The HANA Harness 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness, IHHA, Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs kicks off tonight with the $84,000 Courageous Lady at Northfield Park. A team of ten handicappers will be making their selections in Grand Circuit final races during the whole racing season and their selections will be available here.
To commemorate the kickoff of the contest, here is my analysis and my $30 in wagers on the race.
Nfld - 11th Pace - $84,000; The Courageous Lady - 3yo fillies
1 Miss Madi M (Stahl, 9-2) - A well beaten second to Charisma Hanover. Looks to chase that one home again.
2 Diligent Prospect (Noble, 10-1) - Has the ability to go around the half. Share with trip.
3 Champagne Tonight (Miller, 7-2) - Kicks season off a dominating qualifier. Chance for minor upset.
4 Carols Desire (Wrenn, 4-1) - Steps up off strong qualifier. This may be a little too difficult.
5 Charisma Hanover (Palone, 5-2) - Returned like a monster and figures to be the one to beat this week.
6 Whetstone Hanover ( Wilder, 12-1) - Draws poorly against these. Pass.
7 Cams Macharena (Smith, 8-1) - Grassroots campaigner down from Woodbine. May find way into the exotics.
The plays - There is no denying Charisma Hanover is the one to beat in this race but those 5-2 odds are false; Charisma is likely to go off at 4-5 or less. Therefore, I will try for some exotics and hope to get a price.
$5 Exacta 5-2,7 ($10)
$5 Exacta 2,7-5 ($10)
$2 Exacta Box 3,5 ($4)
$1 Trifecta Box 2,5,7 ($6)
Northfield Park along with the USTA's Strategic Wagering Program has a $10,000 guaranteed Pick-4 on tap tonight along with a low 14% takeout rate. With that rate, the wager is worth a look.
The contest continues tomorrow with the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Finals at Yonkers Raceway. The complete schedule of the contest may be found on the contest site.
Discord in New Jersey - For the first time, significant discord is brewing with the Garden State's horsemen groups and Monmouth Park over Gural's plans for slot revenue and racing dates if the Meadowlands gets slots machines, according to HRU. Horsemen feel they would not get enough revenue from the slots, feel Freehold Raceway is being left out of the equation, and are upset that Gural is not planning on adding race dates at the Meadowlands. Furthermore, the feeling is without cutting the Atlantic City casinos in for a share, any plan will be DOA.
I will be the first one to say horsemen should get more than 5% of the revenue; how much more is debatable. In other states they get around 10% but that is with multiple racino locations; each track having their own casino. With there being only one racino for all the tracks, 10% is not feasible. That being said, there is no reason 8% could not be achieved. As for Freehold Raceway, it is possible the SBOANJ can divert part of their share to Freehold for purses.
As for racing days, it would be nice if the Meadowlands could go back to five days a week but it isn't feasible. While the Meadowlands would have higher purses and draw more horses to the entry box, the fact remains there are three other slot tracks in the vicinity so there will still be a horse shortage. To go back to a five day a week schedule, there would be an abundance of six horse fields which horsemen may love but is not a good product. I suspect four days would not work either, but three days a week during the entire meet is certainly reasonable. If the tracks in New York and Pennsylvania would agree to a circuit, then the days could be increased further.
I would not be all that concerned at this point with this dispute. This is Gural's first proposal, an opening salvo. Once talk got serious, I suspect Atlantic City may be cut in (no need to cut them in if you can get away with it) as will the number of dates and percentages for horsemen be up for discussion. Unlike other individuals, Gural realizes you can't just look at things in New Jersey and say to hell with everyone else; you need to consider the region. If horsemen groups can realize the world doesn't start and end with New Jersey, an agreement can easily be reached which will be mutually satisfactory.