For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Special Breeders Crown Open Victories

What can you say?  This year, we have been treated to one heck of a rivalry between Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit and it indeed came down to the Breeders Crown where Always B Miki found his gear late, make that very late, to defeat the WIJI in a 1:49 mile.

I still don't know how Dave Miller got the Breeders Crown Champion to find the winning brush at the very end of the mile but it was thrilling to say the least.

As Always B Miki heads off to the stud barn, we will remember this rivalry, albeit short, as one of the great ones.

With regards to the trotting side, Hannelore Hanover continues to amaze in her Breeders Crown victory last night in the FM Open Trot, winning her tilt in 1:53.3.  The four year old mare took control of the race midway down the backstretch and managed to hold strong down the stretch for the victory.

What amazes me is how this horse has handled her competition this year.  While not facing the boys in this race, she has down very well against them.  Female trotters have a history of being able to compete and win against the boys but Hannelore has been doing this at the age of four, early for this caliber of horses.  Most mares which defeat the boys tend to be older so it makes her wins even more special.

I came across an interesting article regarding Australian driver Maddison Brown who won the Preux Chevalier Classic at Gloucester Park.  That in itself is not overly newsworthy but the fact she has begun the process of becoming a jockey is.

What I found interesting (and inane) is local rules will not allow her to participate in harness racing once she begins riding in trials (training races for runners).  If Ms. Brown or anyone else wants to participate in harness racing and thoroughbred racing at the same time, why not?  Granted, a person participating in both forms of racing (owners excluded) may be at a disadvantage when compared to someone who is dedicated to one particular form of racing, but shouldn't it be their call?  Maybe Brown is the rare person who can excel in both forms of racing, maybe she isn't, but isn't it up to those who would choose to engage her as a driver or jockey to make this decision?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Breeders Crown Pre-Race Drama

We are two days out from the Breeders Crown and it may turn out the biggest drama involving the Crown happened yesterday and it involves the Meadowlands and trainer Chris Oakes.  Jeff Gural, the operator of the Meadowlands has asked the New Jersey Racing Commission to scratch Oakes' horses from their respective Crown races for failing to comply with the Meadowlands requirement that horses trained by certain trainers need to be stabled in New Jersey ahead of their race.  Rather than go into all the detail here, you may read's story here.

It's no secret that Oakes is normally not allowed to race at the Meadowlands, barred from the track.  However, in situations such as the Breeders Crown which are owned by a third party (in this case, the Hambletonian Society) the ban doesn't apply. Last week Gural announced testing procedures.  Specifically, the Meadowlands press release said in part:

Looking forward to next week's Breeders Crown finals The Meadowlands, in concert with the Hambletonian Society executive and Breeders Crown committee, has made the decision to require all starters to be available for Out Of Competition (OOC) testing by stabling in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York or Connecticut. All finalists must be in one of those states by 4:00 P.M. on Wednesday Oct 26.

The Meadowlands also reserves the right to require designated horses to be stabled in New Jersey by 4:00 P.M. on Sunday, October 23. 

Oakes' horses will not be scratched.  First of all, the condition of the Breeders Crown doesn't say anything about having to obey Meadowlands' rules.  Regarding detention, the conditions indicate (I have added the emphasis):

 4.) Require, at the sole discretion of the Society, the Horse to stable on the grounds of the racetrack (“Track”) where the Race is being contested or other designated premises for a reasonable period of time prior to the Race which will be specified by the Society.

This condition of course refers to the detention barn.  Could it be interpreted to mean extended detention at another facility when the track lacks a backstretch?  I guess if you look at the rules with a loose reading it could be, but even then, it says at the sole discretion of the Hambletonian Society.  If you look at the portion of the Meadowlands press release, it indicated the decision to require designated horses to stable in New Jersey was made by the Meadowlands alone.  As a result, the NJRC will be hard pressed to find a reason to accommodate Jeff Gural's request to scratch the horse (Besides, the courts no doubt would grant an injunction against their decision).

The bigger issue is a question of fairness.  Many horsemen claim the banning of certain individuals from the Meadowlands is not consistent; the rules are being applied with a lot of discretion with 'favorites' continuing to race while others are shown the door.  I am not the one to say whether the rules are applied fairly or not.  I will say the fact these expulsions are not explained publicly makes it hard to say whether or not each trainer is being treated fairly.  Hence, perception is reality.

If the rules are not being applied fairly, Oakes argues why should he be singled out to incur additional expense and/or surveillance?   If all trainers were treated the same, we are led to believe he would agree to stabling in New Jersey or even 24 hours surveillance.  It appears the trainer is standing up for the principle of fairness.  

The case for fairness may have been better served if another trainer made the stand but alas, Oakes has made the case for it and it needs to be considered.  Lacking complete transparency, trainers have the right to complain about unfair treatment.  Could he have compromised as it appears Gural has?  Sure he can, but in this case, Oakes has made a stand and it certainly looks like he will prevail.

Breeders Crown 2016 will come and go.  The issue about fairness regarding exclusion at the three Gural-operated tracks will continue.  If the exclusion rules are not applied consistently these types of conflicts will boil up periodically.  We may as well get used to it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Forest City Sale 2016

The Forest City Sale took one to the gut when the Ontario Liberal Government leaked its intention to terminate SARP by March, 2013. The 2012 sale saw 257 yearlings average $10,519. The previous year 263 averaged more than $18,000. As contingency plans for the industry were assembled and assurances of continuity dished out from above, things began to settle down: in 2013 32 fewer head were sold but the average increased to $13,524. And in 2014 it kicked up to $15,294. Last year the average stepped up again to $23,207, although the number sold dropped by almost half since 2011.

On Sunday 133 yearlings sold for an average of $26,308. That’s an increase of almost 12% from last year and 60% from the deep, dark days of 2012. And the gross was up $302,000 on three fewer yearlings sold. Let’s look inside.

Shadow Play, who outdid Sportswriter at the Canadian Yearling Sale, managed to do so again—on a grander scale. The 11-year-old is selling his fifth crop, and up until Sunday his only $100,000 plus yearling was Arthur Blue Chip, from crop number one. He was a big time outlier at $135,000. On Sunday that one’s full sister brought $110,000 while a colt sold for $100,000. And another colt brought $82,000.

The sire of world champion Lady Shadow saw 28 average $33,786, up 19% from last year and up 54% since 2013. Five, or 18%, topped $50,000; 14, or 48% beat $25,000 and 19, or 65.5% exceeded $20,000. So, while the son of The Panderosa, who has seen his fee hold steady at $4,000 (cdn) the last three years, made a splash at the top, almost half of his offering failed to beat $25,000.

Sportswriter, the two-year-old division champ in the US and Canada, had more of a presence at Forest City than he has had in the past; he sold eleven for an average of $29,091. This after only selling a pair each in 2014 and 2015. This year’s sale crop is very large at 141 yearlings. Contrast that with last year when there were only 57.

He had a good year in the OSS, finishing second on the leader board with the likes of Yaris Bayama, Yogi Bayama and Sports Column. Sportswriter stands for $6,500 (cdn).

Nineteen by the son of Artsplace averaged $22,500 at the Canadian Yearling Sale.

Seventeen-year-old Mach Three, who was selling his twelfth crop, has seen younger stallions come and go in Ontario but he still rules the roost—until next year when Bettor’s Delight starts selling Canadian breds again, anyway. Fourteen averaged $40,286. That’s up 14% from 2015 and up 22% since 2013.

There were no $100,000 sales; the highest was a roan colt that went for $74,000. However, his prices were good across the board. More than 28% topped $50,000; 86% broke $25,000; and none of them dropped below $20,000. There are 103 in this crop. He shows no sign of slowing down.

Camluck, who retired in the fall of 2014 and passed in August of 2015, had been a key figure in Ontario racing for decades. And the sire of Michael’s Power, Dreamfair Eternal, Burning Point and Giddy Up Lucky, finished strong with his final crop. Eight averaged $31,375, down only 6% from the 15 he sold last year.

Badlands Hanover stood for eight years in Delaware before relocating to Ontario. He’s selling his sixth Canadian crop. Seven sold for a $16,000 average, up almost 4% from last year when he sold 14 at Forest City. Only two cracked $20,000 and four of them sold for less than $15,000. This offering is from a crop of 61 registered foals. There were 44 last year. Twnty-year-old Badlands bred more than 150 mares in each of his first four years in Ontario.

Royal Mattjesty is another wheel-spinner. Eleven averaged $15,545. And that’s up more than 16% from last year. Beyond that, his average is up almost 53% since 2014, when four averaged $7,375. There are only 16 registered foals in the crop selling this year. There were 10 in the crop that sold last year and 12 in 2013. He’s not exactly a high volume stallion. Royal Mattjesty stands for $3,500 (cdn).

The Western Ideal stallion Big Jim sold six for a $25,167 average—up 27% over last year when 11 sold. His average is up 29% since his first crop sold in 2014. Seven averaged $25,885 at the Canadian Yearling Sale, where Brad Grant paid $45,000 for a colt and Tony O’Sullivan paid $44,000 for another. Three at Forest City topped $25,000 while three failed to break $15,000. He’s number four in the OSS thanks to Streakavana and Magnum J. Big Jim stands for $4,000 (cdn).

Vintage Master sold seven for a $10, 857 average. That’s down 25% from his $14,667 average for six sold last year. Eight averaged under $10,000 in 2014. Six sold for less than $15,000 at Forest City. Freshman filly Thatsoveryverynice won a split of the Eternal Camnation and a couple of Golds last year, but she’s been no factor at three.

Trotters only represented 24% of the yearlings sold at Forest City. Muscle Mass is selling for the NYSS market this year and Kadabra is not a big Forest City guy: he only sold two Sunday, none last year and three in 2014. The sire of Caprice Hill, Emoticon Hanover, Winter Sweet Frost and Will Take Charge sold a filly for $80,000 and another for $29,000.

Twenty-year-old Angus Hall, who saw his fee drop from $10,000 to $6,000 in the face of the SARP crisis in 2013, sold nine for a $23,333 average, up 28% from 2015 and up 45% from 2014. One topped $50,000; four of the nine broke $25,000; and 5, or 55%, fell short of $20,000.

Triple Crown winner Glidemaster was shipped to Canada a couple of years ago after standing for seven years in Pennsylvania. Maven is his crown jewel, and the drop-off is precipitous after that. Blue Porsche closed his freshman season in promising fashion but wasn’t healthy enough to go on and the ill-fated Punxsutawney was killed in an accident.

Glidemaster’s last two crops in Pennsylvania consisted of 17 and 14 foals. He sold a dozen for a $17,167 average at Forest City. Only one topped $25,000. Eight brought less than $20,000.

Holiday Road sold five for a $23,600 average from a crop of 31 registered foals. Last hear he only sold one from a crop of 18.

Majestic Son sold a pair of fillies for $36,000 and $26,000. Again, there are only 29 in the crop they came from. Let’s hope Muscle Mass, E L Titan and Archangel are going to turn out large numbers, because these small crops that sell at reduced prices are a problem.

Joe FitzGerald

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The three-year anniversary of the "New Meadowlands" ...

by Peter Lawrence, VFTRG Correspondent

... is almost upon us, and I just came across this promo video the U.S. Trotting Association and host GiGi Diaz produced at the time, in 2013.
Horsemen, fans and the press were interested in what the heck was going on at the new grandstand site - I know I was - and here it is in its then-state of incompleteness.
Interesting that the tour, led by, I guess, the worksite's construction manager, points out the owners' club, tiered restaurant and sports bar, none of which had their names yet ... Trotters, Pink and Victory.
The video ends with track owner-operater Jeff Gural's optimistic comments about the new facility.

Would he still have made the grand - and VERY expensive - effort to build and operate the new place if he knew the challenges that were ahead, which continue to this very day in 2016?
Probably, I'd guess, though one imagines he thought Meadowlands would have had, or been closer to, the dream of casino gambling on-site, which still hasn't happened.
And which STILL may be several years away.
I'm glad he made, and continues to make, that effort. Jeff is sometimes a controversial guy, but, through it all - and I don't love everything about the new place or today's Meadowlands racing - Gural did save the place from a desperate situation.
I'm thrilled he, his partners and others working behind the scenes, like the SBOA, stepped up and made the effort to save horse racing, especially harness racing, at the Meadowlands.
I hope the casino dream and a return, of some sort, to the old glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, does eventually occur at the once-palace.
Interesting, too, is that the hulking old grandstand facility - I loved that place, I think many people did - still exists right where it's been for 40 years.
I still drive right by the old place every time I attend the Meadowlands races, after exiting the New Jersey Turnpike's well-known Exit 16W.
I still sigh every time I see the old place. It never fails to happen.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lexington Selected Trotters 2016

This is a survey of how the trotting stallions fared at the recent Lexington Selected Sale.

Muscle Hill was far and away the leader as he sold 52 from his fifth crop for a weighty $114,385 average. That represents a 25% increase over last year. The fact that this is the first crop eligible to the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes adds considerable value to each purchase. And many of the yearlings sold at Lexington, from a variety of stallions, have dual eligibility to resident programs like Kentucky and New Jersey.

A brother to Mission Brief brought $800,000, while two other colts sold for $350,000 and $300,000. Last year in Lexington a half to Father Patrick, who went for $350,000, was the only plus $300,000 sale. In addition, three colts and a filly topped $200,000 and ten colts and five fillies broke $100,000. In all, 22 yearlings, or 42% of his offering, sold for more than $100,000.

Twenty-five colts and 14 fillies—75%--broke $50,000, while all but four of the 52 topped $25,000.

The sire of Ariana G, Southwind Frank and Bar Hopping sold 26 here and 31 in Harrisburg in 2014, but last year it was 49 here to 17 at Harrisburg. In 2015 his average jumped $16,000 in Lexington, while it declined 18% in Harrisburg. Only 22, or 42% as many, will sell in Pennsylvania.

Cantab Hall, who averaged $28,000 less than Muscle Hill last year at this event, while selling 48 yearlings, fell $46,705 behind this time around. Cantab Hall’s 48 averaged $67,680, up $9,451, or 14 %, from 2015.

 A colt out of a sister to Muscle Mass and Muscle Massive brought $350,000; a colt and a filly exceeded $200,000; and two colts and three fillies topped $100,000. That represents 16% of the offering crossing the $100,000 threshold. On the other hand, Muscle Hill saw 42% of his group crack $100,000.

Twenty-two—44%--broke $50,000, as opposed to 75% for Muscle Hill, while 92% topped $25,000. This is an improvement over last year when 34% topped $50,000.

Cantab, who stands for $20,000, the highest published fee for a trotter, had a very good sale; it’s almost unfair to compare his figures with those of the behemoth with the bulging muscles. (Patrick also gets $20,000.)

Kadabra sold 11 yearlings from his eleventh Ontario crop for an impressive $82,091 average, up 32% from last year. A pair of fillies topped $100,000. Nine brought at least $50,000 while all of them beat $25,000.

There will be no Muscle Mass freshmen to compete with in the OSS next year, and no Muscle Mass get at all in 2018. The Ontario trotting stallions aren’t exactly a murderer’s row of talent so Kadabra will have free reign. He stands for $12,000 (U.S.).

Archangel sells his first Ontario crop next year. The same goes for E L Titan.

Credit Winner sold 38 for a $59,842 average. He sold the same number here in 2015 for 14% less. A filly out of Pizza Dolce, eligible in New York and Kentucky, brought $350,000, while the first foal—a filly—out of world champion Check Me Out sold for $260,000. Four, or 12.5%, brought at least $100,000, while 20, or 62.5%, commanded $50,000 or more. And 94% topped $25,000. The sire of Devious Man and Fad Finance saw his fee drop from $14,000 to $10,000 in 2016.

Chapter Seven sold 24 from his second crop of 71 for an average of $53,042—down 13% from last year’s sale. A colt and a filly topped $100,000 and 42% beat $50,000. Twenty of the 24 exceeded $25,000. The sire of world champion Walner was second to Credit Winner on the NYSS points list. Chapter Seven stands for $7,500.

Donato Hanover sold 34—8 more than last year—at a $40,029 average. That’s about the same as last year. A half-brother to Snow White sold for $200,000, while a colt and a filly topped $100,000. Nine, or 35%, exceeded $50,000 and 15, or 58%, broke $25,000. Last year only one topped $100,000. The same 35% cracked $50,000 in 2015. The sire of Broadway Donna, CMO, D’One, Shake It Cerry and The Bank isn’t exactly knocking them dead in Kentucky.

The results weren’t any better last year in Harrisburg, where he will sell 42 in November.  Forty averaged $38,744, and there were three in the supplemental offering. Only a third of them exceeded the $50,000 level. Donato stands for $15,000.

Conway Hall only sold six—half as many as last year—but his average jumped 45% to $62,833. One sold for $120,000; four of them beat $50,000; and all six topped $25,000. The sire of Wishing Stone, Habitat and Dayson, who ranked third in the NYSS, will sell 14 in Harrisburg. His fee was cut from $7,500 to $5,000 this year.

Andover Hall didn’t spark any parades as 14—four more than 2015—averaged $39,143, which was slightly more than last year. One colt brought $120,000, while 21% beat $50,000 and half of them failed to top $25,000. Twenty-nine will sell in Harrisburg where his average for 26 sold dropped 23% to $31,808 in 2015. His fee was reduced from $10,000 to $8,000 in 2016.

Explosive Matter, the sire of Pinkman, Love Letters and Iron Mine Bucky, averaged $35,067 for 15 sold—up 10% from last year. One topped $100,000 and three beat $50,000. Seventeen averaged a disappointing $17,564 at Harrisburg in 2015. A large offering of 39 will be served up in Harrisburg. He stands for $7,500.

Muscle Mass, who is back in Ontario, but has two New York crops to peddle, averaged $31,688 for 16 sold. Last year he only offered one at this sale. A couple topped $50,000 and 69% broke $25,000. This is his sixth crop—the first from New York. Muscle Mass, who has been more successful than his more celebrated brother, is second to Kadabra in the OSS, and while his offspring haven’t wandered far from the provincial program, he has been very successful in it.

Twenty-two-year-old Yankee Glide, who is moving from Pennsylvania to Kentucky for the 2017 season, averaged $30,148 for 27 sold in Lexington—down slightly from last year. A brother to MOMM sold for $120,000 and 22% broke $50,000. Only 41% sold for $25,000 and up. Yankee Glide stood for $20,000 in 2011, but that fee has gradually dropped over the last several years. It was $7,500 in 2016 and will revert to “private treaty” status in the Bluegrass State.

Lucky Chucky sells his fourth crop this year. Last year’s group was bred in Pennsylvania, but this one is eligible to the NYSS, as well as the Kentucky and Maryland programs in some cases. After seeing his average drop by 43% in 2014 and more than half last year, he came out of his tailspin—relatively speaking—and registered a 44% rise to $24,917 for a dozen sold. One, a filly out of a sister to Windsong’s Soprano, cracked $50,000, while 42% of them topped $25,000.  Dog Gone Lucky, who showed great promise at two with late season wins in the Valley Victory and Matron, came up empty at three, but NYSS champ Non Stick met with much success. Eighteen will sell in Pennsylvania. Chucky’s fee went from $7,500 to $6,000 and is now at $4,000.

Muscle Massive sold twelve for a $19,500 average—down 13%. Two beat $25,000. His fee was cut from $7,500 to $4,000 in 2016. Twenty-nine will sell in Harrisburg.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Ball is in the Industry's Court

What a turn around.  Just two or three weeks after announcing the Meadowlands stakes program was going to be slashed severely to start recouping the over-payment of the purse account, a new release comes out indicating the stakes program will remain relatively intact.  Specifically, the press release says:

Another important decision made in view of the robust market for yearlings at the recently concluded Lexington Selected Yearling Sale is to maintain as many of the Grand Circuit stakes at as close to current purse levels as possible, despite the burden of a purse account that is currently overpaid by $5 million.

What does this mean?  After all, only the Federal Reserve Bank can print money so something has to give?  There is a big 'IF' here, it is called sponsorship.  Specifically:

The reality of sustaining a stakes program anywhere close to what we are accustomed to at the Meadowlands will require industry support via sponsorship of these races. We hope to be able to find sponsors for all of our stakes and Jason Hall will be reaching out to the major owners, breeders, vendors and other participants to hopefully raise enough in sponsorships to keep the majority of stakes programs in place. 

Now this is speculation on my part, I may be totally wrong.  My suspicion is industry leaders were concerned about the slash and burn of stakes races at the Meadowlands and asked for Jeff Gural to reconsider.  If I am wrong, then it is a question of him deciding to ask the industry to sponsor the stakes.  Either way, we get this press release which basically says, "Okay, time to put up or shut up.  If these stakes races are so important, let's see the industry put up their money and sponsor these races".  In effect, putting the fate of these stakes into the hands of industry leaders.

Gural's detractors are no doubt going to be criticizing Gural for passing the hat around, but lest anyone forget, there is precedent for sponsorship.  After all, the entire Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile is sponsored by the very people Gural is asking to pony up now.

The ball is now in the industry's court.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lexington Selected Sale Pacers

The average at last week’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale was a record $56,304, up 24.5 % over last year, when the sale was up 13.46% over 2014. Trotters averaged $1,640 more than pacers.

Somebeachsomewhere sold 39 yearlings—23 colts and 16 fillies—for an average of $123,615. That’s almost $38,000 more than he averaged for five fewer yearlings last year in Lexington. And it’s more than double what he averaged for 50 sold at a disappointing sale in Harrisburg in 2015.

Right off the bat, at hip number one, he sold a filly out of Put On A Show for $550,000. And later on that night he sold a son out of double millionaire Darlin’s Delight for $450,000. Another high-dollar sale was a son of Big McDeal for $300,000. 46% of his offering—12 colts and 6 fillies—brought at least $100,000. 87% of them sold for at least $50,000—that includes all 25 colts. Only one failed to reach the $25,000 level.

Sixty-one by the sire of Darlinonthebeach, Pure Country and Check Six, will be available in Harrisburg in early November. Captaintreacherous and Sweet Lou, each of whom bred 140 mares in 2015, will sell their first crops next year. The Pennsylvania market is very popular, but sharing the buyers’ loot with that pair will put pressure on SBSW’s bottom line at the 2017 sales.

So Surreal, a half to Well Said from the second crop of SBSW, who was retired at two with a fast mark, sold three colts and a filly for a $60,000 average—two of them brought more than $50,000. He bred 130 mares in 2014. If he’s that popular off a severely truncated career, what will happen next year when the Captain comes online?

Bettor’s Delight, who has been the leading sire of all-age pacers in North America for some time, although he recently fell $172,000 behind his younger adversary SBSW, sold 29 for an average of $55,655. This is his second, and last, Pennsylvania crop. Next year’s group will be back in the Ontario program. The sire of Betting Line will sell 57 in Harrisburg. Bettor’s Delight sold three for more than $100,000; 16, or 55%, brought at least $50,000; and almost 80% sold for more than $25,000. Last year he sold 25 for an average of more than $42,000 in Lexington. BD produces long lasting types that can win at the highest level, but he’s never been an object of affection commensurate with his output at the sales.

Art Major saw his average drop almost $16,000 from last year’s sale. Thirty-one averaged a shade over $39,000, down from $55,000 last year. The 17-year-old stallion ranked third in the NYSS for both the two and three-year-old classes. His stud fee dropped from $12,000 to $10,000 in 2016.

American Ideal sold 15 colts and 17 fillies for an average of $48,375, about the same as last year. Two colts and a filly topped $100,000, while half brought at least $50,000. More than 65% brought at least $25,000. On the downside, the 14-year-old sire of Funknwaffles, Candlelight Dinner and bedroomconfessions, sold nine for less than $25,000.

A Roncknroll Dance introduced 19 from his first crop. They averaged $36,421. A colt out of See You At Peelers brought $120,000, while another colt and filly sold in the 50s, but most fell in the middle, with almost 74% bringing at least $25,000. Four sold for less than that. The seven-year-old double-millionaire stands in the tough, and soon to be tougher, Pennsylvania market for a modest $5,000. There are 69 in this crop; 25 will be for sale in Harrisburg.

Sportswriter outdid OSS rival Shadow Play by a mere $378 in average. He sold nine for a $54,778 average. Five of them brought at least $50,000 and all nine sold for more than $25,000. Last year the nine-year-old son of Artsplace, whose promising son Sports Column was barely staked outside the OSS, averaged more than $34,000 for 11 sold. Sportswriter is second to Mach Three on the OSS leader board.

Shadow Play only sold five; they averaged $54,400. A colt brought $70,000 and a filly $100,000. This is up from last year when four averaged $35,500. World champion Lady Shadow has put a charge in his resume

Western Ideal saw a colt out of a daughter of Worldly Beauty sell for $100,000, but beyond that the results were disappointing, as six of the seven failed to top $25,000. They averaged about $30,000, thanks to the outlier. Last year nine by the sire of Rocknroll Hanover and Artspeak averaged $47,000, but as was the case this time, there was a $200,000 outlier and six of Eight failed to top $25,000. Twenty-seven by Western Ideal will sell in Harrisburg. In 2015 twenty-two averaged $33,000 there.

Well Said, who saw his fee cut in half to $7,500 in 2016, sold eight colts and ten fillies for a $23,611 average. That’s down from last year when 30 averaged a shade over $39,000. Control The Moment helped raise the ten-year-old’s profile, but only one of the 18 topped $50,000. That’s a damning figure. 44% sold for at least $25,000, but the rest did not. Fifty-two will sell at Harrisburg. There were more than 60 available there in 2015, and 18% topped $50,000.

Betterthancheddar sold eight from his first and only New York crop. They averaged a robust $50,875, with three-quarters selling for at least $50,000 and all topping $25,000. The Breeders Crown and Franklin winner now stands in Ontario for an attractive $3,500 (cdn) fee. Ten will sell in Harrisburg.

The Indiana stallion Always A Virgin, the sire of world record holder Always B Miki, only sold one, but that half-brother to Ohmybelle and Bob Ben And John brought $110,000, so it was worth the trip. AAV sells one filly in Harrisburg.

Roll With Joe, the sire of Messenger, Adios and Tattersalls Pace winner Racing Hill, sold nine for a $30,000 average. That’s down considerable from his $47,454 average for 11 sold here last year. Only one topped $50,000 and 55% failed to exceed $25,000. Joe was second to American Ideal among two and three-year-olds in the NYSS this year. He’ll sell 21 from his crop of 64 in Harrisburg.

Rock N Roll Heaven averaged $39,778 for nine from his second last New York crop. That was up considerably from the $17,241 he averaged for 29 sold here in 2015, however, a sister to Band Of Angels and Romantic Moment skewed that figure when she sold for $150,000. Two other fillies topped $50,000 but two-thirds of the offering failed to crack $25,000. Twenty-eight will sell in Harrisburg. Heaven will have a monopoly on the NJSS landscape in a couple of years, but by then that may be like owning a big chunk of the desert.

Joe FitzGerald

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Resolve Takes the International

So Yonkers International Trot (#2) is in the books and as expected, Resolve was the race winner in a world record 2:23.4 for the mile and a quarter distance.  Resolve's victory was made easier by Hannelore Hanover's break in the first turn, unable to handle the half mile oval.  Once Resolve made it to the top, the race was over.

Oasis Bi sat second the whole way through and briefly attempted to fire a challenge in the stretch, alas to no avail.

On the undercard, Yonkers hosted two $250,000 Invitationals to spice up the card,  In the Invitational Trot, Bee A Magician returned to the races victoriously, defeating a field of trotters in 2:25.1 for the ten furlong event.  While not a wire to wire victory, once Bee A Magician got to the lead past the first quarter and went a convincing mile.  The Queen of trotting is back.

Obviously, coming off two qualifiers, Bee A Magician was impressive but perhaps the most impressive effort came from Melodys Monet who raced big on the outside for a good part of the mile and was still strong enough to finish second in the race.

As for the the third big event, the Yonkers Invitational Pace, the $250,000 purse was good because it secured the presence of Wiggle It Jiggleit,  Other than that, the money invested was a huge waste of money because no one challenged WIJI during the mile, as once he cleared the field, it was just a jog over the Yonkers oval.

I will admit one thing, I never saw a horse get away and clear the field so quickly as WIJI.  Released at the starting position by the starter from post position seven (there was a scratch), WIJI was along the rail by the time the field hit the first turn.  I realize second place was good money and that may have been the problem; the money being too good.  Too good to risk going after the leader or to give WIJI a tougher trip than he had.

For purposes of French wagering, it was important to give the PMU customers the best possible field Yonkers could so I am less critical of the investment of money for the trotters.  However, with Breeders Crown eliminations a week off, the fields were not only lacking depth in star power, it was high unlikely anyone was going to try to challenge the victors of both races; everyone one else racing relatively conservative trying to pick up some money in tightners.

I've been critical of Yonkers and their horsemen in the past for not having a larger stakes program, but this is not the way to spend the money; seeding finals for Levy-style late closing series for the fall would have been a better use of the money.

Anyway, on to the Breeders Crown.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The ARCI Wants to Hear From You!

ARCI Focus Groups Winding Down
Readers Asked to Complete Online Survey

Lexington, KY -  The final two ARCI “Town Hall” meeting focus groups will be focused on quarter horse racing and will take place on Friday, October 21st at Lone Star Park  (Grand Prairie, TX) and on Wednesday, October 26th at Los Alamitos Race Course (Los Alamitos, CA).

When done, the ARCI will have held twenty-eight focus group meetings at Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse racetracks across the country.   Over 1,000 people have attended and participated in this process at these meetings.

Now the ARCI is asking all racing industry participants, fans and horse players also participate in this process by taking five minutes to complete an online survey.

The survey can be accessed at this link.

“We are attempting to focus the entire industry on problems that must be addressed and provide information as to which ways to address those problems that would have the most support from those involved in the sport,” RCI President Ed Martin said.

Preliminary data was presented to the ARCI Board last July and the early assessment was that there is a possible consensus path forward that could attract considerable support.    

As in the focus groups, those taking the survey will be asked to identify racing’s biggest problems and address questions associated with various ideas that have been put forward to address them.    “People are asked to make choices and are also given the opportunity to say what’s on their mind in their own words,” he said.

“It is our hope that the current path which has divided an industry and generated ill will and negative publicity for a sport struggling to compete for the entertainment dollar can be replaced with one that will bring people together in a way that will actually achieve something,” he said.

Martin said the ARCI was encouraged by Jockey Club Chairman Stuart Janney’s remarks at this year’s Roundtable Conference in Saratoga when he said: “When we have the opportunity to do so, we should work together. This industry's most successful initiatives have been those in which various organizations and individuals joined hands for a common cause.”

The ARCI will stop gathering input at the end of October.   During November, the results of the focus groups and survey will be shared with major industry organizations as well as all participants in the process (focus groups and survey).

In December, the ARCI will facilitate a working meeting of the leaders of various groups who have found themselves at cross purposes or troubled by the industry’s political divide.   

Final Town Hall Meetings:

In conjunction with the Texas Quarter Horse Association, there will be a “town hall” focus group meeting on Friday, October 21, 2016 in Texas at Lone Star Park (Alysheba Room) at 3:30pm.    Those interested in attending should pre-register at this link.

The final meeting will take place at Los Alamitos Race Course in Los Alamitos, California on the Wednesday before the AQHA Racing Committee Meeting and the Bank of America Challenge.   The meeting will take place at 1:00pm on Wednesday, October 26, 2017 at 1:00pm in the Finish Line Meeting Room.   Online registration for the Los Alamitos meeting can be accessed at this link.

International Trot Preview

This Saturday (10/15), Yonkers Raceway features the second running of the $1 million Yonkers International.  While Europe's  'A' listers may not be competing for various reasons, a solid field of ten will be facing the starter in the 1 1/4 mile race.

Here is my analysis and selections.

6th Trot - $1,000,000; Yonkers International Trot
  1 - Hannelore Hanover (Gingras. 4-1) - Simply amazing mare but will be tougher here; lands share.
  2 - Resolve (Svanstedt, 3-1) - Has been on the top of the game when it counts.  Choice to win here.
  3 - Jonsey (Korvenoja, 15-1) - Been racing exclusively in Finland, not a good sign.  Will be tested for class.
  4 - Flanagan Memory (Sears, 6-1) - Arrives fresh of Sunday's Allerage victory.  Late closing kick should be beneficial here. 
  5 - Oasis Bi (Adielsson, 5-1) - Been racing Europe's best credibly.  Best chance of foreign invaders.  Don't ignore.
  6 - Obrigado (MacDonald, 6-1) - Lost to #4 on Sunday.  Late replacement seems to be best in big money events.  Has chance to upset.
  7 - BBS Sugarlight (Hop, 6-1) - Hasn't done well against top of class.  Pass here.
  8 - On Track Piraten (Kihlstrom, 10-1) - Would toss but note second place finish against Nuncio on August 27.  Upset chance.
  9 - Tano Bork (Campbell, 20-1) -  Last two wins come in Germany.  Favors longer distance.  Need all to break his way to land in money.
10 - Explosive De Vie (Oscarsson, 12-1) -Seems overmatched.  Pass.
Selections: 2-5-1-6

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review Of The Grand Circuit Meet At The Red Mile

The Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile is behind us, and it was a classic. Whether you privilege the breathtaking speed embodied in Always B Miki’s 1:46 world record win in the Allerage Open or the historical significance of the triumph by Marion Marauder in the Kentucky Futurity that capped the first Triple Crown season in a decade, nobody can cite a lack of drama.

As one might expect, Muscle Hill and Somebeachsomewhere, the dominant forces at the Lexington Selected Sale that paralleled the meet, also rode roughshod over the competition on the track. Muscle Hill’s progeny won eight stakes races/eliminations, while SBSW’s get won 15 of the same. This is in addition to the success they had in the late closers that filled out the cards. Muscle Massive and Donato Hanover were second to Muscle Hill with four stakes wins each, while Art Major played second fiddle to SBSW, also with four.

Appropriately enough, Marion Marauder, our new Trotting Triple Crown winner, is a son of Muscle Hill. He won for Scott Zeron and the extended Wellwood family. This was the young stallions first Kentucky Futurity credit.

 The new speed king, Always B Miki, who won for David Miller and Jimmy Takter, is by the 12-year-old Indiana sire Always A Virgin, a successful regional stallion who has had limited exposure to the Grand Circuit. Miki broke the 1:46.4 race record shared by He’s Watching, Holborn Hanover, SBSW and Warrawee Needy as well as Cambest’s 23-year-old 1:46.1 time trial mark.

Tim Tetrick won the most races at the meet: nine stakes and eight late closers. His most impressive win was Thursday’s 1:51.3 world record score by the impressive Chapter Seven freshman Walner for Linda Toscano and Ken Jacobs. This was only his fifth start, after taking two in the NYSS and a Kindergarten leg. He knocked a tick off of Southwind Frank’s 2015 mark. This colt is trending straight up. What Frank was to the 2015 meet, Walner was to this one.

David Miller, who laid the foundation for his 2015 Driver of the Year award with a big closing day at last year’s Red Mile meet, may have done the same on Sunday with wins behind Darlinonthebeach in the Garnsey, Broadway Donna in the Filly Futurity and Always B Miki in the Allerage. Overall, he was second to Tetrick with seven stakes wins, in addition to scoring in a pair of late closers. Last year he sealed the deal with five wins on the Breeders Crown program at Woodbine two weeks after the Red Mile meet. Whether he recreates that feet at The Meadowlands this year or not, his numbers, in a season where he took the winter off, combined with the quality of his wins, make him the favorite to repeat as DOY.

Andy Miller won five stakes, four of them for his wife Julie and one for Ross Croghan, as well as one late closer. Yannick Gingras also won five stakes, just as he did last year, but was blanked in the late closers this time.

Corey Callahan, Brett Miller and Marcus Miller each had four stakes wins. The latter won three splits of the ISS on Saturday, all for his dad, with two of them, the SBSW filly Zane Hanover and the Art Major colt Chip Walther, paying $189.80 and $84.80, respectively. Ake Svanstedt, Charlie Norris and Scott Zeron each had three stakes wins, with the latter also taking four late closers.

Jimmy Takter topped all trainers with eight stakes wins, including that record mile by Always B Miki. Just as David Miller is primed to once again overcome Yannick’s earnings lead in the DOY contest, Takter may again overcome Ron Burke’s huge plurality in wins and money in the TOY race.

Ron Burke had five stakes wins, including an upset in a Tattersalls split by the 20/1 Art Major colt Stolen Glimpse for Brian Sears. Last year Burke only won four of the high-dollar races, but he had eight second place finishes in them. On Sunday his Crazy Wow was second in the Allerage Open at 13/1, while Big Top Hanover was second in the Tattersalls Pace at 28/1. And Southwind Frank was nosed out by Marion Marauder in the Futurity. So the money was still rolling in.

Julie Miller, Ake Svanstedt and Erv Miller each had four stakes wins, while Charlie Norris and Jim Campbell won three apiece.

Tony Alagna, who had 5 stakes wins last year, including the Tattersalls Pace with Artspeak, had only 2 this time, although he did win 6 late closers.

54% of the stakes winners were bred in Pennsylvania, while 21% were from New York and 16% from New Jersey. Most of the latter are by Muscle Hill, who now stands in PA, and that must be taken into consideration. Ohio, Indiana, Florida and Ontario had one each, and one was by the French stallion, Love You. The Ontario SS Super Finals take place over the weekend so participation by that sector in Lexington is minimal.

On the trotting side, there were eight for Muscle Hill, four each for Donato Hanover and Muscle Massive, three each for Cantab Hall and Credit winner, two for Andover Hall and the rest with one apiece. In 2015 Cantab Hall had 5 wins to 3 for Muscle Hill. As was the case this year three-quarters of the trot wins went to PA stallions.

Somebeachsomewhere’s domination was more extreme than that of Muscle Hill. His progeny won 15 high-dollar stakes to four for Art Major and one each for all the rest. That amounts to a ridiculous 55% win rate for the 11-year-old son of Mach Three. This served as a marked contrast to last year when SBSW’s get had only three wins and New York pacing stallions dominated Pennsylvania by an 11 to 6 margin.

American Ideal had no stakes credits this year, after accumulating four in 2015.

Lots of juicy payoffs, aside from the pair from Marcus Miller and one from Sears/Burke already mentioned. The Crazed colt Shake It Off Lindy paid $29.60 for Tetrick and Antonacci in a Bluegrass split; the Yankee Glide filly Overdraft Volo paid $49.20 in another Bluegrass split for Andy and Julie Miller; the RNR Heaven colt Rock The Boat paid $38.20 in a Bluegrass division; the Credit Winner filly Bankette paid $73.60 for David Miller in a LC; the Donato filly Temple Ruins paid $30.60 in an ISS split for Brian Sears; and Gingras’ Cantab Hall filly Dancing IN TheHall paid $98.60 in a Filly Futurity elimination….

The most interesting winner was the Florida bred sophomore filly pacer Prairie Sweetheart, who was supplemented to the Allerage Mare and smoked her more accomplished foes in 1:49.1 for Matt Kakaley and Ross Croghan. Her sire, Royal Millennium, is an obscure 17-year-old son of Run The Table, whose granddam is a full sister to the great Sonsam. Prairie Sweetheart has won all 12 lifetime starts.

There were some short fields, the Allerage Mare Trot had to be cancelled due to a lack of entries, and there was some wind and rain to contend with, but on the whole the record setting numbers at the sale were mirrored by some of the same on the track.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

So it was Vanilla Yogurt...

...after all.  The blood work from Betting Line came back and the testing indicates no illegal drugs were given to the Little Brown Jug winner, with the OSRC authorizing the release of purse money.

Of course, the OSRC will continue the investigation but the fact it ordered the payout of the purses suggests the challenge by trainers claiming the horse should have been scratched will be turned down, at least initially.  My guess is if anyone is going to be penalized for the detention barn violation, it will be the Delaware Agricultural Society which operates the Delaware County Fair.

So, all is right in the world again, correct?  Not at all.  With Lou Pena, an unlicensed individual being found in the stall of a Jugette contender necessitating a scratch, then followed by the whole Yogurtgate scandal, the Little Brown Jug has been sullied needlessly.  Needlessly, because the there was no reason for either of these incidents to take place if the detention barn rules were strictly enforced.

No Pena shouldn't have been in the barn.  Cassie Coleman shouldn't have given her horse the yogurt, even if the only additive may have been vanilla; the cryptic messages unfortunate.  But the one who shoulders the vast majority of people are those at the Delaware County Fair who treat the detention barn as if it was Mayberry.

I hear the arguments now, it is at a county fair and part of the charm of racing at the county fairs is the ability for people to go through the stable areas and see our stars.  You have to excuse the fact the detention barns aren't treated like Fort Knox.

Wrong.  You might be a county fair, but when you have races going for $200K+ (Jugette) and $500K+ (Jug), you are no longer a county fair with respect to your racing program.  There is no excuse for security to be so lax in the detention barn for these two races,  By all means, allow people to roam around the barn areas, after all, it's a county fair but when it comes to the detention barns, you better treat it like Fort Knox.  With the exception of the trainer and those grooms registered to take care of the horse, no one should be allowed in the barns.  There should be video cameras in the stalls.

What about the expense?  Well, Ohio is a slot state and they are given a portion of the slot money from the Ohio horsemen.  I would suggest diverting a portion of their grant be used towards the purchase/rental of the video monitoring of the detention stalls as well as the added security, after all, it would protect the integrity of the two marquee events which makes the fair so notable.

We'll see if the lesson has been learned next year.  .

Tuesday Briefing

Another Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile has concluded and what a meet it was.  In particular, the second week featured quite a few long price winners and large place and show payoffs.  Granted the pools may not have been large but those wagering on the card were treated to opportunities to hit some nice payoffs instead of the usual small payoffs which are typical at other tracks.

And the racing action was great, including closing day.  If you watched the Red Mile at Lexington or from the comfort of your own home you were treated with Always B Miki setting a world record 1;46, the fastest mile ever from a standardbred and with Marion Marauder winning the trotting triple crown.  Racing was never better at Lexington,  Despite the publicity surrounding Pepsi North America Cup Day and Hambletonian Day, nothing beats the Red Mile in October as Kentucky Futurity Day is the best harness program of the year.  Of course, right now for most harness racing fans it is one of America's best kept secrets.

If we could only have more days like this, harness racing would be in far better shape.

Jail time, the time horses must stay in state when a horses is claimed at a racetrack is facing a legal challenge by a horse owner in a US District Court as well a possible hearing in a different case by the SCOTUS under the argument it violates the Interstate Commerce provision of the Constitution.  Should this rule be declared unconstitutional the shortage of horses at non-slot tracks will be even worse.

Racing Under Saddle is undergoing a revival in the United Kingdom and RUS UK has been formed as a fundraising group to fund RUS purses so it may be highlighted at different race meets throughout the country.  If you happen to be reading this article in the UK, why not check out their Facebook page?

Speaking of RUS, RUS America has issued a position paper on the proposed rule changes impacting RUS being considered at the 2016-2017 USTA District Meetings and the Annual Meeting in 2017.  It may have been a smart move to issue this paper as many in the industry are not tuned-in to RUS and the unique requirements it requires.  So being there are over 30 items up for discussion, having the ability to read this paper before the meeting, USTA members will have the ability to cover all the proposals quicker.

Lastly, congratulations to Ron Pierce who has announced his formal retirement from harness racing.  While it has been a while since he last raced, there has been hope by some he would return to the bike but it is not meant to be.  While it would have been nice to see Ronnie return, I for one am glad he was able to get out on his terms, not forced out due to a race-related disability.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Here you are, ladies and gentlemen ...

by Peter Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor

... the fastest mile in harness racing history, 1:46, by Always B. Miki today in the Allerage Open Pace at Lexington's Red Mile!

You had a nice run, Cambest p, T1:46.1, and those other four (four?) 1:46.4 race miles over the years.

Gotta note two cute quotes by the TV announcing talent in the moments leading up to the race ...

"The crowd is all over Always B. Miki like a chubby kid chasing a Cheeto." - Sam McKee, and ...

"Always B. Miki is a supermarket trip away from $1 million won this year." - Gabe Prewitt.
I admit it ...

I was rocking in my seat here at Freehold Raceway as Miki came through the lane, urging him to the record. I don't know if I've done that more than a handful of times since watching Armbro Nesbit pacing home in, I think, 1:56 and change at Yonkers Raceway several decades ago.

I think it was the all-time YR track record at the time, and a significant mark.

I watched that race on TV, too, on the well-remembered "Racing from Yonkers" show at my parents' Catskills country home.

Geez, ten seconds slower than today's mile, and it was equally spectacular.

By the way, I was the only one here who clapped after Always B. Miki's victory.

I didn't even look to see if anyone was watching me.

Marion Marauder wins the Kentucky Futurity ...

by Peter Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor

... and the trotting Triple Crown for 3YOs with it, with his previous victories in the Hambletonian and Yonkers Trot.
Congratulations to the winning team, owners Marion Jean (Mrs. Bill) Wellwood & grandson Devin Keeling, trainer Paula Wellwood (the late Bill's daughter) and Paula's husband, Mike Keeling.
Marion Marauder was a supplement to the Futurity.
And, by the way, the 12-horse Kentucky Futurity was raced at an even mile. No major problems experienced by the two trotters who started from the second tier.
Marion Marauder, the winner, came out of the 11th post, in the second tier. And show horse Bar Hopping came out of the 12th post, also in the second tier.
(Didn't mention that the fine colt Southwind Frank, from the first tier, was second.)
Twelve horses, two tiers, no extra eighth of a mile thrown in for, who knows what reason.
Make note of this, other tracks.
Excellent chance that Always B. Miki could have set a race record of 1:46 or better in the July 16 William Haughton FFA pace ... if that contest had been held at a mile.
Just sayin'.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Tattersalls Pace

Sunday’s Tattersalls Pace at The Red Mile will have two $208,000 splits of nine, with check Six in the first and Racing Hill in the second. Word was that Betting Line’s connections planned to supplement him to the race, but that hasn’t happened. The $45,000 supplemental fee for the two division format apparently didn’t make sense to them.

 The Tattersalls began 13 years after the Triple Crown was established around the three half-mile track races—the Jug, Cane and Messenger—and, despite its noble heritage, doesn’t have the cachet of the Meadowlands Pace or North America Cup, the two races proponents of a newly constituted Triple Crown always bring up.

An obvious tell on the lack of stature accorded the Tattersalls Pace was when in June of last year Marvin Bell, a prominent player on several fronts, proposed a revamped Triple Crown that would consist of five races: Meadowlands Pace, NA Cup, Jug, Breeders Crown and “a new race to be held at Lexington.”

The inaugural Tattersalls Pace was won by Laverne Hanover in 1969. Bill Haughton’s diminutive Tar Heel colt had won 22 of 23 starts at two and was the first two-minute two-year-old on a half. Laverne won the Tattersalls in straight heats of 1:57 and 1:57.2 against a field of thirteen. Super Wave finished second in both heats. A single win gets it done today, but that’s the norm.

The following year Columbia George won both heats in a world record 1:56 for Roland Beaulieu.

The 1971 edition was when the Tattersalls generated headlines as Albatross, who needed to be nursed through both heats by Stanley Dancer, thanks to a sudden fear of autumn leaves, became the fastest pacer in the history of the sport thanks to a pair of 1:54.4 miles, the first from the second tier 12 post. Even when he earned the rail in the second heat, Albatross fell behind the field at the start when he broke stride.

In the 47 editions of the race, ten starters, or 21%, have also won the Jug. In the 39 since the Pace came into being, nine, or 23%, have also won that stake. And in the 32 years since the NA Cup started, six, or 19%, have won both.

Rocknroll Hanover, who won a split in 2005, won the Cup and Pace, in addition to the Tattersalls. Rocknroll drew off in 1:50.3 in his division for Brian Sears and Brett Pelling. Sears and Pelling also won a split the previous year with Bulletproof’s Western Terror in a lifetime best 1:48.3.

Bettor’s Delight, who beat rival Real Desire in 1:49.4 in 2001, giving him a 7 to 1 advantage over Life Sign’s pride and joy, also won the Cup and the Jug.

Gallo Blue Chip, the 2000 winner, added the Cup and the Pace. Nick’s Fantasy, who won a split in 1995, also won the Jug. And Carlsbad Cam, the third of four winners by Cam Fella, also took the Pace in 1992.

In 1990 Beach Towel won in 1:51.3 and 1:51.1, with the latter setting a world record for a second heat. The winner of the Pace and Jug also set a single season earnings record in the Tattersalls; he topped $2 million that year.

Nihilator, who had won the Pace and Jug, had been stymied by Mother Nature in his attempt to break daddy’s all-time 1:49.1 TT mark in Springfield, and was slated to skip the second heat of the Tattersalls and take a shot at the record. That didn’t work out, but he won the race in a tepid—for him—1:51.2.

Ralph Hanover won the Pace and Jug, in addition to the Tattersalls. And 1978 winner Falcon Almahurst, who had taken the Pace, beat Flight Director in three heats for Bill Haughton. He bested the son of Flying Bret by two in 1:55.2 in the first; lost a head to that one in 1:57.2 in the second; and waited until the end to come out and nip Flight Director in 2:00.2 in the race-off.

The 1976 winner Keystone Ore also won the Jug for Stanley Dancer, as did 1972 winner Strike Out for Keith Waples. And Nero won the previous year in straight heats of 2:00.3 and 2:00 over an off track.

In 2014 He’s Watching was supplemented to the race for $45,000, despite losing three in a row prior to that. He had the misfortune to draw in against 1/5 Always B Miki, who beat Capital Account in 1:49.3. He’s Watching, who finished 66  lengths back, was diagnosed with a heart condition. JK Endofanera won the other division in 1:49.1 for Yannick Gingras and Ron Burke. 76/1 Winds Of Change finished second.

In 2013 Captaintreacherous, who won the Pace and the Cup, made it 10 wins in 11 starts as the 1/5 favorite beat Vegas Vacation in 1:47.2.

In 2012 Sweet Lou, who had disappointed after a terrific freshman campaign, winning eliminations of the Cup, Pace and Jug, but faltering in the finals, beat stablemate Hillbilly Hanover in 48.1 in the $510,300 Tattersalls Pace for Dave Palone and Ron Burke. He’d apparently been dogged by allergy issues all year and responded positively to the clean fall air in Lexington.

The Panderosa gelding Alsace Hanover, who had won the Adios, caught a break when Roll With Joe got sick and couldn’t go in 2011. Alsace took a split in 1:50 over Westwardho Hanover for Ron Pierce and Tony O’Sullivan. Hugadragon won the other one for Gingras in the same time.

Rock N Roll Heaven won the $604,000 edition in 2010 in 1:48.1 at 2/5 over One More Laugh for Dan Dube and Bruce Saunders.

Well Said was upset by If I Can Dream with Tim Tetrick in one division the previous year, while 2/5 Vintage Master scored an easy wire to wire win in 1:51.2 in the other for Dan Dube.

In 2008 Somebeachsomewhere and Art Official won the two divisions of the Tattersalls. The former in 1:47.4 and the latter in 1:48.3 for Ron Pierce and Joe Seekman. This was a week after SBSW set his 1:46.4 world record in the Bluegrass for Paul MacDonnell and Brent MacGrath.

Erv Miller won a split in 2007 with Yankee Skyscraper, when Tell All and Won The West also won, and another the previous year with Shark Gesture.

Aside from Rocknroll Hanover winning a division in 2005, American Ideal. who was supplemented to the race for $35,000 by Casie Coleman, did what SBSW would repeat three years later; he set a 1:47.4 world record for a three-year-old pacing colt in the Bluegrass, then came back and won the Tattersalls the following week in 1:49.2, both for Mark MacDonald.  So, two of the premier pacing sires of the modern era, both by Western Ideal, won the race that year.

One of the greatest editions of the Tattersalls involved the 1987 battle between Laag and Jaguar Spur. The latter won the first heat in a photo and the pair finished the second in a world record 1:51.2 dead heat.

There are 56 colts eligible to next week’s 49th edition of the Tattersalls. Some like Control The Moment are retired or unable to race for one reason or another, and many more are just not good enough. Last year 12 started in a single dash for $450,000, with 11 and 12 starting from the second tier. Division leaders Wiggle It Jiggleit, Wakizashi Hanover and Freaky Feet Pete did not enter. Artspeak won from the two post in 1:47.4 for Scott Zeron and Tony Alagna.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

And Yogurtgate Continues....

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the three trainers who objected to Betting Line being able to race in the Little Brown Jug have lawyered up, hiring a Columbus, Ohio law firm to produce a seven page document detailing the infractions allegedly committed by trainer Casie Coleman which has been presented to the Ohio State Racing Commission.  The contention of this group is Betting Line should never have been allowed to race and should be disqualified.

Columnist Michael Arace, who has been doing an excellent job in reporting on this incident, in today's commentary talks about the irony, being the three trainers involved in the objection have had their own incidents which have questioned their own integrity (his words, not mine).  

For newcomers who are following the Little Brown Jug controversy and have come upon this blog, "Welcome to the world of harness racing".  However, this particular incident is unusual, usually no one complains about alleged cheating, as there is an unspoken code of silence.  Why, I don't know as trainers and owners are getting screwed when another trainer cheats.  In this incident, the somewhat cryptic messages and the purse and prestige of winning the Little Brown Jug apparently was too much for these trainers to handle.  

Whether this legal assault pays off remains to be seen.  The true gold standard is the post-race testing which is currently taking place.  Whether the labs used by the OSRC is sophisticated enough remains to be seen.  Considering the scandal, if permitted by their own rules, the OSRC should be sending the blood to Hong Kong whose testing labs are acknowledged to be the best when it comes to post-race testing.

Outside of the Breeders Crown, arguably the most important four days of harness racing in North America takes place starting this afternoon at The Red Mile as the second week of the Grand Circuit meet takes place, with the Bluegrass series being contested all week, culminating in the Allerage Pace/Trot and Kentucky Futurity on Sunday.  Racing in week two starts at 1:00pm.

Unfortunately, the Allerage will see some defections, Wiggle It Jiggleit being the most prominent to date as rather than race in the Allerage Pace and return six days for the $250,000 Yonkers Raceway invitational, his team will be bypassing the Allerage and head straight to Yonkers.  Yonkers has added these high-priced invitationals to supplement the $1 million Yonkers International.  

One could question the wisdom of holding $250,000 invitationals for its business sense (there is none), but you could question why Yonkers decided to schedule relatively late these mega-races this close to the Allerage.  Some say it shows once again Yonkers disregard for others, deciding to do what they want.  My take is the people at Yonkers thought being six days after the Allerage, there is no reason why a horse couldn't race in both events.  They are right, if we were back in the 1990's, but most people do not race their stakes caliber horses as hard as this anymore.  Sure, a week or two in a row is possible, but after that, extended time between races is the norm.    

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Week One At The Red Mile

Tim Tetrick was the top driver at the first week of the Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile; he won seven splits of the Bluegrass and five late closers. Last year, including both weekends at Lexington, Tetrick won six stakes and eleven late closers. His 1:52.3 win on Sunday over John Campbell and Per Henriksen’s tough 8/1 shot Blenheim, a Yankee Glide colt coming off a win in the Bucket, was one of the best races of the opening stretch. We should see both of them in Sunday’s Kentucky Futurity.

Tetrick also had a good win with Huntsville on the rainy Saturday night card. The freshman Somebeachsomewhere colt, an already more fully realized version of his brothers Stevensville and Cowboy Terrier, was a handy 1:53 winner at 4/5 for owner-trainer Ray Schnittker.

SBSW was the star pacing stallion with eight Bluegrass wins—six of them on Saturday night. Jimmy Takter’s colt Blood Line bottomed the field in 1:52.1 over the off track for David Miller as the 6/5 favorite. In similar fashion to Huntsville, he’s full to Blood Brother, who hasn’t fulfilled his early promise.

Andy Miller had four Bluegrass wins, while Corey Callahan and David Miller had three each. The latter also had a pair of late closer wins. Last year David Miller’s performance at Lexington propelled him to his driver of the year award. He had a strong second week with wins in the Allerage Mare stakes with Color’s A Virgin and D’One as well as both splits of the Tattersalls Filly with Rock Me Gently and Divine Caroline. He won seven stakes and four late closers overall.

Jimmy Takter is making no secret of the fact that he is sending Miller out to break the world record with Always B Miki in the Allerage Open. Whether that’s simply the 1:46.4 race record or Cambest’s twenty-three-year old 1:46.1 mark, we don’t know. Cracking either barrier would give Miller, who is having an excellent year, momentum in his quest for another driver of the year title. 

Brett Miller was the top driver in Lexington last year, with eight stakes wins and one late closer. After week one he has a single Bluegrass win, with the Art Major filly Roaring To Go, who upset 1/9 Idyllic Beach in a $73,000 division, although he has captured four late closers.

Two years ago money leader Yannick Gingras won sixteen stakes and four late closers at The Red Mile. That dropped to a more modest five and one, respectively, last year. In week one he won Bluegrass divisions with Jimmy Takter’s freshman trotting filly, Princess Aurora, and Ron Burke’s money machine Check Six. Yannick will be highly motivated in week two.

Andy Miller won four stakes, three of them in conjunction with his wife Julie. He treated those who bet on him well as the freshman Yankee Glide filly Overland Hanover paid $49.20 on Friday and Ross Croghan’s Rock N Roll Heaven colt Rock The Boat paid $38.20 on Saturday night. Andy capped off his weekend with an eye opening win with the Donato Hanover colt Sutton on Sunday. The winner of the Zweig crushed his competition by four lengths in 1:52 at odds of 1/5. Sutton may add some excitement to Sunday’s Futurity.

Newly minted Hall-of-Famer Brian Sears was saddled with dead stock and managed only one late closer win.

Jimmy Takter, who led the trainers with four stakes wins, won 13 over the two weeks two years ago and seven last year. Two of his Bluegrass winners, Bar Hopping and Western Fame, should be players in the Futurity and Tattersalls, and you can bet he’ll have plenty entered in the ISS.

Julie Miller had three stakes winners, which have already been mentioned, while Ake, Trond, Charlie Norris and Ron Burke had two each. The latter only had four last year, although he also had eight second place stakes finishes. He won nine in 2014.

Muscle Hill led the trotters in stakes wins, with three on Thursday from freshmen Long Tom, Fly On and New Jersey Viking, and one on Sunday from Bar Hopping. Muscle Massive had three, a two-year-old colt and two fillies. Andover Hall, Cantab Hall and Donato Hanover had two each.

On Thursday Dover Dan, a two-year-old Andover Hall colt out of the great CR Kay Suzie won a Bluegrass split in 1:55 for Corey Callahan and John Butenschoen. Suzie, who hasn’t matched her success on the track as a broodmare, is currently 24-years-old.

The next day That’s All Moni, a freshman three-quarter sister to Snow White, won a stake in 1:54.4 at 4/5 for Tim Tetrick and Jimmy Takter.

Celebrity Eventsy and Broadway Donna both disappointed on Sunday, and Ginny Weasley (Andover Hall) and Fad Finance (Credit Winner) picked up the pieces.

On the pacing side, the SBSW filly Darlinonthebeach, who won the Shady Daisy and Valley Forge, put in a strong 1:50.2 mile on the front end for David Miller and Nancy Johansson. The Rocknroll Hanover filly Blue Moon Stride also won in wire to wire fashion for Andrew McCarthy and Mark Harder. Owner Emilio Rosati was ecstatic in the winner’s circle.

And Mark MacDonald sent the lightly raced Western Ideal colt Western Fame, who recently won a Jug elimination, down the road and never looked back. He won a neck in 1:50.3 for Jimmy Takter.

I can’t wait for round two.

Joe FitzGerald