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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Can't Beat the ADW Experience

Over at there is an interesting column titled "A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the ADW" and it highlights some of the reasons why it is better to bet with an ADW when at the track, something which is the bane of most tracks.  After all, tracks earn a pittance on those wagers as compared to wagering through the windows at the track.  Here are several of those reasons:

  • Don’t have to stand behind a guy buying $40 worth of 10-cent Superfectas
  • Can wait until the last minute without worrying about being shut-out
  • Don’t have to stand in line again to cash
  • Can cancel your bet with a couple of clicks
  • Rebates!

While the column talks about people using their phones to wager at the track, it could have just as easily been titled "Reasons Why it is Better to Stay Home and Play the Horses" and it highlights a big problem racetracks have to deal with, one admittedly they will be unable to overcome.  Racetracks can't compete with ADWs when it comes to the wagering experience, the only difference is the ability to see the horses 'up close'.  Unfortunately, for most gamblers, after they've seen the races live a couple of times, nothing beats the convenience of wagering from home.

So if racing were to cede wagering to the ADWs what is racing to do?

Racing needs to change the funding source for purses.  The only way this can be done is to form their own (or in partnership) ADW so they are able to keep a larger portion of the wagering dollar which up to now has been given away to the existing ADWs.  I have talked ad nauseam about this recently; just refer to my recent columns for more about this.

So what does one do with the racetrack now that you concede the gamblers to the ADWs?  Time to hold festival-type racing; where you appeal to the fans instead of gamblers.  Will there still be wagering?  Of course there will but it will be done at a much lower level so you would downsize your tote operations accordingly.  In fact, with the exception of some tellers, you would farm the wagers to an ADW to operate as the hub.

As to the on-track action, racing would be a piece of the entertainment puzzle.  Since most of the wagering is done off-track at ADWs, why are we sticking to our 15 minute (plus crawl time) between races formula  With everyone now acting as their individual OTB facility, the amount of time between the races can be reduced to no more than 5 to 7 minutes between races (perhaps longer on major stakes days).   Once a race is official, head back to the paddock and send the next field out for their score and then directly to the gate and repeat.  There is no reason while a 12 race card can't be completed in two hours.  Conduct other events before and after the racing program to complete the entertainment package for the day if you are not part of a racino; alternative gaming options would complete the day otherwise.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trainer Trends

Here’s a look at how the top 20 trainers are faring through Monday, November 14 as compared with their stats through that date in 2015.

Ron Burke tops the earnings list, again, but he has 91 fewer wins—10% less—and is short more than $2.8 million—13%. He made it past the $20 million mark for the fourth consecutive year on Monday night, Nov 14. At the close of the 2015 season his money was off by 12%--$3.4 million. He finished 2015 almost $12 million ahead of Trainer of the Year Jimmy Takter and is $10 million up on him right now. Burke’s number of starts dropped 4% between 2014 and 2015 and that number is down 3% since a year ago this time. Hannelore Hanover, Southwind Frank and Check Six have all been big time check cashers, but Frank didn’t dominate his division as expected, and Mission Brief missed the season due to injury. Burke is the leading trainer at The Meadows, The Meadowlands, Hoosier Park and in the NYSS. He’s number two at Harrah’s, three at Pocono and five at Yonkers and Scioto Downs. Hall of Fame anybody?

Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, who was also second at this point last year, is off by 18 wins and more than $2.5 million—20%. His UTRS is up from 0.339 to 0.363. He trains the new world record holder, Always B Miki, as well as Ariana G, Pure Country and Bar Hopping. Last year his six wins on Breeders Crown night, as well as the 11 other checks his starters presented him with, locked down his year-end honors. Perhaps Miki makes up for the lack of anything like that? Regardless, both Burke and Takter are off their recent highs and the Trainer of the Year award is up in the air.

Rene Allard, who unlike Burke and Takter grinds out most of his money on the overnight circuit, is back at number three. He has 11 fewer wins than at this point a year ago but his earnings are up by 9%--more than $439,000. Allard is number one at Yonkers and number two at Pocono Downs.

Tony Alagna is fourth again. Last year he made the jump from seven to four and has held on to that spot. Tony has 11 fewer wins but his money is up by more than $439,000—9%. His colt Racing Hill is number two on the all-horse earnings list. His starts were down 8% between 2014 and 2015 and are down 9% since a year ago: less is more.

Ake Svanstedt, who was at nine in mid-November of 2015, is at five. His wins are up by 20% and his money is 28% better--$1.2 million. His UTRS is off from 0.305 to 0.293. Ake moved up nine spots to number eight last year and continues to advance in NA. Resolve was his top performer. He is number eight at The Meadowlands, seven at Pocono and five in the NYSS.

Erv Miller, who dropped eight spots to number 11 last year, is up five to number six from mid-November of 2015. He only has one more win but his earnings are up by 23%. Miller trains BC winner Someomensomewhere.

Linda Toscano, the trainer of world champion Walner, jumped nine spots to number seven. She shows 19 more wins and 32% more money—a million dollars. Linda is second in the NYSS and fifth at The Meadowlands.

 Chris Oakes stepped up seven spots to number eight. The trainer of Luck Be Withyou and Homicide Hunter has 73 more wins and is up a million dollars—30%. Oakes is the leading trainer at Pocono Downs, where he forms a dynamic duo with leading driver George Napolitano Jr. He’s number six at Harrah’s. His UTRS has risen from an impressive 0.414 to a dominant 0.441.

Julie Miller is down two spots to number nine. She has a dozen more wins but is short $195,000—6%. She finished in sixth in 2014 and seventh last year. The trainer of Sutton is fourth in the NYSS and seventh at both The Meadowlands and Harrah’s.

Jeff Bamond Jr fell from five to ten. His earnings are down 30%--$1.2 million. His crack group of older pacing mares is showing their age and mileage: he got more than $900,000 out of Venus Delight and Anndrovette last year, but the pair has accounted for only a fraction of that in 2016. The former was recently sold in Harrisburg. The toughest mare on the planet, Krispy Apple, and open mainstay Mach It So are still going strong.

Richard Moreau, Canada’s Trainer of the Year the last three years, jumped three spots to number 11. He has eight fewer wins but his earnings are up 11%--more than $296,000. Moreau, who recently recorded his 5,000 win, is the leading trainer on the WEG circuit and was number four in the Ontario Sire Stakes this year.

Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, who was at six a year ago and finished 2015 there, has dropped six spots to twelve. He has made 250 fewer starts this year. He has 120 fewer wins—down 40%--and is short $1.4 million—37%. Gilbert is the leading trainer at Harrah’s, fourth at Pocono and sixth at Yonkers.

Richard Banca moves up seven spots to number 13. He has 17 more wins and is ahead $504,000—10%. Banca grossed under a million dollars in seven of the eight years prior to 2015, when he blossomed at Yonkers Raceway.

Brian Brown dropped five spots to number 14. His win total is off by 20% while his money is down 30%--a million dollars. He’s number four at Scioto Downs. Color’s A Virgin and Lost For Words lost their way in 2016, however Downbytheseaside looms on the horizon.

Casie Coleman, who reduced her starts by 58% between 2012 and 2015, moves up seven spots to number 15. The trainer of LBJ and Cup winner Betting Line only shows one more win, but her earnings increased by 21%--$488,000. Her UDRS increased from 0.306 to 0.423. She was number four back in 2014.

Thomas Milici, 61, who never won more than 45 races or $305,000 prior to 2016, continues to dazzle us at Yonkers Raceway. He has accumulated eight times as many wins and eight times as much money as he did in all of last year.

John Butenschoen, who turned all his young stock into gold, leaped from 28 to 17. His wins are up 19% while his earnings are 31% ahead of one year ago. PASS champ Giveitgasandgo and NYSS champ Funknwaffles are a couple of his standouts.

Chris Beaver stepped up 14 spots to number 18. His wins are up 33% and his earnings 30%--more than $637,000. He has Moonshiner Hanover, Muscle Up The Goal and Il Sogno Dream, among others.

Number 19 Clyde Francis went from 25 wins at this point last year to 56 now. His earnings are up 5%. Wiggle It Jiggleit accounts for half his wins and 80% of his 2016 money. He had no earnings as a trainer in 2014.

Number 20 Jim Dailey wasn’t in the top 50 last year. The Ohio trainer has nine more wins than he had in all of 2015 and he has earned more than $2 million this year—45% more than in all of last year. The resurgent Ohio Sire Stakes program has been a godsend for him. Dailey collaborated with Josh Sutton to win three of the $250,000 Ohio SS finals with Rose Run Spanky, Scotch McEwan and My Tweed Heart.

Joe FitzGerald

Friday, November 18, 2016

Driver Trends As The Season Winds Down

This is a comparison of where the top 25 drivers stood on Monday Nov 14, 2016 as compared with where they were on Nov 14, 2015.

Yannick Gingras, the unanimous choice for Driver of the Year in 2014, is on top of the money tree, just as he was last year. The number one option for leading trainers Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter has 21 fewer wins than a year ago and his earnings are down $139,189—about 1%. His UDRS is 0.324 as opposed to 0.349 last year. He has dominated the senior mare divisions with Hannelore Hanover and Lady Shadow.

Last year’s DOY David Miller is number two in earnings, just as he was on Nov 14, 2015. He has 23 more wins and his money is up by 5%--$558,173. Miller, who has prospered after taking last winter off, has seen his UDRS rise from 0.278 to 0.325. The Buckeye, who benefits from his association with world champion Always B Miki, appears to be the favorite to repeat as Driver of the Year.

Four time DOY Tim Tetrick is in third, just like last year. He has 102 more wins than he had at this point in 2015 and his earnings are up 3.5%--$388,328. He’s number two at The Meadowlands and Harrah’s. Tim will be looking to dominate next year’s sophomore colt divisions with Walner and Huntsville.

Scott Zeron is having a career year: he moved from eleventh at this point last year to number four. The driver of Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder has seen his win total jump by 5% and his money increase by 22%--$1,866,372 more than he had in mid-November of 2015. Scott was the leading driver at The Meadowlands this year.

Jason Bartlett, who topped the earnings list for the first half of the year, is in fifth, one spot lower than a year ago. His win total is up by 70—12.5%--but his money is off by 12%--$1,107,900. The leading driver at Yonkers Raceway has upped his UDRS from 0.347 to 0.371. He’s number four in the NYSS.

Brett Miller, who got off to a slow start and was in twelfth at the halfway point, is in sixth, three spots better than last year. Brett’s UDRS is about the same and he has just two fewer wins then a year ago, but his earnings are up by $491,863, or 7%. Racing Hill and Pure Country have helped account for that.

Matt Kakaley, who was at 13 a year ago, and finished the year there, is in seventh. He has 23 more wins and $963,459, or 11.6%, more in earnings. Matt’s UDRS is up from 0.220 to 0.236. In addition to being one of Ron Burke’s go to drivers, he’s number four at Pocono Downs and was the runner up in the NYSS.

Our newest Hall of Famer Brian Sears is at eight, down from five a year ago. His win total is off by 16%--54—and he’s more than 18% short money wise--$1,608,715.  Sears has tried to augment his regular gig at Yonkers—where he’s second to Bartlett—with success on the Grand Circuit, but the wins have been hard to come by this year. Bee A Magician is back, but most of the stakes dollars have dried up at this point.

Last year’s dash champ Aaron Merriman, who is a shoe in to repeat, has moved up from twelfth to ninth. His win total is off by four while his money is up by $141,435, or 2%. He holds a 100 win lead over George Napolitano, who loses Pocono Downs from his calendar very shortly. Aaron is number two at Northfield and in third at The Meadows.

Corey Callahan, who just joined the 5,000 club, is at number ten, down from six last year. His win total is off by 33% from mid-November of 2015 and his earnings are down by 24%, or more than $2 million. Corey’s UDRS is down to 0.264 from 0.319. He’s working off of 10% fewer starts.

George Napolitano Jr, who is second on the dash list, is at eleven, down from seven. His win total is off by 16%--122—and his money is down by 17%--$1.3 million. George’s UDRS dropped from a heady 0.403 to 0.351. He’s the leading driver at Harrah’s and Pocono Downs.

Sylvain Filion, the top driver on the WEG circuit, moved up five spots to number 12. He has three fewer wins, but his earnings are up by $760,008—13.5%. Sylvain was the leading driver in the Ontario Sire Stakes, finishing more than a million dollars ahead of second place James MacDonald.

Chris Page jumped ten spots to number 13. He has 110 more wins and his money is up 27%--$1.4 million. He was number two at Scioto Downs and Miami Valley. The Ohio Sire Stakes and Ron Burke’s stock were both key factors in his success.

Mark MacDonald, who recently won the Breeders Crown with Obrigado, like Page, jumped ten spots, to number 14. His win total is up 30% and his earnings have increased by 29%--$1.5 million. His UDRS is up to 0.240 from 0.198. Mark is number six at Yonkers Raceway and was number three in the NYSS.

Trace Tetrick, the leading driver at Hoosier Park, winning at a 21% clip, moves up from 20 to 15. He had 62 more wins—up 14%--and increased his earnings by $664,032—more than 12%. Trace’s UDRS dropped from 0.304 to 0.246. Freaky Feet Pete didn’t have the sort of year many expected him to.

Jordan Stratton, who was very successful in the Levy and Matchmaker series, stepped up eleven spots to number 16. His win total is up 30% and his money has risen by 27%--$1.3 million. Stratton is number five at Yonkers.

Marcus Miller made a giant 15 spot leap to number 17. Marcus is number six at Pocono Downs and number eight at Harrah’s. His win total is up by better than 33% while his money has risen by 32%--$1.6 million. He won the Breeders Crown with Someomensomewhere.

George Brennan, the number three driver at Yonkers Raceway, has fallen ten spots to number 18. His win total is off 30% and his earnings are off by 29%. His UDRS is down to 0.257 from 0.276. George, who has made fewer than three dozen starts away from Yonkers, has driven in 11% fewer races this year.

Dan Dube is another Yonkers regular who fell hard—from nine to nineteen. He has 55 fewer wins and is short $2 million. Dube is number four at the Hilltop track.

Ronnie Wrenn Jr, who won the dash title in 2013 and 2014, moved up one spot to twenty. His wins are down 17%--115—but his earnings have stepped up by $353,256. The leading driver at Northfield, he made a strong showing in the Ohio Sire Stakes.

Josh Sutton, the leading driver at Scioto Downs and Miami Valley, moved ahead 13 spots to number 21. He has 33 more wins and his money is up by 30%--$1.4 million. Like Page, Merriman and Wrenn, he has benefitted from the new and improved Ohio Sire Stakes program.

All time dash leader Dave Palone dropped from 16 to 22. The top driver at The Meadows is down 61 wins and $516,202—12.5%.

Aussie Andrew McCarthy stepped up five spots to number 23. He’s number seven at Pocono, eight at Harrah’s and eleven at The Meadowlands. His win total is up 25% while his money rose 12.5%--$516,202.

John DeLong, who was second at Hoosier Park, jumped 23 spots to 24. He has 151 more wins—up 41.5%--and more than 42% more money—up $1.6 million. His UDRS rose from 0.266 to 0.300.

Jim Morrill Jr, the top driver in the NYSS by more than double, dropped eleven spots to 25. He had 89 more wins and saw his UDRS rise from 0.388 to an eye opening 0.425, but his earnings were down by $1.4 million.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Word from Our Moderator

There are times articles on VFTRG stir passionate discussion; I know that.  Still, one of the principles of this blog is for the conversation to be civil and respectful.  It makes for a more pleasant reading experience for those who visit.  

Recently, there has been discussions which have, produced 'passionate' discussion.  Discussion which has caused some to cross over the line in their comments.  Worse yet, it has caused me to censor the comments which required me to either reject the comments and in a few occasions, edit which is a shame as some otherwise thoughtful opinions find themselves on the virtual cutting floor.

I realize there are some topics and personalities which invoke strong feelings but as strong as opinions may be, there is no place for name calling or personal attacks.  VFTRG has and will always be a community of civil discourse.  For those who feel the need for more 'colorful' conversation, there are other venues available be it harness racing or American politics.

Starting today, there will no longer be edited comments.  The comments will meet the standards of VFTRG or they will be rejected.

Thank you for your understanding.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Misguided Purse Decisions

A couple of weeks before the yearling sale at Harrisburg, Jeff Gural announced for the most part, the Meadowlands stakes schedule would remain intact if the harness racing industry would step up and sponsor those races which appears to be the case.  He also announced despite the defeat of the casino referendum, the Meadowlands was here to stay for the long haul.

Many rejoiced at hearing that news.  I for one am not.

Make no mistake, I am glad racing at the Meadowlands will continue despite the defeat of the referendum.  However, in times like these, maintaining the stakes program at the detriment of the overnight races is unacceptable.  It was commented if the Meadowlands cancelled the stakes races, their purses could be competitive with the purses in surrounding racing jurisdictions.  There is a large deficit in the purse account which must be repaid.

A good portion of the stakes purses comes out of the same purse account which is used to pay the purses of the overnight races contested at a track.  Offering lower class races with reduced purses merely to offer stakes races for the major stables and well-heeled owners is an insult to the rank and file individuals who put on the races which make up 95% of the contests; many who are having a hard time to make a living or break even.  It is one thing if a track is making money on its racing program or are subsidized by racinos to offer stakes races it would normally not be able to afford, but to ask the the struggling New Jersey horsemen to foot the bill for the 'elites' in the current situation is unacceptable.

Now I am not saying the Meadowlands should cancel all the stakes races; having a few stakes races is fine, but to ask horsemen to fund over $10 million in stakes is unacceptable.  Think what these $10 million could do for the overnight horsemen?  Increased purses and a better product for the gambler versus short fields of horses racing for a pittance to what they can out of the state; possibly increased racing dates.  Perhaps more pressing is the albatross of purse account deficits,  something which could easily be paid off without cutting existing purse levels if the decision was made to cut stakes and not raise purses the first year.

Yes, Gural a strong supporter of harness racing.  Time to show some love to the every day horsemen.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trotting Sires in Harrisburg

Muscle Hill didn’t present a large offering in Harrisburg—only 21 yearlings—but he made quite a splash with them. A pair topped $400,000; another three exceeded $300,000; five others beat $200,000; and all told 14, or two-thirds, topped $100,000. These are insane numbers. Moreover, three-quarters of them sold for at least $50,000, while all of them brought $25,000. And just as impressive is the fact that shares in him changed hands for a record $175,000 and $170,000 to Hanover Shoe Farms and Reijo Liljendahl, respectively.

Muscle Hill, who averaged $149,952 for the 21 sold, was up 65% over last year when the political climate in Pennsylvania left buyers with sour stomachs. Only 17 were sold there, as opposed to 49 in Lexington. The situation was similar this year as 52 sold in Kentucky for an average of $114,385.

This scenario takes us back to the stretch when the great Speedy Crown roamed the earth. The correlation is shaky in that, as good as he was on the track, Speedy Crown entered the market at $2,500 and his first crop was very weak, averaging a shade over $2,500 in earnings and led in the speed column by a 2:03 pacer. But in 1977 his stock sold for an average of $76,310 to $46,295 for Super Bowl—his Cantab Hall. And by 1986 he averaged $83,253. Inflation renders the numbers meaningless, but like Muscle Hill he was moved early in his career—from PA to New York at age 12—and it was then that he did his best work.

Speaking of Cantab Hall: he was no slouch in Harrisburg either. The 15-year-old son of Self Possessed sold twice as many as his Keystone rival and averaged $60,293 for the 41 sold. Cantab, who averaged $67,680 for 48 sold in Lexington, actually experienced a 6% drop from last year, when he jumped 38% from 2014. Muscle Hill was sucking the oxygen, and the high end dollars, out of the room.

Nine, or 22%, of Cantab’s offering, brought at least $100,000. Last year he sold a filly for $500,000, another for $270,000 and a colt for $300,000. Despite that, last year only 26% topped $50,000, as opposed to 54% this week. And 76% beat $25,000 this year. In 2015 Cantab got the best of Muscle Hill in Harrisburg—no doubt for the last time.

New kid on the block Chapter Seven actually beat out Cantab Hall by almost $1,500 average to average. The apparent extender for the ill-fated Windsong’s Legacy averaged $61,773 for 21 sold. Four of them topped $100,000; 15, or 68%, exceeded $50,000; and 91% brought at least $25,000. The eight-year-old sire of the next great hope in the trotting ranks, Walner, stands in New York for $7,500.

Kadabra sold 19 for an average of $56,684. This was actually down almost 30% from last year when the political turmoil sidestepped the Ontario stallion. His $80,000 average represented a 46% jump from 2014. Last year six beat $100,000, including a $260,000 colt. This year there were two, both fillies. Nine, or 47%, topped $50,000 and 89% brought at least $25,000. The sire of Emoticon Hanover and Caprice Hill averaged more than $82,000 for the 11 yearlings he sold in Lexington. With Muscle Mass out of the picture the next couple of years, he’ll have the run of the OSS. The overall stallion leader in that program stands for $12,000 US.

Nineteen-year-old Credit Winner sold 23 for a $45,587 average. That’s up 36% from last year, when he was down 57% from 2014 and down 63% from 2013. The son of American Winner dropped to earth with a thud after some halcyon times. Two topped $100,000 this week; 35% beat $50,000; and three-quarters of them sold for at least $25,000.

Credit Winner did much better in Lexington, where 38 averaged $59,842. He had four $100,000 plus sellers, including a $350,000 filly and another filly, out of Check Me Out, who brought $260,000. The sire of Fad Finance and Devious Man led the NYSS in both classes this year.

Andover Hall averaged $33,966 for 29 sold. One filly beat $100,000; only four of them beat $50,000; and 19 of them brought at least $25,000. Thirty-eight percent failed to top $25,000. He was up 6% from last year, when he was down 26% from 2014. Fourteen averaged $39,143 in Kentucky. The 17-year-old stands in PA for $8,000, down from $10,000 in 2015.

Donato Hanover sold 39 for a $32,718 average. The sire of presumptive sophomore filly champ Broadway Donna and last year’s BC winner D’One saw his average drop 16% from 2015. He sold 34 for an average of $40,029 in Lexington. Only two from his Pennsylvania offering topped $100,000. That amounts to a puny 5%. Six, only one of whom was a colt, sold for $50,000 or more. Again, that’s a weak 15%. And 51% failed to top $25,000. That’s not a good number for a $15,000 stallion. He’s always been a filly sire, but even the distaffs failed to pull their weight in Harrisburg.

Conway Hall, the number three stallion in the NYSS, averaged $30,308 for 13 sold. The 21-year-old son of Garland Lobell sold one for at least $50,000 and eight for at least $25,000. His average was up 14% over 2015. He sired NYSS champ Barn Bella.

Yankee Glide, who will be relocated to Kentucky for the 2017 season, saw 19 average $29,053. A pair topped $50,000 while 47% failed to beat $25,000. The 22-year-old son of Valley Victory stood in PA for $7,500 this year. He was getting $10,000 in 2015. The sire of Lagerfeld and Milligan’s School sold 27 in Lexington for a $30,148 average.

Muscle Mass averaged $26,154 for 26 sold. A pair topped $50,000 while 46% didn’t reach $25,000. The son of Muscles Yankee is back in Ontario, where he has been very successful in the provincial program, but this group is eligible in New York. The sire of Mass Production averaged $31,688 for 16 sold in Lexington.

Muscle Mass’s younger brother Muscle Massive sold 28 for an average of $18,625. Two topped $50,000 and 78% failed to exceed $25,000. He sold a dozen for a $19,500 average in Kentucky. The nine-year-old’s fee was $6,000 in 2014, $7,500 in 2015 and $4,000 this year. He’s the sire of Matron winner Snowstorm Hanover.

Explosive Matter averaged $22,385 for 39 sold. Three, or 8%, topped $50,000, while 64% failed to meet the $25,000 threshold. That’s not a desirable number. He’s up 22% from last year. The sire of Pinkman sold 15 for a $35,067 average in Kentucky. Explosive Matter stands for $7,500 in Pennsylvania.

Lucky Chucky sold 17 for a $15,353 average. Eighty-eight percent of them failed to top $25,000. The sire of NYSS champ Non Stick stands for $4,000. He was at $6,000 in 2015 and $7,500 in 2014. Chucky raced a Pennsylvania crop in 2016 but he’s now back in New York.

Joe FitzGerald

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pacing Sires In Harrisburg

Fifty-three percent of the yearlings sold in Harrisburg were by sires standing in Pennsylvania, so it’s no surprise that Hanover’s Somebeachsomewhere topped the ledger on the pacing side. Sixty of them averaged $74,400, up 8 % over last year, when a politically induced cloud hung over the proceedings. The son of Mach Three sold 21 fewer for a $123,615 average in Lexington.

Fifteen of them brought at least $100,000 (25%), with a pair topping $200,000. Contrast that with last year when six beat $100,000. Thirty-nine, or 65%, of the sixty sold brought at least $50,000, while 52 of them beat $25,000. The sire of Huntsville, Downbytheseaside, Check Six, Pure Country and Darlinonthebeach had a very good sale.

The 14-year-old New York sire, American Ideal, averaged $48,946 for 37 sold. A colt and four fillies, 11%, brought $100,000 or more, while almost a quarter of them topped $50,000. Twenty-six of the 37 beat $25,000. The sire of Funknwaffles, He’s Watching and Heston Blue Chip led the NYSS in both the two and three-year-old classes this year. Last year’s average jumped 28% from 2014 and it’s up another 31% this week.

Seventeen-year-old Mach Three sold ten yearlings this year, the same number as 2015 when his average increased by 38%. While he averaged a healthy $44,900 this week it represents a 14% drop from last year. Mach Three sold 47 in Harrisburg in 2014 so his presence has been reduced. Last year 70% topped $25,000; this year it was 90%. Consistency is the trademark of the leading 2016 pacing sire in the Ontario program.

The eight-year-old New York sire Roll With Joe saw his average increase 20% from last year to $39,887 for 21 sold. The sire of Racing Hill, who occupies the number two slot on the all horse earning’s list, experienced a similar sale pattern to 2015. One topped $100,000; five beat $50,000; and 66% sold for at least $25,000. Joe’s 2017 stud fee will increase by a third to $7,500.

Art Major, another New Yorker, sold 31 for an average of $38,371, down 6.5% from 2015. He also sold 31 in Lexington, for about the same average. Twelve, or 39%, topped $50,000 this week, but 32% of them failed to exceed $25,000. Seventeen-year-old Art Major saw his fee drop 17% to $10,000 in 2016. The sire of Roaring To Go ranked third in both classes of the NYSS.

Bettor’s Delight, who is second on the all pacer money list in 2016, presented a large offering of 58 that averaged $36,466. The 18-year-old sire of Betting Line and LA Delight has never sold as well as his offspring race. This crop, like last year’s, is Pennsylvania eligible. His average is up 16% over last year when it was down 27% from 2014 when he was still enrolled in the Ontario program. Again, there was political trouble last year. Three colts, or 5% of this year’s offering, topped $100,000. That’s a little light for a sire of his stature. Ten, or 17%, beat $50,000. That’s also a little light. And 57% topped $25,000. He fared much better in Lexington where 29 averaged $55,655. Bettor’s Delight’s 2017 fee has been increased from $12,000 cdn to $15,000 cdn.

Shadow Play outdid his provincial rival Sportswriter by $244 in their respective averages, as he came in at $36,458 for 24 sold. At Lexington it was Sportswriter who developed an average that was $378 better. This is a huge improvement of 50% over last year when five of thirteen failed to top $15,000. The 11-year-old sire of world champion Lady Shadow sold a pair for at least $100,000. A quarter of them beat $50,000 and more than 62% brought at least $25,000. Shadow Play only sold five in Lexington but he showed a 35% increase in his average over 2015. There were some dead years after his initial success, but he seems to be back in favor with the buyers. Sporty lover Casie Coleman bought four Shadow Plays in Pennsylvania.

Sportswriter, the nine-year-old sire of Sports Column, averaged $36,214 for 28 sold. That’s down 24% from what his small nine-horse offering averaged last year, and down 34% from what he sold nine for in Lexington last month. In Harrisburg ten, or 36%, topped $50,000, while 69% of them beat $25,000. Unlike Shadow Play, there were no six figure sales. Coleman bought five of them.

Ten-year-old Well Said has been afforded every opportunity to live up to his on track performance during his second career but with four crops racing it simply hasn’t happened, and that fact is reflected in the numbers. 58% of the 52 sold in Harrisburg failed to top $25,000. His average of $31,183 was up 6.5% over 2015 when he sold 61 here. He’s a high volume sire, but that isn’t always a good thing. A pair topped $100,000 and 21% beat $50,000. His best son, Pace winner Control The Moment, will stand in Ontario for $6,000 this year. Well Said’s fee was cut in half to $7,500 in 2016.

Western Ideal saw 23 average a disappointing $28,304, down almost 15% from last year, when he was off 10% from 2014. Eleven of his 12 fillies failed to top $25,000. Only three, or 13%, beat $50,000. More than 56% failed to exceed $25,000. The 21-year-old sire of Rocknroll Hanover and Artspeak stood for $7,500 in Pennsylvania in 2016.

Rock N Roll Heaven is in the same boat: despite a few successful fillies, like Sassa Hanover and Divine Caroline, it just hasn’t happened for him. This is a New York crop but he now resides in New Jersey. Twenty-seven averaged $27,444. Forty-four percent of them failed to top $25,000; one beat $100,000; while five exceeded $50,000. This is up more than 36% from last year when 38 averaged a disappointing $17,447 in Harrisburg. He’ll have another New York crop next year before switching to New Jersey eligibility. It’s hard to see how that will help.

Seven-year-old world champion A Rocknroll Dance got a chilly reception for his first crop in Harrisburg. Twenty-five averaged $22,120. One topped $50,000; nine beat $25,000; and 67% of them failed to crack $25,000.

Betterthancheddar is another first crop sire who failed to elicit a warm embrace from buyers. Nine from his only New York crop averaged $19,722. Seventy-eight percent of them failed to top $25,000. Contrast that with his excellent $50,875 average for eight sold in Lexington. Three-quarters of them topped $50,000. Go figure? The son of Bettor’s Delight stands in Ontario for $3,500 cdn.

Twenty-one- year old Artiscape saw seven average $17,286. Eighty-six percent failed to beat $25,000. He stands in New York for $4,000.

So Surreal, the first son of SBSW to arrive at the yearling sales, is a head scratcher. The five-year-old saw 11 average an underwhelming $12,091, and that’s with a $42,000 outlier thrown into the mix. Needless to say, the other ten failed to top $25,00. As is the case with Betterthancheddar, we have an inconsistent situation, as three colts and a filly by the half to Well Said averaged $60,000 in Lexington.

Joe FitzGerald

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Development Way Too Late.

Whoopee Do!  Monmouth Park Horsemen announced last night its support for Proposition 1 on the New Jersey Ballot, the one which allows the expansion of casino gaming outside of Atlantic City.  This support comes after a deal was reached between Jeff Gural and the NJ Thoroughbred horsemen on the division of revenue should the Meadowlands get gaming.

I wonder if everyone involved looked at the calendar?  Coming to a deal the night before the vote is meaningless, especially when one considers it is just a question of how badly the referendum is defeated.  If there was any chance this development was going to be a factor, it had to happen much earlier in the campaign season.

Anyway, the deal calls for Gural to give $30 million a year to be split evenly between the two breeds for purses and gives Monmouth Park an additional $5 million towards their operating expense.  Lastly, Gural would contribute $2 million a year towards converting the main track for thoroughbred racing starting in 2019.

Shame on the thoroughbred horsemen for withholding their support until it became meaningless.  I realize it is all about negotiating the best deal possible but their support shouldn't have been predicated on Gural putting more on the table.  I understand the need to get a concrete deal in place but it could have been done after (if) the referendum passed.  After all, a refusal to come to an agreement before licensing was granted, would have been an opportunity to derail a Meadowlands'  licensing bid if necessary.

Here is an election prediction:  This deal is going to be gathering dust, at least for two more years.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Day One At Harrisburg

Eighty-eight fewer yearlings were sold on day one at Harrisburg than there were in 2015, and the emphasis on quality over quantity resulted in a 41% increase in the average.

Last year Muscle Hill sold 32 more yearlings in Lexington than he sold at Harrisburg, and his average at the Kentucky sale was 39% higher. This year he sold 52 in Lexington for an impressive $114,385 average. The $800,000 fetched for the full brother to Mission Brief was certainly no anchor on that average. Twenty-two of them topped $100,000—that’s 42%.

The King of the trotting ranks still sells the bulk of his stock in Kentucky as 21—or 31 fewer than were available at Lexington Selected—are for sale in PA this year. All but three of them sold today and they averaged $168,833. Five of the nine colts brought at least $200,000, and there were a couple in the $400,000 range as well as a $350,000 colt in the mix. Seven of the nine fillies sold today topped $100,000. The cheapest on both sides was $47,000. 

Jimmy Takter paid $410,000 for Story Time Hanover, a colt out of Shared Past, a three-quarter-sister to Dejarmbro. And Perry Soderberg signed the $350,000 slip for You Know You Do, the first foal—a colt—from I Want You. Determination Montreal handed over 400 large for Hey Jack, a colt out of Sugar Wheeler, a half-sister to Wheeling N Dealin. And Ake Svanstedt spent $270,000 on Drum Hanover, a half-brother to Lauderdale. And Jeffrey Snyder gave $245,000 for a three-quarter brother to Time To Kill who is also half to Blenheim.

Muscle Hill’s closest competitor on day one was Cantab Hall, who averaged a nifty $78,304 for 23 sold. Also, Donato Hanover averaged $70,571 for seven sold. Unlike Muscle Hill, Cantab has 18 left to sell.

Somebeachsomewhere was the leader on the pacing side as he averaged $88,538 for 39 sold. He still has 35% of his offering left to sell. Last year in Harrisburg SBSW sold 50 for a $59,760 average.

SBSW averaged $123,615 for 39 sold at the Lexington Selected Sale, so this should be the second year in a row that Harrisburg brings up the rear. Today’s offering was led by the $260,000 paid for a half-brother to Betting Line and the $230,000 given for a half-brother to American Jewel and Luck Be Withyou. In Lexington a filly out of Put On A Show went through the ring for $550,000 while a colt out of Darlin’s Delight brought $450,000.

Ron Burke took home four colts and a filly by SBSW. They ranged in price from $30,000 to $140,000.  Jimmy Takter paid $130,000 for a filly out of Kiss Me Kate, while Peter Blood gave $165,000 for a colt from the same family.  

Last year the Harrisburg average wasn’t helped by the 61 Well Said yearlings that averaged a disappointing $29,164. He had his first high profile success this year in the form of Control The Moment, who won the Pace and Cane, but his season and career were cut short by injury. Well Said averaged $45,182 for eleven sold today. The problem is, he has 41 more to sell. A filly out of L Dees Lioness brought $100,000.

Bettor’s Delight sold eleven from his second and final Pennsylvania crop. They averaged a shade under $60,000. Two of his colts brought $125,000.  The nomadic sire of Betting Line and LA Delight had a disappointing sale here in 2015 as 59 averaged $30,695. Last month he averaged $55,655 for 29 sold in Lexington. He has 47 more available in Harrisburg.

Kadabra averaged $58,500 for eight sold today. He topped out at $80,000. He has a dozen more to sell. He averaged $72,950 for 20 sold here last year; that was up 46% from 2014. Six brought at least $100,000 last year. The 17-year-old son of Primrose Lane sold eleven in Lexington for a $82,091 average.

Joe FitzGerald

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Peace in Our Time?

News comes to us that Scarborough Downs in Maine is up for sale, most likely for a purpose other than continuing horse racing.  A closure of Scarborough shouldn't surprise anyone as the track has been warning about the threat to its survival for years in addition to its multiple attempts to get expanded gaming at the track.  Management has apparently thrown in the towel so in all likelihood, it is just a matter of when, not if, the track closes for good.

Is this the last season of racing or will management continue to race until the track is sold?  We will see.  Probably the worst thing about the imminent closure of the raceway is other than those who work or race at the track, its passing will probably be greeted with a 'ho-hum'.  This is how marginalized racing has become in the gambling world.

Last night at the Meadowlands, Modest Prince, ridden by Helene Gregory set a new North American race record of 1:56.3 in the RUS America Trot.  It probably won't be tomorrow, but I suspect Moni Maker's time trial mark of 1:54.1 set at the Red Mile will be bested before the end of this decade.

Joe Faraldo and Jeff Gural were at it once again in Harness Racing Update, dueling over the issue of horsemen contributing a portion of their purse account towards marketing.  After reading the positions each side make, it seems to me an easy solution is there for the taking.  While I am reasonably certain peace will come in the Middle East before these two stop feuding, I am going to try to state the obvious:  How about both sides put up equal shares into a marketing plan with horsemen and track operators jointly deciding how the money should be used.?   If the committee comes to a joint decision, they spend the money and failing that, the money is carried over to the next year  If the track and horsemen don't agree, whoever wants to spend marketing money on a different ides is free to spend other money on an marketing proposal.

Seems easy to me.  Whaat do you say?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Gural Outlines Meadowlands 2017 Stakes

A press release from Jeff Gural explains the future of the Meadowlands Stakes season for 2017.  In this case, I have decided to print the press release verbatim.

East Rutherford, NJ - I would like to thank those of you who participated in our many stakes races this season. The battles between Wiggle it Jiggleit and Always B Miki have been quite thrilling with one more round coming up in next Saturday TVG Championship. In general, I thought we offered a wide array of sires stakes, small stakes and major stakes with total stakes purses for 2016 amounting to over $17.8 Million, including the Breeders Crown.

Jeff Gural (Photo Courtesy Meadowlands)
As the stakes season winds down and we face the reality that the referendum is likely to lose because of the clever approach the opposition took tying this into a vote on whether you trust the politicians in Trenton, it is clear that we have to be in this for the long haul. It is only a matter of time before we succeed in this effort but it could take as long as six years until all seven casinos open in New York.

As I previously stated, we have overpaid the purse account by approximately $6 Million and my original plan was to drastically reduce the stakes program to recover this money. After seeing the strong showing in Lexington at the sale, I had a change of heart and decided it was important to maintain the majority of our stakes. We have also agreed to host next year's Fall Final Four races for two-year olds when we open in mid-November of 2017. 

We decided to reach out to the participants who benefit from our facility and our strong stakes program by trying to get sponsors for all our stakes. As Harrisburg approaches, I am pleased to say that the response from the industry has been quite positive and I am reasonably certain by the end of the stakes season next Saturday with the $1.2 million TVG finals we will have lined up sponsors or co-sponsors for all of our stakes.

I am also very pleased to report that we have received sponsorship support from the Meadowlands drivers colony, the veterinarians practicing in NJ, major breeders, owners, trainers and others who benefit from keeping our stakes program close to where it was this year, with the exception of the Breeders Crown which is going to Hoosier.

As far as our long term future, I have reached out to my major partners and we all agree we are in this for the long haul.  I am in the process of reworking our debt, so no one should be worried that this likely defeat at the polls will affect the long-term survival of the Meadowlands.

I remain concerned about the horse shortage as fewer and fewer mares are being bred each year.  The fact that unlike Canada we do not work together to adjust for the horse shortage and instead  hurt ourselves by racing as many races as possible and as many days as possible.  We should sit down and address this problem together for the good of the sport. 

The other mistake is the failure of the states that do subsidize the sport to insist that a percentage of the slots money be used for marketing.  The law I helped write in NY requires that the racino owners spend a minimum of 10% of their VLT revenue on marketing.

In the end people will look back at that decision as the single biggest mistake ever made by any business and the result will be devastating to our young participants.  The sad part is I bet if we took a vote the horsemen would support that concept overwhelmingly but we have no Commissioner to head us in the right direction.

In any case, for those of you looking to buy a yearling next week rest assured that our stakes program will be strong and we are here to stay.

Jeff Gural

Friday, November 4, 2016

Pena Revocation Tossed, For Now at Least

By a 4-1 vote, a New York appeals court has tossed all the charges against Lou Pena which resulted from the NYSGC getting medical records of the NJ veterinarian via the NJRC.  The reason for the rulings being tossed?  The veterinarian whose billing records these were refused to confirm the dates listed were in fact treatment days.  Without those dates being confirmed, the majority ruled the case against Pena fell apart because for all we knew those were billing dates or dates posted haphazardly.  One judge dissented from the opinion claiming a reasonable person could assume the dates listed were treatment dates, hence would not have reversed the NYSGC ruling,

Don't count on seeing Pena racing in New York anytime soon though.  One may expect the NYSGC to appeal this decision plus Pena would still have to reapply for a new license, no guarantee the NYSGC would issue him one.  Even with a license, it is safe to assume Pena would not be welcome at any Gural-operated tracks and his return to Yonkers is not guaranteed either.

I am no fan of Mr. Pena, but the law is the law.  I have other problems with how this case was handled but the judges have decided the dates are speculative without corroboration of the veterinarian.  Call it the Veterinarian Block.

The sad thing about this is racing loses out for Pena rightfully or not, will be known for what he was charged for.

I guess this is what happens when you have a 'Get X' campaign.  In a rush to get Pena, they made a sloppy mistake whereas if they took their time, they may have gotten their man if he was indeed violating the medication rules.  As a result, everyone suffers.

IF You Can't Beat Them, Join Them

Newsflash:  ADWs are eaating racetracks for lunch.

Well, if you are a regular reader of this blog or follow the racing industry to any degree, this is not news to you.  When considering size, ADWs are taking wagers on horse racing without having to put on any product with relatively low overhead when compared to racetracks.  Many people don't go to the track even if it is down the street because it is convenient for them to stay home.   Go to the track and you will find post time lag frustrating if not infuriating.  When at home you may be irked by post time lag, but you have the option to change the signal to another track and return to your original signal when the race actually will go off.  

Some may argue the ADWs has helped racing.  With the money wagered through ADWs, some tracks have handles which they could never imagine on their own.  Just look at Monticello Raceway as an example; it is one of the highest handles in the United States among harness tracks but what good is the increase in revenue if tracks and horsemen are getting 1.5% each?  The only way racing is going to survive is by competing against the ADWs at their own game.

Start and ADW.  This means developing a brand and then expanding it through the nation..  It means offering rebates as the big ADWs are doing.  We aren't talking about bringing down the TVGs and Twinspires, it means joining them at their own game.  

What good is having your own ADW?  It means keeping a lot more of the pie; the percentage of income going to the ADWs will stay with the tracks and horsemen.  Not that you will get it all back, after all we are talking about competing against the existing ADWs, competing being the big word and keeping a larger part of the bet than you are getting right now.

You may be saying, "Wait a minute, my local track has its own ADW, isn't this what you are talking about?".  Of course you want your local wagering coming through you but most of the money being bet on our product is coming from other states.  Tracks need to expand their ADWs into the states pumping up their pools.

NYRA gets this.  Their NYRA Bets has now entered California growing its market area.  Now to be fair, most tracks are not the size of NYRA so it is hard to see Boondock Downs offering a national ADW, but Boondock Downs and a number of other harness tracks can join together and go national.

It won't happen many of you are saying.  Racetracks are owned by gambling companies and they will be happy to get rid of racing is the general consensus.  Under the current model this is indeed true.  But what would happen if they were part of a nation-wide ADW which made racing a break-even or a profit center?  This would interest them.  What we need is a group to come up with the business case for an ADW operated by a consortium of harness tracks and have the tracks sign-up. 

It is often the first step which is the hardest, will anyone step up and take control?