For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Monday, August 29, 2016

Regulatory Doings and What's Wrong with this Picture?

Some regulatory news of note this past week...

First in California, the CHRB has decreed California Horsemen will need to follow the same rules regarding whipping as in many states, including the inability of whipping more than three times in a row without giving a horse a chance to respond.  For the complete rule proposal, you may open this file and go to page 304.  Of course, as in other states, a rule is only as good as the judges officiating so it remains to be seen what will happen once racing resumes at Cal Expo

Also in the Golden State, and this one may be more painful to trainers as the rule changes pertain to medication violations.  For one thing, the rule now uses a twelve month rolling calendar for determining penalties.  A trainer who ten months ago had a lower medication violation and has been tagged once again for a more serious violation will have the earlier penalty considered as an aggravating circumstance in determining punishment.  If a trainer gets a lower grade violation than another one within the twelve month period will have the higher penalty count just as another occurrence of the lower grade violation when determining penalties.

The big difference comes with the transferring of a horse from a stable where the trainer is assessed more than a thirty day suspension.  In this case, a horse will not be able to be transferred to an employee of the trainer as anyone who was employed by a trainer within the past twelve months will be unacceptable as the new trainer.  

On the other coast, the NJRC has published for public comment a rule which will change the way claiming races work.

The rule allows for an exemption from claiming when a standardbred (a thoroughbred version of the rule is also being proposed) last race was a claiming event and has been off at least 180 days.  As long as the horse is entered into a claiming race with the same or greater price tag as the last race, it will be exempt from claiming provided the owner of the horse files a request for exemption.  A horse dropping in for a lower tag will be ineligible for the claiming exemption.  A horse who returns in a conditioned race will not be able to claim the exemption if then dropped into a claiming race.

The purpose of this exemption is to encourage owners to allow a horse to fully recover from an injury instead of racing the horse prematurely.  The thinking is an owner may be less willing to allow a horse to fully recover if it has the potential of being claimed away in the first race back; thus not giving the owner a chance to recover the expenses of rehabilitation.  Hopefully, with the claiming exemption, an owner will have a better chance of recouping rehab costs, thus willing to provide such treatment.  The exemption goes with the horse, so it doesn't matter if the horse was claimed in the previous start or if it has a new owner since the last start.
The rule change also clarifies the allowable instances for a claim to be voided.  The instances which help protect animal welfare is when a claimed horse dies during the race or, at the direction of the State Veterinarian, has to be euthanized; the philosophy being since the horse races for the old owner, the title shouldn't pass to the new owner until the race is completed.  Also if a horse is vanned off and the claimant notifies the Judges, they have one hour to decide whether or not to void the claim (though they must make the decision without having physical contact with the horse).

What is Wrong with this picture?  

This was a six horse entry in the first race at Tioga Downs yesterday.  How can any racetrack put a race like this on their wagering card?  It's an insult to the racing public.  This Geers event should have been carded prior to the day's racing card or there should have been a condition requiring so many wagering interests before the race would have been carded and the race cancelled with the fees refunded to eligible horses.

For the record, the winning entry went of at 2-5, with the #2 being 8-5 and the #3 off at 6-1.

Hopefully this will be fixed so it will never happen again. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Oh No, the Gold Cup and Saucer Going Big Time?

I recently came across an article from a local paper on PEI calling for the purse of the Gold Cup and Saucer to be raised to $100,000 in an effort to get the best horses in North America to make an appearance at Charlottetown Driving Park.  The article is correct to note at the current rate of exchange, a horse could race in the Open at Yonkers Raceway and come out ahead of winning the Gold Cup and Saucer.

Well to be honest, a $100,000 purse likely wouldn't induce top horses to come up to Atlantic Canada.  Heck a $100,000 race in the United States in August likely would get a field of second and third tier horses with the value of stakes at slot tracks so much higher; the chance of top horses heading to the Maritimes is unlikely.  But this call for a purse increase can mean only one thing.

The Gold Cup and Saucer is becoming more commercial and this is a sad thing.

Look, the idea of a large purse race is hard to argue against but the fact is the charm of the GC&S would be diminished, the same way the charm of the Hambletonian lost a lot when it left the cornfields of DuQuion for the Big City charm of the Greater New York region.  Right now, it is the dream of every horseman from PEI and other parts of Canada to win the closing race of Old Home Week.  How much of this charm would remain if you see the big city trainers from the American East cluttering the entry box, looking at the race as a place to race their second tier horses?  It wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility for the race to take on the complexion of a race at Yonkers Raceway.

Yes, the owners cashing a check after the race will be better off, but at what cost?  I think it may be a cost those in Prince Edward Island may want to think twice about.

As the Meadowlands Approaches 40 a Look Back at the First 25

by Pete Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor

Here's a promotional film about the Meadowlands ...


.. from 2001, produced to comemorate the track's 25th anniversary.

It lays out the roots of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which originally operated the track as a daily cash source to carry the overall sports complex.

It features a little profile of David "Sonny" Werblin, the NJSEA's original chairman, along the backgrounds of and interviews with, Bob Quigley, the track's original GM and, as he puts it, "first employee," Joe DeFrank, the Meadowlands' original director of racing, and Allen Gutterman, the track's original PR man.

(I guess he'll let me know if he was the original. I don't exactly remember.)

The announcer is Dave ("... and DOWN the stretch they come ...") Johnson, who lends the proper flavor and gravitas to the film.

The thing that really hit me in watching it was - and not to take anything away from the current management team, which is pretty good and which saved the place from a one-way trip to Palookaville - but look at the crowds and the excitement, and the out and out specialness, of the Meadowlands its early days.

And the racing six days a week, 200-plus cards a year - I added that part, but it's true - and the formerly million-dollar Meadowlands Pace.

Migosh, what in the world happened to the mecca of harness racing?

Yeah, I know, things and circumstances happened, racinos in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware happened, the Atlantic City purse subsidies stopped happening.

And Chris Christie, the present New Jersey governor who put a knife into horse racing's back, happened.

Oh, well ... enjoy the film, and enjoy the Meadowlands' glory years.

Maybe, just maybe, they can happen again.

Hey, sometimes it doesn't seem that way, but I'm an optimist.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Overachievers And Underachievers Eight Months In

This is a good time to scope out some of the overachievers and underachievers of the 2016 season. We’ll start with the former.

Indiana bred Hannelore Hanover, a daughter of the Andover Hall stallion Swan For All, has banked more 2016 money among the trotting set than all but Southwind Frank and Marion Marauder. She went from being a three-year-old regional queen to arguably the best aged trotter in North America. The Burke trainee has already won the Armbro Flight, Hambletonian Maturity and Miami Valley Distaff. She is favored in Friday’s Muscle Hill and will no doubt receive an invitation to the million dollar Yonkers International on October 15.

The six-year-old SBSW gelding Shamballa performed very well on the WEG circuit last year, winning eight times for almost $360,000, but he couldn’t quite get there when he stepped up to the Quillen, CPD, Dayton Pacing Derby or BC. This year trainer Rick Zeron’s statement that his charge would go whatever the likes of Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit went in the Franklin, Haughton and USPC was greeted with derision, but Shamballa was second at 39/1 in the Haughton and then stunned the sport with a win over all the division studs in 1:47.1 in the USPC for Scott Zeron. He then finished in a dead heat for third in the Dan Patch and is now prepping for a start in the Canadian Pacing Derby, where he will not be taken for granted. Shamballa has earned $304,000 in ten starts.

Rockin Ron, a four-year-old Real Desire gelding from the Burke Barn, has upset Wiggle It Jiggleit twice this year, in the Confederation Cup and in the Prix D’Ete this past Sunday. After spinning his wheels in the Indiana program last year, Ron has generated 11 wins good for $375,000 in 2016.

Musical Rhythm, a four-year-old Cantab Hall trotter based in Canada, won six times for $66,000 at three for Tony Alagna, but has really blossomed this year under the care of the Baillargeons. His earnings are up over $300,000 and he has a dozen wins, including the Graduate Series final.

The underachievers are plentiful and spread across all classes, but the aged pacing mares in particular stand out. Suffice it to say, they have not compensated for the premature retirement of JK She’salady. Division winner Divine Caroline, who won the BC and Garnsey last year earning $667,000 on 8 wins and 19 board finishes, has one win in 13 starts, good for $44,000.

Sassa Hanover, who earned $523,000 and won the Jugette, Adioo Volo and Courageous Lady, has won twice in 17 starts for $40,000.

Joe Holloway’s Bettor’s Delight filly, Bettor Be Steppin, banked more than $468,000 last year, with wins in the Valley Forge and the Lynch, but she’s gone the other way in 2016. She is winless in ten starts and has barely cracked $10,000 in earnings.

Mosquito Blue Chip is another disappointment. She came on strong at the close of 2015. After her win in the Matron, upping her seasonal earnings to more than $373,000, it looked like she’d be a force in the aged ranks for Rene Allard. However, the Bettor’s Delight mare has left that promise unfulfilled, with a one for ten record and a slim $26,000 bankroll.

Among the four-year-old pacers, Wakizashi Hanover, who banked more than a million dollars in 2015 on wins in the Cup, Jenna’s Beach Boy, PA Championship and Keystone Classic, got started late due to sickness and is winless in five starts with only $12,000 to show for his effort.

After winning 15 of 17 starts in 2015 Freaky Feet Pete, who took the BC, Monument Circle, Circle City and American National, has come up short in the open ranks. The fact that he no longer has access to all that sire stakes money has cut into his $854,000 earnings from last year and three of his five wins are in the Hoosier Park invitational. He was on the losing end of a spirited battle with Wiggle in the Graduate final. Pete is not staked to the CPD. The Big Three has been reduced by one.

The Well Said pacer Lost For Words didn’t put together much of an open stakes resume last year for Brian Brown, but he hit the board in 15 of 18 starts and made a name for himself chasing Wiggle around the track at Delaware Ohio, and even winning a heat there. That and success in the PASS added up to $695,000. He’s two for ten in 2016 and has only earned $34,000. The prospect of him becoming a productive aged pacer is on hold.

The Rocknroll Hanover sophomore Boston Red Rocks has disappointed on the Grand Circuit. He took the division last year thanks to wins in the BC and Governor’s Cup, but he only has a pair in 11 starts in 2016, with one being in his Cup elimination. Steve Elliott’s charge entered the season second on the Hoof Beats Predictive Ranking.

At least Boston Red Rocks has earned $267,000; the Kadabra sophomore Tony Soprano, who won four Golds as well as the Super Gold final in 2015, has only banked $29,000 thanks to a winless season thus far.

Dog Gone Lucky, from the second crop of Lucky Chucky, is another three-year-old trotter who hasn’t lived up to expectations. He sports the same zip for five record as Tony Soprano, with earnings of $10,000. This after taking the Valley Victory and Matron in 2015 and banking $506,000.

Zero for five seems to be a theme with four-year-old trotters. Pinkman, the division champ at two and three, who earned $1.8 million last year on wins in the Hambletonian, Beal, Stanley Dancer, CTC and Kentucky Futurity, has one win in Sweden, which brought in $59,000, but none in NA, where he has failed to crack $20,000. The aged trotting ranks are mighty thin. We could use the Explosive Matter gelding in last year’s form.

Three- time division winner Anndrovette has fallen on hard times. She only won three times last year, but that included the Golden Girls and Lady Liberty and she banked $363,000. This time around she’s one for thirteen with $80,000. While stablemate Venus Delight, who took the Matchmaker, Milton and Artiscape in 2015, has won twice for $171,000—far short of the $603,000 she took in last year.

Color’s A Virgin is another mare with an accomplished past who has faltered in 2016. She won eight times last year, including the BC and Allerage mare, for $$302,000. This year she’s one for ten with less than $23,000 in the bank.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Novel Solution to the Declining Foal Problem

In an article for the DRF, Bob Marks discusses the problem with the declining foal crops facing standardbred racing (it is also a problem for thoroughbreds but we'll let them solve their own problem).  With all apologies to Marks, allow me to simplify what I deduce from his reporting (though I encourage you to read his article):

  • Buyers want stakes-caliber horses
  • Few of the foals turn out to be stakes horses so the future progeny of sires who don't produce stakes horses in one year get sold cheaply

  • Many horses turn out to be nice raceway stock
  • Breeders produce lots of nice raceway stock
  • People don't go to yearling sales looking for nice raceway stock
  • These raceway stock foals get sold cheaply, often below the cost of production
  • When costs of most foals exceed the prices foals receive, breeders go out of business
  • Fewer breeders mean less foals 
  • Less foals means less race horses (aka horse shortage)
  • Horse shortage means less races, racing dates, and eventually less racetracks
A solution would be to divert money from stakes and claiming races to conditioned overnights in order to make it easier for owners to recoup costs from those foals which don't turn out to be stakes horses thus promoting prices for these raceway foals.  Unfortunately, as Marks states, there has been only modest changes to purse structures at too few tracks.  Clearly this is not working fast enough.  Changes need to be made.

First of all, while breeders supposedly are seeking to the 'next great horse', the fact is not every breeder can produce champions; many breeders are at best are fortunate if they can improve their breeding relative to their prior breeding attempts.  

Secondly, the industry needs raceway stock, more so than it needs stakes-caliber horses.  After all, with the exception of sires stakes races, how many stakes races are conducted at tracks like Pocono Downs and Yonkers Raceway when compared to their overnight events?

Hence, I would argue there is nothing wrong with being a breeder of raceway stock.  If the costs of raising horses is so prohibitive and the horsemen are unwilling to adjust purses to give bidders a chance to recoup the costs involved in getting a horse to the track which punishes breeders and puts the whole industry at risk, something needs to change.  The answer is 'subsidies'.

Yes, subsidies.  While some money goes to breeders for awards, breeders need subsidies.    Subsidies not too great to reduce the incentive to improve the breed, but enough to give them a fair chance to come out ahead.  Where would this money come from, racino revenue.  Divert some of the money going to purses to breeders.  

You may be asking what makes me think breeders would be able to secure more racino funds when they can't get horsemen to agree to a shift in how purses are allocated?  Breeders have more political clout at the statehouse than they do at the racetrack.  They can make an argument breeder subsidies remain in state while purses are more likely to be spent out of state.

Let's have stakes companies report to the state where a breeder comes from the sales prices of each foal sold along with the name of the breeder.  For each foal crop, the state would determine the cost for raising a horse.  The only horses which would qualify for a subsidy are ones raised in the state.  Based on the total loss for a breeder of eligible horses, the breeder will get a proportional share of the breeders subsidy.  

Depending how much is dedicated to the breeder's pool, a breeder may end up with a profit at best or at least have part of their loss absorbed with slot revenue, enough to keep the breeders in the game.  To make sure this subsidy doesn't become welfare, breeders would be penalized if the average sales price of their yearlings doesn't improve by having their share of the slot revenue decrease.  Hence the expectation is breeders will improve their stock.

With the use of subsidies breeders will have more incentive to remain in the business and possibly increase the number of foals the will raise, thus supplying the horses needed for race tracks.

It's worth considering.

Monday, August 22, 2016

We Need More Hardball in Harness Racing

And this was a lesson learned yesterday in the Prix d'Ete.  Rockin Ron shocked the harness racing world by defeating Wiggle It Jiggleit by half a lengh in 1:52,1 over an off track at Hippodrome 3R.

Unlike in many of the big races where it seems the race is defaulted to the heavy favorite; no one wanting to take the overwhelming favorite and risk running out of the money in a race with a slot-fueled purse, Yannick Gingras decided to take on Montell Teague and Wiggle It Jigglit, using his position along the rim to beat WIJI..  Instead of yielding to the sure thing and earning second place, Gingras played hardball and refused to let WIJI clear, making him lose the lead on the final turn; enough to get Rockin Ron the win.

More races should be competed as hard as this one was.  Then some of those stakes races where a forgone conclusion happens would actually be a competitive race and appeal to gamblers as well.

Why is Exchange Wagering Being Resisted?

With Betfair having started exchange wagering in New Jersey, one has to wonder why the only harness tracks which offer it are the Meadowlands and WEG.  My question is, why?  Why the resistance towards exchange wagering.

Full disclosure, I love exchange wagering.  Who wouldn't after years of getting their 15-1 shots crushed to 3-5 after the race begins?  Maybe I could play the exchange better, but let me tell you, knowing you are getting the odds you put your wager in at is a satisfying feeling.

No, the promised for cut in takeout isn't as deep as it was originally promoted, the vig being 12%, but 12% is a lot better than you get with regular wagering.  The one bad thing is the way you see the takeout taken.  Whereas, in regular wagering the odds you are going to be paid are shown after the takeout has been taken, in exchange wagering you see the full price and the takeout being a separate line item; so when you win $10, you see $1.20 being deducted, netting you $8.80.  But if you can get past this visual, isn't 12% better than 18%, especially if you don't get a rebate?

Yes, exchange wagering eliminates rebates, but isn't it better if everyone gets a defacto rebate instead of just the high rollers?

Still, why don't tracks sign up for exchange wagering, if only for out of state customers?  Let's not kid ourselves, tracks want to make as much money as possible so maybe you they are hesitant to ofer exchange wagering in-state, especially if a track offers their own ADW.

The only reason one can see to offering exchange wagering to out-of-state horseplayers is the liquidity.  Wagers bet through ADWs provides for your own pools, but one needs to consider the fact a $1 wagered through an ADW contributes (on average) 1.5 cents to the track and the same to the purse account.  But the exchange contributes 3 cents to the track and the purse account; double what is being made in simulcasting.  Still not a lot, but with most wagering occurring of track, isn't twice as much earnings better than nothing?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

YS Lotus Snags Gold Cup and Saucer; Make or Break in NJ; Blog Suggestion

Another Gold Cup and Saucer is in the books and YS Lotus was an easy winner by six lengths in a track record time of 1:50.1 which tied the Canadian record for an older pacer on a half mile oval.

YS Lotus was given the perfect drive, staying mid-pack early in the race as the leader Go Daddy Go tripped the timer in a :26.1 first quarter.  As Daddy took the field through the second half, YS Lotus begun his move racing on the outside in a :27.4 (:54.1) second quarter.  By the time the field reached the three-quarter pole, YS Lotus on the outside took the lead in 1:22.2.  After that it was all over as the leader cruised home in a :27.4 final quarter to win by six opening lengths.  The early pace setter Go Daddy Go managed to hold on to second with Alexis Jackpot finished third.

As for Foiled Again, it was a disappointing fifth. eleven lengths off the winner.  Granted he went a tough race parked the entire mile but never was a factor, his back class getting him the final check.  While he may still have the heart to race, clearly Father Time has caught up to the classy twelve year old pacer; any future wins will be coming in cheaper company.  Retirement is something which should be considered; but based on previous comments, I am not sure it is in his immediate future.

I understand this is a horse who wants activity and likes to race, I understand this.  However, after earning more than $7.4 million, it would be better if they found him a new job which would keep him active, but away from the rigors of racing and his continuing drop through the racing ranks.

Make no mistake, this past meet at the Meadowlands was not good, but there is no blame to be assigned, at least with regards to management.  As seen in an article from the Asbury Park Press, Monmouth Park is suffering as well.  Out of state wagering down 30% from last year and Haskell Day, their equivalent to Hambletonian Day showed the worst performance in 14 years.  As much as both tracks have tried their best since Governor Christie tried to kill horse racing, you can only put the finger in the dyke so long before the water leaks; in this case, the water leaking out to other states leaving NJ racing high and dry.

While the model is broken with regards to revenue earned on out of state wagering, the bottom line is racing lives and dies on purses.  Higher purses bring in better horses which brings better wagering which brings better....., well you get the idea.  When you can't offer better purses, the best horses are racing elsewhere or racing at your facility on certain days to cherry pick the best purses you can offer.  Mediocre racing means less spending on marketing which means people lose interest in your product, if they can even remember when you race so handle drops.

November 8 is a make or break day for NJ racing.  Make will mean at least some resurgence in racing.  I dread to even think what break will be like, both for the runners and standardbreds.

I found some interesting reading from the other side of the pond.  During the run up to and the Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend, Sarah Thomas interviewed Dexter Dunn and Aaron Merriman, both interesting reads.   As for her blog itself, Harness Racing in Scotland, it is a blog to follow if interested in racing in Scotland (obviously) and elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.  Due to Thomas' other duties, the blog isn't updated that frequently, but when it is updated, it is great reading.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pocono Picks

Get ready for Virginia racing as the Virginia Racing Commission has licensed Shenadoah Downs for its inaugural ten day racing meet starting September 10.  Racing will be conducted for five weekends (Saturday and Sunday) which represents a come back after the closing of Colonial Downs.  Purses will average $80,000 a day.

As promised, here are my selections for the big-three stakes being conducted at Pocono Downs tonight.

In the 11th race, The Valley Forge, we are going against the logical choice, Pure County, primarily under the presumption two starts against the colts has taken its toll against her.  My top choice is Blue Moon Stried (#7, 6-1) who herself has been racing pretty well Darlinonthebeach (#66, 3-1) is coming in to the race with two consecutive wins and figures to be tough.  Call Me Queen Be (#1, 12-1) and Kiss Me Onthebeach (#3, 5-1) look to complete the exotics.

In the 12th race, The Colonial, with the exception of a few horses, it may as well be called Hambletonian Redux.  Going out on the limb a little, Dayson (#1, 5-1) is stepping up but when he has stayed flat, he has been undefeated and he is on a three race win streak.  Hambo winner Marion Marauder (#2, 5-2), has been in peak form,  Southwind Frank (#6, 3-1) looks to rebound off a tough second place finish to Marion Marauader while Milligan's School (#3, 10-1) put in a poor effort in last start, should be better here.

For the 13th, The Battle of the Brandywine, three year old pacers are on display.  Control The Moment (#8, 3-1) has been dominating of late; expect another notch in the belt here.  Betting Line (#1, 5-2) is the other star of the division winning last eight including last week's Milstein where he broke and recovered.  Racing Hill (#3, 4-1) returns off Adios Victory, may be a little short.  Another Daily Copy (#4, 15-1) looks like he is improving; completes the superfecta.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Those Other Weekend Races

Other people will be covering Super Saturday at Pocono Downs (I may cover it in another post), but far less attention will be given to two Canadian races, the Gold Cup and Saucer at Charlottetown Driving Park (aka Red Shores Charlottetown) on Saturday and the Prix d'Ete at Hippodrome 3R on Sunday.  Well, I will try to give these two races some respect today.

Is Saturday's Sobey's Gold Cup and Saucer another chapter in the Fall of the House of Foiled Again, or will he show some of the old spark?  Clearly, this is not the Foiled Again of old as he has been struggling in 2016, earning so far only $66k and change on his card, winning 2 of 16 races.  Sending him to the Gold Cup and Saucer was a good move for Burke; it gives the people of PEI a chance to see a champion horse and he certainly fits this caliber of horse this time of his career.

In his trial, Foiled Again was driven conservatively, riding the pocket the entire race but unable to take advantage of it by losing to YS Lotus, a horse who has made a name for himself since moving up to Atlantic Canada since leaving Yonkers.  Perhaps Foiled Again will recover here?  At 10-1, he may be one to look at if you want a longshot.  Otherwise, my picks fr this race are: Go Daddy Go (1), Limelight Beach (6), YS Lotus (3) with Alexas Jackpot (7) completing the superfecta ticket.

Just a reminder if you plan on wagering on the race, PEI is on Atlantic time; an hour earlier than the Eastern Seaboard.

As for the Prix 'd Ete, a disappointing race has developed with only five horses entering the race but after a coupled entry, reduced to four betting interests.  This stake for 4yo's did draw Wiggle It Jiggleit for what seems to be a nice workout, but if this race is to continue, clearly restricting the race to 4yos is not going to work.  Wiggle It Jiggleit , would seemingly be the clear favorite  but I expect his odds to be cheap; cheaper than the 5-2 morning line.

As for my picks?   I have to give it to Wiggle It Jiggleit (2), the entry of Rockin Ron (1A) and Rok N Roll World (1) competing to for second and third respectively with Rockin In Heaven (4) finishing fourth yet completing the trifecta.

You have to admire the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission and the State AG (the one who took over for the disgraced AG) because the commission turned over a case of cheating to the Attorney General who has charged a thoroughbred groom with race fixing.  One can't help but wonder if more commissions referred cases to their state Attorney General, there would be less cheating going on.  Nothing like the spectre of prison time to discourage cheating.

Are you an owner, trainer, groom interested in becoming a RUS rider, a current or potential RUS rider, a driver who is intrigued with the idea of riding horses in races, or even just a fan interested in RUS?  Make sure you sign-up for free membership in RUS America to keep informed as to what is going on in RUS in the United States.

Speaking of RUS,, there is a RUS event at Hanover Raceway on Saturday in the 7th race where seven trotters are facing the starter.  While you may not be able to wager on the race, Hanover shows their races live.

Monday, August 15, 2016

How The Super Trainer Arose

In the past, you have heard me talk how the big stables are hurting the sport.  Today, I bring you another voice on this subject confirming what I have said in the past.   Zocalli discusses how the big stables have managed to corner the racing market in the Northeast portion of the country, through their numbers managing to have horses for seemingly every stakes race and quite honestly most overnight classes.  To try to compete against these trainers means picking up the scraps.  For an owner, it is a game you can't enter.  For a bettor, it means fewer wagering options in states which still couple all trainer entries, in other situations, it means reduced payoffs as some handicappers will just look for these trainers when wagering; let's face it, super trainers tend to get the super drivers.

How did we get here?  Part of it is human nature, people want to win and if they see trainers doing better than their own trainers, it is just a matter of time before these owners are bring their horses over to a new trainer.  Once we got racinos and slot-fueled purses, the willingness to give a smaller trainer a chance reduced, there was more to lose so owners flocked to the major trainers.  As successful as these trainers are, they can't train every horse so their rates increased, leaving those with cheaper stock on the sidelines.

So, you may say, what about the Meadowlands, purses aren't slot-fueled there?  True, but let's face it, purses in the lower teens there is still better than racing at some tracks, even those with slots.  Besides, with a stakes program which surpasses (surpassed?) many slot tracks, these trainers have set up their shingles there.

Forget about trying to attract new owners for a second.  There is another problem we face, the lack of trainers.  As smaller trainers are forced to cut back or leave the sport, they certainly aren't encouraging their children to go into the business.  Once these super trainers retire, who is going to replace them?

It likely will never happen, but I can't help but wish we did something like done in Macau; the club approves X number of trainers to race there and those who wish to race there have to choose one of those trainers.  Once a trainer's stable was full, you had to choose another trainer to train your horse.

Just in case you missed it over the weekend, an equine friend of mine, Tristan, was euthanized.  If you are so inclined you may read the article here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

So Much for Respecting your [Pacing] Elders

Well, if you thought Foiled Again would have a walk through the park in the first Trial of the Gold Cup and Saucer, you were in good company as the aged pacer went off at odds of 3-5.  Unfortunately, the race isn't won on the tote board; the race must be contested.

Well, the race was contested and when all was said and done, the $7.4 million winner was lucky to qualify for the final as the race was won by YS Lotus in a sparkling 1:51.1.

Foiled Again fired out first, Marc Campbell likely figuring everyone would respect the horse but alas this was not the case as YS Lotus decided to go for the lead.  Campbell decided to play a little hard ball with YS Lotus, likely figuring he would retreat, but retreat he didn't and the two battled through a :26.2 first quarter before Foiled Again ceded the lead.  At that point, the Rene Allard-trained pacer was off to the races, motoring through a :53.1 half  and a 1:21.2 three quarters where he had a five length lead before finishing the mile with a :29.4 final quarter, still winning by three and a quarter lengths.

Shades of Bay finished second after racing on the outside for half a mile, followed by DGs Camme who was third with Foiled Again retreating to fourth, all securing invites to the Gold Cup and Saucer final.

You may be asking who this giant-killer is, this YS Lotus?  Earlier this year YS Lotus was racing at Yonkers Raceway, last toiling in non-winners of $10,000 company before being shipped up to Prince Edward Island.  Once there, the horse has become quite a different pacer, winning his elimination and final of the Governor's Plate at Summerside Raceway, winning the final there in 1:51.4.  Then, fresh of those victories he was invited and competed in the Paul Bunyon Invitational Pace, the biggest race of the year at Bangor Raceway where he suffered a horrible trip, finishing dead last.  He shook defeat off, winning a Preferred pace at Charlottetown last week in a 'pedestrian' 1:52.4.  Clearly this five year old son of If I Can Dream finds the Maritimes to his liking.

As for Foiled Again?  Obviously, the thirteen year old is not the horse he once was but was Campbell's strategy based on the assumption the others in the race would respect the aged veteran and was caught off guard, thus happy to advance and apply new strategy next week, or is it a sign father time is catching up?

We will see next week.  The second trial is set for Monday with the final Saturday night at 11:00pm.

Meanwhile, at Northfield Park, Betting Line survived a judges inquiry for a small break he made in the final turn and won the Carl Milstein Memorial in 1;51.  The filly Pure Country managed to eek out a second place finish over Magnum J.

I thought yesterday I would be putting an end to my Share The Delight fandom, but it lives on for another day as IB Coyote, a STD filly, won her elimination of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Filly Stake in 2:04.9 and returns to race today in the €10,000 final at Portmarnock Raceway.  She will have a tough time in the final as the first elimination winner Rhyds Mystiquie crossed the wire first in 2:02.  With the elimination winners and the six fastest runner ups making the final, IB Coyote will have to pick it up a step to be competitive today.

Update: IB Coyote, a Share The Delight 2yo filly, driven by New Zealand Driver Dexter Dunn won the Vincent Delaney Filly Stake final in 2:02.8 at Portmarnock Raceway in Ireland.  Who knows, Share The Delight may have some success as a stallion overseas yet.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Farewell to Tristan

Today, I note the passing of Tristan. No sense looking in any harness racing programs to find out who Tristan was. You see Tristan, was a Belgian Draft horse that Horse Rescue United (HRU) rescued from New Holland. Anouk Busch, the founder of HRU, outbid a kill buyer for Tristan by offering $35. This was back on January 3, 2011.   He was euthanized this morning, August 13, 2016.

 For $35, there must have been something wrong with the horse and sure enough there was (Anouk knew this while bidding). You see, Tristan had eye cancer in his right eye. It was clear to see there was a problem with his eye and one can't wonder why his prior owners did nothing about it. Tristan was given some medication to ease the pain and treat the eye and once his quarantine was over, a trip to New Bolton was made to see if his eye could be removed to extend Tristan's life. Unfortunately, the eye was neglected so long that the cancer spread into his bones and HRU was advised Tristan had anywhere from a few days to six months to live.

 With that information, Tristan was brought home to live out the rest of his life the way horses should, being a companion horse living life in a paddock with a belly full of hay and medication to keep him comfortable, knowing when the time came when the pain became severe, it would be time to say goodbye to Tristan. For whatever time that was, his fate would be a lot better than it would have been had Anouk not outbid the kill buyer.  As fate would have it, the $35 spent to purchase Tristan was the best money spent.

Tristan at the HRU Farm.  He looked 100 times better than
   the thin horse HRU got from New Holland.
There was something about Tristan that connected with me. Perhaps the fact he had to deal with a serious illness, maybe it was the fact he escaped the slaughterhouse. Maybe it was like me, he was a big palooka. When Horse Rescue United had an open house, Tristan was in the field waiting to meet his fans so my wife and I went down to see Tristan and the other rescues of HRU.

What a sweet horse he was.  He was very affectionate with those in attendance that day, being allowed as many carrots as he wanted.  Here was this amazing animal and I wondered who could have done this to him; let his eye go untreated for so long to the point he was beyond help?

Tristan with my wife Sheri

I am sure the standardbreds at HRU must have initially wondered what kind of horse this giant was, only to appreciate him for the kindness he offered them despite the definite size advantage he had.  But on that Open House day, Tristan and the other horses were together, being admired; each being treated specially.  My wife connected with Tristan too, which was quite an accomplishment as up to a few years ago she had a fear of horses.

Tristan with Me
Tristan was everything I expected, a gentle giant.  Not one to push his weight around, he was kind to all and trusting.  I was fortunate I had a rare day where I could do without my wheelchair, so Tristan and I met on equal terms and he allowed me to handle his face as he seemingly enjoyed the attention.  While his eye may have not been the most attractive, I stood in awe of the majesty of this gentle giant and I knew despite his illness, he was in a good place.

Talking with Tristan

After visiting with Anouk and some other friends at HRU, it was time to leave so it was one final pass by of all the horses who were out greeting the visitors.  As I left, Tristan came to the fence to say goodbye and I spent a private moment with him.  I told him he was in good hands, and I hoped to see him again.  Unfortunately, while I have kept up to date with his progress, it was the last time I saw him.  In October, nine months after the original prognosis, the decision was to remove his right eye to give him more time without pain.  A smart decision for a rescue on limited funds?  Perhaps not, but he had that infectious personality that everyone loved.  How could you not do anything to provide "The Big Palooka" more time on this earth?

Well, those days turned to months, those months turned to years.  Finally, five and a half years later with the cancer spreading to his other eyes and his quality of life deteriorating, the decision was made to euthanize him.

While I will miss Tristan, I do not mourn.  I celebrate the quality life HRU gave him, well past the few days to six months that the doctors originally estimated, years the kill buyer would have denied him.  As I write this, I look at a picture of him from the winter of 2011 running through the paddock with one of Anouk's dogs aside him.  I am sure Tristan had a hard life and instead of meeting a horrible death in Canada or Mexico, he was given his dignity back, living life to the fullest until the pain got to the point where letting him live would have been for our benefit and not his.  So thanks to HRU and their supporters, instead of a terrifying end, Tristan's end came peacefully, surrounded by people who cared about him.

Horses.  It is funny how that one special horse can reach into your heart.  I am glad I got to know him and have memories of him that will stay with me till the day I die.  Mitch Albom wrote a book called "The Five People You Meet in Heaven", I hope Tristan is one of them.

So long Tristan, you may not know it but you have greatly influenced me and taught me a valuable lesson about living with serious illness and not letting the illness rule you.  You do the best you can, with the cards your dealt.  I don't say goodbye.  I say till we meet again...

Horse Rescue United is an animal rescue group which primarily rescues horses, with a focus on standardbreds.  For further information about Horse Rescue United, you can friend them on Facebook or you can go to their website   There you can see a list of current horses in need of new homes which will allow HRU to rescue other horses.  Who knows, your next friend may be waiting there for you?

Making a Claim for the Top; Over There

Wiggle It Jiggleit and his connections have made a new claim for the top spot in the Hambletonian/Breeders Crown Poll last night (8/12) by defeating rivals Alway B Miki, Freaky Feet Pete, and Shamballa in the 23rd edition of the Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park.  The four year old pacer won the race in 1:49.1 over the Hoosier Park oval.

Unlike the hardball early in the US Pacing Championship, Montrell Teague took WIJI to the front and let Always Be Miki take the lead past the quarter without trying to sting him.  This was basically all it took as WIJI sat in the pocket, allowing Freaky Feet Pete launch a failed challenge to Miki.  Being in the pocket at the top of the stretch, WIJI took advantage of the passing lane late to win the race by an opening length over Always Be Miki at the wire with All Bets Off and Shamballa dead-heating for third.  Freaky Feet Pete tired in the stretch to finish a well-beaten sixth

The fact is from the rail, it is very hard to beat WIJI as he has the ability to race on or off the pace.  He goes next to Hippodrome 3R for the Prix D'Ete on August 21 to compete against his fellow four year olds.

Video courtesy of Hoosier Park (via YouTube)

After watching the post race interviews, it reminds me what great spokespeople Montrell and George Teague are for the sport.  Both of them are comfortable being interviewed, something not everyone is.  Of  course, when you have horses like Rainbow Blue and WIJI, you better get used to being interviewed.  Here's hoping there are many more good ones in their future.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the pond, it's Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend at Portmarnock Raceway in Ireland and it is a full weekend of racing starting with eleven races on Saturday, featuring eliminations for the Vincent Delaney Memorial (VDM) and its companion filly stake.  The race has drawn guest drivers Dexter Dunn and America's own Aaron Merriman.  

The VDM is a two-day affair as elimination winners return tomorrow for the finals, racing for a purse of €10,000, the largest purses for harness racing in Ireland and the UK.  Racing two days in a row is tough on two year olds, but with racing meets being scheduled a lot different than over here in North America (seldom do you race more than two days in a row at the same track), it can't be helped.  It is interesting to note both the colts and fillies are racing for the same amount; something North American's should learn.

Lo and behold, I thought my fascination with Share The Delight was satisfied but on today's card, there are two STD's racing, IB Coyote who is racing in the second elimination of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Filly Stake who has secured the services of New Zealand's own Dunn and Brywn's Magician in the opening race on the program who has American Merriman in the bike.  It will be interesting to see how the two do.

Looking at the program, these horsemen love racing as overnights tend to have purses of €1,000 with an entry fee of €60.   Races are of various distance though on this particular day, the races are either a mile or a mile and a half which being Portmarnock is a 1/2 mile oval makes sense.

Know how in North America, horsemen hate the second tier?  Well, they race four across so in these races four get the gate with the remaining horses in row two or even three; this is in stakes as well as overnight events.  And yes, they use a classification system for their racing; something which drives many trainers nuts on this side of the Atlantic.

Tonight Pure County once again takes on the boys in the Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park.  This filly just keeps on going up against the boys.  Clearly the best three year old filly,  here's hoping knocking heads against the boys week in, week out doesn't sour her.

Hope you have a great weekend.  Stay cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dan Patch Preview

As we tend to say every week, this edition of the Dan Patch FFA at Hoosier Park looks to be the best race of the year thus far.  Not only do you have the big three (Always Be Miki, Freaky Feet Pete, and Wiggle It Jigglit), the trio is joined by US Pacing Championship winner Shamballa.  The top four are also joined by 2015 Pepsi North America Cup winner Wakizashi Hanover, whose return to the races was delayed; All Bets Off who admittedly is a step below the main contenders but has been holding his own in the FFA class; Mel Mara whose last race in a Meadowlands Open was impressive considering the trip he had.

So with all the contenders, who is going to win?  My initial pick would be Wiggle It Jiggleit who managed to come back late in the US Pacing Championship to finish second.  Always Miki who finished fourth in the pacing championship needs to be considered after being cooked in the early portion of the race last week.  Freaky Feet Pete, returning to his home base can't be totally thrown out of the equation.  Can Shamballa get a trip again this week?

More importantly, the question to be asked is after battling each other week after week,  have they inflicted heavy damage on each other due to the tough miles or are they like a Timex watch, they just keep on ticking?

Let's take a look at the field.

Friday (8/12) Hoosier Park
12th Pace - $325,000; The Dan Patch FFA
1  Wiggle It Jiggle It (Teague, 2-1) - Still has something left to come back in last.  With rail will be tough to beet. Figure less than 2-1.
2  Freaky Feet Pete (Tr. Tetrick, 5-1) - Miles are starting to take toll and last race was a tough one.  Not sure he can handle these tonight.
3  Wakizash Hanover (Dillander, 30-1) - Slowly rounding into form in Hoosier Invitationals  May have a big one in him but it will require a trip to get there first.
4  All Bets Off (Macomber, 20-1) - Nice horse but I suspect these are too tough.  Share at best.
5  Mel Mara (Callahan, 10-1) - Parked entire mile and moved three wide in last tilt to finish third in 2:5.4 final quarter.  Don't count out with a trip.
6  Dealt A Winner (De Long, 20-1) -  Took advantage to finish third in last.  Don't expect the race to go the same; pass.
7  Shamballa (Zeron, 6-1) - Last victory was an upset.  Will he be able to pull it off again?  Don't rule this one out of it.
8  Luck Be Withyou (Goodell, 20-1) - Has been improving but not up to these.  Tough spot.
9  Always B Miki (D. Miller, 8-5) -  Roughed up in last.  Expect less aggressive drive but still a threat even from here.

Selections: Though he draws the worst of it, Always B Miki is my choice here.  I expect a less aggressive drive and if someone doesn't let Wiggle It Jiggleit get away with a cheap half, ABM will be coming in the later stanza of the race.  WIJI is a tough one indeed as his last mile showed; holds on to second.  If he gets any better trip here, Mel Mara takes the show spot but if the top two get roughed up, he may be the one to claim victory. Wakizashi Hanover having two trips over the oval is good enough to complete the superfecta. 9-1-5-3.  Longshot play: #5 - Mel Mara.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Origin Story; Foiled Again Heading to the Gold Cup and Saucer

Updated to reflect the draw for the Dan Patch Invitational.

Followers of harness racing know the original sire of the American standardbred was the English thoroughbred sire Messenger.  Well according to researchers, the American standardbred and other gaited breeds actually started off in Medieval England, where a gene mutation called the gait-keeper first arose  According to this study over 50% of the standardbreds show this mutation.

No word whether or not King Arthur's horse was able to trot a mile under two minutes.

Now that the Meadowlands has closed its Championship Meet, the stars are on the move over the continent.

The Dan Patch Invitational will be contested at Hoosier Park on Friday evening.  This $325,000 has attracted a stellar field featuring Wiggle It Jiggleit, Freaky Feet Pete, Shamballa and Always B Miki as well as last year's North America Cup winner Wakzashi Hanover.

Foiled Again is heading to Charlottetown to compete in the Gold Cup and Saucer, perhaps Canada's most desirable race to win.  His quest for Gold Cup and Saucer glory begins when he competes in the first of two trials this Saturday (August 13) as a total of fourteen horses have entered the Charlottetown Driving Park classic.  Before anyone considers Foiled Again a cinch to win, this is one of the 'must win' races owners want to win so one can assume the other horses will be at their best.  No one wins the Gold Cup and Saucer on reputation alone.

Saturday night, the $300,000 Carl Milstein Memorial will be contested at Northfield Park, featuring the super filly Pure Country and North America Cup winner Betting Line makes this a race worth watching.


NJ Thwarted Again

As expected, the entire 3rd Circuit US Court of Appeals voided the 2014 NJ statute in a 10-2 decision, allowing sports gambling at casinos and racetracks.

The court found the repeal of state statute repealing sports gambling by casinos and racetracks did still regulate gambling in the state.  Specifically citing this segment of SB2460:

[A]ny rules and regulations that may require or authorize any State agency to license, authorize, permit or otherwise take action to allow any person to engage in the placement or acceptance of any wager on any professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contest or athletic event, or that prohibit participation in or operation of a pool that accepts such wagers, are repealed to the extent they apply or may be construed to apply at a casino or gambling house operating in this State in Atlantic City or a running or harness horse racetrack in this State, to the placement and acceptance of wagers on professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contests or athletic events . . . .  

Further more to quote from the decision: N.J. Stat. Ann. § 5:12A-7. The 2014 Law specifically prohibited wagering on New Jersey college teams’ competitions and on any collegiate competition occurring in New Jersey, and it limited sports wagering to “persons 21 years of age or older situated at such location[s],” namely casinos and racetracks. 

In addition, the court found the PASPA didn't violate the constitution with regards to anti-commandeering act; Federal government didn't interfere with the state legislative procedure.

No doubt this case will go to the Supreme Court which will refuse to hear the case.  Hence, unless the state decides to completely repeal its laws regarding gambling and allow the corner bookie to accept wagers and set their own rules along with everyone else which is unlikely, the only way gambling on sports will legally take place in New Jersey is if PASPA is repealed or changed.  This eventually will happen.

The question is will it be too late for racing or New Jersey casinos?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hambo Day Thoughts

It's the morning after so it is time to look back at Hambletonian Day 2016.

Most Annoying Moment - This goes to the post position draw for the Hambletonian Final.  In the grandstand there was so much noise you couldn't here the post position draw. . Of course, I couldn't see the names of the horses as they posted them on the chart (more about this next).  After the draw was complete they showed a close up of the post position assignments for a grand total of, four seconds.  Really?  Why bother showing a close up of the board at all?  Thanks to DRF Harness who posted online the post positions for the second heat.

Stupidest Move of the Day - That goes to me for forgetting to take Benadryl along with me for if I did, my eyes wouldn't have been so blurred in which case the Most Annoying Moment may not have taken place.

When the Heck is Betfair Going to Offer In-Play Wagering on the Exchange Moment - That easily goes to the US Pacing Championship when Wiggle It Jiggelit and Always Be Miki played a little bit of hardball in the first quarter.  At that point I sensed it was going to be upset time.  By the half, watching Shamballa follow Freaky Feet Pete I knew who the winner was.  Unfortunately, Betfair at present only allows in-play wagering on the runners since harness racing is new to them on the exchange.  They claim it is coming.  Well, they are at least one day too late as far as I am concerned.

Saint of Hambletonian Day - That goes to my wife who, doesn't care for 'improving the breed'.  She enjoys going to Goshen, but otherwise, could care less but she knows how much I enjoy it.  But every year, we're in the parking lot by 9:30 in the morning, sitting in the seats till the first race.  Is willingly the concession line person, well you get it.  The Pope may not agree, but she is 'The Saint of Hambletonian Day'.  When do I tell her there is a need for her to be the 'Saint of the Breeders Crown'?

Handicapping Grade - C.  Good enough that no one can fairly tell me 'You Suck'.  On the plus side, I did pick the top three in the Hambletonian Final before the eliminations were even contested.  The Hambletonian Daily Double for $43 was a good call.  On the minus side is the only good hit was the Oaks-Hambo Double; the other hits were somewhat anemic.

Now onto some of the racing highlights:

A new all-time world record for the fastest pacing mile was not in the cards for the US Pacing Championship but it certainly was an exciting race with Shamballa getting the perfect trip to score a victory in 1:47.1.

In defeat, Wiggle It Jiggleit showed his gameness to finish second after being put through a tough first quarter as Teague decided to put the sting to Always B Miki which cost both of the horses a chance at victory. One has to wonder if the grind of the big three ( add Freaky Feet Pete to the troika) has taken its toll.  Regardless, it was a brilliantly driven race by Scott Zeron which shows why he was the leading driver of the meet.

/It wouldn't be a Hambletonian Day without Jimmy Takter in the winners circle and there he was, in the Hambletonian Oaks with All The Time being the first to cross the finish line in 1:52.1 after going an overland route .She was clearly the best horse out there on Saturday.

The Hambletonian was an exciting event and the second heat showed it as Marion Marauder toik a Hambletonian many had conceded to Southwind Frank.  While the Hambletonian was not to be Southwind's race, the 2yo champion didn't go down with out a fight, including a last minute rush up the rail from third to the lead before losing the final in a photo finish to Marion Marauder who was content to lay back in fifth in the early part of the race.  Once they got to a :56 half, Marauder launched her attack on the outside to brush up into contention before having to grind it around the final turn where open road made it clear sailing.

Southwind Frank did go into a break just past the wire so his connections may be wondering if he would have been the winner if he stayed flat a little bit longer.  This is not to take anything away from the Hambo winner as he was the best on the first Saturday of August.

Scott Zeron, the leading driver of the meet won only three races on closing day but they were profitable as he won the elimination and final of the Hambletonian along with the US Pacing Championship.  Bjorn Goop who came in from Europe to drive had three drives for the day with his best finish being a second place finish in the Peter Haughton with Victor Gio It; his two other drives ending up with last place finishes due to breaking horses.

The combined all-sources handle was $5.6 million for the sixteen race card which was pretty good being there were no Jackpot Super Hi-Five jackpots to go after.  On-track attendance was 20,132, roughly 1,800 fewer than attended last year.

Harness racing at the Meadowlands resumes in early September with two weekends of racing before the runners return for their 14 day turf meet.  The trotters then return in late October.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hambletonian Day Run Down

Saturday (August 6) is Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands.  As in past years, Hambletonian Day is a star-studded card, full of racing's royalty.  Will the all-time race record fall on a warm humid afternoon?  Can Pure Country, the filly starting from post position 11, defeat the boys in the Cane Pace?  Which horse out of the troika of Always B Miki, Freaky Feet Pete, and Wiggle It Jiggleit will cross the wire first or will another horse shock?

Then there is the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks.  Will Jimmy Takter sweep the Open and filly divisions of the stake once again or will some other trainer(s) be celebrating when the dust settles?  Will this be a favorite-laden card or will upsets abound?

Underneath all of this, the under current will be asking if this is the last time we will ever see such a race card anywhere in the United States?  Of course, this is all dependent on the New Jersey voters come November.  Finally there is an organized campaign to get voters to vote in the affirmative as Our Turn NJ has arrived.   But this is a matter for another day.  Saturday is all about great racing.

This year I intend to take advantage of the Betting Exchange; trying to lock in odds on favorites at a price I like instead of being subjected to 1-5 or 2-5 shots as well as trying to lock in big prices on morning line long shots I like.  Of course, the pari-mutuels will be visited as well, exotics are a big part of my wagering strategy on a day like this.

As my tradition, I will be providing you with my selections for the Meadowlands card, along with my disclosure that Hambletonian Day is not one of better days when it comes to making a profit.  However, every dog has their day and here's hoping this dog gets to bark instead of whimpering at the end of the day.

Here are my picks:

1st Pace - $13,000; NW $11,500 Last 4 Starts
8  Vague Traces (A Miller, 4-1)
7  Calvin B (Callahan, 5-2)
2  Polak A (B Miller, 8-1)
4  Art History (Ti Tetrick, 3-1)

2nd Pace - $94,675; Shady Daisy 
1  Penpal (Lachance, 6-1)
3  Darlinonthebeach (D Miller, 9-5)
4  Blue Moon Stride (Mccarthy, 4-5)
2  Kiss Me Onthebeach (Sears, 12-1)

3rd Trot - $188,350; Fresh Yankee - 1 1/8 miles
  4  Hannelore Hanover (Gingras, 2-5)
  9  Shake It Cerry (D Miller, 20-1)
  6  Jewels In hock (Campbell, 5-1)
12  Swishnflick (Macdonald, 40-1)

4th Trot - $294,450; Peter Haughton Memorial 
4  Victor Gio It (Goop, 3-1)
1  King On The Hill (Ti Tetrick, 6-1)
6  Rubio (Gingras, 5-2)
2  What The Hill (D Miller, 4-1)

5th Trot - $306,500; Jim Doherty Memorial
1  Ariana G (Gingras, 7-5)
5  Chezatter (D Miiller, 5-2)
3  Broadway Idole (Sears, 8-1)
6  Waffle Cone (Campbell, 30-1)

6th Trot - $273,600; John Cashman Memorial
5  Resolve (Svanstedt, 2-1)
4  Homicide Hunter (Goodell, 12-1)
7  JL Cruze (Campbell, 3-1)
9  Honor And Serve (Sears, 15-1)

7th Pace - $200,000; Cane Pace - 1 1/8 Miles
11  Pure Country (B Miller, 4-1)
  1  Check Six (Gingras, 3-1)
  4  Control The Moment (Sears, 2-1)
  3  Jk Will Power (D Miller, 10-1)

8th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination 
1  Bar Hopping (Ti Tetrick, 9-5)
9  Reigning Moni (Macdonald, 4-1)
4  Milligan's School (A Miller, 10-1)
2   Lagerfield (Gingras, 12-1)

9th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination
4  Marion Marauder (Zeron, 3-1)
5  Southwind Frank (Gingras, 4-5)
1  Jimmy William (Ti Tetrick, 20-1)
9  Waitlifter K (Kakaey, 10-1)

10th Trot - $75,000; Vincennes Invitational
10  Natural Herbie (Yoder, 20-1)
  3  Musical Rhythm (Campbell, 5-2)
  7  World Cup (Bongiorno, 6-1)
  6  Wings Of Royalty (Sears, 4-1)

11th Pace - $225,500; US Pacing Championship
4  Freaky Feet Pete (Tr Tetrick, 5-1)
3  Always B Miki (D Miller, 3-5)
6  Wiggle It Jiggleit (Teague, 3-1)
1  Dealt A Winner (A Miller, 15-1)

12th Trot - $500,000; Hambletonian Oaks Final
6  All The Time (Gingras, 9-5)
7  Broadway Donna (D Miller, 7-2)
2  Celebrity Eventsy (Campbell, 6-1)
1  Caprice H12ill (Ti Tetrick, 5-2)

13th Trot - $1,000,000; Hambletonian Final (Top 5 from races 8 and 9 return)
    Marion Marauder (Zeron)
    Southwind Frank (Gingras)
    Bar Hopping (Ti Tetrick)
    Milligan's School (A Miller)

14th Pace - $35,000; Open
1A  Mel Mara (Callahan, 2-1)
   8  Rockin Ron (Gingras, 3-1)
   2  Mcardles Lightning  (D Miller, 6-1)
   5  Rockeyed Optiist (B Miller, 4-1)

15th Pace - $235,950; Lady Liberty - 1 1/8 Miles
12  Lady Shadow (Gingras, 7-5)
  4  Katie Said (B Miller, 25-1)
10  Sassa Hanover (Kakaley, 15-1)
  5  Solar Sister (Sears, 4-1)

16th Pace - $10,200; NW $7,500 Last 5 Starts
  7  Barimah A (Ti Tetrick, 5-2)
  4  Hope For Badlands (Zeron, 3-1)
10  City Pie (Ginsburg, 6-1)
  3  Victorydaze Wilwin (Martin, 20-1)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Ohio: The State Of Second Chances

The Ohio Sire Stakes program is undergoing a transformation unmatched by any other. While neighbors to the east and west, Pennsylvania and Indiana, made no permanent significant on track additions to their stallion ranks, aside from Ponder’s move to Pennsylvania and Lucky Chucky and Bettor’s Delight making brief appearances before returning to New York and Ontario, respectively. The Buckeyes have seen major upgrades come online in 2016. First crop trotting sire Dejarmbro is in the throes of a terrific debut; Triumphant Caviar is proving that his initial offering was no fluke; Break The Bank’s first modest Ohio crop of 36 is doing well; and then there are the pacing stallions.

Seventeen-year-old McArdle, who was named after Nevele R Stud’s founder Bob McArdle, won 28 of 54 starts for Chris Ryder, David Miller and Mike Lachance. He earned more than $2.4 million, but was not King of his crop. The son of Falcon Seelster won his Cup and Pace eliminations and finished second to Mach Three in the latter, but he was second, 167 votes behind Art Major, in freshman Dan Patch voting; and he was second again, 167 back of Art Major, at four.

This is McArdle’s tenth crop. He sired two in New Jersey before being shipped out due to questions about his ability to be competitive in that environment. This was followed by seven years in Pennsylvania, before relocating to Ohio in 2013. One More Laugh, McWicked and Big McDeal notwithstanding, the Keystone State was not an ideal environment for him: There’s a lot of restricted money up for grabs, but not enough of it went to his get. His last two crops there consisted of 37 and 26 foals. Contrast that to the 176 mares he bred his first year in Ohio, resulting in the 97 foals in this crop.

July 28 at Scioto Downs there were five $32,000 pacing splits of the Buckeye State program at Scioto Downs: the freshman gelding Barnabas took one in 1:53., after having already captured two $40,000 divisions of the OSS at Scioto and Northfield; McThriller, already the winner of a $40,000 OSS split at Scioto, won his from the 10 post in 1:54.2 for Ronnie Wrenn Jr and Brian Brown; and Scotch McEwan, a gelding, won the final split in a track record 1:52.3 from the 9 post for Josh Sutton and Jim Dailey. And the previous night Brian Brown’s filly, Bellasbrowneyedgirl, beat a 1/9 shot at 47/1 in a division of the State Fair Managers Pace.

On July 4 there were eleven $40,000 OSS divisions raced at Scioto and seven of them went to McArdle freshmen: Ohio Larry, Barnabas, My Superman, McThriller, Stanley K , McRaven and Scotch McEwan all won.

On July 11 at Northfield, McRaven, Barnabas, Jim McRhody and McSpidey all won $40,000 OSS splits.

Results like that have become the norm for McArdle, who appears to have finally found his niche, after all these years of not syncing with his surroundings. He’s second to SBSW on the earnings list for freshmen pacers and he already has 29 winners to his credit.

In a year when stud fees were dropping across the board the immensely popular McArdle saw his jump 20%. Home at last.

Unlike McArdle, Art Official had no success to speak of in restricted races or on the Grand Circuit during his three-year stint in Pennsylvania. His fee gradually dropped from $7,000 to $3,000. Let’s Drink On It and Cinamony are good journeyman pacers, but they can’t be your king and queen.

All that seems to be changing for the better with his first Ohio crop, however. Type A Grey, a grey filly out of the American Ideal mare Just My Type, is the richest freshman filly in North America. She’s three for three, with a pair of romps in $40,000 splits of the OSS and another cruise job in a $35,800 division of the State Fair Managers Pace. This head turner doesn’t appear to be staked outside the program.

Corner Con Artist is another OSS winner by Art Official, driven by Ronnie Wrenn Jr and trained by Brian Brown. And the colt Official Delight was second in that race. DaVinci Artist is another good one. Seventeen of his 35 starters have won.

The Rocknroll Hanover stallion Foreclosure N is garnering attention with his single Ohio crop of 20 foals. The winner of 15 races and almost $808,000, who raced for Peter Heffering and Richard Young, and finished his career in the Burke Barn, was sold to European interests in March, 2015. He was relocated to Ireland.

Thirteen of the 20 have raced and six have won. Drunk On Your Love and Rosemary Rose are both multiple winners in the Ohio SS. The former took a mark of 1:54.3 and the latter 1:54.4, both at Scioto Downs. Pace Car, the fastest of them all, with a 1:54 win in the Ohio SS at Northfield. He is a son of the rugged mare Breakheart Pass, who won 27 times and banked more than $600,000. He races for Ron Burke. Please return to sender, Ireland.

 Twenty-year-old The Panderosa, the sire of Shadow Play, Ponder and Yagonnakissmeornot, stood for 13 years in Pennsylvania before moving to Ohio in 2013. His last two Keystone crops consisted of 35 and 27 foals. His stud fee, which was $10,000 back in 2008, dropped to $3,000 when he relocated to the Buckeye State. His current 2-year-old crop consists of 46 foals and 29 of them have started. Air Raid, Ron’s Pro and Rosa’s Touch all scored wins in the state bred program. The Panderosa was a lost soul in Pennsylvania, perhaps his moribund stallion career will also find new life in this home of second chances.

Joe FitzGerald