For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Monday, August 31, 2015

Racehorse Retirement in Focus at the Spa

The New York State Gaming Commission is hosting a one day summit dedicated to the status of programs geared to the retirement of horses in New York as well as nationally in Saratoga Springs tomorrow (September 1).  One of the goals of this summit is to show how far racing has come since the state's task force on retired racehorses had issued its recommendations back in 2011.

Looking at the tentative agenda, it looks like the thoroughbred industry has come a lot further than the standardbred industry but we remain optimistic that real progress has been made.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sticker Shock Coming to the Delaware County Fair?

Still catching up on things, a press release indicates the new fines and suspension guidelines to go along with the new whipping rules in Ohio.  According to the Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC), the new guidelines are:

1) Cutting a horse with the whip or visibly injuring a horse (3768-17-17- (L))
a) $500 fine and a three-day driving suspension for first offense in Ohio
b) $1,000 fine, a five-day suspension, and referral to OSRC for second offense within 365 days in Ohio

2) Excessive/Indiscriminate, abusive whipping, whipping after the finish, whipping out of contention, illegal whip (3769-17-17 (B), (C), (D), (E), (F), (G), (I), (J), (K), (L))
a) $300 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine, a three-day driving suspension for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a five-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio

3) Failure to keep a line in each hand (3769-17-17 (A))
a) $300 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine and a three-day driving suspension for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a five-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio

4) Kicking (3769-17-16 (C))
a) $300 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine and a three-day suspension for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a five-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio

5) Leaning back excessively in the sulky (3769-17-16 (D))
a) $200 fine for first offense in Ohio
b) $300 fine for second offense within 365 days in Ohio
c) $500 fine, a three-day driving suspension and referral to OSRC for third offense within 365 days in Ohio.

The actual rule regarding whipping may be seen here.

In the past, new rules Ohio has approved caused issues with certain out-of-state drivers who bailed out of Delaware quickly after getting nailed with a penalty.  It will be interesting to see if any out-of-state drivers bolt the Delaware County Fair as a result of the new rules.  Admittedly for some of the Grand Circuit drivers, the fines won't be that much of an issue, but to others it will.  The real problem will come if the judges strictly enforce the rule (which they should) which may result in cases going to Columbus when referred to the OSRC.

A bill has been forwarded from a Senate committee in the NJ legislature which will allow wagering from mobile devices at racetracks and in the case over at the forever soon to come American Dream shopping complex.  While you can currently do this using your ADW, presumably, it will allow  you to wager as if you are on track, giving them a little more revenue.  It's not exactly a game changer, but in NJ, every dollar helps.  

Some Weekend Observations

PA Harnessweek has aired its last episode and people are not happy.  The reason why the popular show is being cancelled after 8 years is unknown but it is likely financial support for the show had been withdrawn by one or more of the sponsors.  There is talk of the show returning as a web-only series but I have a better idea

The USTA is looking at having its own harness racing channel.  If this comes to fruition, why not have the team of Steve Ross and Heather Vitale go national with them featured covering races across of America instead of a Pennsylvania broadcast?  The show could be shown in the early mornings  or the late night when live racing isn't available.

So the question being asked by those organizing Team USA nticipation of the Yonkers International Trot is who should be invited to participate as an American Representative?  Should it be Creatine, JL Cruze, Natural Herbie, Obrigado, Resolve, or Shake It Cerry?  You can vote for your pick here but save your time on voting for JL Cruze as his trainer has indicated they won't be coming.  So far, Bee A Magician, Magic Tonight and now Timoko have confirmed their participation to the International.

With big races at Yonkers and Mohawk, you may have missed the best race of the weekend at Georgian Downs where the Honorble Earle Rowe Memorial Trot was contested,

When the dust settled, 25-1 Rockin With Dewey upset the field which featured Intimidate, Daylon Magician, and E L Titan.

A RUS event was contested as well as Georgian Downs with Tragically Shipp scoring a $16.80 upset with Natalie Elliot in the saddle.  The handle for the race was $14,540 after a refund of monies due to a horse being declared a non-starter due to the Fair Start rule.   It is evident that given a chance, RUS can become a regular contributor to any standardbred program.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review of Meadow Skipper "The Untold Story"

Meadow Skipper “The Untold Story” by Victoria M. Howard and Bob Marks is presented as an unofficial autobiography—as told to the two authors. That’s right: Skipper himself gives us his first person perspective on the highs and lows of being an excellent pacer and the most influential sire in the modern era. The authors have steered clear of the traditional narrative style employed by Don Evans in Big Bum, Nevele Pride Speed N Spirit and Super Bird; and Marie Hill in her biography of Adios and Ron Bisman in his chronicle of the life and exploits of Cardigan Bay. All of these books were published forty or more years ago: Marks and Howard chose to add an anthropomorphic twist.

The breadth of information imparted on Skipper’s racing and breeding career, as well as the contributions, or lack thereof, of all of his prominent heirs is leaps and bounds ahead of what has been given in other equine biographies, yet, the literary devices employed throughout the book make all that data very easy to digest. There’s all the inside baseball the seasoned fan would want, but the sport’s arcane lexicon, that might leave general readers flummoxed, is either avoided entirely or explained away.

Skipper is presented throughout as a kind of Rocky Balboa figure. He was an awkward, lazy colt who came very close to being gelded. A confirmed mama’s boy, he didn’t take kindly to being separated from Countess Vivian. Nor was he pleased about being rigged and asked for speed. He spends a good part of the book trying to rationalize away his reputation as a sulker.

The iconic stallion played second fiddle to the great Overtrick on the racetrack, and it took breeders several years to realize Skipper was a sire worthy of quality mares, or, any mares at all, for that matter. It was a long, arduous journey to the top of the heap.

Meadow Skipper dedicates the book to three men: Joe Lighthill, who first used his whip to wake him out of his race day lethargy; Norman Woolworth, who showed $150,000 worth of faith in the unproven colt; and Earle Avery, who never saw a ground saving rail trip he liked.

The first thirteen chapters detail Skipper’s racing career; the next five examine his sixteen year stint at stud, as well as the contributions of his offspring; and the final chapter is a flashback on his life, delivered as he crosses over to the other side, after suffering a heart attack in his paddock at Stoner Creek Stud. The authors state at the outset that the book is a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Magic realism marries harness racing. The first thing that came to mind was Marks’ Race of the Decade series that was published in Hub Rail during the 1970’s.

Skipper’s primary rival throughout the racing chapters is Overtrick, who fell to our hero in the Cane, but beat Skipper more often than not, including in the Messenger and Jug. Marks was present for many of these races and is able to provide a grounded firsthand account, buttressed by the omnipresent wry commentary of Meadow Skipper himself. Walter R Brooks, who created Mister Ed and other talking animals in a series of short stories he penned seventy-five years ago, has nothing on Howard and Marks: That Skipper is a funny fella.

Skipper’s “love interest” throughout is Laughing Girl, the dam of his near clone and premier siring son, Most Happy Fella. She passed after a pasture accident at age nine, and our boy is devastated when he gets the word.

Marks knows the sons and daughters of Meadow Skipper better than anyone; he knows which ones were producers, and to what level, and which ones failed to live up to their lineage and race records. These chapters are crack for pedigree junkies, as sons, grandsons and great grandsons are examined and graded one at a time, in detail. From modern day progenitors like No Nukes and Cam Fella to the wildly successful Albatross, who failed to extend, to abject failures like Ralph Hanover, Computer, Genghis Khan and Jade Prince; it’s all there.

The same sort of care goes into examining Meadow Skipper’s impact on the breed from a bottom line perspective. Marks views Matt’s Scooter and Call For Rain as Skipper’s finest credits as a broodmare sire. The former is characterized as a successful, though not great, sire, while the double Breeders Crown winner by Storm Damage is labeled an abject failure at stud.

Detailed accounts of the influence of Meadow Skipper on the pedigrees of present day stars the likes of  McWicked, Artspeak, Colors A Virgin, JK She’saldy, Sweet Lou, Anndrovette and Foiled Again follows.

We learn that Meadow Skipper is the only Standardbred ever embalmed in Kentucky, and that Skipper rests between Count Fleet, Crown Champ and the headstone of Rodney. The physical Skipper, that is. His spirit is frolicking on the other side with Laughing Girl.

Howard knows plenty about harness racing and Marks is a skilled writer, who has always lived outside the box with his annual yearling prognostications and the like. It’s impossible to figure out just who is responsible for what in Meadow Skipper “The Untold Story,” but it’s the best book about the sport I’ve ever read.

Joe FitzGerald

Friday, August 28, 2015

More Friday Notes

The four-year-old Swan For All mare, Bags For All, who was claimed for a whopping $75,000 by Bradley Grant August 17 at Mohawk, and followed that up with a stellar romp in 1:52 against NW27 for Trevor Henry, will start in tomorrow’s $100,000 Earl Rowe Memorial at Georgian Downs. The mare, who is the fastest offspring of the nine-year-old Andover Hall stallion, has earned $128,000 on 25 starts this year. She is second choice in the morning line from the two post. Her uncle Swan In A Million won the Rowe last year.

Intimidate, who hasn’t made the board in seven starts this year, and who was terrible in the Crawford and Cashman in his last two, has the rail in the Rowe with Yves Filion driving. Last year’s Maple Leaf and TVG winner has fallen off the earth.

EL Titan, who won the inaugural edition of the Sebastian K at Pocono last week at 9/1, is the morning line favorite from the eight. It’s a precipitous drop from Tim Tetrick to trainer Riina Rekila, but Titan may lay over this field to the point where it doesn’t matter.

Speaking of Tetrick, poor Wakizashi Hanover starts from the eight in his $61,000 split of the Tarport Effrat at The Meadows tonight. That makes five out of his last six starts where he drew the 7, 8 or 9 post—and in the other he drew the six. Still, he has won six of twelve, with eleven board finishes. Brian Brown’s Well Said colt, Lost For Words, who was second in the Milstein, starts just inside of him.

Ron Burke always sets himself up to get a piece of the action in the second and third tier sire stakes programs. In the case of Kentucky, which offers eight $175,000 finals Sunday night at The Red Mile, he spends freely on the offspring of the Western Hanover stallion Third Straight. He has two fillies and a sophomore gelding by that sire competing for the big dough in Lexington. Five of the seven starters in the 2 YO pacing filly final are by Third Straight. Seven of the nine sophomore colts are sons of his. 58% of the pacers in the finals are by Third Straight. Lakeisha Hall, a two-year-old filly who has won three of four and who took her prelim by six lengths, is a standout for Burke and Dave Palone.

Joe FitzGerald

Friday Notes

Yannick Gingras will drive Pinkman and Habitat in the two Yonkers Trot eliminations tomorrow night, followed by Bill Popfinger’s Muscle Hill filly, Marion Millionair, in the Hudson Filly and the Well Said filly, Repeat Please, in the Lady Maud. He was originally listed on several horses in the later races at Mohawk, but it now appears that they won’t be beaming him up and sending him to Ontario.

As a result Matt Kakaley will drive Foiled Again for the first time since the Battle Of Lake Erie in mid-June. That was eight races ago and the last time Foiled won. The 11-year-old legend has performed very well in the Canadian Pacing Derby of late: He won the race in 2012 at odds of 14/1; he was third in 1013; and he finished second last year at 6/1, behind upset winner Modern Legend, who crossed first at 65/1.

Ron Pierce, the third place finisher on last year’s money list, thanks to the likes of Sweet Lou and Shake It Cerry, will apparently go under the knife again. His absence leaves a gaping hole, particularly at interview time.

Jeremes Jet, who wore out his welcome in Ontario after standing there for six years, is leading the money and OSS points list for three-year-old colt pacers right now, thanks to the likes of JJ’s Delivery, Drachan Hanover and Robert Hill. All this from his penultimate Ontario crop of 16 registered foals—seven of them colts. His first small offering of Indiana yearlings hit the sales in 2016.

Four-year-old JL Cruze, who has been the top older trotter this year, has really raised the profile of his ten-year-old sire, Crazed. Last year Burke’s Gural Hanover was dominant in the NYSS and this year it’s his Crazy Wow who is turning heads. The latter, who faces Pinkman in a short elimination field for the Yonkers Trot tomorrow night, has an opportunity to be the son of Credit Winner’s first big deal as a colt in the open ranks. His upset win in the Colonial was a game changer. Tetrick drives him again tomorrow night.

Joe FitzGerald

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Go Daddy, The Rev, BBJ, Caviar And Taj

John Campbell drove Go Daddy Go in his first five starts of 2015. The son of Ponder had been rated sixth in Hoof Beats’ Predictive Rankings and was number four behind Artspeak, Wiggle and In The Arsenal in the early Cup odds. Diamond Creek, where his sire stands, thought so highly of him that they bought a piece after he finished fifth in the 2014 BC.

Daddy won his first start of the year, a $70,000 OSS Gold leg, but he faded to seventh in his Cup elimination and was subsequently fifth in the consolation at 9/1 from the nine post. Two weeks ago he broke in the Milstein, finishing eighth for Peter Wrenn, while last night he was an uninspiring sixth in a $105,000 Gold leg at Georgian Downs for Mike Saftic.

Go Daddy Go has no open stakes win, so he doesn’t have the sort of resume Father Patrick, another troubled Diamond Creek stallion prospect,  has to fall back on. At the very least, he needs to get his house in order within the OSS program.

Casie Coleman’s highly touted Sportswriter colt, Reverend Hanover, was a handy winner of his Gold split at Georgian. The 3/5 favorite won in 1:51.4 for Stephen Condren. He was placed second in the initial NA Cup Spring Book, behind only division champ Artspeak. He made just four late season starts, but wowed them in the OSS. Hoof Beats had him at number twelve.

Reverend Hanover is staked to the Jug and the BC; he is not eligible to the Tattersalls Pace, Bluegrass, Circle City, Matron or Jenna’s Beach Boy.


First year Ohio stallion Big Bad John keeps rolling along. On Friday night at Northfield two of his colts and two fillies won splits of the Ohio Sire Stakes. His freshmen have now won 84 races and banked more than a million dollars.

His top earning colt, Pimo Giovanni, who is out of the Bettor’s Delight mare JK Reunited, upped his record to a perfect five with a late charge around the last turn. The even money shot won in 1:55.1 for Chris Page and Virgil Morgan Jr. Chris Page also won with the Western Hanover stallion’s top grossing daughter, Queen Ann M, in a handy 1:55.2 at odds of 1/2.

The black filly, Save My Tootsie, who cost Ron Potter, who campaigned Big Bad John, $64,000 at the sales, set a 1:54.4 track record for Aaron Merriman. And Page and Morgan also surprised with the 13/1 BBJ colt Whataboy.

Big Bad John has 108 registered foals in his current crop and will have almost as many in the mix next year. The rapidly expanding Ohio Sire Stakes still offers relatively modest purses as compared with Pennsylvania and New York, but five of the Jug winner’s offspring have passed the $50,000 mark, and eight have sub-1:55 marks to their credit—a couple of them taken over the half at Northfield.


The first year Ohio trotting stallion Triumphant Caviar doesn’t have nearly as many feet on the ground as Big Bad John; this year’s crop numbers 41, and more than 60% of them are fillies. Still, they’ve chalked up 39 wins and earned more than a half million dollars.

He also had four winners on Friday. Kestrel, his riches and fastest offspring, remained perfect as she scored her fourth win, from gate to wire, in 1:58.2 for Aaaron Merriman and Chris Beaver. The daughter of the Credit Winner mare Blackrock has earned more than $90,000.

The SJ Caviar stallion’s top son Kanthaka set a track record of 1:57.1 for his age and sex as he worked to make the top for Dave Palone, then gapped the field, ultimately drawing off to a four length triumph—his fifth in as many tries.

And another Triumphant Caviar filly, Consolidated, out of the Muscles mare Muscle Toy, broke her maiden in 1:58.3 for Chris Page.


The Broadway Hall stallion Pilgrims Taj, who is racing a small initial Ohio crop of 24, after standing his first season in Ontario, saw his filly Evanora rebound from a series of breaks and scratches to win handily in 1:59.2 at 3/5 for Ronnie Wrenn Jr and Chris Beaver. Another daughter, Taj For All, was second.

Pilgrims Taj’s small sophomore crop of 29 is fourth among fillies and fifth among colts in the Ontario program. Despite his even smaller crop in Ohio, he shows a more than respectable 31 wins and $441,000 in earnings. Paternal brother Broad Bahn’s daughter Dizzy Broad, a product of his small initial New York offering, is second on the earnings and points list in New York.

Joe FitzGerald

NJ Sports Wagering Suffers Another Defeat

If only it was this easy to pick winners at the track, I would be rich.  Once again the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled by a 2-1 margin that New Jersey's latest attempt to circumvent the restrictions of the Professional and Amateurs Sports Protection Act of 1992 which outlawed sports wagering.

This is the second time in two years the state has suffered a defeat in this court.  After the first rejection and an opinion which indicated if the state didn't regulate sports wagering, the restrictions of PASPA wouldn't have applied.  The state argued this time that NJ no longer regulated sports wagering thus making it legal for racetracks and casinos to offer wagering, an argument which fell flat with 2 of the 3 justices.  The court found that by still banning wagering on New Jersey sports teams and colleges and relieving only certain parties from regulation, the state still regulated sports wagering.

The state can ask for a hearing by all 23 judges of the 3rd circuit which is unlikely.  Failing a move to get the entire court to hear the case, the state may petition the U.S. Supreme Court once again to take on the case which it refused to hear last year.

Until the federal government is (if) so moved to change the provisions of PASPA, which will only occur if the leagues are cut in for a share of the profits, telling casinos and racetracks to hold on for sports wagering is like asking them to reach out for the proverbial brass ring; something which will remain unattainable.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Being Left at the Gate

Those who follow all breeds of horses which race have no doubt heard of the Thoroughbred Horseracing Act of 2015 (H.R. 3084), legislation which would bring a national standard for medication rules and ban race day medication throughout thoroughbred racing,

The legislation calls for the formation of a  Thoroughbred Anti-Doping Association (TADA), initially comprised of the USADA with stakeholders from thoroughbred racing being added to the group. TADA will be responsible for the establishment and enforcement of rules regarding medication including issuing penalties.

Wait, you ask.  Doesn't the state racing commissions control racing, including medication penalties?   Now it does, but it will need to cede this part of their regulatory duties to the TADA if they wish interstate simulcast wagering to continue in their state.

Being the Jockey Club has called for this type of legislation it doesn't surprise me the bill involves thoroughbred racing only, but it still distresses me.  For one, it shows the standardbred industry hasn't gotten on board yet with the idea of an independent agency handling drug regulations and policing (as is the case with the AQHA and those who regulate donkey and mule racing).  Secondly, it shows harness racing being left at the gate once again should this legislation become law (admittedly a long shot).

Were this legislation to become law, what would be the impact on harness racing?  For one, it would be the racing breed without a national standard for medication and enforcement of the same from an anti-doping agency which would imply harness racing the wild west of cheats.   Also, coming late to the party may result in harness racing being subjected at some point to thoroughbred racing medication rules instead of being at the table early and involved in establishing the medication rules.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Star Power

At this point in the 2014 season the sport was awash in stars. Sebastian K had won seven of eight starts, including a world record 1:49 in the Sun Invitational at Pocono. He also had wins in the Cutler and the Cashman. Sweet Lou had swept ten in a row, with six straight in under 1:48. The premier son of Yankee Cruiser had recently taken the Dan Patch, and scored in the USPC, Haughton and Franklin prior to that. Trixton had captured the hearts of the fans, even before he pulled off an upset win in the Hambletonian. And diminutive speedball He’s Watching won the Pace in a world record equaling 1:46.4 and had just followed that up with a win in the EBC.

And prior to that, In 2013, Bee A Magician was a perfect ten for ten by mid-August, with wins in the Oaks and Del Miller; Captaintreacherous was six for seven, having captured the Cup and the Pace; and I Luv The Nitelife, who earned more money at two and three than any pacing filly ever had, was nine for ten, with wins in the Fan Hanover and Lynch.

What looked to be a star studded year of racing in 2015 hasn’t gone exactly as planned. Father Patrick, who was recently retired, has a win in the Maxie Lee and a world of frustration to show for his four-year-old efforts. JK She’salady inexplicable raced poorly early and is now recuperating from a lung infection. Last year’s Horse of the Year will not be in the mix until Lexington.

 McWicked, who has been missing until recently, looked dreadful in a Mohawk preferred the other night. Nuncio is racing successfully in Europe. Shake It Cerry has been on shaky ground all year. Maven has been hijacked to Europe, where she rarely wins. Miki is on the shelf. Foiled has one win in 12 starts. Artspeak is not the next big thing. In The Arsenal was dull in the EBC on Sunday. The Dan Patch winner, Color’s A Virgin, seems to have hit her ceiling in the Hoosier Park F&M invitational. Another division winner, Classic Martine, is two for ten. In short, promise has not been fulfilled on a number of fronts.

Sebastian, Lou, Trixton, Captain T and Nitelife are all retired. They ain’t trottin’ and pacin’ through that door, as Rick Pitino would say. So the current crop of horses will have to get it done.

Wiggle It Jiggleit and Mission Brief are both genuine superstars. The Mr Wiggles gelding rebounded from his loss in the Cane with a pair of head turning performances in the Milstein and the Battle Of Brandywine, blowing up the track record in the former and setting a world record in the latter. At the very least, he’s the equal of the Sebastian K of 2014. Wiggle will be off the grid for a month as he prepares for the Jug.

And Mission Brief won her Hambletonian elimination and finished second in the final, before humbling her peers in Friday’s Moni Maker. She’s faster than Bee A Magician, and she’s managed with a fearlessness that was foreign to the Kadabra mare, Shake It Cerry and Check Me Out. Ron Burke is seriously considering starting her in the Kentucky Futurity, a move that would put Lexington on the front page, particularly if Pinkman wins the Yonkers Trot and is going for the Triple Crown. We should see Mission Brief in action in Friday’s Casual Breeze.

A superstar in the making is Burke’s Muscle Hill freshman Southwind Frank. The $100,000 Lexington purchase has won 5 of 6 starts, with his only loss coming on a break. He won the NJSS final, then dominated in the elimination and final of the Peter Haughton. Sunday he won a split of the Reynolds in a track record 1:54.2 at Tioga.  He’s staked to the Champlain at Mohawk in two weeks, and the Wellwood, two weeks after that.

Four-year-old JL Cruze has been the king of the aged trotting ranks through the first half of the season. He has taken 16 of his 19 starts and tops the money and speed lists in his division. The Crazed gelding won the Hambletonian Maturity, Graduate Series, Super Bowl and Singer. Unfortunately, these are all races for three/four-year-olds. He wasn’t staked to the Cashman or the Crawford Farms Trot at Vernon, and isn’t eligible to the Maple Leaf, Allerage or the Breeders Crown. It’s tough to remain a star racing on the margins. His fourth place finish in the Sebastian K at Pocono may herald the end of his reign.

Pinkman has won the Hambletonian, Stanley Dancer, Beal and Zweig this year, but he doesn’t possess much duende. The Explosive Matter gelding does just enough to get a win, which he has done in eight of his 10 starts, with earnings of more than a million dollars. He’s so workmanlike and efficient that he hasn’t generated the sort of buzz his record calls for. Breaking stride at the start of the Colonial as the 1/9 choice on Saturday didn’t add to his appeal.

State Treasurer, the leader of the FFA pacing set, just won the Roll With Joe in a track record 1:47.2 at Tioga. It was his sixth win in 12 starts; he won the USPC, Molson (his third) and Mohawk Gold Cup. He came up short in the Franklin, Battle Of Lake Erie, Haughton and a TVG open. The six-year-old son of Real Desire came into his own at five and is a pleasant surprise, but he’s no Sweet Lou, vintage 2014. The fact that the FFA pacing class is as thin as paper enhances his image.

D’One, the American bred daughter of Donato Hanover and Giant Diablo, just followed up her come from behind win in the Fresh Yankee with another in the Muscle Hill. She’s a mid-season gift from the Continent. Bee A Magician, who was beaten by D’One in both of those stakes, was riding high after wins in the Armbro Flight, Cutler and Charlie Hill Memorial, but Roger Wallmann’s repatriated closer is clearly the division leader at this point.

So D’One, who is staked to the Centaur at Hoosier Downs at the end of September, where she would face E L Titan, Obrigado and the rest of the boys, as well as the Allerage Mare and the BC Mare, may well achieve stardom. The same goes for rookie trotter Southwind Frank. And Wiggleit Jiggle It and Mission Brief are already the King and Queen. Maybe Pinkman and State Treasurer will capture our hearts and minds and a few more will make it to the marquee by season’s end.

Joe FitzGerald

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Someone's Doing Something Right

As you may already know, the Gold Cup and Saucer was postponed Saturday night due to a torrential downpour which washed out the track.  All wagers were refunded and the race was rescheduled for Sunday afternoon, previously scheduled to be a dark day.

So Sunday came, and the gates were opened for the one race card.  One would figure for a one race card, the race would likely be raced in front of a mostly empty track, perhaps a few horsemen and die hard fans.

If you saw the the race or replay of this year's edition of the Gold Cup and Saucer which was won by Take It Back Terry in 1:50.4 you'd be amazed as to how many people attended the race.  Make no mistake, not as big a crowd as there would have been if the race was contested Saturday night but it was still an impressive crowd, a crowd most North American tracks would die for; this for one race alone.  The apron was pretty much full, people standing all around the outside of the track for most of its circumference.  

As for wagering, a total of $42,397 was wagered on the  race; not money carried over from the night before; all wagered on Sunday.  Granted this was a special race, but this handle in Atlantic Canada would be cause for envy at all but the most major standardbred tracks in North America.

They are doing something right at Charlottetown Driving Park.  Now if we can figure out how to have this type of event in the rest of the continent, the sport would be in good shape.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pocono Preview

As Pacingguy mentioned in another blog post, he's been rather busy with other business so...I'm back again.  Let's get to a few of the races at the speedway called Pocono shall we...

Race 5 the Sebastian K Invitational Trot:  That didn't take long, how do we have a race named after Sebastian K already?  Shouldn't there be a mourning period or something before we start naming races after horses still alive?  Now that I feel better, a couple of things to note:  JC is reunited with JL Cruze but can we trust that John is only rusty?  You have a couple of races prior to see if you can get a clue about the wrist.  The other thing I should mention, why is Dave Miller off Wind Of The North?  Can the Allard factor be that powerful or is Bier just looking for a different set of hands?  It could be Palone got a two for one deal and Miller couldn't do both?  It might not matter if the Cruze is the CRUZE.  If I had to pick an upsetter, I'll take a flyer with Natural Herbie.  I love the post and Herbie can go along way parked.  It's up to Yoder to get him in position at the head of the stretch.

Race 9 the U. S. T. A. Invitational Pace:  For 50k, there must bigger fish to fry somewhere else because this is far, far away from a stellar field of Invitational horses.  That being said, somebody has to win.  The new star in the Invitational ranks is none other than Always At My Place...who, what?  His last race at Poco was freaky good, and I mean freaky, first up and under wraps smoking home.  Can somebody steal a half and park him?  Maybe Great Vintage but, if I was Matt (obviously not), I'd just go down the road and get it over with.  Are you reading Matt?

Race 10 the Valley Forge for 3yo pacing fillies:  Flash back to Hambo day and what I said about the 3yo pacing fillies, they don't like to win two races in a row so, that might change tonight if Moma gets her way on the front end.  Bettor Be Steppin could throw that strategy out the window if Corey has her forwardly placed, as usual.  Beware, both The Show and Moonlit get their best buddies back so that could be trouble.

Race 11 the Colonial 3yo Open Trot:  I must be crazy to try to beat Pinkman but that's what I try to do...when the same trainer has FIVE horses in the same race.  Since that is case, what does a driver do when they see the boss in their rear view mirror?  Why you let him go on and take a two hole trip, of course.  That's if Burke's Crazy Wow doesn't want to play hardball early on, which could happen and be suicide since Wow has been known to lose his mind on occasion.  This race could get real interesting if the Takter horses don't follow company lines or be a Takter snoozer, only time will tell.

Race 12 the Brandywine 3yo Pacing Open:  Oh boy, Wiggles has the rail and a ton of speed so race over...right?  Probably so but if the race goes western (not sure where that terminology started?), Split The House has to have a big shot at upsetting the apple cart.  That last half at the M was one of the fastest of the meet, if not the fastest.  I wonder why Randy didn't come down?  Yes, the Dude was running over Wiggle It at the 3/4's but this race should set up much differently, that is if it doesn't go western???

Why did the Meadows get Mission Brief last night?  Just a thought.  Another thought is, while these big purse races will steal the headlines, the real money could be made in a few of the many consolation races on the card.  I hope that not too many of those races get too western, or crazy, or upset the apple cart, etc.  Enjoy....

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Disappearing Act? Heck No!

You may have been coming on a daily basis over the years for my latest blog posting and have noticed of late there is a lot more time between posts.  What's going on you may be asking?

While a few friends have stepped up and written blog entries for me (and I definitely appreciate their efforts), I have  not had time to post like I would like to due to circumstances beyond my control.   Rest assured, I am okay other than running 20 different ways from dawn to dusk.  Fortunately, things should be quieting down shortly, at least enough where I can concentrate on the blog with greater regularity.

So no, I am not pulling a disappearing act.   Just working my way through a rough patch outside of the harness racing world.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Just When You Thought You've Seen it All

One has to wonder what was going on in the tractor driver's mind Sunday night at Pocono Downs when he appears to have decided he wanted to go home early as signs of trouble were evident at the :52-:53 point of the following video.  Was the tractor getting ready to go onto the track after the final race concludes?  Nope,  In what one must consider a case of brain freeze or who knows what, the tractor driver continued on to the track and interferes with the field, necessitating the need to declare the race 'no contest'.

No news as to the employment status of the driver.  All I can say is when you think you have seen it all, something comes along to blow that belief to shreds.

Speaking of The Downs, this Saturday is Super Stakes night where the best horses will be gathering to compete in one of the few remaining big money days remaining this year.  A 'must see' event for all standardbred fans and for those who avoid the gimmick wagers, an opportunity to wager as the rake for straight wagers is not obscene as the rake for exotics. The card for Super Saturday will be drawn today and we'll see where the key match-ups are.

While most of the American audience will be paying attention to what happen in Wilkes-Barre, the 'Canadian Jug' will be contested at Red Shores Charlottetown as it is time for the $60,000 Gold Cup & Saucer.  While the Pepsi North America Cup is probably the one race Canadian Drivers want to win money-wise, the Gold Cup and Saucer is the race drivers want to win for the experience as there are few races where grandstand and standee levels are full of appreciative race-goers.

Some people can't let go with the scheduling of the Yonkers International Trot on the same day as the Kentucky Futurity.  For those not familiar with the dust up, Yonkers scheduled the Trot not only on the same Saturday as the Kentucky Futurity and other closing day stake races at The Red Mile, they will be racing during the day during the same time instead of racing during their normal nighttime slot.  There is a fear some of the top drivers may skip the Red Mile card in favor of racing at Yonkers.

So once again, let's go over it, for one last time.

  • Regardless of whatever perceived (or deserved) reputation Yonkers may have among track management at other tracks, Yonkers did not card the International to screw up The Red Mile.  Management needed to consider when the European star horses would be available to race for it wouldn't be quite International if only North American horses showed up.  In doing so, Yonkeres needed to take into account the European Grand Circuit schedule, quarantine, and allowing those horses moving on to the Breeders Crown time.  The October 10 date is what worked out the best overall.  If we are going to encourage foreign horses racing in American races, I suggest the European Grand Circuit schedule be considered when setting the North American stakes calendar so stakes races where European horses are anticipated to participate may be scheduled looking at the 'big picture'
  • The Red Mile meet, while important is not sacrosanct.  It has tradition, it has history but this is basically of interest to racing and breeding insiders and hard core harness fans.  To the typical horseplayer, the races being presented are merely another set of races offered to horseplayers.  Horseplayers will seek out the best races available to wager on.  A full field with a compelling puzzle will draw more interest than a race with a short field and/or an overwhelming favorite (leaving takeout out of the equation for now).  No track has a monopoly to keep tracks from racing at the same time
  • Speaking of racing at the same time, Yonkers is racing during the day in order to maximize wagering opportunities.  With a limited window available from disseminators for the signal in Europe, it is racing on Saturday afternoon or not getting access to the overseas markets.  Saturday night doesn't cut it, nor does Sunday afternoon.  If the Red Mile was so concerned with the head-to-head competition, they could have moved their card to latest post if they wished.
  • The concern some drivers may leave Lexington a day early to race at Yonkers?  First of all, at most there will be no more than three or four drivers missing on closing day, assuming they have horses in closing day stake races. With all the name drivers at The Red Mile, I am sure any driver defections to race in New York will be covered by a competitive reinsman (ask Jimmy Takter about Pinkman on Hambetonian Day).
Maybe now we can let it go?  I hope so.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

By the time I got over to the grandstand ...

by Peter Lawrence, Contributor to VFTRG
(Editor Comments at end)

... Saturday, Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands, the races were over.
(I'd spent the day at the paddock, my favorite part of any racetrack - along with the stable areas - visiting trainers, grooms, owners that happened by, and, of course, the horses.)
And in this photo, out there by the half-mile pole, sits the old, original grandstand.
Not meaning any disrespect to the new one, which I've yet to remotely warm up to, but I sure wish we could return to that old one.
There was NOTHING like the atmosphere of the old front paddock, especially right before a big race, like the Hambletonian or the Meadowlands Pace.
Just about every major owner, trainer, driver, visiting racing official, plus the occasional celebrity, like Spuds McKenzie (and the Spudettes), found their respective ways down to the front paddock, to see and be seen.
A hundred, maybe two hundred people could comfortably mill around and be accommodated, and best of all, the front paddock was actually attached to the box seats, the drivers' lockers, the grandstand and the below-ground tunnel, with its shuttle bus to the back paddock, which ran continuously, regardless of whether a race was being run or not.
You could even walk to the back paddock, and return, whenever you wanted to, which you can't do anymore.
Again, not meaning any disrespect to the new Meadowlands, which is, in many ways, very modern and nice, but I haven't warmed up to it yet. Well, it's only been two full seasons already.
OK, back to reality ... see the old Meadowlands grandstand out there on the backstretch?
It ain't coming back.

Peter Lawrence's photo.

Editor Comments: Why I understand Pete's love of the old grandstand with regards to the amenities for the owners and the convenience to do his job, I shed no tears for the old grandstand.  I never warmed up to old grandstand since it was initially opened back in 1976.  I will admit, when it first opened, back when cashing windows were on he opposite side of the teller's area (and selling windows were designated by dollar amount) there was some panache thanks to the neon signs over the teller's bays but once those signs were eliminated, the grandstand lacked any character; it was a hulking behemoth of steel and lacked any character,  As time moved on, it became even more undesirable as the facility started to look frayed with concession stands closing and even fewer people attending; the place started looking like a mausoleum.

Don't get me wrong, I like older facilities.  I loved the old Freehold grandstand prior to the big fire.   To this day, the new grandstand is a slab of concrete; I look back fondly for the days of the bubbles which were used during reconstruction.  Yet, I realize the times have changed.  Your don't get the attendance racing used to get so there is a need to right-size grandstands.  Not only do you lose the mausoleum feeling, it is much more efficient to maintain.  With the old grandstand, you needed air conditioning or heating,insurance, and manpower for unused areas, all year long.  The taste of the customer has long changed.  A facility which is built solely for racing will not attract younger generations; there needs to be another reason for them to attend.  And remember, without customers there is (or shouldn't be) no business..

Time marches on.  While getting to the paddock may be harder, the Meadowlands has provided new amenities for owners. Reality trumps nostalgia.

Redefining Sate Bred and Judicial Action We Approve Off

In New Jersey, in an attempt to improve the state's breeding program, a bill approved by the Assembly has been moved to the Senate for consideration which will ease the requirements for a standardbred foal be considered NJ Bred.  Under the proposed legislation, as long as the mare was in the state 150 days inclusive of the date of birth the foal will be considered NJ Bred.  Currently, to be considered NJ Bred, a mare must be residing in state from date of conception thru the date of birth. 

By easing the requirements, it is thought more out of state mares will take advantage of the new NJ Bred racing program, thus increasing business at horse farms as well as other equine-related services.

You got to love the prosecutor who has jurisdiction of Penn National as another indictment has been handed down with a trainer being charged with wire fraud for medicating horses in eleven races.  I realize US Attorneys are busy with other cases but one has to wonder why other US Attorneys seem ignore potential problems at racetracks in their regions.

A Hambletonian Postscript

If you have been playing the horses for any length of time you have been a victim of a 'bad beat'; typically the victim of the racing gods.  Here is a message I received the day after the Hambletonian and after getting permission, I thought I'd share it with you.

You've got to be kidding me

I'm not sure if you were able to watch the races yesterday or went to the Hambo since you've had other things on your mind?  I'll can tell you this, I'll never forget this Hambo day. 

Talk about cursed, how can I have the only horse to break two jumps before the line on Hambo day?  Not only did the DQ in the 15th race cost me the DD, it also cost me the last Pick 3 of the meet.  I was working so I couldn't watch the race but I could run to a tv to see the results.  I knew Stacia won, whom I singled.  I checked again after the 15th race and saw the 2 had won....or I thought had won so I knew I was in shape for a nice score if the 1, 5, 8 or 10 won the 16th race so I waited for my chance to check the tv again.  From where I was selling, I could see just enough of the tv to see colors of the driver who won the 16th race and I knew it was Corey on the 10...BINGO!!!!  Or I thought BINGO.  To my great dismay, I only found out hours later when I went up to see my friends after working and being happy with myself that the racing gods smacked me down again.

My buddy says to me, "Hey, you know that 2 horse you liked, his break cost me the DD."  I must have turned as white as a sheet.  What???  He must be joking right.  This fairy tale ending couldn't end like this, could it?  Of course it can, I'm cursed.  Instead of having the meet end a great note (probably close to 2k), I'm left to wallow in you've got to be kidding me.  Racing/gambling is so cruel.

Have you ever been the victim of a bad beat?  Why not share it with us?

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Hawthorne Gambit?

In what may be a case of "Have I got a deal for you", Hawthorne Raceway (under the name of Surburban Downs) is once again applying for standardbred race dates after being rebuffed by the IRB for years,  deciding to give standardbred dates only to Balmoral and Maywood Park..

Why would Hawthorne apply for standardbred dates when the IRB had been turning them down for years?  They are not applying for winter dates which they had been racing the last time the trotters graced the mile oval.  These are prime dates, May 13-September 11 for 61 race dates (May 13-31, Friday-Sunday; June through September 11, Thursday-Sundays with a several dark dates in August).

Clearly, Hawthorne is banking on a doomsday scenario where Balmoral and Maywood are no longer racing.  As is, Balmoral Park is seeking only 87 racing dates, Fridays and Saturdays from January 2 through November 3 while Maywood would race only 17 days (Fridays and Saturdays from November 4 through the end of the year), which would be a significant cut in racing dates in an effort to keep purses from crashing through the floor due to the inability of getting slots at the racetracks.   A bill is being considered to bring video gaming to the tracks but this is a state which has managed to  kill these bills off at the last minute.

 Of course, this assumes Balmoral and Maywood are still racing for the properties are up for sale as a result of the bankruptcy filing which was necessitated due to a settlement won in the courts by the Illinois Riverboats.  If  these two tracks close, it would make Hawthorne the only parimutuel standardbred track and as such, would be entitled to all the hosting fees for standardbred racing simulcasts.

We will see what happens at the IRB meeting on September 29 when racing dates are supposedly to be voted upon.  Unless a final decision is made on the future of Balmoral and Maywood or a decision on slots at tracks has been reached, expect the IRB to give a nod to Hawthorne for some dates to ensure there will be harness racing in the Prairie State in 2016.

ARCI Responds to the Jockey Club Round Table

 Editor's note:  While primarily thoroughbred racing in context, there are many points which apply to harness racing.  In particular, I suggest you read the section on STATS: The New Vision for Racing.  Here is a video of the aforementioned Roundtable (2hrs).  For those who lack two hours to watch the video, here is an article which highlights the roundtable regarding medication, including the potential for eliminating Salix.  Other related articles may be found here.

Also, note the Jockey Club is mandating the microchipping of all foaled race horses starting with the 2017 season (voluntary in 2016).  This is something we have been arguing for a long time but has been rejected by standardbred interests.  The time has come to begin microchipping of horses.

MEDIA ADVISORY: ARCI President Comments to Jockey Club Roundtable Presentations

For those reporters seeking a comment from the ARCI concerning things said at the Roundtable conference, please refer to the statements indicated below on topics raised during today’s presentations.

Statements of Ed Martin, President, ARCI

“While The Jockey Club is to be commended for its commitment to the sport and its efforts at promotion and marketing, its departure on some significant issues from a cooperative effort with industry regulators as to how to address equine welfare and integrity challenges is most unfortunate.

Professional horse racing is not limited to Thoroughbred racing.   Equine welfare and integrity challenges should be addressed holistically, working with the entire community of regulators.  The Jockey Club possesses no regulatory authority other than as a breed registry.   The collection of data in Jockey Club computers that is not seamlessly integrated with regulatory data systems potentially undermines the benefits to be achieved from these efforts.”

Equine Injury Database:

“The Equine Injury Database has been an important reform and tool.   It was developed by regulatory personnel working with The Jockey Club’s technical staff.  It is not, however, made available to the regulatory commissions who require track-specific information in order to address track-specific problems which may contribute to equine injury.  It is time for this database to be shifted to direct regulatory control.”   

STATS: The New Vision for Racing:

“While technology affords exciting opportunities for fans to analyze performance data, we question the extent to which fans will be being charged for data and whether this may depress the growth of the sport.   The management of racing data is currently a monopoly and it is a legitimate question to ask whether monopolies are the most effective way to service the sport and its fans.”  

AAEP Recommendations:

“Veterinarians have expansive authority under various laws and federal regulations to utilize legal substances they deem appropriate for the treatment of horses.  The proposals Dr. Anderson articulated can be implemented immediately by veterinarians through the treatment decisions they make.  The regulation of legal medications used in training may require additional authority for state commissions over the practice of veterinary medicine on race horses.   We are already exploring this and are in the process of taking steps to require the regulatory registration of all racehorses.

“The remarks concerning time-based restrictions on drugs emulates a long standing policy in New York and is one that, in my opinion, makes sense.   The ARCI had initially included such restrictions in our Model Rules but removed them at the request of industry representatives.   Regulators are open to revisiting this matter.

“We welcome AAEP’s desire to develop a non-raceday solution to treat EIPH and end the long standing and divisive issue surrounding a thirty year equine welfare policy.    Those responsible for the medical care of horses have urged us not to change the furosemide policy.  Given the 2015 consensus statement from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine concerning the seriousness of EIPH, the time has come for this issue to be de-politicized.” 

Governor Beshear:

“We appreciate Governor Beshear’s comments and praise his action in Kentucky by signing the Interstate Racing Regulatory Compact legislation which state regulators across the country have endorsed as a way to achieve the goals the Governor articulated.    It is unfortunate those who helped develop this concept have not followed through on their support in order to implement this.

“We also agree with the Governor that there are issues with the proposed federal legislative approach.    The ARCI, as it has historically, will continue to work with all interested parties to enhance the integrity of racing.   We note that no federal bills being proposed were written with the consultation of those involved on the front lines of policing this sport.”

Comments of Edwin Moses:

“To date, USADA has not accepted the ARCI invitation to collaborate with the existing network of racing regulators, lab directors, and research scientists who currently operate a program that meets the metrics Mr. Moses indicated were necessary for an effective anti-doping program.   The lack of USADA collaboration directly with its counterparts in racing may explain his unfamiliarity of the similarities that exist between the two efforts.

“If USADA wants to help horse racing, we can figure that out now absent the years it will take for a federal bill.   There are no impediments to achieving common goals.”

“It is unfortunate the “Roundtable” is not a roundtable discussion where the audience could benefit from an interaction between USADA and ARCI regulators on how to have the most effective ant-doping program for racing.”   

Barr/Tonko Bill:

“Despite being well intentioned, this legislation is not workable.   Racing’s equine welfare and anti-doping policies should not be placed in the hands of a private organization with no experience with horses that operates a program that is one thirty-seventh the size of what is done in racing.

“The legislation provides no federal help and may complicate an already difficult job.”

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Random Thoughts On Hambletonian Day 2015

Among other things, on Hambletonian Day 2015, Ron Burke’s aged pacing crew finally showed signs of life: Clear Vision, who was zip for 14, won the $40,000 open, with stablemate All Bets off second. Also, Foiled Again, who has only one win and isn’t the ATM he generally resembles, was a rugged third in the USPC. All three are staked to Friday’s Dan Patch at Hoosier Park….Along the same lines, the four aged divisions are tattered and torn. Support from the four-year-old brigade is very thin. Should we feel good about eight-year-old Anndrovette winning the Lady Liberty? How about State Treasurer and Clear Vision? I guess, but where are the kids?


Broadway Donna, the 1/9 favorite in the Doherty, didn’t beat 36/1 Kathy Parker by much, but the daughter of Donato Hanover put another notch in his filly belt. This “filly sire” has given us Check Me Out, Designed To Be, Shake It Cerry, Real Babe, Livininthefastlane, Sarcy, Royal Assets….And don’t forget the winner of the inaugural Fresh Yankee, D’One. Colts? Not so much. He had three in the Hambletonian final—Donatomite, Uncle Lasse and The Bank—and the latter pair finished third and fourth, but Donato is still missing a male winner of anything resembling a grade 1 stakes race for sophomores. Possess The Will, from his first crop, won his division at two; Maturity winner Your So Vain took splits of the Simcoe and Bluegrass; Solvato has raced well in his aged form in Europe, but there’s a sophomore colt hole in Donato’s resume.


Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke exited The Meadowlands with a little more than half the purse money for the day. Each won three races; Takter’s brood made the board eleven times…. Ake Svanstedt won the Vincennes with Resolve, but he was knocked out of the Hambletonian after a pair of sixth place finishes, and finished eighth in both the Doherty and the Ackerman…. Tony Alagna was second in the Cane with Artspeak, but he was tenth in the Oaks, ninth in the Haughton, third in the Ackerman and eighth in the $40,000 pacing open. With Takter and Burke vacuuming up so much dough, this scenario played out with most of the other trainers.


Pinkman’s Hambletonian win was huge for Explosive Matter. Most of that stallion’s top tier wins belong to the laid back gelding—Valley Victory, BC, Beal, Zweig. Datsyuk upset Father Patrick in the Tompkins-Geers last year; Struck By Lindy won a split of the Bluegrass; Vanity Matters took a split of the ISS; Amped Up Hanover won the Ackerman and Jacksons Minion won an Arden split this year. But, while Explosive Matter leads the sophomore class in gross and average earnings, thanks in no small part to Pinkman, he needed a star.


Dealt A Winner, the 27/1 winner of the Cane Pace, is by that retired distributor of extreme speed, Cam’s Card Shark. Four of his sons have won that race, with the others being, Royal Flush Shark, Timesareachanging and Four Starzz Shark. The only sires with more Cane winners are the great Adios, with five, and Meadow Skipper, who won the race himself, and produced seven winners….Wiggle It Jiggleit, who ran dry in the Cane after being flogged by In The Arsenal and Brian Sears to the half, is scheduled to race in the Milstein at Northfield on Friday and the Battle Of Brandywine eight days after that.  


The little Cantab Hall filly Wild Honey, who won the Oaks in convincing fashion, joins a long list of junior size champs that includes: Chapter Seven, Mack Lobell, Wishing Stone, Ayres, Baltic Speed, and his son Valley Victory. I imagine she’ll face off against Mission Brief in the Moni Maker at The Meadows a week from Friday.


Stacia Hanover, a daughter of the great Western Ideal, took the Shady Daisy at 10/1 for Scott Zeron and Steve Elliott. The previous night her older paternal sister, Krispy Apple, won still one more F&M open at Yonkers, from the outside post. That one has supplanted Cabrini Hanover as the richest daughter of Western Ideal. Her arch rival, See You At Peeler, got almost all the glory during their filly days, but KA is less than $142,000 behind the daughter of Bettor’s Delight, who is now busy turning out SBSW offspring.


Obviously the Hambletonian Day card favors trotting races, but there were five for the pacers. Casie Coleman, who finished fourth on the trainer’s money list in 2014, had nothing entered. She was also absent on Pace Day. This time last year she was in the top ten on the money list; right now she’s number 41, with only 31 wins. McWicked has only started a couple of times, and the same goes for Vegas Vacation. Reverend Hanover, her key to the sophomore division and the OSS, is out of the mix. Key owner Adriano Sorella is selling off most of his stock. This is a serious nosedive. The second week of August isn't "early."

Joe FitzGerald


Richard Scott - RIP

It is with great sadness I report on the passing of Richard Scott, a friend to VFTRG and HANA Harness.  Richard finally succumbed to his illness this morning.

Who is Richard you may be asking?  I point you to this blog entry from 2013 to learn a bit about him.

I could go on about Richard but rather than doing so, let it be said he was a class 'A' guy.  When we started the HANA Harness handicapping contests which benefit standardbred rescues, Richard was a contestant.  As time progressed, he found he needed to stop competing but he kept helping HANA with the contest, becoming an auditor of the results to ensure the validity of the results.  He was all set to resume competing when the bad news came that his cancer returned.  No complaining, or woe to me from Richard.  From him, it was like in the "Dragnet" series; "Just the facts Mam"  

RIP Richard.   He's probably touring the stables in Heaven as we speak.  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

As the Monkees sang it, "I'm a believer" ...

by Peter Lawreece, VFTRG Contributor 

From the better late than never department, a few thoughts about the July 18 Meadowlands Pace and its 1:47-4/5 winner, Wiggle It Jiggleit.

He's very, very good. In fact, he has the look of eagles, and could be - COULD BE - an all-time great 3YO pacer.

But before getting carried away and awarding him Horse of the Year - I still consider FFA trotting mare Bee A Magician the nation's top standardbred at this point - Wiggle It Jiggleit is really showing me something.

Let's set that evening's stage.

As the Meadowlands Pace field assembled, the big four, in my estimation, were Wakizashi Hanover (winner of the North America Cup at Mohawk), In The Arsenal (winner of the Art Rooney at Yonkers), Artspeak (last year's freshman divisional champion) and Wiggle It Jiggleit (winner of the Max Hempt at Pocono).

As is generally known, the Wiggler started early this season, easily breezed through some springtime M'lands sophomore tune-ups, and won an Indiana Sire Stake at Hoosier Park over a nice horse named Freaky Feet Pete after having uncorked a freaky 1:49 overnight victory at the Harrington, Delaware HALF-MILE TRACK.

His true arrival, to these eyes, was, ironically, his first career defeat, an excellent second-place finish to Wakizashi Hanover in the NAC.

Then it was a win in the Max Hempt at Pocono, over "grade one" competition, and the Meadowlands Pace score.

(Of note, joining the big four as a fifth is M'lands Pace runner-up Dude's The Man, who followed that big effort with a win in the recent Adios at The Meadows.)

Next up for Wiggle It Jiggleit is this week's Cane Pace at the M'lands - Cane Pace at Meadowlands? Yup - on Hambletonian Day.

All the divisional heavyweights, with the exception of Wakizashi Hanover, will be there.

No wiggling around, and no Monkee business, but it could be a step closer to immortality for Wiggle It Jiggleit, if he wins on the closely watched - by everyone in the harness sport - Hambletonian Day card.

Notes ... Wiggle It Jiggleit is owned by George Teague Jr. Inc. of Delaware, officially trained by Teague sideman Clyde Francis, and is capably driven by George's son, Montrell Teague. Co-breeder is former trainer-driver Jimmy Bernstein, once a mainstay at Monticello Raceway in the 1970s.

Wiggle It Jiggleit is a GELDING. If he survives the jump from 3YO to 4YO competition, and beyond that in susequent seasons, we could be seeing him on the racetrack for years to come.

Pictured below these words are several paddock-eye photos from Meadowlands Pace night.
One is Wiggle It Jiggleit, before the race, with groom "Big Mike" Taylor. Mike didn't come away with that nickname for no reason, by the way.

The next shot is Mike, who, post-race, seemed to have traded his horse for a soapy harness.

Next, retired driver Catello Manzi led the colts to post in a high-wheeled sulky. Hard to believe those things were once used in real competion.

Montrell steers the M'lands Pace winner to the wire, in a shot taken off a paddock TV monitor.

George and Montrell celebrate in the winners circle with track chairman Jeff Gural.

Finally, Montrell is interviewed by TV guy extraordinaire Robert Michael Heyden, aka Hollywood Bob.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Guest Hambletonian Day Card Analysis

Since Pacingguy asked for some help with his blog, I'm back again to try to make some sense of another great Hambo card.  My last Pick 3 experiment had it's moments but in the end, a wild night of multiple longshots did me in early in the card.  Hopefully this Saturday, things won't get too out of control....fingers crossed.

 As a result, I've decided to go in an easier route by naming my "horse to beat" (or htb) and my "price special" (or ps) in each race.  Maybe a good longshot or two will help your day be successful...I hope so.

Race 1:  What a great/tough race to open the card with.  My htb is going to be Odds On Equuleus, yes, I know Andy Miller is driving (this might be his only chance to win a race on Hambo day) but, a change in tactics probably cost him the race last week.  Knowing that speed usually carries really well on Hambo day, I'm willing to give him another shot.  My ps has to be Capozzo.  His last race at the M was stellar beating a lesser group.  Not only did he get a new lifetime mark, he showed to me some class that had been missing in the past.

Race 2:  You know how temperamental young trotters can be so I find myself going against my better judgement by saying Broadway Donna is the horse to beat.  Her elimination was freaky good.  Not only did she look great, her breeding has superstar written all over it.  My ps is as easy as naming the horse above the horse to beat, watch out for Sunset Glider.  Blocked with a ton, Yannick had no choice but to sit chilly in the stretch, looking for a seam that never appeared.  No doubt, he is looking forward to getting a better trip Saturday.

Race 3:  I have to take a flyer htb this race, Sandbetweenurtoes.  I think the added distance won't hurt.  Sandy got a curious steer by Brett, by not going forward at the start, her best asset, speed, was compromised.  I'm hoping Brett gets more involve early without getting shuffled out of the race.  Talk about bad luck, poor Venus Delight has been snake bitten by either a bad post or a bad DQ in the last few races I've seen her race.  Will Jason get a better trip this time than his previous try here?  Who knows, I know it can't be much worse.

Race 4:  Not sure where to go in this race since the top 3 last week were separated by a neck.  Since the horse I played last week, Doo Wop Hanover, got his normal first over try and just missed, I have to go back.  Expect a lot of movement and a great race.  There's new kid on the block this race and that's who I'm using as my ps, Somewhere In L A.  The Meadows shipper was razor sharp in a race the winner was on a speed mission and almost got caught by the pocket sitting Somewhere.  Check out the last half, 54.2, nothing shabby there.

Race 5:  Kudos to the connections of the Elitloppet winner for bringing Magic Tonight over to race.  Is he ready to beat our best?  Impossible to say.  Can he beat these on his best?  Absolutely, question is, how cranked is he?  I expect a big effort regardless.  I'm taking Intimidate as my ps, his acclimating mile was perfect, just the trip he likes.  Coming off cover and sprinting home.  Let's hope he's much tighter.

Race 6:  Of course, the race revolves around Bee A Magician.  She beat the boys last time here so why not beat the ladies?  Another foreign import adds to the equation but the post won't help.  I'm taking Shake It Cerry for a price.  Yes, the post sucks but Shake It hasn't had a great trip in quite some time.  Being in the second tier might be a benefit since she won't be able to use her speed once the gate closes. 

Race 7:  Here's a shocker, Southwind Frank is only 8-5 on the morning line.  I thought 4-5 might be closer to his odds but if you can get 8-5, take it.  His only blemish was with Kakaley driving so we toss that race out.  Yannick is staring at the 2yo trotting double.  The other Southwind is the ps.  I surely don't have a lot on confidence in this one but he didn't have some traffic issues in his elim.  Not sure he can overcome his post but he will be a large price.

Race 8:  Oh boy, this should be interesting.  Both Takter horses have to leave for position so who knows how that's going to work out (remember Father Patrick)?  I'm kind of surprised Jimmy didn't stick with The Bank although I'm a fan of both horses.  Since Jimmy gave up his drive on The Bank, that's who I'm going to take.  The Bank should get the best trip of the three...maybe?  Can The Bank also be my ps?  Sure, why not.  Nothing else is jumping off the page.

Race 9:  Speaking of interesting, it's the lady against the boys, in a rare match up.  Is she good enough?  You know Yannick will have her winging early.  It's her race to win or lose for sure.  Want a real flyer?  Cruzado Dela Noche showed real promise at 2 but obviously has issues.  If they have the trotting hobbles measured correctly, the other Cruz could be heard from.

Race 10:  Here's a curious race, half don't belong in a race for 75k but I see why they are entered.  Nobody deserves great praise so I'll say Etruscan Hanover is the horse htb...who?  Duplicate his last race and he's right there.  No reason he can't get a trip from his post.  How about Il Sogno Dream as the ps?  This is definitely an easier group than his last visit.  Here's hoping the outside posts take their toll.

Race 11:  How do you beat Wiggle It?  Only if 3 weeks is too long of a break (laughing).  My ps has to be Dealt A Winner.  His last two will assure a decent price to help the vertical wagers.  The race three back was excellent.

Race 12:  Can you say trouble?  The race sure does look like a speed fest.  I'm not sold on Wild Honey this year so I'll try Lock Down Lindy.  Her last race put her on the map big time.  Can she do it again?  I know Tim will be trying hard for his pal Tony A.  My price special has to be Rules Of The Road.  Although the race two back was against much lesser, the speed was there.  She definitely has to be better than last week.

Race 14:  Has there been a more inconsistent bunch this year than 3yo pacing fillies?  Nobody wants to win two races in a row so why start now.  Using that logic, I'm going with Stacia Hanover as the htb.  Either she's cutting the mile in too quick of fractions or too far back to make an impact late.  Here's hoping for a nice second over trip...please.  My ps is Divine Caroline.  Another horse with big expectations that hasn't quite panned out.  She has her favorite driver back so that might help.

Race 15:  If your still watching, the Townsend Ackerman divisions are always intriguing.  This race winner could boil down to two horses that haven't raced much this year.  One is 20-1 and the other is 4-1.  I think both will get bet heavier than their odds imply.  I'll leave this race up to you...both have a right to improve off the layoffs.

Race 16:  Finally, nothing like a nice 12 horse field to finish the long day with.  Don't forget to save some cash for the mandatory payoff High 5.  Too bad I can't move some drivers around.  Maybe that explains the morning line.  How can a horse that just ran 49 flat be 8-1 on the line?  Yes, he's jumping up in class but he's not in that tough.  I've been a fan of My Name Is Sam since the winter so why change now.  Go Sam is the htb...sort of.  If you want a horse to spice up the High 5, it has to be Scalped.  He left hard from the 9 hole and got shuffled enough to have traffic issues in the stretch.  The added distance and jump in class might be too much but I see what I saw.

Good luck with all your wagers.  Hopefully Pacingguy will be able to make it there this year, I wish I could join him.