For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Parx Strikes Out for the Bettor, Are Harness Tracks Stepping Up?

Parx Racing has instituted new rules effective June 1 (not retroactive) in an effort to protect the wagering public from drug cheats and hidden ownership.  Any trainer who gets three drug positives (fine or suspension) or two drug suspensions within a 365 day period will find their stall privileges  revoked and  be evicted from the track, presumably unable to enter any horses at the track  In addition, any horse which tests positive will be subject to a 45 day suspension and will not be able to be sold or transferred to anyone else who stables at Parx.  If the horse is sold, it must be removed from the track property.

As for hidden ownership, any trainer who misrepresents the ownership of a horse which is actually owned in full or in part will find their stall assignments revoked as well as be reported  to the racing commission.

Say what you want about suspending a horse from competition but owners hire trainers and they must be found culpable along with the trainer and if this means the horse is put in jail for 45 days so be it (they are free to race elsewhere).

Now granted, with most thoroughbreds stabled at the track. the denial of stalls makes it easier to punish trainers as most standardbred tracks no longer have on-track stabling, but most tracks lack the will to evict trainers.  It should be noted this new policy was formulated with the local horsemen organization; and it will apply only after all appeals have been exhausted (i.e. due process).

With regards to horse ownership, there have been complaints of horses racing under hidden ownership.  Whether the issue is as big as some complain is up for debate but trainers (and owners)  who misrepresent horse ownership are committing a fraud and they should be expelled as well.

My question is which harness tracks are going to step up on behalf of the bettor?

It is good to know the horsemen and track are working together in the name of integrity but they are bound to be disappointed as these steps are being done to increase racing handle which they feel should be higher.  Here is where they are wrong.  If they want to increase handle, they should revisit their takeouts and reduce the 30% rake on trifectas and superfectas in addition to their 26% vig on pick-x wagers.  (For the record, the Meadows takes 25% on trifectas and superfectas; Harrah's Philadelphia 30% trifecta and 32% superfectas; Pocono Downs 25% pick-x and high-fives and 30% on trifectas and superfectas).  The takeout rates for all wagers at Pennsylvania tracks may be found here.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What Could Have Been; The Old Man Wins the Elitlopp

I was watching the Elitlopp broadcast today and thoughts of "What Could Have Been?" came to mind as I took the Swedish spectacle in.

What could have been if we didn't emphasize two and three year old racing?  Timoko was the victor of the Elitlopp at the tender age of 10 years old.  The average age of the Elitlopp competitors was 6.875 years old with the youngest being 5 and the oldest 12 (Spring Erom).  Recognizable horses bring their own fan clubs with them to race, bring patriotism to the forefront, you would have thought you were watching the World Cup soccer tournament.

How could these horses breed if racing?  Timoko spends part of his time in the breeding shed and it turns out one of his off-spring, Dreammoko, raced on the Elitlopp card in a race for 4 year olds.  No, you wouldn't be able to breed a full North American book but you would be able to breed and race at the same time, continuing to connect with your fans as well as providing horses for yearling sales.

What could have been if we gave the public what they wanted?  The entire day was spent listening to the roughly 35-40,000 in attendance having a great time.  Chanting, clapping, singing all day long.  I realize not every event in Sweden has a crowd as large or boisterous, but the fact you people coming to the races for a good time is important.  Yes, they probably didn't bet much but they give something just as important as betting, relevance.  The sport is relevant in Sweden (and other European countries) so it gets covered; it's not a sport being contested in isolation.

Now I realize the North American model of breeding means horses will stop racing as soon as possible to go to stud if there is a chance of commercial success; this is part of the American mind-set.  This is something we won't change, but we certainly could give the American horse player what they want.  Racing with action, not just the same old same old race.  Races with different distances (I know we won't go with vault starts) and more horses in races for betting purposes (one or two races today had 15 horses going to post).  Lastly, a truly entertaining experience.  These are things we could do but we refuse to do so.

To continue doing the same thing is irrational as it is self-destructive.  The question is when will the industry change to give the customers what they want?  I suspect things have to get a lot worse before it gets better.

As for the Elitlopp, lets review it.

The first heat was won by Bold Eagle as expected, winning in a mile rate of 1:49.8 mile rate.  It was an impressive mile as the Eagle was parked most of the way before he won like the champion he is.

After the elimination, people were ready to hand the trophy to the French trotter.

The second heat was won by Nuncio who led wire to wire but was challenged hard.  He crossed the wire in a mile rate of 1:52.4,  Timoko was in this heat and he managed to finish third.

With Nuncio's victory, the crowd got ready for the assumed battle between Nuncio and Bold Eagle.  Timoko was an after thought.  But then the race is won on the track, not on paper.

In the final, Timoko was the first to leave and he was wiring the field looking sharp but as they headed into the final turn that Bold Eagle and Nuncio would be challenging in the lane as they were stacked up three and four wide but clearly their first heat victories took it out of them.  Timoko, who finished third in his elimination obviously had enough left in the tank for the final and he was victorious in a 1:51 mile rate..

Timoko was the winner with Propulsion picking up place honors with American entry Resolve taking the show spot.  Bold Eagle finished fourth with Nuncio picking up the fifth spot.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Case for Dual Breed Meets

I recently viewed the commercial being shown in Ontario movie theaters for harness racing and my first thought was why don't we have a similar commercial to be shown in American theaters?  Then I realized such an endeavor would be a waste of money.

Sure from the backstretch view, harness racing is an exciting business and if presented properly, it would be an exciting gaming sport.  But let's not kid ourselves.  Run down facilities, expensive concessions, excessive time between races does not make an entertaining experience.  Of course, if we can fix these short comings, it would be a different story.

Leaving run down facilities and expensive concessions for another day, let's look at cutting down the time between races.  To fix the time between races issue, it probably would require a heretical step, a dual breed race card.  Whether partnering with quarter horse or thoroughbred interests. alternating races where one breed races while the other preps for their race thus keeping the time between races to a minimum.  There could be cross-breed and same-breed exotics satisfying those looking for a night out as well as single breed aficionados.  In addition to cutting down the time between races for gamblers, it may also be a solution for the horse shortage as you would only need no more than six races of any one breed on a given race day.

Over at US Racing, Ray Cotolo provides his list of seven standardbreds to watch in 2017.  Not only is it informative, but with Cotolo's wit makes his column an entertaining read.

Kratom!  Sounds like the latest Marvel Super Hero getting a television show but if you thought this, you'd be wrong.  It is a drug which Michael Weiner has been cited by the NYSGC for allegedly giving four of his horses racing at Monticello.  The board has suspended Weiner pending a hearing before the board where he faces the possibility of a license revocation and $25,000 fine.

It wouldn't be a Molson Pace race card without Foiled Again racing and this year is no different, except he is racing on the under card in a local Invitational Handicap.  It will be interesting to see if he can defeat a field of B-track horses.

There is a great weekend on tap of racing starting with Western Fair District's Molson Pace on Friday followed by the Lismore and Art Rooney at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday.  On Sunday, attention turns to Harrah's Philadelphia for a trio of Invitationals, the Betsy Ross  (FM Pace), Maxie Lee Memorial (Open Trot), and Ben Stafford Jr Memorial (Open Pace).   If you live near any of this tracks, it may be worth a visit to your track..

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tone Deaf about Whipping

Long time readers of this blog know my position on whipping; it is a problem which threatens the sustainability of this sport.  Whether banning or reducing the amount of whipping and enforcing the rules, something must happen before the animal rights people go on the attack.

I understand there are readers who disagree with me and others on this position.  The difference of opinions can be debated and hopefully an industry-wide compromise can be worked out but regardless of how you feel about whipping, most people realize it is a sensitive issue.  Highlighting heavy whipping is just plain stupid.

But then there are those who must be tone deaf or are merely going through the motions when it comes to promoting the sport.  Below is a video from 2012 which up to now is reachable from the 'Live Racing' page of Northville Downs' website ('Exclusive You Tube Videos').

We'll disregard who the driver in the video is, but to keep this video up (regardless of how old it is) doesn't serve the industry well.  It suggests an attitude of 'Who cares?

A webcam video of a driver in a race is a good idea.  One showing this type of whipping is a bad idea.  May I suggest losing this video and replacing it with one or a driver who is not as heavy-handed using the whip?


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Christen Me N Causes Heart Attacks; Wins North American PM Debut

Hearts were stopping in the simulcast world when Christen Me N was bet down to 3-5 only to jump off briefly before the start in his North American debut at Harrah's Philadelphia Sunday afternoon.  While he got back on stride quickly, it appeared he was rough gaited when a recall was called.  When he returned to the paddock, a quick equipment change was made.

Meanwhile, once the hearts started again, bettors had to make a decision as to whether or not to hold on to their wagers or cancel them to pass on the race or switch allegiances.  What to do?

Well, a good number decided to cancel their tickets, which for those who decided to hold pat was good as Christen Me N rose from 3-5 to 2-1.  His supporters were rewarded, though it was not the romp some may have been expecting.

When the starting gate opened, Christen Me was brought into the race conservatively, being off the gate when it opened.  By the time the field hit the quarter in :26.2, Tim Tetrick was able to get the 9 year old gelding into fifth along the wood after which Tetrick decided to move out half way through the second panel to get into fourth by the time they hit the second :55,4

It was the overland route indeed as the New Zealand was waiting for cover to develop which didn't happen until the field past the third station in 1:22.2.  Following Poisonous, Christen Me waited till the top of the stretch (a length behind the leader Always at My Place) to go four wide to come home the fastest of all to win by a head in a 1:51 mile with Poisonous winning a tight photo to finish second while Scott Rocks took show honors.

He is indeed a good one but it helped he was racing in non-winners of $21,000 in the last 5 starts class and not in top company, for I believe he would have gone down to defeat.  Of course,after that rough beginning, Tim Tetrick raced him conservatively.  /Once the Jo Ann Looney-King and Jim King are able to diagnose the cause of the rough start and Tetrick is able to race Christen Me all out, it will be interesting to see how good he really will be here in North America.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nickel Claimers

The Meadowlands has gone where it has never gone before with the standardbreds.  On Friday evening, there is a F&M conditioned tilt for non-winners of $2,000 in last five starts going for a purse of $5,000 and to top that (or is it bottom that?), Saturday has a race for $5,000 claimers going for a purse of $4,500.

It is obvious the Meadowlands is having a problem to attract horses to fill the card, but it is more a case of the horse shortage taking its toll.  One has to look at Vernon Downs and see they cancelled Friday's race card when only 55 horses entered the box, 25 horses short of what they typically need.  Vernon took those races and split them between Saturday and Sunday to fill out those two cards.

With the Meadowlands racing only two days a week, going to one day a week is not really an option.  Fortunately, with Freehold closing last week, the Meadowlands was able to card these races and draw some Freehold shippers up North.

Yes, it is a question of free competition and the lack of slots is hurting the Meadowlands greatly  The shame is if the race meets were coordinated, there would be no need to drop down to nickel claimers.  Unfortunately, the days of coordinating race meets seems to be a thing of the pass.

But while there will be those taking delight in the Meadowlands hard times, it is important to remember, with the exception of Mohawk, no harness track in North America will out-handle the Meadowlands.   We know which product the public prefers.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Adams Takes Lead in Hambletonian Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge

(May 9, 2017) –   With three legs and eight races contested in the Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge this past week, the possibility of the standings being shuffled existed and it turned out to be the case.  Once the dust settled Russ Adams moved up two places to claim the lead with a total of 329.31 points versus Rusty Nash’s 315.  Last week’s leader Matt Rose fell back to third with a total of 278.96 points. 

The key to this past week was Saturday’s (May 6) races at Freehold Raceway and the Meadowlands.  Favorites ruled the day and Adams and Terry Wilson jumped on the bandwagon, both tabbing five out of six winners.  While each had five winners, Adams’ selections paid $1.50 more than Wilson’s which allowed him to claim the lead. 

With the overwhelming majority of handicappers selecting Hannelore Hanover in the Miami Valley Distaff Trot on Sunday (May 7), none of the handicappers selected the winner Charmed Life.  The best the handicappers could do is pick up the crumbs with Hannelore’s second-place finish which meant having to settle for a net loss of $1.70  

Monday (May 8) afternoon was the opposite of Sunday’s outcome as Lady Shadow ($3.40) didn’t disappoint in the Chip Noble Memorial Pace.  While seven handicappers had the winner, it was Rusty Nash, the lone handicapper who selected second place Divas Image whose ($16.40, $7.80) dividends easily topped the favorite’s payoffs allowing him to finish in front for the day

Standings as of Monday, May 8, 2017 - Leg #15
Total Points Earned
Legs Won
Overall Net Profit
Russ Adams
Rusty Nash
Matt Rose
Gordon Waterstone
Bryan Owen
Michael Carter
Ray Garnett
Megan Maccario
Steve Horoky
Dennis O’Hara
Jay Hochstetler
Terry Wilson
Adam Friedland
Sally Hinckley
Anne Stepien
Ray Cotolo

Next Up:  Monday was the lone race for the week so with no contest races this weekend, the focus is on May 20 when the Graduate series kicks off at the Meadowlands.  The following week features the Ms. Versatility (Mohawk, May 22); Molson Pace (Western Fair District, May 26); Lismore and Art Rooney (Yonkers, May 27); Betsy Ross and Maxie Lee Memorial (Harrah’s Philadelphia, May 28).

The 2017 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge is sponsored by Adam Friedland, DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Ontario Harness Horse Association, Red Shores Charlottetown/Summerside, Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs, Wellbourne Farms, and WEG Entertainment.  The contest is administered by HANA Harness, the harness racing division of HANA, the Horseplayers Association of North America.  Fans may follow the challenge by visiting the contest site at http;//  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

An Example as to why the Sport has to Change

Yesterday, the HANA Harness-operated Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge had six contest races; three at Freehold and three at the Meadowlands.  Two of the handicappers selected five out of six winners, meaning they earned a fictional $2 win, place, and show payoff on each of their selected horses.  One of the handicappers finished off the board in the race they didn't hit, the other collected the show payoff.

So five out of six races?  Not bad, if these fictional wagers were real, the handicapper must have done pretty good.  So how did they do?

Handicapper A - +$10,90
Handicapper B - +   9.40 

My first thoughts when seeing how they did is, "You got to be kidding", win five races and lose one and you barely make a $10 profit.  Why bother?  Now granted, one day out of the entire contest schedule does not make a trend and a good handicapper would pick and choose their spots; betting more on certain races and bypassing others but these six stakes races are a prime example as to why new horseplayers gravitate to the runners.  Racing is too consistent and when you can typically eliminate the outside posts on a half mile oval, the prices reflect this consistency.  But form holds on well on the mile oval as well and it is illustrated in last night's Meadowlands card when seven of the eleven races were won by odds-on favorites.

Something has to change in the harness racing game to make it less predictable and get bigger payoffs if the sport wants to compete.