Bob Heyden’s tribute to McKee
I want to thank you for the story you put together on Sam (full story here). I loved the multiple quotes, how you mixed in stories and history of Sam over the years. Once again, I got the chance to laugh a little, cry a little more and just sit back and think about Sam. I have known Sam since the late ‘80s when he came to Delaware. Our previous assistant announcer, Phil Mauger, had grown ill and we needed to find a replacement. Roger was insistent, it had to be Sam. My father in law, Tommy Thomson, remembered Sam calling a race in Delaware in his teens and trusted Roger’s recommendation. What a great addition he has been to our team in Delaware over the almost 30 years.
To this day, every time Sam walks in to the cabin for race week at Delaware he extends his hand and his first questions is always about my children. How is school for them, how is their jobs, will I get to see them this week at Delaware. I am now so delighted that my son Hunter got to spend some time with Sam last September. Sam would finish his days’ work at the Big M, suitcase already in the car and make the trek across Pennsylvania to be on time for the races at Delaware. He just wanted to be a part of the festivities at The Jug. He loved seeing new and old friends.
I do have to share one story of Sam that I think goes to his character. Roughly 10 years ago, Roger had some health issues in August prior to Jug week. Roger shared that he may have concerns with being able to call the Jug that year and that I should think about potential alternatives. At this time, Sam was working the TV show and Steve Cross was our assistant announcer. My first call was to Steve about having to call the Jug that year. In Steve fashion, his response was Sam was here first he should be the one to call the Jug. My next call was to Sam about the situation and in Sam fashion he responded with; “Tom I have wanted to call the Jug my whole life. But Steve is the assistant announcer and you must ask him first.” My point is both Steve and Sam thought of the other first before themselves. I think that speaks to the character of Sam, putting others before himself.
This year’s Jug week is going to be different. Our simulcast show will not be the same. Our races will sound different. Our fans will notice a difference. We will miss Sam. But we were truly blessed to have him in Delaware for many years.
Thank you HRU and Bob Heyden for putting together such a nice story around Sam. I will keep the story for a long time to come.
— Tom Wright / president The Little Brown Jug Society
Response to Merv Oswalt
I am writing in response to Merv Oswalt’s column on getting the circus off the tarmac (full story here).
Mr. Oswalt, while I can appreciate your column and desire to have racing like it was 40 years ago, it ain’t happening.
Those days are long behind us and thus, we must come up with different events to attract new faces to harness racing. In many cases, it takes a concert, a family fun day, special events, to draw newbies to the sport.
The biggest problem is that us “baby boomers” that thrived on an afternoon or evening at the track, failed to do some pretty basic stuff to help insure the future of racing could prosper under changing morals and attitudes.
1. Failure to support youth groups (Harness Horse Youth Foundation) in educating young children about how great harness racing is. Thousands of children go to stables and farms around the country every weekend, parents spending tens of thousands of dollars on equestrian riding lessons, camps, outfits, equipment, horses, competitions, etc. We should have been encouraging and doing the same with mini-horses.
2. You grew up in an era where horse racing was the only “legal” form of gambling except for Nevada and cruises. When the first casinos opened outside of Nevada we should have “seen the light” that spinning wheels and quick pick lottery tickets would become more popular and easier to play then handicapping a race program and adapted for the future.
3. Once the downhill trend began, we failed to unify with a proper game plan nationwide to promote and market our industry to our children and children’s children. We should have begun to siphon a percentage of every purse, breeding fee and sales dollar and put it towards harness racing awareness and marketing/publicity/branding our sport to the new generations.
4. We are now the older generation, but it is NEVER too late to take our blind bridles off and look all around at ideas to help our sport at least stop try to the decline every year. X-Factor and Millennials are our future and we must embrace them and learn what would get them to come to the track to watch and wager.
Please don’t write and cry about the way things are today and how you miss the old days. That won’t help. You are betting off asking your son to bring some of his friends over, talk with them as a focus group, get ideas that would interest them into harness racing and then make it happen for them.
— Steven Wolf / Coral Springs, FL
Long letters to the editor
Sirs: Blah, blah, blah. Am I the only one who does not care who is elected as the president of the USTA or how to market harness racing to millennials? The object of my focus is to have a good time while winning a few dollars wherever the opportunity exists. Handicapping is my fun in life. But, while punching the all button in a pick 3 might be a wise decision, that is not really handicapping a race. I admit to giggling when the multiple race bets are won by all 2-5 shots. The expert bet $96 and wins back $40. I shouldn’t laugh. But, I do.
— Al Gatto / Roselee Park, NJ
More thoughts on post time drag
The post time drag is certainly annoying. (full story here) Yes, it’s really dumb to post 0 minutes to post when the race won’t go off for much longer. However, I can’t fault the racetracks if it happens to work and make them more money. Northfield seemed to me to be the first to really institute the long drag. It helped result in their handle being one of the more respectable ones in harness racing. I believe it was quoted in HRU recently that the Meadowlands tried an actual “0” and their handle was significantly affected. Sorry to say, if it makes money the 0 post lag is here to stay.
I also wanted to note for harness fans/gamblers who attend the Meadowlands races live, they do post the actual post time. It’s not on the tote board or the Jumbotron, but rather on the teletimer going into the first turn. I’ve found it very useful when I’m playing other tracks since it’s easier to coordinate my plays. Also, at least the Meadowlands is somewhat consistent. The lag is usually the same. About five-to-six minutes give or take. Northfield, as much I enjoy playing their races, is really tough. Some races go off near 10 minutes past post and they change the post time in between races too. Some races note a short turnaround until the next race while I’ve seen other post times noted as long as 18 minutes.
— Christopher Fenty / Mount Kisco, NY
Parham nails it
I just finished reading the Random Thoughts letter from Dana Parham. (full story here) If these “thoughts” don’t cover everything that needs immediate attention in racing, I just don’t know what does. Brilliant letter, but just one problem: The rear ends planted on the soft, cushy chairs in Westerville, Ohio — the USTA’s new office — really don’t care. Mr. Parham knows that, I know that and the silence roaring out of Westerville knows that. What a damn shame.
— Pat Wiand / Reading, PA
Northfield, Meadows and Yonkers need to step up
It’s absolutely stupefying that Northville Downs, a track that is on thin ice financially, is able to sponsor a qualifying contest for the World Harness Handicapping Contest (WHHC). Contrast that with Northfield Park, The Meadows, and Yonkers Raceway. At this time they offer nothing. Northfield sponsors a weekly thoroughbred contest. What do these three tracks have in common? Two have VLTS and the other a full blown casino. All three are on solid financial ground, yet they cannot find enough loose change to fund contests for the WHHC. C’mon.
— Walter J. Andrasi / Middleburg Hts, OH