Essential tips for picking yearlings, thoughts on drug cheats and a truly great sports weekend

Essential tips for picking yearlings, thoughts on drug cheats and a truly great sports weekend

September 28, 2018

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by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: No driver-trainer pair are smoother talkers than Yannick Gingras and Jimmy Takter. Both very intelligent and silk talkers. Lazarus is a very good horse, but to me nowhere near as good as his press clippings. The winner’s circle interview was priceless as the two of them exuded a world of confidence in the performance of their horse. To my eyes, if the race was a few feet more he may have been off the board after a pedestrian trip. It’s wonderful they are so positive. Amazing that when the standardbreds come off a slow pace how they approach thoroughbred speed finishing as did Donttellmeagain. Jimmy King Jr’s horse pacing the last panel in :24.3. Hopefully, we will see him face McWicked at the Red Mile.

On Facebook and in person I have read or heard much criticism of the press for lack of coverage in the matter of the Stay Hungary disqualification. I heartily disagree. What were we to learn after the race? A driver made a huge mistake, it happens all the time. Both Doug McNair and Tony Alagna are gentlemen of the highest order and very intelligent young men. I am sure there wasn’t any conflict at all and to ask one or both of them to appear on TV would do nothing but pour salt in the wound.
 How good was the Ronnie Burke interview in the winner’s circle after the DQ? It’s great to hear someone with a sense of humor in a TV clip.

Congratulations to Blake MacIntosh , David Miller and the connections of Courtly Choice for another memorable performance in the Jug . The recovery in the first heat was nothing short of amazing. You continue to make my pedigree comments look worse than stupid. I deserve it.
 To say the weather in Lexington has been horrid would be an understatement. The ground has been way too wet to show colts in the paddocks and it makes my early arrival in town miserable.

Congratulations to Alagna and Andy McCarthy, Marvin Katz, and the Bell’s Riverview Farm, for the dominant performance of Tall Drink Hanover in the She’s A Great Lady, and to Coleman, Miller, Fielding , Nichol et al. for the absolute blowout of Stag Party in the Metro. Great payday for a great colt.

Dave Briggs asked: What are some of the essential tips for picking out a yearling?

If you are reading my answer with the idea that in studying a few short sentences you are going to go out and buy a yearling colt that will be the next world champion STOP reading now because it’s not going to happen. Yearling selection is a combination of correctness, athletic ability, overall appearance, lung capacity, ability to breathe correctly and most of all pedigree.
 The best way to learn yearling selection is to go to a sale or farm with someone that has done it successfully before. Not once, not twice, but an individual that has selected multiple top horses. There have been many stories that someone picked a colt that had the same birthday as his dad, or they liked the cute name, or he whinnied at them at the stall door. All theses stories may be true, but, trust me, it’s not going to happen to you, on top of which the expense of a mistake is enormous.

The major points to cover are that all bones right and left appear to be the same and all point straight ahead of the horse. Watch the colt in a paddock if he can’t trot fast or sulks when asked to go on you don’t want him. Stop and look at the silhouette of the horse from at least eight feet away. His back should be parallel with the ground and his legs and neck should look long. His coat should be bright and his nostrils large.
 Lastly, make sure he has a sizable girth as that will predict his lung capacity to some extent. There have been exceptions to my rules but they are few and far between and if you stick to my parameters I will not insure you a world champion but I will promise you will have a chance.

Bowie Chronicles asks: I know what a crazy sports fan you are and have to say it looks like you had a great week, did you ever have a season begin like this?
 Probably not, but when you get this old it’s hard to remember a lot. The reason the weekend was so great is that it was all unexpected.

It started with Kentucky’s dominant win over heavily favored Mississippi State after crushing the University of Florida two weeks previously. That brings the Wildcats to 4-0 and a tie with Georgia for the SEC East. They are actually ranked this week at 17 and are favored at home vs. South Carolina tomorrow night. If you are planning to come to the Red Mile, leave a little early as there will be football traffic.

That brings me to a fabulous Sunday where I had to listen to the Dolphin game on Sirius Radio and watch the epic Tiger Woods performance without sound.
 Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders came to Miami after a lot of preseason hype 0-2 and left 0-3 . After a messy first half and many questionable calls, the Dolphins defense and passing game and severe trickery in the play-calling department by a cagey Adam Gase proved too much for the visiting Raiders. Look who’s 3-0 and two games in front in the AFC East. This brings us to Sunday’s crucial game at Foxboro against a Patriot team that has won the last nine games at home vs. the Dolphins. Miami is a seven-point underdog. Take the points.

Last, but certainly not least of this wonderful weekend, was the stellar performance of the miraculous Tiger Woods. I watched every second of this broadcast and must say, aside from being more than riveting, it was, the best thing that has ever happened to the game of golf. The entire tournament from his birdie on the first hole to hole 72 and the tap in winning putt was an edge-of-the-seat lesson in perfection in a sport where perfection is rare. In winning his 80th tournament, and first in five years after his return from back surgery, he played like the Tiger of the early 2000s where he ran away with trophies. The scene at the 18th hole with the sea of people behind him is one to be remembered for the ages, and if you weren’t fortunate to see it live I am sure you can see it on social media. I personally have never witnessed anything like it in my lifetime.

Ron Mersey asks: Should Barry Bonds and other users of steroids be allowed in the Hall of Fame? Should trainers that have used illegal drugs be allowed in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame?

My answer is an unequivocal NO. However I have a major concern that baseball has found a myriad of ways to discern cheaters and our sport seems to have none.
 It is true they have tons more money than we have to create investigative procedures, but I still feel that our sport has done little in this matter and has basically displayed a laissez faire attitude. I have been on the so-called inside of harness racing for more than half a century and I promise that drugs have been a major problem since my first day at the office. Baseball has done well banning cheaters because they have proof. We have hearsay, never enough to condemn. Look at the debacle in Pennsylvania two or more major drug positives were found only to amazingly disappear like dust in the wind. What about the disappearance of a presiding judge at Yonkers Raceway? Why do so may blatant acts go without explanation. It’s a sad state of affairs that somehow has remained constant throughout my tenure in the sport and don’t expect a change any time soon.

How do we eliminate cheaters from our HOF when we never catch them?

Thanks to all my readers for the kind words and hope to see you at the Red Mile for the Grand Circuit Meet and the Lexington Selected Horse Sale Oct. 2-6. Have a wonderful week.

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