Smilin Eli has switched barns according to the DRF. The 3yo trotter who was scratched out of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for being stabled at an unlicensed facility is now being trained by David Smith after being trained officially by Deshawn Minor, though rumors indicated he may have been in reality under the care of Carl Conte Jr. who is not licensed in New Jersey.
Does this mean the rumors are true? I won't pretend to know one way or the other. The trainer change could be the result of the rumors being true or with the Hambletonian coming up in three weeks, the change may have been made for expediency sake; the quickest way off the stewards list and back to the racing wars.
One reader asked me why Smilin Eli has been singled out as we allow beards to operate in this business with virtual impunity? This is a very good question. It probably has more to do with this being a higher than normal profile and someone picking up the phone.
Last week I raised the ire of some who felt I was trying to minimize the significance of the Hanover Stakes which are contested at Balmoral Park, In my article, I mentioned how could these races be compared to the races being contested at the Meadowlands the same night and how there should be a system of putting stakes races in Grand Circuit Gold, Silver, or Bronze series.
While that may still be the case, many a good horse has raced their way through the Hanover Stakes to national prominence amongst which are Eternal Camnation (2000), Kadabra (2002), Loyal Opposition (2003), Kikikatie (2004), Art Official (2008) and others through the years.
My comments were not intended to disparage the Hanover Stakes, I could have just as easily said the Tompkin-Geers, the Dexter Cup or another race. Sometimes future champions do work their way through these races on to national prominence but for many, racing in these stakes is as good as it gets; sometimes due to the horse's ability, sometimes due to limited financial resources.
The point is there are too many races being given equal status in the Grand Circuit the way it is configured this year. Not every race can be a pseudo-Grade 1 stakes race, somehow these races need to be differentiated and by putting them in circuits, perhaps they could stand out better and attract corporate sponsorship which can contribute to purse accounts and racetracks' bottom lines.