For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Curtain Coming Down on Balmoral and Maywood Parks?

No need to worry about the bankruptcy of Balmoral and Maywood Parks as the IRB has awarded all racing dates for Chicago to Arlington International Racecourse and Hawthorne Racetrack.  While Hawthorne will have thoroughbred meet, there will be a short harness meet from January 6 - February 6 and a longer meet from May 1 thru August 31.  

Hawthorne last raced trotters back in the winter of 2008 and had asked for dates for several years afterwards only to be denied racing dates in favor of Balmoral and Maywood.  This decision is now a reversal of that policy, no doubt the bankruptcy of the current harness tracks playing a factor.  The IRB may have thought with all the OTW fees going to the two surviving tracks, they will be in better financial condition to survive the lean days which are racing in Illinois.

So where does this leave Chicago harness horsemen?  Roughly the same number of race days will take place but instead of two days of racing each week, it will be consolidated in a smaller period of time (5 days a week) for a total of 128 to 117 days depending on what happens with the Springfield and Duquoin meets).  You can look at it as half empty or half full.  With racing being condensed, Illinois horsemen will be free to race elsewhere during the dark period.

Was it time to pull the plug on Balmoral and Maywood Parks?  Look at it this way, the horsemen apparently didn't voice any preference regarding the two plans presented.  Don't get me wrong, the two tracks will be missed with all the history behind them.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Something to Grow On

Last night the first pari-mutuel RUS race was conducted at Mohawk Racetrack.  A field of eight, reduced by two scratches, met the starter to compete.

Apparently the method of riding used by Belgian Phillipe Maschaelle was what was needed to get Santo Domingo home first in 1:56.4, with a four length lead.  The combined handle for the second race was $62,621, the smallest handle on the twelve race card.

The handle can be explained by a lack of education.  When the on-screen talent say they don't know anything about this type of racing you are looking at trouble.  In addition, looking at the program it was challenging to handicap as some horses showed only a single RUS line a few starts back so while the horses have competed more frequently, the information was not accessible.  Despite these issues, it is reported WEG management was pleased with the effort.

It certainly would have been more helpful if the RUS schedule had more races during the season so horses would have shown more such races in the program.  Also, the program needs to be improved to show a horse's record racing under saddle so even with few RUS lines in the program, a handicapper would have a better idea of a horse's ability.

Lastly, nothing like familiarity will give handicappers the confidence to wager more.  This can only be done by having more under saddle events at WEG tracks (this applies for all tracks).  It would also be helpful to have conditioned RUS events so the races will be more even, thus providing handicapping challenges which translate into higher payoffs.

Hence, last night's race was not an end, but only a beginning, something to build on.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Jug for the Ages; Meadowlands Changing Scheduling

Wiggle It Jiggleit won one of the most exciting Little Brown Jug finals, beating Lost for Words in an epic battle in 1:49.3 racing on the outside the entire mile, losing ground in the stretch and then coming back to nip the second place finisher at the wire.

The Meadowlands will be eliminating Thursday night racing and many if not all of the winter late closing events will be cancelled.  The lost Thursday nights will be replaced with weekend racing in September.

The loss of Thursdays may strengthen the weekend cards but it also cuts expenses which is  another reason the winter late closing series will be seeing the axe this year.  True, these races tended to be poor wagering events which meant offering these late closing events was not a good use of money; money which can be used to support or increase the purses for overnight races.

As for trying to move legs of the Graduate Series to non-Gural tracks in addition to eliminating some 'Grand Circuit-type' races.  The reason for this is supposedly due to the Meadowlands hosting the Breeders Crown this coming year and while this is true, conserving purse account funds for overnight races is a benefit of such a move.  Unless slots come to the Meadowlands or business improves, one has to wonder if the Meadowlands is slowly becoming like many tracks; racing primarily overnights.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Post Jug Notes

Yesterday in Delaware, Ohio 46,721 fans saw what some are labeling the best Jug in the 70 year history of the race. That’s up for debate, although while some cling to the 1993 edition in which Life Sign, Riyadh and Presidential Ball duked it out, it’s not easy to argue against Wiggle It Jiggleit’s triumph; he was at the throat of leader Lost For Words much of the mile and snatched victory from what appeared to be sure defeat at the top of the stretch. He won his elimination in 1:49.2 and the final in one tick more. The former equaled the stakes record and set a track record for sophomore geldings.

The last couple of Jugs have been won by sons of SBSW and Bettor’s Delight. This is the norm; this is what is expected. Wiggle is one of eight registered foals from the first tiny crop of the Badlands Hanover stallion Mr Wiggles. The latter moved to Ohio in 2012, where he produced 11 registered foals. Then he moved on to Delaware. There were only two of them in 2013. Mr Wiggles is the most obscure, under- utilized stallion to ever sire a Jug winner.

Wiggle had been off a month—since winning the Battle Of Brandywine at Pocono on August 22—so his earnings lead over Pinkman on the all horse money list had dwindled to less than a thousand dollars. But with yesterday’s win his lead is back up to more than $282,000. The most highly decorated trotter of 2015 has wins in the Hambletonian, CTC, Dancer and Beal—plenty to guarantee HOY honors most years. However, regardless of what Pinkman does in the Kentucky Futurity and the BC, it’s hard to imagine him wrestling top honors from Wiggle.

Second place finisher Lost For Words is fifth in his division in dollars, behind Wiggle, Waki, Dude’s The Man and Artspeak. Although he has five wins, none are of the high profile open variety. He’s been very good in the PASS. The son of Well Said has made the board in 12 of 13 2015 starts. He isn’t staked to the Tattersalls Pace, but he is eligible to the Bluegrass, BC and Monument Circle, all in October.

Mr Right Hanover, a freshman SBSW colt, won the first split of the Standardbred wire to wire in 1:53.4 at 1/5 for Brian Brown, who purchased him at Harness Breeders for $40,000. Dave Palone drove. It was his 47th win at Delaware.

Brown came back two races later with another $40,000 buy from the same sale, Spider Man Hanover, who seemed to sleep-pace to a world record 1:51.4 in the second split of the Standardbred for Dave Miller. This colt was favored in the $350,000 PASS final, but his paternal brother Ideal Jimmy beat him. And Ideal Jimmy was a beaten 1/9 favorite in a split of the Liberty Bell at Harrah’s yesterday afternoon by a third Western Ideal colt, JJ Flynn, driven by George Nap. The Western Ideals are thriving in Pennsylvania. It’s like they got out of prison—New Jersey. Artspeak is also by Western ideal.

French Laundry, who had only managed to eke out three wins this year represented the trotters with a dominant win in The Old Oaken Bucket. Gingras backed the second quarter down to 29.2 and that was that. Still, he managed to set a world record of 1:54.1 for a sophomore trotting colt over a half—stripping Archangel of that record in the process. The son of Muscles Yankee paid a generous $3.80. Speaking of Muscles, he has only seven yearlings to sell from his one-year stint in Pennsylvania. Four of them are available at the Lexington sale.

In the other high profile trot on the Jug card, the seven-year-old Windsong’s Legacy mare, Bax Of Life, came from off to win the $100,000 Miss V final at 32/1 for Gingras. Last year’s winner Classic Martine made the mile, backing down the middle half. There was no obvious excuse for her second place finish.

It’s a shame that Gary Seibel and Dave Brower, who did a very good job on the CBS broadcast of the Jug, spend most of their time in what is now harness racing Siberia—California. Heather and Justin were also good.

It never seems to work out the way we expect it to, but if Wiggle, Miki, Waki and Pete move into the aged ranks next year, they will lord it over most of the pretenders and raced out horses that make up this year’s FFA division. Always B Miki won his Red Mile qualifier by ten in 48.2 this morning. That equaled Shark Gesture’s world record for a qualifier set in June of 2010. Warrawee Needy Q in 49.2 in the spring of his sophomore season, which set a Canadian record. Not sure if that mark has been eclipsed.

Delaware invader Purrfect Bags, who won the Lismore and the Lady Maud, has been accorded the 2/1 favorites role in tonight’s F&M pace at Hoosier Park. Tim Tetrick drives. BAM is the 8/5 choice in the Centaur, from the 9 post for David Miller tomorrow. Last year’s winner, Master Of Law, is the lukewarm second choice from the ten for Brett Miller. Hometown hero Natural Herbie is 8/1.

Headed into the Lexington meet Gingras is more than a million dollars up on second place Tim Tetrick. George Nap is only 15 wins back of second place Ronnie Wrenn Jr in the dash contest, but he’s $2.1 million ahead of Wrenn in the money race.

Krispy Apple moved over to Pocono Downs today for the F&M open. It only goes for 30K, as opposed to 48K at Yonkers, where she raced in eight of her last nine starts. However she did draw the six: KA has been handicapped with the 7 or 8 in 7 of her last 8 starts at the NY half miler. She overcame it all, winning five of those races and finishing second twice. She’s number four in her division with $277,000 in 2015. That’s more than Foiled Again has earned. Alas, moving in to the 6 post didn’t get the job done as the Well Said mare Lucy’s Pearl caught up to the 1/5 shot.

Joe FitzGerald

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Harlequin Invitational Analysis

The field has been drawn and a rider change has been made for the inaugural Harlequin Invitational at Mohawk Racetrack this Saturday night.  The event has a purse of $10,000 and drew a full field of ten.

Here is my analysis of the race which goes as the second race on the evening's card.  Handicappers participating in HANA Harness' Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge have also made some selections for the tilt.  Remember as most tracks and ADWs carry Mohawk Racetrack some Americans are getting their first chance to wager on the under saddle event.  A worthwhile puzzle to take a chance on.  Program pages are available here.

Saturday - Mohawk 2nd TROT - $10,000; Harlequin Invitational RUS

  1 - Cool Creek Valley (Smura, 15-1) - Shows two breaks in most recent RUS outings, including a lap-on-break on July 24 at Grand River Raceway.  Rider switched to #9.  Doesn't look like a winner but with racing luck may get into exotics.

  2 - Twin B Excalibur (Harms, 15-1) - Found his level in $4K claimers.  Sole RUS line on program at Sarnia was a non-threatening fourth.  Not one I can recommend.

  3 - Hidden Identity (Enberg, 3-1) - Made seasonal RUS debut at Hiawatha Horse Park on September 12 with a near miss.  Definite threat off confidence builder.

  4 - A Penny Earned (Reese, 6-1) - American invader racing in top class at Vernon Downs.  Considering dominating qualifiers, his last RUS start is a puzzler.  Must get away first to have a chance.  Can't ignore.

  5 - Santo Domingo (Masschaele, 5-2) - Gets the French master in the saddle.  However, didn't do much with Rekila, can this rider improve him enough to win?  Tossing at these odds.

  6 - Funny Photo (Engerran, 12-1) - Second American entrant broke in Sarnia debut but performs relatively well in the morning.  If horse can race flat, may be able to get into exotics.   

  7 - Wine Photo (Town, 7-1) - Just missed in 1:59.4 tilt at Georgian Downs and retains the services of rider with a URR of .500.  Has excuse in last two, this one may take it at a price..

  8 -  Broadway Prince (Werder, 8-1) - Werder returns to North America looking to rein in running habit of late under saddle.  Don't think rider change alone will reverse fortunes.

  9 -  Radical Dreamer (Valstad, 15-1) - Not finishing miles.  Needs slower pace but don't see it happening here.

10 - Ale Ale Jandro (Kennedy, 10-1) - Two solid efforts under saddle.  Draws the worst here but if others go jumping, son of Amigo Hall may be the one to pick up the pieces.  Use in exotics.

Selections: (7) WINE PHOTO - (3) - HIDDEN IDENTITY - (4) A PENNY EARNED - (10) - ALE ALE JANDRO 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Notes

The most impressive winner at Delaware on Wednesday was Brian Brown’s 2YO Western Terror filly, Tipton Teez, who overcame the overland trip from hell and won The Standardbred for Yannick Gingras. She won in 55.3 at odds of 2/1.

Western Terror was the highest volume seller at Lexington Selected a year ago, but it was an exercise in futility as 41 brought a very soft average of $15,146. Tipton Teez was purchased there for $20,000. Her granddam is the Big Towner millionaire, Sweet Reflection, who won a Dan Patch at three, after winning the BC, Tarport Hap and Bronx Filly. Tipton Teez’s dam Finest Arts is a three-quarter sister to Whosurboy.

The Burke Barn took both Jugette eliminations, with Bettor N Better and Sassa Hanover, and wound up with the one, two and three posts in the final—Southwind Roulette was the third member of the trio. Sassa wired the field for Matt Kakaley, and Southwind Roulette was second. The winning driver was ecstatic. It was reminiscent of his first major stakes win with All Bets Off in the Rooney 16 months ago. Southwind Roulette, who won five times and earned 300K at two, is winless in 12 starts.

Weekend Preview, which was released a few hours before the race, carried some prescient quotes from Brett Miller about how he has won plenty of races from off the pace at Delaware, so he wasn’t too concerned about Revenge Shark drawing the seven in the second Jug elimination. That came to pass in the second split of the Buckette, when Jimmy Takter’s back bencher, the Credit Winner filly Speak To Me, came from fifth at the top of the stretch to win on the far outside at 13/1. Brett knows Delaware.

Aaaron Merriman, who left the afternoon 19 up on Ronnie Wrenn Jr in the dash contest, won the first $49,000 division of the Ohio Championship for freshman trotting fillies with Chris Beaver’s wire to wire specialist Kestral, a daughter of Triumphant Caviar. And he won the first division of the Buckette with the Andover Hall filly, Classical Annie. Beaver also won another split of the Ohio Breeders Championship with the Pilgrims Taj filly Evanora. Ryan Stahl drove her. Gingras won the Standardbred and a Jugette elimination.


It will be a big night at Hoosier Park on Saturday, and for a change the card won’t be full of those tedious ISS races. Creampuff crusher Freaky Feet Pete moves out into the unrestricted world in the Jenna’s Beach Boy, where he’ll take on North America Cup winner Wakizashi Hanover. The son of Rockin Image has won 18 races in two years, but most of them have been against hapless state bred punching bags. He drew the nine, to the six for Waki. That’s good; let him deal with a little adversity for a change. Always B Miki came out of that program and wowed everyone in Lexington. Let’s see if Pete can do the same. There are a lot of filler horses in the Jenna’s.

Natural Herbie and Creatine were announced as the US representatives to the million dollar Yonkers International earlier in the week. Creatine has been lighting it up in Europe, but Herbie has not had a good year. He has three less than consequential wins and 150K in earnings. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall flat on his face in Saturday’s Centaur Trot. He leaves from the six with Verlin Yoder.

David Miller will steer Maple Leaf winner Bee A Magician, from the nine post. Regular driver Brian Sears will stay at Yonkers, where he has nine drives, includng three in the $225,000 NYSS championship round.

Master Of Law, last year’s Centaur winner, at 21/1 for trainer Jimmy Takter, drew the ten and will be driven by Brett Miller.

The Elevation, in which JK End beat Miki two years ago and ARNRD and Sweet Lou took splits in 2011, has drawn three each from the Burke and Alagna barns and a pair from Erv Miller.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Field for the Inaugural Harlequin Invitation Has Been Drawn

The field has been drawn for the first Harlequin Invitational at Mohawk Racetrack for Saturday night.  Here is the field.

2 -- Trot, purse $10,000 (EX, P3, SU, TR)
Post time: 07:45 P.M.         Lasix: 03:30 P.M.          Horses Entered: 10
   1 Cool Creek Valley=(L)              M Valstad           N Harding                                    
   2 Twin B Excalibur                   E Harms             R Fulmer                                     
   3 Hidden Identity(L)                 T Enberg            Pa Hudon                                     
   4 A Penny Earned(L)                  H Reese             G Ducharme                                   
   5 Santo Domingo                      P Masschaele        M Guitard                                    
   6 Funny Photo=(L)                    S Engerran          A Gardner                                    
   7 Wine Photo=                        S Town              E Billings                                   
   8 Broadway Prince                    S Werder            P Henriksen                                  
   9 Radical Dreamer                    M Valstad           R Oneill                                     
  10 Ale Ale Jandro=                    B Kennedy           J Tropea                                     

Representing the United States are A Penny Earned and Funny Photo.  Santo Domingo and Broadway Prince get the services of European monte riders.

Program pages will be available on the Mohawk Racetrack website once available.  Get in on the action.

RUS Racing at Mohawk this Saturday in the $10,000 Harlequin Invitational

This Saturday, Mohawk Raceway will be hosting the first Harlequin Invitational for RUS Trotters.  The $10,000 Haarlequin will also represent another first; the first parimutuel RUS event at any WEG track.  RUSOntario explains why the race is being called the Harlequin Invitational. 

While not a multi-national event as the Yonkers International, the Harlequin has an international flavor.  Due to the holding pattern of racing under saddle in the United States, a couple of American trotters have been invited to compete and will be heading north of the border to do battle against Ontario's best.  

Racing at Hiawatha Horse Park on September 12, the Americans failed to hit the board, perhaps due to being assigned posts 5-7 in the handicapped event.  With the Harlequin Invitational being an open draw, the American participants are hoping for a better outcome this time around.

Also giving the contest an international flavor are two European riders who are scheduled to compete in the event as Sweden's Stephanie Werder and France's Philippe Masschaele are expected to ride in the invitational. 

With most tracks and ADWs taking Mohawk's signal, for many American punters this will be the first time the opportunity exists to wager on a racing under saddle contest.  Not only will a strong handle show Woodbine Entertainment executives and others in Canada there is an appetite for parimutuel RUS racing on a regular basis, it may also help convince American racing officials to take a serious look at changing state laws/regulations to allow parimutuel racing in states with traditional standardbred racing.

The field for the $10,000 event is being drawn this morning and the field will be announced later in the day.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Post Position Blues

I saw the following tweet on Twitter.

Saw a tweet that the avg. win mutuel for the 5 stakes and 2 elims last night at Mohawk was $3.90. That's hideous. IMO we have really hurt the product with this elim winners picking posts for the final thing.
From a horsemen's perspective I certainly understand it, but to me it has absolutely ruined finals because the best horses ALWAYS have the best posts too - nobody from the outside leaves because they're justifiably afraid of getting parked, which causes lineup races with the best horses always on the lead, pocketed, or second-over and they rarely have to work to get in those positions as well.

Look, at the Maple Leaf Trot last night - going for 680k the only leaver was JL Cruze, the rest of the field lined up in pp order.

Maybe even on the outside, the winners of these races would have prevailed but make no mistake, the lack of an open draw for finals is anti-consumer (i.e., anti-gambler).  Yes, the latest iteration of rewarding winners of eliminations have them drawing for post positions 1-5 before the rest go into an open draw, but are they more deserving of avoiding the outside posts as the horse who starts from the 8 hole on a half mile track and finishes 3rd in an elimination?

In a generic stake final, Horse A is 3-5 from post position 3 as a result of winning their elimination.  If in a 'true' open draw, Horse A may be 5-2 if from post 8.   That may not seem much, but a $7 payoff beats a $3.20 dividend.  Earlier I called the lack of an open draw as being anti-consumer.  Isn't suppressing the odds of an elimination winner unfair to the gambler?  Can't this be one of the reasons why people avoid harness racing and go for slots?

Low payoffs are part of horse racing, regardless of breed.  While I understand owners of winning horses want preferential treatment at the post position draw, it goes against the desire of punters to get a better payoff.

In keeping with the theme of the Little Brown Jug, how many more Jugs would have gone to a race-off if there was an open draw for the final?  Now, I don't like race-offs (i.e. a 3rd heat), a race like the Jug should have the winner of the second heat or best in summary being declared the winner of the Jug.  I use this to show how gamblers would have better payoffs when backing elimination winners or any other horse in the race.

Everyday, the rise and fortune of horses goes up and down based on the post position draw.  By not using an open draw, the fortunes of all eliminations losers is automatically lower before the pills are pulled.

We know preferential post positions in races with eliminations is thought to be a way to ensure fairer racing in eliminations.  The fact is elimination races is the bane to harness racing.  The sport would be better off by dropping eliminations in favor of stake races where the race is restricted to the highest earners or even points earned in specified races with lower earnings or point earners racing in consolations.  We are seeing more races for horses with the highest earnings; perhaps the transition is occurring.  It can't come soon enough.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday's Notes

Burke has been keeping Joe Bongiorno busy all summer. Saturday night he came up the inside with Dynamic Youth and held off Dan Patch winner JK Endofanera in 1:49 in the Pocono Downs open. The 6 YO Bettor’s Delight gelding has three wins in five starts since joining the Burke Barn, including two Yonkers opens. The Cane is his only open stakes win, but with an initial boost from the NYSS, he recently became a millionaire.

Another six-year-old, Daylon Miracle, crushed the boys in the open trot at the Downs, coming first over in a speedy 1:50.3 for the Allard brothers. She’s pretty much a one off in NA for her 17 YO SJs Photo stallion. He stood in Ohio and Ontario, with his last small crop of 18 coming in 2011.


Penji Hanover, who was second in his Cup elimination, but left into a 53.3 half in the final and got parked first over all the way to Death Valley, was very impressive in winning a $50,000 NYSS consolation at Vernon Downs on Saturday for Jim Morrill Jr. He drew off by six in 49.4 at 2/5. That was only his second win of the season, but it bodes well for the future.

Paternal brother Cartoon Daddy, who won a split of the Bluegrass last year and earned almost $300,000 in the NYSS, winning the sire stakes final, didn’t fare so well; he finished ninth, 31 lengths back, for Ron Burke.

Bettor’s Delight had a very good night at Vernon, as the 3 YO filly Hey Kobe won a $45,000 Excelsior A final in 51.2 for Matt Kakaley and the Drolets; another sophomore filly, Luck Be A Lindy, took a $50,000 consolation for Jeff Gregory; and the 3 YO gelding Masterson won an Excelsior A final for Morrill. The latter had three high dollar wins on the night.


They sold 37 fewer head at Sunday’s Canadian Yearling Sale at Flamboro Downs—118 as opposed to 155 last year—but the average was up a staggering 69.4%. Those 155 yearlings averaged $12,614 a year ago this week, but $21,370 on Sunday. There was only one for sale by Vintage Master, the first crop sire of Thatsoveryverynice. There are only 17 in the crop selling this year. And there were only a couple by Big Jim. There are 41 registered to the crop currently selling.

The five sold by Sportswriter averaged $31,500, while the eight Shadow Plays averaged $30,125. The star of the sale, Kadabra, averaged $40,000 for seven sold. A pair by Warrawee Needy went through the sale, one, a filly, for $50,000. There was also a colt by Daylon Magician sold.


Out of town drivers took all five of the Grand Circuit stakes at Mohawk on Saturday night—with Gingras winning three, and Sears and Tetrick one apiece. Burke won two; Takter, Alagna and Norman each one each.

Mission Brief gets the absolutely nasty award for her five length win in the Elegantimage, with Gingras taking a wake me up when it’s over catnap in the bike. Burke’s other stakes winner, Southwind Frank, was also very impressive. Wild Honey wasn’t going to beat Mission Brief under any circumstances—except a break—but she overcame the trip from hell in reign to Campbell to finish second. The undersized Cantab Hall miss is one tough customer.

Sears swung McWicked wide very late in the preferred at Mohawk Saturday and he paced enough to finish second. Maybe he’s coming around. Last year’s division champ didn’t start until the end of July and he’s now zero for six.

JL Cruze finished last in the Maple Leaf. He hasn’t made the board in his three starts since beating his fellow four-year-olds in the Hambo Maturity in late July. Crazed had an opportunity for a major breakthrough with Crazy Wow, JL Cruze and Gural Hanover, but it hasn’t happened.


With wins in the Wellwood, CTC and Elegantimage on Saturday, and five wins, including a split of the Liberty Bell at Harrah’s Sunday, Yannick Gingras has passed the $9 million mark. He needs $8.2 million in the next 16 weeks to match last year’s record total.

Ron Burke is up over $17 million. He needs more than $11 million to match last year’s record haul. Jimmy Takter is past the $8 million mark on only 561 starts.

Joe FitzGerald

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Jugette

The brain trust in Delaware, Ohio forgot to include Empire Classic winner Mosquito Blue Chip in the mix when they drew for the Jugette, so they rebooted, this time with a dozen fillies. Ron Burke, who has four entered, got screwed as he lost his rail positions with Bettor N Bettor and Band Of Angels, and wound up with both leaving from the three post. And Sassa Hanover, who originally drew the three in the first elimination, wound up with the six on the redraw.

The fact that only 12 fillies are entered in the Jugette is disappointing. There is no Peelers, Jewel, Nitelife or Put On A Show, in her prime, to scare folks away. I guess everyone’s too busy promoting their better fillies for beating up on the slow poke sire stakes competition and getting them ready for the Super Duper Gold Plated Sire Stakes Finals.

The Rocknroll Hanover filly, Wicked Little Minx, who starts in the first elimination for Brett Miller and Nancy J, is the only filly not bred in either New York or Pennsylvania. Six are from the former and five from the Keystone State—all by SBSW. We’re always hearing about how great the Ontario program is. Where are they? Must be resting up for the OSS Gold Series. But the next Gold leg is October 1 and the final is the 10th.

The Burke Barn entered four, while Delaware based Brian Brown has three going. Folks love to rip Burke for overloading fields, but where would the sport be without him? There would only be eight entered without Burke. Many races at B tracks, like the Quillen, Indiana Pacing Derby/Dan Patch, Molson and Battle Of Lake Erie would be hurting without his contribution of starters over the years. Gural recently passed one of his goofy rules to limit him, but it did more harm than good.

Last year 22 entered the Jugette, leading to a pair of seven horse eliminations and an eight. Burke had seven in and Brown three [including the winner], just like this year. Jimmy Takter and Casie Coleman, both of whom took a pass for 2015, had three and two entered, respectively.

The field was more eclectic, as there were five Ontario breds and a pair from Indiana. There were only three from New York, because their Night of Champions was four days before the Jugette. This year it was eleven days prior to the race. And of course, there were thirteen from Pennsylvania.

And the cherry on top was that the Always A Virgin filly, Color’s A Virgin, bred in Indiana, won the race. Let’s hope there are better results from the boys tomorrow.

Joe FitzGerald

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trump Hanover, Ponder, and Drivers 11 Through 20

Trump Hanover was a son of the Volomite stallion His Excellency and the Spencer Scott mare, Tulip Hanover. He was from the same crop as Scott Frost and Galophone. Trump was no sweetheart and had a tendency to bully the other colts after being weaned from his mama at Hanover. And while he never lived up to his overblown sense of self, Trump did earn a very respectable $43,945 on the circuit.

He won the American National at three, a race won in other years by Noble Victory, Diller Hanover, Speedy Count and Carlisle. And Hall of Famer Harry Pownall, who developed Stars Pride and Titan Hanover, time trialed the high stepping Trump in 2:00 as a four year old at Vernon Downs in July of 1956.

Trump took great pride in the fact that his sister Trisha was the granddam of fine Speedy Crown trotter Torway, who split the Hanover Colt Stakes pot with Kentucky Futurity winner Flak Bait at two, and also took a heat of the Hambletonian.


Ponder, who began his stallion career in Pennsylvania back in 2007, sells the first modest sized crop from his reboot in that state in 2015. Unfortunately his big guns are falling apart when he needs them to shine. Bolt The Duer was retired after injuring himself in May. Cup Winner Thinking Out Loud is winless in ten starts with $20,000 in 2015 earnings. He’ll try NW7500 again at Mohawk on Saturday, after finishing 8th last time. And Go Daddy Go, who was expected to contend on the top tier of the Grand Circuit and dominate the OSS, has proven to be a bust. He has one win in ten starts.

Speedball Bandolito is still chuggin along down in Delaware; He’s won nine times and has a respectable bankroll of $136,000. But fourteen-year-old Ponder isn’t getting much pub from him. Help!


Recently we looked at the stats for the top ten drivers on the earnings list and compared them to their stats from a calendar year ago. Today I’ll check out drivers eleven through twenty. Again, I’m comparing what they’ve done through this past Saturday, September 12, with what they did through September 12 of 2014.

Number eleven is dash leader Aaron Merriman. The peripatetic Merriman puts even Corey Callahan to shame: he already had 2914 drives through Saturday. But he’s slowing down, because that’s 309 short of his total through the same date in 2014. Despite fewer drives, his win total is up by 41. No wonder Wrenn can’t catch him. His bankroll is more than $722,000 fatter this year, while his UDRS has jumped from 0.310 to 0.333.

Jim Morrill Jr is at number 12, with many fewer drives than those ahead of him. His UDRS is second only to GNap in the top fifty. With forty wins in the NYSS, Morrill is more than a million up on the rest in that program—three times as much money as any other driver. In the overall scheme of things, he has driven in 165 more races than he had at this point last year, and he has three fewer wins. His money is up $1.3 million. New York—New York. His UDRS is down to an excellent 0.384 from a head turning 0.405.

Scott Zeron, number 13, has made 104 more starts this year and has 18 more wins. And has banked more than $710,000 more than he had last September. His UDRS is about the same at 0.247. Scott finished 2014 in 14th place.

Matt Kakaley is number 14, down from number 7 last September and number 8 at the close of 2014. He’s down 188 starts and 76 wins and his earnings are off more than a million dollars. His trainer of choice, Ron Burke, is still on top by a mile, but he’s well short of his record setting pace of 2014. Matt’s UDRS has fallen from 0.267 to 0.218.

Dave Palone, who was number 11 last September and finished up at number 13, is 15th. Dave has 375 fewer drives, 94 fewer wins and is more than $890,000 short of his total last September. His UDRS is at 0.370, down from 0.379.

Andy Miller, who missed several months in 2014 after a serious accident at Yonkers, occupies the 16 slot. He has 164 wins and has earned more than $3.8 million.

Tyler Buter, who finished 2014 at 41 and was number 42 a year ago this week, is way up at 17. He’s driven in 399 more races and has 81 more wins. He’s ahead of last September’s earnings by more than $1.8 million. Tyler’s UDRS is at 0.242, up from 0.213. The Yonkers Raceway factor plays a role here, but he’s having a breakout year nonetheless. The 29-year-old is the fifth leading driver at Yonkers.

Sylvain Filion, the only WEG based driver in the top 25, is number 18. He was at 17 this time last year and finished the year at 17. He has made 89 more starts this year and reached the winner’s circle 96 more times. His bank account is $441,000 larger. He’s clearly on his way to being a three time O’Brien winner.

Ronnie Wrenn Jr, who took the dash title the past two years, is number 19. He’s making solid strides in raising his earnings, as last year at this time he was back at 28. Through Saturday Wrenn had 36 fewer drives and 17 more wins. His earnings have increased by $985,000, thanks in no small part to the increased slots revenue and reinvigorated sire stakes program in Ohio.

And number 20 is Eric Carlson, the sixth leading driver at Yonkers. Carlson was 15th last September and finished 2014 in that slot. He has driven in 231 fewer races this year and has 48 fewer wins. He’s banked $119,000 less to this point in the season. Eric’s UDRS has dropped from 0.221 to 0.211.

Joe FitzGerald

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

RUS Invitational Coming to The Hawk - Yonkers Trot Bids Accepted

On Saturday, September 26, 2015, at Mohawk Racetrack, there will be a special racing under saddle event, The Harlquin (an RUS Invitational).  Not only will the race feature a field of invited trotters, a couple of riders from Europe, Philip Masschaele (France) and Stephanie Werder (Sweden) will be competing along with some American riders (specific riders to be determined).

If you are fortunate to live close enough to attend, you should make an effort to attend the races that evening which also include the Grassroot Finals of the Ontario Sires Stakes.  Not able to attend?  Any track or ADW which carries the signal will be offering wagering on the RUS event.

Mark your calendars and join in the fun.

Another event drawing international interest is the Yonkers International Trot which will be competed on Saturday afternoon, October 10.  Eight horses so far have committed to the event.  These are:

In addition to Bee A Magician (Magic Tonight has been withdrawn), the following seven horses will be crossing the Atlantic.

  • BBS Sugarlight (from Norway)
  • Oasis Bi (Italy)
  • On Track Piraten (Sweden)
  • Papagayo E (Norway)
  • Rod Stewart (Italy)
  • Seabiscuit (Finland)
  • Timoko (France)

Additional invitations will go out after this weekends racing action, including the Canadian Trotting Classic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Top Ten Drivers on the Money List

Here’s a comparison of what some of the top drivers have accomplished stat wise through September 13, 2015—this past Sunday—and what they’d done through September 12 of last year. The scheduling of several stakes, including the Maple Leaf Trot and other WEG stakes, has been changed, so this is obviously not a clean comparison.

Yannick Gingras is on top by a clear margin, just as he was last year at this point. However, he has 149 fewer drives and 88 fewer wins this year. And his bankroll is depressed by more than $1.8 million. Yannick’s UDRS was 0.380 last September; it is now 0.347.

David Miller moved up to number two after a good night at Scioto Saturday. Last year at this point he was fifth, and he finished in fourth. Unlike Gingras, Miller’s drive total is up by 229 starts, and he has 45 more wins. Miller is almost $1.4 million richer this year than last. His UDRS is about the same—0.274 as opposed to 0.271 last year.

Tim Tetrick, who finished second last year, and was second a year ago this week, is in third. He has just two fewer drives than last year, and 27 fewer wins. His bank account is almost $245,000 lighter than it was in 2014. Tim’s UDRS is down to 0.297 from 0.322.

Jason Bartlett, who topped the list until summer, is currently in fourth. He was in ninth at this point in 2014. Jason has 18 more wins on 34 more drives. His money is way up; he has more than $1.8 million more than last year. His UDRS is 0.349.

Brian Sears is in fifth. He was fourth last September and finished the year in fifth. His drives are down by 172 and he has 60 fewer wins. Still, his money is up almost $410,000. Brian’s UDRS was 0.342 last September; it is now 0.329.

Ron Pierce was third last September, and finished there. The way his drives have been divided up has obviously had an impact on the field.

Corey Callahan, who was sixth a year ago and finished there, is consistent if nothing else. He’s in sixth. A high volume driver, he has 46 more starts than last September, and $1.3 million more in earnings on 88 more wins. His UDRS is up from 0.285 to 0.323.

George Napolitano, who was twelfth last September and finished the year in eleventh, is now in seventh place. He has 77 more wins on only three more drives. And his bank account is $848,000 bigger. GNap’s UDRS is up to 0.390, the highest in the top 50, from 0.342 last September.

Dan Dube, who was smoking hot for the first third of the year, is now in eighth place on the money list. He was way back at twenty last September, and finished 2014 at 21. Dube had driven in 129 more races and has an eye opening 93 more wins. His bankroll is a commensurate $2.3 million larger than a year ago. His UDRS is up to 0.269 from 0.214.

Yonkers mainstay George Brennan is in ninth, one spot ahead of where he was a year ago and where he finished 2014. He’s driven in 124 fewer races and has 51 fewer wins. Although his earnings are up more than $164,000. Brennan’s UDRS is 0.272, down from 0.289. The four  Yonkers regulars—Bartlett, Sears, Dube and Brennan—are all showing increased earnings.

And number ten on the list at mid-September is Brett Miller, who was eighth a year ago and finished 2014 in ninth. Miller has driven in 477 fewer races and has 94 fewer wins. His earnings are off almost $430,000. Brett’s UDRS of 0.241 is very close to that of last year.

Joe FitzGerald

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday's Notes

Wiggle It Jiggleit qualifies Tuesday morning at Harrah’s in anticipation of his start in the Jug, a week from Thursday.

The aged pacing mares have seemingly been in the witness protection program all season. Matchmaker winner Venus Delight still sits atop the money tree, followed by the venerable Anndrovette, Yagonnakissmeornot, Radar Contact and Yonkers regular, Krispy Apple. All of the above are staked to the Milton, which holds eliminations on Saturday. Rainbow retired earlier in the year; Stingin is also gone; and Rocklamation, who won the Milton in 2012 and 2013, hasn’t raced since the Lady Liberty on August 8.

Last year Voelz Hanover was a surprise winner of the Milton, paying $68.30. She has also been retired.

The four-year-old mares have been a big disappointment. The Art Official mare, Cinamony, who, along with Krispy Apple, has filled her bankroll in the Yonkers open, is the richest of the lot. She is not staked to the Milton. Lady Shadow, Colors A Virgin, Table Talk and Carolsideal are a few four-year-olds that are eligible.

There are only eleven days of racing left at Mohawk.

A look at the two-year-old stallion money list shows that Big Bad John (2nd) and Roll With Joe (8th) are the only first year stallions on the pacing index. While the Ohio first timer Triumphant Caviar (8th) is the only trotter to make the cut.

Joanne Looney-King has confirmed that Wakizashi Hanover will supplement to the Jenna’s Beach Boy, which is held at Hoosier Park two days after the Jug. Artspeak’s connections haven’t committed to the Jug yet. He is staked to the Jenna’s BB, so that’s available as an alternative. They raced Captain T at Hoosier in a special invitational instead of starting in the Jug.

Freaky Feet Pete is not staked to either the Jug or the Jenna’s. One would think he’d be supplemented to the latter, which calls for a relatively small fee. That’s his home track after all.

The $170,000 Nadia Lobell will be raced Wednesday at The Meadows. Burke has three entered: second choice Sassa Hanover from the rail; surprise winner of the Pennsylvania Championship, Safe From Terror; and Storm Point from the nine. Joe Holloway’s Valley Forge winner Bettor Be Steppin is the morning line choice from the two for Corey Callahan.

The Nadia, which has been around for 25 years, is the red headed step child of stakes races. Last year Colors A Virgin won it at Hoosier Park. In 2013 it was Shebestingin at The Meadowlands. It wasn’t held in 2012. The previous year Idyllic won at The Meadows, as she brought Peelers’ (Marcus J) 22 win streak to a screeching halt.

Joe FitzGerald

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Notes From the Second Weekend in September

Doctor Butch became a millionaire on Sunday, when the five-year-old won a WO25 from the rail at 3/5 at Harrah’s for Tim Tetrick. Butch became the 7th millionaire by Art Major in North America; there are also a couple Down Under: For A Reason and Sushi, Sushi. Art Official, JK End, Santanna Blue Chip, Hypnotic Blue Chip and Feel Like A Fool are the males; Handsoffmycookie is the only filly on this stretch of land.

Butch made quite a bit of his million in the NYSS. The Rooney, which he won as a $30,000 supplemental entry for George Brennan, is his only open stakes win. On the other hand, he earned almost $370,000 on the open circuit between last year and this.

He’s a complete horse, but it’s unlikely there would be much of a market for him as a stallion. Paternal brothers Art Official, Santanna Blue Chip and Hypnotic Blue Chip have all failed at that endeavor to this point.

David Miller, who won a pair of $225,000 Ohio Sire Stakes finals at Scioto on Saturday, jumped over Tim Tetrick and into the second spot on the driver’s money list. Yannick Gingras still has a $525,000 lead on him. And Jason Bartlett, who took a pair of NYSS Night Of Champions finals with Band Of Angels and Betting Exchange, plus a second with Wings Of Royalty, moved ahead of Brian Sears and into third place. Corey Callahan, who was hanging around second until a month ago, is now in sixth.

Jim Morrill Jr, who took the winter off, as usual, won NYSS finals with Habitat and Jewels In Hock. He’s in twelfth on the money list, with far fewer drives than those ahead of him. The smallest difference is 421 drives with Brian Sears; the largest is 1837 with Aaron Merriman—who has almost three times as many.

Yonkers Trot and Night Of Champions winner Habitat is the third NA based millionaire by Conway Hall. Windsong’s Legacy and Wishing Stone are the other two. The latter, a double millionaire, banked almost $660,000 racing in Europe.

Obrigado, who recently won the Crawford Farms, is fighting an uphill battle in his quest to garner an invitation to the Yonkers International. That was only an elimination round on Saturday, but his competitors for an invite, Resolve and Natural Herbie, both pulled off impressive wins. Yonkers would like to see Svanstedt and Yoder in the race. The latter won the International Preview last year. Obrigado needs a win, from the ten slot, in the Maple Leaf to be invited. Simply finishing ahead of the other two won’t get it done.

Roger Walmann apparently had no interest in getting D’One and Magic Tonight into the MLT final. What else are we to think? Someone as successful as he has been can’t be that clueless.

EL Titan might qualify as the saddest waste of a quality trotter that we’ve seen for a while.

Four horses from last week’s Top Ten Poll lost over the weekend: State Treasurer, JL Cruze, Bee A Magician and D’One. It was BAM’s 3rd consecutive loss—in an elimination, notwithstanding. And JL Cruze failed to make the board once again, after his stretch of R&R.

Pinkman, Mission Brief, Southwind Frank and Wakizashi Hanover were all impressive winners. They should move up in the poll, although I doubt that any of them will dislodge Wiggle, who has another week and a half off, from the top spot.  

Bettor’s Delight had a good day Saturday as LA Delight crushed the opposition in the Champlain and Betting Exchange won his class final in the NYSS for Jason Bartlett and Tom Fanning. Bob McIntosh sheepishly admitted that he didn’t think enough of the former to nominate her to the BC, and he apparently has no plans to go to Lexington. It will be a Gold and a Super Gold end to the season. Sire stakes racing has killed the Grand Circuit. She’ll be voted division champ in Canada off the two GC wins at Mohawk and all that OSS Gold, but let’s hope another filly steps up in Lexington and in the BC and takes the Dan Patch away from her.

Nine of the 20 starters in today’s three splits of the Liberty Bell at Harrah’s were by Well Said, and fiver were by SBSW. The latter had one win, but Well Said, despite his numbers advantage, was shut out. Trading Up was the SBSW winner. The Tony Alagna pupil went a strong mile for Scott Zeron in the first split. Pennsylvania castoffs, Dragon Again and McArdle, sired the other winners, Wakizashi Hanover and Allbeef N Nobull, respectively. Waki was the only Dragon Again, while there were four by McArdle.

After that stellar performance in the Simcoe Saturday night, Tony Alagna and the connections behind Artspeak will take a ration of shit a mile long if they fail to show up in Delaware, Ohio. Privileging some phony race in Indiana over the Jug, like the Captain did, would really draw the ire of the public. Not that they’re under any obligation to pay attention to that.

There were a few huge upsets on the sire stakes landscape over the weekend. Barn Doll, who came in to her New York final with ten wins in twelve starts and more money earned than any in her class, with the exception of Wild Honey and Mission Brief, lost to Jewels In Hock on a very nasty night at Yonkers. And the undefeated Triumphant Caviar pair, Kanthaka and Kestrel, were beaten at Scioto Downs.

Joe FitzGerald

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Time Out

"Sometimes in life you need to put the work you love aside to take care of the ones who took care of you". - Anonymous

Unfortunately, the time has come for me to face facts.  With an immediate family member in hospice and beginning the end-of-life process, much of my time has become consumed with taking care off their affairs and spending time with them.   I have been trying to keep everything going as if nothing has changed, but all I do is find myself burning the candle from both ends and being wiped out at the end of the day.  It is clear something has to give.

This is not a pity party.  Lord knows there are those who have it a lot worse than me.  Fortunately, I found a wonderful facility which is doing most of the hard work, but still, those who have traveled this journey with their loved ones know it still consumes most of your day, and takes a toll on you both emotionally and physically. 

 While I will not abandon the blog, it's time for a personal semi-hiatus; forced to cut back the amount of time I spend on the blog.  I will be posting, just not on the schedule you have become accustomed to.  How long will this semi-hiatus last?  I have no way to know, but my suspicion is it will be shorter than estimates, but it is something which will play out on its own.

Thankfully, Joe FitzGerald has and continues to fill the void by posting great columns related primarily to the breeding end of the business which is not my area of expertise so you get an insight you won't get from me.  Look for his continued contributions.

On occasion, Peter Lawrence steps up with interesting articles looking back into his past days in racing, back to his days on the Grand Circuit working with and meeting some of harness racing's greats

But my absence is an opportunity for you.  Is there a pet peeve you have about harness racing?  Something really great going on you want to talk about?  Is there a race where you feel the judges blew a call?  Here is your chance to get it off your chest.  Provided it is respectful nor slanderous or libelous, you may find your views expressed on the blog.  Anonymous postings will not be used and columns may be edited as appropriate.  You may submit your submissions via the comments section (they will not be posted).  Just make sure to provide your name and email address for verification purposes.  I look forward to reading your comments.

That's it for now.  I will return to full-time status as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A RUS Puzzle

It's no secret to regular readers of this blog that I like RUS.  The problem is one has to go north of the border to Ontario for parimutuel wagering on these events.  Admittedly, it has not been too hard to pick the winners of these events because the supply of horses available has been limited so you usually had the same horses competing against each other.

So this week's RUS event is a treat as the familiarity factor has been crushed as three American-based horses are making the trek to Sarnia, ON, more specifically Hiawatha Horse Park, for the final qualifying round prior to a major event at Mohawk Racetrack later in the month.  With the addition of these three horses into this week's handicapped event, not only do punters have a full field of eight heading to the gate; there is a little bit of uncertainty tossed in which hopefully will generate better rewards to those taking a stab.

Of course, for those of us back in the United States, your ability to participate is dependent on your ADW or track taking Hiawatha's signal. this Saturdaay  Those of us who don't have the ability to get the signal will need to be content to watch the race without wagering..

So let's take a look at the race, which may be found as part of the full racing card available from Hiawatha's website.

Saturday, September 12, 2015, SAR - Hiawatha Horse Park

4th RUS - $3,000;  Handicap

1- Twin B Excaliber (Evelyn Harms, 15-1) - Recent efforts at Leamington were fair..  First RUS event since since May.  Closed to finish 2nd at Clinton Raceway.  Returning to RUS and the rail a positive but still must be in top shape to win here.  An outsider.

2 - Radical Dreamer (Marit Valstead, 10-1) - Went to the front in last and hit the wall going fast fractions. A factor with more pedestrian fractions.  Worth a look at long at morning line odds.

3 - Ale Ale Jandro (Britt Kennedy, 8-1) - Finished third in last handicap in first start after victorious qualifier. Appears RUS is his game.

4 - Hidden Identity (T. Marielle Enberg, 5-1) - Returns to RUS after an extended period at Mohawk.  Gets big class drop here.  Been away from RUS for a while which may be a disadvantage.

5 - Glorious Winner (Jocelyn Gale, 4-1) - Vernon shipper has been racing credible on NY County Fair Circuit, Will have to step up big.  Not at these odds.

6 - Funny Photo (Sophie Eneggran, 5-2) -  On his way to victory before jumping off in stretch in last.  Shows 1:59 mark under saddle earlier.  If minds manner can be a legitimate contender.

7 - A Penny Earned (Heather Reese, 2-1) - Won a virtual official workout in last start.  Has been racing in higher class.  Based on overall class, appears to be a lock here.

8 - Tragically Shipp (Natalie Elliot, 8-5) - Racing summer under saddle including last RUS event.  Rider has been hottest on the circuit.  Can't ignore.

Selections: 7-8-3; Longshot - 2

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

(Not) Doing Their Job

I guess it is too much to ask people to do their jobs.   At Tioga Downs back in 2008, a trainer, groom, and a horse identifier allowed a horse who already raced on the day's card to go back out and race again.  One has to wonder how so many people couldn't figure out the horse came back for an unauthorized return engagement?  After all, isn't that why horses have tattoos, to avoid any such confusion?

While downright stupid, at least it didn't cost anyone or a horse its life.  This is not the case in the latest installment of 'Is it too much to ask to do your job?', as we learn Kiwi David Fenech has been handed a $2,000 (NZ) fine and a 9 month suspension regarding the death of standardbred Major Post.  How could this happen you may ask?  It seems Major Post had been sent to Mr. Fenech for a turnout and for reasons unknown was delivered to a slaughterhouse in place of another horse which was to be sent.

After trying to avoid telling the truth, the judges of HRNSW held a hearing on the case and handed down the previously mentioned fines.  While I am opposed to horse slaugher of any kind, to send the wrong horse off to its death is inexcusable.  If you are going to send a horse to slaughter, wouldn't you at last check the the tattoo of the horse to make sure you have the right one?

I guess it really is too much to ask someone to do their jobs these days.

However, in at least one instance someone did their job right only to be subject to criticism by a colleague.

So far, regarding the disqualification of the Jimmy Takter's two horses in the Yonkers Trot, most people are siding with Trond Smedshammer regarding his right to file an objection regarding the interference in the race, not leaving it up to the judges to decide if an infraction had occurred.  The latest to voice their opinion is scribe Jay Bergman of DRF Harness who takes Takter (not by name) to task for having problems with Smedshammer filing the objection.

Sadly,there does seem to be an unwritten rule that a driver will never file an objection against a fellow driver because next time it can be you on the other end wanting the same courtesy of silence.  These unspoken rules are a disservice to everyone involved in the game, be it the owner of the horse, the groom who may not get a bonus for their horse winning the race, and last but not least, the gambler who may not be given a fair shake by the driver for failing to point out a violation of racing rules to the judges who may have missed the infraction.

A driver's job doesn't start once the gate opens nor does it end with the horse crossing the finish line.  It is their responsibility to talk to the trainer (if available) before the race as well as talking to the owner and trainer after the race if desired.  More importantly, it is the driver's responsibility to represent the interests of the trainer, owner, and gambler if they were the victims of a violation of racing rules be it a $1,000 maiden race or a $1 million stakes race if the judges missed something whether by filing an objection or having to appear in front of the judges at a hearing.

Apparently Takter has a problem with a driver doing their job.   Thankfully, this was a case when the driver (Trond) did his job.  Hopefully, once the sting is gone, Takter will realize Smedshammer was doing his job and he apologizes to him for what he said.

Monday, September 7, 2015

An Early September Potpourri

Southwind Frank continued to impress with an easy 1:54.1 win over his overmatched paternal brother Brooklyn Hill in his Champlain split on Friday night. Muscle Hill had a strong weekend: What else is new? His son Dominion Beach was a surprise winner of the other Champlain split for Brett Miller and Nancy J; sophomores Canepa Hanover and Muscle Diamond both won Simcoe splits on Saturday. The Muscle Hill freshman class of 2017 will be eligible to the PASS.


The $225,000 finals for the Ohio Sire Stakes program will be held Saturday night at Scioto, in conjunction with the Jim Ewart open pace and the Chip Noble open trot. This past Saturday night Kanthaka, a 2 YO Triumphant Caviar colt won a $40,000 split in a track record 1:57.1 at Scioto for Ryan Stahl and Chris Beaver. Dave Palone is the undefeated colt’s regular driver. His dam, Elena, by San Pail’s daddy the Valley Victory stallion San Pellegrino, won OSS Gold at two and three.

The previous track record holder, from six races earlier, was the Tainforthefuture gelding MJB Got Faith, who won his division for Peter Wrenn. Train, by Donerail, has produced eight small crops in Ohio and one each in Indiana and Pennsylvania.

The Big John colt Primo Giovanni, out of the Bettor’s Delight mare JK Reunited, also impressed. He won in 1:53.1 for Chris Page and Virgil Morgan Jr., making him six for six.


Control The Moment, who is now seven for seven, with wins in the Metro and the Nassagaweya, is the poster boy for Well Said. Uffizi Hanover won the BC, Bluegrass and Fan Hanover, then faded; Lost For Words won Bluegrass and ISS splits; Lyons Levi Lewis won a split of the Champlain; and Well Hello There took a division of the American National, but this dominant win in the Metro tops the pyramid. Control The Moment is the man for Well Said.


Wakizashi Hanover, who crossed the million dollar threshold for 2015 with his PA Championship win, is the first two or three-year-old by twenty-year-old Dragon Again to bank a million dollars in a single year. My Little Dragon earned almost $900,000 at three, but Waki is the first. Foiled only won something like $7,000 at two and $52,000 at three. Waki’s win in the North America Cup is also significant in that no son of his sire had ever won the Cup, Pace or LBJ.


Obrigado, who is third in his division in earnings, now has back to back wins in the Crawford and the Yonkers open. If he wins the upcoming Maple Leaf Trot, there’s no denying him a spot in the Yonkers International. Eliminations for the MLT—if necessary—will be held on Saturday, and winners pick their post in the final. Last year, when Intimidate upset Sebastian K on an off track, paying almost $100, there were two six-horse elimination fields.

Habitat, Pinkman and Crazy Wow are all staked to the CTC, which will hold eliminations on Saturday—if necessary. Time to sort out the division on a big track, after the fiasco at Yonkers on Saturday. The mercurial late bloomer, Muscle Diamond, is also eligible. Maybe they’ll choose the night of the finals to give the recently retired San Pail a hometown sendoff.


Jim Morrill Jr is killing it in the NYSS—even more than usual. He’s earned more than $1.3 million in the series this year, which is 63% more than number two, Jeff Gregory. In Ontario, Sylvain Filion is comfortably ahead of Trevor Henry and James MacDonald in OSS money. Sylvain is up over $1.2 million. The lucrative finals in both programs will afford both men an opportunity to top off their accounts.


Bettor’s Delight and Sportswriter are doing battle in the freshman division of the Ontario Sire Stakes program this year. While the former is the master of straddling the GC and whatever sire stakes program he’s a part of, Sportswriter has been strictly an OSS creation. Bettor’s Delight’s daughter, LA Delight, won the Great Lady Saturday and the Eternal Camnation the previous week, and his son Betting Time was second in the Metro.

Reverend Hanover was supposed to be the Sportswriter colt who bridged the gap to the GC, but he experienced a setback and has only started four times. He drew off from the field in 1:48.3 in a $25,000 3 YO open on Saturday. Unfortunately, it’s getting late. After the race, Coleman mentioned the OSS Super final and maybe the BC.


Only four sophomore trotting fillies are entered in Friday’s $30,000 Helen Smith at Freehold. Next year the Rocknroll freshman class will race in Pennsylvania, and in 2017 the Muscle Hill freshmen will do the same.


Thirteen of the 22 freshman trotting fillies entered in the three Peaceful Way eliminations at Mohawk on Thursday also competed in the Champlain last Thursday. This includes the three division winners: Could It Be Magic, Caprice Hill and Emoticon Hanover. The latter two will face off in the second split. Kadabra swept the three divisions of the Champlain. Beyond that, OSS bred fillies have won four of the last five editions of the Peaceful Way; Stubborn Belle, Riveting Rosie and BAM took the last three; Crys Dream won in 2010.


While the web sites for the New York and Ontario programs, which are comparable to the one in the Keystone State, are timely and very informative, the PASS site is beyond awful. It’s as timely as a five-year-old newspaper and as informative as staring at a blank wall.


Only four started in today’s leg of the Miss Versatility at Tioga—four betting interests. Division kingpins D’One and BAM are both staked to the Maple Leaf Trot, while Shake It Cerry last raced in the Muscle Hill a couple of weeks ago. Rockin With Dewey, the longshot winner of the Earl Rowe was the dominant mare today. The fact that the final is held at Delaware on Jug Day probably chases some away.

Joe FitzGerald

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Misguided View

Jimmy Takter had a bad night in the Yonkers Trot as Pinkman finished second but was disqualified and placed sixth then placed fifth for causing interference at the top of the stretch while entry mate French Laundry due to NY rules which apply when an entrymate causes an infraction was fourth, placed third then placed sixth.  Southwind Mozart finished third but placed second while fifth place finisher Buen Camino was placed fourth before being placed third.  All this because of an objection by Trond Smedshammer, claiming his horse Buen Camino was interfered by Pinkman which resulted in his interfering with Billy Flynn.

Oh yeah, Habitat won the Yonkers Trot by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:54.4.  At least that part of the race was uneventful.

Here is the replay of the Trot,

After the race, it took the judges a 1/2 hour to make the results official and Takter made it known he was 'unhappy' with driver Trond Smedshammer for claiming an objection; feeling it is the judges' job to disqualify horses.  Drivers should remain quiet.and never claim foul.

How wrong Takter is.  If he were to look at tote boards around the country, he will see there is an 'Objection' light on each board in addition to the inquiry 'Inquiry' sign.  Rest assured in this cost-conscious environment, tote manufacturers would be happy to eliminate the sign if it wasn't needed.

Violating an unwritten rule?  Possible, but it shouldn't be an unwritten rule.  Gamblers expect races to be contest fairly and judges to watch the race.  If for some reason, the judges miss a call, it is the driver's duty to report the infraction and let the judges make the ultimate call,  Those investing money in this sport, either by wagering or owning a horse shouldn't be victims of an unwritten rule.

What Smedshammer did was absolutely correct.  It is Takter who is wrong.  He owes Smedshammer an apology.  Lastly, if there is some unspoken rule, it is time to get rid of it.

Doctors who operated on Ron Pierce this past week have suggested he retire for fear what another injury would do to him.  Yes, it is up to Pierce to decide what to do but he should heed to his doctors and retire.  Racing is a dangerous sport so it is a matter of when, not if another accident or injury will happen.  Better to get out while you are still able to walk than finding oneself being seriously injured and depending on a wheelchair for the rest of your life.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Saturday Briefs

Would you fix a race to win $820?  What if I told you the trainer who fixed the race stood to earn $1,000 by winning the race?  Who know what went through the mind of the father and son team of Shayne and Greg Camp who each plead guilty to a single charge of race fixing.  In the plea, the father will have to do 300 hours of community service while the son (who now drives a forklif) has to do 200 hours of community service.  On top of this, it is widely expected these two will never work again in harness racing.  On the surface it seems like a stupid move.

Derick Giwner talks about the overlapping of stakes races on Saturday with major stakes races at  Mohawk, Yonkers, Pocono, and Tioga Downs.  It is my cup runneth over.  As Derick explains the problem is we are guaranteed races will overlap, especially with post creep.  You would hope post creep would be used to make sure races don't conflict but as long as there is money remaining to be wagered on, post time will be delayed.

The HANA Handicappers have been hard at work with races since Thursday night and continuing until the last contest race is contested on Monday.  The pinnacle of this weekend comes tonight when the action moves to Mohawk and Yonkers Raceway.  You can see the handicappers selections for Saturday evening at this link.

There is a new owner of Lawrence Downs, the last harness track to be opened in Pennsylvania.  This owner is the one who will finally get it done.  Call me cynical, but there have been so many iterations of ownership who were supposed to get the track opened, I'll believe it when I see it.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Comments Made Easy (Thank You EU)

Thanks to a European Union ruling/law on advising visitors about a website's cookie use, I have replaced Disqus with the standard blogger messaging process provided so the standard Google advisory will be sufficient.  Wondering what I am talking about?  Change the '.com' to '.fr' in the web address and see what happens.

Please note comments are still moderated.  I don't believe in censorship so as long as your comment is relative to the respective blog entry and is respectful and not abusive, it will be posted even if you disagree with the post.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Time for the Industry to Step Up

On September 1, the New York Gaming Commission held a summit on retired racehorses.  The following is a press release from  the Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) which basically shows the problems standardbreds have in finding new homes.  More importantly (or should I say embarrassing), we learn how far behind the standardbred industry is when it comes to horses which are retired when compared to the thoroughbred industry.

Here is the press release:

For Immediate Release

September 3, 2015

SRF Speaks at Summit on Race Horse Retirement

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has formed the NY State Task Force on Retired Racehorses and held a Summit on the topic at the Fasig Tipton Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 1st. There were five panels comprised of representatives of the NY Racing Assoc.; Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance; Thoroughbred Charities of America; several racetracks; several horsesmens associations; the NY State Racing and Wagering Board; horse adoption programs; and the United States Trotting Association (USTA).

 The Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF), Sunshine Horses, Jeff Gural, and the USTA spoke in the early afternoon after digesting the massive efforts the Thoroughbred industry has implemented and the hefty funding charities receive from the industry. Monies raised from percentages, and dollar amounts of mandatory and voluntary contributions from starting fees, jockey fees, purses, and contributions fund the numerous programs.

The Thoroughbred typically has a market after racing, as they are popular in the riding arena, whereas, the Standardbred does not. SRF noted that the average time a Standardbred horse will last in an adoptive home is just 3.3 years and that should trigger a warning to the charities to do follow-up. None of the charities receiving funds have an active follow-up program for Standardbreds; SRF and Sunshine horses do, however, neither receive funds from these initiatives.   "We need to make sure we are doing the right thing," said Judy Bokman, SRF's Executive Director.  "Maybe the Thoroughbred is more popular as a riding companion and there is not as great a concern for their long-term well being in a home, but for the Standardbred, I keep thinking about what a veterinarian once said to me, "I am not helping any charity that takes horses from the track to avoid a trip to slaughter only to starve in backyards."

It was belittling to follow the talk of the initiatives the Thoroughbred industry has taken when the Standardbred industry has done so little. Jeff Gural sees a solution as slots generate 180 million dollars in NYS each year,  "A small percent would solve the problem."  Funding was one of the things the Standardbred charities noted as a challenge, the lack of good homes, locations for retired horses to be boarded reasonably to live out their lives, and other locations for the adoption program to operate from were others.

Some horses will find a forever home with all these wonderful strides being made, and the efforts deserve great applause, but there are two items left unsolved.  One is helping the unadoptable ones, as it was noted that only adoptable horses receive help, and what to do in time when these horses age in their adopted homes and are no longer wanted

Make no mistake, the thoroughbred industry has far more money available to dedicate to the retirement of racehorses than the standardbred industry has.  This does not excuse the industry from doing nothing when it comes to funding re-homing and rescue groups albeit at a smaller rate.  To do nothing is not an option.  A standardbred aftercare organization is necessary.  While it may not have the funding the runners have, whatever funding will help the industry take care of retired horses.

The question is when the industry will finally step up and deal the problem.  Time is running out.