Plus, thoughts on last Saturday’s big stakes winners, TVG’s coverage, Courtly Choice’s victory and the most unorthodox, yet successful, shoeing move The Guru has ever made.
by Ron Gurfein
I am pleased to announce the first Ask The Guru Hambletonian contest. It will be a lot of fun, offer good prizes and be easy. Email me a question about the Hambletonian between now 8 pm (EST) on Friday, July 27. I will select the 10 best questions and, from them, Dave Brower will select the top three on the Meadowlands’ in-house TV during the Hambletonian Oaks elimination show. The winner will have dinner for two with me and Mike Lachance after the Hambletonian at Il Villaggio restaurant, and a $500 betting voucher courtesy of the Meadowlands. The second- and third-place finishers will get vouchers of $250 and $100, respectively.
Please send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put Contest in the subject line. This will prevent someone in France that is asking a normal question from winning the draw with no possibility of reaping the benefits.
This contest is open to Harness Racing Update subscribers only. Becoming a subscriber is free:
To all the pedigree snobs, my heart goes out to you for the severe beating you received at the Meadowlands Saturday night. Anyone that has attended the two major standardbred sales in the past few years was surely of the opinion that the trotting game was getting easy. Buy a Muscle Hill or a Chapter Seven from a fashionable breeding farm and you were in like Flynn. In a heartbeat Saturday night, all that went out the window. In the four races making up the two divisions of the Dancer and the Miller we witnessed amazing performances by horses sired by none of the above. Going into the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks we saw My MVP son Wolfgang win in 1:51.2, Muscle Mass colt Six Pack set a 1:50 world record, Explosive Matter daughter Phaetosive win in 1:51.3 and Muscle Mass filly Plunge Blue Chip set a 1:49.4 world record that is the fastest mile by a 3-year-old in history.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Manchego a Muscle Hill and Atlanta a Chapter Seven still remain more than formidable adversaries in this quest.
I will say that this vast display of speed just a few weeks before the first Saturday in August may have a deleterious effect on the entry box. On the more positive side, it would not surprise me to see at least one of the fillies enter the open class. Knowing the players as well as I do I would expect that Team Zeron would be most likely to take the chance at the boys. I have heard how high they were on Atlanta since the beginning of the winter in Sunshine Meadows. Jimmy Takter has been burned trying the boys, however Manchego is the best in his barn and if he truly was retiring after this year what does he have to lose? He has done everything there is to do, a loss would mean nothing, but to win with a filly would be a sweet finale to an outstanding career. As for Plunge Blue Chip, there is absolutely no chance she goes against the boys as her stablemate Six Pack will be first or second choice going into the big dance.
This is a really exciting year for me as I trained the dams of Manchego, Wolfgang, and Six Pack. If my opinion of their individual ability interests you, Secret Magic the dam of Manchego had the most talent, but all three were good fillies and were physically perfect for the most part.
Kudos to the Meadowlands the card was fabulous, the show was great, Hollywood’s interviews, as always, were on the mark and Brower’s side show was terrific.
Paul Appell asks: Did you think TVG changing their format for the Meadowlands Pace was an improvement over previous telecasts?
Unfortunately for TVG, more is not always better. Instead of broadcasting from the studio they decided to go first class and do the show on Pace Night live from the Meadowlands. There were three handicappers as opposed to the usual one, which multiplied their errors all due to inexperience three fold. I really loved the look on David Miller’s face when one of the interviewers asked how he hoped the race would go and not being a man of many words David said “I just hope I get a good trip” to which the man replied “What do you consider a good trip?” David looked at him quizzically as if to say why are you asking me something like that. Poor David now had to be polite and answer with a possible scenario that I thought was great considering the stupidity of the question. I hate to be picky but later they discussed the last division of the Miller and I will give credit for their selection of Plunge Blue Chip however for all the wrong reasons. “Manchego made a tired break.” WRONG she never had a gait the entire mile and Yannick finally lost her. All due to a shoeing change that I advised against.
“She was 14 of 14 going in and yet Atlanta is the best filly in the division” may be right but I find it ridiculous to say as Atlanta hasn’t raced against a formidable filly other than Plunge Blue Chip who wasn’t nearly as sharp early in the season as she was on Saturday.
The National coverage of the sport on TVG is a big plus. Not only does it increase the handle, but it may create some new fans. I implore TVG to hire just one announcer that is familiar with our sport so that the product is presented in the best way it can be.
Blaine MacMillan asks: Courtly Choice was the most consistent horse in terms of raw speed coming into the Meadowlands Pace, yet there was something about him that you weren’t sure about. What were you trainer eyes telling you?
If you go back to my column of last week you will find I had nothing against him except I find it hard to tell someone to bet a horse at even money that comes off two perfect trips. Fortunately for those involved, he now has had three perfect trips. He is without question a wonderful colt with a great future. Blake MacIntosh has done an excellent job with him and the Buckeye gave him a perfect steer.
If you bet all my selections for the weekend you would have done very well. I was 4 for 7 in the other race selections and if you boxed my Pace selections you would have cashed on everything as my picks finished 1 thru 5 and my throw outs 6 through 10.
If I was a gambler (I am not) I would be very thankful for the fabulous drive Matt Kakaley gave Dorsoduro Hanover at 57-1 from post 10, who was one of my selections by the way. My top pick Jimmy Freight had an awful journey, but bottom line, unless he had his air shut off, was no match for the winner.
Warren Eves asks: Please address the Yonkers Raceway horrific video streaming process. They put the betting graphic ahead of the bettors being able to view the scoring, and or the gate for the turn or the start. It’s bush league. I want your take.
I don’t know what you are watching, but I made a point of reviewing the simulcast to properly answer the question and made an idiot out of myself by calling my friend Frank Drucker, the publicity director of Yonkers for the past 30 years, to ask about it.
Not only do they show the post parade and the horses scoring down, but they show the stats of the trainer, driver and the horse as they single out each horse in the warm ups. As far as the camera coverage going to the gate, it never leaves the field of horses. There is a graphic that shows the list of horses by post position that appears for maybe three seconds when the field goes behind the gate. If you watch Yonkers tomorrow and see something that I am missing please email me asap because I honestly have not seen what you refer to in your query.
Dave Briggs asks: Shoeing plays an important role in training. What was the most unorthodox, yet successful, shoeing job you remember?
This one I will never forget as it fed my family for a long time. I bought Franconia in the mixed sale in Harrisburg in the mid-‘80s and she was as nice a filly as could be on the floor. She was 100 per cent correct, but her feet didn’t know that. Maybe she was going over her knees for the previous trainer, but loving horses with short toes I cut a lot off before I ever trained her. It was dumb, but she had so much toe I hated to look down. When I started to train her and I asked for speed she would hit her right shin and bounce off and hit her left knee harder than I liked. It would be a great story to say I took her to the blacksmith shop and did this and that and she was perfect. Not quite. I tried a few different things and ended up with a victory plate on her behind with a very high (58) degree angle which for the most part got her off her shin but hitting the knee was still a problem. I pulled her front shoes and trained and jogged her barefoot for about a month. She ended up wearing her right foot to the inside and her left to the outside just about the opposite of what you would think. I put full swedge shoes on her just the way she wore her soles she was actually tipped into the turns I also had a diamond toe on both feet right to the inside left to the outside. She never wore a boot again. She did win many FFA Trots at the Meadowlands and won the Maple Leaf Trot at Greenwood Raceway as well as becoming a world champion on the mile track. At that point, she was the second biggest harness racing accomplishment at that time in my career, after Higher Power winning the Adios in 1982.
Thanks again to all my readers for the kind words and encouraging emails. Please keep the questions coming. Next week I will review the Hambletonian and the Oaks and other major races. Have a wonderful week and don’t forget you can have dinner with me and Mike Lachance if you come up with the winning question.
Have a question for The Guru? Email him at GurfTrot@aol.com.