Thoughts on Takter, the Hall of Fame class of 2019, competing in the yearling game against the powerhouse stables and open draws for stakes finals

All in this week’s edition of harness racing’s favorite advice column.

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: In last week’s column my discourse on the timidity of the Takter catch drivers when the boss has a horse in the race was grossly misconstrued by many readers including Jimmy himself. Nowhere in the article did I claim anything illegal was committed. My problem was the unfairness to the bettors who have been victimized by these lacklustre drives and the fact that we should consider making these elimination events non-betting. By the way, it has been brought to my attention that in one of the instances to which I referred, the driver in question was requested to appear before the judges at the Red Mile last Sunday. Please understand this situation arose subsequent to the finish of the race and in NO way were the judges influenced by my article.

To my gambling followers, stay on the Domenico Cecere bandwagon. He has won a half-dozen races including a $60 winner since I said to start betting his trainees and he still has a lot of highly talented colts and fillies in the barn. His UDR is approaching .500. Enjoy. Sad to add that the KYSS were rained out last Sunday and the stake races were moved to Monday, non betting. Domenico won with Belle, would have been a $20 mutuel. Sorry.

My attempt at handicapping for the week. I like Manchego to win the Elegantimage final and Kings County to prevail in the William Wellwood final.

Dave Briggs asks: What are your thoughts on the Hall of Fame class of 2019?

I voted yes for all of them so I certainly approve. I have been campaigning for years that more trainers be selected. Until this year, only four have been chosen in decades, McIntosh, Sylvester, The Guru and Takter.

However, I really find it hard to reason why after that dry spell of the last 30 years they had to do it all at once. Being enshrined in the HOF is the experience of a lifetime representing hard work and amazing achievement. Why should we have a whole basketball team invited on the same night? It’s basically unfair to all of them. Why not have spread them out to two years and made it three and three? It would have made it more special for all of them. Then we come to logistics. There isn’t a whole lot of room under that tent. With two inductees many nights the house is full. What will happen with six? Even building another tent some patrons will be so far away they will be watching on television. Now add two to the Communicators and they better have a buzzer to end the speeches or the ceremony will conclude at 4 a.m.

On the bright side, all of the inductees were more than worthy of the honor. Holloway knows a lot about horses and as much about wine, Linda is a fabulous gal with a work ethic second to none, Ted G gets a special award for the most loyal owner in the sport, Jerry was great at picking a colt, Wing has done it all and Blair my Canadian counterpart knows it all.

May I take this opportunity to congratulate all of you and wish you enjoy the party as much as I did.

Joel Kravet asks: With the huge amount of high-priced yearlings purchased by the powerhouse stables does it make economic sense to invest in less expensive colts?

This is a sport, not a business. If you go in expecting to make money you will most likely be disappointed. The best way to make money is to sell or make stallions, which is a millionaire’s game for sure. It may take years to hit a home run, so the downside is immense. I could never advise you in good conscience that you will make a profit. However, I can guide you how to lower your risk and improve your chances.

To begin with, to me high=priced trotters are more dominant in today’s market than the pacers. It’s very hard to buy a talented yearling trotter at a reasonable price because there are so few of them. On the other hand, if you have a trainer with a good eye for a colt I think with all the indigenous races available as a fall back to the Grand Circuit you can buy a colt for less than 50K that would have the opportunity to win $200,000 in state-bred programs alone. Selling is also an option, a good state-bred can sell for a king’s ransom today. One group just paid a reported seven figures for an undefeated state-bred 2-year-old trotter. He subsequently finished second in the Wellwood elims and if he wins Saturday will get a significant chunk of that purchase price back in one event.

Remember, plenty of very wealthy people tried to buy this business and they all failed so there is room for hope in the purchase of any colt at any price. Lastly, the trainer you select is of major importance, make sure he or she has been there before. It’s not in your best interest having someone gaining experience on your dime.

Jeff Feinman asks: Do you agree with the opinion of Mr. Sturman that it was unfair for Jimmy Freight to draw the eight hole in the Messenger final. If Jimmy Freight is the best isn’t the draw irrelevant?

Let me comment on the last part as the race has been run and you could not be more wrong. He certainly was much the best and the post obviously did him in.

I do believe you should earn your post in all stake races with eliminations. In the stakes that you don’t earn your post in the elimination races, the fact that many chose to race their horses indifferently has become notoriously evident. I would even go so far as to suggest that stakes go back to the old Hambletonian format where your finishing position in the elimination is your starting position in the final. With more divisions, the winners would draw for one and two the second place finishers for three and four etc.

As far as it being unfair, a rule is a rule, nothing unfair about it. I don’t know whether Jimmy Freight’s owner Adriano Sorella knew about the draw when he made the supplement, but I know he is a businessman and I doubt he will supplement to a half-mile track where you don’t earn your post again. My personal opinion is that you flirt with danger paying into a half-mile track event because you are always subject to be a victim of the draw.

Thank you so much for the continued kind words. I get to smile every morning reading my emails. To my friend Jimmy Takter, don’t be so hard on me. If I didn’t tell it like it is no one would be interested in what I had to say. Good luck with my Toronto selections and have a wonderful week

Have a question for The Guru? 

Email him at