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Showing posts from June, 2009

Tuesday Notes

Not too much happening, or catching my eye recently. However a couple of items....

The Woodbine Pick 6 (much to the chagrin of the WEG management crew I assume) was hit for the second week in a row. Only $52,000 was bet into it, and one happy punter walked away with $153,000. This is turning out to be one of the better bets for gamblers. These things do take time, and considerable effort. We'll see what some carryovers will do, but they better get some soon or one would think this new bet will be deep-sixed.

Still nothing for harness patrons. Trot contacted WEG about some sort of parallel harness bet, but no dice.

It appears there might have been a hoax news story published across the pond recently that had to be retracted. This link housed a story of a UK bettor who was said to have won 20M GBP over the past while, with some wild claims. For example, it was said he won a million or more GBP on a single race. This prompted a response from betfair to squelch this story.

We have been c…

Full Circle at the Cup

The 26th North America Cup is in the books. For most of the off-season, and in Greg's Top Ten here on the blog (kudos to Greg for having 8 out of the top ten starters in his series here) Well Said was at or near the top of the contender lists. After a couple of very flat efforts, he looked to be more than vulnerable. But it all came full circle. He won last night by 3, very easily. A few commentators spoke of the trip, but that was pretty inconsequential. He would have jogged from anywhere.

The race itself was pretty interesting. Steve Condren made the winning move with Keep it Real, and the colt raced well. First time driver Corey Callahan had Mr. Wiggles in a good position, as did Knuckles Brennan with the Brainard horse. I found Sears' drive curious. He tried to bull-rush Keep it Real, off a slow 54.3 half. Condren would have to be nuts to let him go. That move pretty much set up the flow horses to have a shot. I would surmise that he thought if he could clear, he could limb…

North America Cup Card - As Good as it Gets

Mohawk tends to get solid, yet unspectacular handles. Much of it has to do with the US/Canada thing, and bettors know that the rakes at Mohawk are not overly customer friendly. However, this card for fans of the sport of horse racing, simply rocks. It might be one of the best cards assembled anywhere, and will probably be the best harness racing card of 2009.

Race One: NA Cup Consolation II

Stinger Blue Chip for me (although I worry about the pace to chase, and a possible hard track favouring speed a little more than usual), but there are several possibles that make this a good betting race.

Race Two: Open Pacing Mares $44,000

The best mares in the country square off. Tough betting race. No opinion here.

Race Three: $333,000 Goodtimes Stakes

I loved the way Duded Up won last week, with a decent middle half and a ton left in the tank.

Race Four: $40k Preferred Pace

No FFA tonight, so these represent the best pacers on the grounds. Very tough race to handicap. One of the best 3YO pacers of 20…

North America Cup Analysis

Here is my take on the Cup Saturday. I will probably be playing this race as there is sure to be some value on the board.

1 - OK Borimir: Last weeks 30-1 was a bit long on this colt, but he remains a longshot. Luc will no doubt be looking for a slice of the $1.5M pot, and sitting the wood.

2 - Mr. Wiggles: Big shot, and the 15-1 ML is from Mars. This colt was impressive in the Hempt, paces sound as can be and is a legitimate threat to take all the marbles. He did not beat much in his elimination, but he went a huge first quarter on an off track, so he deserved to be a little tired.

3 - Dial or No Dial: Nice mile last week and strangely this guy has been lost in the shuffle a little bit. I think there is a chance that odds can be had on him and he might be underbet. Huge shot to take it down.

4 - If I Can Dream: I have no idea what to make of this horse. He does not look world class by any stretch, but he got the job done last week and won in a walk. He woke up when he entered the Brainard…

North America Cup Field is Set

Drawmaster Brian Burke, GM of the NHL powerhouse Toronto Maple Leafs, did his deed and the Cup field is set:

Post Position - Horse - Driver - Trainer - Morning Line Odds
1 - OK Boromir - L. Ouellette - F. Baker, Jr. - 15-1
2 - Mr Wiggles - C. Callahan - B. Teague - 15-1
3 - Dial Or Nodial - B. Sears - Ji. Campbell - 4-1
4 - If I Can Dream - G. Brennan - T. Brainard - 5-1
5 - Well Said - R. Pierce - S. Elliott - 2-1
6 - Keep It Real - S. Condren - J. Shea - 3-1
7 - Art Colony - Jo. Campbell - C. Coleman - 8-1
8 - Chasin Racin - D. Miller - B. Teague - 20-1
9 - Annieswesterncard - Ti. Tetrick - T. Deters - 25-1
10 - Millionaire Cam - J. Jamieson - T. O'Sullivan - 30-1
AE1 - Arctic Warrior - TBA - B. Wallace - TBA

Mystery Pollsters and Get Going on Fair Starts

This weeks Hambletonian Poll is out. Last year we had some fun here with that poll in a couple of ways. Namely, 'how could a horse being compared to Niatross poll second for most of the year'. But we also had something else that made us pause in wonderment - the mystery Mr. Big voter.

Each week, Beach would get X number one votes, Dewey would get the rest, except for one vote. Each week, no matter what happened (even the week that Beach set the World Record) this one voter would place his number one vote in favour of Mr. Big.

Well, he's back.

Lucky Jim got 32 out of 33 first place votes. Mr. Big? Well he got one. I would love to know who this guy is. Does he own a piece of Mr. Big? Was he once invited to Joe Muscara's beach house? Does he have a share in his dam? Or does he just really, really, really love Mr. Big?

Mr. Big has now raced twice. He is 1 for 2. I wonder if he loses a few in a row if this mystery voter will still have him as his top choice?

Alan over at his h…

North America Cup Elims in the Books; On Track Recap

Last night at Mohawk the eliminations for the North America Cup were contested. The weather early in the evening was fine, although a little chilly, however when race 7 rolled around, Bethpage Black showed up, and it got pretty soupy. Overall it was a very good evening of racing.

In elim one I felt that Well Said could not "flip the switch" and be better this week, which was dead wrong. I think the connections, although publicly not saying anything, were quite concerned with his two flat efforts, the evidence being they changed both hind shoes to aluminum. Whatever happened, he was a different horse. East coast horse Keep it Real raced very well to be second.

Elimination two, on paper was Dial or No Dial's race to lose, and he did not disappoint. OK Borimer, with Luc O's buddy and blog contributor Greg standing in front of me with a fist pump, came second in a good effort to make the final at 30-1 odds.

Elim three was where I was going to take a poke at Arctic Warrior.…

NA Cup Elimination Picks

Here are mine. I am wondering if anyone likes anything tomorrow?

Elim 1:

Keep It Real

- Looking for some value here with a gate leaver, who should be spotted nicely for a decent trip. He fired home well last time.

Elim 2:

Dial or No Dial
Stinger Blue Chip
Johnny Z

- I will probably play Stinger here as he should be pretty long odds. This is not a deep field, so Dial or No Dial might get things his own way and be uncatchable, however.

Elim 3:

Arctic Warrior
Passmaster Hanover
Sheer Desire

- It is a shame to see so many decent colts in the same division. Arctic Warrior has a real shot here I think with a trip at long odds.

Elim 4:

Mr. Wiggles
Vintage Master
Drop Red

- I think I will get a nice price on Mr. Wiggles and will swing.

Good luck to everyone tomorrow!

Wondering About the Woodbine 150K Pick 6, But I Know it is a Green Light Bet

Woodbine has added a new twist to the thoroughbreds for the upcoming Sunday's, starting with the Queen's Plate - a $150k guaranteed pick 6.

This is a wonderful opportunity for gamblers but I just have one problem with it - I don't think it is going to work. I can not see them getting close to that number in the pools, and I would suspect that the execs will be cheering for one thing each time it is offered. A carryover.

We'll see what happens this weekend and next, but I have not seen the splash needed (through a web based marketing program on the HRF ad network etc) to make this catch fire. With it being only once a week there is a strong possibility of a carryover, and that is no doubt the plan, so let's hope for a carryover this weekend and some buzz (or hope I am completely wrong which is a fair possibility as you all know :)) because we want tracks to try things like this and we want them to succeed. If this was 10 years ago a place like WEG would not even enter…

Life is Now a Subset

Alan of Left at the Gate has never been a big fan of the Twitter and the twinkies, and I certainly respect that opinion. For some it is just asinine. For others however, it is not, and I think it is something that will be a part of racing on the internet for a long time to come, because of that subset.

I remember stock trading in the 1990's with my 56.6 modem cranked up to full speed. I hooked into a small cap volume alert thread at the growing and soon-to-be-popular Silicon Investor website. A trader or two, or a stay at home mom not even trading, had a their volume alerts set and would enter a trade based on them. They would post the potential mover, and a few of us would add it to our screens. I lived on that site for a couple of years. Real time stock trading was born on sites like this all over the world.

The key was that there was a subset of people who wanted to do this. They were "The Long Tail" of stock trading. It worked, and it grew into a phenomenon.

We are slo…

Stakes Night in Canada - NA Cup Eliminations

Sliding under the radar of this weeks Queens Plate are the elims for the North America cup, at Mohawk.

The elims have been drawn, and the hodge-podge that has been a staple this year is no more apparent than the four divisions. Divisional elims usually result in a top four or five finishers in each division advancing. Not this year.

In elim one, Keep it Real draws a terrible post. We'll see if Well Said can turn on a switch and somehow be better, which I doubt. I can't find a thing to play in this elimination. Seeing it is the superfecta, that annoys me. The Hoosier horse raced well last time, and that surprised me a bit. We'll see how he does.

In elim two we have another enigmatic division. I would guess Dial or No Dial should do well here, but last week's third place finish in the NJSS final does not inspire confidence. He will probably win, but he'll be overbet.

Elim three is by far the deepest. There are several 150 and change types here, and several horses that by…

You Too Can Be a Harness Blogger

Standardbred Canada gets something like 8 gazillion hits, or so my sources tell me. And they are looking for a blogger.

I would like to see some harness blogs. I think it would be a hoot if more folks in the business blogged.

Randy Waples: A blog about how to answer a question from Greg Blanchard in 1,000 words or more
Ron Pierce: A blog about how to answer a question from Greg Blanchard in five words or less
The OHHA Blog: "How to win friends and influence people"
Bob Hollywood Heyden: The "I am taller than every harness driver I have interviewed" blog
The Sadinsky Blog: "How I wrote a paper on fixing harness racing and everyone used it as tinder" (ed note: This could be about any white paper ever commissioned by harness racing)
The Yannick Gingras Fan Club Blog: By the Hambo Society's Moira Fanning
The 0.700 UTRS Off the Claim Trainer Blog: "Shoeing tips"
The Birthing and Smiths Concert Harness Racing Blog: Kelly Spencer (whoops, this one is alre…

A Picture Is Worth.........

Wow, What a Group

The Burlington Stakes were last night at Mohawk. Used as a prep for the North America Cup, they usually tell us something about the colts heading into next weeks eliminations. All we learned is that blog followers and commenters are right - this is not a talented group.

In the first elim, Art Colony was 2-5. Why? I have no idea. I swung hard against him with the six and eight and could not capitalize. No one jumped out in that elim.

In the second elim, east coast horse Keep it Real raced well. We were waiting with this guy to see the bottom of the well, and we saw it there, 150.2. He might have stamped himself as the Cup fave next week. Well Said had a decent trip and could not make any headway, coming fourth. Mr. Wiggles had an excellent prep. He looks like a horse to me.

Nothing sparkled in any of the other elims in my eyes.

At the M, Passmaster Hanover assured some favouritism with his score in the NJSS final. He won like a good horse. Blair Burgess has brought along another one like a…

Trenton We Have a Problem

Carrying over from our post on Chester stealing Meadowlands entries away with the bandit money, we have had tons of good comments on the 'Mecca' of harness racing.

It was also only a few short years ago that the Meadowlands typically scheduled a total of one overnight trot race on their Friday and Saturday night cards combined. On Friday's program you would find the Open Trot nestled in amongst 11 or 12 full fields of quality pacers. And on Saturday nights it was wall-to-wall pacing affairs in which you could make a legitimate case for at least 6 or 7 of the entries. It was a value player's dream come true as horses that should have been 4-1 or 9-2 would regularly light up the toteboard at 6, 7 or 8-1.

JLB said...

The Meadowlands has turned into a Vernon Downs type of track, overloaded with trots for young, developing horses. As a longtime fan, the racing at the moment is pathetic, and it is my understanding that, in addition to those who have already done so, at least on…

Dave Brower: Harnessing Winners

I just finished a quick read of Dave Brower's new harness racing handicapping book "Harnessing Winners". It is a look at harness racing, mainly containing his thoughts as the track handicapper at the Meadowlands. Chapters include: Replays, Trips, Key races, Warm ups and class drops; among others.

For seasoned handicappers there is not a ton brand new, however I feel I take away at least two or three points from any book I read. And since there are so few newer harness books out there, it does fill a modern void.

For thoroughbred handicappers, or those newer to the game (or those readers who come over from 360 or the TBA here who don't know what I mean when I reference a 123 back three panels, while being checked in a blind switch), I think the topics are quite good and informative. Also, there are two sections on tracks I never play - Northfield and Yonkers. For people who want to learn a bit about those tracks, it makes for a good primer.

I agree with Dave on warm up…

Stakes Season Begins; Twinkies & the Changing Business World

The Burlington Stakes Divisions were drawn today. As usual, they are good tilts and could set the stage for the Cup elims next week. Of particular note to me is that Art Colony is NOT being driven by Randy Waples. Why, I have no idea. Was he lifted? Is it because he will not be driving at the Meadowlands? All I know is that Randy is one of the best drivers in North America who never seems to get stakes drives. It is truly bizarre.

I am back (for awhile) from a whirlwind 72 hours at the annual Search Engine conference in Toronto. I pretty much jammed 365 days of learning into those hours, not to mention some socializing with like-minded folks, which is always welcomed. Following racing in the way that I do, and then having to shift gears to my real job is quite the juxtaposition. On the one hand speaking of changing the status-quo in racing (like we speak of here on the blog many times), is met with a blank stare from most in our business, while in my real job the status-quo is yesterda…

Point of Interest

A question below:

Would love to hear your take on Borel and Mine That Bird. I see a torrent of criticism aimed at his too-early, too-soon move. But long-time harness fans know that it is rare to find a heavy favorite in a big race that DOESN'T make an early move. I have heard the best drivers speak of these situations in which the thing they do not want to have happen is to lose a race having too much ground to make up at the end, and so their moves for the lead are almost always completed by or just after the half-way mark of the mile. Mine That Bird was spent - the pacesetter came back and edged him for the place spot - and was a tired horse. The Triple Crown road is a gruelling one on young horses, and T-breds cannot bounce back week after week like their harness cousins can. If this wasn't the case, then we would not have the number of unlikely longshots that have won the Belmont in recent years.
Cheers. Jim

Jim, riders/drivers get far too much credit when a horse wins, and …

Yellow Diamond - 149.4

Yellow Diamond, harness racings potential answer to the thoroughbred queen Rachel Alexandra, easily won the James Lynch at Pocono this weekend. The time was a stunning 149.4. The colts went 151 in their stakes race at Pocono two weeks ago. It was a nice mile for Ginger and Fred as well, who was a solid second. With the right pace set up, this filly, in my opinion had a shot at the World record, regardless of sex on this day. She won with her ears pricked, with Morrill shutting her down early.

The video evidence:

Harness racing is a wonderful sport when we have talented colts and fillies to watch. This year, touch wood, we might have two that should stay on the radar all year, this filly and Muscle Hill.

North America Cup Contenders Ed III

Greg is back with his North America Cup list. Here you are!

NA Cup Top Ten - Picture Still Cloudy

Last week was another week of somewhat confusing results in the stakes races leading up to the Pepsi North America Cup on June 27 at Mohawk Racetrack. I keep waiting for someone to step up with a really big mile, and aside from Barber Pole's 1:49 effort earlier this year, it seems like nobody has. This is probably the most wide-open Cup since Mantacular won in 2004, and really anyone and everyone with an eligible horse should think they have a chance to win. One good thing about that is that it should make for several elimination fields.

1. Well Said (LW #1). A "work-man" like 1:53.1 victory in his season's debut at Chester on Wednesday night. The track was sloppy, so the time is excusable, but I would've liked to see him kick home a little bit stronger, especially with a 40-1 shot on his back.

2. Dial Or Nodial (LW #2). Converted a two-hole trip into a half-len…

Muscle Jogs in Debut; and a Harness Racing League?

Belmont Schmelmont. We had a special horse do his thing in his first start of 09 tonight at the M. Muscle Hill won easily in 153.1, on a track that was not overly speedy. He sped away like a good horse should.

Every year we hear a great deal of hype, with especially trotters. There is at least one with a gawdy record that beats up on two year olds in unremarkable ways, and unremarkable times. Donato Hanover's debut was in 154 and change, pretty much to the bottom of the barrel. Cantab Hall, perhaps the most hyped trotter of the decade, faltered in his 3YO test against decent horses. Dewey last year won by a half length with a 29 last quarter. This debut blew any three year old trotters debut that I can ever remember. Let's hope he stays sound and progresses. I am going to stick by my post last year with this colt. I think he shatters 150 if all goes well.

Allan says: Give us a harness racing league, in a well thought out post. Much of it makes sense, and some of the machination…

Whipping, Breakdowns & 1970's Football

In the 1970's in the NFL, football was downright dirty. Players had tricks they used to get an edge that were right out of a scene from Braveheart. Clotheslining was legal, so was (said by one player I saw interviewed on the subject) 'jabbing your fingers into an opponents neck and grabbing his voicebox'. That sounds pleasant, huh?

At this time in the sports' history, highlight shows were popping up, and those highlight shows were becoming popular (only a portion of games were even shown in the early to mid 70's). The brutality of football and these laissez faire rules resulted in some very bad injuries, and some stomach turning episodes. To combat this, Rozelle had NFL Films never show, or distribute the brutal stuff - the dark side of the game would stay hidden, come hell or high water. Rozelle's reasoning was simple: Selling the game to new markets would be hampered if the brutality of it was not snuffed out.

After that policy not being overly successful (you…


A lull in the action this evening with not much going on, so here are some things to ponder, or not.

..... The ORC has instituted out of competition testing for stakes races. As most know, OOC testing is to get at the bad stuff, namely EPO and blood builders. These drugs are given between races and are very hard to catch.

..... Well Said, NA Cup favourite, made his first start of the year at Chester this evening. After a 150 and change qualifier I expected him to be good, but he came home in 28.1 and did not look like a chalk for the NA Cup to me. Time will tell of course.

..... Salty card this weekend at Mohawk. JC speaks of his Classic Series mounts here.

..... Dave Brower's new book is out. I went to the bookstore but I could not find one. If I can I will review it here. I am surprised I have not seen advance copies around for reviewers. Dave is a pretty sharp guy, so I expect it to be good.

..... Greg will be here tomorrow with his NA Cup Top Ten.

..... I have been scouring the int…

Do We Have Our Own Rachel Alexandra?

Three year old Western Terror filly Yellow Diamond made a huge statement this past week at Pocono Downs, winning in 151, under wraps. This prompted driver Jim Morrill to say "She won as easy as a horse could possibly win. She could have gone in 1:49, no problem. I don’t care what (starting spot) she gets. It doesn’t matter. I’m not usually like that; I’m not an overconfident person. But with this filly, she was so good, I just don’t think anyone can touch her. I know what I had left.”

Drivers are some time prone to hyperbole, but right now it looks to me like this filly is as good as any of the colts. If she was eligible to the North America Cup, she would be in my top two contenders. I have only said that about one other filly in my days of following this sport, and that was Rainbow Blue. To this day I feel she could have won the Cup, and I wished we would have seen her take on the colts back in 2003. Will Yellow Diamond be this years Rainbow Blue, or Rachel Alexandra? Time will …

Wow, Actually Targeting a Willing Demographic?

Ten, twelve, maybe even fifteen years ago gamblers were often saying to racing that they are the market, but they are not giving them what they want. Over that similar window of time, and even before that, racing was steadfastly married to marketing to the masses - trying to get on mass market television, showing human interest stories about a girl and a horse, and so on.

This week something popped up that finally makes sense. Using the gambling market as the target for racing. In Europe, the Poker Channel is covering one hour of racing a night.

The Poker Channel also announces its first ever live horse-racing coverage, which airs for one hour every evening from a selection of leading US racetracks including Philadelphia Park, Hawthorne and Tampa Bay. Racing coverage is broadcast live on the Channel in all markets except the UK and Ireland.

The target demographic is not people at home in the afternoon on a Saturday with busy lives, who would not know a superfecta from superman. They are…