a piece was the best he could do.

Mach Three is another very successful OSS stallion. Eighteen Mach Threes—nine and nine—brought in $676,000 at the Canadian Yearling Sale last year, for an average of more than $37,500. This time around the thirteen Mach Threes—six colts and seven fillies—sold for an average of $13,800. The high in 2011 was a $140,000 filly, while a $44,000 filly topped the list this year.
The Jeremes Jets were turning heads when they first appeared at the 2010 sales. They didn’t do a whole lot on the track that first year but the buyers didn’t give up entirely on them. Last year 25 Jeremes Jets brought in about $500,000 for an average of almost $20,000. They weren’t going for 105, 90, 55 or 60 as was the case in 2010, but they made a respectable showing. This year reality’s hammer pounded JJ on the head as seven of his yearlings sold for a disheartening average of $4,500. The top seller was a filly who went for $10,000.

Apparently members of the OLG are determined to remove Americans from the racing equation, fearing that too many hard earned Canadian dollars are moving south. Dewey was moved up to Westwind Farm in January, 2010 due to political paralysis on gaming issues in Kentucky; I suppose Walnut Ltd. could take him back. Bettor’s Delight was just relocated to Winbak from Blue Chip several months ago; I guess he could go home. Winbak could take Badlands back to the states and Brittany could recall Vintage Master. Dewey’s $20,000 fee and Bettor’s Delight’s fee of $14,000 probably won’t mesh very well with the new slim and trim Ontario Sires Stakes envisioned by the government anyway.
Maybe barring any horse owned wholly or in part by Americans from participating in stakes races held in Ontario is the way to go. After all, that would mean more money for the local voters. If that policy were in effect Saturday night, there would have been a short field in the Canadian Trotting Classic, as Knows Nothing and Prestidigitator would be the only two to qualify. And the latter is owned by Quebecers, so they might not want him either.

Last year there were some major adjustments made in stud fees:
  • Rocknroll dropped to $15,000
  • SBSW went from twenty to fifteen.
  • Western Terror from fifteen to ten.
  • Muscles went from twenty to ten.
  • Glidemaster from fifteen to $7,500
  • Dragon Again from $7,500 to $6,000
  • Four Starzzz Shark from six to four
  • Tell All five to three
  • Master Glide three to $1,500

What is going to happen this year? Will filling the KYSS races merit Dewey hanging on to that big number, in Canada no less? What about Donato? His sophomore crop consists of Check Me Out and the gang that couldn’t trot straight. Twenty?