The Guru opines on all this and celebrates the new faces that won Breeders Crowns.
by Ron Gurfein
Tidbits: NEW FACES in the Breeders Crown is wonderful for our sport. That was the theme of last weekend’s Crown races. The competition was great and we even got to see two horses go three deep down the backstretch, a move that’s been missing from racing since the great Roosevelt Raceway’s demise.
When the Meadowlands closed its barn area, the permanent residents like myself, Ray and Larry Remmen, Robbie Siegelman, Mark Silva et al. were forced to move to local farms. At my age, I wasn’t about to get into the shipping business, so I took up residence at Pocono Downs. I was stabled in the next barn from John and Linda Kakaley — two super people — and their son Matt and his better half Anne. Matt was just starting to shine on the racetrack and I used him as much as Ron Burke would let me. In the early days, he hated to travel and I mean truly didn’t want to go as far as The Meadows. However, over the years, his phobias gave into lust for success and he would travel to Timbuktu for a good mount. He even won a race for me in Delaware, OH.
In 2018, after Anne gave birth to their first child, Matt had an awful accident that set him down for many months. Then he began a courageous comeback that was finalized with two winner’s circle appearances in last weeks Breeders Crown.
His appearance on camera after winning his second title reminded me a lot of my own experience at Pompano Park in 1992. I won my first and second Breeders Crowns in about 25 minutes and one of my dearest friends drove the golf cart that took me to the winner’s circle after the second one and I never remember seeing her at all. The experience is so ethereal you lose your perception of time and space.
That is how Matt seemed in the interview that followed the second win. It was more than emotional. I truly love Matt and Anne and congratulate them on a special evening that career-wise is just the beginning.
The next NEW FACE provided me with a huge smile was George Napolitano Jr. He won his first Breeders Crown on his first attempt. He was more than humble in the post race interview after a fantastic drive, but the emotional photobombing of Michelle Crawford was a highlight of the evening. I can honestly say that I have never seen an owner so enthusiastic in all my years of watching racing.
There are more NEW FACES still to come. Mark Harder won his first Breeders Crown, which was a surprise to me, with a filly he told me how much he loved long before she ever raced. Like he said in the winner’s circle she would have been much better off if she was born in a different year. This was arguably the toughest year for trotting fillies in history. Congratulations to Mark and Emma.
Verlin Yoder showed us that his magnificent filly was 100 per cent for real with another seemingly effortless performance, giving him his first Crown title.
Last, but certainly not least, is “Baby Trainer” Marcus Melander. After an amazing year, he topped it off with a one-two finish in the 2-year-old colt trot providing him with his first of what undoubtedly be many Crown trophies.
To all of you that thought I was “dead wrong” in my opinion of the eliminations to the Breeders Crown as did Mike Campbell of Milford PA. Stop and put yourself in the driver’s or trainer’s shoes. We must always do what’s right for the horse. This is not about legal or illegal. My point was that these should be non-betting events or not take place at all. Anyone that would think I would be a proponent of anything illegal doesn’t know me at all.
Brian Miller asks: Do you think the Breeders Crown races solidified end-of-year honors in all categories?
Great question. I would say eight yes, three no and one maybe.
YES: Warrawee Ubeaut, Gimpanzee, Woodside Charm, Homicide Hunter, Shartin N, Dorsoduro Hanover, McWicked and Captain Crunch.
NO: Percy Bluechip, (Kissin In The Sand), Lily Stride (Atlanta), Emoticon Hanover (Ariana G).
MAYBE: Tactical Landing (Six Pack)
Takter made a great case for Tactical Landing in the winner’s circle where there is always free advertising. He looked great Saturday night with the speed ball scratched, but I am afraid that with his limited style of racing he would find it hard to surrender so much ground at the start to the likes of Six Pack. This has been well documented in the past. You have to give Jimmy credit for the speech though, chirping that for sure even if Six Pack was not scratched we would have been victorious “this is a very special horse”. Sounds like syndication time.
Charles Foster asks: Do you have any thoughts on the best way to treat a sarcoid on a fetlock or a pastern?
My advice would be to leave it alone. If you prefer, treat it the way you would a wart. They are almost always benign and if you fool with them you will probably exacerbate the situation. From what I understand vets will not even do a biopsy on them as cancer is extremely rare and
inducing trauma to the area causes increased inflammation. There are many topical solutions available. Ask your vet for a suggestion.
Murray Brown asks: I was surprised that you said you preferred a yearling that toed in to one that toed out. Most distinguished members of the trotting fraternity feel just the opposite. Our mutual friend Chuck Sylvester has told me more than once that he actually prefers a horse that toes out a little, one that toes in is an automatic toss for him. What is your reasoning for preferring the toed in approach?
My answer is simple, and has many stories attached. A horse that is toed out usually hits his knees unless he goes over them in full stride, a colt that is toed in will more likely hit his shins. I can get a horse off his shins a whole lot easier than getting one off his knees.
Chuck and I have gone around on this question forever. Continentalvictory and Self Possessed both were toed in and neither one wore any boots at all. I remember very well Chuck bought a Valley Victory filly at Harrisburg for $280,000 that was toed out badly. I asked him at the sale how he could buy a filly like that and he seemed very content with his purchase. I called him in the new year to inquire about her and he said, “I can’t believe it, but she hits her knees going to the feed tub.” The defense rests.
Thanks to all my readers for the great feedback. And thanks for all the birthday wishes on Facebook and via email your kindness has been overwhelming. I wish all of you involved in The Harrisburg Sale a successful week either buying or selling.
Have a question for The Guru?
Email him at GurfTrot@aol.com.