For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Carving Up Balmoral; Takeout Reductions

With no new offers, it appears Balmoral Park and Maywood will be picked apart and sold as if one giant garage sale (albeit by auction) in March.  Yesterday was the deadline for new bids for Balmoral Park and no offers were submitted other than the prior bid was deemed unacceptable.  So if you are in need of a tote board, track lighting, and other odds and ends, March 16 is a date to mark on your calendar.

Meanwhile racing moves to Hawthorne on January 8 and if you are a horseman, it is kind of hard to feel sorry for Balmoral and Maywood Parks; after all, horsemen will be racing for more money than they have recently done at Balmoral and instead of racing two days a week and twiddling their fingers the rest of the week, they will be racing a good part of the week, allowing horsemen to be fully employed during the race meet before having to go on the road the rest of year.

The Meadows is cutting their takeout rate for 2016. to have one of the lowest blended rates in North America with WPS having a 17% takeout rate with all exotics now carrying a 20% race.  In addition, all Pick-4s will be having a $5,000 pool guarantee.  Granted, the Meadows will not be handling million dollar handles anytime soon, but for those who are looking for an afternoon track featuring harness racing, it is a track worth looking at in 2016.

The number of mares bred has decreased once again in 2015 in the United States according to Harnesslink while  the number of mares bred in 2015 in Canada increased solely on the back of Ontario.  If this drop continues, pretty soon the have and have nots will not be about slots but horses.  Interesting in the United States is the drop of mares bred in Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania.  Perhaps even more interesting is the fact the oft-maligned program in New Jersey which shows an increase of 182 mares bred despite the lack of slots.  Obviously, the industry is betting on slots at the Meadowlands, but for an industry which has had little to be happy about of late, it is a strong sign.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Drivers on the Move in 2015

Yannick Gingras, last year’s unanimous choice for Driver of the Year, tops the money list again this year, but with a few days left in 2015 he’s $3.7 million and 123 wins short of last year’s record haul—his smallest bankroll since 2011. As a result, hall of famer David Miller, who trails Gingras by more than a million dollars, was voted to the top spot this year. Miller, moved up from the fourth spot in 2014 to number two. He eclipsed the $10 million mark for a record thirteenth time, with his 2015 total of more than $12.3 million being the most the 51-year-old driver has ever earned in one year. Becoming the first driver in the 31-year history of the Breeders Crown to win five of them was the cherry on Miller’s sundae.

Moving up from year to year within the top ten is no easy task. Another driver who pulled that off is Jason Bartlett. The 34-year-old Maine native, who won his 6,000 race at the end of October, made the leap from seventh to fourth. 2009 was the only year, Bartlett, the leading driver at Yonkers, earned more than he did in 2015. Bamond Racing  provided Jason with some serious firepower: He won the Blue Chip Matchmaker and Artiscape with division winner Venus Delight; Krispy Apple won 13 times for $360,000; and PH Supercam had eight wins for $366,000.

George Napolitano Jr, who was eleventh on the money list last year, has moved up four spots to number seven. He may have passed on a December battle for the dash title, but he banked $1.4 million more this year. That’s a career mark for wins and money for G-Nap. He stayed put in Pennsylvania, leading all drivers at Harrah’s and Pocono Downs. Napolitano won 100 races at those two tracks in July and 105 in August. His 0.404 UDRS is the highest on the top fifty list. Despite getting a late start on his career, he got win number 7,000 on July 15. Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, Chris Oakes and Rene Allard provided many of the winners. The six drivers ahead of Napolitano participated in a lot more Grand Circuit stakes than he did.

Dan Dube, who had back surgery three years ago, earned 39% more this year than last year on 120 more wins. The 49-year-old native of Quebec, who drove Gallo Blue Chip and Rock N Roll Heaven, jumped from number 21 to number 10. This was his best year since 2009. The Yonkers regular passed the $100 million mark this year and got his 8,000 win in February. Jimmy Takter, Rene Allard and Scott Di Domenico provided many of the live drives for Dube. He made 89% of his money at Yonkers. Not Afraid, Great Vintage, Daylon Miracle, Red Hot Herbie,  and the undefeated Lucky Chucky filly, Non Stick, were some of his better horses.

As usual, Jim Morrill Jr is taking the winter off. The only drivers in the top 45 with fewer drives are John Campbell and Montrell Teague. Still, the Massachusetts native jumped nine spots to number 15. He had 35 fewer wins on 45 more drives, but earned $1.1 million more than he did in 2014. The King of the New York Sire Stakes crushed it again in that program, winning 44 races and earning $1.8 million—34% of his money came out of that program’s coffers. Second place Jason Bartlett was $1.2 million behind Morrill. Joe Larry N Curly, White Rolls, Soft Idea, Habitat and Crazy Wow were a few of his winners.

Right behind Morrill is Michigan transplant Tyler Buter. He made 544 more drives this year and bolted from 41 on the 2014 list to number 16. He earned $4.9 million—90% of his bankroll-- at Yonkers, where he finished fifth in the standings. 234 of his 263 wins were there. He was sitting behind Autotune Hanover when he broke his maiden in the Sheppard. The old grey mare, Jonsie Jones, won nine times for $222,000. Zooming, Dream Out Loud N and Backstreet Hanover were other winners for 30-year-old Buter.

Chris Page, who at age 32 is a 15-year veteran, stepped up from number 31 to number 23. His earnings on the Ohio circuit went up by $571,000. Chris did very well in that state’s refurbished sire stakes program. The Big Bad John trio, Primo Giovanni, Queen Ann M and Whataboy performed well for him. Ron Burke’s Deep Chip sophomore gelding, I Know My Chip, won seven times for $264,000. Page also drove DWs NY Yank, Clear Vision, Limelight Beach and Larry’s Dude for Burke. He drove Candy’s A Virgin for Brian Brown. Chris won number 3,000 at Dayton late in November.

Mark MacDonald, who suffered numerous injuries in a bad racetrack accident in May, 2011, then relocated to Yonkers after missing more than three months at the close of 2011 and beginning of 2012, moved up from number 33 on the earnings list to number 24. He earned $647,000 more and his UDRS moved from 0.201 to 0.240. Sylvain Filion is the only WEG based driver to earn more money in 2015. Mac made 246 more starts this year, 85% of them at Yonkers. Many of his winners paid a price. The FFA trotter, Obrigado, who won the Crawford, was his most lucrative drive.

Australian expatriate Andrew McCarthy, who has been driving in North America since 2007, moved up seven spots on the earnings list. He had 11 fewer wins, but banked $445,000 more. This was his best year money-wise as he earned almost $4 million. Ross Croghan, Mark Harder Tony Alagna and Tony O’Sullivan are a few of the trainers he drives for. Wicker Hanover, Outburst, Totally Rusty, She Wore Red and Captive Audience are a few of his drives.

Simon Allard stepped up 12 spots, earning a hefty $947,000 more than last year. Brother Rene, the third leading trainer in North America, provided him with plenty of live drives. He was second to George Nap with 236 wins at Pocono Downs. Katie’s Rocker, Big Boy Dreams, Yagonnakissmeornot, Bodacious and National Debt are a few of the horses he drove.

Bruce Aldrich Jr, a 47-year-old regular at Monticello and Saratoga, who is fourth in the dash race with 663 wins, jumped 10 spots to number 39. He upped his earnings more than $816,000, as he is having the best year of his 22-year career as a driver.

Montrell Teague, who turns 25 next week, made 188 fewer starts and won seven fewer races this year, but he increased his earnings by 60%. Wiggle It Jiggleit was responsible for 60% of the $3.6 million he banked. He was active at the major yearling sales; perhaps he’ll start driving more in 2016.

Many drivers remained the same, or made marginal moves: Tim Tetrick went from second to third; Sears went from five to six; Corey Callahan stepped up one spot to five; dash champ Aaron Merriman moves up one spot to 11; Dave Palone drops one to 14; Sylvain Filion remains at 17; Trace Tetrick drops one to 20; Mike Wilder remains at 25; Jordan Stratton up two to 26; Marcus Miller stays at 29; Trevor Henry up one to 38; and Dan Noble up one to 43. And then there are those that fell off a cliff…..

Joe FitzGerald



Sunday, December 27, 2015

Time for a New Look at the V75

With the success of the jackpot wagers, it is time to take a new look at the V75 wager and bringing it to America.

While admittedly these jackpot wagers are churn-killers, the fact is a large part of the handle on any daily basis is spent on jackpot wagers.  While in the long run these wagers are not good for the general public, it may be a case of 'give the customer what they want' which is wagers where a little money can earn you a nice fortune.  Hopefully, success on the V75 will encourage gamblers to play churn generating wagers.

While jackpot wagers hurt churn, the V75 would hurt churn less so than wagers such as the Jackpot Hi-5 where the jackpot pays out only if one winning ticket is played.  The V75 pays out the jackpot to all who select the 7 winners.  For those who are unfamiliar with the V75, here is how it works.

On a specific Saturday, one track hosts the V75 races, typically seven races in a row.  The base wager is a dime per selection.  Of the amount dedicated to payoffs, 40% of the pool is dedicated to those who select 7 out of 7; 20% goes to those who select 6 out of 7; 40% goes to those who select 5 out of 7.  If no one selects all 7 horses, this portion of the pool carries over to the following week as part of the jackpot.  Payoffs to those who select 6 or 5 correct horses is made unless the payoff is less than $3 per combination in which case the money is added to the jackpot.

Of course, what makes this wager so successful in Sweden is the fact lottery agents sell tickets for the V75 as well as the tracks.  So logically, the question may be asked, do we need to partner with the lottery in promoting this wager?  Obviously, it would help but it shouldn't be a show stopper.  Setting up the V75 fields early in the week and allowing ADWs and tracks to sell tickets once the fields are finalized (say starting Wednesday till off-time on Saturday) should allow pools to grow nicely, but trying to partner with the lottery shouldn't be ignored.  For example, in New Jersey, the privatized lottery has been under performing.  The possibility of increasing revenue may be tempting to the lottery.

Of course, as is the case in North America, new wagers are only accepted once they prove to be a success so it may be up to one track or state to lead the way and offer the wager.  Should the wager be successful, other states will allow their tracks to offer the wager so where initially the V75 may be offered at one track (though offered for wagering elsewhere), the number of states/tracks which may be part of the V75 circuit will expand.  Same way with the state lotteries offering the wager; success in one state will spur other lotteries to offer the wager.  The key is there can only be one V75 wager in the nation each week.

Why the V75 over other exotic wagers?  If we can get state lotteries to offer wagering on the V75, we will be able to expand racing's reach to non-racing customers, hopefully getting them interested in racing.  Failing that, offering the wager through the lottery will get racing additional funds from a segment of the population which traditionally doesn't contribute to racing.

When you think about it, the question really isn't "Should we offer a V75 wager?", it is "How can we afford not to offer the V75?".  It's time has come.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Delays, Farewell, and Turf Racing

If you saw my wish list for 2016, you will have seen me talk about the conversion of times to 1/100ths.  You may have also seen an update showing it has been delayed.  It turns out the USTA has tabled its implementation.  You may ask why?  Is it because Canada has refused to go along with the USTA's lead?  Nope.  The problem is at least one racing commission has refused to approve the rule change meaning they would continue to time races in fifths.  As a result, the USTA has decided to hold off on the conversion.

Here lies one of the biggest problems horse racing has to deal with.  The sport may have national rules regarding things like timing and on contesting the race, but the rule changes are meaningless unless the individual racing state approves their version of the rules.  If there is a problem with getting states to go along with the timing change, what hope is there to get any changes approved on a national basis; especially since it has been known for at least a year and a half that timing was to change to the hundredths?

I am in the process of trying to find out the name of at least one commission which refused to go along with the change and why.

There needs to be a compact which allows rules to be adopted on a national level instead of requiring state by state approval.  If medication changes can be adopted nationally, there should be no reason why commissions can't approve standardized rules.

Auld Lang Syne

Farewell to Balmoral Park which will be racing its final race card tonight.  As you know, Balmoral Park is in bankruptcy and has not been given race dates for 2016.  Whether or not racing ever returns to the track remains to be seen; it depends a lot on what happens with the bankruptcy auction and the success of Hawthorne's two harness meets this year.  Maywood Park had already closed earlier this year.

A little Boxing Day Turf Racing

This race was contested earlier today at Westport as part of the Boxing Day card.  The race was 3,200 meters long over the turf and was won by Cullect A Guiness in 4:11.8.  What makes this race interesting is it was run over the turf, something not done in North America.

A few years ago, there was a race at the Meadowlands over the turf and the starting gate car was bouncing up and down all over the place causing confusion.  You will notice here they use a walk-up start to avoid such problems.

Note the horse not only wasn't up front at the start, but was assessed a 30 meter handicap; the only horse with a 30 meter handicap.

No, I am not suggesting we go to a walk-up start.  Something like that would have heads exploding from traditionalists who are resistant to any change so the odds of getting turf racing is remote.  However, this shows if you make races long enough, a second tier which provides more wagering options is feasible.  Distance racing is something worth having a battle about.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I Would Like to See in 2016

An annual tradition of VFTRG is our list of times we would like to see in the upcoming year.  For your consideration is my list of things I would like to see in 2016.
  1. An easy transition to the timing of races in hundredths.  This change begins on January 1.  Say good bye to 1:49.3 (where '.3' is 3/5ths instead of your math class 3/10ths) and say hello to 1:49.25 which will be mathematically correct.  What will make things more interesting is while American races will be timed in hundredths, Canadian races will continue to be timed in fifths. (Update: Implementation has been delayed to a date TBD)
  2. A great FFA season.  The seeds have been planted for a great campaign with some of the best horses we have seen in quite awhile.  Hopefully, the upcoming year will live up to the hype.
  3. Another great Yonkers International.  It may be a throwback to our glory days but let's not kid ourselves, it shows what racing should be; an international affair.
  4. No disrespect intended to John Campbell, but the formal coronation of Tim Tetrick as our 'driver laureate', our new globe trotting ambassador for harness racing and all around class guy.
  5. The continued truce between Jeff Gural and Joe Faraldo.  If you haven't noticed it, things have been quiet of late between the two men.  We like it this way.  Both have their own views on how racing should be saved, and at times they are diametrically opposite of each other, but public bickering doesn't help anyone.
  6. A 'relatively' quiet Meadowlands meet, one without controversy, no talk about exclusions and counting to one hundred before announcing any new policies.
  7. While on the subject of the Meadowlands, full fields, dare I say overflow fields once Yonkers and other tracks reopen?  It has been nice these past two weeks having full fields.  I realize the odds are the overflow entries will be disappearing, but hey, you can hope.
  8. With the deadline to get a casino gambling amendment to the legislative floor this year having passed, we wish for super majorities in 2016 so a North Jersey gaming referendum can reach the ballot box.  Face it, every year a referendum doesn't get voted on, the Meadowlands programs gets shaved a little bit more.
  9. In Florida, the failure of the de-coupling movement for if the state manages to de-couple racing from their card rooms and casino floors, it will only be a matter of time until de-coupling spreads like a virus.
  10. A successful Suburban Downs meet at Hawthorne.  Success at Suburban Downs may make Hawthorne value their harness meet besides the fact they control the revenue from OTW.
  11. 2017 racing dates for Balmoral and Maywood Park.  Hey, we can dream can't we?
  12. If Thunder Ridge Raceway races in 2016, customers.  Betting customers.  Heck, when I would be considered a whale, a track is in big trouble.
  13. If not the return of Harness Racing Update, a new publication to discuss the serious issues involving racing.  One can't expect publications operated by racing organizations to deal with the serious issues.
  14. If the long discussed USTA racing channel on the Internet comes to fruition, the creation of an app which can be watched on devices such as Roku, Fire TV, and other devices.  Some of us dinosaurs still like watching racing on their televisions, even if the signals come from the Internet.
  15. Donald Trump.  Face it, as long as we have Donald in the Presidential election, even the stupidest thing done in the standardbred industry will look like sheer genius.
  16. Back to New Jersey, a successful debut of exchange wagering which will be profitable not only for racetracks but convince those doubters in states such as California they should adopt exchange wagering.
  17. The return of Walter Case.  We can dream can't we?
  18. Billy Parker in the Hall of Fame (this will be on my list until it happens)
  19. More racing opportunities in Michigan.
  20. Co-mingling of foreign pools into American pools and vice-versa.
  21. Introducing a mile rate for races shorter or longer than a standard mile.  A mile rate will make it easier to handicap races; especially when horses race at different distances.
  22. Another successful year for RUS Ontario.  Perhaps hosting a race or two in the Martimes, maybe during Old Home Week?
  23. Pari-mutuel wagering for American racing under saddle events.  I know there are doubters out there but until it is given a fair chance, we don't know do we?
  24. Cal Expo exercise their option early and begin negotiating an extension of the lease to Watch and Wager early as the lease to operate a harness meet at Cal Expo ends in 2017.
  25. With the cancellation of PA Harnessweek, a new gig for Heather Vitale and Steve Ross.
  26. A return to the day when post time meant post time (we can pray for miracles can't we?)
  27. A winning year at the windows.  Now that would be a Christmas miracle.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Few Significant Events In 2015

These are a few of the significant events, performances and trends that occurred in the sport of harness racing during 2015.

Ron Pierce, the 59-year-old Hall of Fame driver who was third on the money list last year, with almost $11 million and 448 wins, has been absent for most of the season. He drove in 503 races in January, February and the first week of March before shutting it down for neck and back surgery. The problem with his neck was corrected, but his back has never come around, to the point where he raised retirement as a real possibility when interviewed in August.

Pierce has won 9,569 races and earned $215 million during his career. But beyond that measurable success, in the straight and narrow public world of harness racing Pierce is one of the few genuine characters; there’s nothing better than a post-race interview with Rockin Ron. He is sorely missed. Let’s hope his health improves to the point where he’s back driving in 2016.

Restricted races for four-year-olds early in the season has been a hot topic of late, and with the advent of the Graduate series we’re seeing it come to fruition. However, it’s noteworthy that JL Cruze, who earned only $25,000 at three, won the Graduate final as well as the Hambletonian Maturity, while Doo Wop Hanover, who had some success but was not a major figure as a colt, won the Graduate Pace final. Contributions from the high profile four-year-olds that folks were anxious to keep on the track, on the other hand, have been lacking.

Father Patrick started off with a win in the Maxie Lee, but he lost two legs of the Graduate and was sixth behind JL Cruze in the final. And he finished last in the Hambletonian Maturity. His stablemate Nuncio had a very good year—in Europe. Horse of the Year JK She’salady suffered her first loss in her Fan Hanover elimination, and dropped the final to 0 for 4 Wrangler Magic. Dan Patch winner Color’s A Virgin didn’t get going until the fall; Dan Patch winner McWicked never really got going; Pace winner He’s Watching retired in July; Shake It Cerry fell short of expectations….

After a five year run, Harness Racing Update ceased publication with the October 11 issue. The online newsletter which appeared in one’s email box from two to four times a week, depending on the season, had become the primary source of unfiltered information on the sport for many. However, advertisers never came through in sufficient numbers to sustain the operation for  publisher Bill Finley and his staff.

They didn’t run the formulaic puff pieces that prevail in the sport’s media wing. Shortly before HRU closed shop trainer Ron Burke told Finley that, “HRU was the worst thing that ever happened to harness racing.” Perhaps “If you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say anything at all” should have been their motto? Two years ago this month we lost The Canadian Sportsman after a 143 year run. This is not an encouraging trend.

At a USTA Summit in July forty movers and shakers from various sectors of the sport put their heads together and came up with strategic moves that will hopefully expand and improve the sport. The USTA has lost 7,588 members over the past decade, while during that same stretch 7,395 fewer foals were born. It was decided that dedicating a larger slice of the purse pie to younger horses would help address the latter concern. And a series of initiatives, some involving social media, will take flight in 2016, with the aim of adding new owners. Strategies for using some of the slots dollars for marketing purposes were proposed. The need for gamblers, not fans, was raised. Are elimination races, which cause friction between horsemen and bettors, necessary was another topic up for discussion.  USTA reps promised to carry the feedback from every sector to those in a position to address those issues.

The elevated prices being paid for decent older stock at the sales is one manifestation of the horse shortage in North America. On the pacing side, this situation is being dealt with in part by importing more horses from Down Under. It costs $12,900 to ship a horse here from Australia and $15,600 to bring one from New Zealand. Back in the 70s plane loads of expatriated pacers arrived regularly in Los Angeles and at JFK in New York. The abbreviated program lines that accompanied them confused bettors and fostered some dicey situations for regulators. And nothing has changed in that regard. Joe Bellino and his trainer Tony O’Sullivan and trainer Darran Cassar have been volume players in this market.

On the trotting side, we seem to be supplying the Europeans with ready-made high end stock, which is creating the sort of situation we had this year where the NA based aged male trotting class was as soft as whipped butter. Last year Nuncio, Maven and Creatine campaigned all, or most, in Creatine’s case, of the year in Europe. And just this month Oaks winner Wild Honey, Uncle Lasse and French Laundry have been sold to Swedish interests.

Cobalt was in the news last year, but interest in its effect on Standardbred race horses has increased in 2015. Kentucky regulators decided to issue a warning for levels 25 ppb and up and a more severe sanction for anything above 50 ppb. The Ohio Racing Commission is conducting a study involving five Standardbreds, while the USTA is funding a study centered on eight healthy, trained Standardbreds.

The Ontario Racing Commission approved adding a cobalt test to those performed on any horse routinely targeted for testing.

Trainer Aaron Lambert, who was bounced from The Meadowlands due to s cobalt positive in 2014, had another with Dynamic Youth at Pocono Downs in June. And hall of famer Chuck Sylvester was suspended for 15 days and fined $500 at the same track for a positive with the filly Murderer’s Row in June.

Much of the controversy over what does and doesn’t constitute an acceptable cobalt level should be stripped away after the data from these studies is reported.

Joe FitzGerald

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Justice at the (Canadian) Supreme Court

Yesterday, the Supreme Court for Canada righted a grievous error made by a trial judge in upholding an appeals court decision to find trainer Derek Riesberry guilty of two counts of fraud and ordered a new trial to determine whether or not Riesberry is guilty of 'cheating at play'.

Mr. Riesberry was caught drugging one horse which raced and was caught with syringes in an attempt to drug another horse which resulted in the horse being scratched.  The original trial judge found while acts which could constitute fraud did take place, since the betting public had no interest in the whether or not such acts did occur, a finding of fraud could not be found.

On appeal, the appeals court vacated those judgements and ordered a conviction on the two counts of fraud, finding the public clearly did have an interest in whether or not someone committed fraud with regards to the pre-race activity (i.e., the drugging of a horse) in question.  In addition, the court ordered a new trial regarding whether or not Riseberry is guilty of cheating at play, with the main issue being whether horse racing is a game, or a game mixed with skill which would then qualify for a conviction for as this standard was not satisfied at the earlier trial.

This is a big win for racing fans and participants.  Should the original decision have stood, it would have basically given trainers carte blanche to manipulate a race without any fear of being responsible for defrauding the public, losing an important weapon in protecting the sport from wrongdoing.  One would also suspect at retrial, it will be determined that racing is indeed a game, a game of chance or one with a mixed chance and skill which will allow for the possible conviction on the cheating at play charge.

Racing misdeeds seldom end up in criminal trial but the threat of criminal prosecution must always be present to keep a check on any possible wrong-doing.  Should the original ruling have stood, it could have resulted in open season on cheating.  With the Supreme Court ruling, the threat has been restored and racing participants must always keep in mind they may be held accountable for any flagrant wrongdoing.

The little guy wins today.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wiggle It Jiggleit Named Horse of the Year

Wiggle It Jiggleit was named Pacer of the Year today by the USHWA also named was the Trotter of the Year was Pinkman.  The naming of these two horses set up the contest for Horse of the Year which to no one's surprise was Wiggle It Jiggleit.  The complete announcement is available here.

RUS Ontario held their annual meeting on November 29 and there was some good news coming out of the meeting.  First of all, the average handle in 2015 for RUS events (11) was $13,459 versus an average handle in 2014 of  $7,571 for 8 events, representing an increase of over 77%.  In all fairness, it needs to be mentioned this past year was the first time RUS was offered with wagering on the WEG circuit for a single race which no doubt contributed to the overall increase in average but make no mistake, the second season shows with a familiarity, people will wager on RUS and as time goes on, increase their wagering.  As an example, at Georgian Downs, a single RUS race on an 11-race card represented 10.75% of the handle.

Even some good came out of the not-so good news.  RUS Ontario realizes there is a shortage in horses available for RUS racing partially due to the fact some races are not competitive; a problem which comes with all races being 'Open' events.  The board realizes a need to offer classified races which may be based on factors such as money earned previous year in RUS or qualifying times and bike times (something I don't favor).  I personally would like to see races classified based on number of wins in RUS events.  The hope is to offer two different classes of races and only combine and handicap them if the races come up short.  With more balanced races, it is likely more trainers will be willing to enter their horses in contests.

There is also consideration to odd-distance races to possibly gain the attention of trainers whose charges may find the mile distance not to their liking.  One thing is known, to be successful on a long term, more horses need to be available to race to get through the season.  A personal suggestion would be if American RUS racing stagnates, make a conscious effort to recruit horses from the States to race in Ontario.

Standards on getting a riding license is getting a look at by possibly requiring a rider to earn 12 points in qualifiers where a total of 5 points will be available for each qualifying race.  This may slow the licensing of new riders, but the goal is to have high quality riders over quantity.  In this vein, consideration is being given to require riders earn their licenses before the season starts so a newly licensed rider won't make their debut in the middle of the season.

Unfortunately, while RUS is doing relatively well in Canada, it continues to struggle in the States as some close-minded standardbred people are not cooperating in promoting the sport and thoroughbred interests are gumming up the works when it comes to wagering by wanting a cut, claiming RUS cuts into thoroughbred racing's business while some states require legislative action to get the wagering offered.  RUS in New York is doing relatively well thanks to RUS New York and there is now some interest to get more RUS racing in Ohio.  Hopefully, more familiarity with the sport will finally get the wagering window open in the States.

Good wagering and racing takes place this weekend with overflow fields and extra races on tab at the Meadowlands.  Friday night features a card of 14 races with 5 races with trailers while Saturday's card features another slate of 14 tilts with 6 fields overflowing.  The good racing should continue at least through New Years Day weekend as Yonkers is in their year-end hiatus.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The First Step to Gaming at the Meadowlands?

A bill to establish a referendum to approve casino gambling outside of Atlantic City was introduced by no less than Senate President Sweeney.  If the bill gets introduced in the Assembly and voted in both houses with a simple majority this year and next, the referendum will go to the voters in November of 2016.

As written, it would allow the establishment of two casinos in different counties provided they were 75 miles away from Atlantic City, meaning all three tracks in New Jersey could conceivably get casino gaming but don't kid yourself, Freehold has no chance.  Mind you the tracks COULD get casino gaming, there is nothing which says they will.

The fact Senator Sweeney introduced the bill, suggests he may have given up on becoming Governor as already the South Jersey electorate is not pleased with the referendum being introduced.  Of course submitting the bill is not a death sentence to a gubernatorial campaign, but makes it more difficult.

Surprise, surprise.  A New York judge has ordered Draft Kings and Fan Duel to stop doing business in New York as despite what these two companies want to tell you, participating in their contests are not contests of skill, but gambling.  Don't get me wrong, you need skill and unless you are very lucky, you need to do your home work, but when you are depending on players to perform their best, it still boils down to luck.

Personally, why I don't participate in these contests and don't have a problem with them, it is gambling.  For them to act outside of the law as a game of skill quite honestly is a crock of horse manure.  Others may feel they should be able to offer these contests outside of the law, but the law is the law.  If racing has to suffer from dysfunctional state laws, these two companies should enjoy the same treatment until someone gets a national gaming policy in place such as in Canada.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dear Santa

Santa graciously allowed us to poke through his pile of mail and pull out a few from figures in the sport of harness racing.

Dear Santa,

I can’t seem to get people to stop taking my picture. Just because I hand them a camera and pose, that doesn’t necessarily mean I want my picture taken. If you can find a way to put a stop to this, it will make my Christmas oh so merry. Also, perhaps you could bring me a new selfie stick; mine is just about worn out.



Dear Santa,

I came East to change the sport, and that’s exactly what I did. I won more than 400 more races in 2010 than I had in 2009, and my stable earned $6.4 million more than I had in Cali. I repeated that in 2011, but then Jeff Gural and the New York regulators waged war against me and my earnings dropped by almost $6 million in 2012. This year I’ve got only 70 wins and $160,000 earned. Get this straightened out, Santa. Rene is number three with more than $6 million and here I am making 2% as much as I did four years ago. Smarten these people up, Santa.


Sweet Lou

Dear Santa,

Please help me have a big year in the aged ranks in 2016. It felt so good to win the Breeders Crown and shut those Grand Circuit snobs up for a spell, but I know it won’t last. They said I could only win sire stakes and marginal opens at Hoosier Park. Well, I covered their faces with egg when I grabbed that BC trophy at Woodbine. And while you’re at it, maybe you could ship my fellow Hoosier Miki and that pretend Hoosier Wiggles and Jiggles, or whatever his name is, Down Under.

Hoosier Christmas,


Dear Santa,

Please make Patrick mine all mine in 2016—no racing or residency in god awful New Jersey. 2015 was a nightmare for him, with only one win in five starts, and even worse, following that pretender J L Cruze across the finish line. We only got to breed Patrick to 78 mares this year, because he was busy fulfilling the mandate of the four-year-old rule, but now that he’s back in Pennsylvania, we’re in business. 23 wins in 33 starts for $2.5 million is a record I can sell to breeders. Toss in his bloodlines and good looks and he’s a lottery pick. Please, a little peace and quiet and a regular routine for my boy in 2016, Santa.

Merry Christmas,


Dear Santa,

I know I said I wanted to downsize a little, but I didn’t plan on slicing my win total in half and lopping $2.7 million from my bottom line. You know I’m a Gemini; words don’t mean much. What gives? Every year I have a big money star I can rely on. Last year it was McWicked; in 2013 it was Vegas; the year before that it was Michaels Power. My star pupil in 2015—Reverend Hanover—won three times and banked $220,000. Thank God for Betting Line. And all of a sudden McWicked couldn’t beat me around the track. That just won’t do, Santa. I went from number four on the money list to number 23. I’ve been voted TOY in Canada five times. The Canadian dollar is killing me. Disregard the cutting back rhetoric, Santa. Get me back on track.



Dear Santa,

What did you do with Rockin Ron? We won 15 races and earned $1.2 million together last year, but this year more often than not I had my trainer sitting behind me. Five wins for $423,000 might be great for some mares, but not for me. Tell Ronnie his backache is giving me a headache. Get him back in the game again, Santa.



Dear Santa,

How about a ticket to Europe, so I can get away from this head case Mission Brief. I’m the one who won the big three for sophomore fillies—the Oaks, Filly Futurity and Breeders Crown—but she’ll no doubt crush me in the Dan Patch voting. I’ve had enough of this place. Please bring me a passport and a Lufthansa ticket, Santa.

Move Me,


Dear Santa,

Please bring me a permanent location and a harem. It’s embarrassing. I sire the presumptive Horse of the Year but my handlers move me around from state to state and never recruit any mares for me to cover. I’ve already been in Indiana, Ohio, Delaware, and now it’s back to Ohio for 2016. I’m only nine-years-old, for God’s sake. I got three mares in 2013 and six in 2014. They came up with 42 in Delaware this year, but that isn’t enough. This is ridiculous, Santa. A permanent home sweet home and a chorus line of mares worthy of my talent, please.

Fed Up,

Mr Wiggles

Dear Santa,

Please bring me some respect for Christmas. I just finished my fifth year on the track, and it was a very productive one. I earned considerably more than any other aged pacer; set a world record when I won the USPC in 47 on Hambo Day; won the Molson for the third consecutive year; and also took the RWJ, Allerage Open, CPD, Dayton Pacing Derby and Mohawk Gold Cup. Oh, I’ll win the O’Brien, because late to the party Always B Miki isn’t eligible, but I have a sneaking suspicion he’s gonna steal the Dan Patch from me. He beat me in the BC on my home turf at the end of a long season—for me, anyway. He didn’t get going until the fall. Winning the BC and American National pales in comparison to what I accomplished this year. Bring me the Dan Patch, Santa.

Feeling Disrespected,

State Treasurer

Joe FitzGerald

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why Have Most Pacing Triple Crown Winners Failed As Stallions?

No Pan Intended, the last of the ten Pacing Triple Crown winners, is headed off to Ireland to continue his breeding career. His North American stint in that capacity has been unremarkable. Let’s hope the fifteen-year-old son of Pacific Fella finds the Emerald Isle more to his liking. That got me to thinking about the fact that most of the nine complete TC winners have come up short in the shed.

No Pan Intended, who won the TC in 2003, drew 201 mares the following year, resulting in 133 registered foals, but demand dwindled to the point where he only attracted 11 mares in 2014. All told he averaged 30 foals per year for his career in NA. The nine-year-old slugger Alexie Mattosie is his only millionaire. He won the Presidential and the William Haughton in 2011, but has done it the hard way for the most part. Lennon Blue Chip, from his first crop, is about $50,000 from being a millionaire, but aside from a couple of OSS Gold legs it’s been a long slog. Nebupanezzar, from crop number two, did win the Governor’s Cup, along with a couple of Gold legs, and he also ended his career about $50,000 short of a million. No Pan Intended’s performance as a broodmare sire has been negligible.

The Cambest colt Blissful Hall won the TC four years earlier. He sired a half dozen crops here before being sent to Australia. Camelot Hall, from his first crop, won the Metro and Nassagaweya, and the following year Shanghai Phil, the sire of Duc Dorleans, won the Bluegrass, ISS and Champlain. And Armbro Dancer and Marnie Hall met with some success against the older mares. Nat A Virgin, Play It Again Sam and Witch Dali are a few of his broodmare credits.

Western Dreamer, an incomplete son of Western Hanover, won the Triple Crown two years earlier, in 1999.

We have to go back fourteen years to 1983 for the next winner, Meadow Skipper’s richest offspring, the Canadian hall of famer, Ralph Hanover. There are plenty of examples of stallions who don’t come close to reproducing themselves at stud, but Ralph certainly stands out in that group. He bred 200 mares in each of his first two seasons, producing 126 and 104 foals, respectively, but he was down to five by 1996, when he finished his career in Ontario. He produced handsome individuals like himself, but most of them were simply too slow. Some believed that Ralph beat up on a weak group, but the checkmarks were all in place for a successful breeding career. It just didn’t happen.

The great Niatross preceded Ralph. He won three years earlier, in 1980, then retired as the fastest and richest pacer ever. His first crop of 148 contained the great Nihilator, who won 35 of 38 starts and earned a world record $3.2 million; Pace and Messenger winner, Pershing Square; and two and three-year-old division champ Semalu D’Amour. And crop number two, which numbered 200, contained his second consecutive freshman champ, Barberry Spur, as well as Smartest Remark, Caressable and Masquerade. Niatross was subsequently moved to New York, where the bottom fell out of his siring career. Whether the move was a contributing factor to the drop off is up for debate. He started out at $35,000, but was standing for $2,000 in New Jersey by 1999. His broodmare credits include, Electric Slide, Bonnie And Clyde, Stand Forever and Gothic Dream.

We go back a decade for the next TC winner, and we finally hit the jackpot with Most Happy Fella, one of the greatest sires to ever roam the earth. He died tragically at 17 and only left us 13 crops, but he dazzled us with his accomplishments. His first crop contained Silk Stockings and Tarport Hap; Oil Burner, the sire of No Nukes and grandsire of Western Hanover, was in his second; Happy Motoring, who gave us OTRA, came along in 1976, and the great Cam Fella three years later. And Most Happy Fella’s daughters gave us Laughs, Armbro Emerson, Ramblin Storm, Mystical Maddy, Topnotcher, Nobleland Sam, Sweet Reflection and Armbro Dallas.

The Poplar Byrd colt Rum Customer won two years earlier. After a handful of failed crops in NA, he was shipped to New Zealand.

Two years earlier, in 1966, Romeo Hanover won the Triple Crown. The hall of famer won his division three times and lost only once at three. The fact that his richest performer was the dual gaited Speedy Romeo says it all. He stood at Pine Hollow Stud, the same farm where Niatross saw his siring career go to pieces 17 years later. Romeo’s prowess on the track did not translate to his progeny. His daughter Last Wish was the second dam of Precious Bunny. That’s about it. He was relocated Down Under in 1978.

Bret Hanover was the second Triple Crown winner, and like all the rest, with the exception of MHF, the three-time Horse of the Year failed to match his excellence on the track with his performance as a stallion. He experienced plenty of success, especially early on, and he was a prolific sire, but that great son eluded him. Strike Out, a division winner at two and three, was probably his most accomplished son, but fertility issues kept him from carrying on the line. Storm Damage, who fought the good fight against Niatross and Tyler B, was another. The Adios line running through Bret endures through world champion Warm Breeze’s grandson McArdle. The Meadow Skipper line helped do him in on the one hand, but it also allowed him to flourish as a broodmare sire. Among his credits: Fan Hanover, Nihilator, Cam Fella, Barberry Spur, Town Pro, Jaguar Spur, Ball And Chain, Three Diamonds, Miss Easy, Naughty But Nice, Delinquent Account, Armbro Feather and Sonsam.

And the first TC winner was Adios Butler, the greatest pacer of his era, who paced a world record 1:54.3 in a time trial as a four-year-old. He was voted Horse of the Year at three and four. His level of success as a sire was very modest. Realization winner Adios Waverly, Honest Story and El Patron were three of his best. And his daughters were inconsequential as broodmares.

Does the fact that the Pacing TC has for all but Blissful Hall and No Pan Intended taken place on three half mile tracks help explain the lack of production in the breeding realm? After all, the trotters get two of three on big tracks.

Regardless, some of the better stallions simply didn’t win the Triple Crown. Cam Fella won the Cane and Messenger, as a supplemental entry in both, but he wasn’t staked to the Jug. Western Hanover won the Cane and Messenger but was a nose short against Fake Left in the Jug. Artsplace was parked the mile and finished ninth in the Messenger. He didn’t race in the other two legs. Albatross won the Cane and Messenger, but was beaten by Nansemond in the Jug. Abercrombie won the Messenger, finished eighth in the Jug and won his Cane elimination. I guess it all comes back to that.  

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Decoupling a Step Closer in Florida

With a new compact with the Seminoles heading to the Florida Legislature for ratification, decoupling is a step closer for Florida racing, with quarter horse, standardbred, and thoroughbred (as well as greyhound) racing at risk of being decoupled.

While the compact does not call explicitly for decoupling, the following changes may be made by the legislature without violating the compact.

Of course, there is no guarantee the legislature will vote for decoupling, but being there have been gaming/racino interests and supporters in the legislature already calling for decoupling (especially when it comes to greyhound racing), it will definitely be considered once the compact is ratified.  If the decision is made to decouple the greyhounds it seems highly unlikely horse racing will be not included.

Horsemen in Florida as well as outside need to be concerned for once casino gaming is decoupled in one state, gaming companies in other states will be stampeding to their respective legislatures asking for similar relief.  

Standardbreds participate in Christmas in Middleburg parade

Harness racing was represented at the Christmas Parade in Middleburg, Virginia this past weekend.  What is special about this event was the display of standardbreds doing non-racing activities thanks to the help of the SRF, Meadowlands, Rosecroft Raceway, the USTA and local volunteers from the Maryland racing community.

What a great activity this would be to promote the standardbred to non-racing individuals who may be interested in purchasing or adopting an off-the-track standardbred.  Once would hope this would take place at other events which lend itself to equine activity with local personalities from the harness racing community.  Consider it an afternoon investment in the future of the horses which helped you make a living.

In case you missed the article on the USTA website, her is the article in its entirety.

The following first appeared on the USTA website on December 7, 2015.

Standardbreds participate in Christmas in Middleburg parade
Monday, December 07, 2015 - by Ted Black 

Middleburg, VA --- Harness racing was well represented at the 33rd annual Christmas in Middleburg parade. A record breaking crowd of an estimated 25,000 were on hand to cheer the parade participants for an event that stopped traffic in all directions.
Photo courtesy of the author
An overflow crowd was on hand at the 33rd annual Christmas in Middleburg parade.
The parade and the Hunt and Hound Review is an annual event that takes place on the first Saturday of December every year. The town of Middleburg has gained the reputation as being the “Nation's Horse and Hunt Capital.” The town did an exceptional job of making us all feel welcome.
Freddie Hudson and Judy Bokman organized harness racing’s participation under the banner of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation. The SRF was well supported by the harness racing community with the USTA supplying coloring books, Hoof Beats magazines and fan guides. The Hambletonian Society supplied pins, horse buttons and Foiled Again toy horses, while the SRF, Meadowlands and Rosecroft raceways supplied literature that was passed out to the spectators.
Volunteers Michell Graham and Rachel Rhodes brought their horses Seadog and Cowboy to act as the SRF escort.
“When we came around the corner to start of the parade it was like “wow” -- look at all those people.” Graham said. “Our horses are now broke to and unfazed by alpacas, bagpipes, marching bands and bells in their mane, tails and on their saddlepads.”
Other volunteers included Clarissa Coughlin, Susan Arrington, and Nancy and Art Lisi.
“I knew that this parade was big, but I never expected to see this many people,” Nancy Lisi said. "It was like being in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.”

There were 83 participants in the parade that included politicians, marching bands, auto clubs, 100 motorcycles, floats, and beauty queens, plus many horse clubs including the Mexican Mariachi's with their own band and 160 riders. Also on hand were the Washington Redskins Players and Cheerleaders Alumni. The cheerleaders paid the SRF a visit and posed for several pictures with the car decorated by the SRF.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Better Way to Wager?

With  low wagering pools, the question needs to be asked, can harness racing survive using the traditional parimutuel system?  Is there a way to have people wager yet not kill the odds?  Is there somewhere where steps have been taken to increase and improve the wagering experience?

I would argue if you are in New Zealand, you get the best of both worlds, courtesy of the Totalisator Agency Boards which control wagering in the individual states, where both fixed odds wagering and totalisator (parimutuel) wagering is offered.

Fixed odds wagering is accepted in two forms, future wagering as well as final wagering; both for win and place (our show) wagering.  In some ways, fixed odds wagering is like exchange wagering coming to New Jersey in the spring except TAB creates the market instead of individuals and there is no in-running wagering.  For purposes of this discussion, we will talk of final wagering (once all the scratches and driver changes are finalized).  Fixed odds wagering is like wagering with an old-time bookie except the authorized wagering agency is the one taking the bets.  You make a fixed odds wager, except in occasions such as a dead-heat or late scratches, the odds you wager at are the odds you get.  TAB has the ability to change fixed odds for subsequent punters, has the ability to stop accepting wagers on a particular horse while still accepting wagers on others, and to minimize any exposure TAB may have, has the ability to 'lay off' a horse in other pools to cover potential costs.  In addition, to discourage fraud, they have the ability to restrict the amount you  may win in a single day; hence a wager which may pay $125,000 may only pay $75,000 to the winning punter if the total amount of winnings for the day would exceed the limit.

You may ask what the difference is between Fixed Odds Wagering and Exchange Wagering.  In Exchange Wagering, individual bettors have the ability to lay off a horse which in theory could have someone with inside info making a market on a horse they know won't win where as under the  New Zealand format of Fixed Odds wagering, any laying off of a horse in other pools is being done by a 'disinterested' party, an honest broker offering such wagers to limit their exposure to losses.

Another advantage with the TAB system of fixed-odds wagering, is it it easier to understand, meaning it will be easier to attract individuals to this new form of wagering versus exchange wagering.

Of course parimutuel wagering is still offered on these races, so if you can't get your horse in fixed odds wagering, you may still play the horse in the totes,  Even better, you can shop for odds, getting a better value in tote wagering over fixed odds wagering and vice versa.

For example, here is a race from this past weekend.  Some of the fields will be confusing to some, but focus on the four right most columns.

Wagering # Form Horse  Barrier Driver                                FF - Win FF - Plc S-Win S-Plc
1 37725 Allineedisamiracle  (1) Dexter Dunn 12.00 3.80 9.30 2.70
2 00000 Brylins Choice (2) Carl Markham 51.00 16.00 70.70 24.40
3 0738 Landora's Logan (3) Barry Clark 12.00 3.80 10.90 2.90
4 334X7 China Express (4) Roddy Curtin 26.00 8.00 58.00 11.10
5 King Of The Roses (5) John Versteeg 41.00 13.00 32.10 9.90
6 27492 Sunny Afternoon (6) Paul Nairrn 5.50 2.00 10.90 2.20
7 Glenis Marie  (7) Robert Anderson 71.00 21.00 32.10 8.20
8 Victory Pride  (8) Ricky May 21.00 6.50 18.30 4.30
9 50247 Wandering Star (9) Alistair Lowe 36.00 11.00 52.50 14.80
10 PX60 Moy Scratched                          SCR SCR SCR SCR
11 333 Madam Spur (10) Brad Williamson (J) 3.20 1.35 4.90 1.80
12 5590X Johnny Alexander  (11) Jonny W Cox 14.00 4.50 6.30 3.40
13 4X500 Bear's Rest  (U1) Stephen McNally 3.80 1.50 4.60 3.80
14 Rusty I Am (U2) Philippa Wakelin 14.00 4.50 19.80 5.50
15 0 Chivilcoy (U3) Mark Smolenski 51.00 16.00 95.70 28.80
16 27332 Merlot (U4) Leonie Newton 7.50 2.10 10.50 2.20
17 70   Roi Des Gitans Scratched SCR SCR SCR SCR

As with a morning line, you can see there is a discrepancy between the final fixed odds and the tote odds. A gambler may decide to play fixed odds over the parimutuel odds or the opposite depending how things set up (it is possible people are playing parimutuel pools over fixed odds because the fixed odds pool may be closed for the horse.

It should be noted, people will still play parimutuel pools because exotic wagers are the domain of  the parimutuel system.  It also should be noted, tracks don't have their own pools in New Zealand as all wagering, on and off-track, is handled by TAB.  TAB pays tracks a percentage of the amount wagered to fund purses as well as the tracks' expenses (and hopefully profit).

There are other forms of wagering in New Zealand but ignoring them for now, when looking at a way to increase interest in horse racing,  perhaps it is time to look at the other side of the world.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Notes and Auction Block News

So the first trainers comments are posted on the Meadowlands website and my initial thought?  What the heck was all the stink about?

You can debate the worthiness of these comments but how much time did it take trainer's to come up with comments such as:

Trainer: New addition to Team Miller; had a solid qualifier.
Trainer: Raced OK last start; needs encouragement. Has ability to win.
Trainer: Swam every day this week
Trainer: Trained well Wednesday morning, first trip for the new stable.
Trainer: Trained well earlier in week. Prefers big track; sometimes hard to manage.
Trainer: Scoped sick last week; expect to be better.

Of course, there are those who say when a trainer note is negative, what is going to happen when the horse wins?   It will happen, after all these animals are living, breathing, animals and with the luck, anyone can win (they may need a LOT of luck).  This is why they call it gambling.  These comments are merely another tool in your handicapping quiver.  It is up to you to decide if these comments are worthwhile paying attention to or not and how much weight you will give them.  I for one am glad to see them.

Right now the comments are only on the top two choices in each race and all horses in the fifth race.  Also, while the comments will be shown on the Meadowlands feed, the only other place you will see them are in the Meadowlands program and on their website where they post the race analysis 

Will they last?  I don't know, time will tell.  While brought into being out of anger, it may turn out to be a good idea.  The one thing I can say with certainty it sure can't hurt to try.

Balmoral Park and Maywood Park go on the auction block this month and if I had to guess, they will be purchased by non-racing entities.  In November, the track advisers attempted to get interested parties to bid on the property but no one was interested, hence the open auction.  With no racing dates and the forever on the horizon alternate gaming prospect still on the horizon, the chances are the property will be redeveloped or at best, purchased by someone willing to hold on to the property in the unlikely chance the horizon finally arrives.  Just don't hold your breath someone really interested in racing ends up buying the property.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Falling Stud Fees

Between the worldwide financial crisis and the anticipated end of the slots-at-racetracks program in Ontario, 2012 was a year when stud fees fell at a disturbing rate; those that managed to maintain their 2011 price level were considered lucky. And while many 2016 fees have yet to be announced, those that have dribbled out give every indication that 2016 will be somewhat similar to 2012.

Hanover keeps the highest profile in the sport; Pennsylvania is home to a lucrative sire stakes program and a state where one expects to find Grand Circuit worthy stock. Cantab Hall, Captaintreacherous, Donato Hanover, Western Ideal and Explosive Matter will roll over their 2015 fees, while Somebeachsomewhere, Well Said, Muscle Massive and Andover Hall will see reductions. There will be no increases. Contrast that with last year when SBSW was the only Hanover stallion to see a reduction, and Muscle Massive’s fee actually went up. (Crazed was shipped back to New York).

Well Said shows the deepest cut as his $15,000 fee, which has remained intact since he joined the Hanover stallion brigade in 2010, has been cut in half. Uffizi Hanover was the most productive issue from his first crop; she won the BC at two and the Fan Hanover at three, but she didn’t accomplish a whole lot beyond that. Tellitlikeitis was the top male; he won a Cup elimination and experienced some success in the PASS. Well Said has no millionaire offspring. Lost For Words is his richest son, and his claim to fame is winning a heat of the Jug. He also won the Standardbred and splits of the Bluegrass and ISS at two. Control The Moment won this year’s Metro and Nassagaweya and is his top freshman to date. Well Said sold a sale topping 61 yearlings at Harrisburg, at an average that was down 10% from last year. He should be popular at $7,500.

SBSW’s fee has been up and down like a yoyo. He was at $20,000 in 2011; dropped to $15,000  in 2012; back up to $20,000 the following year; jumped again, to $30,000 in 2014; down to $25,000 this year; and drops down again to $20,000 in 2016. He leads North America in gross earnings for two-year-old pacers and average earnings for the same group. And he leads in average earnings for the three-year-olds. Pure Country is the top freshman filly in NA, but SBSW comes up short at the top end of all other age/class groups—star power is lacking. The closest he’s come to duplicating himself is Captain T and that one is much better than the rest. There were 39 fewer registered foals in 2015 than there were the previous year, but still there were 91 of them. He led all pacing stallions at the Lexington and Harrisburg sales. The superstar pacer’s book remained open throughout 2015. Seeing his fee drop $10,000 in two years is alarming in some respects, but prospective breeders will be thrilled.

Muscle Massive, whose second crop was a big disappointment, sees his fee drop 46% to $4,000. And 16-year-old Andover Hall drops 20% to $8,000. He was at $30,000 back in 2008, but has been at $10,000 for the past few years. Nuncio raced in Europe this year, and Magic Tonight was off his form when he returned to NA. Kathy Parker generated early interest, and she won money, but a split of the Liberty Bell was her best win.  

The first crop of A Rocknroll Dance won’t race until 2017, but Diamond Creek dropped his fee from $6,000 to $5,000. And Father Patrick, who served a limited book in New Jersey at $30,000 this year, moves home to Pennsylvania at $20,000. His less than stellar foray into the aged ranks probably didn’t help. Ponder, who had a terrible year, drops from $4,000 to $3,500. Sweet Lou remains at $7,500 for his second season.

New York, which is, along with Pennsylvania, a lucrative source for sire stakes cash, is also showing signs that its stud fee structure is adjusting to market forces. Blue Chip Farms is top dog in the Empire State and Art Major and Credit Winner have been the most expensive pacing and trotting stallions, respectively, in the state for some time. Art Major held steady at $15,000 until 2013 when his fee dropped to $12,000. In 2016 the sire of JK She’salady and JK Endofanera will stand for a further reduced $10,000. And Credit Winner, who jumped from $12,000 to $14,000 in 2014 and remained there last year, will be dropping 28% to $10,000 in 2016. American Ideal will stay at $10,000.

Credit Winner, who was third on the two-year-old NYSS money list this year and second among the sophomores, got hammered at Harrisburg. And his average also dropped by $19,000 in Lexington. The high ticket individual sales that have buoyed him up until now abandoned him. Top tier performers have also been missing.

 NYSS rank means little: four of the top five trotting stallions on the three-year-old list are all experiencing stud fee cuts. Lucky Chucky, Crazed and Conway Hall are the other three. The latter leads both lists and his fee will be reduced by a third. And Lucky Chucky’s fee has gone from $7,500 in 2014 to $6,000 this year to $4,000 next year. Crazed gets his annual haircut, dropping from $5,000 to $4,000.

Art Major was top five among two and three-year-olds in the NYSS. JK She’salady retired and Travel Playlist lost his mojo in the fall, but JK End won the TVG, Allerage Open and Dan Patch. The sixteen-year-old stallion showed modest gains at the sales. However, his registered foal count was down 47 between 2013 and 2014.

Rocknroll Heaven, who was standing for $8,500 at Blue Chip, is now available for $6,500 in New Jersey. The sales weren’t kind to him and his sons have been slow to come around, but he does have the top two fillies on the sophomore money list for that division, presumptive division winner Divine Caroline, and recent Matron champ, Sassa Hanover.  Trixton will remain at $12,000 in New Jersey, where the sire stakes program has been restructured for the sake of volume and diversity.

The 2016 fees for the Midwestern states on the come—Ohio and Indiana—haven’t shown up yet. Rockin Image, the sire of Freaky Feet Pete jumped $500 to $4,000 in 2015, while Miki’s daddy Always A Virgin made the same move the previous year.

Ontario seems to be back on its feet. Bettor’s Delight and Muscle Mass have returned and Royalty For Life, He’s Watching, E L Titan, Archangel and Betterthancheddar have been added

to the mix over the past two years. Kadabra saw his fee drop from $15,000 US to $12,000 US in 2014 and it looks like it will remain there.

So to this point fees are taking a hit in Pennsylvania, where the politicians have been applying pressure to the tracks and horsemen, and in New York, where too many stallions are failing to produce: There are no New York sired horses in the top 15 on the all-horse money list. It will be interesting to see just how widespread will this trend be?

Joe FitzGerald