For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekend Stakes Action (Part 2)

In the first installment, we discussed the Molson Invitational, the Lismore and Art Rooney.  In this installment, we will discuss the two divisions of the Somebeachsomewhere at Mohawk, the Golden Girls divisions and the TVG FFA at the Meadowlands.  While we will not discuss them, the finals for the 3yo NJSS races will be contested tonight as well.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

3rd Mohawk - $75,000 Somebeachsomewhere (1st Division) - 3yos; Pace
1 - Sweet Talkin Satin (R Zeron, 8-1) - Failed against state breds, never a good sign when going against open company.
2 - Vegas Vacation (S Zeron, 2-1) - Appears to be the class of the race and riding two race win streak; one to beat.
3 - Tarpon Hanover (Jamieson, 7-2) - Don't rule out if can finally get a good trip.
4 - Evenin of Pleasure (Filion, 4-1) - Had signs of brilliance last year.  Can land in exotics.
5 - Captive Audience (Waples, 3-1) - Will need to be up closer to be a factor.
6 - Mach Pride (MacDonald, 15-1) - If looking for an upset play, this would be the one. 
7 - Urbanite Hanover (Campbell, 10-1) - 1 for 14 career wise; enough said.
Selections: 2-3-4

9th Mohawk - $75,000 Somebeachsomewhere (2nd Division) - 3yos; Pace
1 - Fool Me Once (Filion, 7-2) -Undefeated this year.  If fave falters can take advantage.
2 - Odds On Equuleus (Campbell, 2-1) - Reported ready to fire at first asking.  Expect odds-on.
3 - Moonliteonthebeach (Waples, 10-1) - Tough spot to try better.  Pass.
4 - Varadero Hanover (Moiseyev, 8-1) -  Must show more to prove belongs in here.
5 - Resistance Futile (MacDonald, 8-1) - Green horse in tough here.
6 - Sunshine Beach (Christoforou, 4-1) - Seems to have returned in fine form.  We will see tonight how good.
7 - See and Ski (S Zeron, 4-1) - Big step up here.  Pass.
Selections:  2-1-6

1st Meadowlands - $90,450 Golden Girls (1st Division) - FFA Mares; Pace
1 - Feeling You (A Miller, 3-1) - No chance in last.  Based of recent, the one to beat.
2 - Ginger And Fred (Pierce, 6-1) - Has yet to get on track this year.
3 - Bettor B Lucky (Gingras, 4-1) - Should appreciate the return to the big track.  Lands share.
4 - Romantic Moment (D Miller, 9-2) - Not sure ready to go against older company.
5 - Swinging Beauty (Macdonald, 15-1) - Will need a big reversal to land share.
6 - Anndrovette (Tetrick, 6-5) - Appears to be second best here.
Selections: 1-6-3

7th Meadowlands  -$92,950 Golden Girls (2nd Division) - FFA Mares; Pace
1 - Camille (Macdonald, 4-1) - Post puts her in good striking distance; possibility.
2 - Drop The Ball (Callahan, 9-2) - Faltered late in last.  Must be better rated for a chance.
3 - Major Look (Lachance, 15-1) - Steps up to race here; don't see it.
4 - Royal Cee Cee N (Pierce, 5-1) - A factor all year long; can pick up the pieces.
5 - Economy Terror (Tetrick, 5-2) - Benefited from fast fractions in last.  Not convinced.
6 - Krispy Applie (A Miller, 8-1) - While has won here, seems to be a half mile specialist.
7 - Rocklamation (Gingras, 7-2) - Also benefited from fast fractions in last.
Selections: 1-7-5

10th Meadowlands - $50,000; TVG FFA; Pace 
   1 - Fred And Ginger (Pierce, pp 1, 4-1) - Just missed at Hoosier.  Won from here before.
1A - Dynamic Yourh (Callahan, pp 9, 4-1) - Won against 4yo; tougher against older.
  2  - Sweet Lou (Gingras, pp 5, 5-2) - Won Maturity; One of several who figure.
2A - Hillbilly Hanover (Johansson, pp 8, 5-2) - Weaker half of entry.  Dismiss.
  3 - Pet Rock (Allard, pp 2, 10-1) - Comes off four qualifiers to make first start against aged.  Want to see it first.
  4 - Modern Legend (A Miller, pp 3, 20-1) - Could land share with a trip.
  5 - Hurrikane Kingcole (Mc Dermott, pp 4, 20-1) - Threw in a stinker in last.  Must redeem self.
  6 - Dancin Yankee (Davis, pp 6, 25-1) - Long shot could make it into tris and supers.
  7 - Golden Receiver (Tetrick, pp 7, 2-1) - Loves the track must respect.  A lock?  No.
  8 - Warrawee Needy (Macdonald, pp 10, 6-1) - Nice effort in last.  Has been snake bitten.
  9 - Dial Or Nodial (Lachance, pp 11, 10-1) - Tough from this spot.
10 - Bettor's Edge (Berry, pp 12, 5-1) - Making second seasonal start.  Tab for later.
#9 Dial or No Dial and #10 Bettor's Edge start from second tier.
Selection: 1-7-2-6

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Weekend Stakes Action (Part 1)

With some really good stakes racing coming up this weekend, let's take a look at the Grand Circuit events for this weekend.  Today we will discuss the $150,000 Molson Pace Invitational at The Raceway at Western Fair District and the $117,060 Lismore and $355,000 Art Rooney at Yonkers Raceway.

Friday, May 31, 2013

12th Western Fair Raceway - $150,000 Molson Pace (Invitational); Pace
1 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 7-5) - The master of the half miler draws the rail.  Should win from here but are you willing to accept 4-5 or less?
2 - Aracache Hanover (Mcnair, 6-1) - No chance in Dan Patch, draws inside.  Should follow the leader and take a shot in the stretch.  At these odds, worth a look.
3 - State Treasurer (Waples, 4-1) - Beaten favorite at Mohawk in last and draws better.  Lands minor spoils.
4  - Versado (Zeron, 7-1) - Has tailed off since racing against 'A' stock.  Will be lucky to land on Hi-Five.
5  - Rock On Moe (Forward, 12-1) - Local entrant has been racing well but appears to be up against it. 
6 - Keystone Velocity (Henry, 8-1) - Would dismiss except he picks up one hot driver. A win is unlikely but would include in triactors.
7  - A Rocknroll Dance (Campbell, 10-1) - Who would have thought this one would be 10-1 morning in morning line.  Draws the extreme outside but shows  the ability to get around on the half.  At 10-1 or higher, may have to take a shot.
8  - Betterthancheddar  (Brennan, 8-5) - Well prepped but can't see these odds starting from second tier.  Will need to work to get seriously involved.
Selections: 2-1-7-8-4

Saturday, June 1, 2013

7th Yonkers Raceway - $117,060 Lismore - 3yo fillies; Pace
  1 - Freetime (Stratton, pp 3, 4-1) - Started back slow but shows a win on 9-10 in NYSS event at YR.
1A - Handsoffmycupcake (Dube, pp 5, 4-1) - Won qualifier and seems ready to give a good account of herself.  Must consider. 
   2  - Mattwestern (Brennan, pp 1, 3-1) - Winner of second tier state bred race in Philly.  Want to see more against top flight fillies.
   3 - JK Black Beauty (Sears, pp 2, 8-1) - Returns to the half mile track which she loves.  May wake up at a price.
   4  - Aria J (B Miller, pp 4, 10-1) - Appears overmatched.  Pass.
   5  - Offintothesunset (Holland, pp 6, 5-1) - Just missed in PASS after being interfered with.    My pick here.
   6 - Live Entertainment (D Miller, pp 7, 5-1) - Takter trainee won PASS event but goes from the rail to post 7.  Your guess.
   7 - Give Me An Amen (Bartlett, pp 8, 10-1) - The post of death.
Selections: 5-3-1A

9th Yonkers Raceway - $355,000 Art Rooney; Pace
  1 - Sunfire Blue Chip (Dube, pp 1, 5-1) - Jumped in stretch but may have already been done.  Pass here.
1A - Source of Pride (D Miller, pp 2, 5-1) - Winner of elimination once again draws well.  A decent chance.
  2 - Mach It So (B Miller, pp 3, 6-1) - Finished behind #1A in last but moves in.  Could shock.
  3 - Good Day Mate (Bartlett, pp 4, 6-1) - Stakes caliber horse should be tighter.  Eligible to improve.
  4 - Doctor Butch (Brennan, pp 5, 3-1) - Held own against best last year and has a race under his belt.  The one to beat.
  5 - Sir Cary's Z Tam (Lachance, pp 6, 5-1) - Elim winner has two race win streak going.  Too much early speed inside?
  6 - Lonewolf Currier (Sears, pp 7, 4-1) - Another competitive one but draws poorly.
  7 - Bet The Moon (Goodell, pp 8, 10-1) - May be in deep.  Pass. 
Selections - 4-3-2

Gambler Beware

I promise, here is the last time I plan to talk about the fair start rule for a long, long time.

You may be wondering what made me discuss the Fair Start rule once again.  A Canadian gambler brought the Hazel Park race to my attention which made me take a look at it.  After reading my most recent blog on the subject, this individual responded to me saying,

"I honestly had no idea before now that the "Fair Start Rule" only applied up here. I kept expecting to see that the horse was a VERY late scratch, or, to see the inquiry sign and a refund for sure. Imagine my shock when the race was declared official and my money taken.  Gambler Beware!" 

Gambler Beware indeed.  Welcome to the Great Money Grab.

Yesterday I gave the benefit as to why the Fair Start Rule went down to defeat in New Jersey  As I said in yesterday's post I was being naïve to give the NJRC the benefit of the doubt.  Today, I can speak with more certainty.  Supposedly the tote companies would have a problem if a horse left behind at the fair start pole managed to get into a paying position despite being 300' behind at the start.  This is a red herring.  If the tote companies can't handle it the easy thing to do is tell the driver of a horse left behind to pull up or not to scratch the horse until after the race is over to make sure he doesn't finish in a paying position.

Let's not kid ourselves, it is the fear of racetracks and horsemen losing the commission they would have earned on the horse if it was declared a starter.  What if a favorite was left behind at the fair start pole when the race begins?  How much would the track and horsemen lose?

Sadly, the fact is while racing commissions purport to protect the interests of the horseplayer, they are pro-industry and don't really look out for the interests of the horseplayer.

So if you think the racing commission will protect your interests, gamblers beware.

Finally, a story about the danger of betting with an off-shore operation which promises to pay track odds.  One unlucky gambler wagered with one of those off-shore companies and hit the Pick-4 in Australia and was paid zilch.  You see, the off-shore company paid off using North American odds and since the wagers weren't comingled, no one in North America had the Pick-4, hence no payoff on a winning ticket.

So if considering wagering with an off-shore wagering company; gambler beware..

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Cautionary Tale

You know how two years ago whipping became a real big issues and people said we couldn't change the way we do things, complaining when tracks or states changed the rules?  You know how this year horse rescue and retirement has become a big issue and the standardbred industry on the whole refuses to do anything?

Well, read this cautionary tale from the President of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors Association.  Explaining how he actually voted to support a legislative amendment to toughen the penalties for soring and similar methods which have been used by the industry to get their horses to show that high step move.  Even though he and his executive committee voted to support this amendment, the board of directors refused to endorse that vote, killing it before lunch on the same day.  The reason why, "It's the way we always did it".  What makes this a cautionary tale?  As the TWHBEA President stated: “Sadly, we have no more friends outside our industry.

The Tennessee Walking Horse industry has become a pariah to the horse industry; no one wants to associate with them, wiping their hands clean of them.

What has happened to the Tennessee Walking Horse can happen to the standardbred; we just need to keep refusing to change to reflect modern sensibilities and keep on doing things the same way they have always been.

Saratoga Raceway and Casino have announced plans for a $30 million expansion with a total of zilch being spent to improve the racing side of the facility.  Not that this surprises anyone but I bet you won't hear any horsemen complaining.  Just keep sending that slot money in and they are happy.

Grand River Raceway is cutting their takeout rates significantly across the board. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Scorching Tickets Early and Other Miscellanery

Oops, it happened again (not that it will be the last time).  Last night at Hazel Park in their 8th race the favorite was #2 Slip, going off at 8-5.  Watching the replay of the race I noticed the two hole was empty on the starting gate.  There was no mention of him at all in the race call at all.  The fact is he broke well, well before the start of the race yet betting continued and those who wagered on him were left holding the bag.  The chart shows him breaking before the start and being distanced the whole race, finishing in a blazing 2:12.3; a mere 78 1/4 lengths behind (that far back how do they tell the 1/4 length?).  As the person who brought this to my attention noted, "I watched the race live on the computer and not once did they show him.  They should be ashamed to keep the commission on this horse".

Unfortunately, they are not ashamed to keep the commission in instances like this and it is a blight on harness racing.  In all of the United States, the only state which allows for a fair start rule such as in Canada is North Dakota (and they haven't raced in a few years there).  Proponents of the fair start rule were recently handed a defeat when the NJRC voted down a proposal to institute a fair start pole.

Why it got defeated, who knows?  Let's be naïve and say it has to do with the fact NJ would have been the only state to have a fair start rule.  Maybe what needs to happen is for someone to submit the proposal to the USTA to be voted upon at their next annual meeting.  In all likelihood, being how clueless tracks and horsemen are about this, the only thing such a proposal would do is bring a lot of levity to district meetings when the proposal came up for discussion.

I've said it before and I will say it again.  If wagering was closed, then it would be one thing to have a ticket scorched before the word 'go' is said, but as long as wagering is continuing it is unconscionable not to have a fair start pole.

As for Hazel Park's track announcer, a word of advice.  Should this happen again, at least somewhere in your race call mention something like "Slip broke well before the starting gate".  At least those who bet on the horse will know what happened to the horse; being they are contributed to your bottom line, it is the least you can do for them.

We all know harness racing has a bad name, far worse than thoroughbred racing.  To some extent the criticism is warranted, but it certainly doesn't help when there is a bias in the media.  For example a headline in the Herald Sun from Australia blares out "Trots Trainer Charged with Race Fixing".  A person just glancing at the paper is likely to remember about those cheating trots.  Of course, if the person read the article, they will also learn about people charged with drenching a thoroughbred.  The fact is, there are those involved in racing of all breeds who are willing to cheat to get ahead; it is human nature.  I just wish the press would be more evenhanded when reporting the 'ugly' in racing.

The Paulick Report has an article where America's Best Racing Vehicle has been very successful in getting the younger generation interested in racing.  Sure they show up at racetracks on big race days but they also set up shop in front of bars and other places where those in their 20s hang out.  Events like Back to the Track are good, but marketing only to those who show up to the track while useful, omits a large number of the target market.  You can't wait for the people to come to the track, you need to bring the track experience to them.

Reading Trot's May issue, a common complaint was learning how to read a program.  On the Job Training (OJT) can be an expensive lesson for gamblers.  Maybe something more logical would be to have a learner's night at the track; a night where qualifiers are conducted at a slower pace and participants learn at no cost how to read the program and get a feel for the game at no cost.  Better yet, without the experienced gamblers being inconvenienced.

Perhaps have only nine races instead of twelve.  Have reduced price concessions and offer wagering using mock money where at the end of the night the prizes can be gifts; not money.  Basically, you are simulating a night of racing where those twenty year olds can learn all about racing at no cost, yet have a night out.  Don't want to do this at the track?  Bring the track to the bar using replays of races.  If you want new fans, you got to go where they are; you can't expect them to just show up.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Another Look at the Molson Pace

VFTRG contributor Joe F., takes another look at the Molson Pace since the announcement of two additional entrants:

The folks at Western Fair have turned Friday’s Molson Pace, which wasn’t looking very inviting, into a compelling race. Casie Coleman has accepted an invitation to start Cheddar and ARNRD has filled the spot left open when Something For Doc was pulled from the race. Foiled Again, who won the last two editions, will also be entered.
Keystone Velocity, who made his last ten starts over the Yonkers half-miler and won the open there a couple of weeks ago, has drawn the six. Rock On Moe, State Treasurer, Versado and Aracache fill out the field. The latter, who starts from the two, loves the little track at London. He wired the field in his elimination last year and found his way to the top in the final, after leading a five across charge around the first turn from the outside post. Razzle Dazzle (Campbell) and Foiled were both stuck outside for much of the mile. Aracache doesn’t match up very well with the likes of Cheddar and Foiled, but with his gate speed and an inside post, he can make the race interesting for those chasing him. He took the field out in :26.3 last year.

The purse has been cut in half, but the field is just as good or better than last year’s. The switch to an invitational format does eliminate the domination of the event by the Burke stable. Won The West was the winner in 2010 with Foiled second. In 2011 Foiled won his elimination, while Atochia was elevated to first in the other prelim when Art Professor was docked for interference. Foiled won the final. And last year three of the eight starters in the final were from the Burke barn: Foiled beat stablemate, Clear Vision, with Atochia finishing fourth.

Cheddar has demonstrated the ability to get around a half. He equaled the WR of :49.2 when he won the Quillen at Harrington in W-W fashion in the fall, and he finished third in the Jug.

He drew the trailing eight post in Friday’s Molson. He’ll start behind Foiled and Aracache. Those two will  rocket out of the gate, still, it’s a trailing post on a tiny track, and there’s no getting around that. This will be his first start in eight months. A foot abscess prompted Coleman to shut him down early last year. Cheddar qualified at Mohawk in :52.2 a couple of weeks ago.

ARNRD, on the other hand, has yet to prove those tight turns are to his liking. He was raced hard last year, and got one bad post after another, regardless, Dance finished out in the Cleveland Classic at Northfield, was third in the Windy City and fourth in the Messenger. He drew the seven in his Jug prelim and the five in the final, where he finished sixth. He drew the eight last week in the Dan Patch where he placed fourth. ARNRD finished out in the Maturity in his other 2013 start. His bad luck continues in Friday’s race as he has drawn the seven. His game is not blasting out of the gate so drawing the outside on this track against Cheddar and Foiled is a lot for Dance to overcome.

The draw presents a challenge for Betterthancheddar and A Rocknroll Dance.

Elitlopp Review

Yesterday in the Elitlopp, while Arch Madness didn't win, he certainly didn't disgrace himself with a second place finish for the second year in a row on a wet and overcast day in Sweden.  The track for the races was sloppy.

In the first elimination heat, Nesta Effe , driven by Roberto. Vecchione and representing Italy, won getting up to win in a kilometer rate of 1:10.7 (1:53.4 mile rate) for the 1609 meters.  Nesta Effe was fifth at the half and as they were in the final turn it looked like it would be hard for him to get up, but get up he did in a bit of fancy driving; threading his way to the outside to make a final move to get the win.

In the second elimination heat, Sebastian K, driven by Åke Svanstedt, held on to win heat in 1:11.1 (1:54,1). grinding it on the outside racing first over, getting the lead a third of the way down the stretch.  Arch Madness who was involved early, managed to secure fourth place to return for the final, drawing post position seven.  Nehar, the eventual Elitlopp victor finished second in this heat.

This set up a final where Nesta Effe drew the rail in the final with second elimination winner Sebastian K drawing the two hole.  Nehar, the eventual winner, started from post four. Arch Madness, as previously mentioned drew post seven in the final, seemingly out of contention in the final.

In the final, Nehar, driven by Robert Bergh took the trophy honors with a win in 1:10.8 (1:53.4) in the slop.  Staying back in the early part of the race, Nahar launched a bid from the near the back of the field in the backstretch the second time with Arch Madness following him.  Unfortunately for Arch Madness, Nehar had plenty of gas in the tank to hold off Arch Madness and take home the trophy.

For those who love catch drivers, let it be noted that both Nehar and Arch Madness were driven by their trainers.  A good trainer given the right horse can drive with the best drivers around.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, some of the best were in action at Harrah's Philadelphia with Wishing Stone winning the Maxie Lee Memorial Trot, wiring the field in a track record 1:52.

Earlier in an upset, Economy Terror scored an upset victory in the Betsy Ross Invitational for Mare Pacers.  Instead of taking an aggressive trip, Kakaley followed the leader to the half and once the leader Drop The Ball began to fade and Rocklamation and Androvette were stung by bad trips, Economy Terror was able to take advantage of her distance saving trip to win and pay $21.80..

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Do Not Try This At Home

Someone last night decided to sprint around on the Maywood Park oval.  While for years people used to run on the racetracks as part of their training regimen, I am pretty sure that a) they ran on the track when it was closed to training and b) they ran around the track, not directly across the oval; especially as the horses were in the middle of their race.  As a result of this individual running directly across the track in front of horses, the favorite #5 Summer Party, went off-stride (who afterwards was declared a non-starter) and out of contention.. 

A word of advice, Do Not Try This at Home.

A minority owner of Vernon Downs is giving up his shares in the racetrack in protest of a deal which gives Turning Stone casino exclusive rights to table games in a ten county region.  How he does this being the shares in Mid-State Raceway has no value on the market is beyond me.  Anyway, it is his right but there is no way to sell the stock as it has no value since a bankruptcy back in 2004.  While I understand the minority owner's concerns, the fact is Vernon Downs would never compete against an Indian casino three miles away.

Buffalo Raceway now has an app available for iPad and Android users as part of the overall Erie County Fair Grounds app.  The application is pretty basic with respect to racing, more informational, but it does have entries and charts and some information which may be handy to have if you are visiting the area.  You can find the app by going to your usual app store and looking up Buffalo Raceway.  While not exactly rich in features, every track should be reaching out in whatever means possible to attract new customers or at least to keep their existing customer base informed.

The May edition of Trot magazine has arrived (always a delay in getting it in the States).  This issue is their annual State of the Industry edition and there are many great ideas for helping rebuild the industry.  Every stakeholder in the States should get a copy of this magazine.

Trot sent two people who have never been to the track to go and get their reaction.  The two tracks involved were Fraser Downs in British Columbia and Woodbine in Ontario.  The person who went to Fraser Downs had a good time while the one who went to Woodbine had a disastrous visit.  In some ways this doesn't surprise me.

Other topics in the magazine had to do with the possibility of turning over wagering and scheduling to a centralized authority such as PMU or ATG and let the tracks just put on a show with lower costs while another idea was to introduce the harness racing festival.  All great ideas, but unfortunately, short of a few people, no one in the industry has the courage to broach the subject.  What a shame because the ideas in this edition of Trot are spot on but I fear the industry is paralyzed with fear.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Some Quick Notes

So how did the Cal-Expo meet go, the first under Watch & Wager's management?  Pretty darn good.  The meet which ends Saturday night shows a 24.4% increase in handle, averaging just north of $830,000 on a nightly basis.  Out of state wagering on Cal Expo, no doubt helped by having each card on TVG was up 65.4% with online wagering up 40.2%.  Business was good enough that Cal-Expo will re-open, pending approval of the CHRB, on October 5, a month earlier than this year.  While this is great news, being there is no other standardbred racing in the area, Cal Expo must see if there is a way they can expand their meet to racing three days a week.

Another advantage of the 4yos being required to race?  A great race at Hoosier Park; the 20th edition of the Dan Patch Invitational featuring the likes of Hurrikane Kingcole, A Rockinroll Dance, Bolt the Duer, Fred and Ginger, and Aracache Hanover lead the field of ten in Sautrday night's race.  This is probably one of the strongest Dan Patch races ever.

The USTA and DRF have announced an expansion of the Strategic Wagering Program where program pages for key races will be published in the Daily Racing Form along with information on the guaranteed pools.  Obviously, the intent is to try to get thoroughbred players interested in harness racing and since we are talking about one or two races at a given time, it may get their attention at least for those races.

Right now, it looks like come the end of the year, my selection for Owner of the Year will be Sheik Mohammed, ruler of the UAE.  That's right a foreign thoroughbred horse owner.  The way he handled the scandal of his Godolphin stable's positives for anabolic steroids was admirable; he had a proverbial cow when his horses came back positive, shutting down his stable and finding out what other horses may have been treated with steroids at his own cost.  Now, he has decreed in the UAE that the use of anabolic steroids will be a criminal offense under their criminal code.

Granted, a ruler of a country is expected to aim for a higher standard, but you don't see many owners having a cow when their successful trainer gets caught doing something improper, sacking him and making sure his stable is put back in order and operating with the highest integrity.  Unfortunately, we don't see this that often. 

Odds and Ends

Once again, VFTRG contributor Joe F. has come through with another column while I am dealing with some things.  If all goes to plan, I will be able to post my own columns with regularity by Saturday or Sunday.  Thanks for your patience.

Racing is underway at Mohawk. Here are a few notable absentees from the eligible lists for upcoming stakes races. The battle between To Dream On and Bee A Magician is one everyone has been looking forward to. Bee beat Dream in the Peaceful Way but the latter was dominant in the BC. To Dream On also won the Bluegrass, ISS, Merrie Annabelle and Reynolds, while Bee took the Wellwood, Champlain and OSS Super Final. Dream is by Credit Winner and Bee by Kadabra, so there will be conflicts between opens and SS races all year. Unfortunately To Dream On has not been nominated to next week’s Casual Breeze. Time To Kill and Fashion Athena weren’t nominated either.

Rockin Amadeus, Wake Up Peter and Dedi’s Dragon are three of the colts not nominated to next week’s SBSW.

To Dream On has been staked to the Elegantimage, which takes place the week after next. The purse for that race has been reduced by 35% this year. Time To Kill and Fashion Athena weren’t nominated to that one.

Division kingpin, Wheeling N Dealin, is not on the eligible list for the Goodtimes, which takes place the same night as the Elegantimage. Dontyouforgetit, Royalty For Life, Aperfectyankee and Major Athens are other notable absences. That purse has been cut by a quarter.

Feeling You, Cookie, Royal Cee Cee and Rebeka Bayama are not on the list for the Roses Are Red which takes a 12% haircut this year.


Now that the USTA has partnered with the Daily Racing Form in an effort to promote 41 stakes races at 15 different tracks, the revamped Grand Circuit and the Hambletonion Society can’t help but be folded into the equation. That being the case, it seems like this is an ideal time for industry insiders to step up and decide on an updated Triple Crown for both gaits. Advertising and supporting individual stakes races is all well and good, but the sport needs a long term series to focus on, something that will provide some structure to the season long promotional campaign they are putting together.


When Fred And Ginger picked up Kingcole in :48.1 in a leg of the TVG a couple of weeks ago some were surprised. It should be noted that 14 months ago Fred And Ginger went the second fastest qualifier ever in the sport when he beat stablemate Foiled Again in :48.4 at The Meadowlands. Shark Gesture’s :48.2 is the only one that tops it.


San Pail has been absent for 13 months, ever since losing to Windsong Geant in an open at Woodbine. For all the accolades that come his way, he’s a one-year wonder at this point. Maple Leaf wins in 2009 and 2010 are the only significant open wins he has that were not in 2011. He earned 43% of his lifetime bankroll that year. One great year out of six doesn’t confer any sort of racing immortality. I’m sure he’ll waltz into the Canadian HOF if he retires tomorrow, but off of what he’s accomplished thus far he shouldn’t be anywhere near Goshen.


The Zweig did away with divisions last year; the top nine earners in a given year go for the advertised purse while the next nine race in a consolation. Last year the colts went for $400,000 and the fillies for $170,000, while the two consolation races carried purses of $80,000 and $40,000. The Battle of Brandywine, Valley Forge and Colonial follow this format and it makes for better races that serve as more attractive betting vehicles. The latter three move to Pocono this year.


As far as I know, the restrictions on four-year-olds breeding are part of a two-year program that will come under review at that time. I’m not sure what metrics they’ll use to evaluate the new rules but anecdotal evidence thus far certainly points to it being a success. To this point, Archangel’s connections were the only ones to get a name player an exemption. Good for him; he probably would have had his reputation seriously damaged this year anyway. If Captaintreacherous turns into a superstar his connections may be reluctant to bring him back next year, but Gural will certainly want him in the TVG and Maturity. That should be interesting.


After Hypnotic Blue Chip had a very successful season in 2010, justifying the $325,000 Fran Azur paid for him, McDermott predicted Division honors for him in 2011. He won the Spring Pacing Championship at Woodbine and little else.

Last year trainer Sam DePinto predicted that his charge We Will See, who had a great year in 2011, would pace the fastest race mile ever, eclipsing Holborn Hanover’s :46.4 mark. WWS won twice last year, with a season’s record of :48.2.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday Miscillianery

While I am busy digging myself out of a mess, VFTRG contributor Joe F. has come to my rescue with some thoughts on this weekend's racing and upcoming stakes races.  Thanks Joe.

Hurrikane Kingcole has been established as the 3/1 favorite in the Dan Patch. Rockincam, last year’s out of the clouds winner, is the second choice from the four in Saturday’s race. Peter Wrenn won that one from the nine post at 10/1. Golden Receiver cut the mile without pressure or interference as the 2/5 favorite for Dave Palone last year, but inextricably got swallowed up by the field at the end. Rockincam disappointed in the Levy. We sometimes forget that it was only last year that Golden Receiver became a FFA mainstay. In the 2011 edition of the Dan Patch, which was won by the ill-fated Giddy Up Lucky, Golden Receiver finished third at 25/1.

This year’s field is stronger than the one that contested the race last year. Fred And Ginger picked up Kingcole in  :48.1  in a leg of the TVG two weeks ago. Both are entered, only F&G gets Ricky Macomber Jr in place of Ron Pierce, and Brett Miller replaces Dan Dube behind Kingcole.

The other two four-year-old starters, Duer and ARNRD, made their first starts since December in the Meadowlands Maturity and both got shuffled back. Both keep their drivers, MacDonald and Campbell, respectively.

Up The Credit, who gave signs that his troubles are behind him with a :48.3 win over a preferred field at Woodbine last week, is 10/1 from the nine for Trace Tetrick.

The folks at Hoosier Park are getting a lot more for their $200,000 than the folks at Western Fair are getting for the $150,000 purse being offered for the Molson Pace. There weren’t enough nominated—as usual—so they transformed it into an invitational. Perennial winner, Foiled Again, will be joined by Aracache, State Treasurer, Versado, Keystone Velocity, Something For Doc and a player to be named later. Something for Doc has had two rough outings since being purchased from the Burke group by Mark Ford’s people. He drew the outside in the Levy final and never got into the race, and the following week he drew the outside in an open at Yonkers, where Sears spent the first half getting him to the top. Despite a brave effort, he got overtaken late. Foiled has won the last two editions of the Molson, but he’s three and four this year and may be at Doc’s mercy if the son of Western Hanover draws inside on this little track.

Smilin Eli, the very impressive Muscles Yankee gelding who won the first leg of the NYSS colt & gelding trot as the 8/5 second choice last week, is in against last year’s champ Corky again on Friday. Eli gets Tetrick again this week while Corky steps up from Takter to David Miller. Eli’s dam, Gerri’s Joy, won the Merrie Annabelle at two and the Moni Maker at three. This leg consists entirely of Muscles colts while the filly leg is all Muscles with the exception of a single Chocolatier filly.

Fashion Blizzard, the Credit Winner gelding who mixed it up with Tirade Hanover and Royalty For Life in the NYSS last year, makes his second start in a C-1/B-2 handicap for David Miller. Muscle Mountain picked him up late in a split of the Simpson a couple of weeks ago. Fashion Blizzard won a division of the ISS last year, a race his dam also won. He was also very successful in the NYSS, winning the $225,000 Night of Champions trot in W-W fashion for Jim Morrill as the 3/5 favorite over Tirade Hanover. He is ranked tenth in this year’s Hoof Beats/Trackmaster Experimental Rankings—whatever that’s worth. A $111,000 division of the NYSS was scheduled to be raced at Vernon Downs tomorrow but the EHV-1 situation at that track has left colts like Fashion Blizzard scrambling for races.

Seven of the ten mares in the F&M B-2/B-1/A-2 handicap pace at the Meadowlands tomorrow night are four-year-olds.

Quick Deal, Ron Burke’s Revenue gelding who won the Horse & Groom, makes his second start after a two month layoff in a B-1/A-1/FFA handicap trot at the Meadowlands. The better than ever Andover Hall mare, Beatgoeson Hanover, came from out of the clouds to beat him in that one after he’d been used making the top from the nine and had to deal with pressure in the middle. Beatgoeson subsequently came from way off to win the first leg of the Miss Versatility at Woodbine. She’s developed into one of the best closers in the business.

This race exemplifies the interspace style of racing being offered up at the Meadowlands right now. Hot Shot Blue Chip makes his seasonal debut from the outside; Tall Cotton drops down from the Cutler; Harbor Point drops down from the Maturity; and you also have the likes of Lexis Amigo and From Above.

Jim Oscarsson’s Peter Haughton winner, Aperfectyankee, makes his debut in a division of the Super Bowl at The Meadows tomorrow. He takes on Jimmy Takter’s little Cantab Hall colt, Dontyouforgetit. The latter spent the opening quarter trying to make the top as the 3/5 favorite in the Dexter and failed to convert. Celebrity Maserati, the Andover Hall colt who carried Dontyouforgetit to the quarter and beat him in the Dexter, starts from the eight in the third division of the Super Bowl. He raced in the lower level Stallion Series last year but was very impressive at Freehold. Smoother Ride, the Yankee Glide colt who won six of seven starts last season, goes in the fourth division.

Frau Blucher, a Broadway Hall filly who was very impressive winning a $60,000 division of the PASS at The Meadows last week from the outside, takes on the SS fillies again tomorrow at Harrah’s. She won a split of the Bluegrass as well as the PA Championship last season. She was for sale for $850,000 last year during the season.

Frau Blucher’s third dam, Border Angel, is interesting in that she’s a product of Texas and the Romeo Hanover mare Lively Anne. Texas was a son of the great mare, Elma, from the first crop of Super Bowl. He won the Kentucky Futurity and finished second in the Hambletonion. He sired the outstanding mare, Grades Singing and the Swedish star, Copiad, a winner of 50 of 82 starts. He was relocated to Sweden at age 13.


Romeo Hanover, although a failure as a stallion, was one of the greatest pacers of all-time. It’s noteworthy that he had a habit of producing some decent trotters. Speedy Romeo earned 35K for Bill Haughton on the pace at two, but hated the hopples and was a natural trotter, so Haughton let him. The following year, after breaking in his first three starts, he stayed flat in the fourth and won a 43K NYSS trot. He wound up pacing in 55.4 and trotting in 59.2, and earning almost 500K, which was damn good for a dual-gaited colt in the mid-seventies.

Abelard Hanover, the five-year-old Rocknroll gelding who has really stepped it up, winning four of his last five, takes on the indefatigable Dial Or Nodial in a WO25 pace at Harrah’s. The struggling Atochia, who is winless in seven starts with a mere $25,000 on his card, is 10/1 in the ML against NW25L5.

Last year’s  BC winner, Intimidate, makes another curious start in a $6,000 division of the Quebec sire stakes at Hippodrome 3-R on Sunday. He’s barred from the betting again; crazy. If he trotted like he did in the BC, he’d probably win the very winnable Maxie Lee on Sunday.

There’s a four-year-old open at M1 Saturday night featuring a five horse field, two of whom are trained by Linda Toscano. Heston Blue Chip, who finished off 2012 with wins in the BC, Progress and Matron, makes his seasonal debut. Bettor’s Edge, the Bettor’s Delight gelding who ranked ninth in divisional earnings last year, is the other Toscano horse. Cane winner Dynamic Youth—another Bettor’s Delight gelding--who finished out in the Maturity and fourth in the first leg of the TVG series, also starts. Whirl Monroe, a Real Desire out of a half-sister to Stand Alone, who beat a B-2 field in :49.4 last week, and Ron Burke’s R Caan, who beat NW16L5 at Pocono last time out, fill out the field. This is a strange one.

Although the Rooney hasn’t drawn the top colts—no Captain, Rockin Amadeus, Odds On Equuleus or Wake Up Peter—the Art major colt, Doctor Butch, who won three times at Yonkers last year including the $225,000 Night of Champions, has been supplemented to the race. Last year there was no need for an elimination round as the race only drew six starters. Pet Rock came up the inside to upset 3/5 favorite Bolt The Duer. Two years ago there was also a six horse field, with half of them from the Takter stable. Peelers beat the boys in that one.

The Betsy Ross, which goes Sunday at Harrah’s, drew a stellar field of mares with Anndrovette, Feeling You, DTB, Romantic Moment and Economy Terror among them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday Bits and Pieces

The Meadowlands had a struggle putting together a race card on Saturday night with only six of the thirteen races drawing a full compliment of ten horses; four races having less than eight horses including a 4yo open pace with five starters.  In addition, a $10,000 claiming race is on the card, which could be a nod to the availability of lower class horses now that Freehold has closed. Only six 3yo pacing fillies are going in the NJSS.  It will be interesting to see how the bettors respond.

The curtains come down on Wager and Win's inaugural meet at Cal-Expo Saturday night.  There is no racing on Friday night, most likely because a good number of horses have headed out of town.

The good news in Toronto is the city council has rejected the opening of a new casino in the city which has to be a blow to the OLG's modernization plan.  Unfortunately, the bad news is the city council also rejected the expansion of gaming at Woodbine, meaning while slots and horse racing is fine, there will be no table games at the racetrack.  This presents a problem because it means in all likelihood, the OLG will pull the slots out of Woodbine and place them wherever a casino is eventually built.

Yonkers Raceway's revamping of nomination and sustaining fees has apparently paid off as twelve colts have entered for the Art Rooney Pace, necessitating in eliminations for the first time in a number of years.  While eliminations won't be required for the filly companion race, the Lismore, a full field of eight will go to the gate.

The Raceway at Western Fair District's Molson Pace is starting to shape up into a very good race with six invitations already accepted.  So far, Aracache Hanover, Foiled Again, and Versado head the list of invitees.  The Molson card closes out the spring meet at the Raceway.

The headline sounds so good, "Freehold Wagering Tops $26 Million".  Then when you think about it, it shows how bad things are in Freehold when you realize there were 61 cards of racing contested.  While the daily handle averaged $426,229, which for a small-time track isn't that bad, only 0.$59,368 of it was wagered on track.  When you look at how much the track and horsemen make commission-wise, we have a model which can't survive long-term.  The track promises some changes on and off the track by the time they reopen on August 28.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Mini-Staycation to Årjäng, Sweden

I received some photos from racing at the Årjäng Racetrack in Sweden.  These pictures come from this past Sunday's racing card, a day when there was no special races. 

To say these photos are relaxing would be an understatement.  Since most of us will never be going abroad for harness racing, it is time to bring the racetrack her from Sweden.  The Årjäng track has races for warm and cold bloods, monté, and ponies.  In the colder winter months, the track even hosts ice racing.

One thing I noticed about this track is the rural feel to it.  Make no mistake, we are not talking county fair racing, but a scenic, easy going feel; a place people go to enjoy a day at the races.  We are never going to get the crowds of yesteryear back, but if we had tracks similar to the one at Årjäng, a new generation of racing fans would likely become interested in the sport, not only as a respite from the busy schedules we face but also develop an infinity for the standardbred..  On the fiscal side, these smaller facilities would be less expensive to maintain than some of the current raceways which are in a more urban area..

Take a look at these photos and enjoy.

Horses warming up.  Photo by Anders Erlandsson

A fan getting ready for a race by sitting on the hill.  Photo by Anders Erlandsson

Field getting ready for a start.  Photo by Anders Erlandsson

Lining Up.  Photo by Anders Erlandsson

Relaxing under the trees.  Photo by Anders Erlandsson

Field coming out of the clubhouse turn.
  Photo by Anders Erlandsson

Making a move on the turn.  Photo by Anders Erlandsson

Post Parade.   Photo by Anders Erlandsson

Coming down the stretch the first time. 
Photo by Anders Erlandsson
Notice the crowd as the field fans out heading for home.
 Photo by Anders Erlandsson.

Fans taking advantage of the different viewing points.
Photo by Anders Erlandsson.

Monday, May 20, 2013

DRF Paywall; Best Browser for Viewing VFTRG.

PTP discusses how the DRF is looking to institute a paywall for their content, either providing the content free for those who wager through their ADW or are willing to pay a subscription to get the data.  As PTP mentions, if the DRF wishes to charge for the data, it is their right and quite honestly, charging for the data is probably the only thing which will allow the DRF to continue doing what they are doing.  In this case the fans of the runners will be impacted much more than the trotting fans.

Some people ask how do they leave comments or see them.  The truth is it often is a browser issue.  Since Blogger is owned by Google, the blog is best viewed by Google Chrome.  At times, if you just refresh the screen, it will show the messages; but it may take a few  tries to see it.  If you are just reading the blog entries, you can continue to use your current browser.

Elitlopp 2013 Preview and Draw

Post positions were drawn for the two elimination heats of the Elitlopp which will be contested this Sunday at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden.  This year Arch Madness drew a lot better getting the rail after receiving the seven post in his elimination heat last year.  The other North American competitor, Take My Picture drew pretty well, getting the second post.  If these two will meet, it will be in the final as they both drew different elimination heats.

Here are the post assignments for each heat:

Elimination Heat 1
1--Nesta Effe (TBA)
2--Take My Picture ( Nik Drennan)
3--Timoko (Richard Westerink)
4--Formula One (Reijo Liljendahl)
5--Raja Mirchi (Lutfi Kolgjini)
6--Shaq Is Back ­(Daniel Redén)
7--Maharajah (Stefan Hultman)
8--Friction (Stefan Melander)

Elimination Heat 2
1--Arch Madness (Trond Smedshammer)
2--Commander Crowe (Fabrice Souloy)
3--Sebastian K. (Åke Svanstedt)
4--Brad de Veluwe (Tuomas Korvenoja)
5--Mack Grace SM (Lucio Colletti)
6--Nahar (Robert Bergh)
7--Panne de Moteur (Stefan Hultman)
8--Amaru Boko (Timo Nurmos).

From the press given to him this year, one must look at Mahrajah as the horse to beat as he has been on the top of his game winning the Oslo Grand Prix, living up to all the hopes people had for him when he first started racing as a youngster in Europe.  Take My Picture, who by the way also raced under saddle last year (2-0-2-0) and timed in 1:57.1 at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day finishing second to Master Pine, must also be respected coming off of three straight victories in the Preferred class at Woodbine with a 12-6-1-1- record and a mark of 1:52.3.  He last raced on May 8 before shipping over but the time off should have allowed him time to acclimate and recover from the shipping.    It will be curious to see how the expatriate Shaq is Back will do, having been exported after his last start at the Red Mile in 2010 a winner of over $440,000 at the time.

In the second heat, we have a great rematch between Arch Madness and Commander Crowe.  With Arch Madness making his third trip over (his connections should be congratulated for doing this), he gets to race against his nemesis.  Unless something dramatic happens, these two should advance and do battle in the race final.  As the winner of the Oslo Grand Prix, one must give Sebastian K a serious look.  If there is any concern regarding Arch Madness, it was he was scheduled to race in the Grand Prix only to tie up in a training mile which necessitated a scratch.

One thing is for sure, the Elitlopp will be a great race as usual.  Unfortunately, most if not all of North America will be stuck watching the race on delay as there will be no wagering in this part of the world.

To catch some of the spirit, here is the second trailer which was released for the Elitlopp.


The Four Year Olds

Right now the four year olds are doing battle amongst themselves but what will happen when they need to tackle the older FFAllers?  VFTRG contributor Joe F., gives us his take on it.

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but this, the year Jeff Gural’s rules punishing four-year-olds that have been retired early take effect, is beginning to look like the year of the four-year-old. The premium sophomore pacers beat each other up to the point where there was no true standout in 2012. The top tier stakes wins were spread around, with Heston winning the BC, ARNRD the Pace, Michaels Power the Jug, Duer the Adios and Thinking Out Loud the NA Cup. That’s reflected in the fact that Heston Blue Chip received 68 votes for three-year-old Pacer of the Year, while Michaels Power got 50, Dance 17, TOL three and Lou, two. Contrast that with the Dan Patch for two-year-old pacers where Captaintreacherous beat Rockin Amadeus 144 to one, or the three-year-old filly contest where Jewel got 141 votes to three for Romantic Moment. There may not have been a single superstar in the sophomore colt division but there was plenty of talent.

Back in the day it was expected that there would be an annual infusion of new blood into the FFA division from the top performers in the previous year’s colt division; one year it was Best Of All, Nardin’s Byrd and Romulus Hanover joining the fray; another it was Laverne Hanover, Horton Hanover and Super Wave making their presence felt; and another it was Governor Skipper, Senor Skipper and Big Towner coming of age. Lately we’ve been lucky to get a single  compelling four-year-old moving into the FFA lineup. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what has happened during the past three campaigns: Hypnotic Blue Chip, We Will See and Cheddar have successively been the lone four-year-old to make a meaningful contribution to the FFA division.

Obviously the exodus of the top colts to the breeding shed was the major factor in the shortage of quality four-year-olds: Rocknroll Hanover left after his three-year-old campaign in 2007; the following year it was SBSW who bid racing fans adieu; then it was Well Said after his sophomore campaign in 2009; RNR Heaven joined the Blue Chip roster after his very successful 2010 season; and Roll With Joe, Big bad John and Big Jim all moved on after their three-year-old campaigns in 2011.

Hypnotic Blue Chip was top dog among the four-year-old pacers in 2010. He won eight of 27 starts and earned almost $800,000. JJ blasted him past Shark Gesture in the USPC and he went on to win in a WR :47.2. It is telling that Shark Gesture was the 1/5 favorite in that race while HBC was the 11/1 third choice.  The competition from his elders was fierce, Shark Gesture, WTW, Foiled and Bettor Sweet, to name four. Stakes-wise, aside from the USPC, HBC also won the Battle of Lake Erie. He made a very strong showing but still didn’t stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of his elders.

Other four-year-olds that came online in 2010 are: Lisagain, Dial, Alexie Mattosie, Elmo, Vintage Master, Annies, Gallant Yankee, River Shark, Drop Red and Clear Vision. Obviously none of them posed a threat to Shark Gesture, WTW or Foiled--not the way Kingcole, ARNRD, Sweet Lou, Needy, Michaels Power and Heston Blue Chip are a threat to Golden Receiver and the nine-year-old incarnation of Foiled, anyway.

The four-year-old class of 2011 wasn’t much better. We Will See was great; he earned $1.2 million, winning the Franklin, CPD, USPC and Allerage Open, and he took a mark of :47.2. It was a long drop before one hit number two, Art Professor, who did his damage in opens, avoiding the heavy hitters for the most part, and won no stakes races. RNR Heaven, who dominated his class, had been retired. OML, a gelding, returned from a solid sophomore season, but was an absolute zero; Razzle Dazzle was not the horse we saw in this year’s Levy; Meirs won the Clyde Hirt, Exit 16W and Cam Fella, and seemed to be on his way, but he disappeared for four months, and that was that.

Cheddar was by far the best of the returning four-year-old pacers last year, but he was limited by physical problems and only started eleven times. He won nine races, but several of those were cheapies. His only grade one win was the Franklin, where he was outstanding. The Des Smith and Quillen were his other two stakes wins. Alsace came back but he never fulfilled the promise he showed at three. The same goes for Up The Credit, who had serious issues, although a :48.3 win over NW25 at Woodbine the other night may signal good things at  age five. Foreclosure got good for Burke at season’s end, but he was pretty ordinary prior to that. Flipper J ? Feel Like A Fool?

There’s every reason to believe that 2013 will be historically significant when it comes to four-year-old clout in the FFA division. Which group would I prefer, Sweet Lou, Heston Blue Chip, Needy, Michaels Power, Kingcole, Duer, ARNR Dance, Escape The News and Dynamic Youth, or, Golden Receiver, Cheddar, Foiled, Razzle Dazzle, Annies, Up The Credit, Versado, Something For Doc and Fred And Ginger? Give me the former. Good things can be expected of Cheddar, but Golden Receiver fell off the table after winning the Haughton in mid-August last year, winning only one more race—an open at Pocono—and nine-year-old Foiled is showing his age. And, despite his Levy win, Razzle Dazzle has been a trick or treat type throughout his career. Give me those young legs this time around, thank you.

Another Year, Another Injustice?

Those who have been reading this blog for awhile know that I believe Billy 'Zeke' Parker deserves to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.  Next month, a screening committee meets to decide which individuals get on the ballot for the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and most people feel Parker will once again be bypassed.  That is a shame.  While I understand it is harder for an overnight driver to get into the Hall, having close to 11,000 victories should more than compensate for not driving in the 'big time'.  I believe his driving statistics show he belongs in there for you don't get those many wins driving cheap horses if you are not Hall of Fame worthy.  I also feel his ability to overcome what life has thrown at him makes his accomplishments even more amazing considering how many people in the sport who have gone through what he has have fallen to the wayside into obscurity.

When you think of it, why can't a man with as many wins as Parker get into the Hall of Fame when an owner who is fortunate to have a lot of money to buy horses gets in when their only contribution to standardbred racing is owning a famous horse or two that they bought (if they bred the horses it is a different story)?  There seems to be a serious disconnect here.

Anyway, there was an article this past weekend about Billy Parker and his problems regarding getting into the Hall of Fame.  Take a look, it is interesting reading regardless of where you stand on the issue.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Take Me Out to the Racetrack

In the past, I have talked about how pathetic Thunder ridge is for harness racing.  Well, Bill Finley, editor of Harness Racing Update visited the track in Prestonsburg, KY to find out if it is as bad as it has been called.  Turns out it is worse.

"Take me out to the Racetrack" may not be the typical expression but on June 1, it is the slogan for the Meadowlands as Jersey Fest takes place at the Meadowlands.  Jersey Fest, a  joint program between the Meadowlands Racetrack and the North Jersey Media Group (publisher of The Record) is an event celebrating all things New Jersey. 

More importantly, an event like this will bring newcomers to the racetrack for an enjoyable evening.  By sponsoring this event with the local newspaper ensures the event gets publicity which benefits all involved in this program, including the charities tied to this event.  Granted, not everyone will become harness racing fans by the evening's conclusion but it gets them in the door which is the first step.

No Table Games at Vernon Downs - Best Thing Possible

The State of New York has entered into an agreement with the Oneida Indians which requires the Tribal Authority to pay 25% of the net profits of their Turning Stone Casino to the State of New York (roughly $50 million annually) in return for a monopoly on casino operations within a ten county area surrounding Turning Stone Casino.  As a result, if the deal gets the necessary approvals, Vernon Downs (which is only three miles away from the Indian casino) will be precluded from offering table games though will be allowed to continue to operate their 750 VLTs.

This has caused a dispute between the ownership of Vernon Downs.  Majority shareholder Jeff Gural is pleased with the deal while minority shareholder Gary Greenberg is unhappy with the agreement claiming it "...will be the death knell of Vernon Downs. There will never be full-table games at Vernon Downs thus depriving the horsemen, employees, customers and shareholders a chance to compete on a fair level with Turning Stone or any other full table game casino in the state". 

While I understand Mr. Greenberg may be disappointed with this agreement, one would think he has not been keeping up to date with what is going on in the gaming business and the oversaturation of casino gambling.  Quite honestly, this deal, while negotiated without input from Gural is the best possible agreement one could hope for and instead of it being the death knell of Vernon Downs, guarantees its continued operation.

First of all, Indian gaming sets up its own rules with regards to takeout rates and operation whereas casinos operated by a non-tribal group is subject to state law which regulates takeout rates on casino games.  If Vernon Downs were to open table games and thus be a full-competitor to Turning Point, a pricing war on the takeout level could occur, with Turning Point reducing their take to a level Vernon Downs could not match.  Quite honestly, a head-to-head match up is something Vernon Downs could not win.  Of course, this competition is predicated on the state allowing Vernon Downs to operate a full casino, something which was not assured.  After all, the first three full casinos proposed (Monticello Raceway, Saratoga Raceway, Tioga Downs) did not include Vernon Downs.  Also, any capital expenditure to expand floor space for table games has the potential of putting Vernon Downs once again in to bankruptycffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

Secondly, as we are seeing in the Mid-Atlantic region, oversaturation of casinos results in money being divided between casinos, not really the introduction of new gaming dollars.  Therefore, being so close to Turning Point, while Vernon would probably get some new business, it would not be at the levels being forecast by some detractors.

Lastly, the ten county ban on casino gambling with Vernon Downs being allowed to keep its slot machines means the proposed harness track in the Syracuse area will die of.  Let's face it without slot machines, who is going to want to build a racetrack these days?  This means Vernon will by default have a ten county monopoly on horse racing and be the only place outside of Turning Stone with slots.

Bottom line is if this agreement is approved, many others have fallen apart in the past, it is basically  agreement which could have been iod foj

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fruition of a Dream and Other Goings On

A field heading into the first turn at Historic Track. 
Matinee racing begins the first weekend in June.
Saturday night is the fruition of a dream.  A dream of having a race full of super stars for fans to get interested in.  Of course, I am talking about the Meadowlands Maturity.  True, the four year old trotters have already stepped up to the plate in their own edition of the Meadowlands Maturity but let's face it, the majority of harness racing fans prefer pacing events.  Just look at some of the names in the Maturity; A Rocknroll Dance, Bolt the Duer, Mel Mara, Hurricane Kingcole, Sweet Lou, Warrawee Needy, and others take to the field of battle for what should be an exciting tilt. 

Of course, this race is just four year olds, but they will soon do battle with the aged FFAllers and after a little seasoning, the FFA ranks should be exciting for the rest of the season.  Races the fans and gamblers will be excited about, looking forward to Saturday night when the big boys take to the track that week.

Fans of  the trotting side of the sport should be looking forward to tomorrow night as well as the AJ Cutler Memorial FFA will be contested at the Meadowlands as well.  Mister Herbie, making his second start of the season, going against Guccio, the hot Modern Family, Wishing Stone, Sevruga, and some outsiders.  This race is the appetizer for the Meadowlands Maturity Pace.

Kind of reminds me of Saturday nights at Yonkers before the Meadowlands first opened.  I can't wait.

In Harness Racing Update, Dean Towers has some suggestions for making harness racing more palpable for thoroughbred players for which there is little incentive for them to crossover.  The ironic thing about it is many of these items are things the standardbred fan have been asking for already.  If you aren't pleasing your standardbred fan base, how do you expect to draw thoroughbred fans in?

Trainer Renee Allard, the fourth leading trainer at the Meadowlands has been shown the door from the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs by track management for unspecified reasons.  When one doesn't know the story behind the exclusion, one must be careful in making comments so I won't pass judgment on the exclusion.

While I am a supporter of the right to exclude someone from racing, there is a downside to it; why do some trainers get excluded and other's don't?  I realize each situation is different but as Allard is shown out the door, the welcome mat for Casie Coleman has been put out (after Coleman apparently agreed to certain conditions).  If memory serves me correctly, this is the second year in a row Coleman has served a long suspension under the trainer's responsibility rule.  The Meadowlands was correct in refusing entries from horses transferred to her assistant trainers during her suspensions, and I can understand why those exclusions were lifted once the suspension was over but allowing Coleman to return to the Meadowlands leaves some to question if justice is being applied fairly or are certain favorites being given a pass?

I don't expect any track to publicize why they have excluded someone from racing as it would open track management to the potential of civil litigation.  That being said, I don't know why a track can't issue a general list of activities which could result in an exclusion along with a disclaimer that management may exclude individuals for other reasons as well.  This way, horseplayers  can get an idea as to why someone was excluded without subjecting track management to the possibility of litigation.

After several years of hope, the proposed Fair Start Rule in New Jersey has apparently been killed off at the May meeting of the NJRC.  I kind of suspected this was going to be the end result once the proposal started stagnating within the commission.  Disappointed?  Yes.  The racing commission had the opportunity to do something to protect the gambler's interest and they failed to do so.  Being the racing commission are industry insiders one shouldn't be surprised at what happened.  If racing commissions were to be truly looking out for the betting public's interests, why don't these commissions have gamblers as full members on these boards?

While the damage has been done, Ontario horsemen must be pleased with the firing of OLG Chair Paul Godfrey as well as the resignations of the OLG's entire board.  It seems while the OLG was busy decimating horse racing throughout the province, Godfrey and others in the OLG were doing quite well financially, making rules for themselves which made life 'more comfortable' in a period of austerity.  While racing will never be the same in Ontario, if plans to include racing in the provincial gaming strategy is followed through, those who manage through this lean time may be rewarded.  No, purses will likely never be what they once were, but they certainly should be an improvement over current purse levels. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Where Have the NJ-Sired Horses Gone?

Friday night the NJSS make its 2013 debut at the Meadowlands with races for 3yo filly and 3yo colt and gelding trotters.  Notice, the use of the word 'divisions' was left out of the sentence as there is one race for the fillies and one for the colts and geldings. 

That's right; a total of eight colts and geldings will be competing in a $34,000 tilt while twelve fillies will be taking to the track in their $36,000 contest (On Saturday night there are twenty-one pacing colts and eleven pacing fillies competing in their sires stakes races).  Certainly there are more NJ-sired trotters than these twenty, but it wasn't that long ago when you used to have three or four divisions of the sires stakes for each age, sex, and gait.  Now, with almost all the stallions having departed for more lucrative states the off-spring count has fallen dramatically.  Couple this with the fact there are more lucrative races to be had elsewhere, you can see why the number of entrants have fallen off.  It wouldn't surprise me if the two year old trotting races will be so sparsely subscribed to that they will be contested as non-wagering events. 

Until relief comes to New Jersey racing, things will only get worse which is why it is important the bill to create stakes races for NJ-bred horses is passed as soon as possible.  Not only will it provide standardbred farms with business as nurseries, it will provide NJ-based horsemen with racing stock which will allow them to remain in state until help comes.

Many of the tracks in Ontario have had racing dates dramatically cut.  Admittedly, with purses being cut, this will be tough for horsemen; especially this year.  Wouldn't it be something if these meets were marketed as boutique meets and the public responded accordingly?  Unfortunately, we'll likely never know.  Even though these tracks are getting assistance to pay their expenses, I suspect they will be running bare bones operations, meaning any thought of having a (creative) marketing campaign  highly unlikely.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Does Harness Racing Need the Equivalent of Title IX?

This week, Monticello Raceway had their Lady Godiva Pace for women drivers.  The race had to be rescheduled from earlier in the year because it was hard to get eight women drivers together.  Even this time it took some last minute effort to get some lady drivers from afar to complete the field.

If there was a thoroughbred version of the Lady Godiva, there would have been no problem getting enough women jockeys together to compete; you probably could have gotten enough women jocks to fill more than one race without much effort or travel.  For some reason, thoroughbred trainers and owners seem to be more willing to give women jockeys a chance, at least with overnight horses. 

Unfortunately, for some reason, harness racing has never really embraced women drivers.  Yes, at some of the smaller tracks you will see women drivers, especially when they train and own their own horses.  But when it comes to your larger tracks, women seldom get the opportunity to be in the sulky during a race.  This attitude needs to change in order to attract a more gender-diverse customer base.

I am convinced the only way to get more women in the sulky is to give them more opportunities to compete against their own.  What if tracks scheduled one race each day for women drivers?  It would certainly increase the demand for women drivers as you would need at least eight to ten of them daily for at least one race.   Granted, it isn't the same as driving eight or ten races each day but after a bunch of races a women driver may get enough 'face time' for trainers and owners to be willing to give a woman driver a chance against the men. 

True, by carding races exclusive to women drivers you can argue you are giving them special treatment, but let's not kid ourselves, if a woman is not any good as a driver, trainers will stop naming them even in women only events.  The opportunity may be given to them, but it will be up to them to take advantage of it and prove themselves.

For the sport to attract more women to the betting windows, we have to get to a point where a Lady Godiva Pace is not be a novelty, but just part of a day at the track.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

BLM Round Ups - Humane and Necessary? You Decide but Something has to Give

Let's move away from the subject of horse racing and talk about the Government and the Wild Mustang issue.

NBC News did a feature on the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) round ups on the wild mustangs.  The reality is horses are being moved off public lands to placate ranchers who raise cattle; competing for the same grazing land.  Watch the video at the end and you decide if the round up is humane or not.

I would suggest not from what you can see , plus one of he biggest problems with the BLM policy is the fact horses are easily gotten by dealers with a large number of them heading across the border with domesticated horses due to lax rules.  Clearly with more horses in captivity than out on the open range, the collection of horses is costing taxpayers a lot of money.

The truth is something needs to happen but it must be done humanely.  There are ways to give mares birth control to keep them from getting pregnant.  Instead of using helicopters, round ups can be done the old fashioned way. 
I would love to see the wild horses run free but there is a bigger threat than giving grazing lands to a large population of horses in the wild; the competition for water; not cattle versus horses but animal versus man.  The west has dwindling water supplies due to over development and  with increasing periods of drought (in fact some predict a new dust bowl is inevitable due to over development and population).  Then what happens?
In Australia, there are plans to cull 10,000 wild horses in their Northern Territory due to drought (only look at this link if you can handle upsetting photos) which have resulted in watering holes drying up, resulting in horses literally dying of thirst; to the point some pro-horse groups are calling for the cull as a humane way to handle an environmental disaster.  There, some blame the government for not doing anything to manage the herd size so it seems doing nothing is not an option.

Therefore, reducing the size of America's wild horse population is a necessity.  Those who oppose any control of their herd size is just as irresponsible as those seeking the land for cattle grazing.  Realistically, the government must step in; it is a question of doing it the right way; humane, not cruel,

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