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Showing posts from June, 2010

Synthetic Rant of the Day

This week we have seen a couple of reports regarding the safety of synthetic racing surfaces, or lack of safety of them. The Paulick Report has been on this story from the beginning.

In one study, done by Equibase, it was shown that synthetic was much safer than dirt. Later in the week, a new study said that dirt and synthetic were similar.

Both studies brought the kooks out, cherry-picking data to either support their cause, or defeat an opponents.

I think these studies should never have even be funded, because they are never going to tell us anything. However, since they are already funded we should at least do the right thing - when they are reported we should ignore them.

It's pretty simple why I feel that way. The data being used is specious.

How many trainers do you know with a sore horse, who sends it to poly, hoping it will help his horse be sound, or at least give it a chance to race. Did that horse break down because of the track? That horse is included in the poly breakdown …

Redemption for Mark MacDonald

Saturday's victory in the North America Cup was more than just a win for Mark MacDonald. As most know, Mark was taken off the horse this spring, after driving him well last year. It was a business decision made by the connections (who we are not sure), but they wanted driver Brian Sears instead. It was a curious decision to some - Mark Mac is a world class driver, capable of winning and in fact has won, races like the Jug. Any bettor with a modicum of skill will tell you he is one of the best out there. Others could see the logic in it.

However, the plan did not go to plan, and Mark Mac ended up retaining the drive for the big one. He did a bang-up job and took home all the marbles.

In today's Guelph Mercury Mark was asked about the firing:

“It was heartbreaking. I’m not going to lie to you, it was a tough winter. I got divorced this year then I got that e-mail that they were taking me off the horse. It was like a punch in the stomach,”

But, clearly not lacking in pride, Mark said…

Best Horse in Harness Racing? Shark Gesture

Lost in the excitement of last night's North America Cup was the Dan Patch at Hoosier Park. In it, one horse stamped himself as the top horse in our sport. Shark Gesture absolutely demolished the FFA field by about ten lengths in a track record.

What is really impressive in this is that this division is very close. Almost all these horses can pace really fast, week in and week out. Won the West was probably not on his game this night, but a ten length win in this division does not happen, virtually ever.

I can not believe how good this horse is right now. At Lexington in the fall, or at Mohawk in August for the Canadian Pacing Derby, world and track records could be toast if he stays good.

To have a look at awesome horsepower, you can below if you are interested.

A Funky Yet Successful North America Cup

Tonight's North America Cup had everything we wanted - four or five strong contenders, a huge crowd, a lightning fast track and a probable track record. Most onlookers were calling this a deep race where trip would win because so many horses could win this. In the end, the race was not at all as advertised, but it was a good evening for last year's Metro champ Sportswriter.

Somewhat surprisingly he valuted to the lead and had to be worked very hard to get by pacesetter Kyle Major. From there on he played catch me if you can. With only a 27.4 last quarter (and a ripe for the closers last eighth of 14.2) and the contenders on live cover and in the pocket, one would think that would not do the job. But a funny thing happened - Rock n Roll Heaven, All Speed Hanover, Kyle Major - all failed to fire. Rock N Roll popped a 28 last Q and came 4th. Kyle Major backed up off the pocket and came 8th, and the real surprising one: All Speed Hanover came dead last and popped a 29 flat last …

It's Raining

Today in the Big Smoke the clouds have opened, making the North America Cup card a question mark whether we will see fast or slop. Mohawk is a tricky track when sticky, so this could cause some handicapping problems. When it is like this, sometimes it is scraped hard, and horses with sore feet have some trouble (Sportswriter?). Other times it is just cuppy and traction is an issue. In Toronto and area, systems move in and out quickly often times, so let's hope this stops, and we get some nice weather late in the afternoon.

If you are handicapping the pick 4, Dr. Dreamy has been scratched from the 100k consolation. My potential play there, Stonebridge Tonic, moves in a spot and I like that.

I still can not find a free program for tonight's card anywhere. Maybe there is one. In searching I did find one troubling item. Program's (even downloadable ones) are going up in price. Via the HPI site: "Due to increases in supplier costs and taxes, the price of a downloaded Past Pe…

North America Cup Analysis & Odds Line

This year's world's richest harness race for pacers has been called one of the most contentious ever. I am in that camp as well, because on paper, with whatever handicapping tool you want to use, there are several possibles. Unless someone steps up big time and a couple contenders have an off day, this should be a trip-fuelled result.

It is for this reason that I will be building an odds line and sticking to it. If one of my horses are an overlay, I will build tickets around him. If they are too overbet when compared to my odds line, I will be pitching them. Although I am leaning to one colt, I do not see a huge standout, now horse.

Here are some thoughts on each horse, and what I think are their relative chances via my odds line.

1. We Will See - Brett Miller

On paper it looks like he can win this with some luck, however, I feel he is a longshot. He got a dream trip last time and could only get up by a nose, or long head. He is going to have to move forward off las…

Some Thursday Notes

We'll get a few things out of the way before looking more closely at the North America Cup. I think I might pipe in a blog here Saturday evening. I will add twitter feeds from harness players, so if you are newer to the game and want to watch what players are chatting about with the card, it might be helpful. One caveat, one of the people I follow is Benny Beam. Benny is sometimes (only about every three posts) prone to some profanity. If you are under 18, you might want to ask your parents. That is my Benny Beam disclaimer :)

First up, there is tons of news on and Standardbred Canada about the Cup. Woodbine and SC is doing a great job filtering news this year - the best we've seen, in my opinion. For those of you who want to watch the Cup for free, who might not have an ADW account, they are (for the first time!) providing live video streaming of the event. You can access it via links here.

VFTG has full card picks here.

As most know, the state of Pennsyl…

$1.5M North America Cup Draw Complete

The field is set for Saturday's North America Cup. First post goes at 7:10 and the race will be covered from 8:30 to 10:00PM on the Score Network with full card coverage on HPITV in Canada, and TVG in the US. The race will be covered on satellite radio via "Saturday Night at the Races" with Bill Finley.

PP Draw (elim winners picked their PP):

1. We Will See - Brett Miller (EW)
2. Fred And Ginger - Dave Palone
3. Rock N Roll Heaven - John Campbell (EW)
4. All Speed Hanover - Ron Pierce (EW)
5. Art Professor - Yannick Gingras
6. Sportswriter - Mark MacDonald
7. Delmarvalous - Brian Sears
8. One More Laugh - Tim Tetrick
9. Kyle Major - Jody Jamieson
10. Piece Of The Rock - Paul MacDonell

Since I have been following this race (I was peeking over the barrier in Cup One when I could not get a seat and have seen them all since then) I do not think I have seen a better betting race in its history. Horseplayers respond to a few things: Low take, full competitive fields and big pools. This ra…

It's Not 1970 & I am Okay With That

There is a real battle going on in chat boards and on industry sites about how trainers should race their star horses. Namely, the discussion revolves around Zenyatta, and how she was campaigned. She is clearly one of the better mares ever - especially one-run closing mares - but people want to see her tested week in and week out to make sure she is. It seems that she is a horse, who even though has been racing for three seasons undefeated in grade 1 races when that in itself is a feat, that has not quite given enough.

Melissa Keith wrote an excellent article on this phenomenon in the Horseplayer edition of Trot magazine in April. The interviewee, Somebeachsomewhere trainer Brent McGrath spoke of the challenges that a horse goes through in a tough season nowadays. "You look at the number of miles under 1:50 he paced. Horses will last a long time if they don't do very much - just like people", he said. "We were asking him to do a big job every time he set foot on the …

North America Cup Elims Complete

The eliminations for next weeks $1.5M North America Cup are in the books. It was a very good night of racing, with plenty of excitement. Often times the eliminations are pre-determined, however this year they were anything but.

For a full recap, and replays, you can visit SC here.

In elim one, the expected tilt did occur, but added to the mix was Sportswriter who raced well for the first time in quite awhile. He was a very game third from a first up adventure. Rock n Roll Heaven got the best trip of the three and got the win, Kyle Major came second (but I thought he was washed out and did not look good at all). One might expect the winner to come from this division and I don't blame anyone for thinking so, but standing at the wire one thing was apparent - these were three totally cooked horses. Their respective trainers have a week to get them ready, but I can't help but think this is not the way to go into a big final.

In the second elim, Ron Pierce took a huge risk with the fa…

Mid-Week Tidbits; What Might Have Been Different

There is interesting chatter on the Paulick Report about Steve Byk and Steve Davidowitz's chat on his radio show yesterday. Byk does not much care for Zenyatta and Steve D does. The weird thing for me is that Byk is a host, and Davidowitz is a guest. I have not heard, in our sport, anyone ever argue or be critical of a guest for a simple opinion. Maybe Byk should have himself on as a guest. There is plenty of talk about it on the Paulick Report here.

What would Rachel's year look like if she was not sold? According to Reid Mclellan, whose son was Hal Wiggins' assistant a battle at Santa Anita against Zenyatta was part of it, " A plan was mapped that would take her to the Acorn, possibly the triple tiara, but if she dominated in the Acorn as she did in the Oaks, the Haskell-Travers were considered for next two races, Keeneland opening weekend for her BC prep and then HOY showdown with Zen. That was the plan." Via Paceadvantage. Jess Jackson gets a ton of cred…

North America Cup Elims Drawn

Elimination #1 - Race 5 at Mohawk:

Post Position - Horse
1 - Rock Me Please
2 - OK Commander
3 - Ideal Matters
4 - Power Of A Moment
5 - Code Word
6 - Allthatgltrsisgold
7 - Sportswriter
8 - Kyle Major
9 - Rock N Roll Heaven
10 - Dr Dreamy

Clearly this is the most contentious division, and the post positions add to the contention. This should be a whale of a race. Someone is going to get cooked here, I feel. Will it be Kyle Major, or Rock n Roll Heaven, or Dr. Dreamy? Three good horses, three bad posts. I have long been an advocate of seeding eliminations. If we are going to race them, at least make each field have some depth. With Ideal Matters, Rock n Roll Heaven, Kyle Major, Dr. Dreamy, Allthatgltrsisgold and even Sportswriter (should he somehow improve a lot) in the same split, it is not great for the event, in my opinion. I think I will be taking a poke on Allthatgltrsisgold in here, as he should be great odds, and he is a nice little horse.

Elimination #2 Race 7

Post Position - Horse
1 - Mach …

Magic Shoes

Zenyatta, as everyone who watches brown things run around in a circle knows, won yesterday; number 17 in a row. In a world where stakes horses are finished in about start five, it is quite the accomplishment.

Amazingly, there are plenty of folks out there who believe that Zenyatta really ain't that good. That's she's been a little lucky because she runs on a synthetic racetrack, she has not run a Lou Pena like speed fig - that sort of thing. One of my favorite posters at Paceadvantage, because he is smart (and I like his name) is Chickenhead. I remember laughing out loud when reading his magic shoes post. It kills me. In responding to one of many posters who were discrediting Zenyatta, he wrote this:

It really is quite amazing, and this is only partly in jest, that the other owners and trainers have let this obviously slow horse pile up $6 million. This is quite an amazing phenomenon, this almost outlandish stupidity on display spanning YEARS.

Now I realize that…

Off We Go to the North America Cup

I was standing outside last fall at Mohawk after a set of two year old stakes and I was chatting with a friend who was thrilled with the two year old crop - could be the best ever - he said. When he asked me my opinion, I said "ask me next September".

Yesterday we had All Speed Hanover lose a race he should have won. He drifted out and could not get the leader. After last week where he had to be asked it was understandable (the winner last night is a good horse), but he certainly does not look as formidable as the colt who paced wide onto highway 27 to win the BC last year.

The fastest horse this year and an understandable chalk for the Cup (if we were betting yesterday morning), Rock n Roll Heaven, jumped it off at the half. He will have to qualify now, which should not be a problem for him, but it is not exactly the way you want to go into a $1.5M race. Ideal Matters won the race, but he ended it tired. Maybe we did see his bottom last week in Jersey.

One More Laugh won at Yo…

Saturday Notes

The Burlington Stakes go tonight at the Hawk. It's not the best set of Burlington's we'll see, but it is pretty interesting.

Division 1 (Race 5)
PP - Horse - Listed Driver
1 - Malicious - P. MacDonell
2 - Dr Dreamy - C. Callahan
3 - Kyle Major - J. Jamieson
4 - Sportswriter - M. MacDonald
5 - Grin For Money - J. Moiseyev
6 - Willies Place - L. Ouellette
7 - Im Gorgeous - C. Callahan
8 - OK Commander - D. McNair
9 - Twin B Warrior - J. Jamieson
10 - Code Word - J. Jamieson

Division 2 (Race 8)
PP - Horse - Listed Driver
1 - Future Million - S. Allard
2 - Rock N Roll Heaven - D. Dube
3 - Rock Me Please - S. Condren
4 - Ideal Matters - D. Palone
5 - Windfall Blue Chip - C. Callahan
6 - Stonebridge Tonic - D. McNair
7 - Art N Charm - M. Saftic
8 - Mach Dreamer - L. Ouellette
9 - Rojettes Best - TBA
10 - Triple Major - S. Filion
11 - Shipps Xtravganza - R. Waples

Division 3 (Race 9)
PP - Horse - Listed Driver
1 - Touch The Rock - R. Waples
2 - Luckcamotion - K. Oliver
3 - Mcaracas - M. Baillargeon
4 - BP Chim…

A Million Things

Some notes from the past little while in racing:

First I see that Ted Smith has thrown a barb at the CPMA (Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency) about an idea that was shot down. We have long held the belief here on the blog that a national jackpot type bet would do racing some good on Monday nights when the races are televised across Canada. It seems like the new guard at Woodbine thought the same and got to working on it. It appears they envisioned a pick "all" where a bettor had a chance at a million dollars. According to Smith, this was nixed.

"Smith noted Standardbred Canada is not the only industry stakeholder frustrated with the agency. He told the meeting that the Woodbine Entertainment Group and the Score television network hatched an idea to re-launch its Monday night national TV broadcast as "Million Dollar Mondays" and give horseplayers a chance to win $1 million if they could pick all the winners on the Monday card. "We would have had people from…

Belmont & the Six

Start spreading the... Jay-Z? That was awful. There is no other way to say it. Let's hope NYRA comes to their senses and does the right thing for next year. I must say I had a hoot that ABC was playing the Sinatra tune before commercials.

It'd be cool if someone thought of the horseplayer on big days. The Manhattan, featuring Gio Ponti, was the race before the Belmont stakes. One problem, you could not watch it. The ABC deal with Belmont et al affords them to have rights on all races before the Belmont and ADW's are blacked out. ABC did not show the Gio Ponti race, so most of us did not see the Gio Ponti race. I know he lost because I saw the results, but that's about it. He could have been leading by six with 100 yards to go and got hit by a pea-shooter-wielding Jay Z fan causing him to get caught at the wire, for all I know.

Belmont and NYRA have to get with the betting program, as well. I have three ADW's and could only play it in one of them - the one that I us…

I Can't Wait for the Opening Number

I am getting to my two main items for tomorrow - handicapping the Belmont and the Metro Six Shooter. Past performances, software printouts, the usual stuff. However, I can not get the Belmont news this week out of my head: Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" is being replaced with a new song; supposedly to attract some kind of new demographic.

We in racing have a serious identity crisis. We have no idea who we are. One of the most salient points (and a truism) about marketing is that you can not market what you are not. The moment you do, it tells the world you are hoodwinking them. World meet hoodwink, via the Belmont stakes.

Racing is not a new game, it has history and tradition and this history and tradition is part of its strength. The Derby is the Derby, it does not need changing. The Little Brown Jug is the Little Brown Jug. The Hambo is the Hambo. The Belmont is the Belmont, and the Belmont is not, nor will it ever be Jay Z.

Baseball knows who they are. That is why …

Thursday Notes

I have not taken a look at the Belmont yet, however at first glance First Dude is probably where I will lay my hat. I can not help thinking Ice Box will be overbet.

The Metro 6 Shooter is ready to roll with their 30k seeded pool. Free PP's are available for it. We'll go through it on Saturday, so if anyone has some trip notes that they want to share, pop er up.

The ORC changed the claiming rule today, where when a horse was claimed it had to be raised in price. I find this a rather curious move. The Meadows just went to one because of renting a horse, and as we see far too often still, there are magic men in this sport that can move a horse up ten lengths in a matter of days. Owners flock to them, and round and round we go. Turning back the clock is never a good policy, and in my opinion this will backfire.

Lou Pena's barn was scoped today by the New Jersey commission with OOC blood testing. OOC testing was brought in because many of the items used (blood builders etc) cou…

At Least TVG Has a Sense of Humour

It's always good for a laugh when an on-air personality does something funky. In this case we had a TVG dude walk off the set after touting a heavy chalk who bit the dust.

This caused a lot of chatter on the chat boards, but there was an honest explanation.  Tony, a producer/director at TVG let people know what happened on the (although the simple explanation did not squelch the comments) : "It was a joke. Frank said before the race that when a horse like this loses he heads straight for the exit when he’s at the track. After the horses hit the wire I told him in his ear to walk off the set."

It was a good joke apparently, because it certainly caused a stir.