Thoughts on the Yonkers sale to MGM, baby races and avoiding tying up in fillies

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: Justify worked four furlongs at Churchill Downs last week in :46.8. To me, a bullet work like that shows he is fit as a fiddle. Drawing the one post will only gratify the bettor more at the windows. I have failed miserably at picking the second horse so I will abstain and cheer on a new Triple Crown winner.

Father Patrick and Sweet Lou are good sires already. I am anxious to see Captains Court (Tony Alagna Stable) appearance shortly as well as the Lindy Farms colts that I watched all winter.

I feel bad that Mike Bozich thought I was criticizing him on my take of the announcing at Harrah’s Philadelphia last week. It definitely was not the case I was merely explaining how I thought the show could be improved.

RIP Tom Sells. A wonderful man has passed. When I think about it, I have made so many wonderful friends at The Meadows — way too many to name here. It is quite the friendly place.

Best of luck to my Hambletonian selection Wolfgang who makes his first start of the season for Sir Jimmy in an elimination to the Goodtimes tonight at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Last but not least, the first crop sires will be represented very well on Saturday at the Meadowlands with Captaintreacherous leading the way with 11 starters followed by Trixton 6 and Father Patrick 5. It will be a show.

George Bell asks: What are the Guru’s feelings on the sale of Yonkers Raceway to MGM?

After reading the comments on Facebook, I was surprised to see so many negative ones. You must be positive about everything that changes in life to be successful. For every one positive thought on the sale there were 10 negative ones.

The Rooney family loves and supports harness racing and always has. They are very loyal to boot. Yonkers has had the same race secretary, Steve Starr, for longer than any racetrack —longer than Joe De Frank or Jim Lynch. To me that’s loyalty.

I was not a fly on the wall, but somewhere in the sale contract harness racing remains at the Hilltop Oval.

Peter O’Tool asks: What do you think of the first week’s baby races?

To me the first week behind the gate for this year’s crop tells us a myriad of things. To begin with, pedigree means so much and this year the high ticket items were on a sensational roll. Marcus Melander, although in his mid-20s, has marked himself as a major factor on the Grand Circuit scene, which in my mind has been taken over by the European trainers. The great American hope right now is Julie Miller who is as hard working as any horseperson that ever drew a line over a colt.

The Swedes spent the money and got the gold. Melanders’ Greenshoe may be the most impressive first-time starter I have ever seen. The son of first-crop stallion Father Patrick out of the Marvin Katz and Al Libfield owned Designed To Be was the highlight of the Breakfast with the Babies Saturday morning at the Meadowlands. His performance was amazing to say the least. It was more the way he did it that how fast he did it. He was a $330,000 purchase at the Lexington Selected Sale.

Then there was the highest priced yearling of the year, the magnificent filly Beautiful Sin. At $480,000 she was an early Christmas gift to her breeders the Gurals and Monica Bencal. The filly is a Muscle Hill out of the Cantab Hall mare Sina.

Julie and Andy Miller put on a show at Gaitway Monday winning five races all on the trot including three Father Patricks, two of which were bred by Marvin Katz, one in partnership with Brittany Farm.

On the pacing side, Sweet Lou had a pair of nice youngsters. The Jimmy Takter-trained and Diamond Creek homebred Blood Money was more than impressive in his debut, and the Sweet Lou—Camille filly Sweet Chrome trained by Ronnie Burke was great finishing second by a nose to a 3-year-old in a very quick time. Funny that Yannick Gingras had told me about this filly a month or two ago in Florida and she looks like she lived up to expectations.

Another filly that was quite talented was the Joe Holloway-trained Starita, a Brittany Farms bred daughter of Trixton from Morningstar. She made a break leaving, spotted the field a bunch and rallied to finish second. She is a big, good-moving filly that will be a lass to reckon with down the road. Switching venues at Pocono Downs Wednesday morning, Ray Schnittker unveiled a pair of speedy babies winning with a Captaintreacherous colt Captain Malicious out of Silky and a Donato Hanover filly out of his great mare Jezzy. Jezzys Legasy won by 11 lengths with a quick final panel.

Missy Rothfuss asks: Why does my horse constantly eat his manure?

There are so many answers to this question, but the basic and most common one is that he is bored. Horses and dogs both do the same thing when they are confined to a small space when they grew up in a huge area. Horses were meant to graze all day and when there is no grass there are few alternatives. Some vets believe that it’s a good thing because they get good bacteria from the manure and it aids in their digestion. I would rather attempt to stop this by trying a few different things. The first, try feeding four or five times a day. Don’t increase the amount of feed if the horse is healthy, but space the feeding times out.

Another path would be to have your vet do a blood test to see if the horse is lacking something in his system that may be rectified with some particular supplement. Please get back to me I would like to know how you solve this.

Nick Salvi asks: You trained some of the greatest trotting fillies in harness racing history. There had to have been issues; primarily tying up, in and out of heat, etc. How did you deal with these problems, particularly with an important race on the horizon?

Great fillies don’t tie up nor do they react to heat cycles or they wouldn’t be great. My three favorites, Continentalvictory, Imperfection and Possess The Magic must have started 70 races for me combined and not one ever tied up or had a bad heat where it affected their performance.

Overall, I would say the incidence of tying up in my barn was far lower than the average because I always fed a low protein, high fat diet. As for bad heat cycles, I found that at the first sign of a unhappy filly high doses of chorionic corrects the problem immediately. If not, adding Regumate daily to the patient will end your problem. Just a handful of grain for breakfast is another option.

I have handled tying up differently than most trainers. I leave the tied up filly in her stall for two or three days without even walking, giving DMSO jugs and banamine. On the fourth day, double jog two miles and then double jog four miles every day including Sundays. I realize this is a headache but the results will make it worthwhile. Please don’t let anyone talk you into training every day, because in 30 days the filly will look like she’s been on Lasix for five years.

Thanks to all my readers for the kind words please keep the questions coming. Next week I will answer one of my favorite questions that comes from Norman Rosen: I have been a fan of harness and thoroughbred racing for 50 plus years. Why do harness horses keep going faster and thoroughbreds remain at the same speed?

Have a wonderful week.

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