So not to break with tradition, here is the list submitted to Santa for his consideration. First up comes those who were naughty.
- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs - I have no problem with offering preferences to PA-sired and horses stabled on the Pocono backstretch, but to offer a preference to those horses stabled in Pennsylvania? One can only hope the Meadowlands gets slots and has the ability to return the favor leaving Pocono Downs gasping for entries.
- Plainridge Racecourse President Gary Piontkowski for throwing Walter Case Jr. under the bus when Case applied for a license to race in Massachusetts in 2012. Piontkowski had no problem going to bat for Case when he was on probation, but now that a slot parlor license is in the mix, it was 'Walter who?'. Better hope Santa doesn't decide Raynham Park was very good this year because it looks like they want that slot parlor license Piontkowski thought was in the bag for him.
- The Massachusetts Gaming Commission for turning down Case's license application. How someone had a license (the predecessor racing commission) a few years earlier and has done nothing wrong since then gets denied a license this past year is beyond me. Using Case to clean up the commission's own public relations boondoggle is just wrong.
- Those horsemen at Monticello who took their dirty business off track property when the kill buyers were shown the gate.
- The NYSRWB for their handling of the Lou Pena case. Yes, a rule is a rule but there is something rotten about the way they handled their investigation. Do the means justify the outcome? I'm not sure and in the long run the courts may not think so either.
- The New Jersey legislature and Governor Christie for continuing to try to bury the racing industry. It is one thing to try to help Atlantic City get its groove back (though futile), but to introduce more gaming options for Atlantic City, this time online gaming which will hurt racing further is going overboard. Here's hoping Santa delivers a State Supreme Court which declares the online gaming bill unconstitutional if Christie signs it.
- Yonkers Raceway for refusing to open their wallets and move the finish line back to its original spot. I love half mile track racing but even I can't watch and wager on their races. Moving the finish line back up the stretch may not allow the outside post positions to win in great abundance but at least it gives them a fighting chance.
- The Ontario Liberal Party, need I say more? Yes, they had the right to end the Slots at Racetracks Program even though their OLG modernization plan defies logic. That being said, you don't just toss a entire industry under a steam roller the way you did. A fairer way to end this program would have been to reduce the amount horsemen got over a period of four years; a chance for the industry to truly become self-sufficient. Santa's thinking about a new Prime Minister.
- The Ontario horsemen and tracks. You are not the innocent victim either. How much of that slot money did you spend on improving the game for your end customers? Perhaps if you invested some of that money you wouldn't be in the situation you are in.
Here is the Nice list:
- The Badlands Hanover Syndicate who deserves extra, extra treatment for doing their part to prevent the euthanasia of weanlings and broodmares by breeders to avoid paying their stud fee in Ontario. Santa should deliver the syndicate members a champion or two.
- Emilio Estevez for deciding to do a film involving harness racing called Johnny Longshot. Let's not kid ourselves, doing a film involving harness racing is like doing a film on curling. Santa needs to make sure Estevez gets all the assistance possible in this project.
- Jeff Gural for beating to his own drum in trying to save racing. Some people don't like him for what he is doing, but if he was waiting for the rest of the industry to come on board, he may as well close up shop. Here's hoping Santa delivers Gural the results he seeks.
- The PHHA (who had nothing to do with the preferences at Pocono Downs) for forsaking higher purses to invest $1.2 million annually in the weekly show PA Harness Week as well as setting aside about $900,000 from their purse account to host the Breeders Crown in 2013.
- Greg Blanchard, Sarah Imrie et al at The Raceway at Western Fair District. They work hard to draw interest in their product on and off the track as well as making WFD a destination even when there isn't racing.
- Wendi Wiener for treating her horses right. She recently adopted a horse out right after her horse showed the first time it had enough racing. No trying to squeeze another race or two out of the horse or dropping it down the conditioned ranks hoping to find a spot or hoping to lose it in a claimer. Instead, this one person California Standardbred Rescue adopted out a perfectly sound horse ready for a second career. We can use more owners that listen to what their horses say. My apologies to those owners who have the same philosophy as Wendi. If I knew who you were, I would be including you on this list as well.
- Those horsemen at Monticello who upon hearing what was going on in the backstretch now hold on to those horses instead of selling them to the horse brokers. Included are those who will put a horse down now if they can't find it a new home to avoid the kill buyer. No, it's not the ideal situation, but considering the alternative, it is an act of kindness.
- Jason Settlemoir's wife for allowing Jason to take on the General Manager job at the Meadowlands in addition to his duties at Tioga, Vernon Downs, the Delaware County Fair, USHWA...., well you get the idea.
- Trainer Linda Toscano who had a career year in 2012. While Toscano got nailed for a positive due to the development of a more sensitive test requiring a longer withdrawal time for which neither her veterinarian or her were aware of. Toscano could have appealed or lawyered her way out of punishment or for a reduction in penalty, but instead she decided to take her lumps under the trainer responsibility rule.and move on; possibly costing her year end awards. Here's hoping Santa delivers Toscano another career year.
- The Breeders who remain in New Jersey. Lord knows they have every reason to head out of state but they have decided to stick around and tough it out, hoping for a change in circumstances. Here's hoping Santa delivers their stallions that one foal which forces broodmare owners to take another look at those stallions, delivering them full books.
- The Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association (MHHA) and Monticello Raceway for once again putting on a great Christmas party for the area's children. In an area economically disadvantaged, parties like this mean a heck of a lot more than they do elsewhere.
- Joe Faraldo, President of the SOANY. Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you. It is no secret that I disagree with Faraldo on numerous matters regarding the state of racing, but kudos are in order regarding his stance regarding the Pena matter (with respect to the methods used by the racing board to hang him) and the NYSRWB's plan to penalize owners for using trainers with checkered pasts. If the board findsthe engagement of these 'bad' trainers to be that much of a problem then they need to find a way to adjucate fines and suspensions quicker in a timely manner. I'm all for kicking the cheats out, but there is the right way and the wrong way to do it.
- Those rescuers who rescue horses from grade auctions. It is not an easy job attending these auctions. Here is hoping Santa provides these rescues with plenty of sponsors willing to give these horses new homes.