For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Responding to a previous blog entry, someone offered the suggestion that instead of wasting $100,000 for the Chester Driving Championship, the PHHA would have been better served to offer ten $10,000 awards to people who informed on the beards.

I don't know if this person (who posted anonymously) was serious or tongue-in-cheek but it made me wonder, what if we offered bounties for people who informed on those who were involved with serious violations of racing rules or those who acted as beards?  We are not talking about overages or missing cut off times; it is the use of illegal medications (not approved for horses or serious PEDs); being or employing a beard.  Would something like this work or would we be flooded with people making false accusations in an attempt to 'cash in'?

With regards to people making false accusations, steps could be taken to punish those who report accusations which turn out to be unquestionably false, the same way people are punished for making frivolous appeals.  Secondly, no process against the accused would even begin until investigators could substantiate the accusations.

So assuming we took care of the problem of false accusations, what would offering bounties to informants do to the racing industry?  Would it make trainers paranoid that someone could be watching every step they took, in effect our own mini-McCarthy era?  Would this fear, irrational or not, cause trainers to hew to the rules more so or just drive these cheaters underground more? Woul such a fear be a bad thing? Obviously, those who attempt to follow the rules would have nothing to fear but those who bend the rules or function as beards would find themselves under pressure from the fear of being caught.

What would the reward be?  It could be a percentage of the fine or purse money returned, it can be a specific bounty from a fund established via horsemen or from fines paid to the state.  One thing, the reward would need to be big enough to compensate someone who may be subjected to retaliation.

I don't know if it would work but I'd love to see such a system be implemented as a pilot program to see if it was something worth doing and expand to all racing states.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Another Program Trainer Gets Taken Down but....

not in harness racing.

Another program trainer (aka a Beard) has been suspended, this time by the NJRC as Chloe Bradley got sat down for 45 days and a $1,500 fine for entering a horse at Monmouth Park when the judges determined the horse actually remained under the control of Ramon Preciado.  Good for the stewards at Monmouth Park for discovering this problem.

My question is how often does this happen in harness racing?  Once in a very long blue moon you will see a commission catch someone, but it is indeed a rarity.  The Meadowlands does attempt to keep most beards away through use of the exclusion rule (though not consistently) but many people surrounding the industry know who are bearding for who yet nothing seems to happen.

My question is how do people who hang out in the clubhouses and even the railbirds seem to know who is bearding for who yet the judges seem to be ignorant of this?  I realize the judges are not hanging out with trainers in the backstretch so to blame the judges alone would be completely unfair.

My question is why isn't anyone who is 'in the know' reporting this information to the judges?  I understand no one wants to be known as a snitch, but by allowing these beards to continue operating, don't they realize the purse money these unscrupulous individuals are earning is money coming out of their pockets and further damaging the racing product?

Yet, one has to wonder if the judges are doing their jobs.  After all, when a horse trained by John Doe when stabled in Pennsylvania is transferred to Jane Smith when racing one state over before returning to the original trainer bells should be going off.  Is it just the trainer never got licensed in one state and it was easier to transfer the horse or is it the original trainer is still running things, using a beard because they aren't allowed to race in the state?  A 'visit' to the original trainer's stable may be all which is needed to tell if a transfer is legitimate or not.

I get it.  Following all these beards requires a financial commitment, something racing commissions are reluctant to do considering their limited budgets.  But if they are abdicating their investigative responsibilities, may I suggest the state commission fold and contract out their duties to another state or a national board to be created?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

How Are The Top 25 Trainers Faring As Compared With This Point In 2015?

Here’s a look at how the top trainers are faring as we approach the last quarter of the year. I compared their stats for this past Monday, September 19, and those for September 19 2015.

Number one Ron Burke has made 165 (5%) fewer starts than a year ago; his win total is down by 67 (10%); he’s short more than $2 million (12%). His UTRS dropped from 0.338 to 0.321.

Second place Jimmy Takter has made 11 more starts, accounting for nine fewer wins. His earnings are off by more than $782,000, or 10%.

Rene Allard, who unlike Burke and Takter, doesn’t have a very big footprint on the Grand Circuit, has made 25% more starts this year (381). For all that extra activity he only shows 7 more wins, and his money has dropped by 10%--almost $430,000. Rene’s UTRS dropped from 0.396 to 0.336. So the top three, who were slotted the same in September 2015, are all at least 10% poorer in 2016.

Number four Tony Alagna was at seven a year ago. His win total is exactly the same, despite making 78 fewer starts. His earnings have jumped by 19%, or almost $679,000. Tony’s UTRS rose from 0.334 to 0.380.

Ake Svanstedt moved up from number 12 a year ago to number five. He made 16% more starts, won 14% more races, and earned 28% more money (almost $775,000) since Sept 19 of last year.

Erv Miller moved up from ten to six. He won six more races in 99 fewer starts. His money is up 14%, or about $366,000. His UTRS rose from 0.287 to 0.319.

Linda Toscano jumped from 11 a year ago to number 7. She made 16% more starts (91), won 10% more races and earned 18% more money--$462,000. Her UTRS dropped from 0.343 to 0.321.

Julie Miller is at number eight, the same place she was last year. She made 12% fewer starts and won 9% fewer races. Her earnings are off by 10%. Miller’s UTRS rose from 0.321 to 0.357.

Chris Oakes moves up from 17 a year ago to number nine. His starts are up by 37%; he won 35% more races; and his earnings jumped by 31%--more than $745,000. His UTRS rose from an already heady 0.405 to an other-worldly 0.448.

Richard Moreau is at number ten, up from 14 last September. He made 89 more starts (9%), and that generated only two more wins, but the WEG leader saw his earnings increase by $388,000, or 17%.

Jeff Bamond, whose top pacing mares have all abandoned him at once, except for Krispy Apple, dropped from number four to eleven. His starts are up by 10%, but he only shows five more wins and is short $1.1 million, or 33%. Jeff’s UTRS dropped from 0.321 to 0.312.

Gilbert Garcia-Herrera dropped from five to twelve. His starts are down by 12%; his win total is off by 36%; and his money is off by 35%. Gilbert’s UTRS dropped from 0.310 to 0.250.

Richard Banca has moved up from 19 to 13. His starts are up by 31%, while his win total stepped up 12%. Banca’s earnings jumped 23%. His UTRS dropped from 0.352 to 0.302.

Brian Brown dropped from nine to 14. His starts, wins and money are off by 8%, 14% and 20%, respectively. And his UTRS fell from 0.380 to 0.344.

Jim Dailey flew all the way from number 49 to number 15. His starts and wins are only up by 4% each, but his money rose by $780,000, or 44%.

Casie Coleman climbed from number 30 to 16 on the strength of 27% more money generated in 39% fewer starts. The trainer of Jug winner Betting Line only won one more race than she did a year ago to this point. Her UTRS rose from 0.315 to o.433.

Number 17 Thomas Milici wasn’t on the top 50 list a year ago. The sixty-year-old wunderkind has already chalked up 66% more starts than he made in all of 2015. Both his win and earnings totals are up by a mind blowing 82%.

Chris Beaver stepped up 18 spots to number 18. He has made 32% more starts, leading to 38% more wins and 30% more money.

Dylan Davis is another shooting star. He failed to make the top 50 a year ago but is currently at number 19. He has made 5% more starts than in all of 2015. He has just as many wins and his money is up 23% over all of last year.

John Butenschoen, who has several promising freshmen, jumped from 32 to 20. His starts are up by 9%, resulting in only 5 more wins, but his earnings have increased by $374,000, or 23%.

Tony O’Sullivan fell from 15 to 21. His starts are down by 149, or 27%. He has 19 fewer wins and has banked 15% less money.

Ohio trainer Virgil Morgan Jr dropped all the way from number six a year ago to 22. He has made 26% fewer starts, won 39% fewer races and earned 46% less money—that’s $1.3 million less.

Wiggle it Jiggleit’s trainer Clyde Francis is at 23. He was number 22 a year ago. He has made 65% more starts than he had to this point last year, but that still adds up to less than 100. Francis has 38 wins, as opposed to 18 at this point in 2015. His earnings are up 5%.

Carmen Auciello dropped from 16 to 24. He has made 18% fewer starts, won 16% fewer races and banked 14% less money.

Number 25 is Steve Elliott, down from 13 last September. His starts are down 10% and his wins are off by 12%. Elliott has earned about $562,000 less than last year. That amounts to a 28% drop.

Joe FitzGerald

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Risky Game of Speculation

With the main proponents of the NJ Casino Expansion bill ceasing to spend on advertising, resigned to letting the chips fall where they may, it would appear the referendum for North Jersey gaming will go down to defeat.  Thus, horsemen and others in the harness racing industry no doubt are wondering what this will mean to the Meadowlands.  Some people are claiming this is the end of the Meadowlands.  

With Jeff Gural already committing to keep on racing, albeit with a cut stakes calendar, it is too early to write the epitaph for the Meadowlands. Make no mistake, the quality of racing is likely to decrease further but talk of its death is too soon.  If referring to the end of racing as we knew it there; a different story no doubt.

So let's play a parlor game of Speculation, where we come up with what we think racing will look like next year in East Rutherford.  This is particularly risky because lets face it, I don't have the financials nor do I know what Mr. Gural has planned. Furthermore, we likely won't hear anything until after election day because lets face it, while highly unlikely, the referendum could pass.

While I am focusing on the Meadowlands, there is Freehold Raceway to consider.  I suspect things will continue on pretty much the same.  This means in 2017, roughly 110 days of racing will take place.

As for the Meadowlands, I suspect they will try to cut back on their 90 days of racing; probably more like 80 days.  Of course, under NJ law, the horsemen have to agree to the cut in racing dates

Were I to apply for racing dates, the Meadowlands would go back to its meat and potato days, racing the majority of dates in the winter, possibly on a three or four day schedule.  Then I would schedule a summer meet around the Hambletonian, with possibly ten weeks of racing twice a week.

Other than the Hambletonian, I would probably end the majority of stakes races; perhaps keeping the TVG Series races for older horse around as TVG sponsors the races.  Overnight purses would be cut a bit to allow for repayment of the purse account deficit so the bottom level would remain at the $7,500 claiming tag as was the case this year. only theses races would be contested more often.

Of course, what happens once the Meadowlands closes the first weekend in August?  This year there has been more harness racing taking place, I would imagine that would be out.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Meadowlands seeks a thoroughbred meet of their own, not just Monmouth Park at Meadowlands, in an effort to see if  the return of the runners for a longer stanza would result in more income opportunities to cut the losses.

So those are my thoughts.  Putting all this out here now is risky because while some of these ideas may actually come to fruition, there is a good chance of me ending up with egg in my face.  Time will tell.  

Do you have any predictions?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Unwelcome Guests and Yougurt

Jug week is over and I for one am sorry it didn't end sooner.  For a week which usually shows harness racing at its county fair best with some of the best horses racing, this is a week which will be known as the appearance of an unwelcome guest and in true American-theater, Yogurtgate.

The controversy started the day before the Jugette when persona non-grata Lou Pena was seen inside the stall of entrant I Said Diamonds which necessitated a scratch of the filly.  Pena is not licensed in Ohio and as such it was a violation of detention rules.  One can wonder what Pena was doing in the stall.  It is not my place to make any accusations, but being Pena is a person with a checkered past, his presence was certainly not welcomed by the vast majority of the race's participants.  It will be up to Ohio racing officials to determine what kind of relationship Pena may have with the listed trainer Matias Ruiz.

If that wasn't bad enough, then came Yogurtgate.  When a phone lost by one of Trainer Cassie Coleman's assistants was found, the person came upon messages which could have been considered indicative of wrong-doing, possibly suggesting treating the horse in violation of detention barn rules.  Coleman claims the 'treatment' talked about was yogurt though one has to wonder why the message didn't say "..get his yogurt into him.." instead of referring to a 'treatment'.  Maybe it was a poor choice of words but it certainly caused a lot of controversy with trainers threatening a mass scratch but thankfully voting instead not to post parade with the eventual Jug winner Betting Line and racing under protest.   To be balanced, it needs to be reported that Coleman's stalls, trailer, and car were searched by racing officials with nothing coming up.  Needless to say, even if completely vindicated, this will not be one of racing's proudest moments, one covered by the Columbus Dispatch for its readers.

Sadly, apparently Coleman uses any old yogurt.  Think of the commercial endorsements which could have been forthcoming if a named-brand was used.

One thing is for sure, Delaware needs to be more vigilant in the future when it comes to detention barn enforcement as this is something the Jug doesn't need to have repeated.

A positive (if there is one) is the fact named trainers went to the judges in both cases.  Maybe the wall of silence has been breached.  Of course, let's see if these trainers will go to judges when they see something in a $15,000 race.  If so, then this year's Jugette and Jug may be marked down as a turning point.  If not, then this will be a blot not soon forgotten.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Preparing for a Nuclear Winter

With news coming from the Our Turn New Jersey Campaign that they are ceasing all paid advertising in support of the New Jersey gaming expansion, defeat has been conceded by the pro-gaming supporters.  As a result, there is little doubt the referendum to expand gaming will go down to defeat.  If as promised by Jeff Gural, this means a 'nuclear winter' of sort is likely coming to East Rutherford, the cancellation of most stakes races as the pro-gaming forces wait the two years before another attempt to pass an expansion of gaming in New Jersey can take place.

Okay, nuclear winter may be a bit extreme.  There are enough stakes races thanks to racino revenue for horsemen on a national level, so horsemen will be spared from an immediate impact of the Meadowlands jettisoning most stakes (The Hambletonian would appear to be safe) would appear to be minimal.  However, the long term impact of this collapse of stakes racing is disconcerting.

Let's not kid ourselves, if stakes racing disappears from the Meadowlands, one must wonder what will happen to the overnight purses?  Will the Meadowlands become Freehold North or remain at the level of this past year's racing?  Without stakes and high-caliber racing, handle is likely to drop continuing pressure on purses, plus the absence of stakes racing will likely put harness racing out of the view of the New York and national media.  After this year, it will be a long time, if ever that the Breeders Crown will return to the Meadowlands.

Other tracks will be hurt as it is likely much of the simulcast wagering on the Meadowlands will be lost to harness racing, moving over to other forms of horse racing where gamblers will find pools large enough to wager on.  This means harness tracks which depend on their own customers to wager on the Meadowlands will find their revenue dropping.  Racino tracks may be able to sustain such loses but those tracks without racinos will feel an immediate drop on their bottom line.

New Jersey racing, already on life support, faces a severe threat to its sustainability as what little hope breeders were using to promote their stallions in the state has all but vanished.  Will the few stallions in state abandon the state further decimating the sires stakes program, leaving the NJ program surviving on state-bred horses?

No, nationally things won't collapse immediately, but if the cuts to the Meadowlands stakes schedule are as draconian as led to believe, the impact on harness racing will be reverberating underneath the surface, waiting to crack through.

Hmmm, maybe nuclear winter isn't that far off.

Atlantic City Can Drop Dead - Says Jeff Gural in an interview at the Little Brown Jug.  He predicts the defeat of the referendum will hurt Atlantic City and the next time around, he doesn't see linking any future referendum to supporting Atlantic City casinos.  Basically, Atlantic City made its bed and now it can sleep in it.  I tend to agree with him; this legislation would have helped to stabilize Atlantic City somewhat whereas the cannibalism of the market with new casinos coming online in New York continuing to eat Atlantic City's lunch.   It may be a race to the bottom between racing and Atlantic City.

Speech for the SAFE Act – Fred Hudson

The following is a speech being presented today by horseman Fred Hudson at the USDA as part of a national demonstration in support the SAFE Act .

His comments are presented in their entirety. 

September 22, 2016 at USDA, Washington DC

Thank you, everyone, who is here today – I know that many of you have made many personal sacrifices to be here today (thank you). We are here today to speak for the horses who cannot speak for themselves. As God’s appointed caretakers of them we are not doing a very good job – but today we can change that and we can send out a message that will change everything and end the shipment of our horses to other countries so they can be slaughtered. Today, together, we can end the slaughter of our American horses that also represent a symbol of who we are as “Americans”.

I am a third generation Standardbred horse trainer. I grew up with horses, and horses have always been a part of my life. At one time, I trained and managed one of the largest stables in the country. Today I act as a consultant and adviser to several horse owners and I coauthored the Amazon best-seller, Roosevelt Raceway. I am very active with the Standardbred Retirement Foundation and I am working with other Standardbred leaders on efforts to establish a Standardbred Aftercare Alliance*.

When I first started training horses, most horses raced on a combination of hay, oats, and water – adding some vitamins like B-12 and a little liver and iron and maybe a post-treatment of bute (Phenylbutazone), a pain and anti-inflammatory drug.

Today, horses are treated with legal medications for bleeding, anti-inflammatory drugs, wormers, drugs for infections, ulcers, allergies, sedatives/tranquilizers, steroids and many others. 70% of all medications used on horses clearly state on the label “Not to be used for treatment on animals intended for human consumption”.

Bute has been and is the most common medication used on horses – for that reason alone no horse should be in the human food chain. Even the pet food companies won't use horses in their feeds for it being so unsafe for pets to eat.

In the racing industry, we also have the illegal medications that the unscrupulous trainers use. The performance enhancement drugs with names like elephant juice, frog juice, milkshakes, the muscle relaxers, and the blood doping that increases the oxygen supply to the muscles. We have no idea of what they are using and they would be more likely to sell a horse to slaughter over an honest trainer/owner.

Last year Nancy Watson, one of the founders of Safe Food Safe Horses, asked me to speak here as she did this year. Nancy's family and mine go back many years . Her stepfather, Jim, is a good friend of mine and her grandfather, Cecil, in the 1950's won the American Trotting Championship twice and he was good friends with my dad.

Over the past year I, along with Nancy and many others, have been working behind the scenes contacting and meeting with many members of Congress trying to gain support and co-sponsors for the SAFE Act. We currently stand at 196 in the house and 29 in the Senate. The Bill is now in committees with both houses – We need to get this bill out of the committees and onto the floors for a vote.

The racing industries, Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, have taken great steps forward in trying to prevent their horses from this horrible death. The Thoroughbreds have set up the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Some of their efforts include a $5 entry fee for all horses that race and that money is diverted to the TAA to care for horses. Also many of the tracks now bar or take the racing privileges away from trainers and owners that knowingly sell a horse to be slaughtered.

With the Standardbreds – a few months ago I was invited to attend a meeting that was held at the Meadowlands and arranged by Jeff Gural (owner of the Meadowlands) and Michelle Crawford (owner of Crawford Farms). In that meeting were industry leading trainers, rescue farms, a United States Trotting Association representative and at that meeting we took the first step in forming the Standardbred Aftercare Alliance. Jeff Gural and Michelle Crawford graciously offered the seed money. Crawford farms has also set up a section of their farm as a sanctuary for rescued horses and Michelle has saved many horses this year.

Also at that meeting was my good friend Judy Bokman, the founder of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation. I spoke of Judy last year when I told the story of how she formed the SRF by throwing herself in front of a truck that had a horse bound for slaughter, and how she saved that horse, and that horse became the first of her 2700 plus saves. A few weeks ago she saved 10 horses from a kill buyer and then the following week she went to another kill buyer to save one horse and ended up saving three and one of them so that the horse could be humanly put down to end his suffering.

The SRF is a role model for all rescues to follow. They never give up the ownership of the horses that are adopted from them and they constantly follow up with the adopters throughout the life of every horse that has been adopted. They currently have over 200 horses in their care.

I was privileged this year to work with Grammy winner, Trade Martin, as he produced a commercial for the SRF and wrote a song for them, titled “I can't Say How Much I Love You”.

The statistics show that 69% of the horses slaughtered in Canada come from the U.S. Last year we sent 40,000 horses to Canada to be slaughtered and we sent another 85,000 to Mexico to be slaughtered for a total of 125,000 – down 15,000 from the previous year. The European Union has barred horse-meat from Mexico. We import from Mexico hundreds of millions of pounds of ground-beef and through DNA testing 39% of meat tested – tested positive for horse. So I guess that Mexico has found a new market for the unwanted horse-meat that the European Union has rejected. I cannot imagine eating a horse – I find it repulsive and it just turns my stomach to think of it.

We need to start enforcing the laws that Congress has currently put in place. We cannot allow the kill buyer to continue to fill out his own paperwork – which he knowingly falsifies. We need to enforce the animal cruelty laws. We also need to hold the auction houses that sell these horses accountable for selling horses that they know are loaded with drugs that are not allowed in animals intended for human consumption.

To Congress and the members of the Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Sub-Committee of Livestock and Foreign Agriculture – 80% of the American people – I will repeat that - 80% of the American people want an end to horse slaughter. Get this bill, the Safeguard American Food Export Act on the floor for a vote. It is the will of the people. And it will end the slaughter of our American horses.

Thank you.

In my speech - I didn't mention who sat in on the meeting to form or start to form the Standardbred Aftercare Alliance - the two trainers that sat in were Tony Alagna and Nancy Johansson - The USTA representative was Ellen Harvey. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Jugette Controversy

Tongues are wagging over the scratch of I Said Diamonds from the Jugette yesterday, the result of "unauthorized persons" being in the Jugette Barn.  I won't be mentioning who the individual(s) allegedly were but I imagine if you are resourceful you'll see who people are speculating about.

Of course, this is not the first time someone unauthorized was present in a barn at Delaware.  Unfortunately, this is one of the downsides of having the stable area so accessible to the public.  Perhaps these people feel they will mix in with the public; that no one will notice them.  Maybe it is just a brazen contempt for the racing rules.

Unless the racing press spikes the story, I imagine more details will be forthcoming.  As many of you, I look forward to learning all the facts and to see if there will be any consequences for anyone who violated the rules.  There is no sense not to discuss the story, after all we have learned not discussing these issues fails to solve these issues.  Only a frank discussion of what happened and its eventual disposition will lead us to clean up these types of cases.

Over at the Paulick Report, there is a story regarding the Stronach Group informing two trainers their entries will not be accepted at any of their racing facilities, apparently the result of a trainer serving as a 'paper' trainers, something in harness racing we call a 'beard'.  I find this type of reaction to paper trainers quite refreshing, especially with the exception of the Meadowlands, it seems transferring horses to a beard and racing them doesn't seem to cause anything more than a yawn.  Why do most tracks allow these beards amazes me?  Is it people don't look or don't care?  I welcome your opinions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Canadian Yearling Sale 2016

Let’s take a look at how some of the better known stallions made out at Sunday’s Canadian Yearling Sale.

Bettor’s Delight is the top pacing sire in Ontario, but he took a two-year sabbatical in Pennsylvania when the OSS program came under duress. He sells his second crop from the Keystone State this year, so he didn’t play a role in this sale. That can only hurt.

Muscle Mass also took flight, to New York, when the OLG put the sport through the wringer. The son of Muscles Yankee regularly goes toe to toe with Kadabra at the top of the provincial trotting ranks, so his absence from the sale also hurts. Muscle Mass has returned to Canada, but he won’t be an Ontario eligible factor at this sale again until 2018.

Manofmanymissions, the sire of Celebrity Eventsy, has also moved on to Ohio. Like Muscle Mass, he sold his final Ontario crop last year. Only one yearling by him was offered at this year’s sale.

In no particular order, this is the fifth crop Sportswriter has sent to the Canadian Yearling sale. It’s taken time for the buyers to zero in on exactly who he is, and they’re still struggling to find the answer. Is he a journeyman regional stallion, or something more? His freshman star Sports Column impressed in the OSS this year, but he wasn’t staked to the Metro or Nassagaweya, forget about the Breeders Crown. He’s been MIA for the Grand Circuit meet at Mohawk. Reluctance to stake to the GC on the part of buyers and breeders has been an issue for the penultimate crop son of Artsplace.

In 2013, thirteen by Sportswriter averaged $11,269 at the CYS, while the following year five averaged $41,000. Last year he only sold two colts and three fillies here and they averaged $31,200. This was from a crop of 57. His stud fee jumped from $4,000 to $6,500, which is where it is today.

This year, from a huge crop of 141, he sold ten colts and nine fillies for a $22,500 average, with the colts outdoing their paternal sisters by about $4,000 each. The gross for this group was $427,500, and the average is fine for this sale, but it falls well short of Mach Three and Shadow Play.

Six colts and three fillies by Sportswriter will be offered in Lexington.

Monday at Grand River his freshman daughter Windy Sport and son Yogi Bayama won $105,000 Gold splits. He’s second to Mach Three in the OSS right now.

Sportswriter’s oldest are four, so his opportunity has been somewhat limited, but Reverend Hanover is his richest offspring, and he still hasn’t cracked $500,000, or won a stakes race outside the restricted program. Let’s hope Sports Column doesn’t go the way of the Rev next year.

Shadow Play is a couple of years older than Sportswriter. His timing with regard to entering the Ontario Sire Stakes program was not impeccable. In 2012, when the end of SARP had been announced the previous March, he entered the marketplace with 11 yearlings averaging less than $12,000 at this sale. His fee dropped from a modest $5,000 to $4,000.

 The following year a handful averaged $26,000. It was very helpful that first cropper Arthur Blue Chip won the Nassagaweya and was successful in the OSS that year.

Five-year-old Lady Shadow has displayed wicked, world record speed this year in winning the Roses Are Red, Lady Liberty and Golden Girls.

This year nine fillies and six colts averaged $27,746, down from $30,125 for eight in 2015. Brad Grant and Jack Darling each bought a couple, and Dr Ian Moore, who campaigned the black colt, bought one. So, Shadow Play’s average was about $5,000 more than Sportswriter for four fewer yearlings.

Seventeen-year-old Mach Three, who is the leading OSS pacing sire right now, has been standing in Ontario for 14 years. During that stretch he gave us SBSW, Mach It So, Solar Sister, Monkey On My Wheel and a host of other good ones. His $7,500 cdn fee is second only to Bettor’s Delight in the pacing ranks. This year he averaged $30,681 for seven colts and nine fillies from a crop of 103 foals. Having sale topper Brunos From Mars in the fold helped pump up that average. Jack Darling paid $105,000 for him.  Last year five colts and six fillies averaged a shade under $39,000.

This was Big Jim’s third trip to this sale. He received a lukewarm greeting in 2014 as six fillies and two colts averaged a shade over $13,000. Last year from a small crop of 41, he sold a filly for $29,000 and a gelding for $13,000. That was it.

Things were looking up on Sunday as five colts and two fillies averaged $25,885, with one colt going to Brad Grant for $45,000 and another to Tony O’Sullivan for $44,000.

His owner, the late Jim Carr, was deluged by cancellations for his Western Ideal stallion’s services when the Ontario program was fighting for survival: Big Jim bred 55 fewer mares his second year at stud. It’s been a difficult slog out of that hole, but successful offspring like Good Will Hanover, Magnum J, Streakavana and Soiree Seelster have helped define him for buyers. Jim ranks fourth in the OSS.

Kadabra, who turns 18 in a few months, has always been a gynocentric stallion: Bee A Magician, Poof She’s Gone, Caprice Hill and Emoticon Hanover trump the likes of Daylon Magician, Flanagan Memory, Knows Nothing and Prestidigitator. The boys always seem to come up short in open company.

That situation has always been reflected in Kadabra’s sale results: in 2014 at Harrisburg the colts averaged $22,000 while the fillies averaged $58,000. That trend started to shift last year when Kadabra averaged an eye opening $80,000 for 20 yearlings sold at Harrisburg and the colts averaged $68,000 and the fillies $62,000.

Last year three colts and four fillies by Kadabra averaged $40,000 at the Canadian Yearling Sale. This year four colts and five fillies averaged about the same, with the colts averaging $46,000 and the fillies $34,000. Six colts and five fillies will be available in Lexington in a couple of weeks.

Caprice Hill and Emoticon Hanover, a pair of fillies, led the way for Kadabra in the OSS this year, both earning the same $157,500 in sire stakes dollars, as well as lots of Grand Circuit money. Tony Soprano, on the other hand, is still searching for that first win.

Flat seems to be the theme for sales held thus far in 2016. The loss of Bettor’s Delight, Muscle Mass and MOMM is certainly a mitigating factor in this case, but knowing that two of them will be back should inspire confidence.

Joe FitzGerald

Monday, September 19, 2016

On Drivers Challenges

Over the past few days there has been criticism regarding Drivers Challenges; in particular the one contested yesterday day at Harrah's Philadelphia.  One of the main arguments is all these contest do is enrich those who are already living comfortably; at least as any driver can be.  To put it in political terms, it was a way to enrich the 1% at the expense of the masses.

Could the prize money have been spent more wisely?  Absolutely, especially since as of this writing, there was no press release from Harrah's, the PHHA or anyone regarding who won the contest.  As far as I am concerned, the event was a waste of money.  A better use of the money would have been to walk up to the fifty people who were on track actually wagering on Harrah's and hand each of them a $1,000 and saying to them "Thank you for supporting Harrah's racing".  At least then, you would have sent people home happy with a positive image of racing, all for a lot less money than what was wasted yesterday.

By the way, if you watched the races in the contest, did you notice no one was giving courtesy tucks?  This was overall the most competitive racing I have seen in ages, people actually moving with their horses.  Why aren't we seeing this all the time?  I will leave it to you to answer this one.

That said, I am not one who feels Driver Challenges are a waste of time and money.  Under the right circumstances, there is a time and place for such competitions.  For example, international driving challenges where you bring the best drivers from various countries together provides not only a marketing opportunity but rewards your loyal followers by allowing them to see drivers they ordinarily wouldn't be able to see.  Wouldn't an international driving challenge the night before the Yonkers International be an ideal day for such a competition?

Same thing with bringing the leading drivers from different markets together; an opportunity to see drivers who normally don't have the opportunity to compete against each other.  Not only does it provide the local fans something different, but also provides something of interest to the hometown fans, where the drivers come from and introduces them to your racing product.

A drivers challenge featuring the drivers your fan base can see day after day?  A waste of money.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Reporting in from the Goshen Yearling Sale ...

by Peter Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor

... at the Mark Ford Training Center in, it's said, Middletown-ish, New York.
That's a pretty concise name for the Mark Ford place, of course, but it leaves room for a more creative name - I thought Joe O'Brien could've called his own California spread "Five Palms," because of, you guessed it, the five palms growing in his track's infield - but it didn't grab Joe's imagination.
Maybe the Mark Ford center could be "Showplace Farms"? That prestigious name is currently out of circulation and presumably up for grabs.
And this surely is handsome place, in a lovely, hilly location. I like what I see. It's worthy of the "Showplace" name.

I have a feeling that suggestion won't grab Mark's imagination, either.
I have no idea who the sales-topper here today is, so far. I don't really attend horse sales to watch horses sell anymore. It's more of a social affair, like Harrisburg, Pa.
Well, that's MY Harrisburg experience every year.
Good crowd here, though. Seems to be mostly New York horse people, with a sprinkling of New England, Canada and other places.
Mine are actually the only New Jersey license plates I've seen on the many parked cars. But there must be more.
Just ate a hot dog, and I have more schmoozing to do.
Later ...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

How Are the Top 25 Drivers Making Out in Comparison to Last Year?

Let’s take a look at how some drivers and trainers are faring in comparison to last year, as we head for the Delaware, Ohio and Lexington meets. We’ll compare their stats on September 12, 2016 with those from the same date last year.

Yannick Gingras, who is headed to the final of the MLT with Hannelore Hanover and just won a split of the Champlain with the Mach Three filly Blameitonthenight, leads the earnings list with 4 fewer wins but almost $484,000 more in the money column than a year ago.

David Miller just jumped over Tim Tetrick and into the two spot on this list. He took the winter off and hence is sitting on 349 fewer drives than he had in early September of 2015, but Miller, who won lucrative PASS finals with Broadway Donna and Cufflink Hanover at The Meadows Saturday afternoon, is 7 wins and $613,000 ahead of last year’s pace. This is remarkable.

Tim Tetrick, the leading driver at Harrah’s, is ahead of last year by 90 wins and $96,000. He was second to Gingras a year ago this time and finished 2015 in third behind Miller.

Jason Bartlett, who led the earning’s list up until July, when Tim Tetrick took over, has 66 more wins than he had one year ago but he’s lighter by $695,000. He’s jumped from fourth to sixth in the standings.

Scott Zeron, who won the Hambletonian with Marion Marauder, has advanced from thirteenth on the earning’s list a year ago to fifth today. He only has 8 more wins but his bankroll is $1.4 million larger.

Brett Miller had a slow start to the year, with a working trip Down Under being one factor. He was at number 40 in mid-April. However, after steering Miki to a world record win in the Ewart, Brett is up to number six. He was tenth this time last year. Another member of the less is more crew, Miller has accumulated more than $300,000 more on 167 fewer drives and 13 fewer wins. 

Dash leader Aaron Merriman is 16 wins ahead of his award winning 2015 pace, and his money is up by $387,000. He’s number two at Northfield and number three at The Meadows.

Matt Kakaley continues to move up the ladder. The number two driver at Pocono, he was fourteenth a year ago and is in eighth place today, with 33 more wins and $962,000 more in earnings. Kakaley is number two on the NYSS circuit.

Corey Callahan, who missed time early in the year, hasn’t been able to catch up to last year’s pace. Having 292 fewer drives tells the tale. Not a bad year by any standard with $5.1 million earned thus far. Corey, who was fifth at this point in 2015, is currently in ninth. He’s short 155 wins and $1.9 million.

Presumptive Hall of Famer Brian Sears is not having a great year, by his standards. While he won the Pace with Control The Moment, he only got four drives out of that arrangement prior to the colt being retired. And overall, Sears hasn’t been very active on the Grand Circuit. He is ranked second at Yonkers Raceway but sixteenth among NYSS drivers. And it doesn’t help that BAM has been out for most of the season. Sears is short 44 wins and $2.1 million.

George Napolitano Jr, who took most of the winter off, is second in the dash race, but his numbers are down. He has driven in 24 more races than he had on September 12, 2016, but his win total is down by 65 and his money is off by more than $880,000. George is the leading driver at Pocono and number two at Harrah’s.

Chris Page is another driver who continues to rise. The leading driver at the just concluded Scioto meet, Page, who was at 21 a year ago, is now at number 12. His win total is 104 higher; his money is up by $1.3 million and his UDRS has gone from 0.252 to 0.291. Chris won two of the $250,000 Ohio SS finals at Northfield the week before last.

Sylvain Filion went from eighteenth on the list a year ago to thirteenth today. The leading driver on the WEG circuit has just two more wins but his money is up by $434,000. Filion’s UDRS is up to 0.302 from 0.288.

Mark MacDonald has gone from number 23 in September, 2015 to number 14. The number three driver in the NYSS and number five at Yonkers, MacDonald just crossed the $4 million threshold. He’s up 59 wins and more than $925,000 over this time last year.

Josh Sutton, who took three $250,000 Ohio SS finals, went from 28 to 15. His win total is down 15, but his earnings are up more than $1.1 million. He was number two at the Scioto meet.

George Brennan, two-time driver of the year, has fallen from 9 to 16 with 63 fewer wins and $1.3 million less on 94 fewer drives. His UDRS is down from 0.271 to 0.258.

Trace Tetrick, who is winning 21% of his starts at Hoosier Park, where he’s the leading driver, has advanced from 25 to 17. FF Pete hasn’t been up to matching strides with Miki and Wiggle, but Trace has earned $925,000 more on an extra 45 wins.

Ronnie Wrenn Jr, who is third in the dash race, moved up four spots to number 18. Wrenn has obviously shifted his focus from wins to money, as his starts are down by almost 300 and his wins are off by more than 100, but his cash is up by close to $600,000. His UDRS is about the same—0.373—very good for a volume driver. Wrenn is the top dog at Northfield.

Jordan Stratton, who racked up high dollar wins early on in the Matchmaker and Levy, moved up from 28 a year ago to 19. He has 50 more wins and has earned $1.1 million more. Jordan, who is number six at Yonkers, has seen his UDRS rise from 0.186 to 0.238.

Dave Palone, the all-time dash champ, is at number 20, down from 15 a year ago. Palone has two more wins and is short $260,000. His UDRS is off a little, but still a very good 0.362. He is number one at The Meadows.

Dan Dube rocketed out of the gate last year at Yonkers; he was second to Corey Callahan on the money list three months into the season. And he was still eighth by September 12, but he’s at 21 this year, with 49 fewer wins and $1.6 million fewer dollars. His UDRS is down to 0.238 from 0.270. Dube is number four at Yonkers, where the top four drivers are off $695,000, $2.1 million, $1.3 million and $1.6 million from last September.

Marcus Miller is at 22, up from 34 a year ago. He has won 70 more races and his earnings have jumped almost $840,000. His UDRS has jumped from 0.183 to 0.213.

Jim Morrill Jr, the leading driver in the NYSS—again—with $1.3 million earned in that program, is at number 23. He was number 12 last September. Morrill won 39 more races this year but he’s short $1.4 million. His UDRS rose from an impressive 0.383 to 0.405. He’s the only driver in the top 50 with a UDRS over four.

Andrew McCarthy is at 24, up from 29 a year ago. He has 44 more wins and $267,000 more in earnings. His UDRS went from 0.217 to 0.229.

And John DeLong is at 25, after being out of the top 50 at this point a year ago. He finished 2015 at number 49. DeLong currently has 70 more wins than he had in all of 2015 and $522,000 more than his earnings totaled for all of last year. His UDRS is 0.311, up from 0.263 at the close of 2015. He’s number two at Hoosier Park, where he’s winning at a 20% clip.

Joe FitzGerald

Morrisville's Small Step - A Step Bigger Than Most

Morrisville College has announced they will be donating $100 from the sale of each yearling from their horse sale this weekend towards aftercare for New York bred horses.  With 90 head due to be sold, this will amount to a $9,000 donation for those NY standardbreds found in need of help.  With the support of their consignors, hopefully this amount will be significantly larger.

Now let's no kid ourselves, this is not going to solve the unwanted horse problem because the amount of money involved is merely a drop in the bucket considering how much money would be needed.  These are funds to be used likely by groups who find a standardbred(s) in crisis who need financial support to stabilize the horse.

Some detractors wonder why only New York Bred horses?  Again, the amount of money being donated is not large enough to address the full problem so the college has decided to work on the local problem, after all, if you can't help at home how can you expect to help out on a national level?

To those who question why Morrisville is even bothering I would ask you instead ask the question "What are the 'big three' sales companies doing with respect to making donations to standardbreds in need (realizing Russell Williams, one of the principles of the Standardbred Sales Company (Harrisburg) often buys horses who otherwise would be attractive to kill buyers)"?  Unless I missed something, they are noticeably silent when it comes to the area of making per yearling donations to any type of rescue fund.

So yes, the Morrisville contribution may be nothing more than a trickle, but when it is the only trickle in the bucket, it is something big.  They should be applauded for their efforts.  I challenge other sales companies to step up to the plate and match, if not exceed the per horse commitment a college is making.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Close Encounters of Many Types

It's a good thing most horseplayers don't follow harness racing outside of their immediate area of interest; their favorite tracks and maybe the big races in North America, for if they followed what is going on abroad, the trotting sport would have been given a gut check.

I am talking about the reports of French trainer Fabrice Souloy having four top trotters testing positive for high levels of cobalt.  You may be wondering who Souloy is.  Over here, he is known as the trainer of the fabulous trotter Commander Crowe.  One of his horses who tested high for cobalt raced in the Elitlopp and the Oslo Grand Prix, Grade 1 events in Europe.  We aren't talking slightly over the permissible level, but way over the limit.

What makes this so bad?  As one racing insider said, while you may expect to see this in the lower rent district of racing, you wouldn't expect to see this at the top classes of racing.  Unfortunately, it appears the temptation to cheat is universal.

Well, I recall rabbits, birds, and deer interfering with harness racing, but I think the runners have one over us, at least in England.

Golf anyone?  More specifically a golf ball.  Over at Sandown Park a horse kicked up a golf ball which hit a jockey in the helmet which then ricocheted in front of another one to spook it; causing the jockey to fall to the turf.  Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident.

Let this be a note to anyone considering building a race track in the future.  Being next to a golf course may not be the best thing.

Of course, in last night's finale at the Meadowlands, the local wildlife once again raised its ugly head.  Certainly not in a colorful encounter such as above or in causing an accident, but one where Kiwi Ideal N was credited with an interference break, the result of an opossum which ran right in front of him around the first turn as well as running underneath two other horses which either didn't see or have fear of the marsupial mammal.  This after a skunk crossed the track earlier in the evening but fortunately missed the field of race horses which was a good thing because let's face it, any contact between skunk and equine may have been a smelly affair.  But alas, you build a racetrack in former swampland and you are bound to get these visitors every so often.

And yes there was some racing from last night to discuss.  What is there to say about the Ewert Memorial at Scioto Downs where Always Be Miki went a brutal trip and yet managed to beat Wiggle It Jiggleit in a track record (tied world record) 1;47 mile?  WIJI may have lost the race in not being able to catch the lead early, getting parked out the first quarter in :25.2 but make no mistake, Always Be Miki didn't see the rail for a half mile on the lead so he had every excuse to falter.  You can see the video here, starting at the 3:50 mark so you can get right to the race.

While I still give the edge to WIJI, it looks like Miki and WIJI will be the main contenders in the upcoming stakes.

Earlier in the evening, Homicide Hunter continues his mastery when under Chris Oakes' tutelage going wire-to-wire in the Chip Noble Memorial in a track record 1:52.1.

I assume it is due to a short two week meet with two year olds featured and the stakes action out of town but for the last two nights, the Meadowlands didn't break the two million dollar mark with $1.7+ and $1.8+ million dollar handles; something which I don't recall seeing in a long time.  These two weeks are excusable but when the fall meet begins, such a continuation will be problematic.

For those curious, in broadcast and major cable channels, the anti-North Jersey Casino forces are winning the battle of the airwaves.   Of course, their ads are being sponsored not only by South New Jersey interests, but by existing casinos in New York and Pennsylvania who don't want their share of NJ gaming money to disappear.  Perhaps highlighting where the funding for the anti-gaming forces is coming from may help the pro-gaming forces prove their argument.  We don't know the advertising plans for pro-gamng forces, but it would appear they have a lot of catching up to do unless they have polling which suggests otherwise.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Scared into Doing the Right Thing

Well, apparently in New South Wales, horsemen of both codes (thoroughbred and standardbred) heard the message real clearly when the Government shut the greyhounds down over cruelty issues.

Today, Horse Racing NSW, which represents the runners announced a program where 1% of all prize money will go to a program to retrain and place thoroughbreds whose days on the track are over.  This A$2 million will be used for re-training, vet expenses, and working with other groups on the benefits of re-homing thoroughbreds.

The standardbred industry, in particular Harness Racing NSW has yet to finalize their program but it is expected to also include a levy on prize money, perhaps the same 1% figure.

This is not to say the industries didn't promote rescue efforts in the past, but seeing an entire racing segment eliminated with the stroke of a pen certainly woke up both codes into more action.  It is a shame the two codes couldn't work together to come up with a single program which would be more cost effective.

Meanwhile, back on these shores, the thoroughbred industry has a program in place to take care of retired race horses, but sadly the standardbred industry lags behind.  Other than patchwork efforts funded to various degrees, there is very little done.  There was a proposal to charge a $10 starting fee to go to standardbred rescue and I am sure it doesn't surprise anyone this proposal went nowhere fast.  My guess is as with the horsemen in NSW,  the only way the standardbred industry is going to get together and put a unified program together with a reliable funding source will be when the cows fly or there is a "Come to Jesus" moment (in a secular sense).

Supreme Court Follies

A case we had previously covered back in 2011 has finally worked its way to the Supreme Court (no on said justice is fast).  While the case concerns thoroughbred racing, it does have an impact on  harness racing.

The case is  Jamgotchian v. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, a case awaiting on a decision by the Supreme Court whether or not to issue a writ of certiorari, meaning the court will take the case on.  If the case were to be taken on, the issue to be decided, as per Scotusblog (a great site) is "Whether the jail time restriction contained in 810 Kentucky Administrative Regulation 1:015, Section 1 at Article 6(a)-(b), which prohibits purchasers of thoroughbred race horses at claiming races in Kentucky from racing or transferring their horses out of state for a prescribed time period, violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution by impermissibly discriminating against interstate commerce".

The Kentucky Supreme Court upheld lower court decisions affirming the permisability of the jail-time rule which requires a horse claimed in one state to remain in the same state for a specified period of time.  Their decision indicates since the horse was claimed with knowledge of the jail time rule, the Commerce Clause doesn't apply.  We will see if the Court takes the case on or lets the lower court's decision stand.

Back to racing.  How great is Wiggle It Jiggleit in winning the Canadian Pacing Derby this past weekend?  For a four year old to be able to take it to the sports best older horses is amazing considering how often the four year old season in the FFA ranks is a case of 'taking your lumps' before earning your stripes.   I will not say he is the best (my heart belongs to Niatross), but he is certainly a rare type of horse.  All I can say is 'Thank God' for geldings for if he was intact, we may not have raced as a four year old, or certainly not as much.  Barring a collapse, you may as well engrave the Horse of the Year trophy with WIJI's name.  If you get a chance to see him race live, do so.   An opportunity to see a great horse doesn't come around that often.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The 2016 New York Sire Stakes

Last year Ron Burke topped the New York Sire Stakes with $1.5 million in earnings, more than double that of George Ducharme and Linda Toscano, who finished second and third. Burke is ahead again as of the end of August, but he’s only $94,000 up on Toscano, who trains two of the richest pacing fillies in North America/NYSS, Robin J and Planet Rock. And there are plenty of others to back them up.

Ken Jacobs, the leading owner in the NYSS program, supplies Toscano with much of her stock. He never has a large stable, but thanks to his uncanny ability to zero in on successful colts and fillies from the pedigree pages of any catalogue he picks up, the winners just keep coming. Jacobs found Heston Blue Chip at the 2010 Harness Breeders Sale for $30,000, and this year that one’s paternal brother Missile J, a gelding that was purchased for $100,000 at the same sale and did not race at two, has won 8 of his 17 starts, including the Rooney, for $314,000, including $91,000 within the NYSS program. Jacobs also owns the aforementioned Robin J and Planet Rock.

Tim Tetrick, who is the regular driver for Toscano, finished 34th on the NYSS list in 2015, but he’s riding high at number four right now. Of course, Jim Morrill Jr is still the King of the program: He currently sports earnings of more than a million dollars, double that of second place Matt Kakaley. The latter does much of his driving for Burke, who doesn’t have a dominant Gural Hanover type in the program this year, but continues to overwhelm with sheer numbers.

Ake Svanstedt, who finished 28th on the 2015 driver’s list, is currently 10th, and he’s fifth on the trainer’s list. Dante, Non Stick and The Royal Harry are three of his standouts. Scott Zeron went from 12th to 6th, while Jim Marohn Jr went from 44th last year to ninth at the end of August. And Mark MacDonald, who finished the 2015 season in ninth, is sitting in third.

Last year the Bettor’s Delight sophomores closed out a dominant ten year run in the NYSS for the prolific son of Cam’s Card Shark. It was hoped that his brother Roll With Joe would fill his shoes, and that may happen in time, but right now American Ideal is on top among two and three-year-old pacers. Soft Idea, Missile J, Penpal, American Passport, Fresh Cut, Manny, Ideal Son, Time On My Hands and American Ivy are some of his better ones. Then there’s Eternal Camnation winner Candlelight, who apparently shares her trainer’s aversion to the program and hence isn’t participating.

Roll With Joe edged out Art Major and American Ideal at the top of the NYSS freshman rankings last year, and both of his crops are currently in second. Adios and Hempt winner, Racing Hill, who is closing in on a million dollars for the year and is favored in Saturday’s Messenger, sticks to the Grand Circuit, so he’s no help to Joe in his SS ranking.

Three-year-old filly No Clouds Bluechip, winner of the $239,000 EBC final; Dime A Dance, who won the NYSS Championship last year; and Miso Fast are a few of Joe’s good ones.

Art Major is third on both lists, although he has no dominant sophomore this year. Travel Playlist was expected to fill that role, but he is on the shelf for the entire season. World Apart and Roaring To Go are promising freshmen, while Artmagic, Talk Show and Tony Alagna’s Craftship, who has earned $128,000 overall, but only has one win, are talented sophomores.

Rocknroll Heaven, who won’t exhaust his NYSS eligibility until 2019, has struggled early on, but he has turned out some outstanding fillies. Planet Rock fits right in with Divine Caroline, Sassa Hanover and Band Of Angels. The half-sister to Fireyourguns is 6 for 6 and recently set a 1:55 track record at Buffalo, where she gapped the field. She has earned $124,000, making her the third richest filly in her division.

Angels Rock Pink has also shown ability, while Ron Burke’s colt Fine Diamonds has earned $128,000 on four wins overall and $95,000 within the program.

On the trotting side, Credit Winner has had to overcome diminished crops in recent years. In 2013 he only had 25 freshmen to carry the torch for him. In subsequent years that number increased to 59, 73 and 88. He currently tops the two and three-year-old lists in the NYSS. Julie Miller’s Money MacIntosh, who romped in a split of the Lew Barasch September 1, is the division leader, followed in the second spot by Devious Man, who completed a sweep of the Barasch for them. Paul Kelley’s full brother to Archangel, Such An Angel, looked like a star in the making  until his last two starts.

Three-year-old Dante tops his NYSS division with $86,000. His overall record is 4 for 8 and $273,000. That make’s Ake’s charge the fourth richest on the Grand Circuit.

The sophomore filly Fad Finance also tops her division with $167,000 within the program and more than $200,000 overall. Trond Smedshammer, who has been successful this year and last in the NYSS, handles her.

Conway Hall ranks third among both two and three-year-old trotters. Dayson, who recently won a split of the Townsend Ackerman for Ron Burke and just took a $59,000 program split on August 31 at Batavia, is his premier offspring in this time frame. The speedy but fractious gelding has won 7 of 11 overall for $230,000 and $145,000 within the SS program. Burke’s Heels On Wheels is also promising.

Dewey sent out his first NYSS crop, while Crazed sent out his last sophomore group, for the time being anyway.

The Like A Prayer stallion, Prayer I Am, has been responsible for very small crops in New York since 2012. His freshman filly Mighty Surf been pounding her more fashionable bred opponents in sire stakes races.

RC Royalty has The Royal Harry, who has done well for Ake, and Swinging Royalty has clicked for the Ducharme Barn.

Cash Hall’s last New York freshman group hasn’t done much, but sophomore Smalltownthrowdown, who goes in Saturday’s Yonkers Trot, has won 5 of 13 starts for $167,000 for Dan Daley. He recently set a 1:56.3 track record at Monticello in a $58,000 SS split.

Lucky Chucky’s freshmen are fighting an uphill battle in Pennsylvania, but Svanstedt’s Non Stick, who won the $225,000 EBC final at Vernon Downs, has taken 5 of 8 for $233,000.

Joe FitzGerald



Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kicking and Screaming

While the majority of the standardbred industry in North America needs to be dragged along kicking and screaming, in other parts of the trotting world stake holders have their eyes wide open.

One such place is Phoenix Park in Port Pirie, South Australia where it is a foregone conclusion whips will soon be a thing of the past.  At Harness Racing SA's latest meeting, CEO John Lewis indicated whips were gradually being phased out; within a couple of years.

Why you may ask?

"We don’t live in a bubble … we have an obligation to respect people’s opinion".

Notice it doesn't say we have to respect horseplayer's opinions, it says people's opinions.  This means punters, fans, and those who have no interest in wagering on the horses.  One can't ignore globally there is a growing concern regarding animal welfare.  You can debate how far this concern goes, but concerned they are.  People don't want to see horses whipped, they don't want to see the whip used as a goading device, used in between their legs, nor do they want to see a horse nudged by a foot  If horses are going to be raced, they want them to race on their own.

If whipping doesn't get American racing to evolve, it is certain what happens to our horses after they race will be a growing concern which will force the industry to finally address the situation in a meaningful manner.  We are fortunate the problem with unwanted horses hasn't exploded upon the scene yet, partially thanks to the fact there is no real way to track what happens to horses.  New York went back to see what happened to the fate of horses which raced in recent years and their committee on animal welfare was only able to track 27% of the horses.  Without the use of microchips, there is really no way to keep track of each horse which benefits those who are so callus about animal welfare post racing.

Don't get me wrong.  There are those who love their horses and will do their best to to make sure their horses land well after concluding their racing career.  Unfortunately, those who don't are protected by the same 'I see nothing' attitude people have towards cheaters in racing because they don't want to be known as troublemakers.

The time will come where it will change.  It will just require some kicking and screaming to happen.