For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Settlemoir Gets Meadowlands Post

Today the announcement was made that Jason Settlemoir was taking over as CEO and General Manager of the Meadowlands.  With respect to the General Manager position, Settlemoir takes over the post which has been vacant since the departure of Mike Newlin who moved on after one season to take over a Penn National property in Florida.  Settlemoir takes on this new position will continuing on as Vice President of Racing and Sponsorship at Tioga and Vernon Downs. 

No disrespect to Newlin, but Settlemoir was the logical choice from the beginning.  Having been with Jeff Gural since the opening of Tioga Downs and re-opening of Vernon Downs, what better candidate could be chosen to execute the vision for horse racing at the Meadowlands than the person who developed the model with Gural?   Having developed a model which is successful in upstate New York, Settlemoir should have no problem building on the initial steps his predecessor has taken.
The selection of Settlemoir continues to reflect the commitment Gural has towards harness racing.  Having dealt with Jason in the past, he has a passion for harness racing and fights the battle to keeping racing as relevant as possible.  In addition, having other additional duties in the sport as Chairman of the Board and Past President of the USHWA, Director of Simulcasting at the Delaware County Fair, serving as back-up track announcer at the Little Brown Jug, and being a USTA Director clearly shows this is not a person who is merely holding the seat warm until slots come to East Rutherford. 

I am convinced there is a new model for racing to be found which will be successful and it will be found first in East Rutherford.  With Settlemoir’s appointment, it re-affirms my belief.

Uncle Peter, Foreclosure And Dance

Last year’s Breeders Crown winner, Uncle Peter, was expected to be a force in the sophomore trotting division this year, but Jimmy Takter’s Cantab Hall colt, for one reason or another, has not delivered. He won the Stanley Dancer at 2/5 and left the gate as the 8/5 favorite in the Hambletonion, but he got swallowed up by the field in the last 1/16, and that was that. He was no factor in the Colonial or the Zweig, and has been off for the last two months.

Takter had a similar experience last year with another Cantab Hall colt, Pastor Stephen. He was the winter-book favorite to win the Hambletonion but just never got going. After turning things around and winning the Simcoe in early September, he made a break in his CTC elimination, and upon examination was found to have a broken coffin bone. ……The Oliver carries a purse of $260,500.

Speaking of Indiana Downs, Ron Burke is a good bet to dominate the Indiana Pacing Derby again this year. Last year six of the nine starters were from his barn. Foiled won, followed by Atochia and Annieswesterncard. In 2010 Won The West was his lone entry, and he won. This year’s edition features a seven-horse field, with three of those being from the Burke barn—Foiled, Foreclosure and the indefatigable Annieswesterncard..

Foreclosure is a Rocknroll out of a Fake Left mare, who was recently purchased by the Burke Brigade. His back story is more interesting than most. A deal Peter Heffering made with some folks in New Zealand involving broodmares didn’t work out so the not particularly photogenic Foreclosure was shipped to Canada to make things right. At two, he won the $100,000 NJSS final, as well as his BC elimination. He finished fourth in the final, just as he did this year in the BC Open.

While the colt showed flashes of brilliance early in his sophomore campaign, the promise he’d shown in the last part of his freshman season was not fulfilled. After the M Pace Richard Young, the controversial figure who sent Put On A Show up against the boys in the BC, purchased him from Heffering.

He’s made three starts for Burke, a fifth place finish in the Allerage, a :48.4 crush job in a high-level condition pace at Woodbine and that fourth place finish in the BC Open.

A Rocknroll Dance has endured one of the most strenuous sophomore campaigns of any horse in the modern era. He has started eighteen times already, and is currently entered in the Monument Circle and the Messenger. He is also eligible to the Matron. He may not eclipse the 24 starts Bret made at three or the 28 by Albatross, but Dance has taken on all comers, and more often than not from an unfavorable post position. Since June 9, he’s raced in the NA Cup and elimination, the Hempt and elimination, the M Pace and elimination, the Adios and elimination, the Battle of Brandywine, the Cane,  Simcoe,  Bluegrass, Tattersalls and a BC elimination.

Dance drew the 6 post in his NA Cup elimination; 7 in the final, 8 in the Hempt;  7 in his Adios preliminary and 7 in the final; 12 in the Simcoe; 7 in his Jug elimination and 5 in the final; 7 in the Bluegrass; 12 in the Tattersalls and 4 in his BC elimination. The Gods have not been kind to him.

His last place finish in his BC preliminary round knocked him out of the final. Now he picks up Peter Wrenn and the 4 post in Saturday’s Monument Circle at Indiana Downs. Kingcole drew inside of him while Dapper Dude, Cane winner Dynamic Youth, Sweet Lou and Bettor’s Edge drew outside.  David Miller gets the driving assignment behind Dance in the Nov 10 Messenger. Gingras does not have another colt in that race and he is handling Romantic Moment in the Lady Maud, so I guess it’s just time for a change. Perhaps Miller will have a calming influence on the well traveled colt. He’s also staked to the Matron, Progress and American National. The Matron doesn’t overlap with the Messenger, but the Am-Nat is the same day as the  Messenger and the eliminations for the Progress are the following day.

George Brennan drives Rooney winner Pet Rock for the first time in the Messenger.

The Horse Racing Industry Transition Report

The long anticipated Horse Racing Industry Transition report has been issued and people in the horse industry are sure to be unhappy.  On the other hand, horseplayers are sure to be pleased.  The reason horseplayers are pleased?  The recognition that horseracing is a product whose business model is providing a product for gamblers to wager on, not a product whose business model is to have owners racing around the track for fantastic purses.  In other words,

The customer matters.
Wow, what a concept.  The way it is supposed to work is the racing industry puts on a product which gamblers find attractive which results in horseplayers wagering money.  The more money wagered means higher purses which makes existing owners and new owners wanting to buy more horses which increases the prices of yearlings, which results in a market for the breeders; not the current model where the racing industry basically is handed money (or given a percentage of the profits from slots) from the province/state to replace the need for the customer.  Would anyone accept a NASCAR industry where the state gives NASCAR money to race for in front of empty grandstands and no television?  No, they have to put on a product which the public wants in order for them to prosper.

After talking to horseplayers, the report calls for an investment in developing a customer base by  “…putting on competitive races featuring larger fields, full cards (at least 10 race per day) and sizable pari-mutuel pools (deep enough to prevent a single last –minute bet from dramatically changing the odds)”.    How do they suggest doing this?  Establishing a race calendar with dates, times, and conditions to maximize uptake (otherwise, don’t compete against yourself); full fields; enhanced wagering opportunities ; reduced takeouts for some racing to ensure paybacks to horseplayers; consider the needs of the horseplayer when deciding on race dates, conditions and other issues.
In the past, the schedule was set up to maximize racing dates for horsemen, which meant too many racing dates.  When a track complained about the lack of interest in their product at a certain time of year in an effort to reduce date allocations, the ORC typically denied the request.  Many gamblers complain that Ontario has some of the worst takeout rates around and the province has multiple tracks racing against each other at the same time.  If the new policy is successful, there may be more interest in the product and develop a handle which can sustain racing.

How does this get accomplished?  Basically the report calls for the creation of a Horse Racing Ontario provincial secretariat which will basically run the industry by assigning race dates and the like, not unlike Harness Racing Australia.  This will allow for racing to be set up so competition within the Ontario brand is minimized.  If there is one track racing, more money is wagered at the track which means deeper pools which attracts gamblers instead of divvying the available amount of money to be wagered into little pieces.
The report calls for purse pooling which means  purses levels will be set for each level of racing and any excess purse money generated at a race meeting will be put into a pot to help pay for the purses at a track which doesn’t produce the wagering revenue needed to support the purse levels designated for the track.

For the horsemen, things are understandably gloomy.  Under these concepts with the goal that racing be sustained by gambling, race dates and purses get cut.  How does this happen?  I concentrate on standardbred racing.
The committee eliminates purse subsidies for overnight racing.  It eliminates any assistance for horsemen, with the subsidy going to the racetracks to cover the expense of operating the racetrack and race meet.  So when you see the total amount of purse money being suggested, it looks at what would have been available from wagering in 2011 while the total amount in 2011 includes slot revenue.  With the reduction of race dates, they figure purses can be 80% of the 2011 level.

·         ‘A’ tracks (i.e., Woodbine/Mohawk) – Average race purse reduced 20% with only 140 days of racing (versus 243 days in 2011).  Total purses of $37 million ($264,000 a day) down from $81 million in 2011.

·         ‘B’ tracks (i.e. Signature tracks) – Average race purse reduced 20% with only 300 days (versus 700 days in 2011).  Total purses of $22 million ($73,000 a day) down from $60 million in 2011.

·         ‘C’ tracks (i.e. Grassroot tracks) – Average race purse reduced 20% with 140 days of racing (versus 308 days in 2011).  Total purses of $4.2 million ($30,000 a day) down from $18 million in 2011.  The grassroot tracks are the exception to the rule with regards to race dates and purse levels.  If using the 80% rule, only $3.5 million days of racing would occur with 76 days of racing.  The committee decided for the province to maximize the return on their investment it needed to increase the amount of purse money available and the number of days of racing at the grassroot level.  No doubt, this is where purse pooling comes into play.

The committee does provide for additional sources of income for racing and the racetracks through several sources.  One option is a horse racing lottery (such as the V75), the other is wagering on past races.   The non-racing revenue would come from single game sports wagering.  These are options that will not be available through non-racing outlets.
Overall, the number of race days is reduced 54% while total purses are reduced 54% for the WEG circuit, 64% for the Signature tracks, and 77% for the Grassroot tracks.  The Ontario Sires Stakes and other breeder awards will remain at their current levels.

So where would racing take place?  The report talks about a core of six tracks which includes thoroughbred and quarter horse interests.  It appears obvious that Woodbine and Mohawk are part of the core as is quarter horse track Ajax Downs.  From who was consulted for this report, I would assume The Raceway at Western Fair District is a member of the core of six.  As for thoroughbred track Fort Erie, things are a bit cloudy.  They talk about a 30 day season for ‘B’ track thoroughbred racing, but being the report talks about previous conversations concerning moving the thoroughbred meet to Ajax Downs and the removal of the slots from Fort Erie so not to compete with the existing casinos in the Niagra area, I would speculate Fort Erie Racetrack is not part of the core of six.  So, assuming it is Mohawk, Woodbine, Western Fair District, and Ajax Downs, it leaves two other tracks to be listed.  However, the report did say if other tracks agreed with the principles outlined in the report and it made sense, this number could be expanded.
The report goes into details of a three year transitional subsidy that is for the racetracks only, to cover the expense of putting on horse racing on a break even basis.  By the end of the three years, it is assumed the tracks will be able to absorb this expense through the new sources of gaming income. 

The report also states it is the breeders and owners who are responsible for race horses after their career is over and it calls for the development of a horse lifecycle plan to deal with developing second careers for horses and their welfare.  You are encouraged to read the report yourself.
Even though racing interests were consulted and agreed with the report findings, I am sure horsemen are not pleased.   After all, when you go from the gravy train to living within your means, no one is happy.  Racing is now faced with living within its means and if it wishes to race for higher purses, it must actually care about the customer once again and compete for them.

How do you compete for the gambler?  You compete against the casino industry.  It can be done by lowering the takeout and updating the game by speeding things up, offering variety such as monté, distance racing and second tiers.  In other words, lose the constant reply of “This is the way things have always been done” and adopt the attitude of “Why not give it a try?”.  This is what ever other business must do.
Horsemen in other jurisdictions must not like this report either because it is only a matter of time until this report gets read in statehouses in the United States and when that happens, the gravy train may come to an end in the United States.

Update;  The OHHA suggests the study merely delays the death of horse racing.  Read it here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Got Juice?

This time the juice I am referring to is electricity, for that is something I lack.  Phone service would be nice too.

Due to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, I will not be able to post for up to ten days according to authorities (of course it can be less, it can be longer).  As a result, I will not be able to post on a regular schedule but our resident quest blogger Joe F. may be posting articles in the interim on a somewhat reduced schedule.

I will return, hopefully sooner than later, but return I will.

Thanks for your understanding.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Few Thoughts on the Breeders Crown and Other News

For those who want a detailed recap of the Breeders Crown Finals, Standardbred Canada has an excellent summary of the races along with replays of the twelve races.   Another great source for recaps is Harness Racing Update

The sting of not winning the Hambletonian last year for Chapter Seven's connections should be completely eliminated with Chapter Seven's victory in the Breeders Crown Trot, defeating European superstar Commander Crowe in 1:52.3.  While Commander Crowe tired late to finish third, the Commander was not embarrassed considering he arrived in Canada just two days earlier and remained in quarantine.  This should not minimize Chapter Seven's victory as he was forced to race on the outside uncovered the entire mile.

With the victory of Chapter Seven, there is no doubt who will be the Horse of the Year for 2012.  This victory, along with Heston Blue Chip's, caps a year to remember for trainer Linda Toscano. 

Europe didn't go home empty handed though.  After a disappointing start to her North American campaign, the connections of Tamla Celeber S was vindicated by a 1:55.2 victory in the Breeders Crown Mare Trot which was accomplished with an impressive closing kick thanks to Brian Sears' changing the strategy of the five year old mare by racing from the back. It turns out that was the medicine she needed.

 I liked the race winner, but was not willing to settle for 9-1 odds on the horse.  Needless to say, I  was kicking myself for my decision. 

At one time New Jersey was the capital for racing when it came to breeding, but with five winners last night being sired by horses in New York, it is clear New York may be the top dog in American breeding these days.  This was illustrated last night in three year old colt and gelding final won by Heston Blue Chip in 1:49.2 over the good track.

Granted Heston Blue Chip had a much easier campaign than the others as he spent a good part of his season racing in the NYSS, but with harness racing gravitating more towards the trainig strategy styles of Thoroughreds, expect to see more of this.

HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge concluded last night at Woodbine Racetrack and the Pen's were the top dogs in the contest thanks to Mark McKelvie, who was in the lead most of the way.  While McKelvie led most of the way, Chip handicapper Earl the Pearl made it interesting with a furious closing bid the last three legs of the contest, but the wire came soon enough for McKelvie to secure the title.  Congratulations to Mark on his victory. 

Harness Racing Going Hollywood?  A film called Johnny Longshot is set to begin filming in early 2013 with filming being centered at Lebanon Raceway.  It will be nice to see a film about harness racing making it.  Look for the film in late 2013 or early 2014.

With Hurrican Sandy due to visit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast this week, don't be surprised to see racing cancelled at some tracks over the next few days.  Check your local racetrack's website or the USTA's for such announcements. 

If you don't see a post for a few days, it will be due to Hurricane Sandy.  I will return, it's just a case of when.

Cal-Expo's fall meet opens this coming Friday.  More news about this later this week.   

Alan Kirschenbaum

Lost in the news of the Breeders Crown was the passing of Alan Kirschenbaum, well known television producer and comedy writer. While he was best known for his work in television, he was also known for his support of harness racing.  Whether as an owner, amateur driver, trainer, and past President of the CHHA, he was a credit to the standardbred sport.

My first dealing with Alan came when he complained about one of my blog entries, feeling I didn't get the Cal-Expo horsemen's side of the story correct.  When I talked to him about the story, he wasn't mad, he just wanted to make sure I understood the history of harness racing in California so I understood where the horsemen were coming form.  He generously offered to talk to me anytime I had a question or wanted to talk to him about what was going on in California harness racing; something I took him up on.  If there was one thing I took away from our few conversations was the fact he always looked out for the best interests of the horsemen at Cal-Expo. 

Others told me the same.  Whether horsemen who disagreed with what the CHHA was doing, track management or others, no one disputed Alan had the horsemen's best interests at heart.  All respected him for what he was trying to do.

I will remember Alan for fighting for horsemen, the man with great wit (you had to love his tweets), and the person who brought so much laughter and enjoyment to people's lives through his television shows (who could forget Coach?).  Lastly, I will also remember a man who left us too early at the age of 51.

My sympathy to Alan's family.  May he rest in peace and to those who knew him best, may his memory be a blessing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's the Future for Ontario?

So, here we are, Breeders Crown Day (Night) at Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario, Canada and there is still no plan for the future of harness racing in the province.  While most people agree racing will continue in Ontario next year on a diminished scale, no one knows which tracks will be racing, how often, and for how much.  The province has promised a subsidy of $50 million over a period of three years and while there has been a request for additional monetary support, there are no plans in place.

Racing continues on through March 31, 2013 but after that, who knows what?

The sad thing is racing really can't get many answers right now.  The Liberal Party's leadership has been hit with numerous questions regarding decision made by the provincial government led by them and the kitchen was getting hot.  As a result, Dalton McGuinty decided to step down as party head and Premier so the party will be deciding who is its next leader and provincial premier.  In the meanwhile, since the opposition has been calling for investigations, McGuinty basically engineered a coup d'etat by proroguing Parliament.  For Americans, this means suspending Parliament until the new premier decides to reopen their session.  As a result, the provincial government is stopped dead in their tracks, barred from doing any further work (wouldn't this have been a handy tool during Watergate?).  So until the Liberals select a new leader and the Premier un-prorouges Parliament, nothing is getting done and  the racing community, be it standardbred, thoroughbred, or quarter horse stand around wondering what is next..   .

If at First You Don't Succeed, try, try again.  So it goes for Valley View Downs, the proposed harness racino track for Western Pennsylvania first approved back in 2007.  Valley View Downs, originally approved back in 2007, is now on its third set of owners.  Original owners Centaur had to give up their project as part of their bankruptcy back in 2008, only to have their interests transferred to American Harness Tracks in 2010.  Unable to get their own financing for the plan, ownership has once again been transferred, this time to Endeka Entertainment. which has been approved by the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission. 

Is the third time the charm?  Endeka has been given strict deadlines to meet over the next sixty days.  One would think Endeka has their ducks in a row but then based on the track record of this project, don't be surprised if Endeka comes back to the PHRC looking for an extension or if the project stalls again.

Of course, this project would never have seen the light of day or would have been buried after the first failed attempt if not for the casino license.  One would hope if the project fails this time that the racing commission says 'enough' and pulls the license once and for all.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Breeders Crown Night Makers

As mentioned earlier this week, the way I have been picking them of late, I'll keep my picks to myself; most likely your wallet will thank me for this. 
However, we do have VFTRG's guest handicapper Daryl on board with his take on the Breeders Crown.  Daryl provides us with his four 'Night Makers' and talks about the necessity of watching the replays; multiple times to be successful. 
Without further ado, here is Daryl's blog entry. 

Hello again, first off, I'd like to thank Pacingguy for asking me if I'd like another shot at the BC.  This time around I'd like to change the approach.  Rather than list 3 or 4 horses I like in each race and you'll probably forget by race time, I'm going to mention some horses I think might make an impact at higher odds due to troubled trips last week. 

It's here I make it clear how important it is to watch least twice.  Most serious gamblers know how important it is but for those just starting out, it's imperative you watch races and take trip notes for the following week.  Reading a program doesn't come close to telling the whole story and never will.  It doesn't matter how many figures you look at, they will never tell if a horse was blocked with pace (unless there's some trip notes in 3 words or less attached to each race line).

Warning, the majority of last Saturday's eliminations were hampered by some stiff winds on the backstretch that caused some unusually slow second quarters followed up by some really fast third quarters according to the drivers.  If the weather behaves, this won't happen Saturday.  Quarter moves will be happening frequently, the question is, can they last 5/8's of a mile on the lead? 

Just one more item I'd like to mention.  As much as I love watching good horses beat each other up on the racetrack, I dislike wagering on "super" nights if you will.  There's probably 15-20 must see days/nights of racing a year (my girlfriend will say more). Usually you'll find short prices rule the day with a couple of longshots sprinkled in there once in a while.  It's these little few and far between gems I'm looking for on Breeder's Crown night.  You don't have to bet every race to be successful, it's usually the other way around.

You've heard of "day makers" before if you're a fan of HRTV, well, I'm going for a few night makers Saturday:

Maker #1?  In the first race, Autumn Escapade has several angles going for her I like to see.  First, she's fresh.  With a Q and a tightener since September 22, she should be much tighter for this effort.  Second, she showed good effort on both ends of her mile last week after getting shuffled some.  It's always a positive sign since Woodbine tends to be a speed favoring track most of the time.  You need to be up close at the head of the stretch unless they're smokin' on the front end and they come back to the rest of pack.  Lastly, Dave Miller owns and his wife Misty is listed as trainer.  Last year, Dave was one of those that missed BC night due to the weather in the east so maybe that's added motivation.  She did finish third in last years edition at Woodbine after leaving hard from a worse post.  Also in last year's race, directly to her outside was Frenchfrysnvinegar and she won the race.  Does Dave turn the tables?  A win here will make up for a very disappointing year and make her a millionaire, if that's not an incentive, I don't know what one is.  Come on Dave, let's find her one more good trip.  It's a little stretch's a horse race.

Maker #2?  How about Rockin Amadeus in the seventh race?  If this bad boy can hit the board, it should be at a juicy price.  Everybody's choice for 2yo pacer of the year will be tough to beat.  A much improved post should conserve some energy for the stretch run.  Last week he got shuffled a bit after leaving hard and found some room late with a little sneaky pace.  The last quarter was HOT!  In a race where everybody would like a two hole trip behind the Captain, Rockin could be the one.  Where's Odds On Equuleus?  It's a big stretch's a horse race.

Maker #3?  Not Yannick again, in the ninth race.  Either he knew what he was doing or was shocked last week with Escape The News because he ended up with a lap full of horse with nowhere to go when the leaders collapsed.  I think it was the latter since he's always been in the bottom half of 3yo colt and gelding category all year.  ETN will have to run faster than he ever has before but he's trained by Burke.  He can crank them up with the best of them.  This race should be a war.  It's a very large stretch's a horse race.

Maker #4  I wish this horse wasn't racing in the tenth race but we have no choice.  Disclaimer...I'm not a big fan of Krispy Apple by any stretch but you have to call like you see them.  Krispy was blocked with a ton last week and went on by after with plenty of pace. The fractions were faster, not slower, as the race went on but company was much cheaper.  Timmy T had to go with his favorite older mare Anndrovette and I don't blame him.  She's proven herself over and over again, unlike Krispy who shows up once in a while, rarely against the best in class.  She has to get involved early on again like last week.  If she does leave, I'll expect a big effort late.  I don't think Dave Miller has ever driven her?  It doesn't matter, the word should be all systems go and go shock the world.  It's a huge stretch's a horse race.

It's a stretch's a horse race.  I suggest you watch the replays of the above horses, from last weekend's races, at, they're easy to find and free. If you see what I saw, jump on board.  Maybe you'll find another gem or we'll both get lucky.

Good luck to everyone involved in this year's BC.  I hope the drivers can take time out of their busy schedules to make it this year.  The "rare" storm isn't expected until early next week so we should be ok, I hope so.

P.S.  If I strike out Saturday, there's always Warrawee Needy in his next start to make amends. It's a stretch's a horse race.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Save Tarport Hap's Resting Place

Two of my favorite pacing fillies of all time were Silk Stockings and the ill-fated Tarport Hap.  I just came across an article from about these two and it brought back great memories.

The problem with time is the legacies of the greats tend to get lost as new generations come and go.  With the exception of the true historian, their exploits get consigned to the archives of newspapers and racing journals, rarely to see sunlight again.  Let's not kid ourselves, if there wasn't a race named after Messenger and Hambletonian, who would remember these two?

But alas, this world belongs to the living, not the dead but it does not mean the past should be erased, never to be commemorated again.  While the name Tarport Hap lives on at the Meadowlands once a year in a race, the stakes could be dropped or renamed.  A more permanent monument to Tarport Hap may be in jeopardy; her final resting place.  Due to the impact she had at the Meadowlands and the industry, after Tarport Hap died in 1977 in a race at the Meadowlands, she was buried in Paddock Park, her final resting place marked with a small marker.  As time moves on, the number of visitors to her grave grows smaller and smaller but just because of that, does it mean it should be ignored?

As you know, the Meadowlands is building a new grandstand on the other side of the track after which the old grandstand will be torn down and that part of the property will revert to the NJSEA.  Access to Paddock Park for fans will be a thing of the past.  One must ask what will happen to Tarport Hap's resting spot? 

If that piece of Paddock Park remains under the control of New Meadowlands LLC, access via the back paddock should remain and it would be fitting for a more significant grave marker to be placed over the grave.  If the property is to revert to the NJSEA, Tarport Hap's remains should be re-interred to a new location on the track property with a new grave marker.

While Tarport Hap's exploits may be fading from the memories of racing fans, her resting place should not.  New Meadowlands LLC should ensure her of a resting place.

Breeders Crown Program Pages Available.   Thanks to Trackmaster for offering free program pages for the Breeders Crown races on Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Kentucky Dilemna

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has released the racing dates approved for 2013,  Here is the schedule for the pari-mutuel standardbred tracks:

Thunder Ridge Raceway: April 10 - May 24 (21 days); Racing Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
Bluegrass Downs: June 7 - July 7 (15 days); Racing Friday-Sunday
Red Mile: August 4 - September 21 (21 days); Racing Sunday, Thursday, and Saturday
Red Mile (Grand Circuit): September 26 - October 6 (8 days); Racing Thursday-Sunday

Excluding the Grand Circuit meet at the Red Mile, there is a grand total of 57 racing days for overnight horses on the pari-mutuel circuit.  While not yet released, if the 2012 fair schedule is duplicated, there will be an additional 8 days of racing on the fair circuit (the finals are held at the Red Mile).

A racing program, be it thoroughbred or standardbred, can not be sustained with a total of 65 days for the entire year, which explains why in Kentucky, between 20-28 yearlings were nominated to the KYSS in each of the four classes this year.  Overnight purses figure to be anemic as well, especially since the adoption of Instant Racing has been stalled thanks to legal action by its opponents.  Until a final ruling with regards to the legality of Instant Racing gambling, a track would have to be foolish to move forward with installing the games (Kentucky Downs already had them before the court decision) which means the number of standardbred foals born in Kentucky will continue to be insignificant.  That is unless something happens to change this quandry. 

So thinking outside of the box, Kentucky standardbred interests proposed merging the KYSS and NJSS programs so horses from both states would be eligible to compete in each others' sires stakes programs.  Both states are suffering from similar problems with respect to a shortage of horses for some of their racing and sires stakes races due to the lack of breeding in the state resulting from the exodus of sires to other states.   The problem in Kentucky is the sires stakes program is only contested at the Red Mile and while the finals are lucrative ($30,000 preliminary legs, $250,000 finals), there is only one series, no other opportunity for Kentucky-sired horses to race in state-restricted events for good money.  Well, the same is true in New Jersey.  While there are two sets of sires stakes races in the Garden State, only the Meadowlands series is worth any real money with $150,000 finals; the Freehold Green Acres series consisting of $7,000 preliminary legs and a $25,000 final. 

Clearly, neither series on their own is going to attract sires to stand in the state so the thought was if horsemen were given the chance to compete in two different states' programs, perhaps better stallions would stand in both states.  For whatever reasons, the proposal went nowhere.

An alternate plan in the Bluegrass state is to change the KYSS program to allow foals of broodmares which spend the season in Kentucky to participate in the program.  While it will not bring more sires to the state, having additional broodmares take up residence in the state would not only increase the number of participants in these state-restricted races, it would also provide increased revenue to farm operators as well as provide more horses to race in the state.

Whether this second option will take place, the key is they are not sitting still in Kentucky.  When you are given lemons, you try to make lemonade.  New Jersey interests would be wise to start thinking out of the box as well. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Briefs

First of all, thanks to frequent contributor Joe F. for his great column yesterday while I was unavailable.  While I am honored and happy to post Joe's contributions, I still can't figure out why he doesn't have his own blog yet.

My Breeders Crown elimination selections didn't come through with only Heston Blue Chip saving me from an 0-fer slate.  I will keep my Breeders Crown Finals selections to myself this weekend as I hate to think people are using my selections and getting burnt the way I have been going.  I am trying to get Daryl, a person who has handicapped for this blog before, to offer his selections for the Breeders Crown finals. His selections would have to be a vast improvement over mine the way I have been doing.

Speaking of the Breeders Crown, PTP offered his thoughts on this past weekend's eliminations.  If you haven't seen his column, you should take a look now.

There is a lesson to be learned from the Presidential Debates which concluded last night.  Not trying to get political but despite Obama winning the second and third debates, he put himself in a big hole with the first debate.  While Obama may still win the election (speaking of praying for the wire), racing can learn a lesson from these debates.  Sometimes you don't get a second chance to impress your customer.  Make a big mess the first time and you may not get a second chance to win them back.

HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge is coming down to the wire with two legs remaining, Friday night at Vernon Downs for the two $200,000+ Kindergarten Classic finals and of course the Breeders Crown Finals on Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack.  The competition seems to becoming down to a three handicapper race.  The funny thing is the top three handicappers are 'do it yourselfers' handicappers (Pens) and unless something dramatically occurs, the computer program handicappers are going to get shut out of the top three positions. 

We are about ten days away from the inaugural Watch and Wager meet at Cal-Expo which starts on November 2.  There is a press release which describes the journey California harness racing has taken to get to where it is now.  While the picture isn't pretty, I've always said the California harness horsemen are nothing if not resilient. 

Is it possible that Poker is part of the solution for Ontario racing?  One hundred and ten seats for electronic poker are being added to Woodbine.  Does it make sense to install electronic poker machines at Woodbine if the OLG contract is ending in March, 2013?  The locations which have electronic poker are all racetracks; in addition to Woodbine, Poker Tek machines are located at Mohawk Racetrack, Sudbury Downs, Georgian Downs, Rideau Carleton, and Western Fair District.

It seems like racetracks can't get enough of RUS.  The Meadows has scheduled a monté race for October 31.  All these tracks offering non-wagering RUS events suggests a real interest in the sport.  With a little more fine-tuning, I suspect we will see RUS events on the wagering card sooner than most people think. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

MIA At BC/Division Honors Pre-BC

Last year a snow event in late October grounded Tim Tetrick, Yanick Gingras, David Miller and George Brennan in New Jersey on Breeders Crown day, leading to an embarrassing flurry of driver changes. The storm was not a surprise and Tetrick and Gingras had driven at Vernon the previous night, but chose to return to New Jersey despite the nasty forecast. The folks at Woodbine acted as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, and that approach generated much in the way of comment and consternation.

We had another bizarre BC situation on Saturday as Jim Morrill was apparently turned away at the border because he didn’t have a work visa. Since numerous Canadian and American drivers cross the border for work on a daily basis, this appears to be a case of an overly officious border agent making a big mistake. Regardless, Morrill, who had driven in five races at Woodbine on Friday night, was a late scratch on Archangel, Beatgoeson Hanover, Hillbilly Hanover, Foreclosure and Classic Rock NRoll. Beatgoeson and Foreclosure both won.

Morrill returned in July of last year from a 270-day suspension for refusing to take a breathalyzer which was handed down by the Kentucky Racing Commission. Since then he has been far and away the top driver in the NYSS, and he currently ranks tenth overall in earnings for 2012.

As one might expect, speculation was rampant over what caused Morrill to miss his drives on this very important night, but it seems that nothing was said or written to dampen the fire of speculation. Can you imagine this happening in another sport? If there was a legitimate reason for Morrill missing his drives, whacky as it may be, let us know. Is there actually some other reason? If so, what is it?  


Now that the BC eliminations are completed, is leadership on the division level any clearer? Has a HOY candidate separated from the pack?

Can Romantic Moment overtake her stablemate, American Jewel, in the three-year-old pacing filly division?

Rather than having the two fillies fight each other for NYSS money all season, Takter has pretty much kept Jewel on the GC, while allowing Romantic Moment to handle the SS races. Jewel has won the Fan Hanover, Lynch, Simcoe and Bluegrass, as well as eliminations for the Fan, Lynch and BC. She won the Fan in a WR :48.2 at Mohawk, and set a :49.2 record for a three-year-old filly on a 5/8 track when she won the Lynch at Pocono.

Romantic Moment hasn’t gone quite that fast; she sports a mark of :50.1. Both fillies have earned roughly the same amount of money, with Jewel about $35,000 ahead in that department.

Romantic Moment won the Valley Forge, the Garnsey and the NYSS Final. Six of her ten wins were in the NYSS. She finished second in the Bluegrass and fourth in the Fan Hanover. Her accomplishments in the open sphere don’t match Jewel’s but she’s been the hotter filly over the last half of the season: she’s won 8 of her last 10 starts, while Jewel has won 4 of her last 10.

A win over Jewel in the BC would certainly put Romantic Moment on equal footing with her more celebrated paternal sister. Both are eligible to the Matron, and Romantic Moment is also staked to the Lady Maud, while Jewel is staked to the American National.

Can Little Brown Fox catch Market Share?

When you focus on earnings, at first glance this seems like a hopeless task. LBF has won seven times and has 2012 earnings of $782,000, while Market Share has eight wins and has earned more than $1.7 million. The latter won the right races: the Hambletonion and the $1 million Canadian Trotting Classic. In addition to those two races, he won the Zweig.  He lost in the Dexter;  finished third in the NJSS final; finished out in the Goodtimes; was beaten soundly by Goo in the Colonial; and was beaten by upstart, Intimidate, in his BC elimination. The money is more dominant than the record. Market Share was also taken to task when his connections chose not to supplement to the Ky Futurity, and to race instead in a $10,000 late closer.

Little Brown Fox won the Stanley Dancer, Simcoe and Ackerman. He won his CTC elimination, but finished second in the final. He was second in his Ky Futurity elimination and fourth in the final. He won his BC elimination. Gingras and Takter get to choose their post for the BC final, while Market Share is at the mercy of the draw. A win would boost LBF’s earnings over the million dollar mark, but overcoming that Market Share Hambletonion win, especially when LBF broke stride and eliminated himself in the prelim, will be no easy task.

Little Brown Fox and Goo are both eligible to the Matron, while Market Share is not. The buy in is modest, but his connections may not want to go out of their way to face Goo again. LBF, on the other hand, will have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Who is going to be the champion Aged Pacing Mare?

This one really does come down to the BC. Rocklamation was good early, winning several legs and the final of the Matchmaker. She also won the Milton and the Pride In Progress. Her name isn’t generally mentioned as a possible division winner, but she has earned about $650,000, almost $300,000 more than Rebeka Bayama, who is the hot mare in that division right now, and $300,000 more than Drop The Ball, another sharp mare. POAS is $200,000 back of Rocklamation and $65,000 back of Anndrovette.

Rebeka won the Golden Girls and a half-dozen opens. Even with a win in the BC, it would be tough to crown her.

POAS, who will race in the Open, has eleven wins, including the Lady Liberty and Spring Of Hope. She is also the world record holder. If she beats the boys, the division is hers. What about a solid board finish?

Drop The Ball, who drew the eleven post in the final, won the Allerage Mare. She qualified at Harrah’s a day or two ago.

Anndrovette won the Roses Are Red in WR time, but she seems to have tailed off lately, and has only won twice in her last eleven starts.

What about the three-year-old colt pacers?

A Rocknroll Dance has been a major contender all year, but failing to qualify for the BC final is a major blow to his chances. He took on the best of the division week after week, and won the Pace, Hempt and Battle Of Brandywine. However, he’s now lost seven in a row, including the Cane, Simcoe, Jug, Bluegrass, Tattersalls and BC elimination. No.

Bolt The Duer, winner of the Adios, Simpson and KYSS final, is through for the year. No.

Michaels Power is the earnings leader, thanks to his success in the ONSS program, and he also won the Jug, the Confederation Cup and a division of the SBSW, but he skipped Lexington, then finished second behind Mel Mara in an ONSS Gold Final, and was fourth in his BC elimination. The last two starts haven’t helped, but a win in the BC final would certainly put him in contention. Although it is important to remember that Michaels Power did not race in the final of the NA Cup, the Pace, Hempt, Adios, Cane or Battle of Brandywine, in addition to skipping The GC meet at The Red Mile. His would be an unusual route to a division championship.

Sweet Lou won eliminations of the NA Cup, Pace, Adios and Jug. He finally got that elusive open stakes win in the Tattersalls a couple of weeks ago. With Dance and Duer falling on hard times, and Michaels Power exhibiting vulnerability of late, Lou is in the running.

Heston Blue Chip, an impressive winner of his BC elimination the other night, is an intriguing candidate. He spent most of the season beating up on the NYSS set, but he has been more than competitive when placed in open company. He won his Pace elimination and his Cane elimination. If he wins the BC it will be his first open stakes win of 2012. He’s eligible to the Matron. They took the safe SS road with HBC all season, and this is reflected in his smaller earnings figure and lack of open wins. Colts like HBC and Panther Hanover are interesting but a BC win might be too little, too late.

Thinking Out Loud has earned more than $1 million this year. He won the NA Cup and the Bluegrass. He’s got two wins in his last ten starts. The BC and The Cup make for impressive seasonal bookends, but there isn’t enough in between..

Will Foiled win the Aged Pacing division again?

Cheddar won the Franklin, Des Smith and Quillen before ending his season prematurely. He lost the Mohawk Gold Cup and the Canadian Pacing Derby. Two major losses on his home turf. A BC win would have given him the division, but at this point that probably won’t be enough. The sharpest horse is Bettor Sweet, who only has two wins. He can’t win it all, but may spoil it for Foiled or Golden Receiver.

The latter has the most impressive record, with wins in the Haughton, USPC, Presidential, Graduate and the Spring Pacing Championship at Woodbine. On the other hand, Foiled won the Canadian Pacing Derby, the Molson and three legs of the Levy. Also in his favor is the fact that he broke Gallo’s earnings mark this year. If either Foiled or Golden Receiver wins the BC, they win the division. If some other horse wins, it’s still up in the air.

Captaintreacherous, Check Me Out and Chapter Seven seem to be the strongest contenders for HOY honors. If two of the three lose on Saturday, the other one will probably be voted HOY.




Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Time in New Jersey

The Meadowlands, which plans to resume racing on December 28 this year has announced some changes to the racing calendar in 2013.  On the stakes front, the Woodrow Wilson and the Sweetheart Stakes are now history, being dropped from the racing calendar.  Quite honestly, it is about time these two stakes are dropped, in particular the Woodrow Wilson which has been a shell of itself when comparred to the glory days (remember when the race went for $2 million?), now lost with all the other stakes races being contested at the Meadowlands in August.

Other changes will be the Meadowlands closing on Hambletonian Day, another smart move because after the Hambletonian, interest in the meet drops off the cliff.  However, racing will return for a short fall meet starting the Friday after Thanksgiving coupled with the return of the Governor's Cup, Three Diamonds, Goldsmith Maid, and Valley Victory which were last contested in 2011 at Harrah's Philadelphia.

In a recognition of the shortage of horses the Meadowlands has to deal with, there will be no Thursday night racing when Harrah's is racing, meaning a longer period of two days a week racing.  This should help the Meadowlands by allowing Racing Secretary Peter Koch more leeway in putting together racing cards that are full instead of racing short fields consistently. 

Jeff Gural, the operator of the Meadowlands, would like to see the Breeders Crown races for older horses return to the Meadowlands in 2014.  While the temptation may be to bring the Breeders Crown back to the Meadowlands, the Hambletonian Society should resist splitting the Breeders Crown card up.  A championship day card should be just that, a card of championship races for all gaits and ages.  To return to the model where the Meadowlands and Woodbine Racetrack split the races with 2yo and 3yo events at one track and the older races at the other should be discouraged at all costs.  Of course, with the uncertainty of the situation in Ontario, this may be a moot point.

Of all the changes, I am particularly excited with the revision to the 2yo racing calendar.  By dropping the Wilson and Sweetheart and the return of the final four, the starting of 2yos before July may become a thing of the past as there will be too much money at the back end of the season when compared to the first half of  the season.  To have the babies going full steam in July will no longer make sense.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Breeders Crown Eliminations - The Selections

Or should we call them the Dreaded Selections based on my current slump?  Time will tell if the slump is broken or it continues. 

I am looking for some of the eliminations to have some upsets but with the elimination winners able to draw post position in the finals, I have no doubt some of the favorites will be reaching the wire first.  However, depending on which favorites win, you can have several winners for the night and still lose if you are dealing with 1-5 and 2-5 favorites.

One thing I have noticed this year is one should not dismiss horses that have been racing on the NYSS circuit.  Right now, the NYSS is one of the toughest state sired program and all this year, we have had horses racing in the NYSS winning their first start against open company, at big prices.  Of course, there are no guarantees but it is an angle to watch out for.

Don't forget, HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge Handicappers are making their selections for both days of eliminations at Woodbine Racetrack and quite honestly, it is a horse race.  Barring anything unforeseen happening, The Pen vs. The Chip is another event which is 'All Coming Down to the Breeders Crown'. You can find the handicapper's selections at this link the morning of each day's racing action

With out further ado, here are my selections:

Friday, October 19, 2012

2nd Pace - $24,635 (Cdn); Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo Colts and Geldings (Top Five Advance)
6 - Dress The Part (Campbell, 10-1)
4 - Captainreacherous (Tetrick, 1-5)
2 - Vegas Vacation (Zeron, 12-1)

3rd Pace - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo Fillies (Top Eight Advance - Two Byes)
  7 - Power Pack Hanover (D Miller, 8-1)
10 - Nikki Beach (Tetrick, 5-1)
  4 - Hit The Curb (Morrill, 8-1)

4th Pace - $24,935; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo Colts and Geldings (Top Five Advance)
5 - Apprentice Hanover (Jamieson, 2-1)
1 -  Urbanite Hanover (Tetrick, 9-2)
2 - Good Day Mate (Palone, 6-1)

5th Trot - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 2yo Colts and Geldings (Top Eight Advance - Two Byes)
7 - Royalty For Life (Tetrick, 7-1)
2 - Your So Vain (Campbell, 12-1)
1 - Murmur Hanover (Baillargeon, 10-1)
3 - Pine Credit (L Miller, 4-1)

Saturday, October 20

2nd Pace - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Fillies (Top Five Advance)
6 - Economy Terror (Palone, 2-1)
2 - American Jewel (Tetrick, 9-5)
7 - Marty Party (Pierce, 8-1)

3rd Trot - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Colts and Geldings (Top Five Advance)
3 - Lightning Storm (Callahan, 10-1)
7 - Stormin Normand (D Miller, 4-1)
1 - Modern Family (Lachance, 8-1)

4th Trot - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Colts and Geldings (Top Five Advance)
4 - Market Share (Tetrick, 2-5)
7 - My MVP (Lachance, 8-1)
2 - Appomattox (Zeron, 15-1)

5th Trot - $39,416; Breeders Crown Elimination - Open Mare (Top Seven Advance - Three Byes) 
6 - Martiniontherocks (Filion, 12-1)
1 - Beatgoeson Hanover (Morrill, 7-2)
8 - Pantholops (Callahan, 7-1)
3 - Autumn Escapade (D Miller, 6-1)

6th Pace - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Colts and Geldings (Top Five Advance)
1 - Thinking Out Loud (Campbell, 5-1)
8 - Hurrikane Kingcole (Dube, 9-2)
7 - Panther Hanover (Filion, 5-1)
4 - Escape The News (Gingras, 8-1)

8th Pace - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Fillies (Top Five Advance)
3 - Shelliscape (Campbell, 6-1)
8 - Romantic Moment (Gingras, 4-5)
5 -  Rockaround Sue (Tetrick, 15-1)
4 -  Destinys Chance (Sears, 5-1)

10th Pace - $24,635; Breeders Crown Elimination - 3yo Colts and Geldings (Top Five Advance)
7 - Heston Blue Chip (Tetrick, 7-1)
5 - Sweet Lou (Palone, 2-1)
4 - A Rocknroll Dance (Gingras, 5-1)
6 - Speed Again (Jamieson, 10-1)     

Forest City Sale 2012

The Forest City Sale at Western Fair District in London Ontario was held this past Saturday and Sunday. As one might expect, there was a price to pay for the general unrest and upheaval in the Ontario standardbred world. Six fewer yearlings were sold this year than last, 257 down from 263, but the gross was off more than $2.1 million. Last year the average was about $18,000, while this year it dropped to $10,500. The 71 fillies auctioned off this year brought on average less than $8,000.

The same disheartening downward trend established at the Canadian Yearling Sale continued here. At that sale, 21 Angus Hall yearlings had commanded an average of almost $29,000 in 2011, while 11 brought an average of under $7,000 this year. Over the weekend 21 Angus Halls brought an average of $8,000, with the 10 fillies averaging a paltry $5,300. Last year at Forest City, 19 Angus Halls averaged about $24,500.

Angus Hall, the sire of Peaceful Way and Majestic Son, stands for $10,000 at Winbak. The Three-year-old filly, Sugar Wheeler, was his best performer on the ONSS circuit this year. She won a Gold Final. His most productive colt in the program was Keystone Orion, who won once.

Dewey, who sports the highest stud fee in Ontario, at $20,000, had six sell for an average of about $18,700. The high was a colt that went for $25,000. At the recent Lexington Selected Sale, 18 of the two dozen Deweys auctioned off brought $25,000 or less. Next year will be his offspring’s first crack at the ONSS money—whatever that is.

The first crop of Shadow Plays to hit the sales ring brought an average of about $11,600 for the 17 offered. Ten of the seventeen sold for $10,000 or less. The fillies averaged about $13,000, while the colts only averaged $8,000. Four of the seventeen brought $20,000 or more, with the top being a $27,000 filly. The nine Shadow Plays sold at the Canadian Yearling Sale averaged about $11,600. The top at that sale was a $15,500 colt.

Shadow Play stands for $5,000 at Winbak. That five and six thousand dollar niche is pretty crowded in Ontario, with Badlands Hanover, Sportswriter, Jereme’s Jet, No Pan Intended, Artistic Fella, Big Jim, Up The Credit, as well as Shadow Play.

Muscle Mass, who had 13 sell for an average of almost $25,000 last year at Forest City, with six of them going for $20,000 or more, had nine sell for an average of $7,100 this year. While nine of the twelve sold last year went for $10,000 and up, that figure represented the top price at this year’s sale. Most of his better colts and fillies were Grassroots competitors.

Kadabra, one of the few Ontario stallions consistently competitive in open stakes, averaged almost $18,000 for the 14 sold at Forest City. Last year ten went for an average of more than $28,000. The six fillies brought an average of more than $24,000, while the six colts came in at a much lower $13,000. In 2011 only two of the ten brought $10,000 or less; this year eight of the seventeen went for less than $10,000. The dozen Kadabras sold at the Canadian Yearling Sale averaged less than $13,000. If any stallion could keep his head above water in these difficult times, you’d think it would be this sire of Bee A Magician, Knows Nothing, Prestidigitator, Miss Paris and Cold Certified.

Mach Three is another Tara Hills stallion with a following. There were nine fewer Mach Threes sold this year than last. The seven of them averaged almost $28,000. Last year 16 brought in an average of more than $32,000. This time a colt out of Carolina Moon brought $85,000, which helped boost the average. Aside from him, the top was a $30,000 filly.

Camluck has had spectacular success with the gelding Michaels Power this year, but beyond him the twenty-five-year-old stallion didn’t have any standouts in the ONSS program. Last year at Forest City sixteen Camlucks averaged $40,000, while this year seventeen averaged about $18,500. The seven fillies only averaged about $7,000, with only one bringing more than $10,000. The colts, on the other hand, averaged more than $24,000 for ten of them. This was helped by the $77,000 given for Nirvana Seelster, whose dam is a full-sister to Strike An Attitude. Second dam a full-sister to Artiscape. Last year at Forest City, Nitro Seelster, a full brother to Nirvana Seelster brought $150,000. Last year 13 of the 16 Camlucks sold for $20,000 or more, while this year it was 6 of 17.

Badlands started off his first year in the ONSS program with a bang. Tarpon Hanover was hot early, winning a Gold Final, but he cooled off when he came up against the open colts. It’s No Secret was very good, winning two Gold Finals and banking more than $200,000, and Love Canal was a shooting star, with a couple of good wins in the program. But Badlands went from selling 13 yearlings for an average of almost $22,000 last year to selling nine for $12,000 this time. A $25,000 colt topped it for him. This was much better than what happened at the CYS where eight of Badlands yearlings averaged a shade over $5,200, topped off by a $9,200 colt. Ugh!

Last year Santana Blue Chip averaged almost $18,000 for 14 yearlings, while this year there were only two, one for $2,500 and the other for $4,500.

The offerings from Windsong Espoir totaled four for an average of less than $4,000

Lis Mara went from nine sold in 2011 for an average of $6,700 to three sold this time for an average of $3,700.

Jereme’s Jet went from 16 selling for an average of more than $23,000 in 2010, to 12 for $18,000 last year, to one for $24,000 this year. At this year’s CYS seven Jereme’s Jets averaged $4,500. In 2010 he had them selling for 105, 90, 55, 60 etc. He hasn’t stretched beyond the ONSS program. The three-year-old filly, Apogee Hanover, earned almost $170,000 in SS money, but she only won one race.

Last year’s sale was loaded with Stonebridge Regals—21 of them that averaged about $11,500. This year there were only twelve, and they averaged $4,000. Only one of the twelve brought more than $6,500.

Nine Mister Bigs averaged under $10,000.

Not much good news to be had here.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

US Trotting Urges Registration Conversion for Pleasure Horses

USTA Urges Important Final Step Before Giving Away A Horse – Pleasure Registration

Launches New Life After Racing Page with Standardbred Retirement Options on

 by Dan Leary, USTA Director of Communications

US Trotting Association (USTA) members who plan to give away or sell a horse with the provision they not be raced or bred are urged to take one important last step.  Members now have the option, at no cost, to convert their horse’s registration to Pleasure Horse. 

“This is the only way to ensure that a verbal agreement between two parties to not race or breed a horse is honored,” said USTA Registrar T.C. Lane.   “Once the conversion to Pleasure Registration is complete, there is a record of the transaction in our database and no entry to race can be made, no progeny registered.”

Lane urges careful consideration, as conversion is permanent and cannot be reversed by a future owner.  “This is a process we hope will be undertaken by owners who want to ensure their intentions are honored throughout the horse’s life, when no longer in their care,” explained Lane. 

In its effort to promote pleasure registration and off-the-track options for Standardbreds, the USTA has completely revamped the Life After Racing section of, which was launched today and can be seen by clicking on the Life After Racing tab on the homepage.

“The timing of the announcement of the USTA’s Pleasure Horse registration and Life After Racing initiatives coincides very well with my participation in the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in Lexington over the last two days,” said USTA Executive Vice President/CEO Mike Tanner“The welfare of our race horses when their racing days are over is an issue of great importance and one that demands and deserves our attention.”

Pleasure Registration conversion is open to members with care, custody or control of a horse for which they are the listed owner in the USTA database.   New registration papers can be prepared to reflect the horse’s converted status, if that is required for pleasure discipline competition.  Members should complete a pleasure registration conversion form, which can be obtained here or by calling 877-800-8782 x 1.  The form should be returned with the horse’s registration papers, unless they have electronic registration. 

Conversion cannot be done on a horse no longer in the care, custody or control of the owner listed in the USTA database and cannot be done over the phone.    The Pleasure Registration logo (attached) will appear next to the horse’s name in the Pathway system for all horses whose registration has been converted.  For more information on Pleasure Registration, read the FAQs here or email

Pleasure Registration is one of three USTA initiatives to address Standardbred welfare.  The Full Circle program click here uses the USTA database to allow anyone to record their name in a horse’s file if they wish to be contacted if that horse needs help in the future.  Support Our Standardbreds (SOS) click here provides financial assistance to horses whose care has fallen to a level requiring legal intervention.  For information about those programs, contact or 732-780-3700. 

Editor's Note: Press release has been provided by the United States Trotting Association.  Since this is an important issue, I felt it important to make sure this press release is seen by the maximum number of people possible.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Freehold Showdown

Ah, it has been a long time since we had a good horsemen's dispute and it looks like we have one at Freehold Raceway where Pennwood has requested a 90 day meet with no racing in January and February.  The SBOANJ has made it clear that they will not accept anything less than 120 days with racing in the two winter months.

Actually, the Freehold request is dead on arrival.  According to New Jersey law, Freehold is required to race a minimum of 192 days a year, unless the SBOANJ gives it consent.  Thanks to state law, no SBOANJ approval for the number of days Freehold wants to race means no simulcating and no wagering at Freehold's Toms River OTW location.

But doesn't Freehold race have a 90 day schedule in 2012?  If so, why opposition for a similar schedule for 2013?  Besides the stated reason that some horsemen weren't qualifying for their health coverage and pension benefits, the horsemen are furious at the track for dragging their feet on building out their OTW network.  The horsemen were prepared to assume those licenses but Freehold managed to satisfy the NJRC by showing sufficient progress in their efforts though one of the sites selected was no longer available.  If those OTWs were built, additional purse funds would be directed to Freehold's purse account, allowing horsemen to race for better purses.  Without those OTWs, horsemen are racing for paltry purses, some of the worst in the Northeast.

Could this dispute result in the closing of Freehold?  It's possible but I tend to doubt it at this point.  The NJRC will no doubt try to reach a compromise between the two parties, but it appears the SBOANJ is finally taking a stand against Pennwood for its inaction with regards to the OTWs.  Quite honestly, it is about time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Drivers and Trainers Seeking Warmth and Success at Cal-Expo

With a little over two weeks before the kick-off of the 2012 Fall Meet at Cal-Expo, seven horsemen have decided to make the trek to the the Golden State to take advantage of the realtive warmth and increased purses and late closing opportunities Watch and Wager is bringing to their inaugaral meet.  The horsemen who have or will be making Sacramento home for the late fall-early winter are George Anthrop, Bruce Clarke, Evan Coblentz, Mike Eaton, Dan Gassien, Jennifer Sabot, and Richard Schneider.

George Anthrop ships in from the recently concluded Colonial Downs meet where he was the 5th leading trainer, credited with 9 wins out of 75 starts.  For the year, Anthrop has a 0.324 UTRS with 46 training wins out of 207 starts earning $90,680 for the season.  Career-wise, he has 615 lifetime victories with total purse earnings of $1,959,906.

Driver/Trainer Bruce Clarke, who has been at Cal-Expo for the sires stakes has decided to come in from the East Coast and take up residence at Cal-Expo full time after earning $84,012 this year with a limited number of starts.  Career-wise, Clarke has earned almost $3.5 million training and 2,803 driving victories with $11.5 million in purses won in the bike.

Evan Coblentz is another driver/trainer who has decided to make the trip west from Colonial Downs where he was the 9th leading trainer with 7 victories from 57 starters and a UTR of 0.306.  Five of those victories came as a driver at Colonial Downs where he was the fifteenth leading driver with a UDR of 0.281. 

Michael Eaton, a familiar face in New England racing is having a successful meet at Plainridge Racecourse, where Eaton is currently the 2nd leading dash winning trainer with 38 victories out of 186 starts, earning a UTR of 0.363 and $89,031 during the meet.  As a driver, Eaton is the 3rd leading reinsman with 78 winners out of 429 starts, sporting a UDR of 0.339, earning $213,659 in purses as a driver.

Dan Gassien comes down from Ontario, Canada to give Cal-Expo a chance this season with his most recent training start coming at Kawartha Downs.  Gassien has four training victories this year with limited opportunity and with the current uncertainty in Ontaro, Gassien is hoping for some success as well as warmth this coming meet.

In her first full year of training, Jennifer Sabot has been impressive on the East Coast with a 0.358 UTR with 30 training victories out of 128 opportunities, earning $383,014 in purse money.  At Yonkers Raceway, Sabot has 22 winners out of 90 starters earning a UTR of 0.367 as well as bagging 3 winners out of 12 starters at Freehold with a UTR of 0.398. 

While not from the East Coast, Richard Schneider comes down from Alberta, Canada to take in the relative warm weather California provides this time of the year.  Earlier this year, Schneider was the second leading trainer at Northlands Park with 13 victories out of 107 starts.  A trainer of 359 career victories and over $1.7 million in purses, Schneider also has driven 178 career victories with over $737,000 in purse earnings. 

Put On The Show Takes on the Boys

In an interesting twist, Put On A Show is becoming the first mare in history to take on the boys in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace at Woodbine.  Taking on the boys is more common when it comes to trotting but quite honestly, this year's aged pacing division is not as deep as it has been in the past so if one wa going to decide to take on the boys, this is the year to do it.  The rest of the field for the Open Pace is Aracache Hanover, Bettor Sweet, Foiled Again, Foreclosure N, Golden Receiver, Hypnotic Blue Chip, Razzle Dazzle, Up The Credit and We Will See.  We'll have to see how the post draw goes but there is a reasonable chance to think she will give a good account of herself. 

In the $600,000 Open Trot, Commander Crowe looks to bring Breeders Crown glory back to Europe as he has only five other contenders, Arch Madness, Hot Shot Blue Chip, Daylon Magician and Mister Herbie to tangle with.  Can the Commander do it despite his loss this past weekend in France?  I think so.  On the whole, it is my gut feeling the aged European trotters are better than North America's.  Of course, with shipping and quarantine procedures to deal with, horses making the trip over the Atlantic either way are at a disadvantage. 

In addition to the Open Pace and Trot, the 2yo and 3yo Filly Trots and Mare Pace have no need for eliminations, all the horses declared for these races head directly to the final on October 27.

Hard to believe it but Watch and Wager kicks off their (inaugural 2012) Late Fall-Winter meet a little over two weeks away.  There will be qualifiers on October 20 and 27, then show time. 

Yes, we are approaching the end of October and no one knows what racing will look like in Ontario next year.  There will be racing, but who knows what kind of racing it will be or how much.  But why rush, it's only the lives of thousands of people you are playing with.  With the Liberal party's leader and Provincial Premier Dalton McGuinty resigning, no business can be done in the provincial parliment as McGuinty 'Prorouged' parliment, until a new leader is selected by the Liberal Party.   In the meanwhile, the interim racing report was delivered and can be expected to be released by the end of the month.  Then we will get a good idea of what racing will look like. 

Another study regarding racing in the State of New York showing how horse racing is great for the state's economy.  Yes, handle has gone up at NYRA and overall at the Harness tracks.  While it was a positive report, and there is the typical back slapping,  You decide how good this portends to racing in the Empire State.

This year's RUS season is not over yet.  This time on Saturday evening at Indiana Downs, a field of five trotters will compete in an under saddle event worth $10,000, this time on the turf course.  This will be a first for North America