For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Memories and TVG Recap

You Know You Are Getting Old When.... The horse you remember isn't the one that is racing.  Saturday night at the Meadowlands the pacer Nassau Country raced.  When I saw that name I remembered him.  Except one problem, the Nassau County I remember was foaled in 1980 and was by Most Happy Fella - Scarlet Letter by Shadow Wave.  The Nassau County I recalled raced till the age of 11 and set a lifetime mark at the age of 8 with a respectable (for the time) mark of 2:00 at Freehold.  His lifetime record was 216-26-28-39 with lifetime earnings of $89,418 (USTA rule 26.08 indicates a name for the most part may be reused after 15 years passed since the prior horse had any activity.  That is unless the horse's name was Niatross or the like in which case the name is retired).

The 'new and improved' Nassau County (if you can call one dropped in for a $12,500 tag improved) is a foal of 2010 and by Somebeachsomewhere - Tsunami Hanover by Artsplace and has a lifetime record of 61-5-17-5 and $94,968 (in the racino era) and also has a respectable lifetime mark of 1:52 set at the age of 3 at Pocono Downs.

My memory may be waxing nostalgic but even though the 2010 version of Nassau County is faster and has earned more money than the 1980 edition and likely will earn a lot more, to me the older edition will always be the better one.

Sweet Lou went out a winner last night winning the TVG Pace Final at the Meadowlands in a 1:48 mile.   After making a bold move just past the quarter (:26,2), Sweet Lou was home free, holding the lead the rest of the way through fractions of :54, 1:21.3 and 1:48.  As has been the case all year, Foiled Again made a strong move but once again just couldn't capitalize on it.  The Burke stable swept the top three positions when Clear Vision finished third.

While Sweet Lou heads off to a career at Stud, we learn that Foiled Again will most likely return to the racing wars at the age of 11. I am sure Foiled will earn his share of money last year but I suspect at this point of his career, he will continue to find himself being beaten by that 'one' horse who always seems to be better than him.

While Sweet Lou went off to stud a winner, the pipe dream of Sebastian K winning horse of the Year went up in smoke big time in the TVG Trot Final.  Unlike Sweet Lou, Sebastian K led the race from the start taking the field of trotters through blistering fractions of :26,1, :54.1, 1:23 before tossing it in as the swarm caught the trotter at the top of the stretch where he faded to finish ninth.  Intimidate, who loves the big races came from far back to win the race in 1:51.2

The big difference between the two races was pressure.  While Sweet Lou largely went unchallenged once he took the lead the advantage you have when you are being chased by stablemates, Sebastian K was shown no love, being under constant pressure the entire race, causing him to run out of steam.

In some ways, the Swedish trotter was a victim of his own success.  Had he not been as successful as he was at the beginning of the year where he set the bar so high, the year would have been considered successful and HOY would have still been a possibility.  Clearly Sebastian K was not the same horse he was at the start of the year; the long grinding season taking its toll but it was still a successful year for him as he went 12-8-2-0 for the year, earning $663,853 and a 1:49 lifetime mark.  While HOY is out of the question, he will take home the hardware for aged trotter and will be in the running for trotter of the year.

Plans are for Sebastian to return next year as a 9 year old albeit a shorter campaign so hopefully he will be fresher at the end of the year when it counts the most.  It will be interesting to see how he returns in 2015.  It should be an interesting season.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sebastian K Horse of the Year? No Way

I don't know the motivation but I am amazed that some scribes are saying Sebastian K can get back into the running for Horse of the Year with a victory in tonight's TVG Trot.  Now remember, I am probably one of the biggest cheerleaders there is for Sebastian K in North America, I was touting this horse before he made his first start at the Meadowlands. When he is right, he is the best trotter in North America but with his tailing off in the fall, and miscue in the International Preview at Yonkers, he lost my vote for HOY.  Yes, some of those defeats came on off tracks, but the victors of those races had to race on the same surface.  That excuse only holds water so long.  Maybe it was the North American style of racing week-in week-out during prime time stakes season which caused him to lose his 'A' game; perhaps the recent layoff is what is needed for him to romp tonight in the TVG Trot, but short of a dominating win tonight matching or beating his seasonal mark, my vote would go to JK She'salady.

Once again, a brilliant television commerical for the Elitlopp and here it is.

Have to wonder how a commercial like this would work in the States...

Congratulations to Yannick Gingras on being selected as the Dan Patch Driver of the Year.  I am sure there are some detractors who will comment how easy it is to win this award when you are the driver of choice for the Burke and Takter stables, but it took a lot of hard work and dedication to become a good enough driver to become the primo driver for these stables.  No, detractors it won't work.  Clearly Gingras is the best driver in the nation and it will be interesting if it continues in 2015 or someone else seizes the prize.

Since we are speaking of year end awards, one must ask the question why are we still racing this time of year?  Yes, I know the accounting answer to this question; there is money to be won but quite honestly, if you are a gambler aren't you getting a little fatigued at this point of the year?  With the horse shortage we have which will only get worse as time goes on, wouldn't we be better if our limited population of racing standardbreds be turned out to recover so when spring comes, we have almost all of our horses ready to go, allowing us to maximize our racing stock during the part of the calendar which really matters?  Other than Cal-Expo and Pompano Park which tend shut down or greatly reduce their racing calendar during the summer, tracks should be closed by November and rarin' to reopen come March 1,

Our thoroughbred brethren would be wise to do the same thing, unless we are talking about the tracks in California, Louisiana, and Florida, as for the most part trainers are digging out near cripples racing for slot revenue in the frozen tundra.  Face it, not the type of racing which will embrace existing fans or endear us to the general, public..

Dover Downs is in deep trouble as it is doing its own version of Atlantic City with declining revenue and problems in raising cash; a problem in an industry with high cash demands.  Unless the state cuts them some slack, this could be the first racino to go belly under, a sign of too many casinos for the market.  The problem isn't only limited to the mid-Atlantic.  At Foxwoods, plans are underway to close up some of their casino space in favor of night clubs and other attractions.  There aren't enough gamblers to go around, so Foxwoods is attempting to become known as a resort with less emphasis on gaming; in effect rebranding themselves.

Speaking of casinos, December 17 is the date New York is expected to announce who the winners and losers are in the Great New York Casino License Contest; where four groups will be the victors and others will be losers.  It is not only who the winners will be but where they will be located.  A profitable license won by Monticello's subsidiary could be a big plus to the company, depending on if and where a casino is to be built in Orange County.  Of course, the denial of a license at Monticello would mean the likely end of racing in two years while a loss by Tioga Downs could mean a bleak future to Tioga Downs and Vermon Down which is supported by Tioga.   New York horsemen will be learning if their Christmas stockings will be full of green or coal on December 17.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

TVG FFA Analysis

First of all, a Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends who are celebrating Thanksgiving today. May you have a great holiday.  If your significant other is hitting the malls to get a head start on Black Friday and you have managed to escape, you are limited to racing action up north in Canada where Flamboro Down, Rideau Carleton, and Woodbine Racetrack.

We will keep today's column short.  It is interesting to note Saturday evening's opening  race at the Meadowlands features a field of $12,500 claimers.  Maybe horsemen have taken the weekend off, but with Pocono Downs having closed for the season, you wouldn't think they would have a problem getting their typical bottom dwellers.  Hopefully, things will pick up.

With all do respect to Dover Down (Progress Stake) and Northfield Park (Cleveland Classic), the TVG FFA Finals Saturday night for all practical purposes ends the stakes season for 2014.  Here is my analysis of those two races.

7th Pace - $500,000; TVG FFA(Friday)
1  Bettor's Edge - Never had chance in last.  If goes back to prior two races, has a chance at a price.
2  Modern Legend - Has a chance in this race for a share.
3  Sweet Lou - Finished 2nd last two starts.  Moves inside of those winners.  Consider.
4  Clear Vision - Will need a fast pace to come flying late.  Not sure speed duel will develop.
5  Thinking Out Loud - Breeders Crown Champ will move late in the race.  Will they set a tiring pace?
6  State Treasurer - Another closer.  Not sure the pace will work his way.
7  Foiled Again - Age catching up.  Needs a trip; not sure it will develop here.
8  Warrawee Needy - Clearly not the horse he was.  Seems over matched.
Selections: 3-5-4

10th Pace - $500,000; TVG FFA (Saturday)
1  Creatine - Second start back and rail may make him a factor here.
2  Wishing Stone - Expect him to race up front.  Moves inside.  Consider if favorable odds.
3  Bee A Magician - Mare takes on the boys.  Should give a good account of herself.
4  DW's NY Yank - Returns to traditional distance.  Still seems in over his head.
5  Sebastian K S - Been prepped for this race.  Can't discount.  Consider if odds are worth a shot.
6  Market Share - Has been beating himself often.  Needs a trip to be a factor.
7  Intimidate - Seems to be over his head.
8  Flanagan Memory - Has managed to stay with these.  Not good enough to get a win though.
9  Arch Madness - Another oldster whose best races are in the past.  Will toss.
10 Maven - Mare rewarded with worst post.  Still worth considering.  Wouldn't shock.
AE Your So Vain - Also eligible would do best staying in barn.  Easy one to pass on.
Selections: 2-1-5-10

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Updated: Who's Protecting the Horses from Those Charged with Protecting Them?

Updated : November 26, 2014 8:45PM; Originally Posted: November 25, 2014 3:22PM

The following posting was put on the NJSPCA website this evening in response to a barrage of comments posted by those concerned on their Facebook page.  The original posting follows.

A posting put on the NJSPCA Facebook Page

If you can definitely help, please contact the NJSPCA at

The original posting:

An alleged case of horse abuse made the television news as part of an investigation by a Philadelphia news station.  Unfortunately, the alleged perpetrator is a harness racing participant.  

Not being a trainer or a person who has raised horses, I can't offer any comment on what or why the alleged abuse occurred over what is written in the article.  What I will say is anyone found guilty of the abuse of any race horse has no business being allowed to remain in the industry.

What has happened is shame but perhaps even more shameful is how the case was handled.  Obviously, someone was so disgusted with the pace the case was taking that they felt it necessary to go to the press in an effort to light a fire under the NJSPCA.  According to the news story, here is the timeline once concern about the horses' treatment was raised.

Following such allegations of abuse, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture investigated and sent inspectors to the barn in June of 2013. A department spokesperson says inspectors found the conditions inside the barn met the department’s definition of a “severe violation.”

The Department of Agriculture says investigators handed their report over to NJSPCA (New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), which has the enforcement authority.

A NJSPCA spokesperson says the agency was made aware of situation in August of 2013.  [Since then, it has been stipulated that three horses died]

NJSPCA would not talk on camera about why it has taken a year and a half to act on the Department of Agriculture’s findings but in a statement said the case is “difficult and complex” and they are working to conclude it “as quick as possible.”

If I was the NJSPCA, I wouldn't talk to the camera either.  My question to them is how 'difficult and complex' is this case and how many more horses potentially need to die before the NJSPCA decides whether or not abuse occurred and if so, seize the horses?  After all these are the people charged with protecting theses horses and a year and a half is far too long to take action.  Either abuse occurred and the horses should have been seized or if they weren't sure it was abuse, they could have counseled the individual on the proper way on caring for the horses (though one would have thought this person knew how).

What hope does any abused horses have in New Jersey when those charged with protecting them seemingly can't do their job? 

It's a disgrace.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review of Roosevelt Raceway: Where It All Began

Roosevelt Raceway: Where It All Began by Victoria M. Howard, Freddie Hudson and Billy Haughton is the sort of all-encompassing homage to a great racetrack we need more of. Curt Greene covered the Kentucky Futurity; Biff Lowry, Terry Todd and Tom White took a broader look at The Red Mile; Kimberly Rinker gave us a history of the tracks in and around Chicago; Bob Temple chronicled the New England tracks; and Dean Hoffman gave us a historical overview of the sport in New York State; but this is the first time we’ve been treated to a rich, unfettered look into a single Standardbred track.

Haughton and Hudson have lifelong connections to the sport via their trainer-driver fathers Billy Haughton and Billy Hudson, while Howard is a published author who has owned, trained and bred racehorses for forty years. The book is divided into two sections, with the first chronicling the trials and tribulations George Morton Levy dealt with in his quest to turn Roosevelt Raceway into the premier trotting track in North America, while the second section—labeled Book Two—offers an intimate look at the people and horses that made Roosevelt so great. It is filled with amusing anecdotes, statistics and key dates.

Levy was friends with mobster Frank Costello and served as Lucky Luciano’s lawyer. Also, Frank Erickson, one of the top bookmakers in the country, was a longtime friend. These connections, which allowed Levy to overcome obstacles placed in his way by bookmakers, politicians and labor unions, are explored in depth in the first section of the book. Developing a racetrack in Metropolitan New York during that time frame involved plenty of nasty business, and our three authors never look away from it. The serious nature of Levy’s alliances with unsavory characters is brought home to us when Alvin Weil, something of a Levy protégé, who was associated with Roosevelt Raceway for 25 years, was the victim of a mob style execution several years after resigning from his role as president of the track. He was attempting to start another racetrack at the time and was involved with the same sort of shady characters Levy had dealt with.

The narrative style in Book One is somewhat disjointed and herky-jerky, probably because Haughton and Hudson are passing on their remembrances of the track’s early days to Howard and she’s forwarding them to the reader. We seem to keep going back to the opening in September, 1940. While the information is good, the piecemeal narrative style can be disconcerting.

The introduction of Steve Phillips’ mobile starting gate in the spring of 1946 is cited as one of the paramount factors in the ever expanding popularity of Roosevelt Raceway. Plenty of space is allocated to Phillips, the first man inducted into the Hall of Fame. An emphasis on single dash racing is also cited, as it was difficult in the early days to get enough horses to fill every card. Eventually, when Roosevelt became the best place in North America to race, horses were turned away in droves.

We’re told that when the track underwent a $20 million renovation in 1958 a 14-bed hospital unit with two fully functioning operating rooms was built. I don’t know about you, but if I need surgery, the racetrack is always my first choice.

We are also treated to plenty of heretofore unknown information about the International Trot, which publicist Joey Goldstein and his crew turned into the greatest promotional event in the history of the sport. The artichoke crisis fashioned around Jamin, who won the 1959 International, is front and center, as it should be. Almost 46,000 attended the race that year. The following year the race drew almost 55,000—the largest crowd to ever view a horse race in the United States.

The sport received wide ranging media coverage during Roosevelt’s halcyon days and our trio of authors pay respect to Warren Pack, Tony Sisti and others who kept the public informed through the daily newspapers. I wish Louis Effrat, who covered the sport so well for the Times, had been mentioned. Also, I don’t understand why they went out of their way to take a shot at Henry Hecht, the must read handicapper for the Post. He always took the side of the bettors and the fans, so some of the drivers didn’t like him. Howard, Hudson and Haughton are all in with the drivers.

Another example of them going to extreme lengths to placate the drivers is the chapter on the superfecta scandal of the early 1970’s. The government charged that all but 21 of the 69 superfectas offered at New York Metropolitan tracks during the first three months of 1973 were fixed. The prosecutors are mocked mercilessly by the authors while the drivers are elevated to sainthood. They conclude that all that billowing smoke could be explained away by the fact that betting syndicate mastermind Forrest Gerry Jr was a very good handicapper. The price of a super ticket was $3 back then so an eight horse box would run one $5,080, while eliminating two horses would knock it down to $1,080. The question was, how would one determine which two horses to cross off the program. Gerry and cohort Richard Perry were ultimately convicted in Brooklyn Federal Court of conspiring with harness drivers to fix superfecta races. One is left wondering why the trio went there. Throughout the rest of the book Buddy Gilmour and Ben Webster are treated like lovable rogues. You can’t have it both ways.

There are also some basic mistakes in the book. John Chapman is described as the “proud trainer/owner of Delmonica Hanover.” Del Miller and Arnold Hanger owned Delmonica until they sold her to Dottie Hardy and Ann Ryan at Tattersalls in 1974. Boardwalk Farms and Boardwalk Enterprises owned her after that. Chapman drove Delmonica to two wins in the Roosevelt International, but he never owned her. Also, they write that Duncan MacDonald went to Harrisburg and bought Fresh Yankee for $900. He wasn’t near the place. Sanders Russell bought her for him. And Russell was the one who told Max Hempt to ship the mare to Alabama so as to avoid the $900 shipping charge to Nova Scotia. They say Adios Butler was one of the best sires in the history of the sport. One of the worst is more like it. Material like this never should have made the final cut. Any longstanding harness racing fan would pick up on it right away.

The profiles of the drivers, horses and announcers who put on the show at Roosevelt Raceway for 48 years are outstanding. Recollections and anecdotes from publicity director Barry Lefkowitz, announcer Jerry Glantz and numerous others, as well as amusing stories recounted from memory by the authors, add a unique touch to the book. The listing of significant events throughout the life of the track, pages of hard to come by statistics, and even a trivia section conceived by Freddie Hudson, make it a must read for harness racing fans everywhere. And, if that isn’t enough, a portion of the royalties will go to the Harness Racing Museum And Hall Of Fame and the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.

Joe FitzGerald





Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winners and Losers during Breeders Crown Weekend


Winner: Jimmy Takter won three Breeders Crown races and is already an amazing $5.4 million ahead of last year’s $7.8 million earning’s figure. Shake It Cerry was already assured of a division win, while Father Patrick and Pinkman probably won their divisions last night.

Loser: Always A Virgin came into the BC poised to have two winners and, if that happened, two division titles. This would have given the ten-year-old stallion, and the Indiana program he spearheads, a huge boost. Unfortunately, Always B Miki scratched out of the sophomore colt pace and his filly counterpart, Color’s A Virgin, was too far back in her race and finished fourth.

Winner: McWicked stepped up and seized control of a floundering division with his BC victory. Neither the Adios nor the Hempt would rate grade one status in today’s environment, so McWicked needed a top shelf win to bolster his resume. That combined with his earning’s lead should give him a solid shot at division supremacy. Casie Coleman said he may have one more start in him. That would no doubt be the Progress Pace, which he can supplement to for $25,000. A win in the Progress should secure division honors.

Loser: Joe Holloway had a clear path to a division title and a start in the lucrative TVG with Always B Miki, but that one was a late scratch when he injured a leg in his stall just prior to post time. Beyond that, Holloway came into the season positioned to dominate the aged pacing mares with four-year-old hotshots Shebestingin and Somwherovrarainbow. However, Rainbow finished tenth in the BC while the world record holder, Shebestingin, has only started three times since the end of July—all losing efforts.

Winner: Yannick Gingras added $1.5 million to his earning’s pile over the past week. He has now handily eclipsed Tim Tetrick’s $16.1 million winning total from last year and Gingras is already $2.2 million up on what he earned in all of 2013. He won four BC races, and no doubt would have had five if he maintained his relationship with JK She’salady.

Loser: Tony Alagna, the third leading trainer last year and currently ranked seventh, didn’t have any starters in the dozen BC finals. Captaintreacherous has been retired and Artspeak was shut down for the season. It’s unusual for a trainer like Alagna, who specialized in high-end stock, to be a bystander come BC weekend. Last year he won with Captain T and was second to Nitelife with Authorize. Erv Miller, who is the third ranked trainer on the earning’s list, also had no starters, but that’s not really his field of play.

Winner: John Campbell’s off the pace wins with 4-1 Thinking Out Loud and 10-1 Shelliscape give him a record 47 Breeders Crown wins.

Winner: Father Patrick has won 22 of his 28 lifetime starts and earned $1.6 million this year—$235,000 more than any other NA trotter or pacer. Yet, as was the case with Captaintreacherous during his sophomore season, Patrick seems to take a lot of heat. Going into last night’s race it was understood that a win by Nuncio would give him the division as well as serious Horse of the Year consideration. But now Patrick owns the division for good and will be given an opportunity to further his redemption for losses in the Hambletonion, Matron and Erskine when and if he takes on his elders in the TVG.

Winner: JK She’salady probably secured Horse of the Year honors with her BC win in track and stakes record time. She completed a perfect 12 win season. The daughter of Art Major would  be the first freshman filly ever to win that award.

Loser: Jeff Gural had to be pleased that the weather cooperated and business was good over Breeders Crown weekend. However, BC wins by Traceur Hanover, trained by the indefinitely suspended Corey Johnson, and the PJ Fraley trainee Shelliscape, had to leave him with a sour stomach. Fraley, along with Rene Allard, whose Yagonnakissmeornot finished fifth as the favorite in the aged mare pace, were both deemed persona non grata by Gural last year. Legal precedent and BC staking rules left him with no choice but to allow the trio to compete. After Traceur won the freshman pace Johnson, who towered over everyone else in the winner’s circle, drew all eyes. The fact that good guy Andy Miller drove Traceur and handled the post-race interview offered some relief for Meadowlands and Breeders Crown execs.

Winner: Hanover Shoe Farms had a very good weekend. Nineteen-year-old Western Ideal, who had grown out of favor with the buyers as his New Jersey eligibility lingered on, has turned that around of late. His son Always A Virgin has generated plenty of publicity this year and now Hanover has Traceur Hanover to join Artspeak at the vanguard of the freshman pacing ranks. The latter was a winner because In The Arsenal, who finished second behind Traceur Hanover, did not wrestle the division away from him. Also, Pinkman, winner of the two-year-old colt trot, gives the young stallion Explosive Matter the potential star performer he’s been searching for. Hanover also got wins from Father Patrick, a son of their premier trotting stallion Cantab Hall, and Donato’s daughter Shake It Cerry.

Winner: With Thinking Out Loud, who is not a viable candidate for division honors, winning the BC open pace, Sweet Lou, who was second, set himself up nicely for division honors.

Winner: Marginal pacing stallions stepped to the fore over the weekend. McArdle is trying to establish himself in slots rich Ohio and having McWicked, his number two son after One More Laugh, win the BC and in so doing pave the way for a division title, helps immeasurably in that regard. And ten-year-old Tell All has failed to light it up thus far in the stallion ranks, but that win by supplemental entry, Sayitall BB, certainly helps. Bob McIntosh would probably scoff at the notion that Ponder is a marginal stallion, but the volume has been so thin that it sometimes seems like they all belong to him. Diamond Creek is currently addressing that issue in Pennsylvania. Adding a BC trophy to Thinking Out Loud’s hardware collection will give the effort a boost. And while Artiscape’s great daughter Rainbow Blue has a BC trophy on the mantle; paternal sister Shelliscape now has two of them.

Joe FitzGerald


A Needed Change to the TVG Series

For some reason, some people thought by winning the Breeders Crown Open Trot, Commander Crowe would be invited to participate in the TVG Final.  Where such a rumor began is unknown, perhaps people thinking if Commander Crowe was invited to participate in the Breeders Crown, certainly there must be some mechanism to get invited to the TVG Final.

Anyway, Commander Crowe heads home arriving as a conqueror Monday after his win over North America's best.  Quite honestly, his return home is a loss for the TVG series.  No complaints here; after all rules are rules and the TVG series is a late closing series which requires horses to earn points to compete in the final.

What would be good for racing is if European (and I imagine in a matter of fairness, Australasian) horses could nominate to the TVG series with certain overseas stakes races designated as TVG series-eligible races where horses could earn points to make them eligible for the final; either they would have to earn their way in by having more points than participating North American trotters or by offering invitations for up to two foreign horses based on the total number of points earned by them.

This would benefit North American racing by bringing more focus on the TVG series trotting races (and pacing when considering Australasia) as local horses could be facing their counterparts come November; maybe making the races desirable for simulcasting.

Any opportunity to widen the global reach of North American harness racing should be encouraged.

On to the Appeals Court; A Champion is Crowned

I should have been a lawyer.  As I surmised when New Jersey first attempted to change the law regarding sports gambling to comply with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Shipp ruled NJ's latest attempt to skirt around PASPA was for naught.  As you recall, NJ repealed the laws banning sports gaming only for racetracks and casinos in an attempt to meet the 3rd Circuit's original ruling.  Judge Shipp indicated to meet the standard the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal set, NJ would have had to repeal the law prohibiting sports gaming for everyone, including Joe the corner bookie; it is a case of everyone gets banned or everyone get the right to offer sports gaming.  Failure to do all or none, is in effect, state regulation.

Of course NJ will appeal this ruling to the Appeals court where they may find the same response from the three judge panel before the obligatory appeal to the US Supreme Court which will refuse to hear the case once again.  To get the US Supreme Court to take the case, it will require a ruling by the 3rd Circuit in favor of New Jersey, something unlikely to happen at this time.

Now on to what most of you want to read.....

Last nights' Breeders Crown events has paved the path to HOY for 2yo pacing filly JK She'salady who took her tilt in 1:50.2 on a cold night.  At the top of the stretch, it looked like the filly may have been going down to defeat to Sassa Hanover, but like the champion, JK She'salady came back and opened up to win comfortably.  With Takter's horses taking turns beating each other in the 3yo trotting male division and the seemingly invincible Sebastian K becoming beatable, it opened up the path for the filly, especially as those who need to win to stay in the conversation went down to defeat.

There was no storybook cold weather return to form by Foiled Again in the Open Pace last night as victory went to Thinking Out Loud who nailed Sweet Lou at the wire in 1:48.3.  In some ways this was the most entertaining race as horses were challenging the whole mile, not just riding the rail or being out one wide.  This was an all out battle with the eventual race winner coming from 7th place by exploding late in the deep stretch.

It will be interesting to see if Foiled Again returns or heads to the paddock full time in 2015.  My vote (which means nothing in this respect) is to allow him a lifetime of happiness in the field.

In a win most rather not have seen, Traceur Hanover was victorious in the 2yo colt and gelding pace, winning in 1:51 with the Orange Crush Andy Miller in the bike for embattled trainer Corey Johnson.

Earlier in the year, many assumed an European trotter would be standing in the winner's circle for the Breeders Crown for aged trotters but most would have picked Sebastian K to be the victor.   Of course, we know what happened but it still was a European Trotter as Commander Crowe was the victor in a speedy1:51 mile which showed the Commander driven aggressively in the race early, getting to the top before the :54.4 half.  Maven made a valiant attempt to get to Commander Crowe in the stretch but a late blast from the French trotter opened up just enough of a lead to hold off the talented mare.

It turns out we may have seen the last start of Le Grand Blonde because his owners are considering retiring their 11 year old champion.  There is reportedly a slight chance he may return to the races next yet but I believe common sense will dictate year is the finale.

One has to wonder how we can give the Breeders Crown a more international flavor as it is clear the appearance of Commander Crowe spiced up the Open Trot.  Granted there are only trotters in Europe so unless the Australians were to send pacers here, half  the card would be a North American affair.  Perhaps expanding the conditions for more foreign horses to be invited would be helpful.

In addition, with the win by Traceur Hanover, it is clear the Breeders Crown needs a condition dealing with horses trained by those under suspension so we never have a situation like last night repeat itself.  The Breeders Cup has taken care of this issue, there's no reason why we can't borrow their restriction.

Another interesting note is out of the 81 horses declared into the Breeders Crown on Friday night, 33 horses were trained by Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter; almost 41% of the starters.  Something to think about.

Business at the windows was good with a total handle of $4,088,391 (all sources) passed through the windows Saturday night  with Friday night's handle, roughly $7 million was wagered for the two cards combined.

I can't help but wonder if the Breeders Crown would have done better at the windows if it was raced earlier in the month.  Let's face it, the weekend before Thanksgiving is not the time to get the interest of the public.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Saturday Breeders Crown Analysis

Continuing on yesterday's theme, here are my selections for Saturday's Breeders Crown events.

4th - $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown 2yo Colts and Geldings
1 - French Laundry -  Draws well off elim victory.  However, not top Takter entrant.
2 - Walter White - Hasn't raced well in top stakes.  May be in deep.
3 - Habitat - Burke trainee has been going well of late.  Lands share.
4 - Suit And Tie - Colt gets minor spoils with best effort.
5 - Pinkman - The one to beat. Multi-faceted colt appears hard to beat.
6 - Muscle Diamond - Needs trip to be a factor.
7 - Guess Whos Back - Not this guy this week.
8 - Uncle Lasse - Will need to revert to earlier form to be a contender.
9 - Piercewave Hanover - Will be racing off cover.  Needs suicide fractions to contend.
10 - The Bank - Good qualifier of layoff.  ComplLate betes Takter quintet.
Selection 5-1-3-6

5th - $500,000 Pace - Breeders Crown 2yo Fillies
1 - Southwind Roulette - Rail will help but still appears in deep.
2 - Divine Caroline - Holloway trainee was freshened and qualified well.  Could land share.
3 - JK She'salady - Possible HOY with victory.  Seems to lay over these.
4 - Heart Major - Late bloomer can squeeze way on ticket.
5 - Bettor Be Steppin - Don't think he can control front end.
6 - Well Hello There - Toss last.  Can't disregard completely but better choices exist.
7 - Bettor N Better - Draws poorly.  Not sure can get into race.
8 - Heavenly Bride - One to toss.
9 - Sassa Hanover - Gingras chose this one over the favorite.  Better than she looks?  Consider.
10 - Ideal Nuggets -Bad post but possible Super selection.
Selection: 3-9-6-10

6th - $400,000 Pace - Breeders Crown Open
1 - Bettor's Edge - Gets post relief.  Will try to maximize opportunity.
2 - Modern Legend - Horse loves this track.  Contender.
3 - State Treasurer - Will likely try to make a move at the end.
4 - Thinking Out Loud - Needs a trip for any chance.
5 - Foiled Again - Think the best is in the past.
6 - Clear Vision - Tough field to compete against.
7 - Sweet Lou - A victory here would finish a career year.
Selection 1-2-7-3

7th - $500,000 Pace - Breeders Crown 2yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Cooperstown - Last better than he looks.  Upset chance.
2 - Traceuer Hanover - Won off a trip last week.  Don't expect him to work a trip.
3 - Lyons Levi Lewis - Will need a more aggressive drive today.
4 - Franzo - Outsider will be looking in today.
5 - Go Daddy Go - Has shown ability to race up front or from behind.  Like chances.
6 - Sicily - Hard to see here.
7 - Tomy Terror - Seems up against it.
8 - Soto - Another apparently out matched.
9 - Lost For Words -  Post hurts
10 - In The Arsenal -  Post compromises.  Should land share.
Selection 5-10-2-1

8th - $281,250 Pace - Breeders Crown Open Mares
1 - Camille - Inner draw is a plus.  That's bet which can be said.
2 - Charisma Hanover - Mare must race off the pace.  Possibility.
3 - Voelz Hanover - Not likely to repeat here.
4 -  Somwheroverarainbow - Expect a good effort here.
5 - Yagonnakissmeornot - Looks to complete a career year on top.
6 - Shelliscape - Lucky to land share.
7 - Krispy Apple -  Wins are rare and tonight is not the night
8 - Anndrovette - Figures to land share, but victory not likely.
9 -Rocklamation - Tough position.
10 - Regil Elektra -Don't see from here.
11 - Venus Delight - Good miles of late.  Should like the big track.
Selection 5-11-4-8

9th - $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 -Datsyuk - Nice horse lucky to land share.
2 - Hillustrious - Good enough to consider for exotic tickets.
3 - Nuncio - Horse has come into his own.  One to beat.
4 - Don Dorado -  Occasionally shows a decent effort.  Will this be one of those days?
5 - Il Sogno Dream -  Seems up against it.
6 - Father Patrick -Can he get it together here?  Possibility.
7 - Odds On Amethyst - Win over the track a plus.  Tough spot just the same.
8 - Sumatra - These are a different class of horse.
9 - Harper Blue Chip - Draws poorly.
10 - EL Titan - Horrible post but freshest of lot.  If looking for an upset play, he is it.
Selection 3-6-2-10

10th $531,240 Pace - Breeders Crown 3yo Colts and Geldings
1 - Let's Drink On It - Should improve from the rail.
2 - Somesizesomestyle - Will need to step it up.
3 - Mcwicked - Horse appears to have peaked.  Toss.
4 - Always B Miki - Has been on a tear; when does the ride end?  Tonight
5 - Limelight Beach - Favorable post position.  Good chance to here.
6 - JK Endofanera - Has peaked.  Can he recover lost step?
7 - Doo Wop Hanover - Don't see it.
8 - Somestarsomewhere - Seems overmatched.
9 - Luck Be Withyou - Hard to get in from the outside.
10 - Capital Account - Passing here.
Selection 5-4-1-6

11th  $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown Open
1 - Your So Vain - Minor spoils at best.
2 - Market Share - Has had bad luck this year at the wrong times.
3 - Arch Madness - Gelding has seen his best days in the past.
4 - Maven - Took overland route to victory in last.  Should be better.
5 - Flanagan Memory - Can't recommend.
6 - Archangel - A step blow the best.
7 - Creatine - Was hot before layoff.  Freshened.
8 - Wishing Stone - Minor spoils at best
9 - Commander Crowe - Looking for big effort in Meadowland debut.
10 - Intimidate - Can figure in exotics.
Selection 9-4-2-10

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday Breeders Crown Analysis

In a column, which depending on your view shows courage or stupidity considering my recent record of picking winners, here is my analysis of Friday's Breeders Crown events.

7th $250,000; Trot - Breeders Crown Open Mares
1 - Intense America - Has a powerful closing kick if the tempo is fast.  Seems a little overmatched.
2 - Classic Martine - Seems to be well placed with good post and can rough itt.  Without Maven, seems race is hers to take.
3 - Bee A Magician - What a difference a year makes.  Can land share but will need to show something specal to win.
4 - Handover Belle - Moves outside of main contender.  Land major share.
5 - Ma Chere Hall - Self destructed last week.  Will need to improve to contend.
6 - Charmed Life - Been going well.  Threat with a trip.
7 - D'Orsay - Has not been the same horse as in the past
8 - Mistery Woman - Will look for a triop.  If gets it, a threat.
Selection 2-4-8-6

8th $500,000; Trot - Breeders Crown 2yo Fillies
1 - Love Me Madly - Late developing filly.  See a factor for next year.
2 - Wild Honey - On a Tear; Logical choice with littel value.  Will try to beat.
3 - Danielle Hall - Always a contender if flat.  Possibility.
4 - Wiclet Hanover - Win came in NW1.  Pass here.
5 - Mission Brief - Burke trainee is another who defeats self.
6 - Stubborn Belle - Appears to have trailed off.
7 - Lilu Hanover - Can never count out a Takter trainee but will dismiss anyway.
8 - Hot Start - Just don't see.
9 - Livinthefastlane - 2nd in first week back.  Consider at proper odds.
10 - Smexi - Draws the worst of it  Does show a win over Mission Brief.
Selection 5-3-10-2

9th $500,000 Trot - Breeders Crown 3yo Fillies
1 - Market Rally - Qualifies off two misfires.  It would be foolish to disregard a Burke entry.
2 - Lifetime Pursuit - Finished second in last three starts; that winner starts right outside of her.
3 - Shake It Cerry - The logical one to beat.  Can anyone take her down?  I think not but expect low odds.
4 - Struck By Lindy - Well beaten when last raced against #3; nothing suggests anything different will happen this time.
5 - Cantabs Fortune - Seems to be stepping up.  Hard to see.
6 - Heaven's Door - No shot in last but nothing suggests a good result here.
7 - Vanity Matters - Only one victory this year but well prepped.  May be second best.
8 - Riveting Rosie - Has been racing well but steps up.  Minor spoils at best.
9 - Cee Bee Yes - The one who gets no respect.  Has already blown up the tote board.  Don't ignore.
Selection 3-7-9-1

10th $593,750 Pace - Breeders Crown 3yo Fillies
1 - Major Dancer - Been knocking on the door.  Wouldn't shock.
2 - Beach Gal - Best efforts are racing covered up. Share with trip.
3 - Gettingreadytoroll - Gets post relief.  Should improve off of that.  Will be on ticket.
4 - Gallie Bythe Beach - Second best.  Don't think he can top the favorite.
5 - Color's A Virgin - Clearly the best.  Don't see getting beat.
6 - Uffizi Hanover - Another one who needs a trip.  Not sure will get it today.
7 - Beach Story - Seems up against it.  Pass today.
8 - Allstar Rating - Steady check earner.  Will be pressed to earn one this week.
9 - Sayitall BB - Don't see against open company.
10- Precocious Beauty - Saddled with the worst of it.  Just don't see.
Selection 5-4-3-2

The Corey Johnson Affair

As many of you know, trainer Corey Johnson was suspended indefinitely by the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) and his horses were ordered scratched this past Monday and Thursday at Woodbine. was pondering whether or not New Jersey would order his horses Volez Hanover and Traceur Hanover out of Saturday night's Breeders Crown finals since New Jersey typically reciprocates on rulings by the ORC.

Over at some message boards, there were people taking shots at Jeff Gural for not ordering Johnson's horses scratched out of the crown.  Hypocritical was perhaps the kindest thing being said by those critics regarding the two horses being allowed to race (it should be noted nothing indicated these two horses were involved in the TCO2 violations).

Well, perhaps the reason Gural didn't order the horses scratched is because he couldn't.  In an interview with it is learned that as a result of a suit in 2011by the connections of Crys Dream, the NJRC is unable to suspend Johnson until he is offered due process in the form of a hearing in Ontario.  Only after a hearing is held and Ontario reaffirms their ruling can New Jersey suspend the trainer.  In the meanwhile, even if Jeff Gural wanted to use his powers of exclusion to ban Johnson, once the entries were accepted the horses must be allowed to race as the NJRC or its judges are the only ones who could scratch them; an exclusion only impacts future entries.

Even Jeff Gural obeys the rule of law.  Nothing he has ever done suggests he has disregarded the rule of law.

That being said, should Traceur Hanover or Volez Hanover win their races, the winner's circle presentation should be kept to a minimum with no interview with the trainer in the winner's circle.  If the NJRC wanted to send a message of protecting the interests of the horseplayer and the integrity of the wagering game, they would bar the two horses in wagering.  Of course, I don't see them doing it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Round Two of the French Connection

The second week of 'French' racing at Yonkers Raceway was an improvement over the first week as approximately $1.8 million was wagered on the five races simulcast to Europe.  Clearly, Europeans are willing to wager on races over the half mile oval.

Domestically, the handle was $446,368 for the entire 12 race card; much less than the Tuesday card it replaced (when less tracks are racing) and about $50,000 less than last Thursday's card; the weakest card handle-wise of the week.  To make any definitive comparisons of handle with the American public's reception of European-style racing would be dangerous as there is no Sunday with traditional racing to compare against.  When you consider you are racing against one of the busiest days for thoroughbred racing, especially when competing against NYRA which is the preferred signal for locals, and football, I tend to doubt any racing card at Yonkers would do better than this card did.

I do think it is safe to say there was no wholesale repudiation of European-style racing.  My belief has and continues to be harness racing fans are adaptable to new styles of racing if you deliver it to them consistently and commitment; not one week, it didn't work, stop.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note the Meadowlands once again is attempting to try to race one event on each race card at 1 1/8 miles with twelve starters.  Purses will be increased a modest 10% and those finishing out of the money will be paid $150.  Let's see how these races are received this go around.  To be perfectly honest, I think to get these races accepted you would need at least two races each card contested at this extended distance.  Hopefully, horsemen in New Jersey look at the New York results and are more receptive this time.

Best wishes to Sydney Seelster and Sydney Weaver as the former was scratched sick last night at Flamboro Downs as the horse didn't warm up right.  What the exact problem is remains to be seen.  Hopefully, 'Pinky' will be back soon giving harness racing's #1 spokeswoman in Canada some more joy.

While Dave Palone will likely re-take the title of World's All-time Winningnest Driver this afternoon, no tears should be shed for former champion Heinz Wewering who is quite an accomplished trainer in his own right.  How good a trainer?  He's the world champion all-time winningest trainer with 19,300 victories.  He is the complete horsemen.  The MSBOA has run some interesting promotions of late.  They should invite Wewering to compete against Palone at the Meadows for a head-to-head competition.

Some horsemen are upset with vet at Cal-Expo for scratching horses from races for soundness issues despite the fact the owners and their vets can't find any problems.  One horse has an unusual hitch in his gait and has always had it.  He had been racing this way for quite a while and then the vet decides to scratch the horse despite looking the same as he always has.  With only two days of racing a week it is hard to get into race as is, but now having to re-qualify means losing more racing opportunities.  How the trainer is going to fix a sound horse with an unusual gait is the question of the moment.  If it was one owner, it would be one thing but there is another owner who had their horse scratched despite looking the same way he did when he won several times in a row.  We are not advocating unsound horses being able to race but someone needs to remind the vet in question if the horse had a perfect gait, odd are they would be racing back east and not at Cal Expo racing for paltry purses.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pricing is the Threat to Racing

An opinion piece in Oklahoma talks about how the General Manager of Remington Park has no idea about what is the biggest hurdle to increasing revenue at racetracks.  The General Manager, blames illegal sports wagering and gambling machines for the problems racing has with declining revenues.

According to the author of the piece, the problem racing has is the high cost of betting.  If we assume racing has a blended takeout of 20%, it is over priced when compared to casinos.  It just costs too much to bet on the horses.  The writer, wants to know with many tracks subsidized by slot revenue, why can't they cut the takeout rate to make it less expensive to play the horses?

A very good question indeed.  Why won't many tracks cut takeouts, especially when there is so little handle to begin with?  Does it really matter if you cut the takeout rate to a blended rate of 10%  Probably not.  Of course, it isn't that simple.  Cutting takeout too much and you will find ADWs no longer carrying your signal which puts you at a competitive disadvantage,  How many ADWs would drop the Meadowlands, perhaps the most popular signal in harness racing, if they cut their takeout to a maximum of 10%?

If tracks can't cut the traditional wagers' takeout rates, what can be done to get around the ADWs?  Since Exchange wagering is market-driven, all which is needed is a small commission which permits volume wagering.  Yet states like California which have approved exchange wagering (though there is resistance to it from the thoroughbred owners) and New Jersey, which authorized exchange wagering, has yet to approve rules for it.  The time has come for these states and others to permit exchange wagering so we can see handle increase.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Palone on Top of the World

Congratulations to Driver Dave Palone for breaking the world record for the number of driving wins which was perviously held by German Driver Heinz Werwering who now concentrates on training and drives a limited number of races.  The new record is 16,754 and counting as Palone remains active at the Meadows and Grand Circuit.  It is possible the lead may go between the two for a brief period but with Palone continuing his full-time schedule, in the long run the record will remain his.

Here is a video clip put together to commemorate the auspicious moment.

My only fault with this commemoration is the picture of the tarmac which showed about six people outside to see the moment of history.  Granted it was cold at the Meadows last night but in the old days you certainly would have had more than six people or so on the tarmac.  I would have left that shot out of the final product before posting it.

That said, let's not have an editing decision take away from the moment.  Congratulations to Dave Palone, world champion driver.

The Meadowlands opened last night and admittedly, the handle was disappointing with a little over $2 million wagered for the evening.  I suspect part of it is due to the cold weather finally reaching the East Coast and the opening night card featuring Breeders Crown eliminations.  It is always tough to start a meet with horses shipping in from all over and with some layoffs, but when you have short fields of 8 horses, it doesn't make for compelling wagering events.

On the racing front, JK She'salady continues on her march to solidify her credentials as prospective horse of the year candidate with her victor last night in her Breeders Crown elimination, winning in 1:55.1,

Interesting qualifier this morning at the Meadowlands as in the fourth race, Creatine is in against Commander Crowe.  It is only a qualifier, but the race should still be spirited.  Meanwhile, in the second qualifier, Father Patrick is looking to regain some of his magic today preparing for the Breeders Crown.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Breeders Crown Elims Preview - Saturday

The eliminations for the Breeders Crown finals are being contested this Friday and Saturday at the Meadowlands.  Here is a preview of the elimination races being contested on Saturday.

2 Year Old Colt and Gelding Trot

1st Division (2nd Race) -  Habitat finished 3rd in Valley Victory but went on to win the Matron; looking to repeat.  Pinkman won the Valley Victory but took week off to qualify.  This is Takter versus Burke and Burke may win this battle.  Centurion ATM won Simpson at Vernon Downs.  Peter Haughton winner can compete at this level and may take it all.  Infiniti AS raced in lower conditioned race; deserves a chance at this level.  Won't win but may grab a piece.  The Bank is another Takter horse who should move on to the final.

2nd Division (4th Race) -  French Laundry doesn't draw the best of posts but appears best.  Stonebridge Force is winless and has been getting buried.  Draws inside and Svanstedt returns to the bike.  Expect more aggressive driver and may land share.  Muscle Diamond has been a consistent sort and should complete exotics.  Piecewave Hanover another Burke trainee who has shown some good efforts at Lexington.  Whataworkout should advance if he stays flat.

3 Year Old Colt and Gelding Pace 

1st Division (5th Race) -  Always B Miki is the hot one and figures to be fighting it to the end.  JK Endofanera's win streak came to a surprising end in Monument Circle.  Expect to return to typical form and can better rating here.  He's Watching has had two qualifiers and am expecting better from him.  Let's Drink On It prepped against older to toughen up and figures in the picture.  Parnu Hanover attempts an ambitious hike in class here and getting to next week would be a success.

2nd Division (7th Race) -   Mcwicked has tailed off but expect Coleman to have him ready for best effort.  Worth a look.  Limelight Beach avoids Always B Miki and JK Endofanera here; the logical pick but hoping Mcwicked is able to beat him out.  Doo Wop Hanover draws the rail and may complete trifecta.  Capital Account and Somestarsomewhere figure to advance to the final.

2 Year Old Colt and Geld Trot

1st Division (8th Race) - Go Daddy Go raced well in Governors Cup with bad posts.  With the rail expecting a victory from him.  Lost For Words had bang up qualifier.  May land second with a trip.  Rich Wisdom was looking good before last week.  Tossing that one and look for a good showing; may improve rating.  Franzo has looked poor in recent efforts.  Expect Takter to have this one going better and should advance to final with Lyons Again.

2nd Division (11th Race) - Arque Hanover has raced well at Woodbine and can win with a trip.  Traceur Hanover has suffered from poor post draw of late.  Looks to take advantage of the rail.  In The Arsenal has won last four but gets saddled with poor post draw.  May manage to grab minor spoils.  Bet You and Cartoon Daddy look to move on to next week.

Open Trot 

(10th Race) -  With four horses getting the bye, six horses will be looking to move on to next week.  Arch Madness faltered in International Preview at the end.  Wishing Stone didn't race well at Dayton but otherwise has been going against the best.  Return to the mile track makes him competitive.  May be able to go all the way.  Archangel seems to be able to land the show spot and offer some value to exotics.  Maven draws the worst for new owner.  Mare should advance along with Your So Vain and Sevruga.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Reason to Choose Watch and Wager

Watch and wager has announced today that customers using their ADW wagering platform outside of California (excluding Colorado, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) will be able to partake of a 5% takeout on all wagers placed on Cal Expo's races.  For those in California, the 5% takeout is limited to Pick-4, Pick-5, and Pick-6 wagers.  The only requirement is you bet a minimum of $40 on the weekend's races at Cal Expo.  The difference between the normal payoff and the reduced takeout is paid out as a bonus.  Complete details are listed here.

If you like playing Cal Expo, here is a reason to try Watch and Wager.  Of course, if you are in a state where regulations don't allow participation in this offer or Watch and Wager is not licensed, you are out of luck.

Disclosure:  I have not received any compensation from Watch and Wager for this posting.  If I find or am made aware of a particularly good offer for harness racing players by ADWs, I will post them.

Breeders Crown Elims Preview - Friday Night

The eliminations for the Breeders Crown finals are being contested this Friday and Saturday at the Meadowlands.  Here is a preview of the elimination races being contested on Friday.

2 Year Old Filly Trot

1st Division (2nd Race) - Mission Brief is the type of horse who, if stay flat, win.  Clearly the best horse in the race but will offer no value considering the occasional miscues.  Danielle Hall jumped off last time and finished second to Mission Brief in Goldsmith Maid elimination.  If she stays flat, she may be the one to beat.  Smexi pulled off a massive upset in the Goldsmith Maid final.  Would need a perfect trip to be a factor; can't ignore.  Others who may qualify for the final are Hot Start and the lightly raced Scented Roses.

2nd Division (12th Race) - Stubborn Belle has been racing against better and gets my pick.   Wild Honey is 9 for 10 but mostly in lower level stakes; value won't be there.  Sarcy has been suffering from seconditis.  Will be competitive and may complete exotics.  Bright Baby Blues should advance if stays flat.  Livinthefastlance may improve rating.

2 Year Old Filly Pace 

1st Division (3rd Race) - The nations #1 horse and undefeated JK Shesalady is the obvious horse to pick.  Only knock will be the odds.  Sassaa Hanover has regained her peak form; can you ever ignore the Burke stable?  Bettor Be Stephen races her best from the outside and draws the favored post.  The how Returns and  Sassa Hanovrer look to compete in next week's final.

2nd Division (6th Race) -   Well Hello There has the rail for Burke and appears to be the best here.  Happy Becky qualified off disappointing start, can land here.  Heart Major steps up in clalss here; will see if can handle this type of horse.  Ideal Nuggets has raced in better stakes; can improve rating.  Improving Divine Caroline sees another week.

3 Year Old Filly Pace 

1st Division (4th Race) - Major Dancer been consistent of late; as good chance to win here.  Sayitall BB is another Burke pacer who raced well in the Midwest and returns to the site of fastest victory.  Act Now is the class of the Midwest but failed in her east coast start; use with caution.  Beach Girl seems to have a lot going for her but gets trapped in traffic.  If Jamieson can avoid traffic,this one could shock.  Gettingreadytoroll advances to next week'sfinal.

2nd Division (7th Race) -  Color's A Virgin is running a winning streak; should add to streak but offers no value.  Uffizi Hanover is a horse I am waiting to pop.  Doubt it is today but can add some value to exotics.  Weeper draws outside but still should land share.  Precious Beauty is a possible upset candidate; consider with proper odds.  Allstar Rating completes field.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why are we Penalizing Benefits?

In the opening card of the Meadowlands 2014-2015 season, the 9th race for pacers that are NW3 or $40,000 lifetime going for $15,000 is the first race where NJ sired horses are eligible for a 60% bonus.  This means if a non-New Jersey sired horse wins the race, they get credit for $7,500 in earnings but if sired by a New Jersey stallion, they get $12,000 applied to their card.  All gravy if you are the owner of the NJ-sired horse right?

Well, if you keep racing at the Meadowlands, the answer is yes.  However, if you race elsewhere, that bonus may come back and haunt you.  Actually, there is a good chance it will eventually come back and bite you in the proverbial butt.

Let's take a look at two horses; NJ Louie earns the NJ sired bonus, NY Harry is sired by a New York stallion.  After this one win, they don't win a race for the next ten starts.  They end up racing at another track where the conditions are written for average earnings over a period of ten starts.  NY Harry is eligible for non-winners of $800 per start in the last ten starts while NJ Louie is forced to race in winners over $10,000 in 2014-15 because of the 60% bonus.  Despite they both won the same class of race, there is a good chance NJ Louie is going to be hosed for a while until he gets money off his card.

This problem applies not only to this 60% bonus, it applies where purses are increased because a race is restricted to state owned or sired horses.  Tracks which write conditioned races should be writing races based on base earnings, excluding state sired or owned bonuses.  Yes, it may help out of state horses but it would help your own state's horses when they race elsewhere if it was reciprocated.    Of course for this to happen the USTA would need to store two figures for earnings on their computer system; one for base earnings and one for total earnings.

More importantly, it would put horses on equal footing which would make more competitive (read that as 'better') races for the gambler to wager on.  

Think, if implemented, this would be something to benefit both horse owners and bettors at the same time.  The opportunity to do something for the benefit of both doesn't come along that often.  Tracks should move to do this sooner than later.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Crown Briefs and Jackson Subterfuge?

The Meadowlands opens this weekend with the eliminations for the Breeders' Crown.  I understand the number of days the Meadowlands races is limited, but wouldn't it have made sense to open up a week before the eliminations so the horses competing in the eliminations would have had the opportunity for a race over the track before it counted big time?

By now you know Commander Crowe is a supplemental entry to the Crown for Open Trotters.  While it will be great to see the Commander racing at the Meadowlands, the race has lost a lot of its pizzazz when the connections of Sebastian K decided to bypass the race.

There will be no eliminations for the 3yo colt trotters, 3yo filly trotters, aged mare trotters, aged mare pacers, and aged horse pacers this year.  Those who entered will be proceed directly to the finals.  

Update: 156 horses dropped in the box for the Breeders Crown.  Details here.

Next Tuesday will be the press conference and post position draw for the Breeders Crown finals.  Wouldn't it make sense to have the press conference on Monday and get the program pages out to the press and general public on Tuesday afternoon? This way should the press be inclined, they can cover the finals in earnest earlier and those handicappers looking forward to the Crown can begin their handicapping, building up more excitement.

Jackson Raceway a Leverage Tool?  So thinks a Jackson County Commissioner who commented on ESPN Radio on how Jackson Raceway was not given any racing day next year.  If racing returns to Jackson, it would likely be a couple of years.  Was Jackson Raceway a ploy to get the trotters back in Hazel Park and Northville Downs?  No one will admit it even if it were true.  All I know is Brett Boyd laid out money to get to this point.  Unless he gets reimbursed, which would probably run afoul of regulators, it would suggest it was a honest attempt.

Lastly, I owe an apology to my readers of this blog.  I am not looking for sympathy but feel the need to explain what has been going on with this blog.  Long term readers of this blog have probably noticed with the exception of contributions made by my contributors, my blog entries have not been up to snuff with previous blog entries made by me.  For myself and family, 2014 is a year I look forward to forgetting.  Starting with a late March 'flood' from above (a neighbor's sprinkler system), which made our home uninhabitable, we spent five and a half months in exile while our home was gutted and rebuilt.  While we have returned to a new and improved home, it came at a price as life was reduced to a one bedroom suite in an extended living hotel (Thank you for a great experience Residence Inn [really] of Saddle River, NJ).  The people were great at the hotel and while they made it feel as close to home as possible, it wasn't and having to spend time with insurance adjusters, contractors, and various other vendors took a lot of time and had me otherwise 'distracted'.

Add to that a family member breaking a hip during this escapade on July 17 to be precise, and landing in a hospital only to end up with three round trips between the hospital and rehab since the initial break, which included breaking the other hip two days before supposedly going home, you can see how I've been distracted,  The saga continues and hopefully they will be going home in two weeks (fingers crossed) with 24 hour assistance to start.  Ah, the joys of growing older.  I am painfully understanding my late father's saying "The 'Golden' years are made of brass".  Brass may have been too optimistic.  Anyway, being the closest relative (physically), we know who has picked up the additional responsibility of caring for a close relative; my wife and I, though to be fair, it is probably more my wife; that woman is a saint. with her upcoming return home, the added responsibility won't go away, but the frenzy level should subside. 

So while I look forward to 2015's arrival so I can put 2014 behind me (it can't end soon enough), I am hoping to start now and return to spending more time on harness racing and my blog and return to a state of controlled pandemonium which will be a welcomed change. Thanks to my contributors who have kept the blog going when I was otherwise tied up and will continue to contribute, as I start delivering blog entries more in line with my previous writings.  Hopefully, it will make View From the Racetrack Grandstand a 'must read' blog once again.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Part III Of Harrisburg Yearling Sale Review

This is part III (final) of the review of the yearling portion of the sale in Harrisburg.

Roll With Joe sold 34 yearlings from his first crop at Harrisburg for an average of $33,706. Two topped $100,000, while three other colts and one filly sold for at least $50,000. Half of them failed to exceed a $25,000 sale price. Seventeen averaged more than $35,000 in Lexington, with a pair of colts selling for more than $100,000. His big brother Bettor’s Delight has used up his eligibility in the NYSS and RWJ will be expected to fill the huge void created by his departure. The buyers obviously have their doubts.

Shadow Play, who after dominating the OSS freshman class with his first crop, fell to seventh with the colts and eleventh with the fillies this year, had an awful sale in Harrisburg. Only 15 were available, but they averaged a penny pinching $15,400. Thirteen of them, including all nine fillies, failed to sell for more than $25,000. Last year a dozen averaged $32,333 at this sale. Nine recently averaged $36,778 in Lexington. There were a couple of substantial purchases there as a half-sister to Gallant Yankee brought $92,000 and a half-brother to Bigtime Hero sold for $85,000.

Somebeachsomewhere led all pacing stallions as he averaged a shade under $62,000 for 54 sold.  Last year he sold 15 fewer but his average was 24% higher. And at Lexington this year he sold 30 for an $89,000 average, which was 30% higher than it was in Harrisburg. The first foal out of So Perfect—a colt—brought $300,000 and a full-brother to Maxi Bon sold for $240,000.  Five other colts and two fillies also topped $100,000. 46% sold for $50,000 or more; last year in Harrisburg that was 64% and the year before it was 63%. 20% of those sold in Harrisburg brought $25,000 or less. The breakdown for the smaller group sold in Lexington was much better; 40% of them brought $100,000 or more and 73% sold for at least $50,000.

Sportswriter, who dominated the OSS with his first crop, sold 13 for an average of $37,038. Last year he sold 22 more at this sale for an average that was 37% lower. 41% failed to top $15,000 in 2013; that figure was 31% this year. One cracked $100,000 this year—a filly—and four, or 31%, sold for at least $50,000. As was the case with just about every sire, the results were much better in Lexington, where a dozen averaged almost $60,000, with three topping $100,000 and 42% bringing at least $50,000.

Well Said sold 51 for an average of $32,431. This is the Western Hanover stallion’s third crop to come before the buyers. Last year in Harrisburg five more sold for an average that was 29% higher. At that time the Cancellieres paid $300,000 for a half-brother to Bettor Sweet and Jeffrey Snyder dropped $240,000 on a half-brother to Pirouette Hanover, while this year one of each sold for $100,000 even and another colt sold for $130,000, so the help at the top was missing. This is a poor high end showing for a premium priced stallion putting forth a very large offering. Sixteen, or 31%, sold for $50,000 or more. Just about half failed to bring more than $25,000. These aren’t very good numbers for a $15,000 stallion. Twenty-three averaged more than $43,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale; three topped $100,000 and eight sold for at least $50,000. No star power on the track. They grind out good money, but Well Said needs some star attractions.

Western Ideal, the sire of Artspeak, sold 39 for an average of $36,744. That’s 18 more than last year at an average that is 26% higher. It’s more than double what it was two years ago when 27 averaged about $11,000 at this sale. This crop is PA eligible; he finally lost the dreaded New Jersey tag. Two colts and a filly topped $100,000, while 10, or 25%, sold for at least $50,000. 44% failed to bring more than $25,000. Not as crowded at the bottom as it has been in recent years, but still less than desirable. Western Ideal sold 16 for a $47,000 average in Lexington, up 25% from last year when five fewer were sold. The sire of Rocknroll and Always A Virgin was standing for $25,000 six or seven years ago. He’s been at $7,500 for the last couple of years. (All of the fees quoted are from 2014. A few have already been altered for 2015, but adjustments are generally made about this time.)

Western Terror, who was a disaster in Lexington, where a sorry looking troupe of 41 sold for an average a shade over $15,000, was one of the few to do better at Harrisburg. Twenty-four averaged more than $33,000. A filly out of a sister to Shanghai Lil and Bolt The Duer sold for $200,000 to the owner of the latter. And a brother to Urgent Action brought $100,000. That gave the average a boost. Still, 70% of them failed to sell for more than $25,000, so Western Terror was a success relative to his dismal Lexington performance. Last year in Harrisburg only four sold for an average of $7,375. The sire of Drop The Ball, Economy Terror and Western Silk stands in Pennsylvania for a steep fee of $7,500.

Yankee Cruiser, the sire of Sweet Lou and Yankee Bounty, sold 30 at Harrisburg for a meager average of $17,383. This is similar to last year when 13 sold for an average of $16,846. This year 24 of the 30 failed to bring more than $25,000 while it was 12 of 13 last year. None of them sold for $50,000. Like Dragon Again, Yankee Cruiser is now in Ohio; he’s $500 cheaper at $4,500. And as is the case with Dragon, that Ohio eligibility can’t come fast enough.

Twenty-year-old Yankee Glide’s fee dropped from $15,000 to $12,500 in 2014, but, according to the Harrisburg results, he’s still no bargain. The colts and fillies that raise a stallion’s profile haven’t been there for him the last couple of years, and the older ones have also failed to step up. Sixteen averaged $27,406. A colt brought $120,000, but none of the others topped $50,000. Three quarters of them failed to bring more than $25,000. These aren’t numbers appropriate to a stallion standing for $12,500. Last year 15 averaged $37,733. On the other hand, In Lexington 28 averaged $42,679 with a full brother to Guccio selling for $200,000 and a full sister to All Laid Out bringing $140,000. Eight sold for $50,000 or more and a dozen failed to top $25,000. Nothing to brag about, but much better than what transpired in Harrisburg.

Joe FitzGerald





Time to Change the Way Races are Drawn

JK Shesaslady has a new driver heading into the Breeders' Crown eliminations as regular driver Yannick Gingras would not commit to the filly until after the post position draw.  Unsatisfied with this, the connections of the filly made the decision for Gingras and fired him, turning to Tim Tetrick who agreed to stick with the filly through the balance of this year and next.

This whole episode highlights one of the problems with harness racing both to the owners and the betting public.  Allowing drivers to chose drives after post positions are drawn.

I know I will hears this is the way it has been done for years but the way drivers are named to a horse has to change.  Currently, the driver gets to make their final choice of which horse they will drive after post positions are drawn.  Let's not kid ourselves, if the leading driver at a track is named to two or three horses and they basically have the same current form, who are they going to choose, the horse from post position one or post position eight?

What should happen is drivers need to commit to a horse before post positions are drawn.  Let's have the racing office list which horses will be in each race and have drivers pick their drives and then draw post positions.

The benefit of this is owners will still get a driver to commit to their horse, but it will be done based on who the driver feels is the best horse of the ones they are named on, not on who draws the best post.  An owner may still lose their preferred driver but it won't be the result of opportunism.

For the bettor, it means better payoffs.  With drivers committing to horses before post positions are drawn, horses who are currently being bet down to 3-5 or so may go off at 3-1 because the leading driver at the meet may be driving someone else instead of the horse with the best post position.  Granted, it makes the race a little harder to handicap, but the rewards will be better.

Of course, to make this change, it will require a track to break with tradition and deal with the outcry of drivers who may find their income reduced because they may be driving more horses with a tougher post position than they would under the traditional way of assigning drivers.  The question is which (if a) track will be the first to make such a move?

Elle a eu d'excellents résultats.

What can you say about Yonkers Raceway and the SOA of NY's experiment of sending their races to France (and the rest of Europe) on the first day?  Results that one could only have hoped for.  While the domestic handle for the twelve races was a very modest $492,926 (some exotic wagers were eliminated for the early races), the results were anything but modest in Europe with €1.4 million ($1.75 million) wagered on the first five races.

A field of 12 at the start of the 2nd race at Yonkers Raceway on Sunday, November 9, 2014.  Photo credit: Mike Lizzi

With results like this, Yonkers is probably scouring the East Coast for more trotters so they can add more trotting races on the Sunday card.  Other racetracks must be wondering how they can join Yonkers in sending their races over to Europe for simulcasting because when you can get an extra $350,000 in handle per race, you can't help but take notice.

Of course one week does not make a complete experiment but one has to look forward to the next few Sundays to see how the handle holds up.

As for the racing, the first five races were trotting events and one has to wonder with overflow fields, how did the horses in the second tier do being they were racing on the half mile oval?  The first race was won by Rossini from post position 10 in the field of 11.  In the second race, Somebody As from post position 11 out of field of 12 was able to score a 3rd place finish.  In the third race, while not finishing in the money a horse from the 10 hole managed to land 4th.  In the final race sent over ot France, Bluebird Kidsqueen finished 2nd out of a field of ten starting form post 9.  Clearly, the extra quarter mile gave the second tier a chance to get into the race to be a factor and end up in the payoff positions/  As a result, a gambler could not just toss the second tier when handicapping the races.

The races were not your typical half mile races thanks to the overflow fields and additional distance making the races interesting with regards to driving tactics.  Handicapping races was a bit of a challenge due to the lack of past performance lines at added distance.  There were some race lines at a distance of 1 1/16 and 1 1/4, but those were far and few in between.  Having mile rates for those stretched out races may have made it easier to handicap.  

One thing for sure, it has been proven that European style races can be conducted over the half mile oval.   Of course, if it can be done on the half, it can be done elsewhere.  Some may look at the domestic handle at Yonkers and say, "Hold it one minute", but you need to remember these races were contested when people are busy wagering (yes, wagering) and watching NFL games.  All which would be needed is a little perseverance to get horsemen and horseplayers used to the added distance races.

A suggestion to Yonkers would be to have a graphic showing both the European and North American odds since pools are not yet being co-mingled as it would allow punters a chance to see how their counterparts see each race.

Here's looking forward to week 2.

Maven went under the auction block being sold for $750,000 which shocked many onlookers.  There are people far smarter than me who are experts in purchasing racehorses/broodmares but it seems to me the new owners paid a stiff price.  Here is hoping Maven earns her price back for her new owner as soon as possible.