My breaking point, take on the NA Cup card, thoughts on crosses and what thoroughbreds can learn from us

My breaking point, take on the NA Cup card, thoughts on crosses and what thoroughbreds can learn from us

June 22, 2018

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by Ron Gurfein

I don’t watch as much television as the average individual, so this narrative may be overstated. It does seem to me that today there are far more advertisements for new drugs than I can remember when I was a kid. First and foremost, I must declare that I have no training or expertise in such matters, but a recent experience has caused me to write this article. About five minutes ago I watched an advertisement for a drug that I tried for a year with no success. Unfortunately I have been cursed with Psoriasis a horrid skin disorder that up until today had no absolute cure. The ad for Taltz claimed 90 per cent cure rate of which I am certainly part of the 10 per cent losers. Not only is it a very expensive drug — $4,500 per injection twice a month unless you can prove abject poverty — it plain and simply didn’t do a thing for me. Now, keep in mind, this is for a vicious skin disease that is definitely not life threatening.

Now I see ads for cancer cures and that was the red flag. What of the poor person with late stage cancer watching these ads and finding a ray of hope? What has happened to the proper testing of drugs before they are released to the public? Shame on the government for their lack of care and proper investigation. Please don’t become excited for a new drug until it has proven successful to you.

After my discussion about speed in the sport last week, low and behold 3-year-old trotting fillies broke the Buffalo track record three times. The last was a mile by Ake Svanstedt’s Fury Road a bay filly by Muscle Mass that stopped the teletimer in 1:57, a time that 10 years ago was a dream, as 2:01 was sufficient to win any trotting race on that half miler.

Congratulations again to Wolfgang and his connections. All I can say is, amazing. Same to the Teagues and Lather Up — a stunning performance.

How about those Father Patricks?

Now, to this week’s questions:

Paula Nelson asks: Guru, what is your take on the North America Cup evening?

I thought it was a great night of racing. It’s too bad there was minimal TV coverage. With no real surprises in the result column I think the producers of the in-house show did a great job keeping the night interesting. The commentary and interviews were all on the money. With the exception of Yannick Gingras repeating with Hannelore Hanover and Wolfgang — no trainer or driver doubled up in the stake races.

Proof that money never rules in horse racing was once again evident as the winner’s share of the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup went to Gary and Barbara Iles, proud owners and breeders of Lather Up, a more than impressive winner of the event.

The Iles have a farm a few miles from George Teague’s training center in Harrington, DE. Gary was a barber by profession and thus he has named his horses after his life’s work. Lather Up and Barber Pole were the two most formidable colts he has raced.

Jimmy Bernstein tells me that Barber Pole was a very classy horse that he trained himself quite often. Pocket Comb, the dam of Lather Up, has had a long list of successful foals, unfortunately she passed away this year at 24 years of age.

“Gary is a fine and gracious man and a good friend. He never questions any of George’s decisions and is a true asset to the game,” said Bernstein.

We will definitely see more of Lather Up. Although he is not eligible to the Meadowlands Pace, he will be a starter of consequence in the Jug.

Dave Mattia asks: Dear Guru, years ago I had a filly that never made a break. I heard, however, that as a juvenile all she did was break, break, break. Lucky for me, the former trainer didn’t give up on her. With regards to that story how much breaking are you willing to tolerate with a young one?

I left out a lot of the question, but you get his point. Luckily for today’s horseman, the newer breed of trotter is fairly safe and they also have trotting hopples at their disposal, which we wouldn’t think of using back in the day.

There are so many variables that come into play. I was training horses at Sunshine Meadows. The track was basically horrid, but it was a mile, no tight turns and very soft. I started all my babies barefoot and they were always running. I always knew that when they got to the Meadowlands they would be fine. Continentalvictory would jump over a bird, a matchbook, a pylon etc etc at two. She rarely trotted an entire mile until we got north. Then it was hard to make her break.

I would say that with today’s trotter if there is repetitive breaks it comes from lameness. I watched the 2-year-old year of Tactical Landing, the $800,000 brother to Mission Brief, and you couldn’t find a better-gaited horse warming up. But late in the mile there was always a problem. His sister was the same way, but he is bigger, so it must hurt more. His trainer, Bobby Stewart, did the right thing, he was not going to lose sleep over a horse, plus he has a financial investment. Sir Jimmy Takter tried to qualify him and he looked the same to me but if anyone can fix him it would be Takter. I really believe that hopples are not the answer. They weren’t the answer to his sister, although they helped some. If a horse interferes, then the hopples can help, but if a horse is lame, hopples are not the correct way to go.

As far as a colt that breaks all the time for no reason, I have a test. If you can get him to trot on a fast quarter without a ripple either the right way or the wrong way of the track he is worth investing your time. When I get one like that, I try hormones first and eventually castration. With a filly, all you have is hormones. I would say that most will come around.

If you can’t get the colt to perform that quarter of a mile then he surely needs a new home.

Mark Walsh asks: What mares are the best cross for Sweet Lou?

First of all, I am pleased to say it looks like his first crop is off to a fabulous start.

I sold Ron Burke Lucy’s Pearl one of my pet horses a few years ago and she has a Sweet Lou colt at her side as we speak.

Back to your question, in order to answer it I would like to quote the pedigree guru Myron Bell “The only place where crosses are important is in church.” With that said, I will point out that two of my own Hambletonian winners, Continentalvictory and Self Possessed were out of a Chiola Hanover mare and a Mystic Park mare, respectively, truly not listed anywhere under golden crosses.

My advice would be instead of looking for crosses look for a great family that is far enough removed from Sweet Lou that you are not inbreeding at all and find a young mare that has good size and is correct.

Dave Briggs asks: We hear a lot about what we can learn from the thoroughbred industry, but what would the thoroughbreds do well to learn from the standardbred industry?

Their races are well advertised and well sponsored and on National TV. Their top events draw 150,000 fans. Their principals and fans can be dressed to the nines. The sport has a major youth following. They handle $200 million at big events. They have races with purses from $10 million to $16 million. They sell all kinds of merchandise all over the world, and all their races are on regular cable TV 24/7.

Our races are not advertised and not sponsored and not on any major network. Our top events draw 40 or 50 thousand fans and those races are in Europe and Delaware, Ohio. No one dresses for our events. Our fans are mostly older. We handle $12 million at a big event, $1 million is our highest purse and our races are solely on the Internet, for the most part. NO, there isn’t a thing we can teach them.

However in fairness to our sport, we simply have more fun. We don’t win as much, but our downside is far more realistic. We have had two $800,000 yearlings in 100 years. That is merely a common number on any given opening day at Keeneland’s September Sale, where the venue sells 5,000 horses. Their business is a bit stuffy and they certainly don’t have the same closeness with the animal as we do. Thoroughbreds are not nearly as easy to be around as our horses. The most obvious difference in our favor is that when they lose a race they wait three or four weeks to try again. Seven days later we are back in action. Last but not least, if you are game you can go to the barn and jog your colt. There’s no shot the average guy is jumping up on a thoroughbred.

Thanks to my readers for all the kind words. please keep the letters and questions coming in. Next week, a question of real importance: Why don’t honest trainers report when the witness suspicious behavior from fellow trainers? Have a wonderful week.
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