Farewell to one of the good guys, Crown elims need to be scrapped and thoughts on Woodside Charm and being the fastest horse inspector in the west

Farewell to one of the good guys, Crown elims need to be scrapped and thoughts on Woodside Charm and being the fastest horse inspector in the west

October 26, 2018

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by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: Someone once said “Only the good die young” and it wasn’t just Billy Joel. The saying actually dates back to 445 BC, to the Greek historian Herodotus and as time marched on was credited to many others.

The point being that far too often in recent years we have lost a wonderful soul that has touched so many in and out of our little horse world. RIP my friend Steve Williams. Your life was cut short for some reason that is far beyond my comprehension. Your soft manner and your kindness will remain with all of us that you touched and your memory will always be the perfect example of what goodness is all about.

Personally, a few years back, I was between a rock and a hard place. Being a denizen of the racetracks as opposed to a “farm boy” I had little contact with those that ran the operations. It came time to move north and I couldn’t find a place near my home to train. Then one day my phone rang and it was Steve. “A little bird told me you need some stalls up here and I have the perfect spot for you” he said. To say that I was thankful would be a major understatement. Having only six horses and great help I had a lot of time on my hands and was fortunate to spend much of that time listening to some great Steve Williams stories, not the least of which was the situation of White Birch farm. With the passing of the Parisis (Joe and Michael) much of the property and business was left to a Catholic church and at this point Steve had them to answer to. Evidently he was doing such a great job that they were more than happy with the financial performance of White Birch and he assured me that his position was secure as long as he wanted it to be.

Both Joe and Michael were very kind in their own right so I believe all of this was preordained. I am not going into the amazing accomplishments and awards that the farm has received under Steve’s guidance as we all known what a fabulous job he did. It’s just so sad he left us when he did.

DISASTROUS is one word to describe last weekend at Pocono Downs for the Breeders Crown eliminations.

Who cares about a 15 per cent takeout when half the starters are dead and half alive and who was to guess which was which? You may as well go to a craps table where your chances improve immensely over the 15 per cent.

Let’s go to the video tape.

Friday, the racing was better than Saturday because the 2-year-olds are fresher and the connections are not going to be saving as much till next week. However, there was a obvious track bias for closing horses and by the middle of the card you would think that the drivers would have figured it out, but somehow they didn’t and lots of chalk turned to dust by heading to the top. On Saturday night, the bias reversed itself only to see many short-priced horse duck at the start to wait till the final to exert themselves. This plan backfired seriously in many cases. The worst of this situation was when Homicide Hunter and Hannelore Hanover at 1-1 and 4-1 respectively, both took back when the gates folded and at the top of the stretch found themselves in a battle for a spot in Saturday’s final.

How does Atlanta mosey on over to the half in :57.4 and Manchego and Phaetosive sit on the fence and watch at 6-5 and 3-1? Wonderful way to encourage the betting public. Don’t get me wrong I am not blaming the drivers or the trainers they are doing what’s best for the horse, I find major fault with the system that causes these manoeuvres to be perpetuated on the fans and gamblers. We no longer can shoot ourselves in the foot and get away with it.

To me the entire weekend was like throwing $600,000 in the garbage. The racing was not good, the betting was not good and the attendance for a major event as this was basically non-existent.

First of all, the Breeders Crown should not be raced on a smaller track. It doesn’t provide a level playing field to all the entrants. Second, and by far the most important point, is they should do away with eliminations. On a bigger track they can comfortably have 12 starters. Raise the entry fee to $10,000 and only the 12 top money earners get to race. You can add “win and you’re in” races to the mix like the thoroughbreds do. For example, the winner of any Triple Crown race is an automatic invite, or pick some prestigious 2-year-old races and do the same.

The Breeders Crown should be an evening of racing that showcases our sport and not a bush league spectacle like it was last weekend.

Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky asks: On your recent visit to Hanover Shoe Farm I took note of the fact you spend much less time looking at a horse than anyone I have seen. Is there a reason you do it this way or did you not like any of the horses?

Dr. J, I liked many of the horses it’s just my way of doing things. Art Zubrod the manager of Brittany Farms, and a dear friend, always told me that no one in his experience was faster than me including the great Gene Reigle who was pretty quick in his own right. I am proud to say that I picked many great horses in my lifetime including a few Hambletonian winners and never spent any more time on them than I did at the farm last week. I probably love three to five yearlings out of every 100 I look at and may find three more acceptable to buy. That said, the buyer I am employed by now only wants a colt that I feel can be a world champion. That makes my selections so much easier because I find that some faults that I could accept before I can no longer live with. You really only have to walk around a horse once to determine his faults and qualities. First, look at the silhouette. If it’s not what you want, you can walk away now. The horse must be correct. I can live with toed in, not toed out. He must have long legs, straight hocks and pasterns and cannon not too long. I’m not fond of white feet or white eyes. I’m really fond of big hind ends and big nostrils. Now, how long did that take?

Thanks to Dr J and Murray Brown and especially Kurt for making my stay so enjoyable. I hope you have a great sale.

Paul Nelson asks: What did you think of the performance of Woodside Charm in the 2-year-old filly trot?

I thought she was nothing less than breathtaking in the wake of a miserable weekend. It will however have breeders and yearling buyers scratching their heads.

Woodside Charm is the 10th foals of Fireworks Hanover. Her first foal was the brilliant son of Cantab Hall, Explosive Matter (1:52.3 and $1,500,000) and eight non descript foals latter comes this fabulous filly. It’s difficult to comprehend. The fact that she does it so effortlessly and won by 12 lengths on the front end when there was a severe track bias for come-from-behind horses was sensational.

I don’t know Verlin Yoder, but the family name has been associated with great horsemen for half a century and without doubt he is bringing The Yoder Effect to a new generation. I would guess she will be odds on in the final and although Yoder is not Takter I wouldn’t bet against her.

To all my readers, thank you for your kind words and wonderful support. Wish you all a great Breeders Crown. Have a wonderful week.

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