For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shift the Crowns

This morning I opened up my email and there was an advertisement by a prominent racing publication advertising their handicapping package for the races running up to the Kentucky Derby.  Not being particularly interested in thoroughbred racing, the advertisement didn't appeal to me but it  caused me to wonder "Would I ever see something like this for the run up to the Cane Pace or Hambletonian?"

Sadly, never.  There would never be that much attention to the pacing or trotting Triple Crowns.  First, I lamented harness racing has so little popularity that it would never draw that much attention.  Then I said, the races we use for the Triple Crown are all wrong so how could we expect the attention of the public for races which have long lost their meaning.

Then it came to me.  Yes, harness racing isn't as popular as thoroughbred racing.  It's true that some of the Triple Crown races may have lost their luster.  However, perhaps these are red herrings.  Could the problem be scheduling?

Bingo!  There lies the biggest barrier to interest in our Triple Crowns; scheduling.  Even if harness racing was as popular as thoroughbred racing and the two Triple Crowns were altered to include the big three races purse-wise, the amount of interest in the Pacing and Trotting Triple Crowns would be minimal due to the scheduling as the races are too late in the year.

Think about it.  The thoroughbred Triple Crown begins in May and ends in early June, in other words, springtime.  Yes, the weather is getting warmer but people are still not in summer mode.  The prep-races for the Kentucky Derby begin in January; winter, when people are dreaming of warm weather and to some degree are bored for something to do, basically stuck at home or work.  They long for racing just as the baseball fan is biding their time waiting for opening day. The Derby fills a need for those so inclined to follow thoroughbred racing.

When does harness racing's crowns begin?   The Cane Pace, the first leg of the pacing crown is scheduled this year for August 25.  Even if the pacing crown was revised, the Meadowlands Pace (eliminations) is not until July 6.  On the trotting side, the Yonkers Trot isn't scheduled until July 27; the Hambletonian final is scheduled for August 3.  The trotting and pacing Triple Crowns begin in the summer, when people have other entertainment options available.  Prep races?  Whereas the runners begin their prep races in January and some sires stakes programs have races for 3yos in May, the kick-off of the pacing preps begins in earnest on May 25 with the Art Rooney at Yonkers while the trotting preps begin May 4 with the Dexter Cup at Freehold.  Let's no kid ourselves, many harness racing fans are caught up in planning summer vacations, watching baseball, and looking forward to other summertime activities. 

Let's not kid ourselves, even the major thoroughbred races don't get that much attention in the summer; drawomg the attention of hardcore players.  If the runners race in some degree of anonymity in the summer, what chance does harness racing have in getting media attention?

For hypothetical purposes, let's say the harness and pacing triple crowns began in late April and were wrapped up by the end of  May.  Your prep races would take place in late February thru April when the media is looking for sports stories and those inclined to follow the horses have fewer entertainment options.  We may not get the attention the runners get, but you would get more attention for the prep races as well as the Triple Crown races; people are looking for something to follow.

Now I am not suggesting next year the Triple Crown races get moved next year to late April.  Training regimens will need to change and the industry would need to fill the gaps the movement of the Triple Crown races would cause.  However, a gradual change shift of the Crown dates towards late April could occur over a three year period with minimal impact on racing. 

I would suggest before worrying about which races comprise the Triple Crown race, I would look at scheduling first.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Same Old Song

A column in the Indy Star talks about Governor Pence's proposal to eliminate the subsidy horse racing receives in Indiana from slots.  Sounds familiar?  Not a cut, but a total cessation of supporting the racing industry.  The Governor's argument, an old one: "There is a better use of the money”.  I must confess as much as I love horse racing, as a taxpayer I would agree with the Governor's position though I would argue you can't cut an industry off cold turkey; a transition period of reduced funding of a to be determined period is called for.

Meanwhile, in New York, horsemen were treated to a propaganda film by the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance showing how vital horse racing is to the State of New York both in economic contributions and agriculture; the same arguments horsemen in Indiana and Ontario have been making.  

Of course, in both states horse racing has been called a strong industry and I have always wondered how that determination has been made, after all a sport where grandstands are empty and handles are low don't particularly strike me as a strong industry, it strikes me as an artificially propped up industry.   I realize racing needs to say it is strong for political purposes but the problem is state governments are starting not to buy this. After all, how strong can an industry be if it depends on subsidies?

The problem is this argument gets old after a while.  In the Indy Star's column, Matthew Tully states: "Mike Brown, who heads a horse-owners trade group, called Pence’s proposed cuts “shortsighted” and said they would decimate what he called a strong industry that permeates and enriches the Indiana economy. But here’s a question: If an industry is so vital and so strong, shouldn’t it also be able to survive independently after 20 years of government subsidies?" 

Fortunately for New York interests, there have been no real proposals to cut slot subsidies to racing at this time and it remains to be seen how far the trial balloon in Indiana goes.

It was announced yesterday that Saratoga Harness Racing Inc, owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway have completed their acquisition of Fitzgeralds Casino in Blackhawk, soon to be renamed Saratoga Casino-Blackhawk.  While SHRI is part owner of Ellis Park and operates the Instant Racing machines there, this is their first acquisition of a non-racing property (other than part ownership of a couple of hotels in Saratoga Springs, New York).  It will be interesting to see if SHRI will be adding an OTB to their Colorado casino to allow Colorado residents to wager on Saratoga Harness and other tracks or failing that, if SHRI is attempting to abandon horse racing as much as possible.

Cal Expo is dropping Thursday night racing after this week, once again returning California harness racing to a twice a week schedule.  In addition to dropping Thursdays, they have added two additional weekends of racing in May.  The dropping of Thursday nights is certainly a disappointment to racing interests in the Golden State as Watch and Wager's goal was to return to a three day schedule.  The cause for the scratching of Thursdays is said to be a large overpayment in purses which needs to be trimmed back, possibly because they are handling about $200,000 less on Thursdays when compared to their Friday and Saturday night cards when they handle close to $750,000.  My guess is Cal Expo is dependent on wagering from back east which is not available on Thursdays due to the lateness of their programs.  People have to go to work on Friday's so the weekend gamblers are just not available to Cal Expo.

Surprise, surprise.  Valley View Downs has been given another 45 day extension to get their act together.  They must have a management agreement in place by then along with a casino gaming license.  With what is happening in Ohio, don't be surprised if Valley View Downs is no closer to opening this time next year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Opposing Online Gaming in New Jersey: The Time to Act is Now

There is a full court press to get Governor Christie to sign the legislation legalizing online gaming in New Jersey to benefit Atlantic City.  Senator Lesniak, other politicians, and the Poker Player's Alliance are pushing the Governor to sign this legislation.  It is imperative for racing interests to work against this legislation as much as the PPA is promoting it.

There are several reasons why this bill must be vetoed by the Governor prior to the February 7 deadline.  First, there are the constitutional issues.  When the constitutional amendment legalizing casino gaming in New Jersey, limiting it to Atlantic City was passed, it was a second attempt as a constitutional amendment approving casino gambling state-wide went down to defeat.  At the time of the amendment's approval, it was clear the New Jersey voter's intent was to limit casinos to Atlantic City alone, nowhere else in New Jersey.

This proposed legislation clearly is an attempt to circumvent the will of the people at the time of the constitutional amendment's passage.  By having the servers in Atlantic City, the state legislature is trying to claim gambling will still be restricted to Atlantic City.  Really?  Are people going to have to drive down to Atlantic City to fund their wagering accounts or will they be able to fund their accounts using the mail or via their computer located in Morristown?  When a gambler plays a casino game from Hackettstown, making a wager or hitting the enter button on their lap top is not considered making a wager?  I find this hard to believe.  If the state wants online gaming, they need to do it right by getting a new constitutional amendment passed legalizing it, along with allowing a casino at the Meadowlands.

But constitutional issues aside, this legislation benefits Atlantic City at the expense of horse racing in New Jersey, be it ACRC, Freehold, Meadowlands, or Monmouth Park.  While poker is a game of skill, other casino games are based on luck and can attract the same customers as racetracks do.  For the state to pass legislation for the advantage of one industry at the direct expense of another industry is unconscionable.  I understand the state is trying to salvage a now obsolete model of casino resorts which is Atlantic City and I don't deny them the opportunity to give Atlantic City a window of time to get their house in order.  This is why if  New Jersey wants to offer online gaming, it should be done with the passage of a constitutional amendment which will allow online gaming for Atlantic City Casinos and allow the opening of a casino in the Meadowlands as of January 1, 2015 which will give the casinos their five year window to get their house in order yet allow the Meadowlands to get ready to open a casino on January 1, 2015.

At this time, what is needed is for those opposed to this online gaming bill to make sure their voices are heard.  There are several ways this can be done.  First, you may use social media to make your views known by writing the Governor on Twitter at @GovChristie or sending him a message on Facebook at Governor Chris Christie.  In addition to social media, you may contact the Governor's office at 609-292-6000 to voice your opinion or via email.

Racing seems to be straightening its ship.  If you wish to allow New Jersey racing to continue to improve, it is important that the Governor hears your opinions regarding online gaming now.  If not now, there may never be another chance. 

Bobble Heads, Mobile Wagering, and History Lesson

Psst, looking for a John Campbell bobble head?  Horse Rescue United has an online auction going on in Facebook.  In addition to the bobble heads (there are two up for auction), other items are available for bidding as well.  The auction does close tonight so if interested in the bobble heads or any other items, just 'Like' Horse Rescue United on Facebook and check out the items up for auction.  To bid, just put your name and bid amount on the listing.  Preferred payment method is Paypal.

Horse Rescue United is a 501(c)3 charity which rescues horses, primarily standardbreds.

It's now legal to use mobile devices on racetrack property to make wagers according to a law signed by Governor Christie.  When the actual roll out will take place remains to be seen.  If you have been holding off on getting a smart phone, here is another reason why you should consider getting one.

Arguably, the greatest pacer that ever lived was Dan Patch.  Thanks to some friends for pointing this video out on YouTube; a photo tribute to Dan Patch.

If you want to learn more about Dan Patch, may I suggest the book "Crazy Good, The True Story of Dan Patch, The Most Famous Horse in America" by Charles Leershan.  The book is now available in both paperback and hardcover editions.

While we are talking about all-time greats, here is a video tribute to Greyhound aka "The Grey Ghost", perhaps the greatest trotter of all times.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Political Edition

It appears New Jersey racing should figure on Chris Christie being the Governor through 2017 unless the White House beckons in 2016.  Senate President Stephen Sweeney is the latest Democrat who has decided not to challenge the Governor in this year's general election, joining Senator Richard Codey (a former interim-Governor) on the sidelines.  As you recall late last year, Newark Mayor Corey Booker also decided to pass on the run, deciding to be a candidate for U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg's seat, assuming he will not be seeking re-election.  This leaves State Senator Barbara Bruno as the only declared Democrat running for Governor, a candidacy most people acknowledge to be a long shot.  Apparently, all the high profile Democratic candidates for Governor have decided it would be suicidal to oppose the Governor in his re-election campaign so they have all decided to stand aside. 

Are these defections good or bad for racing in New Jersey?  I would say it is a push.

Racing participants in Ontario are welcoming the selection of Kathleen Wynne as the newest Premier of Ontario, at least until the next election is called.  While I understand the desire to move on from the days of McGuinty, racing would be mistaken to think the clock is going to be rolled back to the good ol' days as Wynne has indicated her vision for racing includes racing "keeping with the model proposed by the Horse Racing Transition Panel", a plan which specifically claims there will be no returning to SARP.  It amazes me how some people still think the decisions of last year in Ontario will be reversed.  Changes may be forthcoming to make the plans somewhat less punitive, but racing participants need to get it in their minds that the 'gravy days' are over.  It is more a question of what does sustainable mean.
That being said, now that racing at Woodbine and Mohawk has been secured for the next two years, rumored next up on the Ontario racetrack interim deal plan is Kawartha Downs according to MPP Jeff Deal.  Deal expects the same plan to eventually be offered to all Ontario tracks.  While the plan may be offered, there is question if it will be accepted by all.

The Historic Stakes for two year olds are on the move, departing Vernon Downs and moving to Harrah's Philadelphia for the 2013 season.  The move shouldn't surprise anyone considering Jeff Gural has made it known he wished to de-emphasize two year old stakes racing.  The Historic stakes for three year olds will remain on the schedule at Tioga Downs. 

Yonkers Raceway has cancelled racing for Monday evening due to inclement weather.  Not that the weather should be bad at Yonkers, but those shipping horses down from upstate New York will find things somewhat 'challenging'.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What a Mess We've Weaved; Royal Dream Wins the Prix

In today's Harness Racing Update there were several issues discussed regarding the standardbred industry; drivers, trainers, and owners racing where the money is good instead of supporting the flagship track, the reduction of purse in stakes races, and the lack of demand for yearlings.  Issues we have been talking about for quite some time within the industry.  What we haven't talked about is how they are all inter-related.

As for industry participants heading where things are more lucrative, things are no different than they have been in the past.  Horsemen always seem to gravitate to the tracks which offer the best purses, it is capitalism at its best.  The difference between abandoning the Meadowlands versus tracks like Balmoral Park is this is the first time horsemen are bailing on a track with the highest overall handles (they handled another $3.7 million last night, tying the number of $3 million handles for all of last year which included the the Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian).  In the past betting determined the purses but with slot welfare (let's call it what it is), handle isn't the driver it once was.  For the most part they have been able to book full fields at the Meadowlands, but the top classes are already showing some weakness in numbers, this only when Yonkers Raceway is open.  No matter how much business improves at the Meadowlands, it seems there will be some weakness in horsemen support once Pcocono and Harrah's reopens unless there are some refugees from Ontario making the trip south.

The ever popular talk about the decline in purchase prices and availability of yearlings makes the news as well, with one writer explaining what should you expect when purses are being cut on stakes races making them less attractive?  Here is a perfect example of the chicken and the egg.  Which is it, less yearlings or purse cuts which causes the problem?  Certainly in some cases purses have been cut because the purse account doesn't offer the latitude it once may have to offer $2 million purses.  Then you have owners who were being asked to pay a large amount of the freight in stakes races only to skip them because they felt they were not cost effective or were paying out too much money to be willing to take their chances on possibly drawing a bad post position.  So while tracks may be lowering their nomination and starting fees to gain more interest in their stakes, purses tend to drop further; all reasons to stick with overnight racing.

Of all the problems racing has, a major contributor to the problem is with racing being controlled on an individual state level; there is no group able to apply the brakes on these issues so without self-control of participants (as if that is going to happen), things will just continue on as we go through a downward spiral.  How can we get a group put in place which can apply the brakes on the issues so we don't continue down a seemingly endless spiral which will only stop when we hit rock bottom?

What we need is a national racing code (agency) to administer things like assigning racing days, stakes scheduling and other issues within the industry.  Now, with certain states allowing slots and others prohibiting them, there is no way to stop the purse inequity as no one is about to suggest slot states turn their backs on slot revenue, but what they can do is keep the schedule as clear as possible to allow non-slot tracks time where they are protected from competing against slot tracks and vice versa.  No, I am not suggesting the Meadowlands be awarded a 'protected' meet where they get to run their race meet in prime time without any competition for horses with slot tracks but perhaps they can be awarded most of their dates in the winter months with a six week window in the summer where Pocono and Harrah's doesn't race where in return the Eastern Pennsylvania tracks are given a late spring/early fall period where the Meadowlands doesn't compete against them?  As a result, handles could increase freeing up more money not only for stakes races but for overnights for green horses which will stimulate interest in purchasing yearlings.

Such a racing code would be charged with scheduling race dates to maximize the profitability of each race track racing so they may offer the strongest possible racing programs both for overnight and stakes-caliber horses which will promote breeding.  What a difference it would be from the current model where every state is out for themselves and all they accomplish is cutting each others' throats so they all bleed, some faster than others?

I realize it is easier said than done as it would require action from the states and possibly the granting of anti-trust exemptions to allow a national regulatory code take charge.  Is it an impossible goal?  Well, it certainly is if no one is trying to move in this direction.

Grand Prix d'Amérique Recap
Royal Dream scored a minor upset over Ready Cash who was seeking his third straight victory in the 1,000,000 € Grand Prix d'Amérique this afternoon at Vincennes Racetrack, winning the 2,700 meter race in 3:14.3 (kilometer race of 1:12.0 (mile rate of 1:55.4) as the third favorite going off at odds of 7.40-1.   Sweden's Maharajah led the early part of the race with a blistering pace and then was passed by Ready Cash who looked as he was going to win easy until the stretch when Royal Dream  went by to win by a comfortable margin.

The top five finishers in the Prix were (Horse, Driver, Closing Odds):

1st     8 Royal Dream - Jean-Philippe Dubois; 7.40-1
2nd  18 Ready Cash  - Franck Nivard; 2.30-1
3rd   15 Main Wise AS - Pierre Levesque; 156.00-1
4th    2 Roxana de Barbray - Dominik Locqueneux; 146.00-1
5th  11 The Best Madrik -  Christophe Martens; 54.00-1

 For additional specifics regarding the race, you may read's coverage here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Meadowlands Winter Stakes Preview

With the Meadowlands' first late closing events coming to a conclusion this evening, it's time to analyze the three races.  The races are the $51,000 Super Bowl Final (race 5), $67,400 Clyde Hirt Final (race 6), and the  $103,500 Presidential Finall (race 11).

But first, here is a brief video of the topping off ceremony at the Meadowlands for the new grandstand.

I would love to say I found some real hot ones tonight but the truth is it looks like fces in the finals.  At the Meadowlands it alwas seems to be that one winter horse that runs overshadows the others in their class.

5th Trot - $51,000; Super Bowl Final - 4yos NW2 Ext PM or $30,000 LT thru 12/15/12
  1  LA Hollywood (Carlson, 20-1) - Trip lands minor spoils.  Don't see.
  2  Jailhouse Juice (Mettinis, 20-1) - Almost shocked last week.  Love the sire but still not likely.
  3  No Less Than Magic (Pierce, 8-1) - Will need trip to land share.
  4  Joyeux Dream (Tetrick, 6-1) - Adds lasix off decent effort.  Woth a look at right odds.
  5  For Goodness Lindy (Buter, 20-1) - Aiming to high.
  6  Sweet Ben (Campbell, 12-1) - Winner last weekwas here.
  7  Where To Hanover (D Miller, 3-1) - Likely winner,
  8  Helios (Gingras, 4-1) - Draws poorly this week,
  9  Wisenheimer (Callahan, 9-2) - Looks to sweep series. 
10  Windsun Gallino  (A Miller, 7-2) - Draws poorly.
Selections: 4-7-9-2

6th Pace - $67,400; Clyde Hirt Final - 4yo H&G NW3 Ext PM or $75,000 LT thru 12/15/12
  1  Holdingallthecards (Tetrick, 5-2) - Midwesterner has been perfect on East Coast.  The obvious choice with the rail.
  2  Shaws Creek Buff (Simpson, 12-1) - Scratch sick give you potential for big odds.  Worth the risk?  I say no.
  3  Ethan Hanover (Callahan, 6-1) - Finished second in both legs and moves inside.  A possibility.
  4  Bestjetyet (Carlson, 10-1) - On his way to a sweep of elims when he broke in last.  Will pass here.
  5  Mr Dennis (A Miller, 8-1) - First start for new connections.    Trainer been doing well.  Watch the board.
  6  Cee Pee  Panic (Gingras, 9-2) - Overland victory last week was not as impressive as it looked.  Still figures in exotics.
  7  Screen The Call (Pierce, 8-1) - Carried division winner to victory last week.  Don't ignore.
  8  One Through Ten (D Miller, 7-2) - Multi-dimensional horse undefeated this year.  Threat.
  9  Vodka Is Terror (Campbell, 20-1) - No luck in post draw.  Can't recommend.
10  Man He Can Skoot (Allard, 20-1) - Would need to get lead early and don't see it happening.
Selections: 1-8-6-7

11th Pace - $103,500; Presidential Final - FFA
  1  Fred And Ginger (Gingras, 12-1) - No chance in last.  Pass.
  2  Dial or Nodial (D Miller, 6-1) - Classy veteran not yet there.
  3  Second Wind N (Carlson, 25-1) - Off the board this year
  4  Malak Uswaad N (Pierce, 20-1) - Would be a big shock to win here.
  5  Versado (A Miller, 8-1)  - Came up empty in last start.  Looked good in ptior start.
  6  Mr Hasani N (Callahan, 10-1) - Just don't see.
  7  Golden Receiver (Tetrick, 4-5) -  Class of field.  Accepting 2-5?
  8  Meirs Hanover (Bongiorno, 15-1) - Will try to track fave.  May land share.
  9  Modern Legend (Campbell, 9-2) - Been right there but deals with bad draw.  Consider for exotics.
Selections: 7-9-2-5

The overall Meadowlands handle continues to grow with each racing night so far but up to this point, on-track handle is down.  At this point I would not be overly worried about the decline on-track because the weather has been much colder and snowy than it was last year.  I expect as we roll into spring when the weather is more cooperative, on-track wagering will improve.

The Best Race You Will Not See (Live)

The final field for the 2013 Grand Prix d' Amérique has been announced and Ready Cash will challenged in his efforts to win his third consecutive Prix as he will be starting from post position 18 in this 2,700 meter event.with a purse of 1,000,000€. 

Here is the field for the Grand Prix.

1 - Un Mec d’Heripre – Mathieu Abrivard
2 - Roxanne de Barbray – Dominik Locqeneux
3 - Tiego Etang – Christian Bigeon
4 - Raja Mirchi (SWE) – Lutfi Kolgjini
5 - Vanika du Ruel – Franck Anne
6 - Reve de Beylev – David Thomain
7 - Punchy – J Boillereau
8 - Royal Dream – Jean Philippe Dubois
9 - Quoumba de Guez – Jean Michel Bazire
10 - Noras Bean (SWE) - Stefan Söderkvist
11 - The Best Madrik – Christophe Martens
12 - Quarcio du Chene (SWE) – Bjørn Goop
13 - Save the Quick – Pierre Vercruysse
14 - Timoko – Richard Westerink
15 - Main Wise As (ITA) – Pierre Levesque
16 - Roxanne Griff – Eric Raffin
17 - Maharajah (SWE) - Ôrjan Kihlström
18 - Ready Cash – Franck Nivard

While it would be great to see Ready Cash win his third consecutive Prix, something only done by the late great Ourasi, my suspicion is he will come up short this year.  I will be taking a slight stab and go with the Swedish Maharajah (#17) to be there at the wire to score a slight upset over the champion Ready Cash.  For second, I will be going with Royal Dream (#8) and selecting Ready Cash (#18) for third.

As I alluded to in an earlier post, there will be no wagering in North America on the Prix so the best you will be able to do is follow the usual sites for reports and video.  The site which will most likely be the first to have news regarding the race as well as video will be  The Prix is scheduled to go off at roughly 9:30am EST.

Grading the Stakes - Part 8

Well, he made it!  VFTRG contributor Joe F. has finally compiled his suggested gradings of stakes for the final division in his series, the 3yo filly trotters.  Thanks to Joe for contributing this multi-piece entry.

Grading the stakes races for three-year-old filly trotters

Grade 1
Kentucky Filly Futurity—Lexington—October--$291,000

Win Missy B, who played third fiddle to CMO and Maven for most of her first two years, won in :52 and :52.1. She beat 1/9 favorite CMO in their first heat and the latter, as planned, failed to appear for the final. In the final Missy beat Personal Style and D’Orsay……It was a bit odd that CMO bowed out early while Market Share’s connections chose not to supplement him to the Kentucky Futurity, opting instead to crush lesser foes in a $10,000 LC on Saturday…..Cedar Dove beat bold And Fresh and Hey Mister in 2011…….Since 1893……Peace Corps trotted the fastest mile in the history of the race—to that point—when she won the 1989 edition in :54.2 for JC.

Breeders Crown—Pocono in 2012—October--$493,000
This BC was the only one for two and three-year-olds to fall under 500K. Maven (7/2) beat Win Missy B and 4/5 favorite, CMO, in an 11 horse field……..The race went for 501K in 2011. The 3/5 favorite Cedar Dove beat Crys Dream and Oh Sweet Baby. Ten started……13/1 shot Impressive Kemp triumphed over 3/2 favorite Behindcloseddoors at Pocono in 2010……Peace Corps won this one and three others, while Moni Maker was shut out as a filly.

MO nosed out Maven…….In 2011 1/5 favorite Crys Dream won over Beatgoeson and Lady Rainbow. The purse was 519K. The winner subsequently tested positive for a class 2 drug and was suspended for 90 days……Since 2000. Casual Breeze, Cameron Hall and Pampered Princess all won the Elegantimage.

Hambletonion Oaks—Meadowlands—August--$714,000

CMO and Maven won the two eliminations, but they broke in the final, leaving 55/1 shot Personal Style to pick up the pieces……In 2011 a stay was granted by a judge in New Jersey allowing Crys Dream to compete in the Oaks. It didn’t help as 24/1 shot Bold And Fresh, with George Brennan, and 12/1 Lady Rainbow beat her.

Del Miller—Meadowlands—July--$245,000 in 2012

CMO (1/2) over Missy and Personal Style……Hey Mister (1/5) in a single dash for 257K in 2011….two divisions @ 146K in 2010. Springtime Volo and Glide Power were the winners..…. Two divisions in 2009—Yursa Hanover and Windsong Soprano…..Races like the Miller and Simcoe that had been split more often than not seem to have evolved into single dash affairs over the last few years. That’s the reason I put this race with the ones.

Grade 2

The Simcoe has been raced as a single dash for the last three years, so I was tempted to make it a one, but the quality of competition isn’t there. The 3/5 shot Valdonna beat Miss Paris and Dream On Hanover last year. CMO, Maven and Missy were not entered…..In 2011 Southwind Amiga, a 9/1 shot, beat Lady Rainbow and Eagle Hanover. There was a five horse field. The purse was 205K…..They raced for 240K in 2010 as 3/1 shot Costa Rica beat Bramalea Hanover in a 12 horse field. Poof Shes Gone was the 5/2 co-favorite with Cross Of Lorraine.

Hudson Filly Trot—Yonkers—July--$185,000 in 2012
Only three entered in 2012. CMO beat stablemate Real Babe and Aunt Mel was third…..Seven entered in 2011. Jezzy won…..The HFT carried a 299K purse in 2010. Spicy Wings won in 2:00.1….Since 1957.

Moni Maker—Meadowlands—August--$191,000 in 2012
Maven over Valdonna and Superstar. Missy B, the 3/1 second choice, finished out. There was no CMO…….Held at The Meadows in 2011 with a 233K purse. Lady Rainbow over Beatgoeson….. Raced at The Red Mile from 2005 to 2010. They raced for 233K in 2010 as Christiana Hanover won at 52/1 for Rina Rekila over Glide Power and Bramalie Hanover…..In 2009 Southwind Wasabi won. The purse was 228K.

Bluegrass—Lexington—October--$70,000 splits in 2012

On The Bright Side, Chilitoday and CMO in 2012…….106K splits in 2011 as Seduced By Chocolate and Bold And Fresh were the winners.

Casual Breeze—Mohawk—June—2 divisions @ $80,000 each in 2012
In 2012 All Ready Hanover (9/2) from the eight over 3/5 favorite Win Missy B.  Smarty Pants (6/1) won the other division…..In 2011 Luke’s Sophie (2/1) left from the eight and beat 3/5 favorite Beatgoeson Hanover. Crys Dream won the other split at 1/9…..There were three divisions in 2010, with Poof Shes Gone, Ultimate Cameron and Action-Broadway coming out on top.


Maven (1/9) beat Feel The Pressure and Uncommon Night in 2012. There was a seven horse field….In 2011 Iron Lady (4/1) beat Lady Rainbow and even money favorite Crys Dream. Iron Lady and Crys Dream, both daughters of the ill-fated stallion, Taurus Dream, were stablemates. This edition of the race was held at the end of August……The 2010 Am-Nat was also held at the end of August and carried a 131K purse. Springtime Volo beat Glide Power and Behindcloseddoors……Since 1982. Peace Corps and Continentalvictory both won the Am-Nat.

Zweig—Vernon in 2012—August--$150,000 in 2012
New York’s cumbersome entry rules turned the 2012 filly Zweig into a bad joke. There was a nine horse field in the single dash Zweig, but there were only three betting interests. There were two four horse entries; Win Missy B was the only uncoupled filly in the race.  CMO won and paid $2.20. Win betting only…….There were two 65K divisions in 2011 at Tioga. Pantholops (2/1) beat 6/5 favorite Some Girls. In the other split, Beatgoeson, the 5/2 second choice, topped the favorite Jezzy, a disappointing mare in 2012…..There were two divisions in 2010 and three in 2009……Since 1977. Honey Bee Hanover, the winner of the 1982 edition, was the dam of Huggie Hanover, who won the colt division in 1988. She also produced the Sierra Kosmos filly Fern, who won the Oaks and the KY Filly Futurity.

In 2012, Personal Style, the 6/5 second choice, ran down 4/5 favorite Win Missy B and drew off at the end…..Crys Dream wired the field in 2011. She was part of a three horse entry with Hey Mister and Jezzy (3/2). Beatgoeson (3/2) was second and even money favorite Cedar Dove finished third. The purse was 151K…..They raced for 193K in 2010 as Costa Rica topped Behindcloseddoors and Christiana Hanover.

Grade 3 or 4

Arden Downs—The Meadows—July—3 divisions @ $27,000 each in 2012
Ciao Dough, Delicious and Miss Chip K were the three winners in 2012……Also split three ways in 2010……..Since 1958. Elaine Rodney, Armbro Flight and Flamboyant all won the Arden. Sprite Rodney, who won the Realization and was the dam of Spartan Hanover, also won the race. Lovester and her daughter Rosemary both won the Arden. The latter was the dam of the million dollar winner Royal Prestige.

Circle City—Indy—November—2 divisions @ $40,000 each in 2012
Pretend To Be Nice (11/1) upset 3/5 favorite Aunt Mel in one split and Rubys And Pearls won the other.

Coaching Club Oaks—Tioga—June--$35,000

Southwind Moni (1/1) over Lady Andi……Jezzy beat six others for a 75K purse at 1/5 in 2011 at Tioga….In The Mean Time won at M1 in 2010 for a 72K purse…..In The Mean Time over Glide Power in 2010. The purse was 72K.

John Simpson Memorial—Meadowlands—May--$51,000
Riverfest (2/1) won in an 11 horse field……Three divisions in 2011—24K each. Jezzy (2.40) as well as Madame Stacy and Some Girls were the winners.

Lady Suffolk—Freehold—May—2 divisions @ $38,000 each in 2012
Cocktail Attire (3/5) over Loose Deuce and For A Dancer (1/2) won the other division……There was a six horse field in 2011 as Pacific Splash (7/1) upset 1/5 favorite Refuse To Lose in one 39K division. Balmy Breeze won the other…..Since 1960. Elaine Rodney, Impish, Delmonica Hanover, Noble Florie and Grades Singing all won the Lady Suffolk.

Landmark—Historic Track—June/July--$14,000

Ray Schnittker won six Landmark races on the last day of June in 2012. Lima Playmate won this particular division.

Aunt Mel won in 2012.

Currier and Ives—The Meadows—June--$120,000

Split three ways in 2012. Win Missy B at 1/9 over Sequin Hanover in an 8 horse field for 40K. Delicious and Shanty Irish won the other two.

Kristin’s Victory in a stakes record :55.1 in 2012 paid $60 when she beat fellow Cash Hall filly  Cowgirl Hall in one 37K division. Fortunista won the other one.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ah, The Devil is in the Details

As we learned today in Harness Racing Update, yesterday's announcement of the two year agreement between the provincial government and WEG regarding racing was not quite what many people (myself included) thought it was.  While the announcement indicated racing would continue with a cut in days, people were led to believe with the exception of the stakes calendar, purses would be what they are racing for in 2013.  

Now word has it the deal the government made with WEG is to make them whole should they lose money operating the race meets.  This payment will be partially through lease agreements for the slots parlors and partially through direct payments.  WEG is guaranteed not to lose money on racing.  This should not be minimized as being insignificant; a track which will lose money with an unclear future can not be expected to remain open.  By ensuring WEG will be made whole, they can and will continue to operate.

Unfortunately, with the exception of the Ontario Sires Stakes for the next three years, the horsemen don't make out as well.  As reported in the original report, horsemen will be expected to race for what they earn via handle; the way it was in the pre-slot days.  This means once purse account surpluses are exhausted, there is a good chance something is going to have to give.  Stakes races will be eliminated or raced for less money and/or overnight purses will need to be adjusted.  Plain and simple, it is going to be a balancing act.  At least on the WEG circuit even if purses are cut they should be sufficient to allow most horsemen make a living, albeit slimmer pickings.

Where Ontario racing is likely going to take a big hit is at the signature and grassroots level.  For many of those tracks, if horsemen are forced to race for what they earn after any purse account surpluses are exhausted, purses at some of the tracks will look like they do in the Maritimes, racing for three digit purses.  That is assuming there is a track to race at.  The non-profit tracks like Western Fair District will likely keep racing as it is their mission to promote agricultural interests but what about tracks such as Flamboro Downs and Georgian Downs owned by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, for-profit companies?  Do they keep on racing?

Of course the wild card is what happens to handle.  At present wagering levels purses are likely to decline, in some cases dramatically but with the likely contraction (assuming certain tracks toss in the towel) of racetracks, where do those wagering dollars get bet?  Do they stay in the gamblers' pockets or with fewer tracks racing does the money get wagered on track(s) still racing?  Logic dictates a good portion of the money which would have been wagered at one track will be wagered elsewhere.  The question is does the money get bet at a track such as Grand River or does it go across the border or to the thoroughbreds?  

A certain part of where the now 'excess' gambling dollars goes is out of the hands of the racing industry, but it is the responsibility of the industry and regulators to schedule racing to maximize the possibility of those dollars remaining within the province and the breed.  While some fear the tracks will not do anything to increase handle, if the agricultural societies live up to their mission to promote agriculture, they will make an effort to increase wagering; something the Raceway at Western Fair District has been doing for a while.

Make no mistake, once announcements come regarding the negotiations with the 'B' tracks and tracks like Ajax Downs (quarter horse) and Fort Erie (t-breds), horsemen are going to have to make some serious decisions.  American tracks which will looking for horses to race in the spring should start beating the bushes in Canada for there will be horsemen and horses ready to come south. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yonkers Raceway Getting Realistic

Apparently Yonkers Raceway has had an epiphany in realizing better horses were skipping their big races due to the overly inflated estimated purses and high entrance fees which discouraged many from taking their chances and risk drawing the outside posts.   According to this press release, Yonkers will now guarantee the purses for the Open divisions and cut nomination and starting fees by more than 50%; hopefully enough to get some real interest from the bigger stables.

The Art Rooney will have a final purse of $275,000 while the Messenger Stakes will have a guaranteed purse of $450,000.  The Yonkers Trot, will also be competed for a purse of $450,000.  Unfortunately, the filly stakes will continue with estimated purses that are far below the Open divisions with estimated pures within the $110-$115,000 range.

Murray Brown of Hanover Shoe Farms penned a letter talking about the crisis hitting the breeding industry, which was highlighted at this past Monday's sale at the Meadowlands.  While I encourage you to read the whole letter, here are some excerpts from it:

The relatively low sale prices for Idyllic and Martiniontherocks at the Tattersalls January Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands Monday illustrates the problems Standardbred breeders and their clients, those who are selling quality bloodstock after their racing careers are over, face today.

From my perspective, a great part of the reason that breeders find themselves in this pickle is because of the outmoded purse structure found at most harness tracks today. Often mid to low priced claimers have the opportunity to race for as much, if not more money, than they are worth. Whereas the person who has spent a great deal of money for a well-bred yearling and has sometimes spent even more training and staking them finds the opportunity to race them in other than stakes events very limited and the opportunity to race them for significant money virtually non existent. Why would they want to continue doing this when they can get instant gratification and satisfaction by claiming or buying a ready-made racehorse?

The time is coming--sooner rather than later--when those who are looking and willing to pay well for racehorses will find that the well has dried up. The vast majority of breeders are bleeding money with no foreseeable expectations that things will get better.

Unfortunately, the problem is purses are negotiated between track management and the local horsemen's association and most associations are focused on the overnight horsemen.  All they are concerned with is racing for the most possible money and while they likely would agree with Mr. Brown's letter, their attitude often is who cares?  It is time they do care otherwise horse stock will be so low, tracks will be racing one or two days a week due to horse shortages.  The question is how long will it be until horsemen come to their senses?

Good New WEG Equals Bad News Meadowlands?  While everyone is happy things seem to be working out well at Woodbine and Mohawk for at least for the next two years, odds are this will indirectly hurt the Meadowlands in the fact more horsemen will be willing to stay up north with their racing stock, meaning they will be of little help to offset the perrenial horse shortage at the Meadowlands come late spring.  Of course, some of the smaller Ontario tracks may not survives MAFRA's plans but it is not known if those horses would be competitive at the Meadolwands.

Basically Business as Usual for WEG in 2013

At this morning's press conference to formally announce details of the agreement between WEG and OMAFRA which will provide for the continuation of racing at Woodbine and Mohawk during a two year transitional period by which time horse racing should become self-sustaining, the following details were announced:

  1. This deal involves only transitional funding.  A lot more hard work remains ahead to keep the racing industry going after this two year period.  The interim agreement was the easy part.
  2. The ORC now falls under the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and For Rural Affairs as announced yesterday..
  3. 'World class' horse racing will continue in Ontario as a result of this agreement.
  4. The deal with Woodbine and Mohawk is a starting point, not the end.
  5. Other tracks are presently in negotiations with OMAFRA for the continuation of racing.  The particular tracks were not mentioned.
  6. The subsidy amount industry-wide will be considerably more than $50 million but will not be known for a few more weeks when agreements with other tracks are worked out.
  7. It is anticipated that there will be some downsizing on the standardbred side of the sport in the province.
  8. The Horse Improvement Program has a three year commitment which means for the next three years the Ontario Sires Stakes program should remain intact.

Nick Eaves, the CEO of WEG went into more detail.
  1. The plan offers short term stability.
  2. Change will be coming in the way things are done as a result of funding changes.  The goal will be to make those changes as transparent as possible.  For all practical purposes, at least in 2013, racing will essentially be unchanged.
    1. The high profile stakes races such as the Queens Plate and the North American Cup will be contested.  Expect the stakes schedule to be altered to reflect available purse funds.
    2. There will be 133 days of thoroughbred racing with purses similar to last year's purse distribution.  The thoroughbred meet will begin in mid to late April.
    3. A total of 184 days of standardbred racing will be offered  with purses at the levels already established for this year.  This is roughly 45 days less than 2012.
  3. Racing needs to fit into the province's overall gaming strategy.
  4. There will be attempts to find new funding sources for racing on an on-going basis.
  5. WEG feels in the long term it is essential that a casino be located at WEG though this is not part of this deal.  This is an issue outside of the control of WEG.

A copy of a press release recapping today's press conference is available here.

New York Legislative Report

A bill has been introduced in New York State to allow racetracks to offer formal rebate programs for on-track customers.  Under the terms of S2433, such programs will need to be approved on an annual basis by the State Gaming Commission.  The rationale for this bill?  Allow the racetracks to compete against off-shore rebate shops. 

Of course this bill does exhibit the state's need to micro-manage racing.  Why do these programs have to be approved annually?  While I think the tracks should be able to set up rebate programs as they see fit without regulatory oversight, if the state feels a need to have their hands in things, wouldn't it make sense to only have to go to the gaming commission when one wants to modify the program?  To think you need to get the gaming commission's approval just to say you may continue what you have been doing is absurd.  But then, this is a state where you need to get the board's approval to offer a free betting voucher with sufficient lead time which prevents last minute marketing campaigns.

Don't think Ontario could happen elsewhere, there is always someone looking to crowd into what racing has going.  Take for example New York Assemblyman Hooper who has introduced Assembly Bill 1899 which would allow a pilot program to allow VLTs at OTB facilities.  While the bill initially would limit the experiment to Nassau OTB's telemetry, it should be noted that it is only 28 miles from Aqueduct's racino.  I have no doubt this program would be a success and you will see VLTs at OTBs throughout the state taking revenue from racing.

While I regret being as old as I am, it is a good thing I started playing the horses at Yonkers Raceway at the age of 14 when I did because I was violating the law only for 4 years because if Assembly bill A2082 was in effect way back then, I would have been violating the law for 7 years as this bill would raise the age for gambling on horses to 21.  The rationale?  Protecting them from becoming addicted to gambling.

I will never be one to belittle the idea of people possibly becoming addicted to gambling; it happens but if you make them wait until they are 21, there is a good chance they will still become addicted; just later.  As far as I am concerned, if a person can graduate high school, vote, and have a full time job, they should be able to afford themselves of  whatever legal entertainment they chose and if it is playing the horses so be it.  At a certain point, people need to take personal responsibility for their actions.  Besides, racing should be so lucky to get those 18-21 year olds to play the horses anyway.  Odds are they are playing poker or sneaking on the racino floor to play the VLTs.

On a positive side, Governor Cuomo wants to dedicate $1.5-$2 million of VLT revenue towards horse safety measures.  It should be intereesting to see how horsemen respond to this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ontario Racing Saved for Two Years. How is the Question.

News comes that a press conference will be held tomorrow morning byWEG to discuss an agreement in principle with WEG and OMAFRA to continue racing at Woodbine and Mohawk for the next two years while a 'final' solution towards self-sustainability is developed during that period.  During this two year interim period, the racing industry will be required to meet certain benchmarks.  While this agreement applies only with WEG and the provincial government, it is expected to be the foundation of any agreements with the other tracks in the province.

As part of this agreement, the ORC now reports to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

At this point there is no word whether the number of days of racing will remain the same or be reduced nor the purse levels to be supported.  One would imagine there will be a reduction on both fronts.  Whether all existing tracks will be offered or will want to sign on this agreement also remains to be determined.

People will be listening tomorrow morning.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Other Gaming News

To no one's surprise, the Department of Justice will defend the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 which makes it illegal for states like New Jersey to offer sports wagering.  New Jersey will be claiming this law is unconstitutional in that it denies the State of New Jersey the right to offer professional sports wagering while some other states are allowed to offer sports wagering.

While New Jersey officials claim they expected the Feds to intervene, it is my gut feeling that the law will be upheld.  One reason I feel this way is a few years ago the U.S. Supreme Court refused to get involved in a case which sought to allow Delaware to offer single game sports wagering, which would have been an expansion over their three game parlay wagering which was already legal in the Diamond State.  Secondly, being New Jersey was given an opportunity to approve sports wagering prior to the law taking effect and it chose not to, I don't think the State of New Jersey will be able to argue successfully that it was discriminated against.

In other news, it appears the pace of constructing OTWs in the State of New Jersey will finally be picking up as the Bergen Record reports each permit holder must identify a new location and have it up and running by the end of this year or risk the lost of the license to build an OTW.

To know one's surprise, a proposal has been made to allow the racinos in Indiana to become full-fledged casinos and allow the 'riverboats' to come ashore.  No doubt this is triggered by the legalizing of slots at Ohio racetracks.  With the exception of New Jersey, it seems each state is interested in regaining their share of the gambling dollar being lost to surrounding states by upgrading their offerings.  It won't be long until Ohio will seek to offer full casino gaming as well.  It seems everyone but New Jersey politicians realize casino gambling is a commodity based on convenience.  Gambling resorts are a dinosaur.

Readers' Questions

Question:  One reader of this blog wants to know which North American ADWs offer wagering on Sweden's V75 wager?  The reader wishes to know ahead of time instead of opening multiple ADW accounts.

Answer:  A current list of ADWs offering wagering on the V75 may be found at  In addition, to these ADWs, V75 wagering is offered at WEG and New Meadowlands facilities.  Some outlets offer the V86 as well.  According to ATG, Bet America offers the most diverse selection of Swedish racing including thoroughbred and harness racing as well as all the 'V' wagers such as the V86, V64, V65, V5, V4).  In addition, ATG is working with other ADWs to offer their V wagers.  You should contact the individual ADWs identified by ATG with any questions you may have with regards to specific offerings.. 

As a reminder, certain ADWs may not be available to you depending on where you reside.  You should observe all local laws regarding wagering.

Question:  Another reader wants to know if the United States and Canada are working together on suspending horses with failed drug tests for three months and failing that, offer reciprocity?  The reader has researched multiple horses and noted many of them did well before they failed their drug test.  Those who sat out action and returned to racing in Canada typically didn't do well while several of them crossed the border to race in states like Delaware and New York within the three month period and won. 

Specifically, after observing this, the reader asked "How is this deterring trainers/owners/purchasing or claiming of suspended horses etc? If they are not putting a North American ban in place for 3 months,can they not improve info to horse players that their last start involved a failed drug test? With maybe an "FIII" if it was for anabolic steroids for example?"

Answer:  Sadly, there is no talk I am aware of which would suggest uniformity of rules regarding horses failing drug tests is coming.  There has been discussion in publications like HRU about suspending horses and some people argue you are penalizing owners who may have had nothing to do with drugging the horse, so I don't see this happening anytime soon.  As for reciprocity, it depends on the individual state.  Some states will honor the horse's suspension only if the medication violation in question is a violation in their state, others will honor the suspension regardless, others won't honor a horse suspension because the state doesn't suspend horses. 

Sadly, the only way you will see a uniform rule in place is if the states and provinces agree to follow rules set up by a regulatory agency (let's call it the North American Trotting Agency), something which could be done but would take a lot of work.    As you suggest, being able to ship a horse across the border to race reduces the deterrent effect of the three month suspensions.  With regards to your suggestion of noting in a program that a horse failed a drug test, while it has merit, I tend to doubt the industry will want to draw attention to a horse that failed testing, partially for the publicity, partially for deciding which violations get reported as such. 

Thanks to both readers for submitting their questions.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating the Holiday the Old Fashioned Way

Today is Martin Luther King's Birthday and what is there to do?  You can watch the second inaugaration of President Obama or you can do what we always used to do in the good ol' days, hit the track for an afternoon of wagering.  With the limited amount of daytime harness racing, we are focusing on Freehold Raceway which starts their eleven race card at 12:30pm.
1st Pace - NW1500L5
1 - City Pie (Plution, 7-2_
5 - Rockinrollin Now (Manzi, 3-1)
7 - GW Gizmo (DiBenedetto, 6-1)
4 - Ala Carte Bill (Hanney, 9-2)

2nd Pace - $4,000 Claiming
2 - Urjokin A (Pantaleano, 3-1)
1 - Born That Way (Pinkney, 7-2)
8 - Armbro Cayenne (Ginsburg, 5-1)
5 - The Son Ofa Legend (Baggitt, 9-2

3rd Pace - NW1500L5
8 - Scofanman (Lewis, 5-1)
1 - Milliondollar Art (Baggit, 3-1)
3 - Money Paige (Abbatiello, 7-2)
5 - Hunter Hylight (DiBennedetto, 8-1)

4th Pace - $4,000 Claiming (NJOS)
3 - Zion Train (Manzi, 9-2)
1 - Blazing Finale (Baggitt, 5-1)
5 - Jeremy (Ginsburg, 7-2)
2 - Hez Da Man N (Vallee, 5-2)

5th Trot - NW1500L5
8 - Largent Hall(Manzi, 5-)\t/\
6  - Twin Towers (Pantalean, 3-1)
1 - Winterleebrook (Baggitt, 9-2)
3 - Commitment Towin (Abbatiello, 7-2)

6th Pace - NW3500L5
5 - Pass The Deck (Baggitt, 6-1)
3 - Beechwood Terror (Abbatiello, 5-1)
6 - Lebron (Gunsburg, 3-1)
2 - Justlikekelly (Manzi, 9-2)

7th Pace - $10,000 Claiming
4 - Move On (Ginsburg, 5-2)
2 - Dylan Rocks (Pantaleano, 8-1)
3 - Trouble Hanover (DiBenedetto, 7-2)
5 - Box Car Johnnie (Baggitt, 9-2)

8th Pace - NW2500L5
2 - Backwoods Boy (Darish, 5-1)
6 - Matties Gem (Hanney, 12-1)
3 -  Camcracker Dynasty (DiBenedetto, 3-1)
8 - Little Prince (Abbatiello, 9-2)

9th Trot - NW1500L5
4 - Caitir (Pantaleano, 7-2)
5 - Cannes (Ginsburg, 8-1)
7 - King Rova (DiBenedetto, 10-1)
6 - Kristal Dream (Manzi, 3-1)

10th Pace - NW1500L5 FM
4 - Girls Luv Diamonds (Baggitt, 7-2)
1 - Golden Fizz (Abbatiello, 3-1)
8 - Riverlea Hanover (Hanney, 10-1)
2 - Tangerine (Martin, 9-2)

11th Pace - $4,000 Claiming FM
4 - Ajs Blair Bear (Baggitt, 5-1)
2 - News Alert (Pantano, 9-2)
1 - April April (Abbatiello, 7-2)
3 - Forbettor Or Worse (Hanney, 3-1)

I came across this commerical on Facebook for the V75.  For those of us who don't speak Swedish, I am told the commercial is a bettor's tribute to the horse, with emphasis on these athletes doing battle in the winter.

Seeing this commercial, one has to wonder how a commercial like this would play in areas where the racing goes on in the deep winter months.  After all, most people are stuck inside in the evenings due to the early darkness and cold weather. We could be advertising while it is cold outside, the action is hot inside; come escape the cold for a three hour vacation.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Singalo Wins €700,000 Prix de Cornulier

It was a snowy day at Hippodrome Paris-Vincennes for the world's richest monté race, the €700,000 Prix de Cornulier, a 2,700 meter race worth over US$465,000 to the race winner.  When the snow had settled, Singalo was the winner in the second fastest race ever, timed in a 1:12.4 km rate (mile rate of 1:56.3) over a wet fast track.

When you see the race, notice how many starters there were and how they started the race; it reminds me of the way they start steeplechase races.  Anyway, I envision within a few years racing like this in North America.

Anyway, we are now a week a way from the Prix d' Amérique.  More about that as the week progresses.  While the field has not been finalized, it is expected that 18 starters will answer the starter on January 27,

Sunday Briefs

HRU estimates less than 9,000 foals were born in 2012, a modern day low, further showing how harness racing is in a bubble with all the action occuring in the 'used' market but people not buying 'new' models which is the foundation of the sport.  The decrease in foals being born is directly related to the lack of demand for yearlings at a fair price.  Sooner or later the bubble will burst which will result in the industry being forced to act.

Of course, there may be some advantage to the decrease in foals being born.  The horse shortage may eventually force horsemen to agree to shorter meets to allow the horse population to be spread around.  Make no mistake, horsemen will love racing in six horse fields, having to defeat one horse to pick up a check, but sooner or later the tracks will put a stop to it, resulting in fewer tracks racing at the same time, benefiting all.

The Meadowlands continues to post impressive numbers.  On Saturday night's card, all source-handle increased 46% with on-track handle increasing a staggering 48% when compared to the same Saturday last year.  What makes this impressive is every night handle has been up when compared to last year when there was no winter.  While not horific, the weather was certainly better last year.  Whatever they are doing, they should keep on doing.

Of course, the real test will come once Pennsylvania's eastern tracks re-open for the season and horsemen move on to green pastures.   However, it appears the Meadowlands has hit its stride so while the wagering may level off somewhat, it would be a fair guess handle will continue to exceed last year's figures. 

Feuding continues between Running Aces Harness Park and Canterbury Park with Running Aces planning on cancelling the simulcast agreement with Canterbury.  Cancellation of this agreement means each track will only be able to simulcast their own breed of racing which means harness only for Running Aces and thoroughbred and quarter horse racing for Canterbury Park.  Needless to say, this will hurt Running Aces more.  In addition, Running Aces has stopped paying Canterbury impact fees they negotiated to get their license which go directly into Canterbury's purse account, claiming Canterbury Park has breached the contract; an issue which is now in the courts between Running Aces and Canterbury Park and its horsemen association.  While specifics are not known, one has to think the fact Canterbury sacrificed Running Aces to make their own deal with an Indian tribe for purse supplements has to be a factor.  It should be interesting to see how this plays out.

While doing research on the last story, I came across the Minnesota HBPA website where they had a tab for retired horses.  Under this tab they describe the no-slaughter policy at Canterbury Park plus provide links to horse rescue groups.  In addition the site has a basic one page contract for surrendering or selling a horse for non-racing purposes preventing the horse from being sold to slaughter.

What makes this amazing is I am not aware of any standardbred racing industry site which is a black mark on the standardbred sport.  On the Rosecroft Raceway site, a standardbred track which is alleged to have a similar policy being owned by Penn National gaming, there is no mention of the policy and there is nothing on the local horsemen's group site either.  When will harness racing formally embrace such policies and post links like the MN HBPA?

NJAW going through a makeover?  A decision has been made to replace the current NJAW wagering platform with a new turnkey operation.  At the present time, bidders are Sportstech (the current vendor) and TVG with others possibly joining in the bidding.  The current contract expires at the end of 2013.  If done right, hopefully the shortcomings horseplayers in New Jersey experience will be a thing of the past.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Drug Testing and the Unfairness of Racing Life

Give trainer Gary Machiz credit for his column  in today's HRU where he talks about drug testing.  It is rare when a trainer publicly goes on record with the issue of medication violations.  In the article, Machiz suggests we scrap the current testing regime and test every horse before a race.  If a horse comes back with a 'cloudy' test, he is scratched and must re- qualify fourteen days later after producing a 'clear' test.  If the cloudy test is the result of an error in medication, other than the loss of a start there is no penalty but if the test comes back with a true positive, then sanctions would be handled out. 

Of course, the only problem is the cost involved.  Instead of testing three or four horses a race, you are now testing every horse on the racing program, perhaps 100 vs. 30.  That involves money, one of the reasons Pennsylvania got rid of pre-race testing several years ago (the cost).  However, if integrity matters shouldn't Mr. Machiz's proposal be considered? 

In yesterday's DRF, Derick Giwner takes objection to the current twelve horse races at the Meadowlands and the banishment of Mr. Garcia-Herrera.  As Giwner suggests, the wagering hasn't really increased in the twelve horse fields and he wonders what the sense of continuing them is.  Well, the public has spoken in the past that they want larger fields to wager on so the only way to see if they will support such races is to give them a chance.  I would argue that less than a month is not a sufficient test.  With regards to the second tier horses hitting the board so infrequently, the distance of the race is part of the problem but I would also assign some of the blame on self-fulfilling drives by the drivers.  If  after another month or so betting doesn't improve on these races, then management needs to consider either stretching out the races or jettisoning them.  At this point any such action is premature.

Giwner also wonders why Mr. Garcia-Herrera has been excluded from racing at the Meadowlands while he was not last year; especially when he has had no serious offenses since he came to the East Coast.  Let's not kid ourselves, it is all about Lou Pena; Gracia-Herrera will admit they are friends and he took over some of his horses last year at Yonkers when Pena was given his walking papers.  Is Garcia-Herrera an unfortunate victim of guilt by association?  Perhaps.  However, when you are a track operator whose only advantage over many tracks is perceived to be integrity, who you associate with does matter, especially when there is a problem with beards in the industry.

Is it fair?  Perhaps not, but if I recall, we learned in elementary school when the troublemaker wouldn't own up for their action and the whole class was punished that life isn't fair.  I would suggest others look at Mr. Garcia-Herrera's problems as a cautionary tale.

Over on the running side of racing, I'm glad that NYRA is looking at solutions for the seemingly high number of breakdowns on Aqueduct's inner track during the winter months even considering the installing of a synthetic track.  However, I can't help but wonder if they are missing the most obvious option; no winter racing. 

By racing this time of year, NYRA is depending on a cheaper class of horse to race which are more prone to having breakdowns.  If NYRA took the winter months off, these horses with soundness issues would have a three month period of rest, rather than racing in the sometimes frozen-tundra.  There is plenty of good racing in the Southern parts of the United States which would keep their customers wagering, and at the same time allow gamblers to whet their appetite for when the horses returned north.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Just Saying

First, for those looking for big pools, there is an Instant $30,000 guaranteed Pick-5 pool at Cal Expo tonight with the first leg (race three) kicking-off roughly at 10:05pm (EST).  Program pages for the Pick-5, courtesy of Trackmaster may be found here.

Like many of you, you probably caught part of Lance Armstrong's conversation with Oprah last night on television.  During this interview, Armstrong admitted to cheating, using various methods to win the seven Tour de France bike races.  It got me thinking about parallels with horse racing.

How many people didn't think Armstrong was cheating in all these races?  After all, how does someone win seven Tour de France races, especially as they grow older?  Like one of those super trainers, you know something isn't kosher, but you can't put your finger on it.  In the meanwhile the trainer in question keeps doing what they have been doing, basically laughing at you as they head to the bank.  When we found out that Armstrong was confessing, it was a 'knock me over with a feather moment'.

As Armstrong indicated, he didn't consider it 'cheating' per se because he was doping to keep up with everyone, not to get ahead.  How many trainers explain cheating for the very same reason?

Like in horse racing, Armstrong didn't name names.  Doesn't that sound like racing where horsemen complain about someone using the juice, yet few go to the regulators and name names?  The code of silence lives on.

Like racing, cycling's regulatory body, UCI, welcomes Armstrong admission, claiming his admission was "an important step forward on the long road to repairing the damage that has been caused to cycling and to restoring confidence in the sport".  Yes, cycling has earned a bad reputation which began before Armstrong one his first Tour de France but does anyone really think the confession of a big fish is sufficient in restoring the reputation of cycling?  Yes, Lance Armstrong may have been the big fish, the one everyone was aiming for, but UCI can't just wipe their hands and say 'We're done'; there is a lot more work needed to restore the reputation of racing.  The same applies in horse racing.  Catching the one big fish is just the start, there is a lot of work needed to restore the reputation of racing.

Just saying....

Grading the Stakes - Part 7

VFTRG contributor Joe F., continues on his lengthy series regarding grading stakes races.  In this entry Joe F. grades the stakes races for three year old trotting fillies.

Grading the stakes races for three-year-old trotting fillies.

Grade 1

Kentucky Futurity—Lexington—ctober--$490,000
Heats…..No Market Share or Goo in 2012…..Archangel and My MVP won their preliminary 114K heats. My MVP won the final…….In 2011 MOMM broke in his 196K elimination which was won by supplemental entry, Dejarmbro. MOMM beat Dejarmbro and Big Rigs in the next heat, and won the 98K final…….Since 1893…..Peter Volo, Spencer, Victory Song, Emily’s Pride, Scott Frost and Nevele Pride all won the Futurity…..As good as it gets.

Colonial—Pocono in 2012—Asugust--$500,000 in 2012

This was one of three noteworthy stakes races Goo was eligible for in 2012 and he beat Market Share and LBF. The Takter entry of LBF, Guccio and Uncle Peter was the even money favorite, with Goo and Market Share both going off at 2/1……..In 2011 MOMM turned the tables on Broad Bahn, as he rolled past that one at mid-stretch. Dejarmbro was second…… In 2011 it was Dejarmbro who wasn’t staked to the Hambletonion and had to be supplemented to the Kentucky Futurity and Breeders Crown. Goo’s connections took a different approach: they passed on these races. He did go in the Beal and the Yonkers Trot, however.

Goo in 2012 as the 1/2 favorite. He had established a WR of :51.3 the previous week in his elimination, and he knocked four ticks off that in the final……Dejarmbro (2/1) beat Pastor Stephen—the 9/5 favorite--and Broad Bahn in 2011.


Goes to same day eliminations in 2013. The winner of the “final” wins the race regardless of how the eliminations turned out……Three eliminations in 2012, won by Uncle Peter, Knows Nothing and Market Share…..Since 1926

Breeders Crown—Pocono—October--$547,000 in 2012

The purse was 65K lighter in 2012 than it was in 2011……The winner, Intimidate, was supplemented to the race for $62,500. He beat LBF and Market Share. The latter earned a million dollars more than any other sophomore trotter in 2012, yet he didn’t always get respect on the tote board. He was 15/1 in the Yonkers Trot while Goo was the 1/5 favorite. In the Hambo Market Share went off at 4/1 while Uncle Peter was the 8/5 choice. In the Colonial the Takter trio was the even money favorite while Market Share was 2/1. And in the BC MS was the 2/1 second choice to the new kid on the block, Intimidate.

Canadian Trotting Classic—Mohawk—September--$1 million
Market Share—3/5 from the rail—over LBF and Guccio in 2012. 10 horse field……Daylon won in 2011. He was the 3/1 second choice to 9/5 MOMM. Broad Bahn slowed to a crawl at the half. Chapter Seven went off at 48/1 in that race, from the nine with Mike Lachance….. Lucky Ckucky beat Break The Bank in 2010……Since 1976. Haughton’s HOF Immortal, Keystone Pioneer, the dam of Roosevelt International winner Kit Lobell, won the first one. Ima Lula, who was HOY in Canada, won the second. So fillies took the first two, but no filly has won the CTC since.

Goodtimes—Mohawk—June--$351,000 in 2012

Beer Summit (8/1) set a track and stakes record in 2012. He beat Prayer Session and Gym Tan Laundry. The latter cut the mile. Market Share, who was too far back, was the 9/5 favorite and Knows Nothing was the 2/1 second choice…….Blue Porsche beat a weak field for 347K in 2011. Several weeks later Blue Porsche and Chapter Seven raced as an entry (2/5) in a Hambo elimination won by Broad Bahn……Obviously these ratings are based on what has been. Who knows to what extent races like the Goodtimes and CTC will be altered—it they survive at all—under the new racing format in Canada.

Grade 2

Yonkers Trot—July--$445,000 in 2012
It’s the opening leg of the Trotting Triple Crown, dating back to 1955. Scott Frost, Speedy Scot, Super Bowl and Muscles Yankee all won the YT. Scott Frost, Speedy Scot and Ayres were the first three to win the Triple Crown. The race carried a purse of more than 445K in 2012. It’s at a major league track. That being said, how can I make it a one?.......Like the other stakes at YR, nominations are lacking. Five entered in 2012. There was win and exacta betting only. GM Bob Galiterio called the turn out embarrassing and indicated changes would be made to make all the Yonkers stakes races more affordable and desirable. ……In 2012 Goo (1/5) broke stride a couple of times and Archangel won in :54.1, a WR for a sophomore trotter on a half. It was the fastest Yonkers Futurity ever, equaling Blacktuxwhitesocks’ all-age record. But only five starters!…….In 1983 a record purse of 486K drew a record field of 25. The three eliminations were raced at the beginning of the program and the fifth race was the final……In 2011 fifteen entered, requiring a couple of 40K eliminations. On The Tab won the 574K final……In 2009 Judge Joe won the 608K final…….With the impending contraction in Ontario the Yonkers Trot will have to shape up and act like a one, but  it’s tough to label it as such when it only draws five starters.  

Simcoe—Mohawk—September--$246,000 in 2012

Single dash in 2012. Intimidate’s coming out party—narrow loss to LBF. Knows Nothing was third. LBF was the 3/2 favorite. Intimidate was sent away at 26/1. Nine horse field……In 2011 there were two divisions. Pastor Stephen and Whiskey Tax won 123K splits over Lucky Chucky and Whatever It Takes…..In 2010 Break The Bank (4/5) and Muscle Massive (1/5) won 128K splits.

American-National—Balmoral—November in 2012--$235,000 in 2012

Market Share (1/5) over Appomattox and Money On My Mind in a 10 horse field in 2012……..The 2011 purse was only half what it was last year as GJ Photo Victory (8/5) won in a 7 horse field…….Even money favorite, Wishing Stone, won in 2010. The purse was 150K. 2012 was something of an anomaly as Market Share’s connections chose to end the season with a brush and crush tour of the Midwest featuring starts in the Am-Nat and Galt.

Old Oaken Bucket—Delaware, Ohio—September--$126,000 in 2012

Prayer Session over Fusion Man and Frost Bites K in 2012…..Celebrity Bombay in 2011….Two 75K divisions in 2009.

Stanley Dancer Memorial—Meadowlands—July--$150,000 splits in 2012
Prep for Hambletonion. In 2012 Uncle Peter (2/5) was an easy winner over six for a 150K purse in one split and in the other LBF beat Guccio, Goo and Possess The Will for a 153K purse. Goo, the 2/5 favorite, broke into the first turn…..Dancer, whose trademark move was the fast start, passed in Florida in September, 2005 at age 78. He survived 32 racetrack accidents, four car crashes, a helicopter crash and a plane crash…..The winner of the first edition of this race, 1976, which was then the Beacon Course Trot, was the Arden Homestead’s Florlis colt, Tropicl Storm, who wired the field for Ralph Baldwin and paid $69.

Bluegrass—Lexington—October—3 divisions @ $75,000 each in 2012

The fact that it is split makes it a two…..Guccio, Money On My Mind and Appomattox won in 2012…..Since 1970. Savoir won the first one. He won the Roosevelt International, the ATC twice, the Maple Leaf twice and was HOY in 1975. He earned $1.3 million and was the only millionaire son or daughter of Stars Pride.

The Oliver—Indy—November--$260,000 in 2012
Upfront Billy (6/1) over Uncle Peter in 2012. Ten horse field. The four horse entry consisting of Uncle Peter and three Antonacci horses was 1/5…..Mr Web Page won in 2011. The purse was 231K…..Powerful Speed (9/1) won in 2010. There was a 200K purse.

Dexter Cup—Freehold—May--$138,000 in 2012

Not Afraid (7/1) won in 2012. The 2/5 favorite, Market Share, broke stride at the quarter for Jeff Gregory……Ice Machine (8/5) beat Marcus Bi in 2011. The purse was 160K…..In 2010 Flex The Muscle, part of a three horse Schnittker entry (1/9), was the winner.

Zweig—Vernon—August--$350,000 in 2012

Market Share (3/5) over Magic Tonight and Solvato in 2012……Two divisions in 2011. Broad  Bahn (1/5) for 122K …….Charlie De Vie (9/5) for 124K in 2010……Since 1975.

Matron—Dover—November--$140,000 in 2012
Takter Sweep in 2012. Guccio (5/2) over Uncle Peter and LBF. Big Rigs (17/1) came up the inside to beat 1/9 favorite Chapter Seven in 2011. The purse was 175K….In 2010 the purse was 237K. 1/9 favoite, Wishing Stone, beat 65/1 outsider, Hard Livin, and 39/1 shot, Take My Picture…..From 2010 to 2011 the purse dropped 26% and then fell another 20% between 2011 and 2012.

Grade 3 or 4

Circle City—Indy—October—2 divisions @ $45,000 each in 2012
Upfront Billy and Prayer Session in 2012…..Three divisions in 2011.

Arden Downs—Meadows—July--2 divisions @ $33,000 each in 2012

Rock N Jessie and Redder Than Red in 2012….Since 1958. Important in 1960s and ‘70s. Circo, Harlan Dean, Ayres, Lindy’s Pride and Songcan all won the Arden.

Currier And Ives—Meadows—June—2 divisions @ 65K each in 2012

Frost Bites K (7/5) and Upfront Billy (6/5) in 2012…..Single dash for 125K in 2011. Winner was 48/1 shot, Fawkes……Three divisions in 2010.

Landmark—July—Historic Track--$18,000 in 2012

Jersey Boy….

John Simpson Memorial—May—Meadowlands in 2012--$55,000

Goo (1/2) from the eight in 2012. Crush job over Royal Shyster and Gym Tan Laundry. :54.1 (:27)….At VD in 2010 and 2011…..Ice Machine and Charlie De Vie won 23K divisions in 2011…..Held at The Red Mile from 2004 to 2009….Since 1994. Previously Hanover-Hempt.

Tompkins-Geers—Tioga—July—2 divisions @ 33K each

Archangel (1/9) and Coraggioso in 2012….The Evictor won for 38K in 2011.

Townsend Ackerman—Meadowlands--August--$50,000

There was an eleven horse field in 2012, but show wagering was not offered. The winner, LBF, was part of a four horse entry that went off at 1/5 and there was also a three horse entry…..NJ is Entryville, USA…..There were two divisions in 2011. The even money favorite, Whatever It Takes, won one of them and the 31/1 shot, Vindicate, won the other for Marcus Johansson. Each went for 50K.

Dickerson Cup—Tioga

Coraggioso in 2012….Live Jazz (7/5) as part of a three horse entry in 2011 for a 78K purse…..Holiday Road won in 2010 at M1 for an 80K purse….. Split in 2009…..Since 1910. Dean Hanover, Rodney, Scott Frost, Duke Rodney, Nevele Pride, Donato and Dewey all won the Dickerson.

Galt—Maywood—November--$108,000 in 2012

Market Share (1/9) made his final start of 2012 in the Galt, beating Lindy’s Jersey Boy and Appomattox at 1/9……Two 50K divisions in 2011. Haulin Laser and Mr Web Page were the winners.

Hanover—Balmoral—July--$34,000 in 2012
Riccolo won at even money. Split in 2010.

Tie Silk—Woodbine—April--$50,000 final

Knows Nothing (1/2) over Cold Certified in 2012……Onirique (45/1) over 1/5 RAs Snakebite in 2011. 60K final.

Charles Singer Memorial—Meadowlands--$44,000 final in 2012.

No 2012….Since 1894


Five horse field in 2012. Money On My Mind (9/5) over Possess The Will and Lightning Storm….Previously held at Pocono….Two 33K splits in 2011. Opening Night and Magnum Kosmos won……Three splits in 2010….Since 1952. Crockett, Polaris, Nevele Pride, Surefire Hanover and Speed In Action all won the Reynolds.