For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Briefs

While not a fan of thoroughbred racing, I am glad to see, pending legislative approval for the diversion of funds dedicated to the purse account from casino proceeds to help operate the meet, Suffolk Downs will be racing for the next two years wile track management explores alternatives for their property.  Two years is not a long time but it gives the Massachusetts horsemen more time to come up with alternative plans to continue to race in the Bay State.  I have no problem with the legislative changes provided the proposed amendment only concerns the diversion of funds for the thoroughbred horsemen and doesn't alter the currently legislated formula for standardbred interests.

You may have seen press about a Michigan Indian tribe wishing to re-develop Great Lake Downs, a failed thoroughbred track it purchased back in 2008 into a casino.  The track raced from 1999 - 2007.  Not too many people outside of Michigan may realize before becoming Great Lake Downs, the facility was a harness track called Muskegon Race Course which operated from 1989-1997.

The Indians can operate casinos in Michigan, Non-tribal casinos were allowed to open casinos.  Racetracks continue to struggle due to its inability to compete with its racing product or expansion of alternative gaming.  Unless something changes, Michigan racing, of all breeds, will continue to be on the ropes.

Two hundred mares have registered for the New Jersey Standardbred  Development Fund (SDF).  To qualify for NJ SDF designation, a mare has to foal and spend 150 days in New Jersey which allows their off-spring to raced in SDF races along with NJ-sired horses.  Two hundred mares may not mean much, especially when the first SDF races for two year olds are raced in 2016, but for breeding farms, it means board bills from 200 mares which may not have been in the state in the first place.  This program brings needed revenue to farms which may have been hurting from the lack of breeding activity in the state as it provides for an alternative revenue source,

This has been a tough winter in the Northeast in particular and I don't know about you, I long for the days tracks had backstretches.  When there were backstretches, it was 'snow be damned', you raced anyway because you had an off-track audience ready and willing to wager on your product; it didn't matter customers may not be hardy (or foolish) enough to come out.  As long as the horsemen were there, racing took place, albeit with a few scratches

Now, with the lack of backstretches, some tracks cancel racing the moment the first snowflake falls.  For sure, with horses being at farms instead of tracks, there is a safety issue to be considered for the horses and horsemen but some tracks cancel too early (typically slot tracks), and sometimes a little too late (such as the Meadowlands last Saturday).  I understand the need for safety, it is paramount, but being the racinos never seem to close their slot parlors, I can't help but wonder if some of those cancellations are more an excuse to cut a money-losing racing day off the racing calendar than anything else.

Have a great Saturday everyone.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Presss Release: Meadowlands Statement on Simulcasting Dispute

East Rutherford, NJ - Meadowlands Statement on Simulcasting Dispute

As the simulcasting dispute between Monarch Management and the Mid-Atlantic Co Op enters its fourth month, we wanted to update our fans and bettors on recent developments.

In 2011 when the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park were privatized, we hired Monarch Management to handle our import and export simulcasting agreements.  In today’s world, it’s almost a necessity for a track to be part of a larger group or co-op such as Monarch, Churchill, or Mid-Atlantic to have any negotiation leverage when it comes to simulcast host fees. With the exception of NYRA, almost every track is part of a larger group simply because they don’t generate enough handle to have any pricing input.

Monarch and their management team have represented us in a competent, professional manner over the past few years and we have a strong relationship with them.

We felt it reasonable that tracks pay a little bit more for our signal since (a) we do not have slots and (b) offer the number one harness signal with the largest pools from a wagering standpoint in North America. It’s our understanding that the Monarch/Mid-Atlantic dispute is no longer about host fee rates. The issue is an in-state conflict in Maryland between Rosecroft Raceway operated by Penn Gaming which is the largest member of Mid-Atlantic, and the Maryland Jockey Club operated by the Stronach Group which is Monarch. We felt the Maryland issue did not involve Meadowlands in any way nor should harness racing fans and players be impacted by it.

Earlier this week, Meadowlands instructed Monarch to offer the Mid-Atlantic a separate deal for us in an effort to get the Meadowlands harness signal back in their network of tracks.  The Mid-Atlantic executive committee rejected that offer.

Most of the major players wagering significant dollars play through ADW’s because of generous rebate structures.  The people that are hurt by this dispute are the harness racing fans who enjoy watching and wagering on the Meadowlands product at places like a Northfield Park in Ohio, in the State of Delaware, or at a Mohegan Sun Pocono OTW in Pennsylvania.  This dispute has certainly cost the Meadowlands some revenue but, unfortunately, it’s also cost us the goodwill and support of many loyal fans over the years who wager at the impacted locations. That’s the real shame.

If you feel strongly about the situation, please let your respective track or wagering facility know and ask them to press for a solution to this issue. 

The Meadowlands...

WDC Thoughts, What Can Be Brought to North America?

Watching the World Driving Championship (WDC) races from New South Wales, Australia it has become clear; we are too provincial in our thinking, unwilling to change to improve the product.  Not that these suggestions will take care of things such as post time drag, the amount of time between races, and the integrity issues real and perceived, but we can make the racing more exciting to watch, less predictable, and increase wagering as people will be enticed by larger payoffs.

For example, let's take a look at this race from the WDC yesterday.

No one can watch this race and say it wasn't exciting despite the length of the race.  What did this race have that we don't have in the North America?

  1. Added distance (2,125 meters equals 1.32 mile)
  2. A second tier 
  3. A lot of movement through out the race

You probably are saying, well these WDC races feature some of the best drivers in the world,  what about regular overnight racing?  Well,, let's look at another race from the same card at Penrith, a conditioned  race for winners of 1 or 2 races at a country meet, with typical drivers racing.

There may hve been a little less movement, but more movement than we typically see; horses are not strung out single file.  You have horses racing three, four wide.  By the time they head into the stretch, everyone is close, and in this case they all came flying at the wire.

Penrith is a half mile oval, starting five across with five in the second row.  Admittedly, when you start five across the horses in the back row have it easier to get involved than in the states where you typically start eight across.  I would never suggest we put eight horses in the back tier on our smaller tracks, but what if we started six across with six in the second row?

Now a track like Menangle, a metropolitan track which is a 7/8th mile oval, starts them 10 across and doesn't have an official second tier but they have standing starts with horses being handicapped as far back as 70 meters (291 feet).  I am not suggesting we move to standing starts but instead of having standing starts we can handicap races by moving horses to a second row even if we cut the number in the front row to even things out (say seven up front and five in the second row).

Some will say it's a different style of racing in Australia.  No doubt about it, a style necessitated by the varied distances of races; something which would develop here.  The point is we can learn something from Australia and from the rest of the harness racing world.  We just need to take the blinders off and look.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Needed Amendment to PA Senate Bill 352.

Legislation is working its way through the Pennsylvania Legislature to modernize the racing rules in the state which have not been updated in over 20 years according to the bill's sponsor, State Senator Elder Vogel.  SB352  merges the thoroughbred and harness racing commissions into one, mandates medication rules, and well a lot of technocrat jumble which comprises this bill of 168 pages (to which you are welcome to read).

One thing I see here is  the opportunity to get RUS recognized.  Currently standardbred/harness racing is defined in this bill as racing with a sulky.  Now would be the time to get the bill amended to include RUS as part of the definition of standardbred racing and where else it may need to be updated.  If not updated, it may be not be possible to have parimutuel RUS events because the bill does not allow standardbred and thoroughbred track operators from having a license to conduct racing of the other breed.  The reason the bill would need to be amended is the bill has passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

If RUS racing is not added to the racing code now, when would it happen?

As if we didn't see this coming, Pennsylvania is proposing Internet Gaming for their casinos.  Governor Christie was counting on out-of-staters coming to New Jersey to gamble within the state.  Should Pennsylvania adopt online gambling, rest assured Pennsylvania gamblers will go home to gamble, reducing some of the revenue being received in New Jersey.  As mentioned initially, once one state has online gaming, it is just a matter of time till other states adopt it, once again making a product a commodity.    

Dunn Clinches Championship, Race on for Silver and Bronze

While Canadian Jody Jamieson was the driving star at Penrith Harness Racing Club for the three heats of the World Trotting Championship, New Zealander Dexter Dunn has clinched the gold in the WTC going into the final heat at Menangle Sunday.  Jamieson won Heats 17 and 19 to earn the driving double while Denmark's Knud Monster picked up the victory in Heat 18.  However, a third and second placing by Dexter Dunn, coupled with Tim Tetrick's throwing in a bad day today (best finish was fifth place), put Dunn out of reach of the rest of the drivers, allowing him to go into Menangle triumphantly.

While first place has been decided, we have a real horse race for second and third place as four drivers are within nine points of each other.  France's Tony Le Beller moved into second place while Tim Tetrick dropped into third place.  Currently in fourth place is Finland's Mika Forss while thanks to tonight's performance, Jody Jamieson moves up into fifth place.  So while the champion has been crowned, it will be a real horse race in the final heat as these four will be looking to take up residence in the place and show spots.

Tonight, all three races were contested at 2,125 meters (approximately 1 1/3 miles) and Jamieson drove Strawberry Courage NZ to catch Emerging Art at the wire in 2:38.6 (2:00.1 mile rate) over a track listed as 'good'.  Finishing third was Just Pit Boss NZ driven aggressively by Dexter Dun from the fifth position in the second row (saddle cloth #11).  If you watch the video watch the bold move he made going into the backstretch the first time.

Just an observation here.  If anyone says racing extended distances with a second tier (the place and show horse both come from the second row) is boring, they need to watch the race above.  This is a race which is far more exciting than what we currently produce in North America

In Heat 18, Knud Monster from Finland won with Midnight Lights in 2:37.4 (1:59.2) from the second slot in the second row to defeat Lombo Final touch by 2,4 meters.  Monster was able to take benefit of a fast early pace by staying back until they hit the backstretch the final time where he made a bold move from eighth place, going four wide on the turn before setting his sights on the eventual second place finisher.

The final heat of the night was won by Jamieson driving Katsidis to a half neck victory in 2:37.4 (1:59.2).  Katsidis briefly held the lead at the start of the second lap before giving it up to take the pocket trip, only to find himself sitting fourth before getting free to throw on the thrusters to catch the leaders at the wire.

The final heat will be contested at Menangle Sunday as the first race on a card which features the Inter-Dominion Final as well as other stakes races.  The WDC final will be contested at 2,400 meters.

The standings going into the final heat:
Point Score After 19 Heats
Dexter Dunn
Tony Le Beller
Tim Tetrick
Mika Forss
Jody Jamieson
Knud Monster
Chris Alford
Pierre Vercryusse
Vidar Hop
Guillermo Adrover

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dexter Dunn Opens Up His Lead

Today's stop of the WDC found the drivers at Bathurst Harness Racing Club for four heats of the competition and it was not a great day for the North Americans as they were shut out from the winners circle though both Jamieson and Tetrick each took a second placing.  Interesting fact for those who despise the second tier, two of the four heats were won by horses in the second tier.

Thank in part to his one victory, Dexter Dunn from New Zealand has padded his overall lead to 39 points over second place Tim Tetrck as they move on with five more heats to be contested.  If Dexter Dunn keeps driving as he has been, it is possible the overall champion may be known before the final dash in Menangle Saturday night.  Tomorrow, the contest moves on to Penrith for three heats.

In Heat 13, Four Enuf Tas, driven by France's Tony Le Buller, was the winner in the 1,730 meter event, winning in 2:05.3 (1:56.6 MR), taking advantage of the passing lane (the only track in NSW) to score a 5.2 meter victory.  Jody Jaimeson finished second with Party Starter and New Zealand's Dexter Dunn took the show spot with Cruisonthe Big Ern NZ.  Tim Tetrick was aggressive with his drive but it cost him and after taking the lead, backed up to last.

In Heat 14, Denmark takes the gold as Knud Monster drove Mister Jogalong to a 12.7 meter victory, navigating the 1,375 meter tilt in 2:07.2 (1:58.3)..  Content to sit on the outside, Mister Jogalong was second over going into the backstretch the final time before making a three wide move heading into the final turn to pull away from the field in the stretch.  Finishing second was New Zealand's Dexter Dunn who padded his lead in the over all championship.

Heat 15 was won by Kiwi Dexter Dunn, who navigated Kenny Dee Dee around the oval in this 2,260 meter distance race.  Kenny Dee Dee stopped the teletimer in 2:48.6 (2:00.0) defeating Iron Outlaw, reined by Tim Tetrick by just over 7 meters.  In the bell lap, Tetrick was first over and engaged the leader while Dunn was third over before coming out on just as the field entered the final turn, catching Iron Outlaw in the stretch.

In the final heat of the evening, it was bombs away as 96.30-1 (starting odds) Pride of Flight, driven by France's Pierre Vercruysse crossed the line first in the 2,2600 meter tilt timed in 2:47.9 (1:59.6) defeating Lettusmacru (Dunn) by a nose.  It should be noted Vercruysse was reprimanded by the judges for unacceptable use of the whip.   The pace was fast in this race allowing the horses to come from behind to take the top spots.

The current overall standings are:

Point Score After 12 Heats
Dexter Dunn
Tim Tetrick
Tony Le Beller
Mika Forss
Chris Alford
Jody Jamieson
Knud Monster
Pierre Vercryusse
Guillermo Adrover
Vidar Hop

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dexter Dunn's Hat Trick; Tetrick''s Double; Jamieson Scores

The third stop of the WDC at Waga Waga could be named the Dexter Dunn leg as the New Zealand representative won the first three heats (6-8) tonight.  Along with three second place finishes, Dunn moved up in the standings.  Meanwhile, Tim Tetrick of the USA nailed down two victories in heats ten and eleven.  Jody Jamieson, representing Canada has finally scored his initial victory in the contest with a win in heat nine.

As a result, Dexter Dunn has moved to the top of the standings with with Tim Tetrick hanging tough in second place.  France's Tony Le Beller completes the top three in third place.

In sixth heat (race 2), ,Dexter Dunn brought Miss Ponder home in an 39.80-1 upset completing the 2,165 meter race in 2:41.5 (mile rate 2:00.1) with a winning margin of 14.5 meters.  For American's who hate the second tier, it should be noted the top three finishers in this race scored from the second tier.

In the seventh heat (race 3), Dexter Dunn won with the 3.10-1 co-favorite The Baggy Greeen after being three wide during the middle portion of the race before scoring in 2:41.7 (mile rate 2:00.2) for the 2,165 meter race.  Once again, the winner scored from the second tier.

Race 4 (heat eight) was a 1,755 meter race. and Dexter Dunn once again came in first with She's A Jackson in 2:08.9 (mile rate 1:58.2) scoring a 1/2 length victory as Hezbuyindiamonds came on late.  Tim Tertick attempted to challenge the race winner early and was competitive until the stretch when she folded and finished eighth.

Jody Jamieson scored his first victory in the ninth heat with Justasdangerous who was a 38.80-1 longshot.  The winning time for the 1,755 meters was 2:12.8 (mile rate of 2:01.8).  The second and third place finishers came from the second tier.   Jamieson had to fight off a two horse challenge at the start of the final lap, losing the lead at the top of the stretch but was able to fight back in a driving finish to win by half a neck..  

In heat 10, Tim Tetrick was heard from i winning the 1,755 meter race, driving Weliveinhope in 2:10.8 (1:59.9 mile rate) who was the 3-1 favorite after being challenged heading into the bell lap but was able to fight off the pressure.

Scoring from the second tier, Tetrick scored his second victory of  the night by taking heat 11 with Glenburn Addy who hit the wire for the 1,755 meter race in 2:12.0 (2:01) defeating another second tier horse Expensive Greeting (Dexter Dunn( by 6,7 meters.  Tetrick raced on the outside for the bell lap, three wide in the first turn, making move as he got the lead in the stretch to win handily.

The final race of the night (heat 12) was another 1,755 meter event and France's Tony Le Beller took home honors with Harlequin Bromac NZ in 2:10.9 (2:00.1), wiring the field to defeat Fake Art by 4 meters.

At the end of twelve heats, the standings are:

Point Score After 12 Heats
Dexter Dunn
Tim Tetrick
Tony Le Beller
Mika Forss
Chris Alford
Knud Monster
Jody Jamieson
Vidar Hop
Pierre Vercryusse
Guillermo Adrover

The WDC continues tomorrow at Bathurst for another four heats in the competition.  With Bathurst able to handle eight across, two horses will start from the second tier.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Few More of These and Watch Things Change

Today, a Penn National trainer was sentenced to 3 months in the county jail, 3 months in a work release program, 4 1/2 years probation, and a $5,000 fine for administering performance enhancing drugs to horses in his stable.

Needless to say, David Wells career as a trainer is over as he now board, transports, and rescues horses according to the news story linked to above.  The days of easy money are over for him.

The prosecutor called for jail time, claiming Wells hurts the integrity of the sport.  Wells asked for probation claiming everyone is cheating and he was forced to do it to keep up with the others.  As is usually the case, the truth is somewhere in between the two statements; sadly it's probably closer to Wells' position than we would like to think.  Of course, trying to keep up with the cheats is not the way to do things; a trainer can show some courage and go to the racing commission or prosecutor''s office with this information.

One can't hope but to wish a few more trainers are taken down at different tracks; the cheats may have to think twice about their actions when considering the benefit/risk ratio.  Of course, getting the evidence required isn't as easy as a trainer getting nailed for the trainer's responsibility rule for that rule doesn't mean a trainer administered the banned substance or substance over limit; it just says a trainer should have control over a horse at all time.  It takes a commitment by the racing commission and prosecutor to do the work necessary to bring down a trainer who truly deserves to be nailed.

I know prosecutors have higher priorities but it will only take a few perp walks to get the cheats to think twice.  That would be a good thing.

A decision has been made to re-open bidding for an apparent casino license in the Southern Tier of New York, instead of selecting the one remaining bidder from the first round of bidding, Tioga Downs.  Why re-open the bidding to new bids?  It is clear, it's all about money.  The State wants to see if it can lure one of the bigger casino companies to make a bid so they can invest more money in a project and pay higher fees than a casino at Tioga may pay.  Clearly, Jeff Gural is not pleased with having to go through the re-bidding process which will require a new fee to submit a bid.

Why do I bring this up?  It is not a "Poor Jeff" sentiment but a reminder to those living on slot fees that the state does what it wants to in the effort to find revenue wherever possible.  The states sold racing down the river when they brought in the lottery, and casinos outside of tracks (you can argue racinos have diminished the popularity of horse racing though they benefit from slots.  It won't be long before states de-couple slots from racing.  They will and continue to do what is expedient for them to raise funds because states love to spend money.

Tabcorp Park Melton Cracks Down on BYO Food

Tabcorp Park at Melton has started to enforce their policy regarding patrons bringing food into the racecourse.  A story made the papers about a father bringing his 4 year old to the track and an amount of food the security guard found over the limit (Racetrack officials say minor snacks and a sandwich per person is acceptable; platters and hot foods are not).

The explanation for the policy is simple, the track which offers free admission and parking claims their some of their revenue comes from food and beverage sales.  The response from racegoers down under make the same arguments as people in North America make; the food is too expensive; the quality of the food is no good.

So why do I bring this up?  As in down under, many tracks, depend on food revenue to make a profit (or reduce their losses), the same way movie theaters depend on food sales to make money (surprisingly, movie theaters make very little from ticket sales).  The problem is disregarding the quality of food, if you go with a group of people, it can cost a fortune to fee them at the track.  The question is, can there be a middle ground where people can bring a reasonable amount of food to the track, yet protect the tracks revenue stream from food and beverage sales?

 Let's not kid ourselves, if not about a father with a cute daughter of 4 complaining to the newspaper, this story would never have never seen the light of day.  I think track officials at Melton have found the balance. You want to bring a sandwich with you to the track, go right ahead.  Anything more than a sandwich is not acceptable.  I would suggest tracks having family days where restrictions would be limited to no hot food.  But tracks have the responsibility to keep the cost of food as reasonable as possible.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Australia Takes the Lead; Tetrick Second After Five Heats

Australia's Chris Alford traded positions with USA's Tim Tetrick after five heats to take the lead in 2015's World Driving Championship.  Tonight's three heats were competed at Newcastle.  Tim Tetrick has put in a credible performance thus far in the WDC despite not winning tonight.

In the third heat, Alford, driving Better Than Max nailed Kardashiancrusader (Tetrick) at the wire to score victory by a margin of a head.  The time of the mile over the good track was 1:56.  The Canadian standard-bearer, Jody Jamieson finished seventh in the race.  The fact Tetrick was even involved at the finish was a credit to him as he restrained Kardashiancrusader at the start and then from far back had to make a three wide brush to get into contention, racing on the outside the entire mile.   Other horses would have tired and dropped back but he was able to keep his charge moving down the stretch and was just out-kicked by someone who had a better trip.

In the fourth heat, it was France's time to shine as Tony Le Beller drove The Merchant Banker NZ to a 4.2 meter victory over Australia's representative in the race Gee Tee Wage in 1:56.6.  North America got shut out of the top three for the first time in this series as the third place finisher, The Puritan was driven by Norway's Vidar Hop.  This time, the overland route didn't work for Tetrick as he hooked up with The Merchant Banker a good part of the race up front with Red Raphael who ended up tiring in the stretch to finish sixth, 11.4 meters back.  Jody Jamieson finished eighth in the race.  Two horses got knocked out of the race in the beginning as Stathlachan Matt and Go Lassie Go locked wheels just after the start, resulting in a warning being issued to Finland's  Mika Forss who was held liable for the two horses locking wheels.

The warning may be what Forss needed as he answered the judges by winning the fifth heat of the competition for Finland with Satu NZ in the 2,030 meter contest timed in 2:32.7 (mile rate 2:01) with the winning margin of 1.9 meters over Heza Panamach NZ driven by Norway's Hop.  Tetrick broke up a potential European sweep by coming in third with Hangover Joe who was 3.5 meters back of the race winner.  Jody Jamieson finished fifth with Thoughtiheardulaughn after leaving early to get the lead briefly before giving the lead up to the eventual race winner as they hit the backstretch the first time, taking the pocket trip to no avail.  Once Satu got the lead, he took the field the rest of the way, having to work hard down the stretch to win.

So the standings after the first five heats have concluded are:

Point Score After 5 Heats
Chris Alford
Tim Tetrick
Mika Forss
Tony Le Beller
Guillermo Adrover
Vidar Hop
Jody Jamieson
Knud Monster
Dexter Dunn
Pierre Vercryusse
Peter McMullen
Australia (travelling Reserve

Monday is an off-day with the drivers competing in seven more heats at the Wagga Harness Racing Club in Wagga Wagga.  What will be interesting on Tuesday is Wagga races six across meaning the drivers will be faced with the second tier for the first time in the WDC.  Wagga is slightly bigger than  a half mile oval.  If interested in seeing a form guide provided by Harness Racing Australia, you may click here.

Did you know?  French WDC Representative Pierre Vercryusse spent time in the States racing, primarily in New Jersey.

Amen Brother.  In Harness Racing Update's Brush and Crush (page five), Dean Towers talks about his pet peeves in harness racing.  All I can say is Amen Brother as he hits some of the big problems on the head.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tetrick Draws First Blood

Today at Tabcorp Park at Menangle, Tim Tetrick, representing the USA won the opening heat of the World Driving Championship with Shannonsablast who hit the finish line in 1:51.6 for the mile (1,609 meters).   The second heat of the WDC was won by Finland's  Mika Forss driving On Thunder Road in the 2,300 meter race in 2:48.5 (mile rate 1:57.9) over KYValley Burr driven by Guillermo Adrover of Spain 3.1 meters with Jody Jamieson coming in third with Vincennes.  In the second heat, Tim Tertick finished 7th with Ideal Lea NZ.

Shannonsablast's winning margin was 4.2 meters over Mcardles Chance driven by Chris Alford who represented Australia.  Jody Jamieson, representing Canada, finished fourth with Major Moment NZ.

Tetrick took the overland route racing on the outside the entire mile from post position 10.  For most of the first quarter he raced with cover near the back before making his brush  in the second quarter to get second at which point he engaged Christian Sloy driven by Dexter Dunn of New Zealand who finished third.

Here is the second heat's replay.

Friday, February 20, 2015

So What Kind of Horse is Chucaro Acero BC?

I love it when foreign horses come to race in the United States.  Obviously, they are good horses otherwise why go through the expense of importing them, but the fun is figuring out the puzzle of what kind of race horse is it?  Will it be a cheap, middle of the road, or on a rare occasion a top class horse?  More interesting is trying to figure out what kind of horse it will be on its first North American debut.

In general, I have a pretty good idea of how they will be in the long run, but Saturday night there is a true mystery waiting to be solved in Chucaro Acero BC who comes to these shores a perfect 18 for 18.  The intriguing part is the horse comes from Argentina, a country not known for providing world beaters as those who saw the old Roosevelt International Trot could attest to.  Of recent years, the only Argentina horse who had modest success in the states was the double-gaiter Chucaro Ahijuna, who did most of his racing at Pompano Park and he earned $240,000 in North America.  Anyway Acero comes to these shores with his perfect record and earnings of $21,652 in Argentina racing in non-wagering events.  As such, he is able to race in Saturday's 1st race from the rail in a non-winners of 2 pari-mutuel events.  

How will he do?  On paper, he should do well but his connections report they don't think he is 100% yet and another source indicates he is having problems getting acclimated to this winter weather (but then it being the coldest in about 20 years, most people would say that too).  At a morning line of 5-2, I will pass on the race, but rest assured I will be watching with interest.

In the meanwhile, thanks to a link found by HRU, here is a video of one of Chucaro Acero BC's races in Argentina (this is the first heat of a race, the final follows).

And here is the final which took some work to find (thanks Daryl).

Those who follow Buffalo Raceway should be made aware that today and Saturday's cards have been moved up to 2:30pm post times due to problems with electrical power at the fairgrounds so moving the card to earlier in the day will avoid the need for lights.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hump Day Briefs

Kiss HRTV good bye as news comes out that Betfair is purchasing HRTV  and planning to merge it with Betfair's TVG. The expectation is at least initially HRTV will be operated as TVG2.  HRTV has agreements with certain harness tracks that TVG doesn't have; will those signals be dropped or will TVG offer wagering on those tracks?

Former harness racing driver and official, Bill Faucher has gotten approval to open his OTB facility in Hinsdale, N.H., home of the the former Hindsale Raceway (last operated as a Greyhound Track).  The opening is scheduled for February 25 and is the first step in his quest to open a new race track in Hinsdale (the old track has been leveled and is cited for redevelopment).

After an ABC (Australian Broadcasting Coroporation) investigation, Greyhound racing in Australia is on its heels as seventy trainers in three states were named as using baiting in the training of Greyhounds (if you don't know what baiting is, you are better off).  While the industry is treating these trainers severely, it is going to be a black mark on greyhound racing in Australia and even on American shores where the industry has been under siege not only from declining interest but those who seek to shut the industry down.  Some in the standardbred industry is immune from the outrage the greyhound industry is receiving, but they should realize the issue of unwanted retired race horses is one which bite the industry in the backside unless it seriously addresses the issue.

This has nothing to do with horse racing, but if you are a fan of Parks and Recreation, you know the show is coming to an end.  You also remember Li'l Sebastian the beloved horse of Pawnee which died at the end of Season 3.  Well, the good news is Li'l Sebastian lives on a farm in California and Esquire ran a story on the life of the horse actor who played Li'l Sebastian.  Life is good for the miniature horse these days.

Enjoy your hump day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

USTA Broadcast Committee Reports

The USTA's Broadcast Committee has reported its findings regarding the feasibility of promoting harness racing on television as well as forms of digital media.  It has also announced it will at the request of other tracks to increase the budget for television this year from $50,000 to $150,000 at the USTA's annual meeting.

Racetracks should not expect such largess from the USTA much longer, if it is even approved for this year.  It is clear the future of racing being broadcast lies elsewhere, on digital media platforms.  For the younger generation has largely abandoned traditional television and cable for subscription and digital platforms and the number of viewers of sporting events including racing on regular cable and traditional over the air is going to continue to decrease.  To broadcast using traditional methods will mean paying more per viewer each year to get the product on the air; a luxury the industry can't afford.

The committee has pointed out the future lies on digital media or subscription services.  The story on the USTA website goes into further detail.

In the meanwhile, it will be interesting to hear the actual report at the USTA annual meeting and see what direction the USTA decides to go in.

The Saga of Vinnie and Other Things

Let's start off with some good news first:

For those who think they know all about horse training, here is a little video from our friends at ATG which will may have you scratching your head (make sure you have subtitles on as they are in English).

Actually, the video is about it being more fun to wager with friends and is the fifth episode about Vinnie the horse.  You can see the previous episodes here.  One thing about ATG, they have great commercials.

In a two-part series, Thoroughbred Racing Commentary talks how failure to update the Interstate Horse Act (IHA) of 1978 has allowed ADWs to grow to the detriment of mainstream racing.  Part 1 and Part 2 of the series is available here.  The article basically discusses how the IHA has basically remained unchanged, prior to the the advent of ADWs.  Horsemen and tracks initially agreed to the low return under the now proven wrong expectation that money wagered at ADWs would be from new customers; instead existing customers migrated to ADWs.

The problem according to the article, tracks have finally wondered why should independent ADWs (think TVG) manage to earn great profits while tracks receive a pittance?  As a result, many tracks have formed their own ADWs which allows the tracks to profit.  Thanks to this profit, they are allowed to offer great rebates which results in an outflow of customers from ADWs which threatens the existence of these independent ADWs.  The problem is tracks are the beneficiary of the lion share of the proifts with horsemen still receiving the pittance they receive from wagers at independent ADWs.

The IHA may need to be updated but there should be a right for horsemen to shut down track-operated ADWs unless a large portion of the commission is paid to horsemen.  I am not saying track operators shouldn't earn more than the horsemen, but it shouldn't be at the ratios currently used.

In something which should give horsemen of all breeds some concern, West Virginia is looking at the possibility of getting out of the greyhound racing business by cutting off breeders awards and purse subsidies.  The handle on greyhound racing has gotten so small, that many in the state are realizing investing in greyhound racing is a losing bet.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the effort to 'de-couple' greyhound racing from slots has resumed, armed with a damning report about greyhound racing by the groups Greyhound2K USA and the ASPCA. The report is pretty damning of the Greyhound industry.  While the report makes the industry look bad, don't think for one moment that tracks are looking to get out of the racing business and in many states track operators and Greyhound2K have what can best be defined as detente.

My endorsement yesterday has generated interesting discussion on Facebook and I am more convinced than ever this upcoming election will be more a referendum on Jeff Gural than anything else. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Small Horses That Have Contributed To Harness Racing In A Big Way

Small pacers and trotters that have overcome their size disadvantage, and shown themselves to be superior to horses that tower over them, have always been accorded an extra measure of respect from the fans. Good Time, known in his day as “The Mighty Mite,” was only 13.1 hands when he began his racing career, but he was Horse of the Year twice and retired as the richest Standardbred ever. Frank Ervin thought the public felt sorry for him because he was so little, but he consistently embarrassed his larger foes. The son of little Hal Dale was fast and tough. At age five he broke a thirty-seven-year-old record at The Red Mile when he won the Almahurst FFA in 1:57.4 for Ervin, who refused to his dying day to say that 16.1 hands Bret Hanover was a better horse than pint-sized Good Time.

Good Time’s son Race Time, a half-brother to average size Storm Damage (15.2), was also small, fast and tough. He won 30 of 43 lifetime starts, including the Messenger, Cane and Adios. Race Time was also a potent and reliable stallion. His son Temujin, who won a heat of the 1982 Little Brown Jug, was also on the small side. He looked like his mom, Silk Stockings, who was petite and delicate looking.

Obviously, the mare and her connections have as much to say about a given horse’s stature as the sire does.  Vulnerable looking Silk Stockings and Tarport Hap, who was a bigger, more rugged filly, were both by Most Happy Fella. And Tar Heel, the dam sire of that pair, produced Tarquinius, the winner of the 1964 American Pacing Classic and Nassau Pace, who was so big that little George Sholty looked like a bug on a bike sitting behind him, and had to peek around his big butt. On the other hand, that one’s paternal brother Laverne Hanover, the winner of 43 of 51 lifetime starts and the richest son of Tar Heel, was small.

Along the same lines, Albatross was compact and only 15.1 hands tall, yet his most famous son, Niatross, stood 16 hands and that one’s son Nihilator stood 16.1 hands and was also very long. And another son of Niatross, Barberry Spur, who was 16.2 hands tall, is remembered for his loss to itty bitty Robust Hanover (Warm Breeze) in the 1985 freshman Breeders Crown Pace at Rosecroft.

Most Happy Fella’s son Tyler B stood more than 16 hands and that one’s son Magical Mike was the same. While the rugged Most Happy Fella looked after his king sized dad, paternal brother Albatross was something of an anomaly. So was 15 hands tall Western Hanover, Most Happy Fella’s great grandson, and perhaps the most influential pacing stallion of the modern era. The division winner at two and three, and sire of Western Ideal and Well Said, is another giant in a pint-sized body. Western Hanover’s grandson Rocknroll Hanover was a good size, but that one’s premium son, Rocknroll Heaven, is on the small side.

Most Happy Fella’s grandson On The Road Again, un undersized chestnut, won 44 of his 61 starts, including the Meadowlands Pace, Cane and Breeders Crown. He possessed the same sort of chip on his little guy shoulder as Good Time and Race Time. His sire, Happy Motoring, was much bigger than he was.

Bettor’s Delight, the leading all-age money winning sire in 2014, is a smaller horse. His daddy Cam’s Card Shark is bigger than he is and more in step with his granddad, Most Happy Fella, and great granddad, Meadow Skipper.

Adios, another small—15 hands—son of the diminutive Hal Dale, ruled the roost on the pacing side throughout the 50s and early 60s. His son Henry T Adios—a solid but small individual—has kept his name alive on top via Abercrombie, who was average size at 15.2 hands, and Artsplace. Falcon Seelster, at 16.1 hands, has kept the Bret Hanover line open via his son McArdle, sire of sophomore division champ Mc Wicked.

On the trotting side, Rodney was a big rugged horse and many of those that followed him were the same: Speedster, Speedy Rodney, Arnie Almahurst, Prakas, and on and on, were all at least 16 hands; Crysta’s Crown was 16.3 hands tall. Moni Maker was a large mare. Bob Marks says Muscles Yankee, the modern day progenitor of that line, takes after Speedy Crown, who was 15.3 hands. His daddy Speedy Scot was 16 hands.

 A significant exception was Speedy Somolli, a high strung and nasty, but very fast, son of Speedy Crown and the Stars Pride mare Somolli, who won the Hambletonian and captured his division at two and three. Howard Beissinger said that without a doubt he was the fastest trotter he ever sat behind.

Speedy Somolli’s son Baltic Speed was only 15.1 hands, and his son Valley Victory was also a small horse. So, just as the Adios line soldiered on through undersized but solid Henry T and his similarly built son, Silent Majority, the little guys kept Rodney alive and well on top.

The great Varenne is by the Speedy Somolli stallion Waikiki Beach. And Speedy Somolli’s son Mr Lavec, who had a measure of French blood in him, and starred on both sides of the pond, towered over daddy, standing 16.1 hands.

Foundation stallion Stars Pride was average size and he produced winners across the spectrum. Triple Crown winner Super Bowl was 16.1 hands and many of his sons followed suit. Cumin, Supergill and Super Pleasure were all about the same.

On the other hand, Stars Pride’s son Ayres weighed in at a mere 900 pounds when he whipped the field in the Hambletonian, on his way to a Triple Crown win and a spot in the Hall of Fame. His sons Christopher T and Timothy T—both from the Victory Song mare Flicka Frost—won the Hambletonian, and the latter also won the Elitlopp twice.

 American Winner (Super Bowl), who took the 1993 Hambletonian, is average like his granddaddy, Stars Pride, but his son Credit Winner, who is out of an Armbro Goal (16 hands) mare, is large. And Credit Winner’s son RC Royalty, who is from a Balanced Image mare, is all of 17.1 hands. That one’s son, Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life, is also a big horse. More often than not today’s trotters and pacers are 15.2 or 15.3 hands.

Conway Hall is smaller than his brothers Andover Hall and Angus Hall. Conway’s little son Wishing Stone, who earned more than two million dollars, now stands in Ohio, while his grandson Chapter Seven, another pipsqueak, finished his career a mere $45,000 short of two million, and won Horse of the Year honors in 2012.

The great Mack Lobell was on the small side. He came down from Noble Victory, who was so polished and aesthetically pleasing to the eye that he looked more like a mare than a stallion. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover: he was the fastest trotter ever bred to that time, and produced sons and daughters that were long wearing. Tough guy Balanced Image was his grandson.

Timely Beauty, the Good Time filly who finished third behind Meadow Skipper and Overtrick in their historic clash in the 1963 Cane Pace, was tiny. The same goes for 2002 Hambletonian winner Chip Chip Hooray, who was by Pine Chip, a good size horse, and out of a Valley Victory mare. Another tiny dynamo was Henry T Adios’s son Hammerin Hank, the winner of the 1968 Sheppard.

The Hal Dale mare Overbid was tiny. Her little son Overcall (Capetown) won all 22 starts against the iron on the FFA circuit as a six-year-old. His brother Overtrick (Solicitor), who is in the Hall of Fame, wasn’t very big either.

So just as Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb have lifted folks from their seats while playing in the NBA; Yogi Berra and Kirby Puckett in Major League Baseball; Brian Gionta and Patrick Kane in the NHL; and Darren Sproles and Wes Welker in the Natonal Football League; some of the best and most influential trotters and pacers in harness racing have been undersized champions.

Joe FitzGerald


Settlemoir for President

It’s no secret that harness racing has seen better days and despite the infusion at many tracks of VLT revenue, the situation is getting worse.  Contrary to what one would think, despite slot-fueled purse accounts, the number of owners and  horses bred continue to decline along with membership numbers in the United States Trotting Association (USTA).   It is with this background the USTA Directors face a contested election for President of the organization with Incumbent Phil Langley facing a challenge from Jason Settlemoir.  In the opinion of this blogger it is time for a change, so VFTRG endorses Jason Settlemoir for President of the USTA. 

As Langley has been quoted, his record speaks for himself.  As President, Langley has served his office with distinction.  Why Settlemoir instead of Langley?  Perhaps jaded by the treatment harness racing has received in his home state of Illinois, it appears for the most part Langley in recent years has acted in a defensive mode, concerned with maintaining the status quo as long as possible with respect to maintaining slot revenue instead of acting to move the industry ahead.  It seems he is resigned to the current state of regulation which keeps the USTA from pursuing some changes.  We can't help but feel as if Langley is the captain of a ship taking on water.  He does a very good job at bailing out the water but despite his efforts, in the long run the water will win.

This is not to say Langley has not had successes; the Strategic Racing Program was implemented during his term in office.  He had the USTA withdraw from the RMTC over the issue of clenbuterol, albeit a bit late to influence the decision making of some racing commissions when it came to the use of the drug when adopting uniform medication rules.  In addition, he has presided over the introduction of the USTA's social media effort, but for as good as having a social media presence is, the underlying product remains the same so any gains from social media may be short lived.  

Another issue, albeit no fault of his, is the length of time Langley has served as President.  Elected initially back in 2003, he has served as President for twelve years.  No one should be in office that long;   Organizations grow with new people with new ideas in elected positions, otherwise they grow complacent and lose the spark to move forward.  The fact no one up to now has challenged Langley for President speaks volumes to the challenges the industry faces; it is a thankless job which no one else has wanted up to now.  

Settlemoir on the other hand is an agent for change, change for the better as he believes there is a future in harness racing if it adopts new policies such as developing a marketing plan paid for by both horsemen and racetracks.  Despite being employed at the three Gural group tracks, with primary responsibility for the Meadowlands, Settlemoir recognizes harness racing doesn’t start and end at those tracks, it is important to lift all tracks in any marketing effort.  He recognizes the need to increase membership and ownership of race horses as well increasing foal crops.  If elected, his ideas if implemented will rejuvenate the USTA staff and we can expect new initiatives to come from the USTA under his leadership.

Discussing Settlemoir’s candidacy, we can’t help but mention the elephant in the room.  Some will wonder if a vote for Jason is in effect a vote by proxy for Jeff Gural.  No doubt Settlemoir buys in for the most part the way Gural runs his tracks, but Settlemoir speaks his mind.  When Gural excluded for a short time Brian Sears from competing at the Meadowlands, Settlemoir was one of the racing officials who advised Gural not to exclude Sears.  We have no doubt Settlemoir will act in the interests of all in the industry, not just for the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon Downs (as a reminder, Settlemoir is the Director of Simulcasting at the Delaware County Fair and also serves as the backup track announcer there and at Tioga and Vernon Downs).  Therefore, the Directors who vote for President can be assured a vote for Settlemoir is a vote for him and not Jeff Gural.

Both Langley and Settlemoir are or have the capability to be competent Presidents, the issue which guides our endorsement is the future of harness racing.  Do you feel harness racing is in an unavoidable decline or do you feel there is a future to the sport with proper leadership and change?  We feel there is a future and for that reason we endorse Jason Settlemoir for President of the USTA.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Will the USTA Election for President be a Referendum on Jeff Gural?

If it can be judged by Friday night's race at Alexandra Park, Tim Tetrick is going to give a good account of himself at the World Driving Championship (WDC) as he finished 2nd with The Fascinator who went a tough trip yet just getting nosed out at the wire.   This is Tetrick's only scheduled drive in New Zealand and he will next be racing in Australia on February 22, the start of the WDC.

Harness Racing Update has reported there will be a contested election for the Presidency of the USTA as Jason Settlemoir will be challenging the incumbent Phil Langley.  I will be talking more about this election in another post but if directors look at Settlemoir merely as a proxy for Jeff Gural, this election will become a referendum on Gural, which would be a shame (regardless of who wins) as the two candidates deserve to be judged on their respective platforms and merits.  This election should not be whether or not you like a person not running for office.

In Maryland, legislation is being debated regarding HB-180 which will re-authorize the redirection of a portion of purse account funds generated by VLTs to Ocean Downs and Rosecroft Raceway to help offset operating costs provided each track races at least 40 days a year. Currently, the authorization for the redirection of funds expires this year and the bill will extend the law through 2019.  Needless to say this legislation is very important to Rosecroft Raceway if there is any hope for an extended run of racing there.

Meanwhile, in Virginia legislation is moving forward to allow the state to fund the Virginia Equine Alliance  (VEA) which includes the Virginia Harness Horse Association,  Under this legislation, the VEA would also assume control of the nine OTW sites.  As a non-profit organization, the VEA hopes to get charities involved in participating on assigned race dates.

Of course, the question is where the horsemen would race.  While they would be willing to lease Colonial Downs,  it is unknown if the owner of the facility, Jeffrey Jacobs, would entertain leasing the track to the VEA which includes a group he had a bitter dispute with which resulted in the cancellation of the 2014 meet and the surrender of his licenses.  The thoroughbred horsemen have an alternate facility to race at if a lease can not be signed; where the harness horsemen would race is unknown.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mancino on the Job

Jeff Gural often talks how horsemen aren't investing funds into getting people back to the track.  Well, thanks to the Executive Director of the Ohio Harness Horsemen Association, Renee Mancino, that may be changing in the Buckeye State as she has some ideas to promote the sport.  Her plans start with the Drivers of Ohio Calendar to show how young people can be part of the sport, hoping to capitalize on the X games phenomenon.  Of course, this is just a start but with Mancino, grass will not be growing under her feet.  With Northfield Park's Brock Milstein's plans to start promoting harness racing, this may be a period where horsemen and management work together to get people in the seats, betting.

Another issue Mancino hopes to work on is fixing the broken ADW system.  The realization is many gamblers have been lost to the ADWs but the amount tracks receive is a pittance. Track deserve a larger portion of the ADW pie.  Fixing the existing system may be hard due to anti-trust issues.  Forgetting about anti-trust laws, tracks can't afford to block their signals to ADWs, handles will reach all-time lows.  Ohio horsemen and tracks should work on forming their own ADW to compete against the national ADWs.  Even with offering rebates, they will manage to get a larger portion of the commission.  

Some fear track-operated ADWs.  There is no reason to fear them.  Unless you are in a state such as New Jersey which forces you to use only one ADW, they will be competing against other ADWs.  Horseplayers are much more sophisticated than they were in the past.  They will shop for the bet deal so unless they offer rebates, gamblers will remain with national ADWs.

The Meadowlands has its first six figure Super High Five Jackpot carryover ready for the taking  tonight in the 10th race.  Remember hitting the Pick-5 will get you a nice payoff  if more than one person wins the wager as only 25% of the daily handle goes into the jackpot; 75% goes to the nightly winner(s).but you need to be creative and be the only one to hit the Pick-5 in order to take down the Jackpot.

Those planning on wagering on weekend racing in the East this weekend need to be aware the region may be hit with temperatures the coldest in twenty years.  Hence tracks may decide it is too cold for horses (and drivers) and cancel their cards.  if this happens, Cal Expo and Pompano Park may be beneficiaries of track cloures with handle worth wagering on. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Too Much Leeway

In DRF Harness, Jay Bergman talks about new language added to the conditions of their stakes races and how the condition may give the Meadowlands too much leeway.  Bergman is 100% dead on with regards to this topic.  Here is the new language which has been added:

Amendments: The Meadowlands reserves the right to add to, amend or delete the conditions of all or any part of these conditions, without liability including but not limited to:
  1. Eligibility of horses, fees and payments, racing conditions, format, the amount and distribution of purses to be awarded in each race and/or elimination;
  2. Time and/or date of declarations; Dates and/or the location of the Races including the date of the eliminations;
  3. Other matters that The Meadowlands determines to be necessary and appropriate for the proper administration, promotion and implementation of the race(s).
I have no problem with the second and third condition; these items tend to be put in for emergency situations, such as when the Cane Pace had to be moved to Pocono Downs from Tioga Downs after massive flooding in the Nichols area.  The problem is with the first item.

I understand the desire to keep trainers (and owners) who the Meadowlands feel are not worthy of competing at the New Jersey track from competing in these races, but the ability to change the racing conditions, format, and how the distribution of purse money is to take place should not be allowed to be changed (the total amount of purses is a different story as it can depend on the number of nominations and other external factors).  When an owner nominates a horse, they should have confidence in knowing the conditions of the race and how many places purse money will be paid out to.  Eligibility of horses is fair game in the track's desire to clean up the sport, even if only the Gural tracks decide to participate in this effort.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lots Of Changes In The 2015 Stakes Schedule

There are some important changes in the 2015 stakes schedule, as racetracks embrace the mega program model and move away from carding isolated stakes races. Perhaps the most significant change is the return, after a one-year hiatus, of what came to be known as “Super Sunday” when it was held at Harrah’s Philadelphia. The Battle Of Brandywine, Colonial Trot, and the Valley Forge for sophomore pacing fillies, which were an essential mid-August component of the calendar, return to Pocono Downs on Saturday, August 22. Last year Northfield took advantage of the gap created by their absence by carding the $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial on the same weekend. The race was a big success as All Bets Off beat Luck Be Withyou and McWicked. It will be great to have the Battle, which has been a fixture since 1960 and the Colonial, since 1968, back in play. And the Milstein will be held a week earlier than last year, on Friday, August 14. The Dan Patch, which sees a $50,000 bump to $300,000, and will be raced as an early closer, will also be raced on August 14.

The Whata Baron and Artistic Vision, both for three and up pacers, will be carded at the Meadowlands on May 2, two weeks later than last year. That same day the Lady Suffolk, which has been raced on Fridays, joins the Dexter Cup on Freehold’s Saturday card. And the following day, Sunday, May 3, the Miami Valley Distaff Trot and Pace will be raced. Last year Shebestingin won the pace, named for Sam ‘Chip’ Noble, while Maven won the trot—both in track record time. The purse for each has been doubled to $100,000 this year.

The first TVG pacing series leg has been dropped back a week to Saturday, May 7. Last year it was a stand-alone race, but in 2015 it will be paired with the Cutler, which serves as the first TVG trotting leg.

 The Graduate series for four-year-old trotters and pacers will kick off at Tioga Downs on Memorial Day with a $50,000 leg for each gait. Subsequently four legs, carrying $75,000 and $100,000 purses, will be raced at the Meadowlands in June. Actually, even before Memorial Day, the latter group will be able to get going on May 17, when Flamboro offers the reconstituted Confederation Cup for four-year-old pacers. That one carries $200,000 in purse money. So, when you add in the $250,000 Graduate finals on July 3 and July 11, plus the $200,000 Prix d’Ete for four-year-old pacers on August 23, there will be plenty of opportunities for those crossing the bridge to the aged class.
On Sunday, May 24, Harrah’s Philadelphia is offering the inaugural $150,000 Jerry Taylor Open pace, named for Howard Taylor’s father. Harrah’s will also card the Maxie Lee and Betsy Ross that day.

The SBSW and North America Cup will both be a week later in 2015. The former will offer richer splits as the purse has jumped $75,000 to $225,000. Last year David Menary had to decide whether to start He’s Watching in the SBSW or the Rooney, as they were on the same day. This year the Rooney, and companion Lismore, will be raced a week before the SBSW.

Last year WEG shuffled their stakes lineup so as to add strength to Cup night; finals for the Roses Are Red, Armbro Flight and Fan Hanover were all held that day. This year the finals for those three have been moved to the following week, June 20, and the eliminations for those stakes will be relied on to make the Cup program compelling. The Mohawk Gold Cup, in which upset winner Evenin Of Pleasure paid $164.30 last year, will also be raced on June 20.

The Battle Of Lake Erie has been dropped back five weeks to June 12. That’s the day before the elimination round for the NA Cup. Last year the Battle was sandwiched between the Haughton and the USPC. This year two legs of the Graduate series bookend it.

The Roll With Joe has leaped ahead almost two months to Sunday August 23—the same day as the Prix d’Ete. The purse lost $25,000 during the move; the Joe now goes for $175,000. Eliminations for the Canadian Pacing Derby are six days later.

The $450,000 Hambletonian Maturity moves ahead two weeks on the schedule in 2015. Last year it was by itself, but in 2015 it joins the Stanley Dancer, Del Miller and Miss Versatility on July 18.
The Hambletonian falls one week later this year, on August 8. The Oaks, Peter Haughton, Merrie Annabelle and Cashman are back, but instead of the Ima Lula for four-year-old trotting mares, the inaugural $200,000 Fresh Yankee for three and up mares joins the ticket. Opportunities for this class are scarce, so this is a plus move on the part of the Meadowlands. The Ima Lula will be raced on the previous Saturday. And the Cane Pace, which has been raced at Tioga the last three years, will be moved back two weeks and slotted into the Hambletonian Day program.

The Yonkers Trot was pushed ahead three months to October 25 last year, but in 2015 the Yonkers Trot and the Messenger head back to Saturday, September 5. The Lady Maud and Hudson Filly Trot will now be raced the previous week. Last year the Messenger and Yonkers Trot butted heads with the Fall Four at Woodbine; this year they take on the Canadian Pacing Derby, Metro, She’s A Great Lady and Simcoe.

The Maple Leaf Trot, in which Intimidate upset Sebastian K, jumps ahead almost two months to September 19, where it joins the Canadian Trotting Classic, Elegantimage, Wellwood and Peaceful Way. This sets up a situation where the Chip Noble Memorial Trot at Scioto Downs, the Maple Leaf, the Centaur at Hoosier Park and the Dayton Trotting Derby will be raced on successive weeks. The latter, like the Distaff stakes at Miami Valley, benefits from Ohio’s infusion of slots money; the purse has jumped $50,000 to $150.000.

The Breeders Crown moves back a month to October 24 at Woodbine, with the Erskine, in which E L Titan upset Father Patrick, going six days later.

The Fall Four move up a month to November 21 and 22 at the Meadowlands. The Governor’s Cup, Valley Victory, Three Diamonds and Goldsmith Maid will be augmented by the Tarport Hap, which has been out of the rotation since See You At Peelers won in 2011, and the Continentalvictory, a new race for three-year-old trotting fillies. The TVG finals will be raced one week earlier than last year.

Joe FitzGerald

Double Duty

Yesterday was another bad day for Maven at the races as she ran into traffic problems and finished fifth in the Group 1 Grand Prix de France at Vincennes-Paris as Timoko won the prestigious 2,100 meter (1.3 miles) race in a mile rate of 1:54.4.  At least in this start, Maven earned a purse check, good for €20,000 (approximately $22,617.90).  For the record, Timoko earned €180,000 for his day's work.

Impressed by Timoko's victory?  Well there's breedings available to Timoko as he is doing double duty this year in France.  All it takes is shipping the semen to the States and you are set to go.  The whole point is people are looking at horses like Father Patrick and EL Titan and seeing how they are doing double duty and they wonder how it can be done.  Well, Timoko shows it can be done and done well so the sooner American breeders accept and adapt the practice, the better off the sport will be.

The Pony Express is alive and well, in Northfield, Ohio as the horse Quick Groom apparently had an important letter to deliver so he escaped Northfield Park and headed the wrong way up Route 8 and was captured near the Northfield Post Office.

Quick Groom is in to race tonight at Northfield Park.  If this racing thing doesn't work out for Quick Groom, he can be a spokeshorse for the USPS.

Congratulations to Cal Expo for handling $1.2 million on Saturday night.  Let's not kid ourselves, with the exception of a few tracks, handling $1 million or more is a big deal.  For some tracks, $500K is a day to celebrate.  Sunday night dropped off to a more than respectable $967K. with two less races.