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Showing posts from August, 2009

Xtreme Racing & Saturday Action

Last night at Georgian Downs, the annual Xtreme Racing Day finally had some semi-decent weather, and the crowd showed up. There were the usual for the young and new fans - jugglers, tents, a ride or two - and for others there was 12 races which allowed one to step out and handicap a whole different way.

I arrived early for the day and was struck by the amount of activity in the simulcast area. Travers Day was at Saratoga, and all the other major tracks were going as with any Saturday. The simo area at Georgian is quite good and bettors were betting. I think the lounge there was designed quite well, and is conducive to attracting bettors.

At 6PM the action started with the xtreme mile, and ended a few hours later with the Marathon.

This type of racing does have a tough time to catch on, however, catch on it should, with handicappers. Handicapping this card is a real brain stretch and can yield fruit. No RGS patrons looking to bet $400 win tickets can play here as the pools are too small…

Internet Invented in Illinois. New Pick Four, and More.

Recently a bill has passed in Illinois to allow internet betting on horse races. Now, from the comfort of their own home, bettors can bet into 22% takeouts without being thrown in the clink. With this brand-new invention of the interweb, it is nice to see some states starting to offer online wagering. Soon, no doubt, people from Chicago will be able to use their computers to check the weather, surf for porn, or maybe even buy a Best of Twisted Sister CD on the web. Although for the latter they will probably never admit to it.

Do you ever do this? I bet Jeff Gillis's two year old filly Slimsplace last night in the fourth race (chart here). I knew Steve Condren would take her right to the back. I knew she was going to use the race as a learning experience. I knew it. And that is exactly what happened. But since the odds were so good, and she looked like the most talented horse in the race by far, I swung. It was a peaceful loss, simply because I knew it was probably going to happen. …

Boxing and Racing: Two Sports, Same Leadership.

I was watching ESPN (TSN up here in the Tundra) and they had a one hour show featuring Mike Tyson's best knockouts. As anyone over 30 who watches the sweet science would remember, Mike Tyson was a brute. He was completely unstoppable in his early career. I remember having to study one night for an exam and listening to one of his bouts on the radio. It lasted 22 seconds and that was pretty much the norm for his early fights. This brutality even spawned a catch phrase. When someone was confronted with something they did not want to do: "I'd rather get in the ring with Mike Tyson", was heard quite often.

The produced "best of" show was not overly well done, because much of the footage was grainy and it seemed cobbled together. Some of the knockouts were missing, as well. Enthralled with some of them, however, I began to surf the web for a DVD of some of the great bouts over time, including Tyson's. What I found was a hodge-podge of DVD makers, some sure to…

Herb's Tuesday Questions

Harness Herb is back. And he has his Tuesday questions.

How can a data provider like Equibase make oodles of cash the last ten years by charging race fans huge fees for past performance data they use to bet, while the industry suffers from handle losses?

How can Charlottetown Driving Park attract 20,000 people on Saturday drawing from a population of less than 150,000 (with less than $100,000 in purses on a race card), yet the Meadowlands with many millions to draw from, as well as $3M in purses, can only get half that for Breeders Crown night?

Why is the Confederation Cup thinking of going to Ontario sired horses only, when we already have a half a gazillion OSS finals that few people watch, or care about, each week?

Why is no one speaking of Muscle Hill dodging a half mile track race (the Yonkers Trot)?

Who voted for Lucky Jim over Muscle Hill in the Breeders Crown poll?

Why do Australian jockeys get fined their purse fee, their riding fee and given over a week off for hitting a horse fou…

Promoting to the Masses

If you go on chat boards, or go to a horseman meeting, you will often hear "let's promote", "we do not spend enough money on promotion", "we should be on TV", or "where are the billboards promoting racing". Oh if it were only that easy.

The nebulous concept of promotion to the masses might sound great, but it does not work overly well. Selling horse racing to the non-gambler might be the most difficult marketing there is.

This weekend the Adrenaline Festival in Sarnia, Ontario tried to achieve this unenviable task - offer several promotions to get the masses, or the non-fan out to discover racing. This event took months and months to pull off, and some serious money was spent. By all accounts they did quite well. They had a decent crowd, they had some bands, some dogs doing tricks, some neat racing. I was very impressed with the effort; how could you not be.

However, we must look at the effort for what it is: Trying to brand a day, or an event…

Saturday's Jam Packed Racing

Harness racing Saturday happened yesterday from all over the east coast.

At Charlottetown Driving Park, the usual huge crowd showed up for the Gold Cup and Saucer. All the Weapons, a longshot, shocked the crowd to hold off pre-race favourite Silent Swing. One of the most unique and interesting races in all of racing is now gone for another year. I hope to head there again next year. For commentary, Allan has a post up about it.

Here is the video for some thoroughbred readers who have not seen this unique midnight race, with a full crowd.

The Breeders Crown races took place a the Meadowlands last night. The highlight was the aged pace, where stalwarts Mr. Big, Won the West and Shark Gesture took on 4 year old challengers Shadow Play, Bettor Sweet and Art Official. Won the West skimmed the rail to defeat Shadow Play. The latter finished in about the twenty path because of his foot issues.

Several questions have been answered this year for me with these horses, and last years three year old…

Kool-Aid, Me Too. Weekend Harness Stakes are Interesting

I don't know who Claire Novak is, but we need more of her. She calls the Jess Jackson stuff for what it is, pure nonsense. Since I lived a life as a poor student for many years, I used to mix plenty with kool-aid. I must say, I was never much of a wine drinker.

Standardbred Canada has finally gotten into the RSS mold. Good to see. As well, Twitter updates from this weeks Adrenaline Festival are to be had. Well done.

It looks like Shadow Play will not have the nose on the gate this weekend at the BC Final for aged pacers. I would love to see what this colt can do healthy. Like many before him, we just might never find out.

Ray Paulick kicks butt. His piece on Equibase and their monopoly on data is as good as it gets for a journalist that makes his cash on a trade site. It is incorrigible that a business that is flatlining in a whole lot of areas charges for racelines. Want to build a database so you can bet $20 million dollars where $4M of it goes to purses and profits? Want to do an …

Life in Prince Edward Island

The race card has an average purse of about $1000. Horseman have shipped their horses from four or five different Canadian Provinces. The afternoon card has 12 races, then after a short break, there are 12 more tilts for the evening card.

Parking is $3. You can get a hot dog and a coke for a decent price. You can see pigs and ducks and cows from the 4H club, buy home made dog biscuits, see horse pulls, buy fresh strawberry jam, pick up some homemade soap, ride a ferris wheel.

Welcome to Old Home Week at the Charlottetown Driving Park, in beautiful Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

"How do they survive with these purses?", asks my date for the evening, who is used to watching races at Mohawk with a $22,000 purse. "They are horseman for the most part who do it for the love of the sport", answers Harness Racing PEI's General Manager, Jeremy Pierce.

Seeing that it costs $40+ for a bridge toll, a buck a litre for gasoline, and time and all the rest, one would ha…

August Heats Up........ with a Dash of Adrenaline

In the northeast, the summer which had been on hold, is finally here. And the racing has heated up as well.

On Sunday, Explosive Matter and Well Said both won their respective stakes at Chester - The Battle of the Brandywine and The Colonial Trot - the latter in a world record 153 flat. Muscle Hill is supposed to resurface late in the month and then go on a 5 race in 5 week tear across the US and Canada.

One of the highlights of the three year old stakes season is the Confederation Cup near Dundas, Ontario. Last year as most recall, Somebeachsomewhere defeated Shadow Play and several other colts in a world record time. This years field was not quite as good (but in this crop no field is as good as last years) but the addition of River Shark, Passmaster Hanover and If I can Dream made the two heat affair worth watching. The winner was If I Can Dream, in 152.1.

The Adrenaline Festival is this weekend near Sarnia Ontario. In addition to all the neat stuff they have planned, there is also t…

Is it Finally Time for a Harness Saratoga?

20 or 30 race card meets. A staple of the racing community. People come from all over. Huge purses, great stakes races. TV news coverage, blogosphere and internet coverage. ADW's offering bonuses and free past performances. Something everyone waits all year for.

That is what thoroughbred racing has with their boutique meets at places like Saratoga, Del Mar and Keeneland.

In harness? We have nothing really close, other than perhaps the Delaware State Fair, which is populated by more Ohio breds than one can see in a middle school in Youngstown.

Why don't we have a huge meet, where all other tracks in an area are shut down and the world focuses solely on that meet? Intransigence and lack of cooperation I believe are the main culprits. People in this sport want money now, want to travel as little as possible to race, and want to race cheap horses for big money. It is, and always has been, a pox on our business. It seems that cutting racedates for a meet to help the overall health …

Cup Field Set, New Whip Rules For Tbred and Sbred Enacted

The Confederation Cup is set for this weekend. The field:

• Bay Of Sharks
• Chief Of The Beach
• Fast Pay
• If I Can Dream
• Lyons Horace
• Nob Hill High
• Passmaster Hanover
• Primary Purpose
• Rescue Plan
• River Shark
• Shipps Xpectancy
• Stonebridge Master
• Vertigo Hanover

For the second year in a row the field that has been assembled is not too darn bad. This crop is not deep at all, so to snare 150 pacers like Passmaster and If I Can Dream is more than solid. Early season winner River Shark was a supplement.

New whipping rules are set to go in effect in Ontario starting September 1st.

Among the provisions in the new rules: for standardbred racing, there is now a requirement to keep a line in each hand for the entire race. Thoroughbred and quarter-horse rules now stipulate only a ‘humane or cushion’ riding crop may be used, and the horse must be allowed time to respond before it may be used again.

We shall see if the drivers comply with this and not drop the feet or use the whip where the sun d…

Some Questions

Why is it that jockeys are proactive with whipping changes, but drivers seem to be married to what they have always done?

Jockey's at Del Mar, being proactive on using new light touch whips: “The jockeys came to us and said, ‘Our riders are ready to do this here,’ ” he said. “We love the horses and we're always looking for new things to improve racing,” said jockey Alex Solis.

Why is it that with some positive tests it takes two years to settle it, yet with others it is part of the game and it takes like ten minutes?

Dick Clark, Prairie Meadows trainer, caught with too much banamine in his horses: "When it's your own stupidity that does something, what's the use of fighting it?" Clark said. "It was my fault. It was just a misunderstanding between me and (the groom). I'm still responsible whether he did (understand) or not."

Why is it that we can't seem to find any promotions in racing with the billions of slot money we receive, yet a furniture…

We Tend to Race, Don't We?

With the debate raging about Rachel Alexandra not going to the Breeders Cup because her owner does not want to race her on polytrack, it is pretty interesting to see the difference that we are afforded with harness racing, when compared to our blue-blooded cousins.

Although owner-speak is alive and well in harness (especially with Breeders buying into stars early now and wanting them protected), it is nowhere near what it is in the thoroughbreds. Will Muscle Hill miss the Breeders Crown? Of course he won't; it is our end of year championships. If by chance a horse misses it (see Windsongs Legacy) they will pay for it at the ballot box for HOY, or with fans. Muscle Hill, barring injury or sickness, will race in the BC, and many other races too before the year is over.

I enjoy following both sports, but for pure frequency of racing, there is nothing like harness. Over the next three months we will see a horse like Muscle Hill at several venues, for big money. He will be in Ontario, Le…

Hambo Day Notes

The Hambo Card is all done, and we will have some more thoughts on Muscle Hill in the upcoming weeks, but Muscle's performance was not the only good one of the day.

In the US Pacing Championship, Shadow Play (although probably still not 100%), answered the bell and won easily, defeating Mr. Big, Art Official, and other top pacers. I wonder, can this colt finally get some respect? He is a freaking marvelous beast of a horse and would be considered one of the better colts in quite awhile if he had not been born the same year as Somebeachsomewhere.

Another myth that keeps getting shattered is the 4yo's can not beat older. Shadow Play is the latest in a long line of 4yo's to win prestigious Free For All races. It again adds credence to the opine here and elsewhere that Somebeachsomewhere was perhaps the greatest three year old since Nihilator. Shadow Play can not even get a sniff of him last year and he beats up on horses like Mr. Big? Beach would be 1-5 against FFA horses this…


Muscle Hill proves to the world that we have not seen a sophomore trotter like him in a long time. Let the comparisons to some of the all time great trotters begin.

Hambletonian Time!

Super card tomorrow at the M, of course highlighted by the Hambletonian. This race, has its best field in many years. I could imagine what it would have been like if this was several years ago when this was raced in heats. Wow.

There are several stakes finals this year, which makes it a good card for fans, but for bettors not as much. Supers are being offered on every race, unless I heard wrong. If they went to $1 min supers like the big days in Thoroughbred racing I think I would have been a bit more stoked to cap the card. But I did anyway.

I can't find a ton, but I do like Dreamfair Eternal in the first. I can not believe this horse is ML chalk because this is ripe for an underbet. We'll see if she is odds.

In the second, the $525k Merrie Annabelle I will swing for the fences off the "second time overseas" angle and take a swing at Kronos. Hell, it worked for Victory Tilly.

I have no opinion on the Haughton, although I will cheer for Chuck's horse. He needs a brea…

Two by Two

First Online Edition of the Harness Edge

It was announced recently that the Harness Edge print edition will be no more. This month marks the first online edition, which you can read here.

I was impressed with how it read and how it looks. I think the most telling example about the online edition is the story on Falcon Seelster. I grew up watching him and missed his big race at Delaware. In fact, I did not see it until many years after. The story speaks about that race, but with a twist that only an online edition allows, the video is embedded right in the piece. You do not have to load the video and wait, you just have to mouse over it. As well, I watched the Ponder ad video the same way.

So, I would say three and a half hooves up for the new online edition of the Edge. Give it a look.

Owner Racing

I like reading books on the history of racing. Long ago, in another time, people raced their horses for ribbons, or bragging rights. They would meet on roads, on beaches, on bullrings, or on racetracks groomed to perfection. It did not matter. This was horse racing, and they were racing horses.

Even today, I will bet you that in rural Indiana or Ontario, or Ohio or Pennsylvania there is an amish kid speaking to another amish kid at this very moment: "My horse is faster than your horse. No he isn't, my horse is faster than your horse."

Then, no matter if it is raining, or misting, or if the distances are not right, or if there are too many pebbles on the farm track, they hook up the horses and go to it to decide just who has that fastest horse.

Pure magic.

Conversely, in the big bad world of modern horse racing, this innocence that the sport was built on has been turned on its head. It is a corporate run nightmare where egos, politics and owner statements rule the roost, and …

Ummmm.............. Did We Just See That?

I might be having trouble with my television. I think I saw a filly, hung out in speedy splits, in the slop, against a Triple Crown race winner and several other top colts, destroy them like they were 5 claimers at Mountaineer.

Did I just see that? It can't be.

I am calling my cable provider.

Adios, Hambo Elims in the Books

Vintage Master and Dan Dube got the job done in the Adios yesterday at the Meadows, defeating Mr. Wiggles and Well Said. I did not get to see the Adios Final until later last night, but I knew the result beforehand. I watched the race on video and at the half I said "how in the hell did Well Said get beat?" I would have made him 1-20 to carry on, come home in 55 flat, win by an easy three or four, and that was that. After the race, Ron Pierce told us he was tired. I guess the horse is tired. I would assume he will not race in the Holmes next week, but we'll see when the entries come out.

The Hambo elims were as advertised, with a twist. In elimination two, like Well Said, Federal Flex did not deliver, racing to a poor 4th place finish, and rocketing show prices. He made the final, however one would think Gillis and crew have some work to do.

Elimination one was Explosive Matter's and he won easily. Mike Lachance guided the very talented Hot Shot Blue Chip to an impress…

Big Race Days

The blue-bloods are having a field day, rightfully so, with Rachel Alexandra returning to the races at Monmouth. But us plumbers have a day that is pretty darn good, too.

First up the 700k Adios Final goes at the Meadows, near Steel Town. Well Said has drawn the far outside nine post, which on the surface spells trouble. I have two problems with that. One, he is about five lengths better than the others, and two, the nine post at the Meadows (we looked at that here) is not as bad as one would think. I have little problem with Well Said, except the fact that there is a chance he can beat himself. I think that's the only thing that can beat him today.

The Hambletonian Elims go tonight at the M. The first elimination has an all world trotter headlining the festivities - Explosive Matter. He will be, and deserves to be chalk. However, there is a horse who is freakishly fast in here, the seven Hot Shot Blue Chip. If this guy stays flat - which is probably not a great bet - I could see hi…