The winner of my dream race of elite trotters is…

by Ron Gurfein

As promised last week (full promise here) here’s how my dream race of trotters would turn out:

The field for the first, and most likely last, version of the Red Mile Elite Trot is about ready to go to the gate. The entries from the rail out are Mission Brief, Moni Maker, Continentalvictory, Hannelore Hanover, Self Possessed, Sebastian K, Varenne, and Muscle Hill.

The field is in the hands of the starter.

The field is on gait.

As the Preferred Equine Marketing starting gate passes mid stretch, where the famed tunnel used to be, all the horses look great and we are primed for a perfect start.

They’re off and trotting.

Continentalvictory and Sebastian K are first off the wings with Muscle Hill and the White Knight in close pursuit. Mission Brief, Moni Maker, Hannelore Hanover, Self Possessed and Varenne elected to remain out of the early fray, but remain in a fairly tight pack.

Iron Mike and Continentalvictory relinquish the lead to Sebastian K albeit grudgingly and as the quarter comes up in a swift :25.4 Muscle Hill finds a spot at the rail third with Mission Brief gapping slightly.

Heading down the backstretch toward the half-mile pole, Sebastian K is on an easy lead followed by Continentalvictory who looks a bit uncomfortable in the hole followed by Muscle Hill, Mission Brief, Moni Maker, Hannelore Hanover, Self Possessed and Varenne.

As they reach the 3⁄8 Iron Mike pulls the pockets with Continentalvictory and goes right by Sebastian K to take the lead also on the move is Minnucci with Varenne not satisfied to sit last and he is looking for cover. Continentallvictory hits the half in :53.1, a ridiculous number. It looks like the $100,000 bonus that was offered by the Red Mile for breaking the world record is definitely coming into play.

Heading toward the three quarters, the action really starts to develop. Sears and Muscle Hill are first to pull, followed by Yannick and Mission Brief. Ake was satisfied to sit in with Sebastian K, thus causing a four-in-four out situation at the 3⁄4 in 1:20.2, a truly blistering pace. Continentalvictory basically responsible for all the fractions thus far maintains a half-length lead with Muscle Hill breathing down her throat. Sebastian K third on the rail looks to have a ton of trot as does Mission Brief right to his outside. Hennessey with Moni Maker is in a real tight spot fifth on the rail with plenty of horse as well as Hannelore Hanover with nowhere to go and Self Possessed will be forced to go three deep in that treacherous last turn to get around the floundering Varenne who has spent the entire mile in the middle of the track.

They have a quarter of a mile to trot and they turn for home. Continentalvictory still looks strong but after these fractions how strong could she be? Muscle Hill is still at her stride for stride, Mission Brief looms a danger as does Self Possessed who Campbell now tips three deep to get around Varenne and looks loaded with trot. Sebastian K, Moni Maker and Hannelore Hanover are all trapped on the rail and behind what looks like a faltering Continentalvictory. By mid stretch trotters are coming from everywhere. Muscle Hill has now taken a slight lead, Mission Brief can’t keep up to him. Hennessey somehow magically escapes the rail and launches a last ditch effort with Moni Maker while Campbell after his three wide move with Self Possessed is still coming hard down the center of the track. Self Possessed looks to be going by Muscle Hill but the tough colt fights back and they are fighting for every inch nose to nose to the wire As they hit the finish line it’s too close to call and it doesn’t matter as the crowd is applauding wildly for the new world record — 1:48.3. But to whom will it belong?

After a 20-minute wait it was announced that the record belonged to both of them as the photo was deemed a dead heat. A fabulous finish to a fabulous horse race. Moni Maker who raced well late was third, Hannelore Hanover finished fourth and Mission Brief received the fifth and last check,

The question now is does each winner receive the $100,000 bonus or is it split? Better ask Joe Costa.

The open house party for all involved will be at 8 pm at Le Deauville Restaurant where Angelo Cardin will be the invited chef and Murray Brown will supply the Screaming Eagle, Bob Waxman the Petrus, Bill Perretti the Caymus Special Select and Marty Granoff the Chateau d’Yquem. Angelo is keeping the entire menu a secret.

Back to the questions at hand.

Dave Briggs asks: What is the dumbest rule currently in harness racing and why?

“I wish I could narrow it down to one but there are so, so many that come to mind. First and most important is the trainer responsibility rule. In my opinion, for every bad guy trainer caught, three innocents suffer. There are far too many ways for a horse to have a positive without human intervention, this in itself negates the favorability of the trainer responsibility rule. I myself have been a victim of this frivolous rule on two separate occasions. I had a Lasix positive. Truly an act of god. Where in hell could a horse in my barn get Lasix? Maybe she called the pharmacy for an outgoing order. Please don’t be ridiculous after training horses for the better part of half a century. I find it ludicrous that I could be fined for such a dumb circumstance. I wish I had another solution to the problem but I do not.

The next inane rule is interfering with the post parade while warming up. First, they limit your available time on the track by taking blood in a less than timely fashion and they almost force you commit this treasonous act.

And lastly, no speaking during the post parade or scoring down. This could be okay if they didn’t make the score five minutes or more longer than every race. The reason for the rule is that it looks like collusion on the track. If drivers are going to play games they will do it at lunch not in front of an entire audience. Where do these ideas come from?

Bill Peters asks: What is your best advice for anyone wanting to win the Hambletonian?

That’s simple: go buy a lottery ticket. It’s cheaper.

No, of course I am kidding. If you have a lot of money, and a lot of patience it can be done but you must have a lot of time, as well.

Since the Hambletonian has moved from DuQuoin IL in 1981 to the Meadowlands, almost every famed trotting horse trainer that trains 20 or more colts has won the race at least once and a few have won it multiple times.

Partnerships have made what was once a monumental task a whole lot easier.

To begin with, you need a good trainer before you consider a horse. Pick a guy or girl that has a good reputation and has been to the big show before. It’s like the Final Four, the been-there-done-that coaches end up in the winner’s circle. The same with horse racing.

I am not saying to eliminate those who have not won from consideration. You may as well include a few that have been knocking on the door.

Now that you have a trainer and money to spend, go buy a horse or two or more.

I have exhausted myself on yearling selection in this column so I will carry this no further. But remember, winning isn’t everything. If you find yourself finishing second, to quote Michel Lachance , “you will be crying out of one eye.”

Peter Cummins asks: What is your biggest fault?

Great question, it would probably take a novel to answer it properly. Peter, to be honest, I have a myriad of faults, many of which I would rather not discuss in an open forum. To be very candid now that I have started to answer you, I am a bit sorry I selected this question, but as someone once said, never look back, always look forward.

I am going to give you an equine related answer rather than a totally personal one.

I think my greatest fault is that I look at horses the same way I look at women. I can find something I like in all of them. This can prove extremely expensive, and often a total waste of physical and mental energy.

I have always believed that if a colt can be 100 percent perfect for a quarter of a mile there is no reason why I can’t get the other three quarters correct. Most times it’s not as easy as I think it will be. However, in the long run it does work, but it becomes a matter of time and money. As expensive as it is to train today it would be good advice to put projects behind us and start with something fresh. Frank Antonacci has said of me, “Gurfein is great at fixing colts but if he doesn’t do it in a minute it’s most likely not going to happen.” Maybe my dwelling is a major fault but it also provides me with mental entertainment.

Thanks again to all my readers. I hope you enjoyed this column as much as I did writing it. The horse race was a new challenge to me. My editor asks what was the best and worst thing about growing up in New York City? The answer next week.

Please keep your questions coming in and if I have answered yours yet have patience with me, I will get to it. Have a wonderful week.

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