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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dan Patch Award Choices For 2013

My Dan Patch winners for 2013

Horse of the Year: Bee A Magician

Trotter of the Year: Bee A Magician

Pacer of the Year: Captaintreacherous

Two-Year-old Colt Trotter: Father Patrick

Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter: Shake It Cerry

Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer: He’s Watching

Two-Year-Old Filly Pacer: Precocious Beauty

Three-Year-Old Colt Trotter: Royalty For Life

Three-Year-Old Filly Trotter: Bee A Magician

Three-Year-Old Colt Pacer: Captaintreacherous

Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer: I Luv The Nitelife

Older Horse & Gelding Trotter: Market Share

Older Mare Trotter: Maven

Older Horse & Gelding Pacer: Foiled Again

Older Mare Pacer: Anndrovette

The choices are pretty obvious this year. The only one up for grabs, as I see it, is the award for the best older pacing mare. Anndrovette won the most money but Rocklamation wasn’t far behind and she had more stakes wins. Since there wasn’t a whole lot separating them I went with the incumbent.


Some Chutzpah

It's no secret that Betfair owns TVG so it shouldn't be surprising as a partner with an Atlantic City casino, they would want to promote online gaming.

I guess it is okay for them to promote to NJ residents that online gaming is now legal in the state and encourage people to sign up.

Where they crossed the line is when they just reviewed tbe field for a Meadowlands race and decided  to promote their online gaming site, indirectly encouraging Meadowlands players to cross over to the 'gaming' side.  That takes chutzpah.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.  Yes online gaming is the law and Betfair is involved  but there is something wrong when you try to canabilize your partner's buisiness.

If you must run those commercials fine; be tactful and run them when talking about Delta Downs, not the Madowlands

It's a matter of repect.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Meadowlands Super Fall Stakes Preview

In what may be the most important series of late stakes races in a while, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment will be featuring eight stakes races on their Saturday night card.  The big race of course is the TVG FFA Pace where the 3yo Captaintreacherous takes on older horses, the first time in over 30 years a sophomore pacer took on older in a FFA race.

Of course, there are 13 races on the card so here are my selections for all the races on the card.

1st Pace - $11,000; C-1 Horses & Geldings
  7 - Sir Melo's Z Tam (Allard, 7-2)
  2 - He's The Chip (Tr Tetrick, 12-1)
  5 - Rocknroll Jewel (Berry, 6-1)
10 - Famous Western (Ti Tetrick, 9-2)

2nd Trot - $456,150; The Goldsmith Maid Final  2yo Fillies (No Show Wagering)
  5 - Share It Cerry (Pierce, 1-5)
  6 - Scream And Shout (Ti Tetrick, 6-1)
  1 - Sweetie Hearts (Allard, 4-1)

3rd Pace - $167,500; Nadia Lobell  3yo Fillies
  4 - Shebestingin (D Miller, 8-5)
  6 - Somwherovrarainbow (Sears, 4-1)
  2 - Mattie Terror Girl (A Miller, 20-1)
  5 - Jerseylicious (Callahan, 12-1)

4th Trot - $494,750; The Valley Victory - Final  2yo Open (No Show Wagering)
  3 - El Titam (Rekila, 8-1)
  8 - Nuncio (Campbell, 6-5)
  4 - Skates N Plats (Allard, 9-2)
  2 - Southwind Spirit (Gingras, 4-1)

5th Pace - $20,000; B-1/A-2 Handicap 3yo Colts & Geldings
  2 - Santanna One (Tr Tetrick, 8-1)
  8 - Untouchable One (Campbell, 10-1)
10 - Doctor Butch (Ti Tetrick, 3-1)
  9 - Rockin Amadeus (Pierce, 4-1)

6th Trot - $500,000; TVG Free For All Final
  7 - Market Share (Ti Tetrick, 8-5)
  4 - Arc Madness (Smedshammer, 9-2)
  3 - Wishing Stone (Gingras, 4-1)
  5 - My MVP (Pierce, 20-1)

7th Pace - $14,000; B2 Horses & Geldings
  1 - Panesthetic (Callahan, 3-1)
  8 - Cashendash Hanover (D Miller, 4-1)
10 - Seek The Dragon (A Miller, 6-1)

8th Pace - $534,500; The Governor's Cup Final  2yo Open
  8 - Stevensville (Ti Tetrick, 6-1)
  7 - Somestarsomewhre (Kakaley, 3-1)
  5 - JK Endofanera (Sears, 5-2)
  6 - Arthur Blue Chip (D Miller, 4-1)

9th Pace - $394,950; The Three Diamonds Final  2yo Fillies
  1  - Ali Blue (Gingras, 5-2)
  2 - JK Molly (Kakaley, 7-2)
  6 - Deligthful Dragon (D Miller, 10-1)
  7 - Somethinincredible (Campbell, 6-1)

10th Pace - $512,000; TVG Free For All Final
  8 - Captaintreacherous (Ti Tetrick, 7-2)
  3 - Pet Rock (D Miller, 2-1)
  9 - Warrawee Needy (Sears, 6-1)
  4 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 5-2)

11th Trot - $253,000; Moni Maker  3yo Fillies (No Show Wagering)
  5 - Little Bitty Lies (M Miller, 30-1)
  8 - Bee A Magician (Sears, 1-5)
  3 - Ma Chere Hall (Callahan, 9-2)
  4 - Andie Sophia (Macdonald, 12-1)

12th Pace - $30,000; A-2/FFA Handicap
  8 - Hillbilly Hanover (Gingras, 2-1)
  1 - Yo Cheyenne Rocky (Allard, 8-1)
  7 - State Treasurer (D Miller, 5-2)
  4 - Fat Mans Alley (Ti Tetrick, 9-2)

13th Pace - $16,000; B-1 Horses & Geldings
  9 - Mojo Terror (Callahan, 12-1)
  1 - Alsace Hanover (Ti Tetrick, 6-1)
  5  - Dreamlands Art (Gingras, 7-2)
  4 -  Long Live Rock (Dauplaise, 15-1)

Interested in NJ Harness Racing? Do you do Google Plus?

If the answer is yes to both you may wish to consider joining a new community called 'New Jersey Standardbred Racing' which has recently been established.  It is a fledgling group which will grow with each additional members.  So if you are interested in New Jersey standardbreds and the political climate regarding the standardbred industry, be it breeding or racing, why not take a look and sign up? 

As with any community, it is only as good as its members.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why Pet Rock Gets No Respect; Why The Captain Wins the TVG FFA Final

The big question is can Captaintreacherous beat the older horses such as Foiled Again?  Some people are wondering why Pet Rock is not getting any respect.  Yes, there is an East Coast bias but my take on this is Pet Rock is age 4.  Foiled Again is age 9.  No, he is not as dominant as he once was but how many 9 year olds racing against the best horses is going to be as dominant.  It would be as if he was Smoken Up NZ who won the Miracle Mile in Australia at ages 7 and 8) or Ideal du Gazeau from France (who won his second Prix d' Amerique at age 9).  You expect a horse like Pet Rock to improve, you don't expect a horse like Foiled Again to hold his own against FFA company; this is why he gets the attention.

So you know doubt have seen the campaign about who you like #TheCaptain vs. #FoiledAgain.  From what you see above you can see some will say #PetRock.  So the question to be asked is who do I like?  Well, I have to say I like Foiled Again as the veteran keeps on kicking but who do I think is going to win?  I would have to go with Captaintreacherous.  Yes, this goes against the general rule of a three year old having no chance against older horses at the top levels and if you look at claiming races, the three year olds get a higher claiming allowance for that reason.

So what makes me pick The Captain?  The number of starts.  Trainer Tony Alagna has carefully managed the horse through his campaign.  While he took crticism for bypassing the Jug, the fact is Captaintreacherous comes into this race with a total of 15 parimutuel starts.   Foiled Again enters this race with 28 starts this year, Pet Rock comes in with 17 starts.  Other than Bettor's Edge and Bolt The Duer which most people will discount, all the other FFAllers have at least 20 starts on the card.  Hence, while The Captain lacks the experience racing against older horses, he has freshness on his side. That freshness may be the difference between victory or defeat.

Overall, my selections for the Superfecta will be Captaintreacherous, Pet Rock, Warrawee Needy, and Foiled Again.  I will discuss the rest of the card in a future post.


Mark December 12 on your calendar.  That is the day the #1 driver in dashes won nationally, Ronnie Wrenn Jr. will have a face-off with #3 driver Bruce Aldrich Jr.  In this contest there will be a coin test for which driver will get the first pick of a horse in race #1 with the other driver picking second.  Starting in the 2nd race, Aldrich will have first pick with Wrenn having first pick in the following race and then alternating between the two drivers.

This should be an interesting contest and I look forward to seeing it.  The only thing which would make it better is if the #2 dash winning driver, Dave Palone would join the competition.  If you have the chance, make sure you tune in or head to the track.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Things to be Thankful for - The 2013 Edition

As is my annual tradition, it's time for my annual 'Things to be Thankful For' list. I am sure I am missing some people so forgive me ahead of time.

Here is this year's list with the entries in no particular order.
  1.  Captaintreacherous and Bee A Magician - Who would think we would be at the conclusion of the 2013 racing campaign and still have a debate about who may be  the recipient of Horse of the Year Honors?  Sure, Bee A Magician right now is in front, but a victory by Captaintreacherous in the TVG FFA Series Final against older horses would result in the Captain taking the honors away from this fantastic filly at the last possible moment
  2. TVG and the Meadowlands for the TVG FFA Series - With all due respect to the Cleveland Classic, without this partnership of TVG and the Meadowlands, most of the top FFA horses would have called it a season after the Breeders Crown.  This partnership is giving us two great races and shows what can happen when ADWs and tracks work together. 
  3. I could mention the Gural team at the Meadowlands for their efforts in bringing Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment to fruition but it is time we mention someone within Team Gural for praise.  For that reason, we are thankful for Nick Salvi, a man without a title but is everywhere.  In addition to his duties at the three Gural-operated tracks, he write press releases for the Breeders Crown, The Red Mile, and is seen at the sales and of course Lexington.  Did I mention that Nick is also Vice-President of the Grand Circuit?  Nick may not have made his mark as a driver/trainer, but the sport is richer having Nick on the business-side of the industry.
  4. Once again, we are thankful for John Manzi - Not only does he attempt to keep racing in the forefront as much as possible at Monticello Raceway, Manzi is another Press Release King.  Let's see from memory, in addition to writing press releases for Monticello Raceway, he writes press releases for the CKG Billings Series, NAADA, USHWA Monticello-Goshen  Chapter, Historic Track and others.  If there is a press release to be written, they know who to call, John Manzi.
  5. Brett Boyd, President of the MHHA - The situation in Michigan is becoming worse every year and most people wouldn't want to be stuck in a position of leadership, yet Boyd keeps fighting the battle on behalf of Michigan Harness Horsemen no matter how poor the odds are.  The horsemen in Michigan should be thankful they have someone like Boyd fighting for them and maybe he will be able to pull victory out of the lions mouth.  We should be thankful as well.
  6. Dave McCaffrey - The leader of the Illinois Harness Horsemen Association has been put through the screws this past year with the fight over ADW wagering in the Prairie State.  Would you like to be the leader of a group facing the possibility of only 13 days of racing in 2014 if the politicians can't be won over?  Neither would I but we are thankful McCaffery still is working on leading the harness industry in his state to a renaissance. .
  7. Bob Marks - Now a man without a portfolio since Peretti Farms has had its dispersal sale, we can say how much racing has been blessed to have Marks on our side.  From Top Trotter, to writing articles for Hoof Beats, to marketing Peretti stallions and yearlings, he has done it all.  Marks may be talking about life outside of racing but I don't think having Marks outside of racing is in our best interests.  While we are thankful for what Marks has done, hopefully someone ropes him in, at least on a part time basis, so he remains in racing.
  8. Heather Vitale - Ms. Sunshine is a wonderful spokesman for the sport with her hosting and producing Post Time and co-hosting PA Harnessweek with her partner in crime Steve Ross.  Despite being run down in the effort of putting together her Post Time show, she maintained her good nature.  When she is not producing these shows, she takes care of her two children and volunteers with non-profit organization.  Heather gives it all for the sport and the time has come for this regional treasure to be given national exposure, perhaps working the Hambletonian and Breeders Crown. 
  9. Jodie Doherty - In addition to raising children and being the backbone behind a small family stable, this young lady spends her time educating people on the plight of unwanted race horses and about those looking to take advantage of those good-natured people trying to help them.  She doesn't just talk the talk, she also walks the talk as she has her own barn of pensioners, including a thoroughbred horse. There are others who do similar work be it running rescues or have a higher profile to speak from but Doherty's pretty effective just the same.
  10. Horse Rescues (legitimate) - Harness racing and for that fact all of racing should be thankful for their respective rescues.  Yes, there is a flood of unwanted race horses but these rescues do their part by saving as many horses they can while constantly fundraising and struggling to pay the bills.  It's a thankless job but they are doing it.  We thank these rescues and those who volunteer their time helping them.  A thank you to their donors needs to be said as well.
  11. Those tracks and horsemen groups which go the extra mile and support efforts to promote those groups who support horse rescue.  Yes, things are tight these days but there are ways to help bring attention and funds to these groups and even get some publicity out of it.  Yet it is surprising how many groups when asked to make a relatively small donation to help promote these groups say no.  I just hope those who say 'No' when asked are doing their part in other ways.  Otherwise, shame on them.
  12. Finally, we are thankful to all those who are doing what they can for Anthony Coletta who is battling to recover from a nasty accident at Harrah's Philadelphia.  From those who have the resources to do a lot to those who don't have the resources to do much, we are thankful that you are doing what you can.
Allow me to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is There A Viable Alternative To He's Watching as Division Champ?

The only one of the four two-year-old divisions that could consistently be labeled a “glamour division” belongs to the freshmen pacing colts. Jimmy Takter says his trotter Father Patrick is the best colt he ever had at this point in his development, and that his Donato filly, Shake It Cerry, could maybe beat him right now. Still, although both will win their respective divisions, not a lot of love comes with the votes. On the other hand, when there is a dominant two-year-old pacing colt folks do take notice. Last year it was Captaintreacherous who virtually shut out the opposition in his division race with 144 votes. In 2011 Sweet Lou set a world record of :49 in the BC and went on to garner 80% of the divisional votes. And in 2010 it was Big Jim who played the role of the next great thing, grabbing 96% of the votes off of wins in the BC, Governor’s Cup, Nassagaweya and Champlain. Sportswriter filled that role the previous year, drawing 81% of the vote.

This year falls way outside the norm: the American Ideal colt He’s Watching seems to be the only freshman drawing anyone’s attention, but he has no open stakes wins to his credit. The 3,000 bargain purchase crushed the opposition in several  NYSS races  and he set a world record for his age group at Tioga, but he was lightly staked and contrary to the posturing coming from his camp, he didn’t supplement to anything. He wouldn’t be able to buy in to the BC or this week’s Governor’s Cup, but he could have been supplemented to the Metro or American National, to name two. Instead he was shut down after winning the Night Of Champions at the end of September. And there he still sits at number twelve on the Top Ten Poll, the only freshman pacer deemed worthy of a vote. It’s strange. Horses win O’Brien’s off of their performance in restricted stakes but it would be very unusual to win a  Dan Patch without some success in open competition.

Well, who else is there to vote for? The fact that the Governor’s Cup is being held the last day of November complicates matters in that most two-year-olds have already been turned out for the year, however, it does offer an opportunity for one of the better colts to separate from the pack. All Bets Off, the Bettor’s Delight colt who outclassed the field in the Matron several days ago, wasn’t very good in the NYSS and came on toward the end of the season to win the lower level Fall Harvest at YR. Unfortunately he is not staked to the Governor’s Cup. Still, the fact that he was so dominant in the Matron yet looked so helpless against He’s Watching gives us pause.

The other significant post-BC freshman pace, the American-National, was won by the Art Official colt, Lets Drink On It. He came from out of the clouds to win that one for Brian Sears. Prior to that he won a division of the PA All-Stars and his Metro elimination as the 6/5 favorite for Jim Morrill, but he’s no champion. Besides, he’s not staked to the Governor’s Cup.

OK, how about the Western ideal colt who cut through the rain and got past the mud in his kisser to win the Breeders Crown—Luck Be Withyou. He also won the Champlain. But he finished out in the Metro and fourth in the Nassagaweya. And besides, he isn’t eligible to the Governor’s Cup either. Luck Be Withyou sits second on the divisional earnings list.

SBSW just had his stud fee jacked up to 30,000 for a reason. There must be some worthy freshman pacers from his second class. Limelight Beach, a gelding, may have been the best of them, at least the most accomplished. He won splits of the Bluegrass and the ISS at Lexington for David Miller and took the 53,000 Albatross at The Meadows in July, as well as another PASS race worth 69,000 at Pocono around that same time. But he tailed off as the season went on, finishing fourth in the PA Championship. Limelight Beach is not staked to the Governor’s Cup.

Ron Burke’s SBSW colt Somestarsomewhere started slowly but showed promise with a third place finish in the Bluegrass at 45/1. The following week he was the 6/5 favorite in his ISS split for Gingras and won. He then took his BC elimination at 2/1. He went on to 3/2 favoritism in the BC final from the rail but the big guy couldn’t handle the off track and finished third. He is slated to start in Saturday’s Governor’s Cup. Maybe he’ll generate a breakthrough performance.

Ray Schnittker’s brother to Well Said, So Surreal, is another interesting Beach colt. He finished second to Limelight Beach in that one's Bluegrass win and went on to capture an ISS split at 1/5 for Tetrick the following week. He finished third as the favorite in his BC elimination. Too much promise, not enough production. So Surreal is staked to the Governor’s Cup.

So we don’t have a colt who blasted into the spotlight in the late fall in the fashion of Big Jim or Sweet Lou. The Western Ideal colt, Western Vintage, who won the NJSS final earlier in the season and recently took a split of the Bluegrass at 3/5, may have moved to the top if he had been able to hang on in the Metro. As it was, Sylvain Filion blasted out of a hole with Boomboom Ballykeel and was inexplicably found to be innocent of committing an infraction by the judges at Mohawk. Boomboom sits atop the earnings list by virtue of the hefty Metro purse, a second in the Nassagaweya and OSS money, but he didn’t go to Lexington, wasn’t entered in the BC and is not staked to the Governor’s Cup.

When Western Vintage won the Bluegrass at 3/5, the Rocknroll colt, Doo Wop Hanover, finished out at 43/1. In the following start for both, a BC elimination, Do Wop won at 31/1 while Western Vintage had the trip from Hell and finished out at 2/5. That's this year's class in a nutshell.
Arthur Blue Chip, a 135,000 Harrisburg purchase who is a brother to Kenneth J, has been the poster boy for Shadow Play’s impressive first crop. He drew our attention with a front running win in a split of the Nassagaweya and was an upset winner of the Mid-Summer Classic for Randy Waples. However, he finished third in the battle Of Waterloo, scratched out of the Metro final and finished fourth in the BC. He’s scheduled to race in the Governor’s Cup on Saturday, but it’s too late for him to make a leap to the top of the division.

The Well Said colt Sometimes Said doesn’t have an impressive win record in opens but he’s always close and knows how to ring that cash register. In his last eight starts he won the Goshen Cup; was second in the BC and second in his elimination; finished second in the Bluegrass; was second in the 260,000 PASS Championship; was second in the 66,000 Tyler B and second in two other 69,000 PASS races. Yeah, he needs to learn to finish, and he’s in no position to win the division this year, but he’s definitely one to watch. Sometimes Said is staked to the Governor’s Cup.

There are others who have shown promise; the Four Starzzz Shark gelding, Allstar Partner, won the PASS Championship as well as another SS race is one, but he has no open record; Burke’s Art Major colt, JK Endofanera, won the Elevation in track record time and will apparently race in the Governor’s Cup; Forty Five Red won the Sheppard and raced pretty well in the NYSS.

As disconcerting as it would be to see a colt that raced exclusively in restricted races win the division, at this point I don’t see an attractive alternative. And with a forecast of temps in the mid-30s at the Meadowlands on Saturday it’s difficult to anticipate a game changing performance on the part of the colts entered in the Governor’s Cup. If He’s Watching gets the nod, let’s hope he steps out of his comfort zone and proves to be a worthy recipient on the track next year.






A Reader Responds

For those of you who don't read responses to my entries, allow me to post a response by one reader who responded to my last blog entry regarding the new facility at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment.  If you don't read the responses, I recommend you go back and read the entry along with the comments to see the frustration of one gambler.

However, in this busy world, I know many won't go back so I wanted to post one person's comments on the discussion which went on there.  If you read the comments thread you have already seen it.

Truth be told, generally I wouldn't post comment from someone who responds anonymously but he/she spent a lot of time formulating their response, poignant, and not abusive (If you wrote the comment, please let me know who you are, I promise not to post your identity).

Now understand, I don't necessarily agree with the entire post.  For one, we don't know what the plans are for Hambletonian Day, to declare the facility will be totally inadequate is premature.  Same goes for the Breeders Crown.  While I agree most money will always be bet off-track, I am not ready to call live customers irrelevant.  But overall, the comments are worth a read:


What we have here in the comments is a failure to understand or accept what racing has become. I'm not saying I like it. I understand it.

The majority of people who bet The Meadowlands will rarely, if ever, set foot in the new facility. So much is bet on line and at simulcast centers that the live fans are almost irrelevant.

Granted, the track keeps more of what's bet at the track, but the real money is off-track and no amount of promoting will change that.

I wasn't there Saturday night, but the frustration of regular horseplayers who were comes through quite clearly. So does your message that The New Meadowlands seems right sized for nearly all racing nights.

Was anyone at Pocono Downs for the Breeders Crown last month? I'm sure that track can handle the live attendance most nights, but it wasn't up to accommodating the large crowd on that one night. There's no covered grandstand seating and it rained.

Should Pocono Downs host a Breeders Crown when its facility has such limitations? Of course not, but what's the alternative? No other track was willing to put up the money and spend the hours of preparation by a small racing staff.

The New Meadowlands is now in the same position with regards to The Hambletonian. It won't be a great place next year for large crowds on that one day. What's the alternative? Return to DuQuoin? Would DuQuoin want the race? Could DuQuoin afford the race?

To the detractors, name a track that has a large enough facility that would be better than The New Meadowlands AND is willing to front the money to put on the show.

Remember, the Super Bowl could probably get a million people to fill a stadium to watch the game, but who would build such a place for one day out of the year?

Be angry, be frustrated, swear off going to the track, but try to understand.


Horseplayesrs are a creature of habit.  I remember the good old days of the 1970's at Yonkers Raceway.  I would love for it to be like it was back then but those days are l-o-n-g gone.  The tracks which operate like it was the good old 70's are closed or on their last legs.  Tracks which change and adapt are still here.  People may complain about Pocono Downs and the Meadowlands, but at least they are two tracks which haven't given up on racing (and Pocono could easily go through the motions like Harrah's but they don't).  We can live in the past and be angry or live in the present and accept the new reality.

I Am a Harness Racing Horse Needs Your Help

Funding Sought:  I Am a Harness Racing Horse is seeking funding to help complete a trailer which is planned for airing on television.  10% of the funds collected will be donated to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation and all donors will be listed in a Special Thanks section in the credits.

We've talked about I Am a Harness Racing Horse before.  This film will be a tool to promote and educate the standardbred and harness racing to the public.  If you can't get people to the track, you have to bring the track to the people and this film is a way to do it.  Whatever you can donate will be appreciated.  So consider donating to help this film see the light of day. 

Disclaimer: I have no connection to this project and do not receive any compensation from this project and as such am not responsible for the claims and contents of the named project.  I just feel it is important to get the word out about our equine athletes and the sport.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Not Your Father's Racetrack.

Gallo Blue Chip 'cutting' the ribbon.
For the most part, opening night at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment was a smashing success.  Sure there were a few opening night 'oops', but tell me something which opens the first day without any bumps and I will suspect you weren't looking close enough.

Parking was a bit of a challenge as some signage was missing but that will be forthcoming shortly.  Parking is laid out well though the facility could contain a little more handicapped parking.  As you can imagine, the regular lot was filled to the brim an hour before post time but not to worry, there was an overflow lot and shuttle buses were running constantly.  Yes, there is one road in/out to the facility which is a change from the past but while some people were complaining, I chalk that up to opening night curiosity.  With overflow parking and shuttle buses available, there shouldn't be a big problem and come Hambletonian Day, I suspect even more parking will be available.   

The start of the first race.
Some people were reportedly complaining about it being hard to find things like bathrooms, elevators, and other things.  Part of the problem is the place was mobbed.  It is hard to see things when the track was swamped with people (a reported 15,000 when the building was built with 10,000 people in mind).  However, my one recommendation is a floor plan should be included in the race program or posted on every floor so people would know where everything is located; that would solve a lot of problems (Note: It turns out there was a pamphlet with the floor plan available).

My biggest complaint was the place was too crowded, at least initially.  I was up in The Lounge area in the Grandstand and the place was packed like sardines making it hard to walk around.  Then again, I don't know how many brave souls were going to sit outside in the outdoor seats in with the wind blowing pretty solid and snow squalls coming through at times, one time causing near white out conditions. However, let's be realistic, once the curiosity factor has been satisfied, we will likely find the building is right-sized.  It does make you wonder what will happen on a day like Hambletonian Day, but let's not kid ourselves, you can't build a facility which holds 25,000 which you will need one day a year.

First race winner Alexie Mattosie (David Miller)
The view from the indoor seats was very good except for the tent outside to the left which obstructed the view of the upper stretch.  I imagine this tent is one of the tents being put up for the Super Bowl parties which will be occurring and once the game is played it will disappear.  The outdoor facility (known as The Outfield is still under construction which will expand capacity by another 10,000).

Once the crowd thinned out, I realized The Lounge is a cool place to hang out.  There is carpeting and lounge chairs all around, making it a very relaxed atmosphere; as if you were hanging out with friends in your living room.  I belong to a group and I am already talking to them about having an outing there (once the initial curiosity seekers are gone.

Betting was easy.  Those who use self-wagering machines will have no problem.  The tellers were busy but the lines were not ridiculous though you did run the risk of being shut out.  Not that there weren't enough tellers, if you remember the old facility there really weren't more tellers available either, they were just spread out in the larger facility.  I for one had no problem as I took advantage of the traveling tellers with the yellow vests.  I would suggest if you don't want to risk getting shut out and you have a smart phone, take an advantage of the ability to wager from your phone.  You go to the teller at the start of the day, make a deposit and get your pin number and you wager from the comfort of your own seat and at the end of the night you go to the teller and collect your winnings.

The indoors grandstand seats were comfortable with drink holders and more importantly, the rows are not like the ones at Freehold Raceway.  You can sit comfortably and actually get up and get out of your seats without being a gymnast.  Best of all, there is no charge for seats  Above the windows in the lounge grandstand seating area are monitors which show the Meadowlands races and in between shows various races from simulcast tracks as post time approached so if you have a desire to bet on other tracks you may follow the action from the comfort of your seat.

Later in the evening, I took a look at the Sports Bar/Night Club and it looks great.  This should be popular with the younger generation looking for something to do after the races and even on non-racing nights.  Let's face it, this building is designed to generate income and that is key to building any new facility these days.  Buildings need to be multifaceted, used on days when they are not being used for their primary function.  Plans are for the bars and restaurants to be open on non-racing days and with the Meadowlands allowed to have concerts when the rest of the complex is not having concerts and a partnership with Hard Rock Cafe, except to see concerts at the track on dark days.

Many of us are not fine-dining people, our idea of food is grabbing a burger or hot dog and going back to our handicapping..  The burgers are made fresh and somewhat  surprisingly, there are no hot dogs.  No hot dogs at a sporting event?    There is a method to their madness. the whole idea is whether you are someone who eats in their upscale restaurants or a person who grabs a bite at the concession stands, you are entitled to decent food, not the same old gruel typically served at racetracks.  That being said, if there is enough demand for frankfurters, they probably will return.  However, before screaming for that hot dog, I would try their other menu items first.  I for one was pleased with the food offerings for I am a vegetarian and in the past my typical dinner was an order of fries.  Now they actually have vegetarian offerings. I found the prices reasonable (though taxes are added to the price, not included as in the past).

Bottom line is the track is geared to the younger generations, those who embrace technology and want an upscale experience  In some ways you can say the new Meadowlands is like a casino without casino games.  The place is comfortable, upscale yet homey.  That being said, those resisting smart phones or even cell phones will still find the track appealing.  Maybe a little more signage could be added, especially in the parking area but that will be coming.  From what I have seen thus far (the outdoor section known as the "Outfield' still is being built), I would grade the new facility an 'A' for the younger, tech savvy crowd.  Those who resist things like cell phones will probably rank the track a "B-", availing themselves of the more traditional parts of the track instead of the modern sections.  I expect those looking to build racetracks in the future will be stopping by to see how this facility was built.

If you are in the area, you need to give Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment a try, it's worth the visit.  Of course, the bottom line is how many first-time visitors will return?  Management appears to be on the right track. 

As for the racing, I plead ignorance.  I was so in awe of the new facility, that I didn't pay all that much attention to the racing.  From what I did see, it is going to take a little time to see how racing plays out on the track, let's face it final quarters of 32 seconds is not what we are used to.  Contrary to what some people say, it will take a week or two for the drivers to figure the optimum racing strategy; it's not as simple as starting a race in the old backstretch.  The wind and how the turns are banked will all come into play.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

What Grandstand A#%hole Wrote This?

I am grateful for most of the responses I got regarding my column on the alleged problems with Harrah's Philadelphia track and how all of a sudden after there was a severe injury, all the complaints regarding the track condition became public. 

Then again, you can't please everyone.  Someone who posted the column on Facebook got a comment from a former driver (not at Harrah's).  The response was "What grandstand a#%hole wrote this ?"  I am sure there are others who feel similar but haven't put it to writing.

Normally, I wouldn't respond to this type of comment; truth is if posted as a response to my blog I would have hit the 'Delete' key because it violates one of my rules regarding posting responses which is being respectful (though I may have left the comment up if it referred to the 'grandstand idiot'). But in this case, I think the question begs to be answered.

What Grandstand A#%hole Wrote This?

The type who calls it the way he sees it.  No, I am no Pollyanna who thinks the world is wonderful and bright.  I am a realist.  I realize there is a lot of money to be left on the table at Harrah's Philadelphia if a driver or trainer decided not to race there over fear of physical safety for themselves or their equine charges and realize many make the choice to take their chances to pad their retirement account.  Perhaps they fear they have to because let's face it, if Superstar Driver decides the risk is not worth it,  Johnny Driver from somewhere else is going to be willing to step up and take their place the same way if Hotshot Trainer refuses to race his horses there, Billpaying Owner may find a trainer willing to race at Harrah's.   

This is the beauty of greed, seeking the all mighty dollar despite any perceived risks there may be to oneself.  Let's face it, it is the same greed which has some drivers breaking the rules and being assessed token fines as it makes some trainers become pharmacists in order to get an edge over their competition.  It would be nice to think everyone would play by the rules but we are human and unfortunately, when there is financial gain some of us are going to do things we tell our children never to do (ah, youthful innocence).  
So the bottom line is the person who wrote the blog entry in question is a realist.  One with eyes wide open and knows as a former owner he would never let his horse race over an unsafe surface.

So with that question answered, what this person may have meant to ask (and a far more intelligent question) is how could I suggest the drivers and trainers were enablers?   First let me state right here who knows if it was the track condition which resulted in the accident involving Anthony Coletta?  The horse who fell in front of him may have gone down even if the track was in perfect shape.  Also, I can't and won't say Harrah's track was safe or unsafe because I am no driver and have never taken a horse over the oval so my opinion regarding the condition of the track is worthless.

The point is if the drivers and others thought the track was unsafe, why didn't they make their concerns public before we had a driver laying in the hospital in critical condition?  How come no one went to Harness Racing Update before the incident to complain about the track surface?

I also realize driving horses is not the safest career choice you can make.  When you decide to become a driver, it is just a matter of time until you have your first spill, you just hope it is minor; one you can get up from and resume your chosen profession.  Yes, no one forces a driver to get into the sulky.  That being said, I believe the driver has the right to expect a track is maintained properly and is safe.

If the drivers thought the track was so unsafe, they should have stepped up before a serious injury happened and publicly complained about the track and forced management to repair the track.  Instead, they kept their complaints under the radar and relied on alleged empty promises.  It is just like going out buying booze for the alcoholic relative who promises to stop drinking next week and it always seems next week never comes.  You know what that relative is?  An enabler; the same as those drivers were.  Does it make those drivers bad people?  No.  Does it make them responsible for what happened to Coletta?  Their conscious will be their guide on that one but please spare me the self-indignation.  It is a little to late for that. 

Ending on a positive note, those fans and horsemen who wish to make donations for the benefit of Anthony Coletta may do so by making your checks payable to  "Stay Strong A.Coletta " and mail it C/O TD Bank 2653 S. 5th Street Philadelphia, Pa 19148.  I've made my donation.  It doesn't matter how much your donation is, be it $1 to $1,000 or more it all goes to help Anthony in his long battle hopefully on his way to a full recovery.