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Showing posts from July, 2011

Gural's Meadowlands' Goes Transparent; Hambo Fields Set

In the new world, where information and opinion have a free flow, businesses have to be extra vigilant. Companies like Domino's Pizza have embraced the 2010's, going to the nth degree to be open and honest with their customers, and potential customers. We might be adding the Meadowlands to that list.

Last evening the Hambo Oaks and Hambo Elims took center stage at the Meadowlands. The most talked about storyline on the net, and inside racing circles, was the addition of super-filly Crys Dream to the Oaks field. The connections, after the horse received a positive, went straight to the Jersey Supreme Court to get an injunction so she could race, and they won.

Not long ago the races would have went off as scheduled, the interviews would have been filled with the usual pablum of "how much did you have to use the [horse]" or "is she the best you've driven/trained". Today, the Meadowlands met the issue head on.

In the pre-game show it was talked about, and a…

Harness Saturday

It's raining today, I am watching dogs, I am up early. I am sensing- after I download the days thoroughbred races, watch the Adios at the Meadows, and switch on the Hambletonian Elim card at the M- it's going to be one of those 13 and a half hour racing days. I'm not complaining.

Looking at the Meadowlands card, it might not be great for betting, but as a fan of the sport, it's a must-watch.

In race 2, the 3 year old fillies take center stage; minus See You At Peelers. As an aside, I was not sold on her last race, because driver Marcus Johanssen (who never goes to the stick and pilots her home in 26 and change) had to. I don't think she was the same horse on Thursday that she was at Mohawk, or Vernon. Anyhoo, the second race tonight showcases the very good Krispy Apple. She is the only filly besides SYAP who can pace 50, as the rest seem to hit the wall around 51.

In race 3 we have a two horse entry which might be the only entry in harness racing history to be com…

Thursday's Here

There's plenty of talk about the race day med ban this morning.....

Sid Fernando has a piece up on sires siring bleeders. It is a topic I am very interested in, and I bet a lot of you are too. In harness, not long ago, trainer Brett Pelling spoke off the cuff about our breed and had some not too nice things to say. In a nutshell he profiled some of our top stallions as passing on some of their poor traits, like bad sesamoids, breathing problems and bleeding. I won't mention who those sires were (he did not mention any names, and since it is anecdotal I will not share my opinion, either), but he seemed to strongly believe it was more than myth. What do you think?

HANA was called by Jim Gagliano of the Jockey Club for a chat on their stance on race day meds. HANA ran a survey and published it this morning. Some of the comments were fascinating. I hasten to say there might be a bit of a bias showing in the debate, however. Horseplayers have been so annoyed about illegal designer …

Wednesday Has Been a Fun One

Here are my Wednesday thoughts, if anyone is interested.....

I have read dozens of opines on the race day lasix ban in the press, and I have read nothing about how if it's banned some super-trainer-of-the-week will jack their horses with something that prevents bleeding, that he or she learned out of a junior high school chemistry book. That irks me.

NBC will again broadcast the Hambo. Moira and Tom have done some amazing things with this event and they should be commended. Of special note to me personally (I was on a panel once that he moderated, and I was struck by his love of the game, and general good nature), Gary Seibel will again be behind the mic.

Twitter rolled this morning due to a horse named Frankel. A lot of the time a horse is hyped beyond belief and people follow along like lemmings. In my opinion, this is not one of those times. This horse is an absolute monster. I telephoned a player who plays UK racing professionally not soon after the race, and he was blown away…

Tuesday Notes

A few things that caught my eye today.....

Bob Baffert has now replaced his twitter avatar from an egg to a real picture.  I'm sorry for giving him the gears about it, but someone had to do it. Now if we can get him to change his tune on takeout.

Speaking of eggs and a resulting Xfiles-12 Monkeys coincidence..... Bob McIntosh - the Bob Baffert of harness racing - joined twitter recently and he too has an egg as an avatar. Top trainers are very creative, except when it comes to twitter avatars. I vote Bob uses Artsplace as his pic. #nomoreeggs

Say what? According to Teresa Genaro on Twitter, someone at a conference said that bettors will stop betting horses if lasix is banned. You can't make this stuff up.

The Hambo and Hambo Oaks elims are drawn. Blue Porsche has made it to the dance for the males, and the Matlock Horse, Crys Dream, races in the Oaks. Is there anyone out there pulling for that mare? I highly suspect not.

The HBPA, presumably because of the stance of horsemen gr…

Shanklin's Take on CDI & Other Notes

Bill Shanklin recently sung the praises of Churchill Downs Inc, and remarked on how well it's run as a publicly traded company. Some of the negative comments focused solely on Churchill's ADW - - and how it is taking money away from live-track revenues. Today Bill responded by showing how the world is changing, and that disruptive technologies are here to stay:
The inescapable lesson for those of us who are aficionados of horse racing as it once was is this: Regardless of how fervently traditional horse racing fans would prefer to bring back the halcyon days of the past, when fans spent leisurely sunsplashed days at the racetrack and bet with a real, live pari-mutuel clerk, we cannot excepting at a few venerable throwbacks like Saratoga, Del Mar, and Keeneland As we have spoken about here on the blog before, it's not unlike the NFL in 1960 when the choice was to use or not use television. There were those fervently against televising football games becaus…

Huge Saturday Action & Raffetto Meets Jeff Platt

Ya, Saratoga is going, Del Mar is going, but how about the action in harness?

Back to back track records are set at the Meadows in the Adios elims. The Final goes next Saturday.

At the 3/8's pole in the $700k Maple Leaf Trot any handicapper worth his salt was saying "move on Arch Randy". Driver Randy Waples was thinking the same thing. He stole a nice little rest with San Pail in the third quarter, and the not-very-sharp Arch Madness had no response. Good win, for a nice horse.

Mel Mara, who we talked about Friday, is the real deal. After getting messed up around cover, he won exactly as programmed. If there was ever a 1-5 shot who was an overlay, this might have been the race.

Big Jim won nicely this evening in an NJSS.

Krispy Apples might not be quite as good as she has been. She tried to win in a fast time in tonight's first race, but she ain't no See You At Peelers.

Dreamfair Eternal won the Roses Are Red, in large part thanks to the poor effort by the chalk. S…

Crys Dream: Why the Sport is Difficult to Police

We've seen it before: A penalty given to a trainer by a jurisdiction with reciprocity to other jurisdictions (following suit) only to have the courts intervene and strike it down. This time, there's a first: The ORC ninety day suspension of the filly Crys Dream for a class II positive was struck down by the courts in New Jersey.

I feel the Crys Dream positive was a mistake, and was not worthy of a 90 day suspension. However, rules are what they are, and you can take them when given, or you can try and circumvent them through the courts. These connections chose the latter, and in my opinion, it is another black eye for policing this sport. To be quite honest, I'm finding it difficult to be a fan of the filly now, even though she did nothing wrong.

It's another example of why racing has such a tough time getting rid of folks and attracts people none of us would want to get into business with. There's always a US court there to bail people out, if they have enough mon…

The Greatest 2YO Qualifier I've Ever Seen

Last week several two year olds qualified at the Meadowlands, as is usual this time of the year. However, what was unusual, was a qualifier by a son of Lis Mara, named Mel Mara. Off a 1:01 half, the colt hit the three quarters in a leisurely 29.1. Then the fun happened. He stormed home in 25 flat.

True it was his third qualifier, and his previous two were good efforts that showed he was already-brilliant, but a 55.1 mile off a 1:01 half with that kind of shake-up speed is astonishing. If they bring him along correctly, there is no telling what we are looking at. If someone said right now he could be the fastest horse ever, I would not be able to argue with him. He just might end up being that.

One things for sure, a great many folks would not buy a foal sired by a horse who's dad is Cambest. So much for that; it seems Lis Mara is going to do just fine.

He makes his debut Saturday at the Meadowlands. I hope he sits, stalks and storms home under a stranglehold. There are too many im…

She'll Be Better on Lasix, Success, and Layups

There was an interesting quote from French trainer Fabrice Souloy, who is shipping his mare in to tackle the big boys in this weekend's $700k MLT.

'Souloy welcomes the change in location for his mare and feels that competing in North America will allow her to develop as she can now race on lasix.'

I have no preconceptions about lasix. I know what I think about it as a bettor, and I have had many on (and taken off) the drug as an owner. It is one of the more interesting debates in racing. For takeout, and other business decisions, I have read, studied, talked to people and wrote papers about it, and I know how I feel. With the lasix debate I have done close-to-similar, and I am still stumped.

The Maple Leaf goes Saturday, and if Arch Madness is not at his best, this is one whale of a tilt. If you are a trotting fan, it's a must-see.

One thing I do know as an owner, is that I am not made for the claiming game, because "inject and race" is not in my vo…

Let Them Eat Hambo Cake, Wednesday Notes

Both the handle and the buzz for the $1.5 million Hambletonian seems on the upswing. Like the Derby, this staple of the standardbred game seems to have legs. However, brands can and do falter if they are not cultivated. During the past several years the storied trot has made some changes, and the branding and work done by the Hambletonian Society should not go unnoticed.

An example of it comes in the form of a press release yesterday. The popular TLC show "Cake Boss" is baking and building a Hambletonian cake. The star's right hand man will be on-hand at the Hambo Draw to discuss the venture, and the cake will be sampled by lucky fans (cake lovers?) on Hambo day.

That's really well done. We wrote a blog post on a strategy like this last year via reality TV, and I think it makes sense. No, it won't grow handles leaps and bounds, but it is a neat way (and is cost effective) to gain some traction in the crowded media space.


Wanna help the horses? There is an…

Tuesday Notes is doing a pretty bang-up job covering the sport of late. Their exclusive yesterday was a call to Jim Takter regarding the health of See You at Peelers.

“All day Sunday we had a veterinarian here,” said Takter. “We jogged her and she was not good. She was also laying down. I almost took her to the clinic but a couple hours later she came back.”

Handicappers, who know a sub-par appearance when they see it, were all over that on Saturday night. She is an absolute monster, but she will always have some nagging questions when she throws a bad one in like she did in the Tarport Hap, and when she consistently runs-in badly. Sometimes I wonder what she could pace if she didn't run in badly. It's scary.

Silly policy usually ends up on the chopping block. That's Mark Davies take this morning, and he is confident some of the decisions in Europe against betting customers will be changed. Mark, can they come across the pond next and change them here? Start in Cali…

Meadowlands Pace Recap

Last night's $1M Meadowlands Pace was pretty much as advertised. With the absence of any superstars, whomever jumped up and raced big, or got a trip was going to be around at the finish. Roll With Joe, with a talented trainer and a good team, took down the prize with a solid speed show. He earned every bit of it.

Big Jim, the sentimental pick for many - including me - got stalled behind some dead cover, went way wide and raced fabulous to fall a neck short. Driver Phil Hudon worked out a second over trip. Unfortunately, that cover was terrible. If he could do it all over again clearly he would have liked first up off that 53 half.

In the other watched race of last evening, See You at Peelers ran her unbeaten string to 21, but she did so while being (for lack of a better word), truly awful. After reaching the half in 55, Brian Sears looked for his customary third quarter rest with the filly and succeeded. However, when he called on her on the far turn she was flat as a pancake and …

Farming, Data, Sharp Bettors & Pace Analysis

Seth Godin asked "what kind of farmer are you?" today. Dan over at Thorotrends is trying his best to make racing the professional farmer, instead of the naive one. His piece on racings segments (different markets/fans) I thought was top-notch and I think should be linked all over the place (and hopefully on some desks Monday, in hard-copy).

I disagree with very little of what he says, and I have been looking at that same question for years. Either we're both nuts, or both on the right track. What do you think?

We've spoken quite a bit here about how sharp the horseplayer is. With vicious takeouts, I believe a successful horseplayer will be very successful in many other pursuits. This comes across virtually everywhere. On someone posted about the new 50/50 bet at Del Mar, and the posters dissected it perfectly. This bet has a 10% takeout, and possesses breakage. In other words, it's an awful prop. Some have said this will appeal to newbies, and o…

Big Jim is Harness Racing

If you are a fan of both thoroughbreds and standardbreds you know there are many differences in the two sports. The frequency of their starts, the cost of blue-blooded yearlings, to name but two. However, one thing that strikes most, who own and/train both breeds, is the difference in the people who tend to own the big horses. In harness racing, as year after year proves, you can be an every day dude and get lucky with a horse. In thoroughbred racing, that tends to be pretty tough, and much more rare.

Jim Carr, the owner of the multi-talented pacer, and 2-1 morning line favorite for this weekend's Meadowlands Pace, might be in a league by himself - in any breed.

Early on, this was pretty apparent with his choice of driver. Phil Hudon, a journeyman driver who often gets replaced as soon as a star is available for a hot mount, is Jim Carr's regular driver; from the beginning. After a couple of losses, the catcalls came, as is par for the course, but Jim has stuck with him. Seei…

Rolling on a Thursday

Here are a few things catching my eye this morning:

I believe the longevity of horses, and their ability to stay sound, lies a lot with how they are brought along early. Uphill Battle, bought young from a good horsemen that does not push his stock through kinks, celebrated the last day of his 14th year at the track, and will lead the post parade on Saturday at Northfield. This coincides with this weekends "Back to the Track" initiative by the USTA. He raced 400 times, and seemingly never missed a week. What a horse!

If I could describe a good horseplayer, I would describe him/her as a critical thinker. Yesterday, in what o_crunk called "easily in the running for the most retarded blog post all year", the comments flew from the aforementioned betting degenerates. Horseplayers really diced up the piece, logically, and one dogged poster ("Tinky") simply would not let them off the hook. It was fairly fascinating to watch and read. I have long believed playing…

Monday Morning Harness Notes

The Meadowlands Pace elims wrapped up on Saturday and we might be looking at the best betting final in years. As we have been discussing almost all year, this crop looks sub-par, but pretty even. It seems the soundest talented horse might end up the end of year champ in this class; and right now it's up for grabs.

In elim one, Montrell Teague led the field through sleepy fractions, just like he should have and won under-wraps with Hoosier champ Custard the Dragon. The North America Cup winner, Up the Credit, failed to fire at all, and looked a little bit unsound to my eyes, although being so far back he had little shot to hit the board. Bestofthebest Hanover, a son of supermare Bunny Lake, looked to have some pace in the lane, and he might be a sneaky one to throw on the tickets in the Final. Foreclosure closed from aways back in quickening speed  - he might be the best 3YO out there right now.

In elim two, the "we'll race Big Jim off a helmet" experiment was over, a…

Ohio Recommendations - Sounds Familiar

For years, consultants and customers have asked for a VLT plan which encompasses the needs of the people who pay the pari-mutuel freight, to grow the sport of horse racing. Up until this point in time, places like Ontario, Pennsylvania (probably the most egregious in their slots planning) and New York pretty much copied each other by using the "if we have purses, people will bet" action plan. This plan, with the blessing of horsemen groups, also believed in putting out the most product (racedays) possible.

If the consultants in Ohio have their way, we might be looking at the first slots plan that wants to respond and cultivate the customer base, and the on-track product:

"CIS in its plan makes recommendations, some of which Murphy advocated when he was a racing executive in Ohio: consolidation of the live racing calendar; incentives for horseplayers, including lower pari-mutuel takeout rates; revision of the Ohio code that governs how simulcast revenue is paid to pur…

Hot News at Twitter

Well, not really, but someone told me that a headline like that grabs attention. Anyhow, I did notice a couple of things on twitter which made me think, and wonder, and scratch my head.

First, Uncle Mo is back. The talented bay horse who can type, last informed the world via twitter that he was very excited for the Wood Memorial, which didn't turn out overly well.

Then the cone of silence took over. With all the weird press conferences and Mike Repole quotes that were flyin' at the Derby, I don't blame Mo for not talking or typing at that time. However, twitter broke some big news from him tonight. He told us three hours ago that he is looking forward to Saratoga.

It's nice to see Mo back twinkying. Let's hope the spelling mistake in his last tweet isn't a Freudian slip, or even worse, a quarter crack.

Secondly, Bob Baffert is now on twitter. His name is not Bob B, or Sunglasses Bob, it's Midnight Lute; which I guess is fair enough. But Bob, known for pinach…

Moira Fanning - A More Than Deserving HOF Candidate

It was announced today that the Hambletonian Society's Moira Fanning will have her name on the ballot for this year's Harness Hall of Fame inductions. If she is not a slam dunk inductee, I believe the voters hail from the planet Zoltor, where yes means no.

There are very few people in racing who work as hard for the sport, and do it with amazing good cheer. The words "tireless", "kind", "knowledgeable", "caring" and "hard-working" usually accompany her name. I, like you, have heard literally thousands of bad things said about people in our business, but I have not heard one - not even one - bad thing said about her.

Because of racings internal struggles, I don't think I can even name one person, other than Moira, who has the respect of breeders, trainers, drivers, industry insiders, the media and bettors.

I hope she enjoys the honor and once and for all realizes how much she means to harness racing.


With less than u…

Tuesday Notes

I've been a little busy, but playing catch-up, here are a few things that caught my eye.

Christie vetoes the purse subsidy in Jersey. Cry as we might, and we will, what he says in the statement makes perfect sense.

Jay Cronley looks at the subsidies in other states, and how racetracks tend to "go through the motions".

More madness, this time at the slots rich Meadows in Pennsylvania: Tri takeouts are increased to 35% at the micro-handle track. Horseplayer Bobby Z estimates that if handle stays the same (California thought the same thing), the revenue gained by this move is about $280 per race. This business is an absolute mess, although for horseplayers wanting to play smaller tracks - it's reason number fifty seven or fifty eight to send your money to Tioga Downs.

What kind of odds would you give me at the yearling sales if I bet you that the top colt in North America July 1st was by E Dees Cam and wore knee-boots? The super-fast pacer won the gold final last night i…