For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Who Said This?

Who said the following comments?  They all were said by the same individual.

“I have seen a lot of sport over my career but I’ve never seen a sports industry that is so fragmented”.
“They have to work together. There is not a lot of ‘team’ going on here. It’s all about individuals and individual concerns. But you don’t save an industry by saving your own skin".
“We challenge the industry to work more collaboratively than ever before because, if the same destructive behaviors we have heard about throughout this review persist, then this puts the industry at grave risk at a time when it may be at its weakest.”

You could probably think of several people who may have said this, but truth is while these comments could describe the American (and arguably the Canadian) harness racing industry, these comments were not made by an American, these are the words of Brian Cunningham, the leading administrator for Harness Racing SA (South Australia) in describing the situation facing the industry in his part of the world.
It goes to show you different areas have similar problems.  Whether America, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, .... well, you get the idea.  All areas which have problems with harness racing.  It also makes sense the solutions are probably similar if not the same.  So what are the proposed solutions? 
Cunningham  came up with some recommendations such as having all the tracks fall in line and follow the direction of the governing body (with HRSA having more power than they currently do).  We can go through all the recommendations but this is something you can do at your own leisure.

Yes, racing in the United States is legally framed differently than in Australia, but with some work, we can get close to proposals in the South Australian report.
The point is, there comes a time when horsemen, tracks, and breeders have to give up their provincialism and accept the fact each segment of the industry depends on the other for success; it is time to think in terms of 'we', not 'me'.  
I am not suggesting the USTA commission another study; they have already generated Zielinski Report 1 and the sequel, Zielinski Report #2.  You can see how the recommendations were carried out; very little.  I suggest those in the American harness racing industry read the Australian report and see what parts are applicable (or can be made to be applicable) to the American market.  I suspect a good part of the report applies.  We just need each segment of the industry to have their visionaries work together.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Friday NightStakes/Road Trip - Fraser Downs

For tonight's inaugural edition of Friday Night Stakes/Road Trip, we go straight across the continent to Fraser Downs in Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada for the Keith Linton Memorial.

You may be asking why would we do this?  Well, in British Columbia, this is the only unrestricted stakes race open to 3yo pacing colts and geldings the whole year and if we bring attention to racing off the beaten path, why not do it?  The purse is a healthy $75,000, no small change wherever you race.

Anyway, let's analyze the race and see if we can land us a winner.

Friday, April 21, 2017

9th Pace - Fraser Downs - $75,000; Keith Linton Memorial (3yo C&G) Final

1  American Dreamer (Kelly O Hoerdt, 4-1) - Horse started the year of at the Meadowlands where he qualified in 1:56.1 before being sent west.  Won a race at Northlands Park and Century Downs and finished second in his elimination.  Looks like he can improve with move to rail.  One of the main contenders and my pick.

2  Beer O Clock (John D Chappell, 5-1) - Finished 2nd in his elim.  Winner of 3 for 7 this year.  Best efforts have been on the engine so expect this one to try to wire the field.

3  Mateo (James J Burke, 6-1) - Another representative of Alberta, made season debut in his elimination and finished a credible third.  Will need to improve to factor in race.  I will pass.

4  Wonder Bull (J Brandon Campbell, 10-1) - Would be a huge shocker to do something here.  Pass.

5  Senga Nitro (Ryan Grundy, 7-2) - Winner of $74K in last five starts, including his elimination in 1:56.3, his seasonal debut.  Clearly the one to beat on paper.  My concern is most of his action has been in Alberta-restricted races.   Figures to try to track #6.  Will he bounce?  Could be.  Will take a stab elsewhere.

6  Da Magician (Serge Masse, 3-1) - Winner of his elimination in 1:56.2 but show a 1;53.4 victory in non-winners of 6 races lifetime.  Seemingly one dimensional front runner.  Logical favorite.  Can't fault.

7  Milbanks Bar (Rod Therres, 12-1) -  Well beaten fourth.  Another one to toss.

8  Mach Steady (Paul B Davies, 15-1) - Bad form, bad post.  Need I say more?

9  Bakardi Gold (Jim R Marino, 8-1) - Finished third to #6.  Draws poorly but has raced well of late.  Don't ignore in exotics as figures to land share.

10  Fanchastic (Scott L Knight, AE) - Lowest money earner in field.  Nothing to recommend.  If he scratches in, it would be a shocker for him to win.  A toss.

Selection: 1-6-2-5

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Vernon on Ice

News broke earlier today that Vernon Downs will not open their race meet as scheduled on Friday, April 21 in a dispute with the state over taxes, specifically the tax rate the casino pays.  Since the opening of the Yellow Brick Road, Lago, and Rivers casinos, Vernon Downs loses roughly $150K a month when they aren't racing.  With racing a money loser, there is no way Vernon can open their race meet if the racino is already in the red before they start.

The track says they will open once they are given assurances relief is coming, willing not to wait until the legislation is signed but if relief is not forthcoming, it may be the death knell of racing, if not for the entire racino facility.

In a possibly-related subject, there is an apparent shortage of horses already stabled on the grounds.  Were racing to begin on schedule, with the current horse population, it may be hard to get two race cards per week scheduled.  Whether it is a case of horsemen hearing rumors of a stalemate with the state and the related uncertainty surrounding the tracks viability, who knows.  After all it is rumored many trainers, who were dissatisfied with the carding of Miracle Mile races and the way other races were combined to fill fields, are not planning on returning.

Right now Vernon Downs is on ice.  If things don't improve all around, it may be going into the deep freeze.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Rebate Envy?

Well, the last post had some good comments and then a nerve appears to have been hit regarding the subject of rebates.  There is the argument that rebates are needed to allow big gamblers to 'win' versus the more recreational bettor who resent these players are given an advantage they don't get.

My personal feeling as an admittedly recreational player is offering rebates to whales while the little guy has to play against the full rake is patently unfair.  Yes, I know in the business world volume rebates are0 part of the pricing scheme but it seems to be wrong here.  If tracks can offer rebates to the whales, they should cut the takeout so everyone gets the benefit.  Quite honestly, if it wasn't the fact I enjoy harness racing, I would have stopped playing the horses a long time ago because of the 'unfair' advantage some players are given.  The fact there isn't another gambling game I like is another reason I still play the trotters.

Mind you, the issue of rebates for players involves all forms of horse racing, it is not a unique harness racing issue but one has to wonder with racing trying to attract new horseplayers, what chance does it have to attract knowledgeable gamblers when they find out they are playing against gamblers who get rebates while they get none.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Time to Close the Passing Lane

Well, if the comments from horseplayers and industry insiders are any indication, it's time to get rid of the passing lane.  Clearly the passing lane has tapped down the number of horses willing to rough it and make moves during the race, being more content to sit in the pocket.  Couple this with the slot-infused purses which make a risky move a potentially expensive risk, the game has become predictable, complete with low payoffs.

Yet, who will be the first track to eliminate the passing lane (the question posed in the other blog entry was prompted by a request of an anonymous industry group)?  More importantly, will even one passing lane be closed?  For an industry which seems to be scared to make any moves, it would be an act of courage to eliminate the passing lane.  The ironic thing, with most tracks now gaining the benefit of slots, what is the real risk of making a mistake with regards  to the passing lane?  If no track will be the first one to eliminate the passing lane, how can we expect the industry to make any significant changes?

I challenge racetracks to close the passing lane.  The physical cost to change the track initially doesn't need to be expense, just buy a bunch of construction cones and put them down along the course where the passing lane would be to close it off and if it turns out getting rid of the lane was a mistake, all which is needed is to pick up the cones; if it is a success, then a more permanent closure of the passing lane can be done.

Let's see which (if) track is not afraid of their own shadow.