For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Harness Racing Returning to New Hampshire? Looks Like It

Bill Faucher, formerly a standardbred trainer and driver (recall Fight The Foe?) is bringing back harness racing to New Hampshire, looking to build a 5/8th mile oval near the former Hinsdale Raceway (last operated as a greyhound track).  Faucher has an OTB facility just about completed and is merely waiting for his license to be approved, likely around Thanksgiving and operating by December 1.. 

With the operation of the OTB, Faucher expects to raise enough funds for construction of the racetrack.  What about Rockingham Park which last raced in 2009 and is now operating as an OTB?  They have given their blessings towards this effort, not planning to infringe on the plans (and likely never expecting to resume live racing.

Of course we are glad that racing appears to be returning to New Hampshire and Mr. Faucher deserves to be applauded, willing to open a racetrack without alternative gaming revenue.  That being said, Hinsdale couldn't make it as a harness track.  Has enough changed since the last harness race in 1985 at Hinsdale Raceway to make a track viable once again?

In case you are wondering, what happened to Hinsdale Raceway?  After the trotters left Hinsdale in 1985, it was converted to a greyhound track called Hinsdale Greyhound Park which lasted until December 15, 2008 when it filed for bankruptcy.  The backstretch was eventual sold and is part of a Super Walmart with the track and grandstand in derelict condition. 

This story had me looking for an update on old Green Mountain Racetrack in Vermont.  If you want to know what happened to Green Mountain, here is a blog which talks about the track's status as of 2012.  The property now houses the Southern Vermont Energy Park but the grandstand remains.

The Boring Race

You know how the modern harness race goes.  Speed out of the gate to get the lead and once you get past the first pole, hit the brakes and sleepwalk through the second and possibly third quarter only to let loose for the final stanza.  Yes, there are those exceptions when you have someone going on a take no prisoner challenge which may keep the fractions 'honest' but for the most part, this is the blueprint for the typical race.

How boring.  How consistent.  How many favorites winning.

What can be done about it?  While I have written about it before, DRF's Derick Giwner is spot on with regards to the reason which races tend to crawl during the middle part of the race,  purses are too good.  Why make a challenge when you can earn a pretty penny with slot-fueled purses finishing fourth or fifth?   There is too much money at stake finishing in the top five to take the risk of finishing lower.  Drivers are more likely to take a sure third place finish than to come out and challenge the leader and risk running out of gas.

Giwner offers a solution of revamping the purse structure where first and second place make out better while third and lower get their share shaved.  This would certainly get races to be contested the whole way as what was once a comfortable paycheck for finishing fourth becomes a mere pittance.  Of course, good luck getting your local horsemen group accept a new purse structure.  Watch horses leave a track which manages to get this purse structure implemented for another track which continues with the traditional structure. I can hear the argument now, "It costs money to keep a horse in training, we can't manage to to survive on 2% or finishing fourth.  Fine, let's reduce purses and give every horse that finishes a race a flat $250, this way they get something towards their bills yet allows for a big incentive to finishing up top. 

Maybe then a race will be a race the whole way.

Changes in Pennsylvania?  A proposal changing the oversight of racing in Pennsylvania has been proposed.   Perhaps the most notable section calls for some slot money to be used for marketing.

Virtual Slots - For 25 to 50 gamblers, online casino gambling is available in Delaware for the first time using real money.  After this one week shake out, November 8 starts online gambling for all Delaware gamblers.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cam Fella, Wheeling N Dealin And Next Week's Sale

The passing of 20-year-old Armbro Operative brings to mind the fact that the Meadow Skipper/Most Happy Fella line running through Cam Fella is in danger of drying up in NA if things continue on their current path. Camluck is 26 and still standing in Ontario, but despite giving us last year’s Jug Winner Michael’s Power, who is a gelding, he has not produced an extender. And 25-year-old Cambest is still standing in Kentucky, but his alkaline induced time trial notwithstanding, he hasn’t come up with an heir. Unless you think Lis Mara is going to score a touchdown. The same goes for Camtastic who was from the first crop of Cam Fella. Precious Bunny didn’t get it done either. What about Presidential Ball and his son Allamerican Native? Not really.

It all comes down to Cam’s Card Shark. His son, 15-year-old Bettor’s Delight, may seem like a logical choice, but thus far he hasn’t produced a son who fits the extender role. His 5-year-old brother Roll With Joe is standing at Blue Chip and will be supported to the hilt, but who knows.

Jate Lobell (No Nukes) has already been closed out. Tyler B is depending on his 18-year-old grandson, Dragon Again, to carry him into the future, but that one is headed downstream to Ohio. There are no Dragon Again extenders on the horizon.

Albatross is dead on top, but that MHF line running through Oil Burner, No Nukes, Western Hanover and Western Ideal is strong. The latter’s sons Rocknroll and American Ideal are carrying on. Always A Virgin is also doing a lot with a little. Five-year-old Big Jim is waiting in the wings. And much is expected of Rocknroll’s son, Heaven. Then you have ARNRD, Pet Rock and even Panther Hanover.

The Western Hanover stallion Well Said shows promise, and the same goes for If I Can Dream. Western Terror and Badlands don’t appear to be destined for greatness but Big Bad John covered 140 mares in Ohio in 2012 and WWS could surprise.  Getting away from single line dominance on the pacing side would be of benefit to all. SBSW, who appears to be a one-off for Mach Three, already took care of that. Now he’ll be going toe to toe with a concentrated strain of Skipper.


Broadway Hall and Wheeling N Dealin were both 9 for 9 at two and both of them won the Breeders Crown. However, while the former had his racing career curtailed due to a suspensory injury, WND came back at three only to go zip for the season—thus far, anyway. As a son of the great Cantab Hall, with an excellent pedigree from top to bottom and tremendous success as a freshman, Wheeling N Dealin has value as a stallion prospect. The problem is that another year like this one will diminish his desirability even further. If all goes as planned, Father Patrick, another son of Cantab Hall, will race for two more years, after which Hanover will probably double up on him the same way they doubled up on SBSW and his son Captaintreacherous.

Although she won the Filly Futurity, To Dream ON experienced a similar campaign to that of WND. But it’s no big deal for a broodmare prospect to overcome that sort of thing. Retiring TDO is easy; there is no Gural Rule for fillies. What about Wheeling N Dealin? Is there a physical basis for his poor showing in 2013? He apparently had a hairline fracture around his right knee that showed up after he won the BC in 2012. Would he qualify for a waiver? Would Ecurie Synergie like to retire him? They may not give a hoot and a holler about Gural, but the same rule applies at the WEG tracks. There doesn’t seem to be an exception built into the Gural Rule for a horse that simply lays an egg at three for no discernible reason. It happens.

No new stallions have been introduced in Ontario since the troubles began—the better ones are leaving. Wheeling N Dealin would be of value to breeders in New York or Ohio. Would that interest Ecurie Synergie? Another son of Cantab Hall, My MVP, will be standing in Ohio for 4K. He did nothing at two, and hangs his hat on a win in the Kentucky Futurity at three.


Last year George Teague finished at number 20 on the earning’s list, but with two months to go he doesn’t appear in the top 50 for 2013. Several of his better horses in recent years are for sale in Harrisburg next week. Last year’s freshman division champ, Somwherovrarainbow, who won a lot of money in the PASS but failed to deliver on the open circuit, will sell. She disappointed in the BC and failed to get past her Lady Maud elimination. Her mama, Rainbow Blue, sells in foal to SBSW. She topped Windsong’s legacy 119 to 98 in the 2004 HOY vote. Custard, Easy Again and Feel Like A Fool also hit the auction ring.

The Western Ideal filly, Authorize, who goes in the Circle City Friday at Hoosier, will sell…..Beatgoeson, who has earned more than all but two trotting mares this year, will also sell…..the Rocknroll colt, Emerius Maximus, sells…..Fancy Filly, in foal to SBSW, can be had for the right price…..Ginger And Fred is the richest race mare ever sold at public auction…..Knows Nothing, who races in the preferred trot at Woodbine Thursday night, is for sale……The Mach Three gelding, Mach It So, who earned more than 335K in the OSS this year, is also for sale…..The fast and consistent McArdle freshman, McWicked, sells…..The Bettor’s Delight three-year-old, Thirty Two Red, who was a disappointment this year, is for sale…..the Well Said freshman filly, Uffizi Hanover, who won a Bluegrass split, finished second in the ISS and won the BC in her last four starts, is in the catalog but could be withdrawn in light of her late season success.


Who's in the Booth Matters

A friend of mine, who has called races and still does it on a part time basis passed these thoughts (edited for brevity) on to me.

This past week, a track I play didn't have their longtime/regular announcer announcing at the end of the week. After several days of listening to this substitute, and he has substituted there before, I made a friendly call to the track about this gentleman.  The response I got was they were quite satisfied with the job he was doing.

Based on that puzzling response, I had to offer my opinion - - which was..........So you're okay with horses, drivers & trainers names being mispronounced over & over again, horses being miscalled during the race, the time of the race described as the "running time," which for those involved in harness racing KNOW that "running time" is a THOROUGHBRED term (I could have pointed out more)! Trainers names being used during the call (last I knew, you called the horse & maybe the driver). The response again was they were pleased.

I politely said that it was a mockery to the sport of harness racing, and for no one to correct this person - - perhaps on just on how to pronounce the names, said something about those in charge. I finished by saying you have very hard working trainers & drivers, and the least they can get is to have their name pronounced correctly. My comments were met with a defensive response.   

Back to me.

Later, we talked and he was still bewildered by the track’s response.  He was amazed how the track could be satisfied with this person’s performance and more importantly, how apparently no one has talked to this announcer to give constructive criticism.  I agreed with him.  While I could understand how someone at the track could be defensive (not very good customer service skills), didn’t they notice the problem?  Someone shouldn’t have to call to bring it to their attention.    Assuming, based on the terms used in his calls, that the substitute has a thoroughbred background, wouldn’t someone tell him ‘We don’t say running time in harness racing’?  If a person consistently says a person’s name wrong, wouldn’t someone have a conversation with the announcer and politely correct him and offer some advice?  After all these drivers and trainers work hard at their craft, the least someone can do is get their name right. 

I understand no one is perfect, but if you are satisfied with a track announcer who makes mistakes consistently, at least offer constructive criticism so they improve their race calling.  In this industry where at times track announcers play musical chairs, you are not doing this person any favor by not offering him some assistance, after all while you may be satisfied with his race calling, there is a darn good chance when they submit to a potential employer samples of their work, they are going to find themselves still looking for a job wondering why they can’t find employment as a race caller.

More importantly, there is the bottom line.  Don’t racetracks care about handle anymore?  How long do you think knowledgeable horseplayers, on-track and especially off-track, are going to put up with a race caller whose performance is consistently bad?  It’s not going to be long before a gambler says they can’t take it anymore and they are going to say ‘so long’ and find another track where the race caller is better.

In my case, it took one race for me to say good bye to a different track.  A stakes race was being contested at a track I normally don’t play so I decided to give that track a try.  After one race, I was done; the announcer stumbled through the race, calling the wrong horse’s name and other mistakes.  I wasn’t mad, but the call was so horrible, I couldn’t subject myself to it.  The next day  I contacted someone from the track to see if the regular announcer and backup were unavailable the night before; it would explain why they took almost anyone and put him in the booth.  Imagine my surprise when I was told this was their regular announcer?  Needless to say, until someone else is in the booth, I won’t be playing that track again.

Perhaps these two tracks are isolated incidents but they leave a bad impression on the industry.   How can an industry expect to grow its customer base if they are tracks satisfied with callers who call a race like they were calling the fifth race at Arlington Park or have reached a point where it is time to step down but are unwilling to do so?  For the gambler, especially in simulcast land their first impression about your track is often going to be formed on the basis of your track announcer’s presentation.  You can have $100,000 claimers racing at your track but if you have a track announcer who sounds like a graduate of VFTRG’s School of Race Calling, you lost a customer.

I understand tracks have budgetary limits.  Not everyone can afford to hire a top tier announcer.   However, what goes on in the race caller’s booth is just as important as what goes on down on the track.  Race callers are the voice of the track.  Each track has an obligation to have the best announcer possible in their booth that they can afford the same way they seek the best racing stock possible. 

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting any track just go out and fire an announcer either.  If an announcer has deficiencies, work with them and see if they can improve their race calling.  A good track announcer should be willing to accept constructive criticism and seek ways to constantly improve their call.  That being said, if they can’t cut the mustard there should be no settling, especially when there are track announcers available ‘on the bench’ for various reasons as well as those looking (and willing) to move for a better opportunity. 

Track announcers are not an afterthought, they are just as important as your driving colony.  The sooner tracks realize this, the better off everyone will be. 

Those thinking of responding to this thread.  While comments will be accepted, the purpose of this entry as with this blog is not to throw anyone under the bus.  Comments where specific people are named in a negative manner or can easily be identified  (i.e., 'the track announcer at VFTRG Downs') will not be posted.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New York Horsemen Appeal But Perpetuate an Image

In New York, the Court of Appeals is going to hear the state's horsemen's appeal of a decision which permits out of competition testing, claiming portions of it are unconstitutional.

The horsemen have every right to bring this appeal and I would never suggest they shouldn't.  However, if this case gets any coverage in the mainstream media, it is going to perpetuate an image of harness racing being the sport of chemists, not trainers.  In most sports these days, from track and field, cycling, baseball, wrestling and others, out of competition testing is an acceptable method to ensure a level playing field. In skiing, the regulators have shown up to charity events just to get a skier to 'fill the cup'.  Even though horsemen claim they want the drug cheats out of the sport, an appeal like this sends a different message, a message of 'What are you afraid of?'.  Rest assured the headlines will be simple, such as 'Horsemen Appeal Out of Competition Testing Rules' and many readers will go no further than the headline, and make their opinions from what they did read.

What bothers me is how come horsemen in other states have accepted out of competition testing and there is such a problem in New York when it comes to it?  Is it just the horsemen are more litigious than in other states or did the racing commission go rogue when formulating these regulations?

We will find out when the Court of Appeals makes their decision and shame on the eventual loser for dragging the sport through the mud.

Are you Playing the Breeders Cup?  Sigh, while I have no interest in the Breeders Cup I know many of you do.  If you plan on playing the Breeders Cup, you need to get the latest edition of HANA's Monthly Newsletter, the Breeders Cup Edition where they talk about the Championship races.  In addition, while you are reading about the Breeders Cup, make sure you read the Harness Corner where Garnet Barnsdale talks about a big score he hit. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Thoughts

Inquiring minds want to know when you visit the USTA's racing results page it doesn't show the wager amount which produces the posted exotic wager payoff.  Does that Superfecta price represent a $2, $1, 50¢ , or 10¢ wager?  Why the USTA doesn't provide this information is a real mystery.  After all, if Standardbred Canada shows what the payoff is based on it can't be rocket science.  I know some will say with all the problems harness racing has, this is the least of the problems.  Maybe they are right but if easy problems like this can't be fixed, how are the tough challenges going to be solved?

Good news in Maryland as Penn National Gaming has come to terms with horsemen to race in 2014 with an option through 2016.  This means Maryland horsemen have at least one more year of racing, regardless of what happens with the selection of a casino site for Prince George County.  Penn National did put together a strong presentation, but it remains to be seen if they can overcome a perceived bias towards National Harbor.

Can't help but notice through HANA Harness' 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Contest that there are too many two year old races. . I realize things probably won't change since racing has become in many ways a 'bottom line' sport; have to make money day one and not give horses time to develop.  It won't happen but as far as I am concerned, the Grand Circuit should drop all two year old events from their schedule.  Yes, Breeders are focused on how their horses perform at two and  three but quite honestly, with the majority of horses racing much longer, shouldn't a stallions performance AFTER their three year old campaign matter more?

In New Jersey, State Assemblyman Ron Dancer, a supporter of horse racing (hey, he is a Dancer), has proposed a constitutional amendment to allow slots at all racetracks in New Jersey.  Under his proposal, revenue would go not only to racetracks and horsemen, revenue would also go to reduce property taxes and help the casino industry as they would run the slots.  On the surface it sounds good but being the Division of Gaming Enforcement will determine how much each stakeholder would get, it sounds too much like Slots at Tracks in Ontario.  How long would it be until the DGE decides to cut racing's share of the profits?  What racing and its horsemen would get needs to be determined before any referendum is passed.

Let's face it, this week harness racing is not going to get a heck a lot of notice as attention shifts to the Breeders Cup which takes place this Friday and Saturday.  People are going to look at the Breeders Cup and wonder why harness racing's Breeders Crown can't get such attention.  Don't bother; harness can never get that big.  Thoroughbred racing is contested in 32 states spread through out the country versus roughly 16 states with parimutuel standardbred racing, focused primarily in the Northeast and Midwest.  The reason why television wants the Breeders Crown is advertisers want to advertise so they can reach a national audience.  With harness racing, the appeal to advertisers is extremely limited as there is no national market.

Rather than giving byes to Breeders Crown eliminations based on money earned, isn't it time to institute 'win and you are in' as the runners do?  Horses that win races like the Hambletonian, Meadowlands Pace and similar races deserve free passes if nominated.  Then have eliminations to fill out the fields.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Snagged in PA, Denied in PA

There were rumors this summer regarding some trainers in Pennsylvania getting caught using an illicit drug which would blow the industry.  Well, according to Harness Racing Update, three trainers were allegedly found using Arnesp.  The three trainers have been fined $5,000 plus given fibe year suspensions.  All those found guilty are due their day in front of a hearing board, but a five year suspension, if the trainers were indeed responsible is not long enough.  A lifetime ban is more appropriate.

The Pennsylvania Racing Commission has come down hard on the appeal of Walter Case Jr., denying his permission to resume his racing career.  The commission indicated Case can reapply for a license in five years which at the age of 57 won't do much for him.  The fact Case was denied a license hurts him as it will go on his record should he apply elsewhere.

My guess is if Case wants to resume racing, his only choice may be racing in California as they seem to be liberal when it comes to applying for licenses.  Of course, one or two days a week doesn't provide sufficient opportunity.  I do think the PHRC was too tough on Case,  I realize the license refusal was more to do with his criminal offense, but if they cited his kicking violations, they better be handing out some serious fines for kicking, not the typical $100 fines.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Racetrack Potpourri

Bob Marks once wrote—perhaps in Trotlines—that Perretti’s Muscles Yankee filly, Aerobics, who made only six starts, winning a split of the Hanover at Balmoral in her only win, was somehow covered by the claiming pacer Do Not Disturb at the Meadowlands when she was a two-year-old. The surprise issue of that illicit rendezvous was the forgettable pacer Rude Awakening, who earned about $3,500. Aerobics then produced two fillies, Endorphan Annie and Aerobic Linda, who didn’t amount to much, but in 2007 she gave us Lucky Chucky, who of course was Trotter of the Year in 2010 and earned two million dollars. The fact that Chucky’s first crop hit the sales this year, with a half to Muscle Massive and Muscle Mass bringing $450,000, brought that to mind.


When it comes to being a success buying ready-made horses it’s tough to top Norman Woolworth who purchased the great Meadow Skipper for $150,000 early in his three-year-old campaign, but in the modern era it’s hard to outdo the Bellino family. Rocknroll Heaven, who earned more than 2.7 million dollars and was voted HOY in 2010, was purchased for $300,000 after he started in a couple of Q races as a two-year-old. He’s being received like royalty at the sales.  And Pet Rock, the world record holder on half and 5/8 mile tracks, with more than 1.7 million dollars banked, was purchased for $220,000 in July of his two-year-old campaign. The latter will apparently be retired to stud after this season.

Pet Rock has started 15 times this year, but that first one at M1 stands out, for all the wrong reasons. Simon Allard left with him and tried to wrestle the top from Golden Receiver. Sorry. He appeared to turn down a seat and pushed on through fractions of :25.3 and  :52.3, eventually finishing a spent fifth. Virgil Morgan ripped his driver in the press after the race, which is something we don’t see very often.

Pet Rock’s connections wanted that mile mark to go with the other two. French Chef retired as the world record holder at two over all three sized tracks. His dam was by Nevele Pride and he wanted to be a trotter and would trot while wearing hobbles. Goo has the opposite configuration, a pacing sire and trotters on the bottom. I guess the mix imparts great speed. And just as Goo fell apart in the middle of his sophomore season and has never regained his form, French Chef went from being a great two-year-old to being a very ordinary three-year-old. He sired Beach Towel, Pace winner Frugal Gourmet and three-year old POY Amity Chef. Beach Towel sired the dam of SBSW. Direct Scooter was out of a Noble Victory mare who paced and was only bred by pacing stallions. He also had serious speed.


In 1987 Abercrombie, an Adios line stallion, was the leading NA pacing sire. That was the first time since 1974 that a non-Meadow Skipper line stallion topped the list. Since 2004 those Meadow Skipper line stallions have taken over the top spot, with all of them running through Most Happy Fella. SBSW, with only two crops racing, has been closing fast on the outside, despite having far fewer performers than Bettor’s Delight or Rocknroll. Pretty soon we’ll once again see a non-Skipper line stallion lead the way.


Looking at the discrepancy between the prices commanded by colts and fillies at the sales, one wonders why the two-tier system of pricing with regard to stud fees isn’t given a shot by one farm or another. Direct Scooter got $10,000 for colts and $5,000 for fillies in 1994. In 1989 Blue Chip offered On The Road Again at $1,500 for a colt and $7,500 for a filly. Precious Fella was $5,000 for a colt and half that for a filly, and Brand New Fella was $3,000 for a colt and $1,500 for a filly.


Yesterday at Plainridge the 2,500 claimer, HH Blackjack, won. He’s an eleven-year-old Cam’s Card Shark gelding who has more than 200 starts under his belt. His dam is the Distant Thunder mare, HH Shadow, who finished second to Barberry Spur in the 1986 Cane Pace. Amity Chef was third. HH Shadow was the first filly to enter the Cane in 19 years. Her elimination win was the fastest of the three, in fact, it was the fastest mile ever paced at Yonkers by a filly or mare—1:54.4. It also equaled the world record set by Amneres at Delaware.


Brittany has fired a preemptive strike in the stud fee adjustment game. American Ideal had his stud fee raised 25% to $10,000. This may or may not signal a trend. In 2011 they stepped American Ideal up from $6,000 to $7,500. This was on the heels of Peelers’ very successful two-year-old campaign. The others didn’t line up behind them; in fact, many stallions, including SBSW, had their fees lowered, although his was raised to the original level the following year.


It has been widely reported that Daylon Magician and Santana Blue Chip have embarked on the road back to the track, but Winning Mister can apparently be added to the list. He Q at The Meadows yesterday. He was retired for the 2013 season in PA and his fee was set at $8,000. In the blink of an eye it fell 44% to $4,500.


Many were convinced that we’d see a sub-1:50 trotting mile this year, but it hasn’t happened. The weather didn’t cooperate at the Red Mile for the GC meet or at Pocono for the BC and overall the four and up group hasn’t lived up to expectations. Sevruga and Uncle Peter did win in :50.3 at Pocono this year, but with a chill in the air it’s unlikely we’ll see that :49 mile in 2013.


Rina Rekila drives EL Titan, the Muscle Hill colt she won a split of the ISS with in Lexington, in the first division of the Madison County tomorrow…..The American Ideal filly, Sweetnsinful, who cleaned up in the NYSS with 7 of 8 board finishes, but didn’t race at the Red Mile or in the BC, starts in the Madison County for two-year-old pacing fillies…..They have two weeks to rehabilitate Somwherovrarainbow’s image before she hits the sales ring in Harrisburg. She takes on Charisma Hanover and Social Scene in the first Lady Maud elimination tomorrow night…..Only 10 of the 66 nominees to the Messenger are entered in tomorrow’s two five-horse eliminations. They made it cheaper to participate this year but they still didn’t come; only two of them are what would be considered top tier colts. Back in the day Yonkers routinely featured 10, 11 and even 12 horse fields—especially in the NYSS.
Joe F

Here is Idea #1 for New York Fan Advisory Council

In New York, there is a Fan Advisory Council to offer suggestions to fix/improve racing.  While this idea should apply to all states, since you are asking for ideas, here is suggestion #1 for the council.

Get rid of coupled entries. Here is a perfect example. 

Tonight at Vernon Downs, the Kindergarten Classic for 2yo filly trotters has amassed a field of nine trotters to do battle.  Nine horses makes a good field to wager on.  Except this race going for more than $200,000 has only six wagering options.  There are two coupled entries, the first entry comprising of three horses and the second entry having two horses.  How exciting is this race to the bettor.  Box the two entries in the Exacta and you have five of the nine horses in the race covered.  Under the rules for Trifecta wagering, theoretically the winning ticket could comprise of the first, fourth, and sixth place finishers.

Gamblers want full fields to wager on, not to watch race.  Racetracks want attractive races so gamblers will want to wager on them.  Getting rid of coupled entries is a win-win.  What is taking you so long in eliminating them, after all handle isn't high enough to pull off a wagering coup?

The time has come to put coupled entries into the scrap heap of outdated ideas.

News Item - Feuding in Michigan: Hazel Park is seeking to modify their racing application for 2014 race dates to reduce the number of racing days from 44 days to 10 days.  The reason why?  A dispute between track management and horsemen over proposed legislation to save racing.  With racetracks and horsemen both hurting, you would think they would speak with a unified voice.  But then again, this is racing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Does A Filly Have To Do To Be Voted HOY?

The battle for HOY honors will heat up over the next five weeks and explode on November 30 when and if The Captain and Bee race in the TVG Final and Moni Maker, respectively. It’s appropriate that Bee A Magician finish her undefeated campaign in the Moni Maker because that one took HOY honors twice during a five-year stretch in the late 1990s when mares won that title four times in five years. Continentalvictory and CR Kay Suzie are the other two fillies that won it.

The year that best parallels 2013 is 1998 when five-year-old Moni Maker beat out sophomore trotting champ Muscles Yankee by a vote of 125 to 90. While Muscles won the Hambletonion, BC, Yonkers Trot, Stanley Dancer and a few others, following a path that would lead to HOY honors in a typical year, Moni Maker spent much of her season in Europe, winning such prestigious stakes as the Elitlopp, and she also won the BC and Nat Ray in NA. She won 11 of 16 starts and more than 1.1 million dollars. Milestone voting is very important; it has been a major factor in Foiled winning his division the last couple of years as he chased and finally surpassed Gallo’s earning’s mark. In 1998 Moni Maker was closing in on the three million dollar mark. Any bias in favor of potential stallions that some believe exists in the mind of voters was overcome in 1998.

In 1981, when Fan Hanover was voted HOY in the US and Canada, there was no competition to speak of from sophomore pacing colts. She received 133 votes while the four-year-old pacer Royce was second with only 20. Conquered, who won the Pace, Confederation Cup and Matron, was tied with Eastern Skipper, who won the James Dancer and the Clark, with seven votes each. Fan was in the right place at the right time on Jug Day, and she cleaned up in the traditional filly stakes.

Beating the boys goes a long way for a filly or mare in search of the highest honor. That was the case in 1996 when Continentalvictory won HOY off of her win in the Hambletonion. The top sophomore pacer that year was the Jaguar Spur gelding, Hot Lead, who won the Pace. The previous year CR Kay Suzie failed to win the Hambletonion when she broke stride in her elimination heat, but she crushed the boys from the outside post by seven lengths in the Yonkers Trot. She was the first filly in 39 years to win that race. Moni Maker, Fan, Continentalvictory and Suzie all have beating the boys on a big stage in common.

Another mare who won HOY honors off of the way she beat up on the boys is Fresh Yankee. She won in 1970 at age seven, the year she won the Roosevelt International, Elitlopp, Challenge Cup and UN Trot. She beat her male counterparts in all of those races. 207 votes were cast that year and the daughter of Hickory Pride received 110 of them. The competition was brutal; it consisted of Timothy T, who won the Hambletonion and Kentucky Futurity; Most Happy Fella, who won the Jug, Cane, Messenger and Adios, among others; and two-year-old Albatross, who won 14 of 17 starts for Harry Harvey. The voters certainly didn’t privilege the stallion prospects over the mare in 1970.

In 1974 when Delmonica Hanover was voted HOY she beat the boys in the Prix d’Amerique, Roosevelt International and Titan Cup. And in 1958 when Emilys Pride won she beat the boys in the Hambletonion. Right or wrong, that’s the way it has been during the last sixty-five years: the fillies and mares that achieve HOY status beat the boys.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Meadowlands Winter Late Closesr Series - A New Game

If you have looked at the nomination form for the Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment late winter series, you can't help but note there was a cut in the number of late closing series this year; this done to provide more overnight opportunities for horsemen during the winter when other tracks are closed.   One advantage of the changes is it allows additional funds to be dedicated to the remaining late closing events, making them more attractive.  Another advantage is it makes the races better betting events overall because instead of the same horses moving from one late closing series to the next series, it puts the horses into the general horse population where they will need to compete against different horses.  I mean do we need the Jr. Trendsetter and Jr. Trendsetter II?  I say no.

Last year a few of the 'name' stables was dominating series with two or three horses racing in an event, sometimes in the same elimination which makes for fewer betting interests.  While those stables may enter the few stakes which remain, it means with overnight races they can't reduce ten horse fields to six wagering interests as often.  In addition, the smaller stables will not find themselves sitting in the barn as much because they don't or choose not to pay nominating fees.

I must admit, there is one change I don't care for and that is the movement of the Presidential Series to February and going from two preliminary legs and a final to a single elimination and final.  I recall the days the Presidential was a series where the best horses raced three or four weeks straight before the final.  It would have been nice if the Presidential could return to be the great event it once was.  A series with the stature of the Levy Memorial.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery for John Pawlak.  If you don't know John yet the name sounds familiar, there is a reason as he tends to host many of the USTA's broadcasts such as Inside Harness Racing.  We look forward to John returning to host the programs he has in the past.

Penn National Makes An Offer That Can't Be Refused?

Harness horsemen in Maryland are excited about the offer Penn National Gaming has made in its presentation to the Maryland Video Lottery Location Commission yesterday.  They promised to amend their application so all net profit at the casino to be located at Rosecroft Raceway would be dedicated to Prince George County.  As part of this profit-sharing agreement, Penn National Gaming would pledge $320 million of that profit be donated to the counties health and education systems.

Why/how could Penn National pledge to donate all net profits to the county if they get the casino license?  Penn National is in the process of splitting into two companies.  One company, a casino REIT would make money because Penn National would have to make rent payments to the split-off company.  This way, while Penn would not make money per se at the casino, being the shareholders of Penn would initially own shares in the REIT, they same people would still see money coming their way.

It will be interesting to see if the other two proposals can beat the Penn National offer monetarily.  While the other two locations, including National Harbor may be preferred by some people who matter, the chances of Rosecroft Raceway being named the victor have increased dramatically.

The other two sites make their presentations later this week, let's see if they can react quick enough to out-wow Penn National Gaming.  Here's hoping they don't.

The 12 Most Disappointing Horses Of 2013

I made a list of the dozen horses I consider to be the biggest disappointments in 2013. Some have simply been done in by injuries while others lost their touch for no obvious reason. A pair from the recent past who merit inclusion in the all-time head-scratcher list are One More Laugh and We Will See. The former won the Governor’s Cup at two and went on to beat Heaven in the Meadowlands Pace during his sophomore season. He also won the Cain that year and earned more than 1.5 million. In the three years since he has earned about 440K and has only taken in 50K in 27 starts this year. During the season following his successful three-year-old campaign he won only twice.

Another member of the Head-Scratcher HOF is We Will See, who was retired to stud after one 2013 start. Although he earned 800K at three, WWS made his bones as a four-year-old in the FFA ranks. In many ways he set the stage for the pack of newly minted four-year-olds who have had such a profound influence on the pacing ranks this year. Like OML, WWS has earned about 2.5 million, but unlike that one he took the Franklin, CPD, Allerage and USPC at four. He banked more than 1.2 million that year. Last year, at five, he only won twice in 21 starts and banked about 400K.

This year’s list, in no particular order:

1)      To Dream On

Last year when To Dream On and Bee A Magician traded wins in the Peaceful Way and the BC it looked like we would witness a classic battle in this season's sophomore filly division; Bee more than held up her end of the bargain but TDO came back as a very ordinary facsimile of what she had been. At two she romped in the BC and also took the Merrie Annabelle and a split of the ISS. She won her division. TDO beat Bee 115 to 25 in the Dan Patch voting. This year she did manage to win the KY Filly Futurity, but she only won twice in 14 starts. A last place finish in her BC elimination may rekindle thoughts of retirement.

2)      Wheeling N Dealin

Like his female counterpart, To Dream On, WND had that star quality about him. He won all nine starts and banked almost 700K. Wins in the BC, Wellwood and Champlain earned him a Dan Patch as well as an O’Brien. He received 135 of 142 ballots cast for the Dan Patch and got 51 of the 52 votes turned in for the O’Brien. This year he went winless in 10 starts and banked only 115K.

3)      Heston Blue Chip

At two HBC won the Dan Patch off of wins in the Meadowlands Pace, BC, EBC and Progress. He banked more than a million dollars. This year he hasn’t been able to keep up with the FFA class so he’s been chasing open and high end condition wins at Tioga, Saratoga, Vernon Downs and Harrah’s. His 5 3 3 record in 15 starts doesn’t look bad but his earnings of 155K tell the story. He’s one who has not benefited from the Gural rule, requiring potential stallions to come back at four.

4)      Check Me Out

CMO is one of the best trotting fillies ever. A WR holder at two and three, she earned 955K last year as a sophomore, winning the Del Miller, Bluegrass, Hudson Filly, Elegantimage and Zweig. She won both the Dan Patch and O’Brien at two and three. This year Check me Out has only two wins in nine starts and earnings of less than 50K.

5)      Googoo Gaagaa

Back in the day plenty of trotting breds earned their keep pacing and a select few pacing breds were successful trotters: Skipper Walt and Speedy Romeo, to name two. The latter is rare today, but Goo, with his top line pacing lineage, was an exception. He set a WR on a half at two and on a 5/8 at three. He was the fastest three-year-old trotter ever on any size track. He won the Simpson, Beal and Colonial last year, embarrassing Market Share in the latter. Physical problems knocked him out of action for two months during  the heart of the season and a year-end attempt at a comeback fell flat. Many looked forward to his presence in the FFA ranks, but he only managed three starts in 2013.

6)      Drop The Ball

Some thought Ross Croghan was out of his mind when he entered Drop The Ball in the Meadowlands Pace eliminations, but it soon became apparent that she possessed the speed to go with any of them. The Western Terror filly had won the Countess Adios at two and she took the Shalee, Shady Daisy, Matron and a split of the Bluegrass at three. The problem is that, despite her lifetime earnings of 1.3 million and constant presence in the open mare’s class, she has never maximized her speed. DTB took the Allerage Mare last year and the Lady Liberty this. The WR holder on a 5/8 track has won five times and earned 290K this year, but her break and subsequent last place finish in Saturday’s BC Mare is more typical than not.

7)      Odds On Equuleus

Odds On was number two behind The Captain in this year’s Hoof Beats/Trackmaster Looney Tunes Predictive Rankings. He was expected to be CT’s primary challenger. Last year he won the Nassagaweya and a split of the ISS. He was also handed a controversial DQ after winning a Bluegrass split. All told Equuleus had five wins and banked more than 400K. This year in 12 starts he has no wins.

8)      Michaels Power

Michaels Power won the Jug and 14 other heats last year. He beat TOL by a 4/1 margin in the O’Brien voting and got a very respectable 50 votes to Heston’s 68 in the Dan Patch voting. Many of his wins were of the OSS variety but, aside from the Jug, he also had a big win in the Confederation Cup. He earned more than 1.4 million and finished second overall to Market Share in that department. Like his US counterpart, Heston Blue Chip, he hasn’t been able to establish any traction in the FFA class. He finished seventh at 30/1 in the BC Open the other night. He’s yet to crack the 100K barrier in 11 starts.

9)      Thinking Out Loud

The winner of last year’s NA Cup just hasn’t been able to stay on the track. He earned more than 1.2 million last year, with the Cup and a Bluegrass split serving as the highlights, but he’s only started five times in 2013. His one win was a brilliant :47.2 mile at M1 in August. He’s banked 122K this year.

10)  Panther Hanover

Panther is another one who hasn’t been able to stay on the track: he has made only one 2013 start. Last year he won the Simcoe and the New Jersey Classic. In the latter Kingcole escorted him to a season’s record :47.2 mile.

11)  Big McDeal

The McArdle mare won the Champlain and an ISS split at two. In the latter she nosed out Jewel, matching that one’s WR of :50.2. The following year she won five times, earning 425K. In a PASS race at The Meadows in July McDeal set a WR for a filly on a 5/8 track and also established an all-age mark for pacing mares at that track. This year has been disappointing. She won twice in 16 starts and banked less than 50K.

12)  Intimidate

The Justice Hall gelding opened mouths with his dominant performance in last year’s BC, but this year he never got untracked. After a curious early stint in the Quebec SS he missed a couple of months with a foot issue. When he came back he impressed us with a big time win in the Credit Winner. Then we got Saturday’s fade job in the BC. The problem is that he isn’t staked to the TVG, so unless he is supplemented to the Am-Nat we’ll probably carry the memory of Saturday’s failed performance into next year.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Tuesday Briefs

We are a month away from the debut of the 2013-2014 meet at Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment (nice to stop saying 'New' Meadowlands) and the winter late closing series have been announced with a race to honor 'Buddy' Gilmour.  That's the good part.  The bad part is as we get closer to November 23, we will start hearing about those being denied racing privileges.  It's not the fact people are being excluded which is bad per se; actually it's good.  The bad is the fact there is a need to tell people you're note welcome and take your business elsewhere.

Scott Zeron has indicated he is heading for the Meadowlands effective November 23, the start of the new meet.

PTP discusses Benny Beam's thoughts on the Breeders Crown at Pocono Downs, harness racing in general, and perhaps more interestingly, summarizes Benny's opinion on Captaintreacherous.  If Benny's right, the Captain may be loosing some of his luster next year.

RUS Ontario concluded their season this past Friday with a race at The Raceway at Western Fair District.  For those who are fans of RUS, here is the replay of that race.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Breeders Crown Is Behind Us: Now What?

Last year, after a season in the shadows, Intimidate opened many eyes with a close second to 3/2 favorite Little Brown Fox in the Simcoe for Ron Pierce. He was 26/1 that night. Several weeks later it was Intimidate who was the 3/2 choice as he crushed the opposition in the BC. He was a star. In Saturday’s H&G BC at Pocono he was sent away as the 3/2 favorite once again, but this time Pierce chose to cut the mile and Intimidate went backwards when challenged on the last turn by "Hard Luck Herbie." He finished eighth.

Despite a single open stakes win in the Credit Winner and with him not being TVG eligible, it looked like another dominant performance in the BC could garner Intimidate division honors, but the BC giveth and the BC taketh away—and it tooketh away Saturday night.  He may win the O’Brien off his preferred wins at Mohawk, but Herbie, who has only won once this year, is staked to the Am-Nat Aged Trot on Nov 9 at Balmoral as well as the TVG Open on Nov 23 and the TVG Final on Nov 30. It’s too late for Mister Herbie to win the division, but after Intimidate’s melt down in the BC he can certainly win the O’Brien. Ten trotters in his division have earned more money than Intimidate this year. Mister Herbie, who has only made one more start than Intimidate and has six fewer wins, has earned 45% more money…. Market Share won the Maple Leaf, but he only raced once in Canada so he isn’t eligible.


The supporters of Captaintreacherous and Bee A Magician both saw their candidate as the winner of Saturday’s debate at Pocono. In fact, both were very impressive and confirmed that they deserve to be set apart. The Captain will apparently start in the Monument Circle at Hoosier Park on Nov 2  and perhaps in the American-National at Balmoral the following week. His connections are not interested in the more high profile Messenger--a leg of the Triple Crown-- and Matron which are held at roughly the same time. Sunshine Beach, who launched an impressive challenge in the BC, is not staked to the Monument Circle; neither are Vegas and Lucan. It will essentially be another kick at the tomato cans, very similar the laugher of an invitational The Captain chose over the Jug. The heavy hitters in the division are also absent from the nominees list of the Am-Nat. Then there’s the TVG Final on Nov 30, which he may or may not race in. The Captain is staked to the Progress Pace on December 1 . Sunshine Beach, Sunfire Blue Chip and Vegas Vacation are also staked to the Progress. Team treacherous could conceivably pass on the TVG and race in the Progress instead.

Bee will apparently race in the Moni Maker on Nov 30. Between now and then she could supplement to the AM-Nat Nov 9; or they could supplement her to the Matron on Nov 10 for 25K . Winning one of these races wouldn’t prove anything, but if kicking the tomato cans is good for The Captain it’s also good for Bee. The Dan Patch and O’Brien voters tend to be parochial. To Bee’s benefit is the fact that a Canadian chapter of the USHWA was formed in February. Bee may get all or most of those 14  votes.


The Breeders Crown has sewed up the division for plenty of horses. It has also helped some jump a couple of spots to a division win. How did Saturday’s edition affect the chances of horses with top shelf aspirations? Captaintreacherous, Bee A Magician, Father Patrick and I Luv The Nitelife already had their division titles secured, and they all won on Saturday. Precocious Beauty looked to be the queen of the 2YO filly pacers but she was burned out near the front and finished eighth in her BC race. She’s staked to the 400K Three Diamonds on Nov 30 at M1 and a win there should nail it for her. Having won the Eternal Camnation, Great Lady and Champlain in Canada, she’s a cinch for the O’Brien. Uffizi Hanover, the BC winner, only has one other win—the Bluegrass. She is also staked to the Three Diamonds. Uffizi is also eligible to the Matron; Precocious Beauty would need to be supplemented to that one for 20K. It’s unlikely that Precocious Beauty will be denied a Dan Patch.

Shake It Cerry may have locked up a division title with her win in the BC. She also won the Peaceful Way at Mohawk. Designed To Be, winner of a split of the Bluegrass as well as the PASS final, broke in her elimination, making it difficult to win it all. Also, she is not eligible to the Goldsmith Maid, while Cerry and Cooler Schooner are. The latter, the WR holder on any size track, broke in the BC final, and probably ended any chance of winning the division. OSS champ Riveting Rosie, who also won the Peaceful Way and the Champlain, will win the O’Brien.

In a division full of in and outers Market Share carved out an inside track for himself with his BC win. His two other noteworthy wins are the Maple Leaf and a 50K TVG-FFA at M1. A win in the TVG Final would secure the division for him. The Am-Nat Aged Trot on Nov 9 could make the race interesting. Market Share, Mister Herbie, Arch and Sevruga are all staked to it. Also, Maven is staked to the AM-Nat. Wouldn’t it be sweet to see her take on the boys.

Shelliscape winning the Aged Mare Pace simply adds to the confusion in that division. This one, on top of her upset win in the Allerage, certainly gives her a stake in the division. Anndrovette won the Roses Are Red; Rocklamation won the Milton and the Golden Girls; Drop The Ball won the Lady Liberty. Now that the Forest City Pace has apparently fallen victim to the austerity movement in Ontario there really isn’t a logical place to settle this one. As is the case with Foiled Again, the returning champ carries an edge in these situations.

A Breeders Crown victory would have secured a division win for Royalty For Life, who already had wins in the Hambletonion, Stanley Dancer and Zweig, but he scratched. Spider Blue Chip, winner of a Bluegrass split, the Colonial and now the BC, has positioned himself to be a prime contender. The Oliver at Hoosier Park on November 2, the Am-Nat a week later at Balmoral and the Matron a week after that are the three races left in that division. RFL and SBC, as well as Creatine, who won the KY Futurity and a Bluegrass split, are all ineligible to the Matron. A 20K check would take care of that. On the other hand, all three are staked to the American-National on November 9 at Balmoral. Perhaps they’ll settle it there. The Hambletonion carries a lot of weight—see Broad Bahn—so RFL probably still has the inside track.

The two-year-old pacing division has been up for grabs all season. He’s Watching, the lightly staked king of the NYSS, who has no open stakes wins to his credit, has been the top vote getter in that division of late. A winner with a sire stakes record devoid of open stakes wouldn’t stand out in the O’Brien’s but it would represent a very unusual resume for a Dan Patch winner. Luck Be Withyou, the winner of a split of the Champlain, won the BC in the rain and slop as the second choice. He had also won his BC elimination. Race favorite Somestarsomewhere, who won a split of the ISS, finished third. So Surreal, another ISS winner, ran out (literally) in the BC. Western Vintage, the early season leader, finished out at 2/5 in his BC elimination. The Governor’s Cup at M1 and the Matron and Am-Nat should help settle this one. Somestarsomewhere and So Surreal are both staked to the Matron. Luck Bewithyou, Western Vintage and He’s Watching are not. The buy in is 20K. There are no supplemental entries to the Governor’s Cup at M1 on November 30; Western Vintage, So Surreal and Somestarsomewhere are all eligible. He’s Watching and Luck Bewithyou are not. None of these colts are staked to the Am-Nat.

It would appear that He’s Watching is through for the year. Again, it would be odd for a colt that never won an open stakes race to win the division. Needy won the O’Brien that way two years ago, but Canada is different. Metro winner, Boomboom Ballykeel, or Nassagaweya winner, Arthur Blue Chip, will probably win the O’Brien.

The senior pacing division has featured the highest level of competition all year. Sweet Lou won the 100K Maturity; Bolt The Duer won the Dan Patch; Pet Rock won the Roll With Joe; ARNRD won the Canadian Pacing Derby and the Battle of Lake Erie; TOL won the US Pacing Championship; Clear Vision won the Quillen; Needy won the Mohawk; Golden Receiver has dominated the TVG races. Foiled won the division on the basis of a soft win record the last two years. His money mark and the lack of a compelling alternative got him the nod. Could it happen again? Foiled is now 260K ahead of Pet Rock in the division. If he wins the TVG final, it’s all over. But prior to that, in two weeks, we have the Indiana Pacing Derby, which Foiled won the last two years, last year in TR time. And the following week we have the Am-Nat, which Foiled won two years ago. Sweet Lou, Needy, ARNRD, Pet Rock, Golden Receiver and Michaels Power are also staked to that one. Between those two races, the TVG Open and the TVG Final there will be plenty of opportunities for the older pacers to sort things out.