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Friday, January 2, 2015

Sires Stakes Must Get With the Program

Pennsylvania's loss is New Jersey's gain.  Thanks to Pennsylvania's refusal to grant a waiver, Father Patrick will be standing stud in New Jersey in 2015, giving a big shot in the arm to New Jersey breeding program whose stature has crashed due to the lack of slots-fueled purses.  Due to the Gural rule of not permitting the crop of stallions aged four to race in the major stakes, the decision was made to have Father Patrick both stand stud in Pennsylvania where slots have super-sized purses while continuing to race at the same time.

The plans were in place, all which was needed was a waiver by the PASS board to allow Father Patrick to breed in the Keystone State while training in New Jersey (and racing wherever).  In a short-sighted move the board refused the waiver and as such, either Father Patrick would have had to race as a four year old exclusively or breed, with the resulting foals from any 2015 breeding being shut out of virtually any important stakes race or stand elsewhere.  Hence, the decision to breed in New Jersey down the road from trainer Jimmy Takter's farm.

Once again it is a case of the rules having to play catch up to the new economic realities of racing.  While there may have been other considerations, the primary reason for the rules requiring a stallion to stand an entire season in a specific state to have their off-spring remain eligible to state-sired events was to ensure horses were entitled to participate in one state program exclusively and not have their offspring being eligible in different states; the idea being to strengthen the one state's breeding program and not the others.  All is fine and good with that but with the Gural rule and the economic incentives, the paradigm has changed; horses are slowly starting to adopt the European model of breeding and racing.  With the new paradigm, the need for horses to breed and train may require horses to split their time between two or more states.

Yet the rules remain in the past with all or nothing rules regarding where a horse may reside during the breeding season.  Clearly, the rules need to change.  The integrity of the PA-sired program would have remained in place with a rule change or waiver granted.  Now thanks to this intransigence New Jersey gets a must needed boost to the detriment of Pennsylvania..

The time to change the rules is now.

Harness Briefs:  Congratulations to Ronnie Wrenn Jr. on winning the North American Dash Title in 2014 over Aaron Merriman with the final totals being 849 to 839; the race coming down to the last night of 2014 in all places Michigan.  Speaking of Michigan, Sports Creek Raceway has been ordered to cease all racing operations, including simulcasting, due to a lack of a contract with the MHHA.  Followers of racing at Freehold will hear a new voice as Meadowlands announcer Ken Warkentin takes over announcing duties while continuing to work up the road in East Rutherford.  Warkentin's double duty is thanks to a job sharing agreement between the two New Jersey trotting tracks.  Trevor Henry was Canada's leading dash winner with 472 victories.  I wonder how long it will be before we see Henry in the States.  Overall, wagering in the United States on standardbred racing dropped 6.67% with 185 fewer racing cards.  While the overall handle dropped, all is not bad as wagering per race has increased 2.18%.  Late closing series start at the Meadowlands next week with one important change.  If any division has trailers, the races will go at a distance of 1 1/8 miles instead of the standard mile.

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