For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Five Memorable Events in Harness Racing

Joe FitzPatrick has an excellent list of memorable events in harness racing; so good I won't even try to replicate it (he has a memory of a steel trap).  That being said, I have a few memorable events in harness racing which I would like to share.  Would they make your list or the top 100?  Most likely not, but they are memorable (sometimes for the wrong reason) to me, which is all that matters.

  1. Niatross Finishes Fourth in the Meadowlands Pace Elimination - The elimination was contested a week after the famous 'fall' in the Battle of Saratoga.  Niatross, to whom I still say is the greatest standardbred (not talking about breeding), got to the front only to be hooked up in a suicide speed duel by Safe Arrival, driven by Herve Filion.  While Filion may have had his reasons, the fractions were so wicked, it seemed Safe Arrival's mission was to take down the great colt.  Sure enough, Niatross went on a nasty break which relegated him to the back of the field or darn near it.  The fact he finished fourth was probably the greatest effort I have ever seen by a race horse of any type. 
  2. Le Baron Rouge Finishes in a Dead Heat to Win with Big Towner - Let me preface this by saying this was my most disappointing win.  Le Baron Rouge, driven by Robert Samson drew post 8 at Yonkers Raceway against Big Towner in the weekly Open.  Big Towner was a monster on the half mile and as far as I knew, up to that race, he never lost in downstate New York.  I was sitting in the lower left hand corner of the glass enclosed clubhouse touting Le Baron Rouge, telling people he was going to defeat Big Towner.  Needless to say the response from my fellow horseplayers ranged from telling me I was nuts, or moving a seat further away from me.  Le Baron Rouge goes off at 45-1 and at the wire, the two finish in a dead heat.  How much of a favorite was Big Towner?  45-1 Le Baron Rouge paid less than $3.00 to win.  While I felt vindicated, to say I was crushed would be an understatement.
  3. Sugarcane Hanover Wins the March of Dimes Trot - Despite funding problems, the greatest field of trotters gathered at Garden State Park to compete in the only March of Dimes Trot ever to be contested.  Sugarcane came out on top.  To see the race, click here.  
  4. Stupidest Handicapper Ever Seen Appears at Monticello Raceway - Handicapper had all three trifectas picked (first two in a box, last straight) and all were IRS numbers.  Why is this guy stupid?  It is because I decided a week earlier that I wasn't going to play triples anymore.  Not that I had a bad day; I came home $300 up but it sure felt like I lost..
  5. The Panderosa Stomp Debuted -  Highly promoted the Panderosa was the darling of  the 3yo pacing class that year but he missed a start the week before the Meadowlands Pace elims (again, if memory serves me correctly).  I decided the Panderosa was likely sick so while the bridge jumpers pounced on the Panderosa, I bet every horse to show, hoping for triple digit show prices.  Well, in the race as soon as the field straightened out in the backstretch, sure enough the Panderosa jumped off.  I began to jump up and down like a crazy person, while gyrating like an idiot in front of my friends and countless others.  While it paid well, betting all the horses to show in the race for $2 a piece didn't pay triple digit amounts as they did when CR Kay Suzie jumped in the Hambletonian which took place a year or two beforehand.  While I probably looked like a fool performing the Panderosa Stomp, the only regret I had is my back was never the same after that.  Needless to say, it was the first and only performance of the Panderosa Stomp.

Harness Tracks of America (HTA) has announced they are relocating from Phoenix, Arizona and moving their offices to Northfield Park.  What makes this newsworthy?  It shows Northfield Park, one of the latest tracks to become a racino is serious in maintaining their racing program and is not just running the horses for the sake of having slots.  Do you think a track such as Harrah's would have made space available for the HTA?  Not in a million years.

While it makes perfect sense to move the HTA to the east, poor Cal Expo must feel even further isolated from the rest of American harness racing as the closest office of any parimutuel-related harness racing in the United States is Running Aces in Minnesota.  However, California horsemen have shown, if not anything else, they are a resilient bunch.

While Illinois horsemen and tracks desperately want casino gaming, they are joint in their objection to the current bill which reduces the number of machines each track can have.  I hope I am wrong, but I fear no bill will be approved by the legislature in this term,  I am not saying horsemen should take whatever they can, but it seems amendments to keep one track from getting slots and other changse proposed may be enough tor the Governor to whip out his veto pen once again.

No comments: