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HRU Feedback (2017-11-26)

November 26, 2017

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Is $1.46 million winner Tigerama in jeopardy after being sold for $300?

I don’t know if you are aware that Tigerama was sold at the Delaware sale last week for a measly $300. He was consigned by Bert Moore from Sarnia, ON and purchased by Warren White of Morton, Mississippi. I contacted the SOSS (Save Our Standardbred from Slaughter) about this guy because the sales office would only give me a Box # and knew nothing more — or so they said. I couldn’t find a phone number for him or find him on Facebook. Between SOSS and myself, we tracked him down. Before we talked to him, a friend found his number and called him. He told her that the horse was safe and that he would be used for breeding. So he says. We have no proof that this is so. He also promised to let her know if he ever wanted to sell Tigerama. I can only hope that he is genuine.

Robert Hamather bred this guy and owned him through his productive racing career with the likes of Robinson, Coleman, Elliott and others training him during those money-making – all of more than $1.4 million on the track. He went to Casimir for about five years of breeding which didn’t go so well. Wm Moore of Sarnia is the owner of record on Standardbred Canada since May 2015. According to Bert, they bred him to three of their mares and got three foals in 2016 that he claims were all lame. That, of course, could be for many reasons (mares, management, etc.) and not necessarily the stallion’s fault. However, he was “tired” of him. “Fed up” he said when I asked him why he sold him for $300. He knew that he wasn’t taking him back home. He did say that he was a nice horse to be around.

Mr. Hamather was not aware of Tigerama’s plight and was upset to find out what had happened to him. He, according to my friend, did some digging. Meanwhile, the SOSS was also working on it and found some reliable contacts in Mississippi that were going to go to Mr. White’s place to check on Tigerama. They/we were trying to verify that he was there, in good health and in a good environment. One never knows when a horse of that calibre is bought out of a sale for so little money — especially going to the deep south which is so close to the Mexican border where they slaughter horses (as we do in Canada). Or any horse for that matter.

This, in my opinion, is just one more black eye on the harness racing industry. Everyone connected to this horse to date just let him end up in a sale where he was not even given the decency of an appropriate dollar value. Some were not aware of his entry in the catalogue but I’m betting some did. We have to do so much better for our retired, cast off racehorses. I’ve suggested (to deaf ears apparently) that money be deducted from each purse cheque cut ($5 to $10) across North America (all racing breeds) for a retirement fund that would save these souls that have given so much and been thrown away to make room for new blood. Another source is the yearling sales. And the tracks, trainers, breeders. There are so many that could give a little bit back on each transaction. We take and need to start giving back. Why should the horse-loving public be expected to dish out the money to clean up the mess that we leave behind? There are so many that can easily afford a small amount deducted from their payments. I know some make donations but this needs to be a regular income for the rescue and rehab/rehome groups out there that do all the dirty work for us. Check out the SOSS page. Every day they are pleading for donations to save so many broken down racers (usually been sent to the Amish/Mennonites) of all ages (two to 22 or more) from the kill pen. Kill buyers hold them ransom knowing that rescues are raising money to keep them from the slaughter house. This is a disgusting, sickening side of our race industry doesn’t want the public to know. Instead of the money going to these kill buyers (vultures), they could go towards setting up rehoming centers such as Go And Play in Ontario. They are also constantly begging for donations.

— Lynne Magee / Wingham, ON

Passing lanes are harness racing’s worst invention

In Dean Towers’ article on half mile track racing (full story here), there was not a word on the passing lane which, if the starting gate is harness racing’s greatest innovation, the passing lane must be its worst.

Here is a letter I’ve sent to any track utilizing it:

I strongly urge you to eliminate the PASSING LANE in order to help increase your daily handle and improve your racing product.

The PASSING LANE creates two issues that lead to heavy favorites dominating races and the lack of come from behind wins. They are:

1. It stymies movement during the race, especially early, by encouraging drivers not to pull to the outside when sitting 2nd or 3rd on the rail. With little or no risk of getting locked in, favorites go towards the front early, save ground and have plenty left in the stretch. Without a passing lane, drivers will need to consider quarter and half mile moves, which helps level the playing field.

2. With horses sitting 2nd and 3rd staying on the inside as they go towards the half-mile pole, it makes the horse sitting 4th (or even 5th) many times end up first over. It is difficult for these horses to reach, let alone pressure, the free wheeling pacesetter. When that happens, even more opportunity occurs for the horses sitting 2nd and 3rd on the inside to find room in the final parts of the race. Also, when this happens, horses following the first over horse are forced into a premature three and four wide move, which is nearly impossible to overcome.

The PASSING LANE rewards drivers for not making moves to the outside, which leads the boring, favorites-filled cards.

Please consider removing the PASSING LANE. I am confident it will lead to more competitive, action-packed races, higher payoffs and ultimately greater handle.

* * *

Unfortunately, no tracks have changed their stance. The creation of the Passing Lane falls into the “Unintended Consequences” category. Hopefully Dean will bring it up in Part 2.

— Maurice Chodash / Boca Raton, FL

No faith tracks will do the right thing

Recently, you published a feedback letter regarding “Boiling and Pocono Downs”: (full story here)

In the letter, a specific race is referenced. This race typifies just how low racing integrity has fallen. As a bettor, I avoid wagering on this track as I believe the inmates have taken over the prison. What has not been dealt with is the issue of intent. I have watched the chalks at this racetrack driven with little “intent” @4-5 then aggressively driven in subsequent starts once the odds are higher (compare the drives on the 5-2 horse on 11/13/2017 with the following race by the same driver on the 2-5 chalk (race 1 and 2)). We see intent in one race and driving without intent in the other. From where I sit, If the tracks refuse to overhaul their operations by judging questionable racing efforts to fines for wrong doing and assuring their customers get “A” level integrity, then we will spend our dollars elsewhere.

As a former resident of California, a few years back I saw first hand the trainer/owner/driver relationship between Lou Pena and a certain trainer/owner that finished in the top 5 of the trainer standings at Harrah’s Philadelphia and is currently among the leaders at Pocono Downs. I find it unacceptable that this connection was not considered when licensing this trainer in Pennsylvania.

At this point, this trainer’s acceptance at these tracks speaks volumes about the integrity concerns these tracks have for their patrons. I no longer have faith the tracks will do the right thing, couple this with the industries highest take-out-rate, judging issues regarding consistent rule adherence and it is hard to make a case for betting these two tracks.

Perhaps Mr. Gural could buy these two tracks-problem solved-Integrity returned!

— David Perry / Dearborn, MI

Tired of Gural playing God

There was a time that I was very happy that Mr. Gural took over as the owner of the Meadowlands. That time has come and gone. I am so tired of his playing God with what the drivers can and can’t do and who can and can’t race at the Meadowlands. The drivers have every right to pick and choose where they drive, they are trying to make a living to feed their families as well as set up their children for the rest of their lives. Who is Jeff Gural to say these men and women can’t do this?? Secondly, the whole banning of trainers and not telling the betting public why these trainers are not allowed at the track. Why do you not say “so and so has been banned for a positive test,” not leave us scratching our heads as to why certain trainers can’t race there. We, the betting public, should know these things since we are the ones betting our hard-earned money on the racing at the Meadowlands. Not to mention, (Gural) also owns horses who are trained by trainers who got positive tests, yet these trainers are still able to race at his race tracks (double standard much??) I have been betting on the Meadowlands since 2000, and have considered it the mecca of harness racing. Now I consider it a 3rd option for my betting money behind the Woodbine/Mohawk racetracks and Yonkers. And that is because I feel the racing is so much better at these tracks, and they pose more of a challenge to me as a handicapper.

— Paul Williamson / Mount Prospect, IL

Thumbs up on Survivor bet

Just wanted to give the thumbs up to the new Survivor bet being offered at the Meadowlands. I am encouraged by my own experiences that this is a hittable bet for the horseplayers. The first week, I missed by one race being a winner. I had the longshot in the first race as one of only two picks, but got knocked out by the second longshot of the night. I had the next two winners, which means I missed by one race in hitting a payout. I was on a job site the second week and did not get to play. This most recent third week, 8 out of 10 was the winner, and again I had 7 out of 10, including all 5 of my singles. Oh for slightly deeper pockets to play a stronger ticket!

After three weeks, both times I have played I was very close. Obviously my handicapping is pointing me in the right direction, just need to maybe find a partner or two to spread the cost into a winning ticket.

I like the bet! Let’s see what the pools look like after a few more weeks!

— Scot Strong / Parma Heights, OH

Owners biggest contributors to stakes

In the November 19, 2017 edition of HRU, it is mentioned that the Meadowlands offers $12 million in purses for stakes and $10 million in purses for overnight races. However, it is important to note that racehorse owners contribute a substantial amount of the stakes purses via nominating, sustaining and declaration payments.

For example, the TVG Championship Trot will offer a purse of $350,000; of which $220,250 will be provided via owners payments. Five owners will receive purses checks totaling $315,000 (after deductions for trainer and driver fees). So in reality, the owners were racing for only $94,750 of OPM (other peoples money).

— Joseph E Smith / Vero Beach, FL

Thoughts on Gural

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the latest brouhahas that arose from swamp in Jersey the last few weeks. First off, the Gural driving edict regarding loyalty to the track made little if no sense. As far as I could tell, it was a warning to basically two drivers, Scott Zeron and Brian Sears. Scotty Z basically followed the precedent set few years earlier by Ron Pierce by driving at Yonkers last year until the Levy was finished and bypassing the winter meet. Sears was basically the main guy who swooped in to pick up stake wins as if it’s his fault that he’s still a top go-to guy for owners during stake season. No one else in the driving colony, as far I can tell, drives at Yonkers over the Big M. Also, none of the big names will be at the Meadowlands from when the Levy starts until the Meadowlands Pace anyway. The way things are now, slot fueled tracks have filled up the stakes calendar. In the past the Meadowlands had series action, the Berry’s Creek, and finally the NJ classic (it was 500k once!). Now, all of those are gone. Except for a few Saturday’s in May, the top drivers are all over following the Grand Circuit.

Also, although having all the top dogs in one place is great, the main handle driver (no pun intended) at the Meadowlands is and always will be field size and competitiveness. I predict that Saturday night’s stake laden card will produce a very poor handle for the amount of money being given away. It’s beyond sad that the TVG races not only drew short fields (the open mare trot shouldn’t even be allowed on the betting program with 4 horses), but in some races a trainer has 3 or 4 entrants. Burke, I believe, has nearly half the open trot! I would wager heavily that the handle the following Saturday will be near equal to this weeks card.

Mr. Gural mentioned that he maintains the stake program to help the industry as a whole over this bottom line. I agree with his assessment and I applaud him in that regard. However, I have to admit as a fan and bettor, I’d rather see him reverse course and drop most of the stakes program or move some of them out NJ (heck the Cane Pace has visited a bunch of different tracks). Other than Hambo day, the other days just don’t add to bottom line or generate big crowds anymore. I will be the first to admit I was amazed that I saw more people for the ostrich and camel races in 2016 (it was held on a Saturday that year) than showed up to watch the Meadowlands Pace. Also, if big time owners are going to be disgraceful by using chemist trainers until they have to race at the Meadowlands, Mr. Gural shouldn’t reward them by putting on the stake races. It’s not worth it to fund these big races if you’re going to be disrespected in return.

— Christopher Fenty / Mt. Kisco, NY

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