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Monday, November 30, 2015

Can You Spot The Problems?

The following comes from the Atlantic City Race Course Facebook page.   I thank Tim Cramer for his permission to reprint his comments on this blog.  Yes, his comments are about thoroughbred racing, in particular in New Jersey, but if you read his comments, you will see common themes which apply to the standardbred sport.  For this reason, I am reprinting his comments.

See if you can spot the problems.

Hello: My name is Tim Cramer and I was the announcer at AC Race Course for 6 years after Larry Lederman left. I spent 15 years working there and the better part of 40+ years betting there!

I read many of the posts and a lot of them seem to just " BLAME " this , that or them. So be it. 2015 and the 21st century seems to be the century of BLAME! One needs to only turn ANY news program on and every story offers you the opportunity to hear them " BLAME " someone or something from global warming, to different religions to the space program and then to the upbringing of people who have chosen a life of crime and the list goes on and on ad nauseam. 

So with your indulgence let me offer you a caveat: AC Race Course was built in 1946 and it is by today's standards Obsolete for Racetracks today. Yes many others are also obsolete but offer full racing meets to offset the many costs of running a facility that large. AC lost money the last years and many people at least the MANY people I know usually visited 3-5 DAYS a year! Yes there were the people who came to the simulcast day in and day out but they were few and hardly enough to sustain business yearly there! 6 days of live racing helped but only so much and AC Race Course always allowed Oakcrest High School Band to have a concession there throughout the live meet thus cutting into what little profit they made!

Couple that with a declining simulcasting base ( one needs to only look east to Atlantic City and see the ONLY simulcasting site left in ANY AC Casino is at the Borgata! And sadly of the people there MANY just walk over from the Poker Room to smoke and couldn't care less if it was horses or giraffes racing!
Racing in New Jersey is all but dead with Monmouth Park BARELY holding on. the old days of 5 and 6 days a week racing are long gone and while memories remain of AC, Garden State Park and Full live thoroughbred meets at the Meadowlands ( they have a FEW weekends of turf racing only now! ) The racing calendar at Monmouth park is etched with 3 days a week and sometimes 4 from May to September! Winter thoroughbreds in New Jersey ended 14 years ago with the closing of Garden State Park ( story to follow ) and NO ONE has ever tried to revive it!
Everyone has a story of AC Race Course and Probably Garden State Park and of course WE all have our memories! But in the 21st century memories and reliving the " Old Days " is done in your mind and not in real time. Will AC Race Course ever reopen again? Personally I can't see it but I'd be PLEASANTLY Surprised if they did!
Garden State Park burned to the ground on Thursday April 14th 1977 I was actually one of the 10,000 people there which now has grown to a million people in folklore who were there! I watched from the racetrack as the Wonderful track burned to the ground and 8 years later almost to the day on April 1st 1985 this brand new spankin' MONSTROSITY opened up as the NEW Garden State Racetrack! A little more then 16 years later it would close and 2 years after that it would be demolished for stores and apartments/condos! Only the 1942 Guard Gate remained as the final symbol of Garden States 50 + years of racing!
When you drive by AC Race Course through the back of Hamilton Mall let your mind wander ( it's OK ) and fill it with thoughts of All YOUR wonderful memories of AC Race Course, your great WINS, your friendships and the people you sat with and around. You see the faces and the names make up our memories!
When I drive by I think of my late brother and how during those live nights I was in the paddock on the TV simulcast my brother would come and sit with me between races and we'd handicap together. You see I handicapped the daily double races during the day and really studied at night. My best night was a warm Saturday in August. I gave out 8 of the 9 winners including a $54.80 winner! A $700 + Trifecta and 5 Exactas. I LOST the 7th race that night. I only bet 2 races all night. The 4th race I bet $120 and got back $330 or thereabouts. The 7th race was my BEST BET and I pounded $100 Across the board. The horse went off 5-1 and was a non threatening 4th! EVERY other winner including the $54 dollar horse I didn't have a penny on! Hit the double and MANY had it in the walking ring area..... The 54 dollar horse I believe was my 6th in a row and many had it for $2 just because I was on a streak not me, I was trying to give out winners BUT only bet my best bets so I didn't bet too many races!
And there you go, one of my racetrack stories with my late brother and maybe even some of you in it! We all have them so share them and be loud and proud of your time spent at AC Race Course. I AM!
As I said every night at the end of a replay show I did with JJ Graci called It's Post Time: May all your bets be winning ones and may you always leave with a SMILE!
Garden State Park Story to follow:

The attendance was 717 the other day at Garden State Park, racing fans, gamblers and mourners. It was a poor showing for the funeral of an old friend, but what else would you expect? Garden State has been, for al practical purposes, dead for several years. It will be put out of its misery May 3 and then the wrecking ball will come in and wipe out everything but the memories.
On the surface, the passing of Garden State Park isn't that big of a deal for the sport. There hasn't been a good horse to run there in years and the daily cards are held in front of an eerily empty grandstand. With business worse than ever, Pennwood Racing, which leases the track, announced that it would not renew its contract when it expires May 29. Meanwhile, the property has been sold to a developer, who will undoubtedly build a shopping center or an office park or something else that society can surely do without. But beforehand, Garden State will go out with barely a ripple, a sorry 15-day meet that ends Thursday.
But let us not forget what a wonderful place it was in its day and all the potential it seemed to have after Bob Brennan threw his ill-begotten millions into rebuilding what was supposed to be the track of the 21st century. There is indeed something sad, tragic even, about seeing it come to an end, even if it is a rather pathetic end.
I saw Secretariat run at the old Garden State in the 1972 Garden State Stakes as a young boy, simultaneously falling in love with the horse, the sport and that track. Take a look at what Garden State has become today and it seems preposterous that the greatest horse of the modern era could have ever run there before a packed, excited house and that was nothing out of the ordinary. 

That was before the entire sport was turned upside down, during an era that seems impossibly distant. Back then, no one had ever heard of simulcasting or year-round racing or casinos in states not named Nevada, and you might get 35,000 out at the track on a nice Saturday afternoon.
The old Garden State, opened in 1942, was as pleasant a racetrack as there was. It ran on sparkling spring afternoons and crisp fall days. From all over the Philadelphia, South Jersey area, fans came to enjoy an afternoon spent in a beautiful grandstand watching the finest horse racing found in this country outside of New York and California.
"The old Garden State was a very nice track," said veteran trainer Willard Thompson, who settled in at the South Jersey track in 1969. "It had a nice, wooden grandstand. It was like Saratoga in that it had a lot of class and ambiance."
Two months into the track's first year, Triple Crown winner Whirlaway competed there in the inaugural running of the Trenton Handicap. He would be the first of many superstars to race at Garden State. Actually running in between the Preakness and the Belmont, Citation stopped in to win the 1948 Jersey Derby by 11 lengths. They just kept coming: Nashua in the 1956 Camden Handicap; Bold Ruler in the 1957 Trenton; Kelso in the 1962 Governor's Plate; Dr. Fager in the 1967 Jersey Derby; Riva Ridge in the 1971 Garden State Stakes; Secretariat in the 1972 Garden State Stakes.
"You couldn't have a better race meeting," said Sam Boulmetis currently a Garden State steward and a retired Hall of Fame jockey. "You had huge races like the Garden State and the Gardenia and a lot horses became the 2-year-old champion by winning those races. Other than New York, racing there was probably as good as any place in the country."
Garden State was destroyed by fire April 14, 1977, leaving a huge void on the New Jersey racing circuit. A few years later, the Meadowlands was born and it became an instant success, which attracted the attention of financier Robert Brennan. He hoped to build a Meadowlands South, only he was determined to make his track bigger, better and glitzier than his neighbor to the north. 

Brennan poured a reported $150 million into the track, which re-opened for business April 1, 1985, and vowed that it would be the track of the 21st century. The expectation level was huge. Garden State was supposed to be on its way to being the next great racetrack in this country.
Brennan, recently convicted of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering, the latest chapter in his long battle with authorities who allege he was a stock swindler, was intent on putting his track on the map from the start. He shook up the Triple Crown by wooing Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck away from the Preakness with the enticement of a $2 million bonus offered up in the Jersey Derby.
But once the Spend A Buck hype started to fade away reality set in. The new Garden State was operating in a different world than the old one. Area gamblers were flocking in droves to the bustling casinos in Atlantic City and the remaining horseplayers were being divided up among a glut of racetracks in the area, from Philadelphia Park to the west and Delaware Park to the south. 

Meanwhile, the track's fan base was aging and there wasn't any new blood coming in to replace them. Brennan had spent far too much money and was unable to recoup his investment with the meager crowds that were showing up.
"There was just too much damn racing in the area," said Russ Harris, who covered Garden State for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1970 to 1977. "You had all those tracks in close proximity to one another. Say New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania had all gotten together and put together a circuit, then it would have been a very successful circuit. Instead, they wound up with nothing. But you can't get the politicians in one state to agree on anything when it comes to racing, let alone three."
There were a few more bright spots along the way, many of them coming with a moderately successful harness meet, but it's been obvious now for several years that Garden State was never going to make it. In a few short days they will pull the plug. Garden State will best be remembered as a massive white elephant, the last injustice to a track that deserved so much better.

Wiggle It Jiggleit Closes Out a Championship Year

After 25 starts thus far this year, Champion Wiggle It Jiggleit completes his three year old season in tonight's $300,000 Hap Hansen Progress Stakes at Dover Downs (10th race).  So far with a record of 25-21-3-0 and $2,031,995 earnings it seems apparent to me that Wiggle It Jiggleit is on tap to take down HOY honors.  Is there any chance someone can upend the 3yo altered son of Mr Wiggles in his final start as a 3yo?

Wiggle It Jiggleit is listed as a generous even money proposition which is wishful thinking.  To think this horse will go off anything higher than 4-5 is absurd so the question is can we find someone worth taking a wild stab at to land a major upset?  Let's take a look at the field.

10th Pace - Dover Downs - $300,000 Hap Hansen Progress Pace - 3yo Open (No Show Wagering)
1 Remember Me VK (6-1) - Finished second to WIJI in the elimination and a winner three starts ago in an 3-5yo Open.  The logical horse to consider here but it needs to be noted he failed miserably racing against horses in the Battle of the Brandywine.

2  Dealt A Winner (9-2) - Finished third to WIJI in the last two starts makes him a consideration,  One of his best races was in the Breeders Crown where he jumped off on a sloppy track and came back to finish fifth against Freaky Feet Pete,  In good shape and is a possibility.

3  Dude's The Man (5-1) - Last decent race was at Lexington in the Bluegrass.  Since then he has not looked good.  However, with over $600,000 in earnings this year it is clear he had success earlier in the year.  The problem is there is nothing which shows a return to his earlier success.

4  Roland N Rock (25-1) - Has looked awful of late.  Most recent wins came at Hoosier in a Circle Monument race and the NJSS Green Acres final.  Would need pedestrian fractions to be a factor, something highly unlikely.

5 Americanprimetime (25-1) - Raced well on the NYSS circuit and shows a victory two starts back at Yonkers in a NW6 event.  Has not shown much against open company though from post 8 in last start, he had no chance.  Don't see him competing but at 50-1,may be worth a shot.

6 Wiggle It Jiggleit (1-1) - Even money my foot.  No Freaky Feet Pete here so a loss here would be like Niatross at Saratoga.  Only real chance of a loss is illness.

7 Badix Hanover (7-1) - Has been racing well.  Toss last from post 9.  If there is a horse who looks like he may be on the improve, it may be this one.  Reined by John Campbell.

8 Rodeo Romeo (25-1) - Green horse who doesn't seem to be ready to go against this caliber.  Likely the last place finisher.

The likely winner is Wiggle It Jiggleit, but if you want tot take a stab at someone else, I would look at (#2) Dealt A Winner and Badix Hanover (#7).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Horse of the Year in Canada?

Last year undefeated JK She’salady was voted Horse of the Year in Canada with 45% of the vote. The winner of the Shes A Great Lady, Three Diamonds and Eternal Camnation, all held in Ontario, stood out from the pack, and she certainly met all the qualifications for the award, but the owner—3 Brothers Stables—consists of three brothers from New York, the trainer, Nancy Johansson, is based in New Jersey, and the horse was bred in New York, so her Canadian credentials weren’t strong enough for some. As a result, Casie Coleman trainee McWicked, whose only stakes win in Canada was a Cup elimination, received 11 votes to the filly’s 19.  So when there isn’t a standout Canadian based trotter or pacer, handicapping the Horse of the Year contest up North can be tricky.

In 2013 undefeated Bee A Magician won the award in a landslide with 81% of the vote. She took the Elegantimage, Casual Breeze, Simcoe and Super Gold Final in Ontario that year. The Kadabra filly also received 78% of the vote for the Dan Patch, so she was admired with equal fervor on both sides of the border. BAM is by an Ontario stallion, handled by a Canadian based trainer and owned by Canadians.

In 2012 Jug winner Michaels Power was voted Horse of the Year in Canada. He also won the Confederation Cup, a split of the SBSW, the Upper Canada Cup and three Gold legs. He was trained by Casie Coleman and driven by Scott Zeron. Jeffrey Snyder, from the US, owns the gelding. Michaels Power received 44% of the vote. The undefeated freshman trotter, Wheeling N Dealin, garnered 25%. The latter raced exclusively in Canada as a two-year-old, winning nine times, including the BC, Wellwood and Champlain. He’s Pennsylvania bred, but otherwise of Canadian origin.

And in 2011 San Pail, who had a career year, won in Canada with 92% of the vote, and he was designated the Dan Patch winner in the US with 80%. The eleven-year-old is Canadian from head to tail.

So what horse will win in 2015? It certainly isn’t a San Pail 2011 or BAM 2013 kind of year. For instance, none of the eligible, viable candidates made a season ending splash in the BC, Matron, Final Four or TVG.

The 2013 winner Bee A Magician, who leads all North American aged trotters in earnings, may be the first ever to rule the roost more than once in Canada while not doing so in successive years. SBSW is the only horse to win consecutive O’Briens, although he finished in a dead heat with Tell All the first time. Armbro Flight is the only three time pre-O’Brien winner; Handle With Care and Fan Hanover are the mares that won twice.

BAM won the highest profile open trot in Canada, the Maple Leaf, as well as the top mare’s open, the Armbro Flight. She also beat the boys in the Cutler, Charlie Hill and Centaur down South. After D’One beat her in the Fresh Yankee and Muscle Hill, and won the Allerage Mare and BC Mare, it looked like that one might take the Dan Patch from BAM, but D’One went back to Sweden prior to the TVG Mare. BAM is a prime candidate.

On the other hand, perhaps we’ll have back to back freshman fillies occupying that slot, for the first time ever in Canada. Armbro Ranger and Jade Prince each won consecutively, fifteen years prior to the inception of the O’Brien awards, but never two fillies. LA Delight raced exclusively in Ontario; won 11 of 12 starts; is second to BC winner Pure Country in divisional earnings; won the Great Lady and splits of the Eternal Camnation and Champlain; won three OSS Gold legs and the Super Final; is trained and owned by the iconic Bob McIntosh; is driven by Randy Waples; and was sired by on again off again OSS stallion Bettor’s Delight. What’s not to like?

She didn’t race past the Super Final, missing the BC, Matron and Three Diamonds, so she won’t beat out Pure Country for the Dan Patch in her division, but she will be voted the top freshman pacing filly in Canada. With each passing year racing becomes more Balkanized, and one manifestation of that is that fewer and fewer of the top fillies travel to the WEG circuit for the Grand Circuit stakes. That was the case again this year. This may serve as a detriment in her battle for the Dan Patch divisional title, but won’t impact her quest for division honors in Canada. It may hurt her in the Horse of the Year vote, however.

Three fillies: Trixton’s mama, Emile Cas El; Whenuwishuponastar; and JK She’salady have been voted O’Brien Horse of the Year awards. And Armbro Flight, Handle With Care and Fan Hanover won it prior to the establishment of the O’Brien Awards in 1989.

Freshman pacer Control The Moment won 8 of 9 starts, including the Metro and Nassagaweya and is the fastest two-year-old among the top ten on the money list from that class. However, he finished sixth in the BC and didn’t go on from there. His Canadian connections are solid and he made all his starts up there, but being by Well Said he has no record of achievement in the OSS. LA Delight is a more likely choice among the juvenile set.

What about the rest of the competition? State Treasurer had a great year, winning 9 of 11 starts at the highest level and earning a division leading $866,000, but the bottom fell out in Lexington and he was beaten soundly by Miki on his home turf in the BC. A division O’Brien? Yes. Horse of the Year? No. It’s tough to overcome a subpar fall season in the awards game.

Southwind Frank had three wins in Ontario, including the BC, but he may not even take his division. The Kadabra colt Tony Soprano was very strong in the OSS with a win in the Super Final as well as three Gold legs. He has no GC resume, but Bob McIntosh trains him and owns a piece as well, and Randy Waples and John Campbell drive. The first foal of Windsong Soprano doesn’t merit Horse of the Year consideration, but due to the quirky nature of the O’Brien voting, the division may be his. Poor Frank.

Tony’s paternal sister, Caprice Hill, was another demon in the OSS, winning her Super Final and three Gold legs for Tony Alagna. Yannick, Tim and Randy drove. Overall she won 7 of 10 starts and earned a nifty $454,000. She was bred by Hanover, but her owner, Tom Hill, is Canadian and she’s by Kadabra. Again, division? Yes.

The Mach Three sophomore Solar Sister had a very good year, winning the Super Final, three Gold legs and the SBOA Classic for the McNairs. She earned $435,000 on 8 wins in 16 starts overall. An O’Brien for her division? Maybe. HOY? No. I say maybe because her paternal sister Wrangler Magic also had a good year. She was unusual in that she was better on the GC than she was in the OSS. Wrangler Magic won the Fan Hanover and the Simcoe, but she was only 2 for 6 in the OSS. The Simcoe was her only win after July 2 and she didn’t get past her BC elimination, so she probably won’t even win her division.

Tony O’Sullivan’s mercurial Muscle Mass filly, Muscle Baby Doll, won a split of the Casual Breeze and 3 of 5 starts in the OSS program. A tenth place finish in her Super Final didn’t help. Mission Brief won the Elegantimage and the elimination for that one, but she lost in the BC, while Wild Honey took the BC, but finished second in the Elegantimage final and elimination. Again, Ron Burke describes Mission Brief as the best horse he ever trained, but the O’Brien Awards are different.

Reverend Hanover didn’t race enough and Twin B Thong was stuck behind LA Delight. She won 10 times in 15 starts for $337,000 and won in 1:52. Doug McNair drove.

So it should come down to Bee A Magician or LA Delight. BAM will win a Dan Patch and an O’Brien in her division, while the Bettor’s Delight filly will win an O’Brien. BAM could have locked up Horse of the Year honors with a BC win, in either division, but she finished fourth in the open. Shake It Cerry then beat her in the TVG Mare. And LA Delight probably could have put herself in position to win if she beat Pure Country in the BC, but she wasn’t staked to that, the Three Diamonds or the Matron. I think Bee A Magician will be the first ever to be voted Horse of the Year in Canada more than once without doing so in consecutive years.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Exchange Wagering Approved in New Jersey

The Record reports that exchange wagering has been approved in New Jersey, to be the first state to offer the wager sometime in 2016.  Monmouth Park and Betfair have been licensed to operate exchange wagering in the state likely around March. 

It should be noted Monmouth Park is the group appointed by the NJSEA to run the state's ADW network which is operated by TVG.  Hence, it is in the realm of possibility bettors within the borders of New Jersey will be able to place exchange wagers on the Meadowlands at the start or shortly after.

To put it simple for those unaware of what exchange wagering is, bettors will be able to make fixed-odds wagers or if they feel a horse is not going to win, offer wagers on horses, looking to collect off of those who back a wrong horse.  Of course, if you decide to bet against a horse winning,  you need to be prepared to pay off the winning wagers.

In addition, if you think wagering is too slow, you will be able to wager on 'in-running' races, betting on horses through the entire.  This gives those who seek constant action a reason to wager on horses.

Afraid exchange wagering will cannibalize the pari-mutuel pools?  I find it highly unlikely older players will feel comfortable with exchange wagering because of its complexity plus in Europe, exchange wagering has increased wagering in exotic wagering pools, where the real money is made.

California had approved exchange wagering in the past but no one moved forward with it due to the concerns of thoroughbred horsemen.  With no objections expected by NJ horsemen, it appears exchange wagering will finally get its chance in the United States.

Pleasant Surprises In 2015

It’s always nice to see horses, drivers and trainers exceed expectations. Obviously there are many that have done that to one degree or another during the 2015 season, but here are a few who caught my eye.

A number of horses have focused attention on harness racing in Indiana over the past two years, but Freaky Feet Pete stands out in this regard. Unlike Wiggle It Jiggleit, Pete raced in the state’s sire stakes program, without incurring a single loss, from beginning to end. And his sire, Rockin Image, is a pivotal player in the state bred program. Pete, who won nine of his ten starts at two, is 15 for 17 this year. His two losses were to Wakizashi Hanover and Wiggle. Pete’s most prominent win was in the Breeders Crown, but he also took the Monument Circle and the American National. His $854,000 in earnings places him fourth in the division.

State Treasurer, the richest son of Real Desire, has been a very productive pacer since his three-year-old campaign, but he stepped it up a notch or two this year. He attained millionaire status when he won the Molson for the third consecutive year. And while the handy little six-year-old is right at home on the small London, Ontario track, he also took the Roll With Joe and Dayton Pacing Derby on 5/8 ovals and the USPC, Canadian Pacing Derby and Mohawk Gold Cup on the big tracks.

Krispy Apple, an eight year old daughter of Western Ideal, had the misfortune to be born the same year as the great See You At Peelers. And this month she finally passed that one in lifetime earnings; KA earned almost $347,000 on 12 wins in 26 starts this year, primarily in the F&M open at Yonkers, and she’s earned more than a million and a half dollars lifetime. She was handicapped with the outside post in many of those races, but overcame that stumbling block on a regular basis. She only won three times last year and earned half of what she has thus far in 2015, but never count her out.

Wiggle It Jiggleit, who will win Horse of the Year honors, is a pleasant surprise first and foremost because he’s the first crop product of a stallion nobody seemed to want any part of. Mr Wiggles is still one of only two NA based male millionaires by Badlands Hanover, so he was no slouch on the track, but his first three years at stud resulted in only 21 registered foals, so the breeders weren’t exactly beating down his door. The situation is somewhat analogous to that of 2013 Horse of the Year San Pail and his sire San Pellegrino. The latter didn’t leave too many productive trotters on this side of the pond when he was relocated to Sweden a year after San Pail was born. Double millionaire Wiggle It Jiggleit, who started his season near the end of January, is still going strong. He got his twenty-first win in the Progress Pace elimination on Monday and will call it a season after 26 starts in the upcoming final.

Mach It So, who is second to State Treasurer among aged pacers in earnings, has had an excellent year. Many horses that meet with success in a sire stakes program struggle to maintain that in the open ranks, but that has not been the case with the five-year-old son of Mach Three. Two years after winning three Ontario Sire Stakes Gold legs as well as the Canadian Breeders Championship, Mach It So edged out State Treasurer in the William Haughton at 17/1 and did the same to Foiled Again in the Quillen. Last week he won the $50,000 TVG Open and on Saturday he was second to Bettor’s Delight in the $400,000 TVG FFA Final. He has earned almost $648,000 this year and $1.2 million lifetime for Bamond Racing. Tim Tetrick drives more often than not.

Dog Gone Lucky, who recently won the Valley Victory (dead heat) and Matron, just like his daddy did, is the best trotter Lucky Chucky has produced. The latter had a tough year on the track and at the sales, but his son Dog Gone Lucky blossomed in the fall with a win in the $191,500 Kindergarten Classic Final at Vernon Downs on the last day of October and has followed that up with a very productive November for Hall of Fame trainer, Chuck Sylvester. The only trotter in his class with a larger bankroll is budding superstar Southwind Frank.

Luminosity, a five-year-old Cash Hall gelding, acquired by the Burke Barn in February, has come alive under Burke and driver George Brennan. After winning 16 times and earning $106,000 during his first three years of racing, he won 14 of 33 starts thus far in 2015, three quarters of them in the tough Yonkers Raceway open—generally from the outside post.

George Napolitano Jr has been making them go for a while now, but the Pennsylvania mainstay stepped it up this year. He won 100 races in July and got his 7,000 win on the 15th of that month. And beyond that, he has owned the fall of 2015. The winner of the dash title in 2010 moved ahead of rivals Aaron Merriman and 2013 and 2014 champ Ronnie Wrenn Jr when he won eight races at Harrah’s on October 25. George finished third, 168 back of Wrenn, last year, but he’s currently 18 up in the dash race. He’s 41 ahead of his own winning total in 2010. He’s number seven on the earnings list with more than $8 million. Napolitano won seven races on closing night at Pocono Downs. His other Pennsylvania home, Harrah’s, is open until mid-December, after which he’ll probably move on to Pompano Park.

Steve Elliott, best known as the trainer of seminal stallion Valley Victory as well as Donato Hanover, is having his best year since the latter was voted Horse of the Year in 2007. Doo Wop Hanover is the fastest four-year-old pacer in North America, thanks to his 1:47.4 win in a leg of the Graduate Series at Tioga. And he’s also banked almost $455,000. Fellow four-year-old Rockeyed Optimist won a Graduate split in 1:48 and has earned almost $200,000. Classic Martine has not duplicated last year’s campaign for Elliott, but she won the inaugural Miami Valley Distaff in track record time and has earned almost $190,000. Stacia Hanover won the Shady Daisy over Bettor Be Steppin, Divine Caroline and Sassa Hanover. And best of all, Elliott’s Rocknroll Hanover colt Boston Red Rocks recently won the Breeders Crown and the Governor’s Cup, positioning him to win his division.

Joe FitzGerald


Monday, November 23, 2015

Burke Rule Ends; Jersey (Horse) Politics

Kiss the 'Burke Rule' good bye.  The Meadowlands has suspended their rule which limited trainer entries in stake finals to no more than two horses (unless they trained the horse from the very beginning).  Some will argue it is a capitulation to the major stables; my take is this is the result of the horse shortage which is facing tracks; especially those without slots.

No, it is not good when a few stables are able to stuff stakes finals with their entries but faced with cancelling stakes or seeing five horse fields, it is better to repeal this rule and welcome all horses willing to show up to the dance.

Are New Jersey horsemen getting restless with the way things are being run at the Meadowlands?  One may get the impression this is the case with the defeat last week of Tom Luchento by Mark Ford in the contest for President of the SBOANJ.  The horsemen are allowing the Meadowlands to race the schedule management wanted this year, eliminating one night of racing in the winter, but in selecting Mark Ford as their new leader, horsemen have sent a message which is they will no longer rubber stamp what has been going on; they want a bigger say in how things will be done.

My suspicion is the lack of racing days at the Meadowlands is the biggest complaint they have.  However until Peter Koch has the delightful problem of an overflowing entry box, horsemen have no reason to complain about the lack of racing opportunities.

Things are far from great in New Jersey, but horsemen in New Jersey should be thanking their lucky stars there are 200 standardbred dates in the state when you combine Freehold and the Meadowlands after all, the way things are, their racing calendar should be more like Illinois, Kentucky, or Minnesota,  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Little Monte Racing and the Road to the Prix d' Amerique Begins

It's been awhile since I have shown any monte races and this time of year, it means going to Paris at Vincennes where the Grade III Prix de Bretagne was contested this week and Tess De Villeneuve was the winner of the 2,850 (approximately 1 3/4 miles) meter race in 3:32.05 ('off' track) or a kilometer rate of 1:14.40 (2:00 mile rate), defeating 16 other horses..  It turned into a good race once they dealt with the three false starts (something you deal with when you use a standing start.  There was some warm ups shown ahead of time so if you want to get straight to the race, the 8 minute point would be a good way to start.

Also at Vincennes, the road to the Prix d'Amerique began with the first of the 'B' races, the Grade II Prix de Betrange being contested.  When all was said and done, it was Akim du Cap Vert who bested thirteen other horses to cross the wire in the 2,700 meter (approx 1 3/5 mi)  event in 3:17.10  or kilometer rate of 1:13 (mile rate 1:57.48; time to get used to timing in the 1/100ths) over a sloppy track.  As per the rules of the Prix, the winner of this event, along with the other two 'B' races gets their ticket automatically punched for the Prix which is contested on the last Sunday of January.  This also was a standing start race but fortunately, there were no false starts.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Justice Served?

Brian Sears will not be appealing his 15 day suspension handed down for his unsatisfactory drive in last Friday's TVG Mares Open Trot preliminary leg.  The NJRC  has determined Sears will serve his penalty in December.

So the question which needs to be asked is will his vacation be an all-expense paid vacation thanks to his drive this weekend?  After all, a victory in the TVG Final for Open Trotting Mares will add $5,000 to his bank account.  So bettors, who according to the NJRC saw their money burned last week supporting the Magician, will have the opportunity to potentially see Sears in the winners circle this weekend with a nice check for less than two minutes of work.  This certainly will warm the hearts of those gamblers.

Now, I realize the rules often permit a driver to meet his driving obligations before beginning a suspension so it wouldn't have been surprising to see his suspension start this coming Sunday, but to wait until December to serve his suspension sounds like a round of 'Let's Make a Deal'.  Of course, we are not naive to realize making deals in lieu of having to litigate a suspension is par for the course.

Still, there is something inherently wrong when a driver gets to drive a horse in a lucrative final the week after giving his mount an unsatisfactory drive.  Realizing limited budgets of commissions, I recognize the need to make deals, but there needs to be a rule implemented where a driver cited for an unsatisfactory drive in a preliminary or elimination race is not allowed to race the said horse in the series or stakes final.  This way, at least the horseplayer gets a little satisfaction for their loss.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The 2015 Division Races

Some of the races for divisional honors are done deals at this point. Wiggle It Jiggleit, who has earned more than $2 million; set world records for his class on half and 5/8 tracks; won the Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug; and come out on top in 20 of 24 starts that stretch through almost the entire calendar year, will win his division and be voted Horse Of The Year. He has one more start scheduled, in the Progress Pace at Dover Downs on November 29.

Pinkman, with wins in the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity and Canadian Trotting Classic, will win the Dan Patch for sophomore trotting colts. The gelded son of Explosive Matter has won 11 of 17 starts and earned more than $1.8 million for Jimmy Takter. Pinkman will give the latter consecutive wins in this division.

Southwind Frank will top the freshman trotting colts. He won 11 of 12 starts, including the Breeders Crown and the Peter Haughton. He earned almost $800,000 and set a world record of 1:52.2 in a split of the ISS at The Red Mile. That’s almost two seconds slower than his paternal sister Mission Brief went last year, but that’s OK.

Speaking of Mission Brief, she’ll win the three-year-old trotting filly division on brilliance alone. The three classic stakes for a sophomore trotting filly are the Oaks, Kentucky Filly Futurity and Breeders Crown. Wild Honey took all of them, and she has a bigger 2015 bankroll than the Muscle Hill Amazon, so on the basis of her resume she should be on equal footing with Mission Brief, at the very least. But life isn’t always fair, and brilliance sometimes trumps a season of stellar accomplishments. Last Thursday’s eye popping world record 1:50.2 win in the Matron by Mission Brief put her over the top. She also finished second in the Hambletonian, and won the Elegantimage, Zweig Filly, and a split of the Bluegrass. The public loves her and she will win the division, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s Continentalvictory.

Bee A Magician, the 2013 Horse of the Year in the US and Canada, will be back on the podium after an off year—for her—in 2014. She beat the boys in the Maple Leaf Classic, Charlie Hill, Cutler and Centaur. She also triumphed over the mares in the Armbro Flight. BAM is entered in the TVG Mare Trot on Friday. Regardless of the outcome, she will be hoisting a Dan Patch.

Jimmy Takter’s SBSW two-year-old filly, Pure Country, should win a competitive contest for the Dan Patch with the Canadian based Bettor’s Delight filly, L A Delight. The former is a perfect 10 for 10 while Bob McIntosh’s L A Delight has experienced one loss in a dozen starts. Pure Country is almost $157,000 richer. This one came down to the Breeders Crown, which the SBSW filly won handily. L A Delight was not staked to it. Pure Country also won splits of the Bluegrass and ISS at The Red Mile and the Pennsylvania Championship. L A Delight won the Eternal Camnation, Great Lady and Champlain, as well as the OSS Super Final.

Figuring out which freshman colt will take home a Dan Patch is much more difficult. If Control The Moment (Well Said), who won the Metro and Nassagaweya, had taken the Breeders Crown he would have ended the discussion, but he didn’t, and he hasn’t come to the States for the Matron or the Governor’s Cup. The Rocknroll colt Boston Red Rocks took the BC, but that’s about it. He is entered in Saturday’s Governor’s Cup. Ron Burke’s Western Ideal colt Big Top Hanover won the Matron, in addition to an ISS split in Lexington. A win on Saturday would make him a strong candidate. If neither Big Top Hanover nor Boston Red Rocks win the Governor’s Cup it may go by default to Control The Moment.

If the Donato filly Broadway Donna had won the BC, the division would be hers. She entered her elimination a perfect 9 for 9 with wins in the Doherty, Bluegrass and PA Championship. But she failed to make the final, and is now at the mercy of Jimmy Takter’s Muscle Hill filly, All The Time, who starts from the rail in the upcoming Goldsmith Maid. She won the BC and will have $125,000 more on her card than Donna if she wins on Friday. All The Time has won seven times and she dominated in her recent starts.

No sophomore pacing filly got even a single point in this week’s Top Ten Poll. The division will probably be settled in the 1 1/8 mile Tarport Hap at The Meadowlands. Divine Caroline, who starts from the seven for David Miller and Joe Holloway, won the Breeders Crown, Garnsey and a split of the Bluegrass. She’s the richest and fastest filly in that division. A win on Saturday should secure a Dan Patch for her. Ron Burke’s Sassa Hanover, the winner of the Jugette and Adioo Volo, is also entered in that race. Wrangler Magic won the Fan Hanover and Simcoe, and Purrfect Bags took the Lady Maud and Lismore, but both checked out of the division battle early. Also, the Courageous Lady is a week from Friday.

The aged trotters are another difficult group in which to crown a leader: There is no Sebastian K this year. Bee A Magician won several of the trotting stakes that generally go to males. Papagayo E took the Yonkers International, while Creatine, who only made a couple of NA starts, won the Breeders Crown. Il Sogno Dream won the Allerage and the Dayton Trotting Derby. Is he the champ? JL Cruze was an early season sensation, winning sixteen times. However, once the four-year-old restricted races ended, he fell apart. His last win was four months ago in the Hambletonian Maturity. None of the TVG Final winners would become prime candidates with a win. No idea.

Anndrovette won’t be winning the Dan Patch for aged pacing mares for a fifth consecutive year. At least I don’t think she will. She has only three wins, with the Golden Girls and Lady Liberty being two of them. But the latter was her last win and that was more than three months ago. She scratched out of the BC. Venus Delight, who won the Matchmaker, Artiscape and Milton, should take the division with a win in Friday’s TVG Mare for Tim Tetrick. On the other hand, last year’s three-year-old champ, Color’s A Virgin, has come alive at the right time with wins in the Allerage Mare and Breeders Crown. A win in the TVG for David Miller will secure another Dan Patch for her.

The race for the Dan Patch in the older pacing division presents the voters with an interesting dilemma. Throughout most of the season it was assumed that six-year-old State Treasurer, who has nine wins and dominated that division for most of the 2014 season, would win in a walk. But then along came Miki.

By the time Always B Miki made his first start, in an Indiana Sire Stakes elimination on October 3, State Treasure had already racked up wins in the Molson,  Mohawk Gold Cup, William Haughton, the US Pacing Championship, Roll With Joe, Canadian Pacing Derby and Dayton Pacing Derby. All that before the four-year-old son of Always A Virgin made a single start. That’s a very impressive seasonal resume.

Subsequent to that, State Treasurer was a disappointing seventh in the Allerage Open, after leading most of the mile.  He then faced Miki in a Breeders Crown elimination, won easily by the latter, with State Treasurer finishing third, three lengths back. And the following week Miki took the final in handy fashion in 1:49.3, with State Treasurer finishing sixth.

State Treasurer called it a year after his Breeders Crown loss, while Miki went on to win the American-National in 1:49.1 at Balmoral. Since he was not staked to the TVG, that’s it for him in 2015.

This week’s Breeders Crown Poll shows Always B Miki in sixth place with 147 points, while State Treasurer is in twelfth with only 29 points. While some of the folks who vote in this poll will also vote for the division champions, not all will. Still, we must choose between five months of domination at the highest ranks of the aged pacing tree and one month of brilliance at the tail end of the season. Does that old saw “What have you done for me lately” rule the day? As unfair as it might be, I believe Always B Miki will take home the Dan Patch.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Well, if nothing else, the opening of the Meadowlands meet has brought attention to horses getting ready for finals.  Few think Bee A Magician or for that fact JK Endofanera will be raced the same way this week when the TVG finals take place.  Like it or not, saving a horse for a final or an upcoming race has been around likely since the days of Greyhound.  Just to be clear, 'saving a horse' doesn't necessarily mean not trying to win; it may be trying for an easier race, hoping to catch a trip instead of gunning to the front and racing bravely.

Let's first clarify something many are incorrect about.  The TVG races this past weekend were not elimination races; they were legs of a series similar to the Levy Memorial at Yonkers.  Horses who get into the final are the highest point earners in the overall series, not just horses coming out of the last race (yes, three year old Breeders Crown winners can be invited).  Horses who may have raced Saturday may have already qualified for the final so winning may be secondary to keeping tight.

As for true elimination races, some horses are racing to qualify, winning is secondary (a perfect example is a horse starting from post eight).  The industry often dangles a preferred post position in the final to coax a better effort which is unfair to the rest of the horses in the race.  For example, a horse in an elimination may be starting from post position 10 and going all out to land second or third; why shouldn't they get rewarded for their effort when someone who draws an inside post needs to expend only half the effort to win the race?

Let's face it, trainer report or no trainer report, the wagering public is always going to need to guess if a horse is going full or half throttle or merely a drive around the oval.  As much as I hate it, this is something one needs to consider in your handicapping.  The focus should be on giving handicappers the most information available to factor into their handicapping.

So where do we go from here?

In series events, it should be required to post current series standings in the racing program with horses listed in order of points earned.  In addition, if any horse has already clinched a position in the final, it should be designated..

As for eliminations, such as stakes races or early and late closing events, there should be no reward for winning an elimination.  However, eliminations should have meatier purses to make it worthwhile to win.

I've mentioned it before, rather than selecting the top position finishers in late closers to make up the race final, serious consideration should rely on the fastest finishers in eliminations.  This way, instead of just going around the track and making a last minute move to finish second or third, races would be contested all out.

Perhaps the best way in determining fields in stake races is to eliminate eliminations all together.  Some tracks have begun  determining race fields by money earned.  Some will have consolation races for those who don't qualify for the main event, some don't.

Lastly, if you insist on having elimination races the way they are currently being conducted, do the handicappers a favor, card them as non-wagering events.  For those without slots, it may be harder to do, but for racinos where handle means so little, there is no excuse not to take the races off the regular card.

One final word.  The Internet has been full of speculation as to why Brian Sears was a recipient of a 15 day suspension whereas other drivers with seemingly questionable drives appear to not have gotten similar penalties.  It is not my place to criticize or defend anyone on why or why not something happened.  The only ones who know the true stories are those directly involved.  We all know Jeff Gural is a controversial figure; controversial enough that some people have their own agenda when it comes to the Meadowlands operator and are more than happy to share their opinions as 'fact'.  Just remember this as you read these opinions.   

Monday, November 16, 2015

Opening Pandora's Box

The ugly affair of the Bee A Magician's race on opening night has opened a whole Pandora box of issues.  For anyone who has been away for a few days, it appeared  to many that in the final preliminary leg of the TVG series for Mares at the Meadowlands on opening night, Be A Magician went for a ride around the track at 2-5.  An uproar ensued, Jeff Gural held a mandatory horsemen meeting the following night explaining horsemen are to provide trainer's comments for all horses entered starting this week (delayed until a SBOANJ/Meadowlands meeting is held).  In the meanwhile, after a meeting with the judges, driver Brian Sears got a 15 day suspension for an unsatisfactory drive.

Let's talk about the immediate impact of what has transpired.  Brian Sears received his 15 day suspension at the Meadowlands, which may be all it takes to make Sears a permanent resident of Yonkers Raceway, unwilling to return to the mile track in East Rutherford as he may perceive himself as a marked man.  In addition, it may give pause to horsemen from others parts of the country who had an idea of trying to break in at the Meadowlands.

Now, what about the longer term impacts?  Once again, it brings to head the problem of horses using betting races as tighteners especially when the finals of big races are held the following week.  Yes, Magician had issues with tying up and the trainer asked the driver not to race the horse up front.  Sears obliged the trainer, perhaps a little too much.  The fact is if a horse has been tying up and the horse needs to be raced easy, by all means race them easy, in a non-wagering event.

If a horse is in a betting race, they should be raced with the intention of winning.  This doesn't mean a horse needs to be raced bravely; it may be covered up hoping for a break from the racing gods to allow them to find the winners circle.  Out of respect to the customers, the ones who support racing, a training mile should never occur when there is wagering on the line.

Of course, if you subscribe to this theory, you better expect shorter field.s

While not an elimination race, it brings up the issue of horses not trying to win eliminations; just to advance to the following week.  There should be no need to offer a reward for winning in the form off a favored post position come the final.  If you are going to accept just qualifying as an acceptable drive, I suggest track management race these eliminations before the wagering card takes place.

Lastly, where are the judges?  Except in Indiana, where unsatisfactory drives are penalized with some frequency, it took an uproar for the New Jersey judges to hand it to Brian Sears.  What about the other drives where unsatisfactory drives go by without a visit to the judges?  Any time an odds on favorite finishes out of the money, a routine visit to the judges should be mandatory.  Nothing may come of it, but it will let everyone know the judges are watching.  Where appropriate, the the judges should have no qualms about handing out unsatisfactory drive penalties.

The games people play in racing has to stop.  The public deserves an honest effort each time a horse steps onto the track.  There are other places people can gamble; there's no need to push them to those other options.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gural in the News; Sears Gets Time Off

UPDATE: The Meadowlands will delay the implementation of the trainers reports until they meet with the SBOANJ on the best way to implement the process.

Jeff Gural had a busy week regarding the protection of gamblers, indirectly and directly.

First of all, Gural was invited to speak to thoroughbred leaders regarding the issue of drug testing.  As I have been saying for a while, drug testing in the United States for race horses is a farce.  Either telling horsemen what they are testing for and/or state racing commissions attempting to save money by refusing to expand or even curtailing drug testing, it is open season for the use of illegal drugs in race horses.  What can be done.

According to Gural, it is up to the tracks to police racing as the  Meadowlands does with harness racing.  Gural calls for the big four thoroughbred tracks to implement their own drug enforcement teams to catch those who cheat using illegal medication with the goal of identifying the cheats and throwing them out of the tracks using the private tracks' exclusionary powers.  Yes, a track telling a trainer to pack up and get out doesn't keep them from continuing their cheating ways, but when a trainer or two (for example) are forced to move on from the Southern California circuit to Les Bois Park, the message will be clear to trainers; there is a huge cost in cheating, a cost they likely won't wish to incur.

Of course, the call goes out to harness tracks as well.  Unfortunately, there are few tracks who are willing to incur the cost required to truly catch drug cheats.  I can see perhaps one or two tracks who may be willing to take on enforcement if they had the will to do so.  As for the others, with alternative gaming be king, tracks are hesitant to spend money on protecting the integrity of a product they just as soon get rid off.

Did you play Bee A Magician on Friday night?  Did you feel like you got screwed?  Apparently, Gural would agree with you as would the judges.

Livid to see Bee A Magician sitting last most of the race you can imagine how he felt he learned from the trainer that Sears was told to try not to race her up front since she has been tying up of late. Avoiding the front end doesn't mean sitting last most of the way.

Apparently the judges felt the same way when Sears was given a fifteen day suspension for 'lack of judgement'.  Gural is determined not to see this happen again.  Effective immediately, trainers need to report the status of horses entered at the Meadowlands so it may be reported in the program and the website.

Will this eliminate  all inside information?  Of course not, but Gural is right.  If you want gamblers to wager, they have the right to know how horses have been training and if they have any physical ailments which may impact their racing.  Horses should be competitive at all times and if there is a chance they may not, the public needs to know about it.

Of course, scan social media and you will see most horsemen are against this new policy.  And we wonder why harness racing is looked upon poorly.  When will people realize we need to give our customers the information they need to make an intelligent wager?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Meadowlands Opening Night Preview

Well, it is almost here.  Opening night of the 2015-2016 standardbred meet kicks off Friday evening with a slate of eleven races.  The wagering format has changed a bit from last year so let's first kick off the exotics menu.

  • Exactas and Trifectas in each race
  • Daily Doubles in the first two and last two races each day
  • 10 cent Superfectas in races 2, 4-11
  • Pick 3 starting in races 2, 4-7, and 9 
  • 50 cent Pick 4 starts in race 4 and 8
  • 50 cent Pick 5 starts in race 1
  • 20 cent Jackpot Super High Five in races 5 and the last race of the day

A notable change is in the High Fives as their takeout went from 8% up to 15% due to the refusal of numerous simulcast partners in accepting wagers on this particular bet due to amount of money they would get in accepting these wagers.  To get the wager accepted across the board, it was necessary to increase the wager to a 15% rake.  While the Meadowlands will gain little from the increase, it should speed up the growth of the jackpots with more money being wagered into the pools.

Without further ado, here are my selections for opening night:

1st Trot - $11,000; N/W 2 Extended PM races or $21,000 LT (2 and 3yos)
6 - E L Love (Rekila, 9-5)
7 - Tuscanellie (Svanstedt, 7-2)
4 - Radiant Beam (A Miller, 5-2)

2nd Trot - $25,000; TVG Mares Open
4 - Harley Momma (Zerron, 20-1)
6 - Bee A Magician (Sears, 4-5)
1 - Classic Martine (Tetrick, 3-1)

3rd Trot - $8,500; N/W $7,500 Last 5 
6 - Sharp Edge (Bongiorno, 5-2) 
2 - Stonebridge Idol (Napolitano, 20-1)
3 - Fondant (Campbell, 10-1)

4th Pace - $10,000; N/W 2 Extended PM races or $20,000 LT
5 - JK Fannie (Tetrick 9-5)
6 - Penpal (Lachance, 2-1)
4 - BC's Belle Street (Gingras, 8-1)
3 -  Well Excuuuse Me (D Miller, 15-1)

5th Trot - $20,000; The Goldsmith Maid Elimination
1 - Ultimate Shopper (Campbell, 8-1)
9 - Womans Will (A Miller, 5-1)
5 - Double Exposure (Tetrick, 6-1)
4 - Wildflower (Svanstedt, 15-1)
8 - All The Time (Gingras, 9-5)

6th Pace - $14,000; FM N/W $10,000 Last 4
4 - Sayitall BB (Gingras, 5-2)
5 - Purity (Ginsburg, 15-1)
6 - Sir Jillian Z Tam (Lachance, 12-1)
1 - Solid Queen (Bongiorno, 8-1)

7th Pace - $25,000; TVG Mares Open
2 - Gallie Bythe Beach (M Miller, 4-1)
5 - Katie Said (Campbell, 7-2)
1 - Skippin By (D Miller, 12-1)

8th Trot - $13,500; N/W $12,500 Last 5 
2 - UVA Hanover (Tetrick, 5-2)
8 - Mambo Lindy (Zeron, 4-1)
7 - Explosive Man (D Miller, 7-2)
3 - Kascara Rosa (Berry, 10-1)

9th Pace - $6,900 N/W $12,500 LT (NJOS)
9 - Brioni (M Miller, 9-2)
2 - Buckeye In Charge (Pollo, 5-2)
6 - Walks Of Life (Berry, 12-1)
5 - Espirit De Kay Jay A (Gingras, 5-1) 

10th Trot - $7,000; N/W $5,000 Last 5
2 - Beau Joe (B Miller, 6-1) 
5 - Pembroke Snapshot (M Miller, 9-2)
9 - ES Mucho (Bongiorno, 7-2)
3 - Broadwat Rocks (Lachance, 8-1)

11th Pace - $7,500; FM N/W $5,000 Last 5
4 - Lizzie's Dream (Zeron, 8-1)
7 - Exotic Beach (D Miller, 5-2)
5 - Miss Defiance (B Miller, 4-1)
6 - Kelli Rachelle (Campbell, 7-2)
1 - Gimmesomeroom (Callahan, 12-1)

Good luck to all.

Meadowlands Season Faces Tough Sledding; Exchange Wagering Coming

It really is no secret the Meadowlands upcoming meet which begins this Friday, November 13 faces tough sledding.  You would think with the TVG series final qualifying leg and eliminations for the Final Four stakes, there would have been no problem filling the card.  You would have been wrong.

The TVG races for the most part are going with short fields, likely a victim of its coming after the Breeders Crown as many horses have already shut down for the year.  If the Meadowlands does indeed open next year's fall-winter meet in October, they should look to see if a move to October is feasible.  Where the Meadowlands hurts this weekend is in the overnight races where 7, 8, and 9 horse fields are on the card.  Let's face it, what drives handle are large wagering fields.  With short fields, a vicious 'chicken or the egg?' scenario develops; short fields leads to small handles which leads to short fields which leads to low handles and so on.

How low can purses go?  $10,000 claimers are racing for a base purse of $6,000 ($6,900 with the NJOS allowance).  On next week's condition sheet, we see the earliest arrival of the GSY Amateur Series ($5,500 purse) which last year was good for one or two races each Friday night.  I am all for amateur racing as a purist, but financially these races tend to be avoided by gamblers.  It is one thing to have an occasional amateur race on a racing card, but an extended run is too much.  Of course, with Pocono closing next week and Harrah's closing on December 13, the supply of horses should improve at least until they reopen in the spring though many trainers will be checking out Yonkers' condition sheet before the Meadowlands for those who can handle the half mile oval.

Then there are the yet to be approved race dates for next year.   While the Meadowlands proposed dates for next year, the horsemen made it known they were not happy, nor was Freehold Raceway which opposes the currently proposed schedule.  Meetings with the SBOANJ have taken place so while the final proposal being submitted is not known, the NJRC is due to issue racing dates on November 18.

Lastly is the possibility of a constitutional amendment which may bring slots to the Meadowlands; 'may' being the operative word.  First of all, we don't know what the wording of the amendment may be or if it will even make it to the ballot in the 2016 election cycle as its placement on the ballot is dependent on the whims of Senate President Sweeney, who as an undeclared gubernatorial candidate would seriously hurt his standing as a candidate with South Jersey were he to let this proposal see the ballot box.  Current polls show New Jersey's electorate against the expansion of gaming though to be fair, there has been no real campaigning up to this time to sway voters.  Will the Presidential election make it hard to reach the voters?  Also, with the likelihood of additional public questions starting with revamping election law to bypass the Governor's veto, one must wonder how many public questions there will be on the ballot which may get more 'noise' than a possible gaming amendment or provide another convenient excuse by Sweeney to delay its placement on the ballot.

Of course, there is some good news for gamblers in the Garden State.  According to the agenda of the November 18 meeting of the NJRC, initial licenses for exchange wagering may be issued, meaning NJ may be the first state to offer exchange wagering beginning sometime in 2016.  Betting-wise, this may be the gambling innovation to get more interest for all types of horse racing by those who are currently dissatisfied with pari-mutuel wagering.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tough Sledding For Most Trotting Sires in Harrisburg

The Harrisburg sale was down 5.1% through the first three days, when most of the yearlings were sold. I’ll take a look at how individual trotting sires fared. There was a supplemental group sold at the end of Tuesday’s sale and another bunch sold on Thursday morning. I stuck with the official sale average, but used those yearlings in the price breakdown.

Muscle Hill averaged almost $53,000 for 17 sold this year. That’s down 18% from the 31 sold last year. Many of the Muscle Hills were shifted to the Lexington Selected Sale; 49 were sold there for an average of more than $86,000—39% higher than at Harrisburg. That certainly didn’t help the overall average. While only two topped $100,000 in PA, fifteen did in Lexington, including a $350,000 half- brother to Father Patrick and three other $200,000 plus purchases. Muscle Hill stands in PA and these are all New Jersey eligible colts and fillies, but he gave Lexington Selected a big boost. Less than half of the Harrisburg offering sold for more than $50,000; 80% did top $25,000. The fact that Kadabra averaged 25% more than Muscle Hill speaks volumes about the value of a lucrative sire stakes affiliation. This is Muscle Hill’s last New Jersey eligible crop.

Kadabra had a terrific sale; 20 averaged a shade under $80,000—up 46% from last year when 38 sold. Three of each topped $100,000, with a colt going for $260,000. 62% brought at least $50,000, and 81% topped $25,000. Kadabra is a confirmed filly sire; last year his colts averaged $22,000 and his fillies $58,000. However, this time at Harrisburg the colts averaged $68,000 and the fillies almost $62,000. Did Super Final winner Tony Soprano turn the buyers around? Muscle Mass, who sells his last Ontario crop this year, has been Kadabra’s primary competitor in the OSS, but with him out of the way it’s pretty much Kadabra and the Seven Dwarfs, until the new stallions come on line. Aside from BAM, he keeps a low profile on the Grand Circuit, so OSS cash is on the minds of these buyers.

Cantab Hall bucked the trend at Harrisburg as his average jumped by 35% over last year. 37 sold during the three day yearling portion of the sale for a $64,351 average. He also sold five others in the Supplemental sale and on Thursday morning. Cantab, who has the highest published fee for a trotting stallion in North America, is up 43% since 2012 at this sale. Last year it was Father Patrick and this year we have Wild Honey. A filly brought $500,000 and another $270,000, while a colt sold for $300,000. On the other hand, only 26% topped $50,000. 71% sold for at least $25,000. Cantab clearly outperformed his rival Muscle Hill at this sale, but the latter averaged $28,000 more than he did in Lexington.

Sixteen-year-old Andover Hall had great success in the aged ranks, with Euro star Nuncio and BC winner Creatine. However, it wasn’t one of his better years with younger stock. His average at Harrisburg was down 23% as 26 sold for an average of $31,808. Back in 2011, the year Detour Hanover fetched $825,000, Andover averaged almost $58,000. He’s down 45% since then. Last year a brother to Donato Hanover brought $200,000 and a couple of others topped $100,000. There weren’t any in that range this year. 27% sold for at least $50,000, while 54% topped $25,000. Ten sold in Lexington for a $39,500 average.

Chapter Seven, who averaged a weighty $61,000 for the 26 from his first crop sold in Lexington, averaged $30,000 for 30 sold at the Standardbred Horse Sale. A couple brought at least $200,000 at Lexington while three others brought at least $100,000. Only two colts hit the $100,000 mark in Harrisburg. 27% topped $50,000 and 53% topped $25,000. That’s quite a divide between the two sales.

Conway Hall, the leading sire of two and three-year-olds in the NYSS and the sire of freshman hot shot Allerage Echo, averaged $26,167 for ten sold. That was down 28% from last year. When including a filly sold in the supplemental portion, six of the ten brought at least $25,000.

Crazed, who returned to New York from Pennsylvania this year, sold 32 for an alarming $12,700 average. That’s down 42% from last year. This crop is PA eligible; the 2014 bunch were destined for the NYSS. 62% failed to bring more than $15,000. JL Cruze and Crazy Wow had good years, but the buyers apparently weren’t impressed.

Explosive Matter had crack sophomore Pinkman, the can’t miss Dan Patch winner, carrying the banner for him all season, but the buyers apparently weren’t impressed. 39 averaged $17,564—down 33% from last year. None brought $100,000 and two fillies were the only ones that topped $50,000. And only 20% sold for at least $25,000. 61% failed to top $15,000. Talk about dismal numbers. 15 averaged more than $31,000 at Lexington Selected. He stands for $7,500 in Pennsylvania.

Donato Hanover averaged $38,744 for 40 sold, plus there were three in the supplemental offering. That was down 16% from 2014. More than half sold for at least $25,000, while a third brought $50,000 or more. A pair topped $100,000. He was nothing special at Lexington, averaging under $40,000 for 39 sold. The sire of Broadway Donna and D’One only sold one for $100,000 there and just 35% topped $50,000.

Lucky Chucky, who stands for $6,000 in New York, down from $7,500 in 2014, averaged a miniscule $8,810 for 21 sold. There were also a couple of others. 87% of them failed to surpass $15,000. None of them brought $25,000.

Muscle Mass, who has outdone his younger, more accomplished brother, sold four from his last Ontario crop. They averaged $35,750, up 45% from last year. He has never before averaged more than $20,000 at this sale. Muscle Massive averaged under $15,000 for 37 sold. 60% failed to crack $15,000.

Eight by RC Royalty averaged $21,188—down 60% from 2014. He’s done fine in the NYSS, but Royalty For Life may be a one-off.

Yankee Glide sold nine colts and seven fillies for an average under $20,000. He’s down 49% at this sale since 2013. 44% failed to top $15,000. 30 averaged more than $30,000 in Lexington, where a brother to All Laid Out brought $150,000 and a sister to Aperfectyankee sold for $130,000. Milligan’s School won splits of the Bluegrass and ISS. Yankee Glide was strong at both sales in 2013, then things changed.

Credit Winner averaged $28,700 for 35 sold—down 57% from 2014, and down 63% from 2013. Only one went through the sale for $100,000 and that was a buy back. Only 14%—five colts—sold for $50,000 or more. 36% topped $25,000 and 28% failed to sell for more than $15,000. He’s third on the NYSS freshman money list and second on the sophomore list, but the trotting sires in the Empire State are so bad that those placements don’t mean much. It’s old reliable Conway Hall and the Who brothers. Credit Winner sold 58 for a $51,474 average in Lexington. A colt and three fillies topped $100,000 in Lexington. He hasn’t given us much to get excited about in recent years, but they look like a million dollars.

Dewey averaged $15,000 for nine plus one sold from his first New York eligible crop. Half of them failed to top $15,000. A couple brought at least $25,000.

Broadway Hall, who now stands in Ohio, averaged $16,404 for 26 Pennsylvania eligibles. That was down 23% from last year. 63% failed to sell for more than $15,000.

Joe FitzGerald





Sunday, November 8, 2015

Michigan Horsemen About to Take a Shave?

A bill, SB 504, has been introduced into the Michigan legislature which will change the way simulcast revenue will be split as this legislation updates the Michigan Racing Act of 1995.

First the good news.  A literal reading of the bill indicates only thoroughbred and standardbred licenses may be issued.  Apparently quarter horse, Arabian, appaloosa, and American paint horse meets will no longer be licensed and being there is no reference to mixed meets, those breeds will no longer be able to race in Michigan.

The bill also requires 75 days of harness racing at tracks outside of city areas and 100 days within city areas in order to have simulcasting (though there is part of the legislation which indicates the track with the highest average handle the prior year in a city must request 140 days with all other standardbred tracks totaling 120 days combined).  Similar requirements also impact the runners.

Now the bad news.  Currently, 60% of simulcast revenue funds standardbred purse accounts while 40% funds thoroughbred accounts.  Under provisions of the proposed bill, All revenue from each breed simulcast will be going directly to the respective purse accounts.  Hence all standardbred simulcasts will fund standardbred purse accounts and the same for thoroughbred simulcasting.

Well, its no secret most money wagered on simulcast races finds its way to thoroughbred races.  Hence one can expect to see purses cut on harness races.

Needless to say, standardbred horsemen are not happy while thoroughbred horsemen are pleased as the old racing legislation was written when harness racing was king and thoroughbred racing had little say in the legislature.  Where both groups agree is their opposition to a different bill which would allow casinos to offer sports betting and yes, offer simulcasting of horse races; this in a state which has crippled racing and refuses to allow them to become racinos.  Tracks are bound to be unhappy as presently Northville is scheduled for 60 days  (Hazel Park 30 running dates) next year; the legislation would require more racing dates.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The American Natoinal Goes on Hiatus

The American Nationals, which have been prominent in the mid-west appears to be a race without a home after tonight's running.  The race, which in Chicago have been contested at Sportsman Park before moving over to Balmoral Park will be going into hiatus with the closure of Balmoral at the end of the year. 

Being Hawthorne will be hosting the standardbreds earlier in the year, there appears not to to be a home for the stakes race, at least for 2016.  Unless the race is taken over by another track or racing at Hawthorne is moved to the late summer or fall in subsequent years, this race seems to be destined for the history books.

It would be wrong if we let this historic series of races go without taking a stab at handicapping the final running of these races so I present my take on the final races (races 1-7). Without further ado, here are my picks.

1st Pace - $78,450 - American National 2yo Fillies
1 - Roll of Dreams (Gingras, 9-5) - Finished 3rd in his first race back against the morning line favorite.  Driver change may be the trick in reversing the results.
2 - Can't Touch This (Shelter, 8-5) - Highest money earner in the field has been racing strong at Hoosier Park; expect similar effort here.
4 - Rocknroll Hoochoo (Curtin, 12-1) - Green horse came from last to first in nw1.  Steps up in class but may have returned from layoff as a totally different horse.
3 - Lexington Lady (Carpenter, 3-`) - Winner of two straight has looked the best but has been racing against state-breds.  Tries open company.

2nd Pace - $74,000 - American National 2yo Colts and Geldings
4 - New Talent (Campbeell, 5-2) - When flat he appears unbeatable, but staying flat is the big question with this one. . Need decent odds to give this one a whirl.
1 - Mystical Rock (Tetrick, 7-5) - Miller trainee has been a consistent one in his brief career.  Will be ready to pounce if top choice jumps off.
6 - Lindy Beach (Zeron,7-2) - Last race was not much but raced well in Lexington late closers.  Has the speed but a question of seasoning.  Expect him to finish in the money.
3 - Western Redhot (Leonard, 8-1) - Seems to be the best of the rest.  Use in your super tickets.

3rd Pace - $120,000 - American National 3yo Fillies
7 - Devil Child (Tetrick, 5-2) - The easiest of winners in last two.  Look to repeat.
4 - Rockin Good (Finn, 8-1) - No chance in last. Winner of 4 of last six starts.  Second best.
1 - Southwind Roulette (Gingras, 3-1) - Draws the rail the first time in ages.  Could be what she needs.
2 - Daut Full (Zeron, 5-1) - Winner of two straight in overnights. Include on tickets.  May be worth a play if stays at 5-1 or higher.

4th Trot - $120,000 - American National 3yo Fillies
4 - E L Love (Rekila, 7-2) - Reklia racing south of the border?  That's all you need to know. 
3 - Muscle Baby Doll (Miller, 8-5) - Won the last going the overland route,  Easier trip here puts filly into contention.
6 - Bright Baby Blues (Tetrick, 9-5) - Showed in Futurity and placed against #3 in last start.  Don't ignore.
5 - Kelsey's Keepsake (Bongiorno, 6-`) - Broke in last two yet finished well.  Want this one in your tickets.

5th Pace - $159,000 - American National 3yo Colt and Geldings
2 - Freaky Feet Pete (Tr Tetrick, 6-5) - Jiggle It Wiggleit's nemesis is in a class of his own.  Lucky to get 4-5.
4 - Lost For Words (Miller, 7-2) - Finished 3rd in Breeders Crown,  Flat in last but never ignore Burke trainee.
6 - Mohawk Warrior (Ti Tetrick, 8-1) - Nice effort in last.  May pick up the pieces.
3  - My Hero Ron (Gingras, 5-1) - Last two were poor; but before then going well.  May rebound to land in money. 

6th Trot - $204,000 - American National 3yo Colt and Geldings
1 - The Bank (Miller, 5-2) - Breeders Crown winner looks to repeat.
6 - Homicide Hunter (De Long, 4-1) - Had long win streak before second place finish.  Looks to rebound.
3 - KY Lucky (Wilfong, 15-1) - Last better than it looks.  Races well here.  Include in tickets.
4 - Win The Day (Tr Tetrick, 12-1) - Reid trainee may be good enough to grab final spot in Super.

7th Pace - $136,500 - American National 4yo and up
1 - Luck Be Withyou (Tetrick, 4-1) - Draws rail against this field.  Looking for mild upset.
3 - Always B Miki (Miller, 8-5) - Logical favorite,  Will likely be 4-5 or lower.  A question of value.
5 -  Foiled Again (Gingras, 9-5) - Veteran pacer can never be discounted.  Will land on the ticket.
4 -  Ultimate Beachboy (Campbell, 10-1) - Been a while for this one but Burke may have this one ready for a good effort.  May improve this rating.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pacing Sires In Harrisburg

Last year, after promising results at Lexington Selected, the Harrisburg sale inexplicably got slammed on the first couple of days and never recovered, finishing down 4% from 2013. A similar scenario seems to be playing out this year as the yearling portion of the sale showed a 6.7% decline, and Pennsylvania sired stock was off almost double that. Some blame the poorly timed dust up over racetrack funding in that state. Regardless, let’s look at how some of the pacing sires fared.

Somebeachsomewhere sold 50 yearlings for an average a shade under $60,000. 12%--three colts and three fillies—brought at least $100,000. At Lexington 34%--eight colts and seven fillies--topped $100,000. And three of them sold for more than $200,000. Last year at Harrisburg SBSW sold a colt for $300,000 and another for $240,000. Still, 60% sold for at least $50,000 at Harrisburg this year. That figure was 46% in 2014.

His average was down less than 4% from 2014, which is good considering the pounding  Pennsylvania based sires endured, but he’s off 27% from 2013 and 30% from 2012. SBSW leads the freshman money list, thanks in part to Pure Country, but he’s seventh on the three-year-old list. Limelight Beach was a surprise Jug winner, but aside from Captaintreacherous SBSW hasn’t been a player in the sophomore classics.

American Ideal, the sire of He’s Watching , American Jewel, Heston Blue Chip, Dude’s The Man, In The Arsenal and American Passport, saw his average jump 25% from what it was last year at this sale. It’s up 28% from 2012. Only two, both colts, of 41 sold topped $100,000 and just 15% topped $50,000. He lived in the middle as 24, or 58%, brought at least $25,000. Last year only one of 32 brought $100,000 and one other topped $50,000.

Well Said was the volume leader among pacing sires with 61 yearlings. His average was down 10% from last year. The sire of Lost For Words and Control The Moment sold only one filly for more than $100,000, while 18 % topped $50,000, and 41% brought at least $25,000. 30% failed to bring more than $15,000. The days of the Cancelliere brothers paying $300,000 for a half- brother to Bettor Sweet are long gone. The journeyman stallion stands for a $15,000 stud fee and his average is down 47% from what it was when his first crop was sold at Harrisburg in 2012.

Art Major sold 45 yearlings in Harrisburg, up from 30 in 2014. His $41,000 average represented a rise of about 4% from last year. He averaged $55,000 for 32 sold in Lexington. The sire of last year’s Horse of the Year, JK She’salady, sold a third of his Harrisburg offering for $50,000 or more and 71% for at least $25,000. Only two topped $100,000. He’s been up and down at this sale over the years: His average is up 25% since 2012, but down 16% since 2013. At $12,000, he’s the most expensive pacing stallion in New York.

Bettor’s Delight, who has bounced back and forth between New York, Canada and Pennsylvania, and is now back in Ontario, sold 59 from his first Pennsylvania crop. Typically selling Pennsylvania stock would be preferable to an Ontario crop, but that situation flipped this year, to his detriment. His average was down 27% from 2014, when his offspring were Ontario eligible. His average was up slightly in Lexington. The leading sire of all-age pacers in North America, who gave us freshman star LA Delight, as well as Betting Line, Betting Exchange, Bettor Be Steppin and Venus Delight, typically doesn’t sell much at the top end. There were two colts who topped $100,000 here and none in Lexington. Sixteen, or 27%, brought at least $50,000 while 31, or 52%, brought at least $25,000. He was the leader on the two-year-old money list in the Ontario SS this year. Bettor’s Delight stands for $12,000.

Rock N Roll Heaven sold 38 for an average of $17,447—down 53% from last year. And that was down 63% from what his initial offering sold for in Harrisburg in 2012. Only two, a pair of fillies, topped $50,000. 18% brought at least $25,000. The sire of probable Dan Patch winner Divine Caroline, as well as Sassa Hanover and Band Of Angels, has relocated to New Jersey for 2016.

Rocknroll Hanover, who passed in March, 2013, sold his only Pennsylvania crop. Eighteen yearlings brought an average of $46,500, which was up 35% over last year. It was 42% higher than the 62 sold in Harrisburg in 2012. A half-sister to He’s Watching brought $200,000 and another filly and a colt also sold for at least $100,000.

Dragon Again, a high volume stallion, sold 50 for an average of $21,310. That average is about the same one he had for 47 offered here in 2014. Only two topped $50,000, while 34% brought at least $25,000. This was the last Pennsylvania crop by the twenty-year-old journeyman sire of Foiled Again and Wakizashi Hanover.

Mach Three saw his average jump 38% over last year as ten sold for an average of $52,200. 70% brought at least $25,000. The sixteen-year-old sire of SBSW gave us Mach It So and Wrangler Magic. The Ontario stallions did very well in Harrisburg.

Roll With Joe, who was the leader in the freshman pacing division of the NYSS with his first crop, experienced a modest 6% loss; 33 sold for an average of $31,750. Four, or 12%, topped $50,000 and 18, or 55%, brought at least $25,000. He fared better in Lexington.

Sportswriter had a very good sale with a small offering of nine. They averaged $47,444—up 22% over 2014. His average is up 51% over his first crop’s sale in 2013. A third of them sold for at least $50,000 while seven of the nine brought at least $25,000.

Shadow Play was up 15% over last year, but the six colts and seven fillies still only averaged $18,385. His average is down 43% from 2013 when his freshman class dominated the OSS. None of the 13 sold for more than $50,000. Five of them failed to clear $15,000.

Western Ideal, who gave us Artspeak, Shezarealdeal, Ideal Jimmy, Big Top Hanover and Spider Man Hanover in 2015, sold 22 for an average of $33,114—down 10% from last year. His average has jumped 66% since 2012, when he relocated to Hanover from New Jersey. 23% sold for at least $50,000 and 45% for more than $25,000.

Western Terror has a schizophrenic history in Harrisburg. He sold nine for a $17,500 average this year—down 47% from his $33,188 average for 24 sold in 2014. And the previous year he only sold four for a $7,375 average. He’s all over the map. Four of the nine failed to top $15,000. The sire of Drop The Ball, Economy Terror and Safe From Terror stands in Pennsylvania for $7,500.

Ponder, who offered his first Pennsylvania crop, sold his first yearlings at Harrisburg since 2010. Thirteen averaged $14,654. 85% of them failed to top $15,000. Welcome back.

Yankee Cruiser, who will be more at home in Ohio, sold 30 for an average of $14,717—down 15% from last year. 17% topped $25,000. This is his last Pennsylvania crop.

Joe FitzGerald