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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 New Year's Resolutions From Your Favorite Harness Racing Figures


I intend to pace that over the hill fossil, Foiled Again, into the ground next year. It annoys me to no end that voters would even consider choosing him over me for POY in 2013. After I get through routing that grey beard in one FFA after another, we’ll see how many votes he gets for anything. My New Year’s resolution is to make the world forget about Foiled.

Jeff Gural

Is there a bigger bunch of whiners on the planet than harness bettors? No! I built a new facility when everyone else is knocking down tracks and putting up shopping malls. I did it with my own money; Fat Boy in Trenton is about as useless as a fifth leg on a trotter. And we don’t card those five and six horse fields the way they do at other places—full ten horse fields at the Meadowlands. Do I get any thanks for this? Of course I don’t. All they do is piss and moan about minutia. “The grandstand is too small; I feel claustrophobic.” “What’s gonna happen on Hambo Day? Where’s everybody gonna sit?” Shut up and sit down, fool. We want them moving around, betting, eating and drinking, not falling asleep in a chair.  “I’m a small bettor; the cartels are taking advantage of me.” “I want a rebate on my two dollar wagers.” In 2014 I’m going to start telling these bozos to take their twenty dollar bill and their complaints to Yonkers and see what that gets them.

Market Share

My New Year’s resolution is to take control of the trotting world in 2014. Last year most slotted me behind my stablemate Chapter Seven—he got twice as many HOY votes as I did. But he didn’t win the top dollar stakes the way I have—no Hambletonion, CTC or Maple Leaf on his card. He didn’t crack the two million mark, while I’ve already passed three million. I’m one of the best big money trotters of the modern era, with notches for the Hambo, BC, CTC, Maple Leaf and TVG on my bridle. Call me Mr. Underrated. In 2014 I’ll be heading for the Elitlopp where I’ll school the Euros. They’ve had it too easy with old man Arch. Czernyson says he may send Maven. Get real. I let her go on ahead in the American National, until crunch time, when I rolled right by her. Maven will have her hands full with Bee. She better stay clear of me.

Dragon Again

I resolve to make Hanover pay for relocating me to Ohio in the same truck as that loser, Yankee Cruiser. In this world you’re judged by the company you keep and, while I’m no SBSW, I deserve better than to be sent to that purgatory for unfulfilled stallions with the likes of him. And they dropped my fee, too. Charisma Hanover is my daughter. The Captain slayer, Dedi’s Dragon, is my son. Foiled Again is mine. In 2014 they’ll pay for humiliating me like this.

Yannick Gingras

After Foiled won the TVG I laid the praise on him with a heavy hand. That backfired on me when folks pointed out that I chose Lou over him earlier in the season when it looked like he was done. My New Year’s resolution is to never lose faith in my boy Foiled again, no matter how sour his form gets. Sweet Lou might be razor sharp, but Kakaley can drive him; I’ll stick with Foiled. Ronny’s new kids in the division—Ultimate Beachboy and Dedi’s Dragon—might impress with those young legs, but I’ll stick with the old timer in 2014. I learned my lesson, maybe.


I can’t wait to annihilate the matronly pair at the top of the aged—good word for them—mares pacing division. Anndrovette will be seven and Rocklamation six, and they both have a lot of hard miles on them. Me, I’m young and fresh. I had my problems with Nitelife but I’ll knock those old ladies  for a loop with my speed.


Who is “The Big Daddy of Harness Racing”? Is it Meadow Skipper? No. Sampson Hanover? No. The Big Daddy is Adios, my great, great, great grandsire, and he’s on his way back to the top, thanks to yours truly. It’s about time. My paternal brother, Art Major, had a great year, turning out the likes of my 3/4 sister Precocious Beauty, Fool Me Once and She’s Da Bomb, but his top siring prospect, Art Official, didn’t turn many heads with his first crop and Santana and Hypnotic were both rejected by the breeders, so I guess it’s up to me. My first Down Under crop has been very impressive and I expect the same in NA come summer. Heaven’s yearlings brought a lot more than mine did at the sales and he gets a ton more love than I do from those supposedly in the know. My New Year’s resolution is to bury his with mine next summer, just the way I crushed him in the NA Cup.

Scott Zeron

I forfeited the driving title to Filion when I left for the Meadowlands, but I’m glad I finally made the move. Things were slow at the start. I got shut out the first three nights and some said I’d head home with my tail between my legs. No chance. That natural hat trick I had the other night put me in the top five. I dropped down to number seventeen from number nine on the earning’s list this year. My New Year’s resolution is to get back into the top ten in 2014 and stay there. Leaving Ontario is the best thing I ever did for myself. Why did I wait so long.

Ron Burke

I have fifty two-year-olds developing in Florida right now. In 2014, in addition to controlling the overnight market, I’ll be going after the freshman and sophomore markets more aggressively than I have up until now. Watch out Takter, Alagna, Toscano, Czernyson and friends; I’m coming for your cake in 2014.

Cantab Hall

A couple of years ago, during the economic downturn, Hanover cut my stud fee in half to $7,500. They kept that filly stallion Donato at $20,000 and that lost soul Dewey was also getting twenty in Kentucky. Talk about being humiliated. Then they dropped Donato to fifteen and bumped me up to ten. Now Dewey is at ten, Donato at fifteen and I’m king of the hill at twenty. It’s about time. My New Year’s resolution is to have Father Patrick run the table and in addition to produce a third freshman champion in a row, forcing Hanover to step me up to thirty, just like Beach.

San Pail

I’ve been commiserating with my pal Goo on the trials and tribulations of having an eccentric trainer. I only started six times in the last two years, and just two of those were in 2013. I beat Knows Nothing in a preferred at Mohawk. They treated my ankle injury with stem cells but it just isn’t the same. I turn ten tomorrow. Enough is enough. Hughes made me qualify six times before the two starts I made at Mohawk in the fall. I want to retire to Florida. Give me that warm sunshine and green grass. No more aborted comebacks.  My resolution is to retire right now.

Bee A Magician

Aside from Maven, this is the sorriest class of aged trotting mares in the history of the sport. I’m blessed; I get to move from one historically weak class to another. Beatgoeson deserves some respect, but the Euros scooped her up at the sales and took her home with them. Cedar Dove won once this year. D’Orsay is a head case. Ma Chere Hall was the best of a bad bunch in my class but she’s all too familiar with what my big butt looks like. I’ll beat the boys, who are also weak. Buck I St Pat did just fine with them and I’m a lot better than she ever was. All this talk about whether Maven should race in mixed company is getting on my nerves. I’ll put her in her place as soon as the season starts. My New Year’s resolution is to win the TVG Trot.

Vegas Vacation

I intend to send a message to Brian Sears and Sunfire Blue Chip in 2014. Sears said I won’t win that many races because I’m not “handy,” while Sunfire Blue Chip will win quite a few because he is handy. If I kick him in the nuts next time he sits behind me, he’ll know how handy I am. Regardless, I never claimed to be the easiest horse on the planet to navigate around a track, but I’ll win plenty. Sunfire beat me in the Adios on the front end, but despite having to come from way back, four deep on the last turn, I almost got him. The Tattersalls was his only other significant win. He beat a division full of slugs that day—Fool Me Once was the 2/5 favorite—while I had The Captain to contend with and finished second in that split. I beat Sunshine in the Simcoe and the EBC. I won the Jug and the Matron. Sunshine couldn’t even beat Ronny Bugatti in the Messenger. How weak is that? Sears will have a mouth full of sorry come the fall.

George Brennan

Yeah, Sears beat me for the Yonkers title this year. So what! Awards don’t matter to me anymore; I’m beyond that. I was DOY in 2010 and 2011, and I won the HTA DOY award the last two years. These other buffoons are running ragged from track to track while I simply drive to Yonkers and back every day, and I’m still seventh in earnings for 2013 with more than nine million dollars. My New Year’s resolution is to tune out all the naysayers who claim I’m no longer a big time player and keep doing exactly what I’ve been doing.

Brian Sears

I’m much happier doing the bulk of my driving at Yonkers. The judges at the Meadowlands got on me about allowing the occasional horse to drop in front of me—when it made strategic sense for me to do so. And Jeff made plenty of noise when I moved to Yonkers a year ago, but look how that’s worked out for me. I have the best of both worlds; I get plenty of drives on the Grand Circuit and I have Yonkers as a lucrative base. I’m third on the money list with fewer drives than any of the others in the top ten. That speaks to quality of life. It’s my New Year’s resolution to stay on the same path I’m on. You won’t see me getting into a pissing match with Gural the way George did over Pena. No way. I have six driving titles at the Meadowlands: are they gonna set up a “preferential driver program” and keep me out? I don’t think so. I’m in a sweet spot right now and I intend to stay there.


What a Rescued Horse Can Do

Readers of this blog know I am a big supporter of horse rescue, in particular standardbred horse rescue.

You may be wondering what goes on when you donate funds to a horse rescue and what is accomplished.  Well, Horse Rescue United (HRU) has put together a video showing what rescued horses can do when given a chance.  Enjoy the video.

Of course there are other legitimate horse rescues around besides HRU.  I hope you will consider making a donation to a rescue of your choice.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year.

The Great White North Tour Stop #4 - Red Shores Charlottetown (Tuesday, December 31, 2013)

We close out 2013 with the fourth stop on The Great White North Tour by stopping at Red Shores Charlottetown (also known as Charlottetown Driving Park).  CDP is the home of The Gold Cup and Saucer Stakes which takes place every August which draws some of the best drivers from Ontario back to their hometown where they started their career in addition to some of the better horses on the Ontario Circuit looking to win the most prestigious race in the Canadian Maritimes.

This time of year, things are different.  The ground is snow covered and the locals are the ones racing at Charlottetown for small purses; its a labor of love to be racing in the winter in this part of Canada.  The feature race on New Years Eve, an event for NW $1,501 in the last five races goes for $2,000 while a number of races go for $800, typically a NW $301 in the last five starts.

Most of the horses race exclusively in the Maritimes, the majority at Charlottetown.  You will see some horses in from Truro, Exhibition Park (N.S.), Summerside, with a couple shipping in from Ontario (third tier).  There is even a horse I recognize from racing at Monticello Raceway in the past. 

Without further ado, here are my picks for Red Shores Charlottetown for Tuesday, December 31, 2013.  First race is 7pm AST.

1st Pace - $800; NW $301 Last 5 Starts F&M
6 - West River Wonder (Shepherd, 3-1)
2 - Gwinning Gwen (Hughes, 5-2)
7 - Too Idea (Macpherson, 4-1)
4 - Seawind Rianna (Mac Phee, 6-1)

2nd Pace - $1,300; NW $851 Last 5 Starts
4 - Ja El Blaze (Sowers, 7-2)
1 - Tender N Kind (Shepherd, 4-1)
5 - Delta Dental (Gass, 3-1)
7 - Wpnderous Hanover (Mcguigan, 8-1)

3rd Pace - $800; NW $251 Last 5 Starts H&G
6 - Keystone Dimitri (Matheson, 5-2)
2 - Otello (Arsenault, 8-1)
9 - Leaveitwithme (Chappell, 3-1)

4th Pace-  $950; NW $451 Last 5 Starts F&M
2 - Lexis Mandy (Bambrick, 8-1)
1 - Julep Hanover (Campbell, 6-1)
8 - Isleofpalms (Hughes, 3-1)
4 - Someone Like You (Mcguigan, 10-1)

5th Pace $1,300; Winners 2-5 Races LT 5yo & Younger
8 - General Simba (Hughes,6-1)
1 - Oppies Deuces Wild (Campbell, 10-1)
3 - Hezmaboy (Arsenault, 5-2)
7 - Acton Power Baran (Macpherson, 7-2)
$2 Win #8 Paid $8.60

6th Pace - $950; NW $451 Last 5 Starts
2 - Leave Me Go (Chappell, 4-1)
3 - South Cove Yankee (Mac Phee, 8-1)
9 - Miracle Matts (Macpherson, 5-2)
6 - Eyes Of Glory (Hughes, 7-2)

7th Pace - $1,150; Claiming $3,000
2 - Lets Make Ideal (Mac Phee, 7-2)
1 - Tobins Got It (McGugan, 8-1)
7 - Life Savior (Macpherson, 5-2)
6 - Mr Oxford (Stevenson, 4-1)

8th Pace - $1,150; NW $781 Last 5 Starts
3 - Yankee No More (Bradley, 6-1)
4 - Onehotvett (Sorrie, 5-2)
1 - C L La Rousse (Chappell, 10-1)
8 - Veronicavermillion (Mac Phee, 3-1)

9th Pace - $1,150; Claiming $3,000 F&M
1 - Putnams Snap (Dunn, 4-1)
4 - Whatrugonnado (Campbell, 6-1)
5 - Run To Vegas (Stevenson, 7-2)
3 - Mcdaisy Cytter (Bernard, 12-1)

10th Pace - $1,150; NW $651 Last 5 Starts H&G
4 - Teddys Place (Arsenault, 3-1)
3 - Leading Camdidate (Hughes, 5-2)
6 - Solanos Dragon (Quinn, 15-1)
7 - Diesel Seelster (Mcgugan,12-1)

11th Pace - $2,000; NW $1,501 Last 5 Starts F&M
3 - Stayoutofmyaffair (Arsenault, 3-1)
2 - Doll R General (Mckinnon, 7-2)
4 - Panacotta (Bradley, 5-2)
6 - P C Shockwave 9Macphee, 6-1)

12th Pace - Pace - $1,650; NW $1,251 Last 5 Starts
7 - Malek Hanover (Stevenson, 6-1)
1 -  Blue Star Outlaw (Hughes, 5-2)
3 - Every Day (Andrew, 12-1)
5 -  Mcmaverick (Murphy, 3-1)

13th Pace - $1,350; NW $851 Last 5 Starts
1 - Roy Orbisong (Stevenson, 7-2)
2 - Van Zant (Matheson, 3-1)
8 - Mach Vegas (Campbell, 6-1)
4 - April Dawns Star (Macpherson, 5-2)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Reminiscing About Joe O'Brien

It's time to introduce a new contributor to View From the Racetrack Grandstand. Peter Lawrence.  Many of you may remember Peter but for those who don't, here is a mini bio of him.

Peter is a free lance writer who is a graduate of Syracuse University where he majored in journalism and was an Assistant Editor for the Illinois Standardbred, Associate Editor for Harness Horse, Managing Editor for Hub Rail, and copy editor for the Newark Star-Ledger.  Lawrence was first runner-up for the John Hervey Award for harness racing with a piece about Meadow Skipper which appeared right after the great stallion's death.  

In addition to writing about harness racing, Lawrence groomed for Stanley Dancer, Del Miller, and Billy Haughton and was then an Administrator for Joe O'Brien.  In his second piece for VFTRG, Lawrence writes about his experiences with 'Gentlemen' Joe O'Brien.


Joe O'Brien, photographed around the time I worked for him ...

Undated photo of Joe O'Brien (Photo by Unknown)
... as administrator, from 1978-1980. In case you don't know who he was, Joe was a Hall of Fame standardbred trainer, driver and (mostly unsuccessful) owner and breeder.

My salary was about $175 a week to start - I signed my own paycheck; in fact, I signed Joe and wife Ilene's paychecks, too! - but I wouldn't trade those years for anything. The pay was lacking, but I was in the middle of everything, and I seemingly met everyone in the sport.

I rarely saw Joe dressed in the "old gold and white" silks he's wearing in this photo. He was almost always elsewhere - Toronto, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, etc. - driving somewhere other than where I was based, on the ranch in Shafter (California), or at Sportsman's Park (Chicago suburb of Cicero, Illinois).

I knew Joe mostly with his wearing street clothes. He usually wore a favorite taxicab driver's type cap, with a green jacket given to him when he visited a track in the wilds of western Canada called Assiniboia Downs. Joe was, of course, a native Canadian from Prince Edward Island, in the eastern Maritime provinces.

Wish I had a set of Joe's colors hanging in my closet. He must've had fifty, or more, and that many helmets, too, all of which are probably now in storage somewhere, or tossed away. (Ugghh, what an awful thought, if they were thrown away.)

Our top horses at the time were Flight Director, Ima Lula, Armbro Vicky, and a young pacing colt named Nero's B.B., who earned about $240,000 finishing third in the $2,011,000 Woodrow Wilson in 1980. The starting check I wrote for that race ($10,000, maybe more?) made my hand weak when I signed it!

Ironically, although Joe was way past his prime years when I was with him, the check he picked up in the Wilson, as well as the winning check from the Adioo Volo at The Meadows with Armbro Vicky a few days earlier or later, made it the most successful week in his storied career.

Following the Wilson, a race that was still a BIG DEAL at the time, Nero's B.B. was still a maiden, and he next raced in a Maiden event back at Sportsman's. Yes, a maiden with a quarter of a million dollars on his card, freshly earned. I don't remember if he won that Sportsman's race, or not. I'm sure he was odds-on.

B.B.'s groom was a fellow named Eric Salton, who I understand passed away many years ago. He was a good guy, a real hard worker who could wear out a broom in as little as two weeks! From Eric I learned to never step in the way of someone sweeping that hard, lest he knock you over. Joe wasn't happy to keep buying Eric new brooms, but how can you be displeased with a guy working that energetically for you, really?

For students of racing history, Eric had the excellent pacer Armbro Ranger a few years before my arrival. Like in many other stables, the same O'Brien caretakers seemed to have the outfit's top horses - and earned the largest holiday bonuses - every year.

Joe, as you probably know, is long gone, too. So is his wife, Ilene. I can't seem to find out whether our principal owner those years, Thurman Downing, from Ohio, is alive or not. You'd think a coal company owner and wealthy guy like that would be findable somewhere in the Internet, but I can't locate anything about him.

Two other owners we had at the time, Marvin Katz and Norm Smiley, have (individually) gone on to great success in the racehorse ownership game. We also had the powerful Armstrong Bros. as patrons, but that group (I dealt mostly with Charlie Armstrong and Dr. Glen Brown) were slowly and surely moving their better horses elsewhere, like to trainers Bill Wellwood and Glen Garnsey. The best we still had for them were probably pacing filly Armbro Vicky and trotting filly Armbro Utopia.

Probably the last time I saw Joe, before he passed away from cancer in the mid-1980s, was at the Meadowlands a year or so earlier than that. He confided to me, softly saying, "I'd love to have just one more great horse in my career ..." as his voice trailed off.

He didn't get that horse, unfortunately.


Owners and Trainers, Time to Support RUS Racing

As planning goes into the 2014 racing season, the time has come for owners and trainers to step up and support RUS racing by letting it be known they want the option to race their horses under saddle.

For the last two years, purses for these non-wagering events have been put up by various parties in the industry, from breeding farms, individual owners, track operators, and others connected to the industry.  While they have been generous up to now, you can't always go to the same sponsors to get purse money and for those willing to continue donating, they want to know there is a reason to continue sponsoring these races.

Before you poo poo the idea, keep in mind RUS is a good way to change your horses routine and get a spark out of them.  Several horses  last year won traditional pari-mutuel events after competing in a RUS event.  In addition, you have made an investment in your horse; wouldn't you like to know if for some reason your horse is unable to compete to sulky, you have an option to continue racing them under saddle?

Afraid if RUS takes off it will diminish racing opportunities for your horses?  Highly unlikely.  Even in countries where monté races are on the wagering card, typically no more than one race a day is dedicated to racing under saddle.  The only problem having RUS as a wagering event is it will give the sport some new attention thanks to the new style of racing and gain the interest of women who would want to watch the almost-exclusively female corps of women riders and hopefully draw them to racing.

You may be wondering where the payoff is?  When will there be wagering on RUS?  It is anticipated the USTA will formally approve rules for racing under saddle within the next six months.  With the rules formalized, racing commissions will be able to look at allowing wagering because there will be rules in place which they can codify for their individual states.  With strong interest in Canada as well (the CPMA is considering allowing wagering on these races), I envision within the next two years enough states and provinces allowing pari-mutuel wagering that it can be profitable for horses to be racing under saddle.  

So if you are an owner or trainer, make it known you would like to see RUS racing continue and consider training your horses for the different type of racing.  For if this style of racing is ever going to take off, it needs sufficient horses trained for it.

The ball is in your court.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

You May Have Missed It; Marc Mosher Tells His Side of the Story

Last week, Harnesslink's Steve Wolf ran a story chiding racetrack management for not doing their homework when it comes to people who may be potentially problematic.  In the story, Wolf talks about the right of exclusion and how they decided during his tenure at Pompano Park who could race or not race there.  Three individuals cited in the story are Lou Pena, Dean Eckley, and Marc Mosher.

This article in case you missed it is a much read.  While we get an idea how tracks decide who gets to race there, what needs to be discussed is why some racing commissions also appear not to do their work or are more liberal in making their decisions by allowing certain people licenses who can't get licensed elsewhere.  After all, if a racing commission doesn't license a person, racetrack management doesn't have to make these decisions.  One hopes Wolf will get the opportunity to do a story on that subject.

Anyway, Marc Mosher, apparently as a result of being named in Wolf's article, wanted the opportunity to explain his side of the story and show how he is a changed person.  To Harnesslink's credit, they gave Mosher his opportunity to explain it and it has been published today.  While you may or may not be sympathetic to Mosher's story, it never hurts to give a person a chance to explain themselves.  Of course, while he may have been trying to cut a break for someone else, the fact remains he did violate the rules and as he did suffer the consequences.  

The million dollar question is at what point does someone no longer deserve another chance?  Right now it is totally subjective.  Personally, I prefer a more impersonal way, earning points for individual violations and at a certain point, when you pass the threshold, you are shown the door for good.  Certain points would expire after a period of time (such as locking wheels) and other points wouldn't expire (such as failure to give full effort, drug violations, etc.).

The Pros and Cons of Retirement at 15

2014's leading dash winner is Anvil Raider N, with 23 victories.  Season victory number 23 came last night at Northfield Park when the gelding won a $3,000 claiming event in 1:57.3 from post position eight. parked the entire mile.  Being 14 years old, Anvil Raider has won his last race he is eligible to compete in.

Meanwhile, thanks to Yonkers Raceway being closed this week, Forest Vic A scored his first and last victory at the Meadowlands in a B-1 pace as he dead-heated with odds-on favorite Road Untraveled to win in 1:50.3.  The timing was perfect as the horse is heading off to retirement as he turns 15 on January 1 and thus may no longer race in pari-mutuel events.  It's always good to see these war horses go out a winner.

The upcoming January 1 birthday of all race horses re-ignites the question "Should horses be forced to retire from (pari-mutuel) racing when they turn 15 which is the current rule?" every year.  It is a tough question to answer.  If a horse really loves to race, is sound and competitive, why should it be forced to stop racing?  On the other hand, isn't there a point where it is time to say 'enough is enough' and let the horse enjoy a second career or well deserved retirement?  Lastly, what would be the public perception of continuing to race 'old' horses?

In theory, I agree every horse deserves to be retired at a certain point but then there is reality, we know the industry doesn't do enough to make sure horses end up retired, enjoying the good life.  While some owners will retire their horses to a farm to live out the balance of their lives or give them a second career, we know there are those who reward their horse whose racing careers are ended by selling them to a 'broker' or sending them to auction, wiping their hands of any responsibility.  Of course, this can happen at any age, not just the industry-mandated age of 15.

It would be nice if the industry could adopt an industry-wide program to safeguard all standardbreds whose racing careers have concluded as the thoroughbred industry has but sadly the industry shows little inclination of doing so.

With respect to those veterans turning 15, we must recognize the number of horses impacted by the mandatory retirement age is small; in reality, the vast majority horses have their careers ending earlier.  In the absence of an industry-wide retirement program, is there something which could be done  to help our veterans (in this case, horses 10 years old and up) and keep them on the racetrack?

Hence, a possible proposal:

If a horse shows the desire to race but lacks the speed to keep up with the 'youngsters', why not have a 'senior circuit' where races would be restricted to 10 year olds and up?  This way the veterans would not have to race against the faster horses. A horse which wishes to race in the senior circuit would have to submit to a complete physical including radiographs at the start of the season and be limited to 20 starts for the year.

What do you think about horses racing past 14?  Is it a good idea or bad?  Let's here from you.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Briefs

Starting this week, Cal Expo has increased their guarantees on the Pick-4. On Friday nights, the guarantee is $20,000 while Saturday nights feature a $25,000 guarantee.

The Meadowlands and the SBOANJ has agreed to postpone their preference system for those trainers who supported the Meadowlands racing program when Pennsylvania tracks are open.  Apparently there was push back by stables because they got caught by surprise when it was implemented this year.  The preference system will be modified and posted before the PA tracks open for the season so when it is implemented this coming November, no one is surprised. 

Some may argue against a preference system which rewards those who race in New Jersey over Pennsylvania during their meets, but it is perfectly acceptable that those who support the Meadowlands when there is a demand for horses get preference in the entry box over those who show up only when there is nowhere else to race.

A local newspaper had a column from a veterinarian talking about common eye problems dogs with short noses which tend to happen due to their breeding.  Without going into too much detail, it talked how their bone structure has changed impacting the way their eyes are in the socket.

It got me thinking, what kind of responsible breeder continues to breed these types of dogs knowing there is a good chance there would be eye problems down the road?  Obviously, there is market for these dogs, probably because buyers are not aware of this problem.  Responsible breeders would attempt to change their breeds standard to allow them to introduce new blood into their lines in an effort to breed out or reduce the incidence of eye problems, but they are not allowed to do so.

A similar situation occurs with race horses, in particular with the problem with bleeding.  The industry has no problem breeding bleeders with bleeders because there is money to be made.  You could argue responsible breeding would attempt to minimize the number of bleeders produced, even if it required the stud book to be modified to allow horses with a smidgen of non-standardbred blood into the stud book or introduce more studs or mares from Europe or Australasia to introduce bloodlines instead of continuing to tighten up the crosses.

Now, realistically, the chances of any commercial breeder willing to be the first one to introduce such a horse into the breeding barn is slim, but they should be allowed to do it if they are willing.  Yet, the USTA has a rule proposal which plans to eliminate the little crack we currently have in introducing non-standardbred blood into the breed.  Here is rule proposal #16 which will be voted on this year:

A proposal to add language to existing §26.03 Non-standardbred - to require that any such horse be spayed or neutered as a requirement for registration by adding the following language to the end of the first sentence: "and verification that the horse has been spayed or neutered."  
If someone has a non-standard (either not 100% standardbred or unproven breeding) horse that is competitive enough on the track that someone is willing to use the horse for breeding, I don't see the problem (provided it is disclosed) if the breeder is willing to take a chance; let's face it, any off-spring would not likely be in demand at any sale.  At best, we will have introduced some new blood into the breed, at worst, there would be a horse which would not make it to the races.  However, if the USTA gets their way, the little crack we have for attempting to introduce new blood to eliminate undesirable traits such as bleeders, will be closed.
I realize the approval of this proposal is a foregone conclusion, but I urge those voting to vote against the proposal.  

Are Trainer/Driver Combinations Hurting the Sport?

With the existence of the Super Trainers, trainers that have powerful stables with regards to depth and quality, does harness racing have a problem with regards to attracting and retaining existing customers?

This thought has crossed my mind often but with Yonkers Raceway's press release regarding the 2013 leading driver (Brian Sears) and trainer (Ron Burke) awards, it has come up again.  Is this success hurting harness racing from the wagering side?  At many tracks, certain drivers are committed to certain trainers so if they get first call on a super trainer's horse, they have a better chance to win in a race.  The result is horses get over bet and produce cheaper prices.

Now this has been the case for years, certain trainers have drivers committed to driving their horses.  In the past, when stables were more even, this was not a problem.  However, these days where most of the fire power exists in certain stables, this commitment is causing a problem, making it hard to attract new gamblers.  After all, if someone has to work hard to handicap a race to nail a $3.60 winner, why wouldn't they head to the mindless slot machines?

Yes, successful gambling on horses requires you to spot the key races to play so you may be able to bypass the cheap payoffs, but new horseplayers are likely to play most races on the card; it's just the natural way to be introduced to the game.

What is the solution?  I don't know.  After all trainers and drivers earn the bulk of the earnings on their commission and any proposal to even out the competition to make the product more appealing to newcomers is certain to cut into the earnings.

If you have ideas, let's hear them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Five Of The Most Fascinating Horses From 2013

Drop The Ball, Hurrikane Kingcole, Googoo Gaagaa and Intimidate are all fascinating horses: there’s something compelling about them that draws us in. I made a list of five of the most fascinating young horses to compete during 2013. One thing they all have in common is extreme speed, but some have been better than others at harnessing it. Most of them have issues to deal with, and how successful they are at overcoming those issues will determine whether they go the way of To Dream On and Odds On Equuleus or Bee and Captaintreacherous.

Ron Burke’s mid-season acquisition Ultimate Beachboy rates high on the fascination quotient. The SBSW gelding, out of the ten-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare Ultimate Bet, brought $57,000 at Harrisburg and is obviously fast and apparently very lazy. Burke bought him a couple of weeks before the Adios. Oddly enough another SBSW gelding, Beach Memories, who won the PA Championship, shares the world record for a three-year-old gelding on a 5/8 track with Ultimate Beachboy. Limelight Beach, who looked to be the top dog in his class for a while there, is another incomplete Beach. The same goes for Somewhere In LA, Cowboy Terrier and Normandy Invasion.

Beachboy gave the Adios a shot, without much luck. He then went back and forth with Sam Hill in the preferred class at The Meadows and he also competed in the Stallion Series. In one of those starts he dawdled along 15 lengths behind the field , until he kicked the bike, got scared, and proceeded to catch and pass the field, winning by a neck. Although he earned a respectable $127,000 for the year, they’ll be looking for more consistency in the open class in 2014. Burke already has Foiled, Sweet Lou, Clear Vision and  Annieswesterncard. Also, Dedi’s Dragon will be graduating along with Ultimate Beachboy to the senior class.


Dewey needs a winner—desperately; a high profile son that is. His daughter Ma Chere Hall looked good chasing Bee around but Dewycolorintheline didn’t impress, that Yonkers Trot win notwithstanding. Dewey’s hope for vindication lay with Kentucky SS champ Master Of Law. The striking gelding, who was a $70,000 Lexington purchase, is out of the millionaire Possess The Magic, winner of the BC, Bluegrass, Debutante and Kentuckiana. When he outclassed the field in the $250,000 Kentucky SS Championship it represented his fifth straight victory. During that race he rolled effortlessly to the top during a :26.4 second quarter. It looked like he might surpass RFL and Spider in the fall. However, after an impressive win in his CTC elimination for Scott Zeron, he broke in the final. Then he broke in the bluegrass and the KY Futurity as well as in his final start, the Erskine at Hoosier Park. He was favored in all but two starts—the CTC and Kentucky Futurity. Master of Law won 6 of 11 starts—whenever he stayed flat.


 While he’s been flying under the radar throughout the season, the small American Ideal colt He’s Watching qualifies as one of the most fascinating horses of 2013. While he jumped early in the year, his primary issue is the fact that he’s essentially unstaked and must be supplemented to everything. The fact that he’s by a name stallion and only sold for $3,000 at the sales adds to his allure. His dam, Baberhood, recently sold for $130,000 in foal to Rocknroll. His fourth dam is the outstanding Abercrombie mare Leah Almahurst, a millionaire who won the BC and Jugette. Colts of this quality that sell dirt cheap and aren’t staked don’t come along very often. 

He won all eight of his starts and earned close to $300,000 in the New York SS. His extreme speed was evident right from the start as he came home in :26.1 in his first qualifier at Mohawk. He broke on the first turn in his first start at Saratoga for Jim Morrill and subsequently made up more than 14 lengths to win in :55. Next time out he broke Heston Blue Chip’s track record at Buffalo. Later on he set a world record for his class with a mile in :50 at Tioga, erasing Heaven’s mark. He’s Watching also broke the track record at Vernon and set a world record at Yonkers.

The Muscara family, who are connected to Mister Big, Mach Three and Art Official, bought into the colt and will take control when his racing days are over. David Menary and his owners say they’ll be supplementing him to everything in sight next year. We’ll see if he goes heavy on the NYSS circuit and picks his spots on the Grand Circuit, ala Heston Blue Chip, or favors the GC like Vegas Vacation. He’s a finalist, along with BC winner Luck Be Withyou, for the Dan Patch. Typically the BC winner vs. a sire stakes colt would be no contest but Luck was ignored all year in the Top Ten Poll while He’s Watching has been a second tier presence all along. I can’t see him losing that race.


There was quite a bit of controversy this year over whether or not the track at Pocono is a full mile in circumference. Just about all the trotting world records have been set there. The one that really drew attention to this issue was Cooler Schooner’s word record of :51.3 in a PASS race. She hit the quarter in :26.4 and was up by six at the 3/8 for John Campbell. Division champ Shake It Cerry tried to catch up from the 5/8 on but, as valiant as her effort was, she was no threat as Schooner breezed home in :28.1. The 1:51.3 mile also eclipsed anything ever done on a mile track. This was three ticks faster than Father Patrick went and two full seconds faster than BC and Merrie Annabelle winner Shake It  Cerry went. In the context of that division this was the equivalent of Steady Star time trialing in :52 in 1971.

Cooler Schooner (Broadway Hall—Pine Schooner—Pine Chip) was bred and is owned by Fashion Farms, as was the case with her full sister Broadway Schooner, a division winner in 2009 off of scores in the BC and the Oaks. Their dam is a sister to the accomplished Supergill stallion Toss Out, who banked $1.7 million two decades back.

Despite her advantage in the speed mark category Cooler Schooner was no Shake It Cerry. She beat NW2 in her first start, won a pair of PASS races and took her BC elimination—that was it. No Merrie Annabelle, Goldsmith Maid, Matron or BC; those races went to Cerry. Still, the pair were co-favorites in the BC at even money. Schooner wasn’t content with a pocket trip behind Cerry and ran out to the quarter. That was her last start. Let’s hope she gets her act together before July. Check Me Out was a great filly but Maven and Missy B made it somewhat competitive and beat her in the BC and the Filly Futurity. Contrast that with this year when Bee towered over her foes.


Fifth, but by no means last, on this list of fascinating horses from 2013 is the Art Major filly, She’s Da Bomb. The speedy miss is a full sister to the 2011 Wilson winner, Major Bombay. Her second dam, Mattaroni, was a Dan Patch winner in 1998. During her career that one won the Adioo Volo, Countess Adios, Sweetheart, Kentuckiana and ISS. And Mattaroni is a sister to the dams of Village Jasper and Rocklamation. She’s Da Bomb (For all of her Canadian starts she was Shes Da Bomb?) is trained by Tony O’Sullivan and owned by Frank Bellino.

This freshman filly won splits of the Bluegrass, Eternal Camnation and Champlain; she and Precocious Beauty are the O’Brien finalists. She drew off from the field to win the Eternal Camnation by five lengths for Doug McNair after being parked the quarter in :28. She’s Da Bomb subsequently wowed Jody Jamieson in the Champlain. He said he was “ecstatic” about having the opportunity to drive her going forward. She won that race in :50.3 as the 1/5 favorite. Jamieson then won a split of the Bluegrass with her as the even money favorite from the ten post.

She disappointed in her BC elimination as the 2/5 favorite, and she was unable to come from the back in the final. However, with Allstar Rating, Uffizi Hanover and Southwind Silence set to join her in the sophomore battle with Precocious Beauty, 2014 could be a year for the three-year-old pacing fillies to shine.







The Great White North Tour Stop #3 - Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment (December 27, 2013)

Stop #3 on the Great White North Tour is a familiar stop, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment where we will be looking at Friday night's card.  Granted, we cover the Meadowlands frequently but with the holiday season upon us and tracks taking the period between Christmas and New Years Day off, it seemed logical to take a look at the Meadowlands.

Wonder how I am doing on this tour?  After each race card I go back and list how I did.  If I picked the winner, you will see that, for an exotic, you will see me claiming credit if a box of the minimum number of horses comes in (i.e, top two horses for an exacta, top three horses for a trifecta, topf four horses for a superfecta). 

There is an unusual challenge this week with Yonkers Raceway closed.  Many horses from the Westchester oval have dropped in and some of them have been racing 1 1/16 mile routes.  In addition, with Harrah's Philadelphia closed, you will find their horses droppin in as well.

Without further ado, her are my selections for Friday's evening card:

Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment (Friday, December 27, 2013)

1st Trot - $12,500; 3 year olds; NW 2 PM or $20,000 Lifetime
  5 - Clementine Dream (Zeron, 8-5)
  7 - You Rock My World (Gingras, 9-2)
  9 - Zoli (Campbell, 6-1)

2nd Pace - $12,500; 2 and 3 year olds Fillies; NW 2 PM or $20,000 Lifetime
  7 - Ubettorbeturlife (D Miller, 3-1)
10 - Wednesdays Whim (Gingras, 5-2)
  5 - J High (Pantaleano, 4-1)
$2 10-7 Exacta Box paid $6.00 (deadheat for second).

3rd Trot - $9,000; C-2
  5 - Itzaziam (Berry, 5-1)
  4 - Bluebird Kidsqueen (Abbatiello, 15-1)
10 - Four Starz Speed (Gingras, 2-1)

4th Pace - $11,000; C-1 Fillies and Mares
  1 - Sea Cruise Hanover (D Miller, 7-2)
  3 - Runaway Tray (Manzi, 10-1)
  9 - Miss Coco Luck (Zeron, 5-1)
  4 - Drunk And Dramatic (A Miller, 12-1)

5th Trot - $15,000; 3 year olds NW3 PM or $40,000 Lifetime
  7 -  Ray Hall (D Miller, 7-2)

  2 -  Haul'N Fanny (Pantaleano, 20-1)
  5 -  Dizzt Rizzt (M Miller, 6-1)
  1 -  Winwood Scout (Marohn, 12-1)

6th Pace - $25,000; A-1 Fillies and Mares
  3 - Bullet Point (Tr.. Tetrick, 6-1)
  4 - Keepers Destiny (D Miller, 3-1)
  7 - Best Boss (Lachance, 7-2)
  8 - Marty Party (Pierce, 8-1)

7th Trot - $16,000; B-1
  5 - Il Mago (Zeron, 8-1)
  4 - As Ya'll Like It (D Miller, 15-1)
  3 - Banker Volo (M Miller, 3-1)
$2 Win #5 paid $8.60

8th Pace - $16,000; B-1 Fillies and Mares
  5 - Jinglejanglejingle (Pierce, 7-2)
  8 - The Summer Wind (Gingras, 5-1)
  2 - Classy Lane Rose (A Miller, 8-1)
  3 - Billmar Scooter (Callahan, 5-2)

9th Pace - $14,000; B-2 Fillies and Mares
  5 - Janie Bay (Zeron, 5-2)
  1 - Queen Of Royalty (A Miller, 12-1)
  4 - Nevermind Franco N (Callahan, 10-1)
  9 - Shawnee Dancer (Pierce, 8-1)

10th Trot - $14,000; B-2
  3 - Pointe Of Honor (Berry, 20-1)
  1 - Captain Primeau (Pierce, 12-1)
  7 - Temple Of Doom (A Miller, 6-1)
  4 - Walltocousins (Bongiorno, 3-1)

11th Pace - $16,000; 3 year olds  B-2/B-1 Handicap Fillies
  9 - Mandy's Mattjesty (Gingras, 5-2)
10 - Mattie Terrot Girl (A Miller, 3-1)
  3 - Spotlight On (Pierce, 15-1)
  5 - KZ Beach Girl (Tr Tetrick, 15-1)

12th Trot - $11,000; C-1
  2 - MC Tiny's Hope (D Miller, 5-2)
  1 - Over And out (Pierce, 12-1)
  6 - Americash Express (Campbell, 20-1)
  9 - Rev It Now (Pantaleano, 6-1)
$2 Win #2 paid $3.60

13th Pace - $9,000; C-2 Fillies and Mares
  8 - Marinade Hanover (D Miller, 8-5)
  2 - Alittleeastermagic (Meittinis, 15-1)
  5 - Bad Feeling (Pierce, 8-1)
  1 - Delightful Diva (Berry, 8-1)
$2 Win #8 paid $7.00

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Australasian Foiled Again

While North American harness racing fans have had plenty to talk about with Foiled Again's exploits at the age of 9, the Southern Hemisphere has been talking about their own version of Foiled Again, more specifically, Australian FFA wonder horse Smoken Up NZ.

Today (December 26), the 11 year old New Zealand-bred continues to be the talk of Australian harness racing with his 1:53.1 (tenths) victory over at track labeled 'Good' at Bray Raceway in Ballarat in the $30,000(AUS) Laser Electrical Lightning Mile to set a new track record in the Group 3 FFA event.  With this victory, Smoken Up now has a lifetime record of 70 victories out of 136 starts with earnings over $3.5 million.   The 11 year old son of American-bred Tinted Cloud and New Zealand-bred Carnlough Bay took command of the race by outpacing everyone from post position 7 in :26.3 before getting a :30.3 breather in the second panel and going the final half in :56.6 to win by 2.9 meters (almost a length) in a wire to wire victory.

Clearly, at age 11 his best races are likely behind him even though this season he shows a 1:49.9 record in a Group 1 FFA tilt at Tabcorp Park Menangle in the Cordina Sprint on November 23.  For the season (which starts on August 1 Down Under), he shows a record of 9-3-2-0 with $138,125 on his race card thus far.

Who knows when it is time for Smoken Up to hang up his hopples?  As North American fans can expect from Foiled Again, when the horse says it's time.  Until then, this hard hitting pacer will continue to give fans in Australia something to talk about.

Things I Don't Understand

The end of the year is always a time for lists so here is another list; this time a list of things I don't understand.

  1. Why do people who misrepresent themselves on a license application get licensed (albeit with a fine)?  - I understand people make mistakes which they rather not tell regulators for fear they will be denied a license.  A lot of times, racing commissions catch these omissions and what do they do most of the time?  They slap them with a small fine and license them.  My thinking is if they lie on their application what will they do once on the job?  I think it would be more appropriate to fine the applicants and deny them a license for a period of one year, telling them they can reapply then.
  2. What is the criteria used by the CHRB in licensing people who have had their licenses revoked or refused licensing elsewhere in the United States  More importantly, do they even check the records of applicants?  
  3. How do people who lose their license for abusing a horse manage to get back into the industry and then to no one's surprise gets into trouble again? 
  4. Does anyone wonder why someone licensed as a trainer in one state decides to get licensed as a groom in another?  After all, it is naive to think they will not be using their 'trainer' skills just because they are licensed as a groom.  If licensed as a trainer by the USTA, you should not be licensed by a racing commission for anything less.  I am sure a trainer can perform the duties as a groom if necessary.
  5. How does anyone think a $100 fine assessed to a driver who earns over $300,000 a year in fees will act as a deterrent?
  6. How do racing commissions feel allowing the transfer of horses from a trainer to a second trainer when the trainer gets suspended protects the wagering public?  Of course, this brings us to ask....
  7. Why don't racing commissions actually protect the wagering public as they are supposed to do?
  8. Why doesn't driver Shawn McDonough have his 'A' license?  I would love to know why the judge where he won the driving championship feels he isn't ready to become a full driver.
  9. Why do state legislators bend over for the casino industry yet manage to do very little for the racing industry?  Okay, I know the answer to this one.  It's called lobbying (i.e., campaign donations).
  10. Can someone explain to me how the online gaming legislation in NJ pass constitutional muster with regards to casino gambling being allowed only in Atlantic City?  It seems to me if you can deposit the funds at your home and decide how much to wager, you are playing outside of Atlantic City.  Even as puzzling is why no one seemed to challenge this law.
  11. Why the Governor of New Jersey, who claims to be supportive of horse racing, hasn't shown up yet to the Meadowlands, old or new to make a winners circle presentation for a big race?
  12. How do some people in the industry feel doing the same thing which has failed in the past will now work in reviving the industry? 
  13. How can tracks charge takeout rates of 25% or more and still wonder why they are loosing gamblers to casinos? 
  14. How come this industry doesn't encourage and promote woman drivers?  By not having women racing regularly, we are losing out roughly 1/2 the population.
  15. How come no harness track has a website in Spanish?  After all, the Spanish-speaking segment of the American population is growing the fastest and while there are some who have a problem with accommodating Spanish-speaking individuals, having Spanish websites and videos explaining harness racing will help attract those of that ethnic background. 
  16. How does this industry do so little when it comes to horse rescue?  For example, can you name the tracks which have a rule denying access to the entry box for any trainer or owner whose horse ends up at slaughter?  Let's make it easier, how many tracks have surrender stalls where horses can be dropped off without penalty and taken in by rescue groups instead of being sent to 'dealers' who directly or indirectly horses to the kill buyers?
  17. I know technology allows it but how does a track believe they can operate a race meet without any tellers at all?  Almost as surprising, how does a racing commission find this out by surprise?  I am not saying down the road the sport can't do without tellers, but when a good part of your wagering population is in its 60's and 70's, now is not the time.
  18. How can a racing commission which regulates racing not have an equal number of commissioners from each breed?

A friend of VFTRG reports on some of the more significant events which happened in Sweden in 2013.  Here is the list, unedited:

  1.  One of the Swedish most successful trotting trainer and driver in recent years, but also most controversial – Ake Svanstedt - ceasing his operations in Sweden in November to try his luck in the U.S.
  2. NHL Vancouver Canucks (Swedish) players and twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin win Swedish greatest trotting race – the Elitloppet 2013 – with their horse Nahar.
  3. Disagreements between trotting and thoroughbred on racetrack Jagersro can derail racing in the Southern of Sweden.
  4. The great horse Maharajahs comeback in the Final of Olympic Trot was amazing.
  5. The exotic midnight racing, either with the wager V75 at Boden racetrack or one of the real  midnight traditional in such as racetrack Skelleftea.
  6.  Ice racing on the lake of Are Ski resort.

Staying Put:  Remember when it was announced Vintage Master was moving to New Jersey?  Never mind.  The decision has been made to keep the stallion in Ontario.  Obviously, the response to the reported move was underwhelming.

Standards:  As you know, one thing I pride myself on with my blog is the fact the conversation always remains respectful.  It has been quite a while (February, 2010) since I stated my policy regarding standards for the blog, both for authors and responders, so I thought I'd provide a link for the standard for your reference.   I am not posting this for any specific reason; after three years, it is a good time to remind everyone of the policy.   

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dear Santa Letters From The World Of Harness Racing

I managed to get hold of some of the letters that figures in the world of harness racing sent to Santa this year. We’ll see if they get what they asked for.

Ronny Bugatti

Dear Santa, please shut the yaps of all the people who are determined to make me a running joke. I won the Messenger and earned $327,000 this year; only eleven in my division earned more than that. Wake Up Peter, Doctor Butch and Rockin Amadeus are three who banked less than I did. Make them zip it, Santa.

Plainridge Racecourse

Dear Santa, please bring us a slots license for Christmas. We’ll be lost without it.


Dear Santa, Please provide me with the speed, intestinal fortitude and good health to crush that stuck up bitch Bee A Magician, the same way I crushed Check Me Out this year. I chased the latter around for two years until I finally caught up with her in the BC. This year I embarrassed her in one start after another. Allow me to snap Bee’s phony winning streak the first time we meet and continue on from there, Santa.

Lou Pena

Dear Santa, what is it about me that race track execs and owners don’t like? I’m charming and personable, and I win lots of races. What’s not to like? The Pennsylvania tracks are dark now and Yonkers is falling right in line with that little SOB, Jeff Gural—nobody wants me, Santa. Am I supposed to race for a hundred bucks a start at Monticello? If that’s the case, I might as well go back to California. Please induce the powers that be at Yonkers to love me again, Santa—like they used to.

Golden Receiver

Dear Santa, please bring a major dose of cold and wind with you when you depart the North Pole. It would suit me just fine to race in 25 degree temperatures all year. On those bitter cold nights I go right to the top and leave the rest of the field scratching for breath. I own the fastest mile ever at M1 in January. How about a year-round cold wave, Santa.

Daylon Magician

Dear Santa, I need you to pump up my fertility quotient. This is getting embarrassing; they keep bringing me back to the racetrack because I can’t get it done in the shed. A little juice please, Santa.


Dear Santa, I’d like a full season of Brian Sears sitting behind me. Montrell makes some odd decisions and I wind up getting blamed for the results.

Smilin Eli

Dear Santa, a full four-year-old campaign bereft of drama would be nice.

Ron Pierce

Dear Santa, please bring me the gift of eloquence this year. Make those words dance off my tongue during post race interviews, to the point where the clowns asking those dumb questions can’t get a word in edgewise.

Donato Hanover

Dear Santa, please bring me a SON that can trot fast and stay on the track. Enough with the fillies; I need a son, Santa!

Premier Kathleen Wynne

Dear Santa, please get these insufferable harness racing people off my ass. If I get another letter from that blusterous windbag Robert Burgess I’ll scream.

Googoo Gaagaa

Dear Santa, Richard Hans is a nice guy but let’s face it, he ain’t got a clue. Get me away from this crackpot and out of Maryland, now, Santa.


Dear Santa, I’m sick and tired of doing all the speed work to set the likes of Panther Hanover and Fred And Ginger up for fast marks. Please bring me a dose of stamina so I can finish.


Dear Santa, let’s face it, I’m an oversized, blue-blood trotter that set Takter and friends back $360,000, but I haven’t come close to earning my keep. Please get my trainer out from behind me; I don’t want to wind up like Guccio. Yanick would do just fine, Santa.

Riveting Rosie

Dear Santa, please book me for a few trips to the US next year. I’m bigger than the OSS. I’m so sick of reading over the top quotes from Team Takter about that diva, Shake It Cerry. I’ll crush her if given half a chance.

Ron Burke

Dear Santa, please spare me all of these posts, letters and articles from fools who are convinced I’m employing black magic to step my horses up.

Joe Faraldo

Dear Santa, anything you can do to make life miserable for that unbearable SOB Jeff Gural would make my Christmas oh so jolly. Ho! Ho! Ho!

George Brennan

Dear Santa, please book me for a few Grand Circuit drives next year. I’m sick and tired of being a non entity on the NA scene. Yonkers, Yonkers, Yonkers. Even Cory Callahan has passed me on the yearly money list. And that little weasel who wears the same colors as Callahan is starting to get on my nerves. I hope they put his new hip in backwards. Time to expand my horizons, Santa.

Bettor’s Delight

Dear Santa, how about a little respect and a permanent home. I’m the top all-age money generator among pacing sires on the planet but they bounce me around like a rubber ball. First my overrated little brother takes my spot in New York, exiling me to the letter writing capital of NA—Ontario. Then I get booted out of there and moved to Pennsylvania. I just want a place I can call my own, Santa.

Tim Tetrick

Dear Santa, you might be expecting a plea for pain free hips, but I’d prefer a good press agent. I’m the top driver in the sport—just won another DOY award—but all I hear about is booting horses. Yeah, my foot might slip out of the stirrup occasionally and brush a hock, but that happens to Yanick, Brian and Dave Miller just as often as it does me, and nothing is said about it. Send me a skilled press agent who can spin these clowns out of my life, Santa.

Myron Bell

Dear Santa, please send me a speedy little gelding who can scoot around the track at Delaware, Ohio and doesn’t need to be managed for stallion appeal. I’d win the Jug with him and stick it to all those stuffed shirts in Ohio who think their little country fair race is the end all and be all. And maybe you could wring the neck of that cretin who didn’t vote The Captain tops in his division while you’re at it, Santa.

John Campbell

Dear Santa, please drop a lump of coal in the stocking of everyone who made noise about me being over the hill. I’m the only driver in the top 25 with fewer than a thousand starts, and you have to go a long way down the list to find another. Get these clowns off my back, Santa.

Walter Case

Dear Santa, they welcome Pena in Pennsylvania and the likes of Eckley and Mosher in California, but I’m still persona non grata everywhere, despite all these years of doing penance. Please send me a hearing officer with the gumption to give me a second chance, Santa.

Wake Up Peter

Dear Santa, please get me over to the Burke Barn. My conceited stablemate Captain T keeps calling me a loser. Maybe Burke can turn things around and get me a few wins.

If I Can Dream

Dear Santa, a little company would be nice. Muscle Hill left New Jersey for Pennsylvania and Vintage Master just decided to stay in Ontario. I’m getting lonely, Santa. Please send me a buddy.


Dear Santa, please bring me my first retirement check. I turn 27 next week. Will these people ever be satisfied. I beat Dorunrun Bluegrass and Jake And Elwood in the 1991 BC. Do you think those two jokers are still working in the shed. I need those retirement papers, Santa.