For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A New President is Selected

Congratulations to Russell Williams for being victorious in the USTA election for President.  In an overflow field of five candidates, Williams came out ahead in the second round of voting, defeating Joe Pennacchio who was the runner up.  Jason Settlemoir, Ryan Macedonio, and Fred Husdon were also rans in the contest.

Quite honestly, the outcome of the election didn't surprise me as Williams and Pennacchio both were establishment candidates, Williams likely having a better pedigree coming from Hanover Shoe Farms.  With Williams coming out on top and being establishment, don't expect any significant changes in the running of the organization.  At this point, I will leave it to the reader to decide if this is good or not, I will let the new President develop his own course and be judged accordingly.

The three change candidates ran up the track with Jason Settlemoir doing the best, but realistically he had a tough road to overcome being employed by Jeff Gural.  Like it or not, Gural is a lighting-rod when it comes to harness racing; you like him or not and I am sure that factored into the directors' consideration.

I am sure if the day come when Mr. Settlemoir works for a track other than the Meadowlands or Tioga and Vernon Downs, it will be a slam dunk for him to become President should he decide to pursue it.

It was no surprise the proposal to have 5% of slot revenue diverted to the USTA for marketing on a trial basis was soundly defeated.  While I feel slot revenue should be used for marketing, there was a fatal problems with the proposal, whose 5% was going to be used for marketing?  My understanding is the 5% would have come out of the horsemen's purse account.  Why are the track owners not being asked to contribute?  The proposal should have required the tracks and horsemen to both contribute 2.5% to the marketing effort.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Best Race of the Year Candidate and a Triple Crown Winner

The best race of the year thus far, and certainly a candidate for a global year end award, occurred Saturday evening in Australia where Lennytheshark was the victor in the $750,000(AUS) Miracle Mile at Menangle Park.  Racing on the outside the entire mile, the Shark was a nose victor in a 1:49.2 (tenths) mile.

What makes this victory so fantastic?  Lennytheshark was parked on the outside the entire mile with Lazurus tracking him going into the stretch with Inter Dominion champion Smolda down on the inside.  When a horse is caught uncovered on the outside in a :24.8 first quarter, one doesn't expect the horse to be around at the end.  At the top of the stretch, one would not have blamed the victor had he spit the bit out but he persevered with amazing determination.

Sweet redemption for the seven year old Shark who was scratched this season from the Inter Dominion due to a foot injury.

It should be noted the winning driver Steve Alford received a $400 fine for excessive whipping in the race.  Would Lennytheshark have held on without the excessive whipping?  Who knows, it is hard to prove something which didn't happen.  The one thing for certain is a $400 fine when the winning horse took down $450,000 is certainly not big enough; it becomes a cost of doing business.

I would be remiss not to congratulate Bold Eagle for winning this afternoon, the French Triple Crown by winning the Prix de Paris in a mile rate of 1:59 for the 4,150 meter (2 5/8 mile) race.  This victory makes the Eagle the first horse since 1976 to nail down the Crown (Prix d’Amerique, Prix de France and Prix de Paris), join horses like Gelinotte, Jamin, and the famous Bellino II.

Here is the history-making race:  If you are in a rush, go to the 4:30 point and look for the driver with the red silks in the outer tier.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mishandling the Glaucine Incident

Upon learning of the NYSGC's rulings regarding the glaucine affair, I initially thought they handled it properly.  They kept track of the positives but did nothing until research was conducted by various groups and the RMTC published standards.  The consortium came up with guidelines of those testing between 100-499 pg/ml having to test below that level before racing again; 500- 999 pg/ml being disqualified; 1 ng/ml or more resulting in a fine and suspension being issued.  Once the standard was published, the commission issued rulings resulting in one trainer being fined and suspended with others being disqualified.

But then, looking back, we see cases in Delaware and Maryland were handled differently.  In those states, the commissions ruled the contamination was environmental, with no penalties to be assessed.  Of course, their ruling came out in June, before the RMTC issued their advisory.

Was New York too harsh on those who came up with the glaucine positives or is it a case of the Delaware and Maryland racing commissions acting too quickly in dropping the positives on those horses which raced in those states?

I would likely side with Delaware and Maryland in this case.  How do you penalize someone whose only crime may have been using the wrong bedding for their horses?  Once it was known that glaucine is produced naturally in shavings from tulip poplar trees, the commission should have voided the positives up to that point and issued an advisory to the racing community advising them not to use those shavings in stalls; indicating penalties will be forthcoming on any future positives.

Regardless of which state you think handled the situation properly or not, it shows the problem of not having a nationalized medication policy.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Drive of the Year - British Style

First, the time-sensitive item.  The British Harnesss Racing Club (BHRC) is asking harness racing fans throughout the world to vote on the best drive of 2016 for their awards night.  Voting ends mid-day on February 14 (remember they are five hours ahead of the east coast.   The BHRC Drive of the Year is being sponsored by Tetrick Racing.  The six drives nominated for the award may be found here.

While I have my personal favorite in the race for USTA President, I won't be naming them in this column.  What I will do is list in alphabetic order the three candidates I feel would best serve the USTA.  My finalists are: Fred Hudson, Jason Settlemoir, and Russell Williams.  Still trying to select your candidate?  Harness Racing Update asks the five candidates five questions.  You may see their answers here.   Only USTA Directors will be able to vote in the election but if you are a USTA member, remember they represent YOU.  Make sure you let your director know which candidate you prefer.

Judging from the coverage in HRU, the Meadowlands is still the number one track in the United States.  Not for the coverage of the racing, but of Jeff Gural.  Clearly if the Meadowlands didn't really matter anymore, Gural wouldn't be getting much coverage (for and against).  I for one would like to read letters about other tracks, for and against, to see what they are doing wrong or doing right.  If you are looking at the short term, other tracks mean a lot if you race horses but if you are a gambler, odds are it is the Meadowlands and WEG tracks which matter.

I read in Friday's edition of HRU Marvin Katz's criticism of the Gural rule, in particular how much money he has lost as a result of 'the' rule.   Quite honestly, I don't buy it.  Yes, maybe he could have made more money if the rule didn't exist, but the rule has been in existence for several years now; it should have been factored in when he purchased (or bought into) these horses.

As for asking would such a rule apply in thoroughbred racing with American Pharoah?  Of course not, but then their problems aren't as bad as harness racing's; they have the publicity machine to make their stars known where even people who don't follow racing have heard of them.  Just look at all the conversations on the web every time California Chrome raced, his final race occurring at the age of six..

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The New Jersey Classic Condundrum

Since I began following the standardbreds, racetracks have always had the ability to cancel stakes due to financial concerns; sometimes the lack of entries would result in cancellations.  Horse owners never liked it, but it was part of racing.  This is nothing new, one could argue it is an understood risk of the horse business.  The industry has a standard in place to refund all nominations and fees to those who had horses still eligible.

The Meadowlands, which has financial issues threatened to cancel a good part of the stakes program this year but thanks to industry 'sponsorship', the majority of the program remains intact.  The NJ Classic and Miss New Jersey being two races which remain on the cutting board.  Yet lawyer Howard Taylor, has gone to the courts seeking an injunction to resurrect these stakes as if this is a new phenomenon; a revelation begging to ask "How could this happen"?  

Taylor claims his partners and him bought a horse specifically because it was eligible to the NJ Classic.  That may be the case.  However, if he has been following the horses since he has been twelve, he has seen stakes cancelled before and considering what has happened at the Meadowlands since the Atlantic City subsidies disappeared, this cancellation should not have shocked him.

Yes, to cancel the races, the conditions should indicate it may be cancelled (the conditions are not available for review) due to unforeseen circumstances.  I imagine if there was an oversight,  there may be a case for action but being races have been cancelled in the past and will in the future, understanding the situation, why would someone bother, especially since there is plenty of time to rearrange a horse's schedule.

All I can say is if I was Jeff Gural and I lost this suit, I would be surrendering the license at the end of the year and let New Meadowlands Racetrack, LLC file for bankruptcy; it would be the final stab in the back.  And no one could blame him.